The Good Prince
The prince began to walk along the road.
Suddenly, an antelope ran in front of him.
"Oh sir, please help me," said the antelope. "The hunters are chasing me! They are going to kill me!"
The prince was sorry for the antelope.
"Come here," he said, "and put your head down."
The antelope came close to the prince and put his head down. The prince took one of his horns and held it.
Soon the hunters ran up.
"That's our antelope!" they said. "Give it to us."
"No," said the prince. "This antelope is mine. I chased him and caught him myself. But there was another antelope, bigger and faster than this one. He ran that way, down the hill. Run fast and you will catch him."
So the hunters ran away down the hill.
The antelope was very happy.
"You saved my life," he said. "and one day, I will save yours. When you need me, call me, and I will come and help you."
"I will remember that," said the prince, and he went on down the road.
Suddenly, a little mouse ran across the path in front of him.
"Oh please, sir," said the mouse. "Some boys are chasing me. They want to catch me and kill me. Please save me!"
At once, the prince took off his cloak, and threw it over the mouse. Then he sat down beside it.
Soon, the boys arrived.
"What are you doing?" the prince asked them.
"We're hunting a mouse," answered the boys. "Have you seen it?"
"Yes," said the prince. "I saw a mouse. It ran into a hole in the ground. You will never find it now."
The boys went away, and the prince picked his cloak up off the ground. The little mouse thanked him again and again.
"You saved me!" she said. "You saved my life! I am very grateful. One day, you will need me. Call to me then, and I will help you."
The prince smiled.
"How can a little animal like a mouse help a man like me?" he thought, but he thanked the mouse, and walked on, down the road.
For many days the prince travelled on, over high mountains, through deep valleys, and across fast rivers. At last one evening, he was very tired, and very hungry.
"Where will I sleep tonight?" he thought.
He looked up, and saw, far away, a beautiful, big house. It was shining like gold in the last light of the evening sun.
Quickly, the prince ran towards the house.
"What kind of house is this?" he thought. "It is made of gold!"
He put out his hand and touched the wall. It was hard and cold. It was made of pure gold.
The door opened and the guard came out.
"Who are you?" said the guard. "What do you want?"
"I'm a poor man," said the prince. "I'm tired and hungry. I need a bed for the night, and something to eat. Who lives here, in this beautiful house? Will they let me come in?"
"Ah, my poor friend," said the guard. "You must be very careful. The owner of this house, my mistress, is a sorceress. She is very beautiful but she is cruel. Many men fall in love with her. They want to marry her. She gives them a test. She sends them away to hide, then she looks for them. 'If I cannot find you, I will marry you,' she says, 'but if I find you, you must die.'"
"And does she find the men?" asked the prince.
"Always," said the guard. "Many men have died. Look, here are their bones."
The prince looked inside the gate, and saw the bones of the dead men.
"Tell me more about your mistress," he said to the guard. "Is she really very beautiful?"
"Very, very beautiful," said the guard. "She is the most beautiful woman in the world."
"Then I will take the test," said the prince. "I will hide, and if she finds me, I will die. But if she does not, I will marry her and be happy."
The guard was sorry for him.
"Don't do it, sir," he said. "I told you. My mistress always wins."
But the prince did not listen to him.
"Take me to her," he said.