The Princess of Cozytown/The Prince with a Cold in His Heart
THE PRINCE WITH A COLD IN HIS HEART
H, ONCE, my loves, my dears and ducks, there was a Prince who had caught cold in his heart. I—magine! Now, if it had been in his head, I should say he had been sitting in a draught or had gotten his feet wet, but a cold in his heart, well, well! I hardly know what to say about it!
But 'tis just possible that one may take cold in one's heart by chilly draughts, and there were sighs enough to frost anyone in the great, huge, marble palace where the little Prince lived. His father, the King, sighed because he had nothing to do. (What can a poor King do with thirty-eleven servitors forever bouncing and bobbing around one?) And the Queen sighed because she had less than nothing to do; the Courtiers sighed because they were not Kings and Queens; so you can easily see for yourself that wherever the little Prince turned he was pretty sure of catching a chilly sigh. Then there was Court etiquette, which was much worse than wet feet for giving one a cold. The gardener could romp and hug his own little boys and girls as he chose, but when the Prince went walking in the garden he drew up stiff as a stoneman and 'twas, "Yes, your Royal Highness," and "It shall be done, Serene Excellency," and a lot more dampening expressions. The children were hustled into the cottage at his approach, for 'twould never do for them to stare at a prince!
Ten paces behind, wherever he went, stalked a green and gold gentleman-in-waiting, and whenever the little Prince glanced around at that haughty person he bowed; and every time he bowed the cold the Prince's heart grew worse. Now, of course, when one has a cold in one's head one sneezes and coughs and talks through one's nose. But when one has a cold in the heart, one growls and scolds and talks through one's hat, so to speak, and that is how the oldest, knowingest wise man in the palace came to discover the little Prince's affliction.
And really, the Prince was sneezing (pshaw, I mean scolding) in scandalous fashion. So this knowing old wise man bent himself double before his Royal Majesty the King and explained that the little Prince had a cold in is heart, which strange fact the King explained to the Queen, who explained it to all the Courtiers and they shook their heads and rubbed their hands together and remarked politely, "How odd!" and "How extraordin'ry!" and other things which I haven't time to repeat. But one could not expect such exalted folk to be interested in anything so small for so great a time and pretty soon they politely forgot it, all except the old wise man.
Every night he sat poring over musty old books, trying to find a cure for heart colds. He would shake his head and mutter away by the hour and at last one night he had a great idea.
Tiptoeing into the beautiful room where the little Prince lay sleeping on a solid gold bed he began waving his hands to and fro and droning in a sing-song voice,
There was more than this, but I dare not tell it, 'cause how do I know you'll not be trying it some day or other? Besides, I promised the old wise man not to tell!
After about so long a time and after touching the little Prince lightly on the forehead, the old man tiptoed out again and nobody was the wiser, for the gold and green attendant in his gold and green pajamas was snoring like an engine, which was lucky for him.
Next day when the Prince awakened, oh, my stars! There in bed alongside of him lay a rosy little boy. When the Prince rubbed his eyes and stared in astonishment, he cried, "Good-morning!" and, running round to the other side of the bed, slapped him roundly upon the back. Which so surprised the Prince that he stared more than ever. WHY, no one had ever dared do such a thing before!
"Get up, you lazy fellow! Get up and we'll have a game of ball!" laughed the boy, following up this remark with a pillow which bowled his Royal Highness off the bed. And before his Royal Highness knew what he was about, he had seized the pillow and flung it back, crying, "Hey!" in quite an everyday unroyalish fashion. He was not a good aim (never having indulged in pillow throwing before) and the pillow hit the green and gold attendant, bumping his head against the wall.
"Eh—ah—er—cerainly, your excellency!" he stammered, sitting up in bed and bowing with his night cap askew. "Did you call?"
"No, dolt, I was talking to this boy!" The Prince had to chuckle in spite of himself, the green and gold one looked so comical.
"Boy!" gasped the attendant, rearing his head and staring around the room like a giraffe. "Boy? Boy?" Every time he said "boy" his voice got a little shriller. "A thousand pardons! Serene Highness, I do not see any boy!" he choked out finally.
At this both boys burst out laughing—and who would not have laughed, pray? "He says he does not see you!" spluttered the Prince, and the two nearly bent double—indeed, they laughed till the tears rolled down their cheeks, which was the best medicine for a cold in the heart that I know.
This was too much for the attendant, however. Grabbing the silk quilt about him, he made one leap that brought him to the door.
With one last eye-popping look at the Prince he scuttled down the gold hall screaming: "Help! Help! Mad—quite mad! The Prince is mad!"
The green and gold serving person screamed so loud and raised such a to-do that soon the whole palace was awake and soon every one was saying to every one else, "And is the Prince really mad?"
