Just then he saw a countryman gathering grapes in a vineyard, and every now and then putting some into his mouth, and the Prince asked him whose fine estate it was that he was passing through.
“It belongs to a gentleman and lady equally, sir,” replied the good man; “they are called Activity and Ease. They are the happiest couple ever seen. When Activity is tired, Ease takes his head upon her lap; and soon as she is weary of her burden, Activity jumps up and relieves her from it.”
“But to whom does that more barren country just beyond belong?” asked the Prince. “And what is that great thick wood I see farther on still?”
“That is the land of Labor and the Forest of Adversity,” said the man. “I would advise you to get through them as soon as possible, for the first you will find very wearisome, and the second exceedingly unpleasant, although people do say that there is a great deal of very good fruit in the forest; only one gets well-nigh torn to pieces with the thorns before one can reach it.”
The Prince determined to follow his advice, and rode on. There was not anything very tempting to him as he passed through the land of Labor, and it seemed a long and weary way from the beginning to the end of it. But the forest, even at its entrance, was very dark and gloomy indeed. Thick trees crossed each other overhead, and shut out the bright, cheerful daylight. He could hardly see his way along the narrow, tortuous paths, and the thorns which the peasant had spoken of ran into him continually, for they grew high as well as thick, and crossed the path in every direction. He began heartily to repent that he had quitted the palace of Prosperity, and wished himself back again with all his heart, thinking that he should care little about yawning Satiety if he could but get out of the thorns of Adversity. Indeed, he tried to turn his horse back; but he found it more difficult than he imagined, for, as I have told you, the road was very narrow and those thorns hedged it on every side. There was nothing for it, in short, but to try and force his way on through the wood, in the hope of finding something better beyond.
The Prince did not know which way to take, indeed, and he tried a great number of paths, but in vain. Still there were the same thorns and the same gloomy darkness. He was hungry and thirsty, and he looked round for those fruits he had heard of; but he could see none of them at the time, and the more he sought his way out, the deeper he seemed to get into the forest. The air was very sultry and oppressive, too; he grew weary and faint, quite sick at heart, and even the limbs of his good horse seemed to be failing him, and hardly able to carry him on.