The little prince- by Juan M.S.

Once, in Argentina, a land of hidden dinosaurs and unexploited natural wealth, there was a young boy who traveled a hundred kilometers to visit his grandfather almost every summer. His grandfather lived alone in a big house in the countryside and, although he had a numerous family, he seldom received any visits. Since his wife had died years before, he didn’t receive many visits from his relatives. His sons had filial love for him, and they made sure he never lacked anything, but they had never become friends with him and had seldom a reason to go and spend time with him. His grandchildren, who hadn’t been positively encouraged to spend time with their grandfather, didn’t have the habit either and they rarely had free time to go and chat with the old man. But this little boy was son of the old man’s daughter, who loved his father unconditionally and constantly taught this love to her son. Every summer she’d deliberately sent her son to spend time with their grandparents and later on, when he was a little older, she’d always suggest him to go.

That’s why the little boy found himself almost every summer at his grandpa’s. He’d learned from him how to play chess and they sat fort almost two hours per game because he always thought carefully before making any move. His grandpa sometimes dozed off during games, but he always woke up when his turn came and, although he helped his grandson defend himself and hinted how he should attack, he never allowed him to win. This didn’t discourage the little boy; on the contrary, it made him wonder about the immense knowledge hidden in that game and therefore in life too. It was as if a hole was open in the universe every time they played and through that hole he could glimpse at the mysteries of the world.

Some afternoons the old man would sit his grandson on his lap and ask him to tell him about his dreams. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he asked, and probably he didn’t expect an informed answer such as: an accountant, a lawyer or a doctor, but he surely expected something less nonsensical than what his grandson invariably answered: a prince. However, never a sign of disapproval showed on the old man’s face and he always asked up to the smallest detail about his grandson’s dream. He’d ask what color would his cape be and whether he would wear a sword or a saber. He’d allow him to ride his cart horse so he’d know how to ride a steed when he got one, and his grandson would be just exhilarated at those moments.

One day, when he was seven years old, the grandson went up to his grandfather and told him he needed a coronet if he was ever going to be prince. He didn’t want a crown because he didn’t want to be a king, but he knew princes wore small crowns called coronets. He cried the whole day and then he refused to talk about his dreams to his grandfather whenever he asked him about them. That summer was a gloomy one, but grandson and grandfather were fond of each other and they didn’t allow the issue of the coronet to get between them. When the little boy was leaving for home, the grandfather called him to his room and gave him a golden coronet with gemstones that had cost him all his savings. He asked his grandson to keep it in a safe place and not to show it to anyone and the boy promised it, but he didn’t understand why people shouldn’t know that he was officially a prince now. When he got home, he remembered his promise, so he didn’t actually dare to open his mouth, but he left the coronet in a visible place in his room so one day he heard his mother’s shouts. He ran up to his room and there he saw here, holding up the coronet. He explained his grandpa had given it to him and that now he was a real prince, while his mother just stared at him speechless. His father seemed at a loss what to do too, but he explained to his son that that was a really expensive piece of jewelry and that he wasn’t sure it was correct to keep it. He called the grandfather on the phone, but he didn’t get an answer to his predicament and in the end he just resigned himself to the fact that the old man had lost his sense of fairness and had spent all his money on a golden jewel, leaving his sons without any inheritance other than the house. He tried to persuade the old man to take the coronet back and keep it himself or sell it, but the only thing he got as answer were threats to throw the coronet to the river if ever someone dared take it away from the child.

Thus everyone in the family got wind of the coronet incident and most of them disapproved of it. But to his sons the news came as a shock. They were upset at the fact that the old man had spent his savings on such a vain object. They recriminate him for having made their mother support the whole family, which had forced her to be seldom home and to not have enough time to spend with her children. He’d lost his job in one of the country’s crisis and, as he wasn’t enough educated and he was too old, he hadn’t been able to get a new one. He’d sat at home doing nothing for years, because his patriarchal upraising hadn’t taught him how to cook or clean the house and his wife couldn’t bear the pathetic sight of him trying to start learning it at such an old age. The daughter of the house had been in charge of most of the chords and she’d never complained about it. But later on, when they’d all moved out already, the mother had passed away and the sons couldn’t help feeling that it was due to the strain of having supported a whole family by herself.