The King and Queen, followed by as many as could crowd into the doorway, scurried in their silk dressing gowns to the little Prince's room. The Prince was chuckling loudly. "All right," said he, with a wave of his hand, "I'll go swimming, even if I don't know how!" At which the Queen swooned away into the arms of a Marchioness, who swooned into the arms of a duchess, who swooned into the arms of a Dearknows-whatess; indeed, all of the royal Ladies toppled over like nine pins, while the King jumped up and down in a frenzy and tore large chunks from his beard. No wonder! For apparently the Prince was talking to himself—indeed, the strange little boy was perfectly invisible.
The Court Doctors and Wise Men first said that, then this, till the confusion was frightful; then the wisest old man, who had been laughing to himself in the corner, stepped up to the King. "The Prince must be left alone. No one must bother him or he will develop hardhartyancestoreetess!" he announced gravely. At the sound of this terrible word the Queen, who had come to, immediately toppled over again, and the King tore the rest of his beard out with one jerk. "Hardhartyancestoreetess!" echoed the Courtiers dolefully. Well, well, the end of it was that the Prince was let alone, the old wise man promising to watch him from a distance and be at hand in case he did anything violent—and violent things he most certainly did.
With no one to bother him, he rose in the morning and with the merry little boy went swimming and wading. They played ball and built forts, climbed trees and did all the other things that everyday little boys do. The Prince thought everybody in the palace mad, for whenever he mentioned his friend, whom he called Orin whenever he talked to him, the Courtiers looked at him sadly and shook their heads. "His poor mother!" they would remark, casting their eyes upward, or, "Poor, dear lad!" This set the two little boys laughing and every laugh warmed the little Prince's heart till finally, well, finally the cold in his heart was entirely gone.
He grew strong and healthy like Orin and merry and good-tempered like Orin; indeed, he even grew to look like him. The old wise man rubbed his hands with delight, for his charm was working beautifully. Then—
One morning when the Prince wakened, there in bed beside him was a strange little boy. He had a pale, fretful face and looked very familiar. "Where can Orin be?" muttered the Prince, staring all around the room. At this the little boy stirred and slowly opened his eyes. "I've certainly seen him before!" thought the Prince. "Of course, you have!" Yawning and stretching his arms, the boy answered the Prince's unspoken thought. "But where's Orin?" The little Prince sat straight up in bed and looked at the cross little boy with great disfavor. "Simpleton, fetch me my clothes!" snapped the boy in a voice that the Prince just knew he had heard before. "Where's Orin?" The strange boy made a face. "If you want to see Orin—look in the glass—blockhead!"
Springing out of bed, the little Prince peered into the mirror and there, sure enough, was Orin. "But who are you?" he gasped, turning around. "I'm you, or, at least, I used to be you!" said the little boy with the fretful face, which so surprised the Prince that he could do nothing but stare. Why, sure enough, it was he—and that voice—why, of course, that was just the way he used to speak to the servants and to any one he happened to meet. And just as he had reached this discovery, the little boy or rather himself, disappeared and left him, or rather Orin, alone! Then out stepped the old wise man from behind the curtains. "Good-morrow, Prince!" said he. "Good-morrow, sir!" said Orin, or rather the Prince, politely. "That's it! That's it!" cried the wise man, delightedly. "Now everything will be all right!" Sitting down on the bed, he explained how every boy is two boys—the boy that he is and the boy that he could be, and how he had decided to give the little Prince the boy that he could be for a playmate. And then, of course, the little Prince explained how much he loved this little boy and begged the old wise man never to allow the little boy that he was to come back again—which the old man promised on the spot—and after that everything was delicious!
They took no one into their secret, but the old wise man went to the King and explained that the little Prince was cured, but that he must not be interfered with in any way and that anything he wanted he must have and anything he wanted any one to do he must do, else he would lapse into ahardheartedoldgoodfornothing—which so frightened the King that he agreed to do whatever the little Prince demanded.
And the first thing he demanded was that people should stop bobbing and bowing in the palace. He said it made him dizzy; so they stopped. And next, he invited his father to play ball, which the King, with many misgivings, did. But soon he became so interested in the game that he called for all the Prime Ministers and big-wigs to join in the game and they went scally-walloping all over the lawns like a party of wild Indians. of course, they were only doing it to keep the little Prince from lapsing into ahardheartedoldgoodfornothing—they were careful to explain this to the rest of the court.
The little Prince insisted upon playing croquet andwith his mother, the Queen, and that gentle dame grew so excited over the game that she insisted upon playing with the other Ladies of the court and all of them sighed less and laughed more. Indeed, with the Prince demanding first this and then that, they were kept upon the jump and had no time to talk about each other or sigh because they were not Kings and Queens. There were dances on the lawn and picnics in the woods and fishing parties on the river and fireworks and all manner of excitements. Gradually they forgot that the little Prince might lapse into ahardheartedoldgoodfornothing and did the things that he asked, because they wanted to do them, and in all the country roundabout there was not so delighted a company. Indeed, one would never have guessed that they were Kings, Queens, Dukes, Duchesses and such if they had not worn their silks and satins and crowns on Saturdays just for the looks of the thing. And that is all I know of the story!