CHAPTER 14 – BUSINESSMAN
The fourth planet belonged to a businessman. This man was so busy that he didn’t even raise his head when the little prince arrived.
“Good morning,” said the little prince. “Your cigarette is finished.”
“Three and two make five. Five and seven make twelve. Twelve and three make fifteen. Hello. Fifteen and seven make twenty-two. Twenty-two and six make twenty-eight. I have no time to light it again.
Twenty-six and five make thirty-one. Wow! It’s five hundred and one million, six hundred and twenty-two thousand, seven hundred and thirty-one.”
“Five hundred million what?” asked the little prince.
“Eh? Are you still there? Five hundred and one million… I don’t remember. I have so much work to do! I am a serious man. I don’t want to waste my time with unimportant things. Two and five make seven…”
“Five hundred million what?” repeated the little prince who never in his life let go a question once he asked it.
The businessman raised his head, “For the fifty-four years I have lived on this planet, I have been disturbed only three times.
The first time it was twenty-two years ago, by a bird that fell onto my desk from god knows where. He made a terrible noise, and I made four mistakes in my calculation.
The second time, eleven years ago, I was disturbed by rheumatism. I don’t get enough exercise. I have no time for such unproductive activity. I’m a serious man.
The third time is right now! Where was I? Five hundred and one million…”
The businessman realized that if he wanted to be left in peace, he had to answer this question.
“Millions of those little things that you sometimes see in the sky.”
“No, the little things that shine.”
“Oh, no. The little golden things that make the lazy people dream. But I am a serious man! I have no time to dream.”
“Ah! You mean the stars?”
“Yes, the stars.”
“And what do you do with five hundred million stars?”
“Five hundred and one million, six hundred and twenty-two thousand, seven hundred and thirty-one. I am a serious person. I am accurate.”
“And what do you do with those stars?”
“What do I do with them?”
“Nothing. I own them.”
“You own the stars?”
“But I’ve already seen a king who…”
“Kings don’t own. They control. It’s very different.”
“And what is owning the stars good for?”
“It’s making me rich.”
“And why is it good to be rich?”
“It makes it possible for me to buy more stars, if somebody discovers them.”
“How can someone own the stars?”
“Who do they belong to?” asked the businessman who was by now quite irritated.
“I don’t know. To nobody.”
“Then they belong to me because I was the first person to think of it.”
“Of course. When you find a diamond that belongs to nobody, it’s yours. When you find an island that belongs to nobody, it’s yours. When you have an idea before anyone else, you patent it and it’s yours. Now I own the stars, because no one before me ever thought of owning them.”
“That’s true,” said the little prince. “And what do you do with them?”
“I manage them. I count them and recount them,” said the businessman. “It’s difficult. But I’m a serious man!”
The little prince was still not satisfied.
“If I own a scarf, I can put it around my neck and take it with me. If I own a flower, I can pick it and take it with me. But you can’t pick the stars!”
“No, but I can put them in the bank.”
“What does that mean?”
“That means that I write the number of my stars on a little paper. And then I lock that paper in a drawer.”
“And that’s all?”
“That’s enough,” said the businessman.
“It’s entertaining,” thought the little prince. “But it’s not very serious.”
The little prince had very different ideas about what serious things are.
“I own a flower,” he continued. “I water her every day. I own three volcanoes that I clean out every week. I even clean out the extinct one. You never know. It’s useful to my volcanoes, and it’s useful to my flower that I own them. But you’re not useful to the stars.
The businessman opened his mouth but couldn’t find anything to say.
And the little prince left.
“The adults are certainly very interesting,” he said to himself as he continued on his journey.