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Trusty John

from The Blue Fairy Book





Once upon a time there was an old king who was so
ill that he thought to himself, "I am most likely on my
death-bed." Then he said, "Send Trusty John to me."
Now Trusty John was his favorite servant, and was so
called because all his life he had served him so faithfully.
When he approached the bed the King spake to him:
"Most trusty John, I feel my end is drawing near, and I
could face it without a care were it not for my son. He
is still too young to decide everything for himself, and
unless you promise me to instruct him in all he should
know, and to be to him as a father, I shall not close my
eyes in peace." Then Trusty John answered: "I will
never desert him, and will serve him faithfully, even
though it should cost me my life." Then the old King
said: "Now I die comforted and in peace"; and then he
went on: "After my death you must show him the whole
castle, all the rooms and apartments and vaults, and all
the treasures that lie in them; but you must not show
him the last room in the long passage, where the picture
of the Princess of the Golden Roof is hidden. When he
beholds that picture he will fall violently in love with it
and go off into a dead faint, and for her sake he will
encounter many dangers; you must guard him from this."
And when Trusty John had again given the King his
hand upon it the old man became silent, laid his head
on the pillow, and died.

When the old King had been carried to his grave
Trusty John told the young King what he had promised
his father on his death-bed, and added: "And I shall
assuredly keep my word, and shall be faithful to you as
I have been to him, even though it should cost me my
life."

Now when the time of mourning was over, Trusty
John said to him: "It is time you should see your
inheritance. I will show you your ancestral castle." So
he took him over everything, and let him see all the riches
and splendid apartments, only the one room where the
picture was he did not open. But the picture was placed
so that if the door opened you gazed straight upon it,
and it was so beautifully painted that you imagined it
lived and moved, and that it was the most lovable and
beautiful thing in the whole world. But the young
King noticed that Trusty John always missed one door,
and said: "Why do you never open this one for me?"
"There is something inside that would appall you," he
answered. But the King replied: "I have seen the whole
castle, and shall find out what is in there"; and with
these words he approached the door and wanted to force
it open. But Trusty John held him back, and said:
"I promised your father before his death that you
shouldn't see what that room contains. It might bring
both you and me to great grief." "Ah! no," answered
the young King; "if I don't get in, it will be my certain
destruction; I should have no peace night or day till I
had seen what was in the room with my own eyes. Now
I don't budge from the spot till you have opened the
door."

Then Trusty John saw there was no way out of it, so
with a heavy heart and many sighs he took the key from
the big bunch. When he had opened the door he stepped
in first, and thought to cover the likeness so that the
King might not perceive it; but it was hopeless: the King
stood on tiptoe and looked over his shoulder. And when
he saw the picture of the maid, so beautiful and glittering
with gold and precious stones, he fell swooning to the
ground. Trusty John lifted him up, carried him to bed,
and thought sorrowfully: "The curse has come upon us;
gracious heaven! what will be the end of it all?" Then
he poured wine down his throat till he came to himself
again. The first words he spoke were: "Oh! who is the
original of the beautiful picture?" "She is the Princess
of the Golden Roof," answered Trusty John. Then the
King continued: "My love for her is so great that if all
the leaves on the trees had tongues they could not express
it; my very life depends on my winning her. You are
my most trusty John: you must stand by me."

The faithful servant pondered long how they were to
set about the matter, for it was said to be difficult even
to get into the presence of the Princess. At length he
hit upon a plan, and spoke to the King: "All the things
she has about her--tables, chairs, dishes, goblets, bowls,
and all her household furniture--are made of gold. You
have in your treasure five tons of gold; let the goldsmiths
of your kingdom manufacture them into all manner
of vases and vessels, into all sorts of birds and game
and wonderful beasts; that will please her. We shall go
to her with them and try our luck." The King summoned
all his goldsmiths, and they had to work hard
day and night, till at length the most magnificent things
were completed. When a ship had been laden with them
the faithful John disguised himself as a merchant, and
the King had to do the same, so that they should be
quite unrecognizable. And so they crossed the seas and
journeyed till they reached the town where the Princess
of the Golden Roof dwelt.

Trusty John made the King remain behind on the
ship and await his return. "Perhaps," he said, "I may
bring the Princess back with me, so see that everything
is in order; let the gold ornaments be arranged and the
whole ship decorated." Then he took a few of the gold
things in his apron, went ashore, and proceeded straight
to the palace. When he came to the courtyard he found
a beautiful maiden standing at the well, drawing water
with two golden pails. And as she was about to carry
away the glittering water she turned round and saw the
stranger, and asked him who he was. Then he replied:
"I am a merchant," and opening his apron, he let her
peep in. "Oh! my," she cried; "what beautiful gold
wares!" she set down her pails, and examined one thing
after the other. Then she said: "The Princess must see
this, she has such a fancy for gold things that she will
buy up all you have." She took him by the hand and
let him into the palace, for she was the lady's maid.

When the Princess had seen the wares she was quite
enchanted, and said: "They are all so beautifully made
that I shall buy everything you have." But Trusty
John said: "I am only the servant of a rich merchant,
what I have here is nothing compared to what my master
has on his ship; his merchandise is more artistic and costly
than anything that has ever been made in gold before."
She desired to have everything brought up to her, but
he said: "There is such a quantity of things that it
would take many days to bring them up, and they would
take up so many rooms that you would have no space
for them in your house." Thus her desire and curiosity
were excited to such an extent that at last she said:
"Take me to your ship; I shall go there myself and view
your master's treasures."

