The Prince's Valentine
Once upon a time there was a little Prince, and he wanted to give a valentine to a little Princess who lived in a neighboring kingdom. She was a very beautiful little Princess indeed, for her smile was as bright as her golden hair, and her love for her subjects was as deep as the blue of her eyes.
"What kind of a valentine shall I get for the Princess?" the Prince asked.
"A heart, your Highness; nothing but a heart will do!" said the Court Wise Man.
"A beautiful heart, your Highness; nothing but a beautiful heart will do!" said the Court Ladies.
"A priceless heart, your Highness; nothing but a priceless heart will do!" said the Court Chancellor.
So the Prince started out to get a heart valentine for the little Princess that would be both beautiful and beyond price, and he did not know where to find it.
Before long, though, he came to a jeweller's shop that was full of pretty, costly things to wear. There were pins, and bracelets, and necklaces made of silver and gold, and set with rubies, and sapphires, and emeralds, and diamonds.
"This is the place to find a valentine for the little Princess," thought the Prince, and he selected a diamond heart hung on a gold chain as thin as a thread for the little Princess to wear about her neck.
The Prince gave the jeweller his bag of gold and started out of the shop with the diamond heart in his hand. But he stopped at the door, looking at the heart. It was dull, and no longer shining. What was the matter with it, he wondered. Then he remembered. It was not the right valentine for the little Princess because it had been bought with his bag of gold. So the Prince gave the diamond heart back to the jeweller, and went on again.
After the Prince had gone quite a distance he came to a pastry shop. It was full of delicious things to eat, jam tarts, and little strawberry pies, thickly frosted cakes, and plum buns. In the window of the pastry shop was a huge cake baked in the shape of a heart. It was rich with sugar and spices, and the icing on the top was almost as thick as the cake itself.
"This is the place to find the valentine for the little Princess!" thought the Prince, and he pointed to the great heart cake in the window. "How much must I pay for that cake?" he asked of the pastry cook.
"Oh, you could not buy that cake!" the pastry cook replied. "I made it as a decoration for the shop for Valentine's Day. But I will give it to you, your Highness."
So the Prince thanked the pastry cook, and started out of the shop with the great cake in his arms.
"This must surely be the valentine for the little Princess, because I could not buy it," he thought.
Then the Prince almost dropped the cake. It had suddenly grown too heavy for him to carry. What was the matter with the rich, huge cake, he wondered. Then he remembered. It was not the right valentine for the little Princess because something rich to eat is not beautiful. So the Prince gave the cake back to the pastry cook, and went on again.
Now he went a long, long way, and he came to a bird seller beside the road. He had little gold birds, and bright-colored ones in green basket cages. They were all singing as if their throats would burst, but the Prince could hear one soft note above the others, because it was so clear and sweet. It was the cooing of a little dove who sat in her cage apart from the others. The Prince thought he had never seen such a beautiful little dove, as white as snow, and with rose red feet.
"Why does she sing so much more sweetly than the others?" the Prince asked, pointing to the little white dove.
The bird seller smiled.
"She sings because of her heart," he said. "The other birds sing in the sunshine, but look"—he held up the dove's cage, and the Prince saw that the little white dove had closed, blind eyes. "She sings in the dark because of her happy heart," the bird seller said.
"May I buy her," the Prince asked, "to give as a valentine to a little Princess?"
"Oh, I will give her to you," the bird seller said. "Very few people want to take care of a blind bird."
But the little Princess did. She liked the white dove better than any of her other valentines. She hung her cage in a pink rose tree in the sunniest part of the garden, and she often invited the Prince to sit with her under the tree and listen to the dove's sweet song.