"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "will you not stay with me one night longer?"
"It is winter," answered the Swallow, "and the chill snow will soon be here. In Egypt, the sun is warm on the green palm trees, and the crocodiles lie in the mud and look lazily about them. My companions are building a nest in the Temple of Baalbec, and the pink and white doves are watching them and cooing to each other. Dear Prince, I must leave you, but I will never forget you, and next spring, I will bring you back two beautiful jewels in place of those you have given away. The ruby shall be redder than a red rose, and the sapphire shall be as blue as the great sea."
"In the square below," said the Happy Prince, "there stands a little match girl. She has let her matches fall in the gutter, and they are all spoiled. Her father will beat her if she does not bring home some money, and she is crying. She has no shoes or stockings, and her little head is bare. Pluck out my other eye and give it to her, and her father will not beat her."
"I will stay with you one night longer," said the Swallow, "but I cannot pluck out your eye. You would be quite blind then."
"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "do as I command you."
So he plucked out the Prince’s other eye and darted down with it. He swooped past the match girl and slipped the jewel into the palm of her hand. "What a lovely bit of glass," cried the little girl, and she ran home, laughing.
Then, the Swallow came back to the Prince. "You are blind now," he said, "so I will stay with you always."
"No, little Swallow," said the poor Prince, "you must go away to Egypt."
"I will stay with you always," said the Swallow, and he slept at the Prince’s feet.
All the next day, he sat on the Prince’s shoulder and told him stories of what he had seen in strange lands. He told him of the red ibises, who stand in long rows on the banks of the Nile, and catch goldfish in their beaks; of the Sphinx, who is as old as the world itself and lives in the desert, and knows everything; of the merchants, who walk slowly by the side of their camels and carry amber beads in their hands; of King the of the Mountains of the Moon, who is as black as ebony and worships a large crystal; and of the great green snake that sleeps in a palm tree and has twenty priests to feed it with honey cakes.
"Dear little Swallow," said the Prince, "you tell me of marvelous things, but more marvelous than anything is the suffering of men and of women. There is no Mystery so great as Misery. Fly over my city, little Swallow, and tell me what you see there."
So the Swallow flew over the great city and saw the rich making merry in their beautiful houses, while the beggars were sitting at the gates. He flew into dark lanes and saw the white faces of starving children looking out listlessly at the black streets. Under the archway of a bridge, two little boys were lying in one another’s arms to try and keep themselves warm. "How hungry we are!" they said.
"You must not lie here," shouted the Watchman, and they wandered out into the rain.
Then, he flew back and told the Prince what he had seen.
"I am covered with fine gold," said the Prince, "you must take it off, leaf by leaf, and give it to my poor; the living always think that gold can make them happy."
Leaf after leaf of the fine gold the Swallow picked off, till the Happy Prince looked quite dull and gray. Leaf after leaf of the fine gold he brought to the poor, and the children’s faces grew rosier, and they laughed and played games in the street. "We have bread now!" they cried.
Then the snow came, and after the snow came the frost. The streets looked as if they were made of silver, they were so bright and glistening; long icicles like crystal daggers hung down from the eaves of the houses, everybody went about in furs, and the little boys wore scarlet caps and skated on the ice.
The poor little Swallow grew colder and colder, but he would not leave the Prince; he loved him too well. He picked up crumbs outside the baker’s door when the baker was not looking and tried to keep himself warm by flapping his wings.
But at last, he knew that he was going to die. He had just strength to fly up to the Prince’s shoulder once more. "Good-bye, dear Prince!" he murmured. "Will you let me kiss your hand?"
"I am glad that you are going to Egypt at last, little Swallow," said the Prince. "You have stayed too long here; but you must kiss me on the lips, for I love you."
"It is not to Egypt that I am going," said the Swallow. "I am going to the House of Death. Death is the brother of Sleep, is he not?"
And he kissed the Happy Prince on the lips and fell down dead at his feet.
At that moment, a curious crack sounded inside the statue, as if something had broken. The fact is that the lead heart had snapped right in two. It certainly was a dreadfully hard frost.
Early the next morning, the Mayor was walking in the square below in company with the Town Councilors. As they passed the column, he looked up at the statue: "Dear me! How shabby the Happy Prince looks!" he said.
"How shabby indeed!" cried the Town Councilors, who always agreed with the Mayor, and they went up to look at it.
"The ruby has fallen out of his sword, his eyes are gone, and he is golden no longer," said the Mayor. "In fact, he is little better than a beggar!"
"Little better than a beggar," said the Town Councilors.
"And here is actually a dead bird at his feet!" continued the Mayor. "We must really issue a proclamation that birds are not to be allowed to die here." And the Town Clerk made a note of the suggestion.
So they pulled down the statue of the Happy Prince. "As he is no longer beautiful, he is no longer useful," said the Art Professor at the University.
Then, they melted the statue in a furnace, and the Mayor held a meeting of the Corporation to decide what was to be done with the metal. "We must have another statue, of course," he said, "and it shall be a statue of myself."
"Of myself," said each of the Town Councilors, and they quarreled. They quarreled for days.
"What a strange thing!" said the overseer of the workmen at the foundry. "This broken lead heart will not melt in the furnace. We must throw it away." So they threw it on a dust heap where the dead Swallow was also lying.
"Bring me the two most precious things in the city," said God to one of His Angels, and the Angel brought Him the lead heart and the dead bird.
"You have rightly chosen," said God, "for in my garden of Paradise, this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold, the Happy Prince shall praise me."