‘People,’ said the little prince, ‘hop into express trains without knowing where they really want to go. They stumble about in circles, and get frustrated.’
He added. ‘It is not worth all the trouble.’
The well that we found was not like the other wells of the Sahara which are holes dug in the sand. This one on the other hand looked like a village well. But there was no village and I thought I was dreaming.
‘That’s strange,’ I said to the little prince. ‘The pulley, the bucket, the rope – it’s all there.’
He laughed, held the rope, and set the pulley to work. The pulley creaked, like a rusty weather vane, which had lain untouched by the wind for a long time.
‘Did you hear?’ said the little prince. ‘The well is now awake, and it is singing.’
I did not want him to feel exhausted. ‘Let me do it,’ I said. ‘This is too heavy for you.’
I hoisted the bucket slowly to the edge of the well and set it there. The song of the pulley was still in my ears, and I could see the trembling reflection of the sun in the water.
‘I am thirsty,’ said the little prince. ‘Could I have a drink?’
And I understood what he had been looking for!
I lifted the bucket to his mouth. He drank, but his eyes were closed. It was beautiful. This water was indeed more than simple nourishment. Its sweetness was born of our long walk under the stars, the song of the pulley and my efforts through the night. It felt warm, like a present. When I was a little boy, the lights on the Christmas tree, the music of Midnight Mass, the tender smiling faces, made up for the eagerness of receiving gifts on the morning of Christmas.
‘People on this planet,’ said the little prince, ‘grow five thousand roses in the same garden and yet do not find what they are looking for.’
‘They do not,’ I replied.
‘Still, what they are looking for could be found in one single rose, or in a little water.’
‘That is true,’ I said.
And the little prince added, ‘But the eyes are blind. One must see with the heart.’
Now that I had drunk the water, I breathed easily. At sunrise the sand takes on the colour of honey. And this colour made me happy. But what was it that made my heart so heavy with sorrow?
‘You must keep your promise,’ said the little prince softly, as he sat down beside me once more.
‘The muzzle for my sheep! I have to look after my flower.’
I took my sketches out of my pocket. The little prince looked through them, and laughed, ‘These baobabs look like cabbages.’
‘Oh!’ And to think I had been so proud of my baobabs!
‘Your fox’s ears are too long and look like horns.’
He laughed again.
‘That’s not fair, little prince,’ I said. ‘All I have ever drawn is a boa constrictor with an elephant inside it.’
‘Oh, but that’s okay,’ he said, ‘children understand.’
I made a pencil sketch of a muzzle. I was a bit nervous handing it to him.
‘You must understand, I do not know your plans,’ I said.
But he did not answer. He said instead, ‘You know my descent to Earth … tomorrow is the anniversary.’
Then, after a pause, he said, ‘I landed close to this spot.’
And he blushed.
Once again, not knowing why, I felt a strange sadness.
But a question came to me, ‘Then it wasn’t an accident that on the morning when I first met you, a week ago, you were wandering by yourself, a thousand miles from civilization? You were trying to get back to the place where you had landed?’
The little prince blushed again.
And I added, with some uncertainty:
‘And the reason is the anniversary?’
He blushed once more. He didn’t usually answer questions, but when one blushes does that not mean they agree?
‘I’m concerned,’ I said to him.
But he stopped me. ‘You must work now. Return to your engine. I’ll wait for you here. Come back tomorrow night.’
I was still not comforted. I remembered the fox. Once tamed, you are in danger of being unhappy …