The stirring of bad emotions caused by the coronet issue made the old man fall into depression. He’d felt powerless since he’d been laid off and afterwards, when he had to live on the minimal pension granted by the state. He related to his grandson: he was an immigrant who’d come to the country looking for better opportunities and a new start to his troubled life. On his early days, he’d imagined he’d be wealthy when he retired, and he’d be able to pamper himself and his family with comfort and luxury; after all, he’d always worked hard. But he’d seen his dream of wealth get ever more blurry, until nothing was left of it. When his grandson told him about his dream and his wish to have a coronet, he’d felt the hope he’d had when he first came to Argentina and he wanted his grandson to live out his dream for him. That’s why buying him a coronet had made him so happy, because his grandson had felt what he’d always wanted to feel. A coronet would surely not make the old man happy, because he still lacked many things to live out his dream, but it had been enough for his grandson to live out his, so he never regreted having bought it.

But now the latent guilt that he’d managed to bury in his heart had emerged and he became despondent and lost his appetite. In spite of all the care that her daughter gave him whenever she could go to visit him, because the old man refused to abandon his house and go to live with her, he died one day. The whole family assisted to his funeral and they were all truly sad for his death. But their affliction was compounded when they assisted to the disclosure of the will. The old man had left the big house to the little boy. Everyone felt the unfairness of this act, but they were also hopeless because the kid hadn’t still reached legal age to do anything about it. So the sons just sighed and resigned themselves to the fact that the old man had wronged them in any possible way, but they never showed any resentment against the little boy.

Now, the boy, who had gotten used to tell stories about his noble adventures to his grandfather, didn’t have an outlet for his imagination anymore, so he started writing the stories that he’d told to his grandfather and invented new ones as well. That’s how, with the pass of time, he became more and more interested in literature till he decided to become a writer.

When he was eighteen, he went to his oldest uncle’s and asked him to sign a contract with him. The contract made his uncle the owner of the big house, but also stipulated that he had to compensate his other siblings. His uncle signed the contract in sheer amazement and, after his nephew had left, remained mulling over the whole situation for a long while. But that wouldn’t be the last surprise the little boy would give him. When he went to the house and opened one of the bedroom doors, he saw the golden coronet lying on one bed. But when he called his nephew, he received the news that he’d gone away to try his luck in another country.

Years passed without any news from his nephew. His mother didn’t want to disclose where he was or how he was faring, and his everyday affairs made him soon forget about the boy. Meanwhile, he’d managed the big house as well as he could. He’d consulted his siblings and they’d decided to rent it out to a couple that promised to take good care of it. The earnings were divided equitably among them. But he still didn’t know what to do with the coronet. It was a valuable object which was probably worth more than a year of salary and all of them were able to put that money to good use, but he knew the symbolic meaning of this piece of jewelry, and he still respected his father’s wishes and understood his nephew’s dream of grandeur. So he never told anyone that he’d found the coronet and he kept it in a secret place.

One day he was browsing the Internet and he remembered his nephew. He’d learned about the miracles of the world wide web and he thought that there was no place his nephew could be that the Internet wouldn’t find him. So he typed his name on a search engine and he got the biggest surprise of his life. His nephew was apparently a renown writer and he was doing well in France, where he lived and wrote his books. He’d published seven books and some of them had very good reviews. He followed the link of some of them and bought their electronic version. Their titles sounded familiar to him: “The noble heart,” “The vassal prince,” so he opened them. He was astounded by the dedication in all of them, which was the same. He downloaded all the books, even the recently published one: “Once there was a worldwide world,” and he invariably found the same dedication, which he couldn’t stop reading with emotion in his eyes. It read: “To my grandfather, who taught me that to be noble I don’t need a coronet.”

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