فصل 15

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فصل 15

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Chapter fifteen

The sixth planet was ten times bigger than the last. It was inhabited by an old gentleman who wrote enormous books.

“Ah, here comes an explorer,” he exclaimed when he caught sight of the little prince, who was feeling a little winded and sat down on, the desk. He had already traveled so much and so far!

“Where do you come from?” the old gentleman asked him.

“What’s that big book?” asked the little prince. “What do you do with it?”

“I’m a geographer,” the old gentleman answered.

“And what’s a geographer?”

“A scholar who knows where the seas are, and the rivers, the cities, the mountains, and the deserts.”

“That is very interesting,” the little prince said. “Here at last is someone who has a real profession!” And he gazed around him at the geographer’s planet. He had never seen a planet so majestic. “Your planet is very beautiful,” he said. “Does it have any oceans?”

“I couldn’t say,” said the geographer.

“Oh,” the little prince was disappointed. “And mountains?”

“I couldn’t say,” said the geographer.

“And cities and rivers and deserts?”

“I couldn’t tell you that, either,” the geographer said.

“But you’re a geographer!”

“That’s right,” said the geographer, “but I’m not an explorer. There’s not one explorer on my planet. A geographer doesn’t go out to describe cities, rivers, mountains, seas, oceans, and deserts. A geographer is too important to go wandering about. He never leaves his study. But he receives the explorers there. He questions them, and he writes down what they remember. And if the memories of one of the explorers seem interesting to him, then the geographer conducts an inquiry into that explorer’s moral character.”

“Why is that?”

“Because an explorer who told lies would cause disasters in the geography books. As would an explorer who drank too much.”

“Why is that?” the little prince asked again. “Because drunkards see double. And the geographer would write down two mountains where there was only one.”

“I know someone,” said the little prince, “who would be a bad explorer.”

“Possibly. Well, when the explorer’s moral character seems to be a good one, an investigation is made into his discovery.”

“By going to see it?”

“No, that would be too complicated. But the explorer is required to furnish proofs. For instance, if he claims to have discovered a large mountain, he is required to bring back large stones from it.” The geographer suddenly grew excited. “But you come from far away! You’re an explorer! You must describe your planet for me!”

And the geographer, having opened his logbook, sharpened his pencil. Explorers’ reports are first recorded in pencil; ink is used only after proofs have been furnished.

“Well?” said the geographer expectantly.

“Oh, where I live,” said the little prince, “is not very interesting. It’s so small. I have three volcanoes, two active and one extinct. But you never know.”

“You never know,” said the geographer.

“1 also have a flower.”

“We don’t record flowers,” the geographer said.

“Why not? It’s the prettiest thing!”

“Because flowers are ephemeral.”

“What does ephemeral mean?”

“Geographies,’’ said the geographer, “are the finest books of all. They never go out of fashion. It is extremely rare for a mountain to change position. It is extremely rare for an ocean to be drained of its water. We write eternal things.”

“But extinct volcanoes can come back to life,” the little prince interrupted. “What does ephemeral mean?”

“Whether volcanoes are extinct or active comes down to the same thing for us,” said the geographer. “For us what counts is the mountain. That doesn’t change.”

“But what does ephemeral mean?” repeated the little prince, who had never in all his life let go of a question once he had asked it.

'’It means, ‘which is threatened by imminent disappearance.’”

“Is my flower threatened by imminent disappearance?”

“Of course.”

“My flower is ephemeral,” the little prince said to himself, “and she has only four thorns, with which to defend herself against the world! And I’ve left her all alone where I live!”

That was his first impulse of regret. But he plucked up his courage again. “Where would you advise me to visit?” he asked.

“The planet Earth,” the geographer answered. “It has a good reputation.”

And the little prince went on his way, thinking about his flower.

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