chapter  1
32 Pages

I Don’t Know

It said: “I see, little prince, that you have a big heart, a very good heart. You feel sorry for me, but I feel sorry for you too, as sorry as you are for me. The steward is as wicked to me as he is wicked to you. He is threatening your life and mine, he wants us to perish. But if you listen to me and do as I say, you’ll be set free and I’ll be set free too. If not, we’ll both be destroyed.”“Go on, please, what’s on your mind?” said the boy. “I’ll listen to you and obey.” “Look, son, today it’s already too late,” said the colt, “but I’ll tell you what you must do. Come next Sunday they will leave for church again and you should let the stablehands go too. Be very careful until then. If they don’t find anything wrong, they’ll want to go to church again and you’ll stay behind. Then I’ll tell you to light a fire, burn a cord of wood and bring me the embers, maybe two shovels full, and the rest I’ll tell you later. Everything will be fine-but don’t talk to anyone about this. No one must know, for if they betray you it means the end of you and of me, at once.”The boy could hardly wait for Sunday-and when it came, the steward and his wife took off again in festive splendor. They went to church. All along the little prince had been staying close to the stablehands, eating with them, sitting around with them, day after day.Then they said to him: “Well, little prince, you took very good care of the horses, you watched over everything and there was no trouble. Would you agree to do it again?”“Sure I would, you may go to church every Sunday. I won’t go anyway, they wouldn’t take me. I’ll just stay here quietly and see to it that nothing goes wrong,” he said. So they got dressed up in a hurry and left for church. As soon as they were gone, the boy rushed over to the colt, and the colt said to him:“Well, little prince, light the fire at once and let it burn.”The wood was dry and on this warm day it burst into flame and burnt to embers in no time. When the embers started glowing the boy took a good shovelful and placed it in front of the colt. The colt gulped down the lot and three more shovelfuls besides, in a matter of seconds. Then it rose up on its legs. Until then it couldn’t stand, it just lay there.“And now,” it said, “let me out of the stable.”The boy let the colt leave the stable. It headed straight for the large pile of smoldering embers remaining after all the wood had burned down. The colt swallowed the whole big heap and by the time it finished, it had turned into a golden-haired steed, so shiny that it made the eyes of whoever was looking at it, pop out. Its hair was glittering gold and it had five legs.“Little prince,” it said, “you saved my life, now I’ll save yours. Go at once and find the cellar key hanging on a nail, take it and unlock the door. As you enter you’ll see on your right a sword, a pair of spurs, a saddle and a bridle. Take them and bring them out in a hurry. Then put the bridle on my neck and the saddle on my back, get dressed

and climb into the saddle. We’d better start out right away, or else they’ll find us here!”The boy ran down to the cellar, unlocked it, opened the door and found every­thing, as the colt had said. The saddle was hanging there, as were the sword and a pair of spurs.“When you are ready to leave,” said the colt, “look into my ears.”He reached into the horse’s ear and drew out a set of silver garments.“Now,” said the colt, “put on these clothes, the whole suit, and when you are done, climb on my back and let’s go. But before we do, I’ll tell you also that there is plenty of gold and silver in the cellar, in barrels here and there. Take as much of it as you can stuff in your pockets. Take only the pure gold-it is worth more-not the silver. Fill your inner and outer pockets with all they can hold! Then come, get up on my back!” So the boy dug into the gold, stuffed his pockets full, went out and leaped up on the colt’s back.“And now we are off-shut your eyes!”The horse flew, its hooves not even touching the ground. It galloped at such speed that it rose into the air. They traveled until they came to the end of their kingdom. They reached the neighboring land. But just before they entered, when they were at the border, where one realm ended and the other began, the colt stopped and said:“Now dismount and take a rest.”Well, he was tired-although he had been sitting, he had grown tired.“Have a rest, my little boy!”The boy was so beautiful that, as the saying goes, you could sooner look straight at the sun than at him, so dazzling was his beauty. His curly locks fell gracefully over his shoulders, his complexion was fair, his eyes a deep blue and his round cheeks had a rosy glow. Although he had been treated badly, he had developed better than the steward’s son and grown taller.“Well son,” said the colt, “now I’ll tell you what you must do. Here is the gate to the palace. Go there and you’ll be admitted by the guards who are standing there. Enter the palace grounds and continue walking. I should also tell you that this is as far as I can bring you and no farther. I must now return, but I’ll leave you a small whistle. If you get into trouble, or if you need anything, I’ll come at once. You must hide this whistle so carefully that no one will ever find it. But ifyou are in trouble, or want help, use it and I’ll be there. And now I tell you, son, you must go into this city. It is the capital city. No matter whom you encounter, do not greet them! If you do, just salute, like the soldiers do, but do not open your mouth and do not talk to anyone, no matter who asks you : ‘what is your name, son?’ or ‘whose son are you?’ or ‘where are you from?’ All you must ever say is ‘I don’t know.’ Nothing more, no matter what they ask. Just say ‘I don’t know’—not a word more, and keep on walking!”The colt gave the boy an affectionate kiss and licked his face. Then the boy kissed ,the colt, over and over again.