The Little Prince: Chapter 24

It was now the eighth day since my crash in the desert, and I listened to the story of the merchant as I finished the last of my water supply. ‘Just a minute now,’ I said to the little prince, ‘your stories are all great, but I have not repaired my plane yet; I don’t have any water, and I too would love to take a walk to the water fountain!’

‘My friend the fox …’ the little prince began.

‘My dear little man, I don’t want to know any more about the fox!’

‘Why not?’

‘Because we are about to die of thirst.’

He could not understand what I was saying. He replied, ‘It is always good to have had a friend, even if you are about to die. I am glad that I had a fox as a friend …’

‘He doesn’t seem to realize the danger,’ I said to myself. ‘He doesn’t feel either hunger or thirst. All he needs is a little sunshine.’

But the little prince looked at me, as if he had heard my thought, ‘I am thirsty, too. Let’s look for a well.’

I wasn’t too enthusiastic, it is ridiculous to look for a well in the desert. But we set out anyway.

As we trudged along for hours, in silence, the stars began to come out in the night sky. Thirst had made me a little feverish, and I saw them as if in a dream. The little prince’s last words came drifting back to me.

‘You are thirsty, too?’ I wanted to know.

But he did not reply. He merely said to me:

‘Water is good for the heart, you know.’ I did not understand, but I said nothing. I knew how confusing it is to question him. He was tired. He sat down. I sat down next to him. After a while he said, ‘The stars are lovely – because of a flower we cannot see.’

‘Yes,’ I said, and quietly looked out over the ridges of sand that were stretched out before us in the moonlight.

‘The desert is beautiful,’ the little prince added.

And that was the truth. I have always loved the desert. You may sit down on a sand dune but you will see or hear nothing. Yet, there is something that glows in the silence.

‘What makes the desert so beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere in its folds lies hidden a well.’

I was surprised as a sudden understanding dawned on me – about the sand’s mysterious glow.

I grew up in an old house. It was said that a treasure was hidden there. I don’t think anyone had ever known how to find it, or had even looked for it. But it cast a spell over the house – it hid a secret in its depths.

‘Yes,’ I said to the little prince. ‘Be it a house, the stars, the desert – what makes them beautiful stays invisible!’

‘I am glad,’ he said, ‘that you agree with my fox.’

As the little prince was dropping off to sleep, I picked him up in my arms and walked on. I was deeply moved. It seemed to me that I was carrying something valuable and fragile. He felt like the most delicate thing on Earth. In the moonlight I looked at his pale forehead, his closed eyes, the locks of his hair that trembled in the wind, and I said to myself, ‘What I see here is just his shell. The important bit is invisible.’

As his lips parted into a sleepy half-smile, I realized that what moved me so deeply about this little prince was his loyalty to his flower – the image of the rose seemed to glow inside him like a flame, even when he was asleep. And he felt even more fragile. One has to always protect a lamp from the wind.

I continued walking, and it was daybreak when I discovered the well.