فصل 10

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فصل 10

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Chapter ten

He happened to be in the vicinity of Asteroids 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, and 330. So he began by visiting them, to keep himself busy and to learn something.

The first one was inhabited by a king. Wearing purple and ermine, he was sitting on a simple yet majestic throne.

“Ah! Here’s a subject!” the king exclaimed when he caught sight of the little prince.

And the little prince wondered, “How can he know who I am if he’s never seen me before?” He didn’t realize that for kings, the world is extremely simplified: All men are subjects.

“Approach the throne so I can get a better look at you,” said the king, very proud of being a king for someone at last.

The little prince looked around for a place to sit down, but the planet was covered by the magnificent ermine cloak. So he remained standing, and since he was tired, he yawned.

“It is a violation of etiquette to yawn in a king’s presence,” the monarch told him. “I forbid you to do so”

“I can’t help it,” answered the little prince, quite embarrassed. “I’ve made a long journey, and I haven’t had any sleep…”

“Then I command you to yawn,” said the king. “I haven’t seen anyone yawn for years. For me, yawns are a curiosity. Come on, yawn again! It is an order.”

“That intimidates me…I can’t do it now,” said the little prince, blushing deeply.

“Well, well!” the king replied. “Then I…” I command you to yawn sometimes and sometimes to…”

He was sputtering a little, and seemed annoyed.

For the king insisted that his authority be universally respected. He would tolerate no disobedience, being an absolute monarch. But since he was a kindly man, all his commands were reasonable.

“If I were to command,” he would often say, “if I were to command a general to turn into a seagull, and if the general did not obey, that would not be the general’s fault. It would be mine.”

“May I sit down?” the little prince timidly inquired.

“I command you to sit down,” the king replied, majestically gathering up a fold of his ermine robe.

But the little prince was wondering. The planet was tiny. Over what could the king really reign? “Sire…” he ventured, “excuse me for asking…”

“I command you to ask,” the king hastened to say.

“Sire…” over what do you reign?”

“Over everything,” the king answered, with great simplicity.

“Over everything?”

With a discreet gesture the king pointed to his planet, to the other planets, and to the stars.

“Over all that?” asked the little prince.

“Over all that…” the king answered.

For not only was he an absolute monarch, but a universal monarch as well.

“And do the stars obey you?”

“Of course,” the king replied. “They obey immediately. I tolerate no insubordination.”

Such power amazed the little prince. If he had wielded it himself, he could have watched not forty- four but seventy-two, or even a hundred, even two hundred sunsets on the same day without ever having to move his chair! And since he was feeling rather sad on account of remembering his own little planet, which he had forsaken, he ventured to ask a favor of the king: “I’d like to see a sunset… Do me a favor, your majesty… Command the sun to set…”

“If I commanded a general to fly from one flower to the next like a butterfly, or to write a tragedy, or to turn into a seagull, and if the general did not carry out my command, which of us would be in the wrong, the general or me?”

“You would be,” said the little prince, quite firmly. “Exactly. One must command from each what each can perform,” the king went on. “Authority is based first of all upon reason. If you command your subjects to jump in the ocean, there will be a revolution. I am entitled to command obedience because my orders are reasonable.”

“Then my sunset?” insisted the little prince, who never let go of a question once he had asked it.

“You shall have your sunset. I shall command it. But I shall wait, according to my science of government, until conditions are favorable.”

“And when will that be?” inquired the little prince. “Well, well!” replied the king, first consulting a large calendar. “Well, well! That will be around…around… that will be tonight around seven-forty! And you’ll see how well I am obeyed.”

The little prince yawned. He was regretting his lost sunset. And besides, he was already growing a little bored. “I have nothing further to do here,” he told the king. “I’m going to be on my way!”

“Do not leave!” answered the king, who was so proud of having a subject. “Do not leave; I shall make you my minister!”

“A minister of what?”

“Of… of justice.”

“But there’s no one here to judge!”

“You never know.” the king told him. “I have not yet explored the whole of my realm. I am very old, I have no room for a carriage, and it wearies me to walk.”

“Oh, but I’ve already seen for myself,” said the little prince, leaning forward to glance one more time at the other side of the planet. “There’s no one over there, either…”

“Then you shall pass judgment on yourself,” the king answered. “That is the hardest thing of all. It is much harder to judge yourself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself, it’s because you are truly a wise man.”

“But I can judge myself anywhere,” said the little prince. “I don’t need to live here.”

“Well, well!” the king said. “I have good reason to believe that there is an old rat living somewhere on my planet. I hear him at night. You could judge that old rat. From time to time you will condemn him to death. That way his life will depend on your justice. But you’ll pardon him each time for economy’s sake. There’s only one rat.”

“I don’t like condemning anyone to death,” the little prince said, “and now I think I’ll be on my way.”

“No,” said the king.

The little prince, having completed his preparations, had no desire to aggrieve the old monarch. “If Your Majesty desires to be promptly obeyed, he should give me a reasonable command. He might command me, for instance, to leave before this minute is up. It seems to me that conditions are favorable…”

The king having made no answer, the little prince hesitated at first, and then, with a sigh, took his leave.

“I make you my ambassador,” the king hastily shouted after him. He had a great air of authority.

“Grown-ups are so strange,” the little prince said to himself as he went on his way.

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