Then Trusty John was quite delighted, and brought
her to the ship; and the King, when he beheld her, saw
that she was even more beautiful than her picture, and
thought every moment that his heart would burst. She
stepped on to the ship, and the King led her inside. But
Trusty John remained behind with the steersman, and
ordered the ship to push off. "Spread all sail, that we
may fly on the ocean like a bird in the air." Meanwhile
the King showed the Princess inside all his gold wares,
every single bit of it--dishes, goblets, bowls, the birds
and game, and all the wonderful beasts. Many hours
passed thus, and she was so happy that she did not
notice that the ship was sailing away. After she had
seen the last thing she thanked the merchant and
prepared to go home; but when she came to the ship's side
she saw that they were on the high seas, far from land,
and that the ship was speeding on its way under full
canvas. "Oh!" she cried in terror, "I am deceived,
carried away and betrayed into the power of a merchant;
I would rather have died!" But the King seized her
hand and spake: "I am no merchant, but a king of as
high birth as yourself; and it was my great love for you
that made me carry you off by stratagem. The first
time I saw your likeness I fell to the ground in a swoon."
When the Princess of the Golden Roof heard this she
was comforted, and her heart went out to him, so that
she willingly consented to become his wife.

Now it happened one day, while they were sailing on
the high seas, that Trusty John, sitting on the forepart
of the ship, fiddling away to himself, observed three
ravens in the air flying toward him. He ceased playing,
and listened to what they were saying, for he understood
their language. The one croaked: "Ah, ha! so he's
bringing the Princess of the Golden Roof home." "Yes,"
answered the second, "but he's not got her yet." "Yes,
he has," spake the third, "for she's sitting beside him
on the ship." Then number one began again and cried:
"That'll not help him! When they reach the land a
chestnut horse will dash forward to greet them: the King
will wish to mount it, and if he does it will gallop away
with him, and disappear into the air, and he will never
see his bride again." "Is there no escape for him?" asked
number two. "Oh! yes, if someone else mounts quickly
and shoots the horse dead with the pistol that is sticking
in the holster, then the young King is saved. But who's
to do that? And anyone who knows it and tells him will
be turned into stone from his feet to his knees." Then
spake number two: "I know more than that: even if the
horse is slain, the young King will still not keep his
bride: when they enter the palace together they will
find a ready-made wedding shirt in a cupboard, which
looks as though it were woven of gold and silver, but is
really made of nothing but sulphur and tar: when the
King puts it on it will burn him to his marrow and bones."
Number three asked: "Is there no way of escape, then?"
"Oh! yes," answered number two: "If someone seizes
the shirt with gloved hands and throws it into the fire,
and lets it burn, then the young King is saved. But
what's the good? Anyone knowing this and telling it will
have half his body turned into stone, from his knees
to his heart." Then number three spake: "I know yet
more: though the bridal shirt too be burnt, the King
hasn't even then secured his bride: when the dance is
held after the wedding, and the young Queen is dancing,
she will suddenly grow deadly white, and drop down like
one dead, and unless some one lifts her up and draws three
drops of blood from her right side, and spits them out
again, she will die. But if anyone who knows this
betrays it, he will be turned into stone from the crown of
his head to the soles of his feet." When the ravens had
thus conversed they fled onward, but Trusty John had
taken it all in, and was sad and depressed from that time
forward; for if he were silent to his master concerning
what he had heard, he would involve him in misfortune;
but if he took him into his confidence, then he himself
would forfeit his life. At last he said: "I will stand by
my master, though it should be my ruin."

Now when they drew near the land it came to pass
just as the ravens had predicted, and a splendid chestnut
horse bounded forward. "Capital!" said the King; "this
animal shall carry me to my palace," and was about to
mount, but Trusty John was too sharp for him, and,
springing up quickly, seized the pistol out of the holster
and shot the horse dead. Then the other servants of
the King, who at no time looked favorably on Trusty
John, cried out: "What a sin to kill the beautiful beast
that was to bear the King to his palace!" But the King
spake: "Silence! let him alone; he is ever my most trusty
John. Who knows for what good end he may have done
this thing?" So they went on their way and entered the
palace, and there in the hall stood a cupboard in which
lay the ready-made bridal shirt, looking for all the world
as though it were made of gold and silver. The young
King went toward it and was about to take hold of it,
but Trusty John, pushing him aside, seized it with his
gloved hands, threw it hastily into the fire, and let it
burn The other servants commenced grumbling again,
and said: "See, he's actually burning the King's bridal
shirt." But the young King spoke: "Who knows for
what good purpose he does it? Let him alone, he is my
most trusty John." Then the wedding was celebrated,
the dance began, and the bride joined in, but Trusty John
watched her countenance carefully. Of a sudden she
grew deadly white, and fell to the ground as if she were
dead. He at once sprang hastily toward her, lifted her
up, and bore her to a room, where he laid her down, and
kneeling beside her he drew three drops of blood from her
right side, and spat them out. She soon breathed again
and came to herself; but the young King had watched
the proceeding, and not knowing why Trusty John had
acted as he did, he flew into a passion, and cried: "Throw
him into prison." On the following morning sentence
was passed on Trusty John, and he was condemned to
be hanged. As he stood on the gallows he said: "Every
one doomed to death has the right to speak once before he
dies; and I too have that privilege?" "Yes," said the
King, "it shall be granted to you." So Trusty John
spoke: "I am unjustly condemned, for I have always
been faithful to you"; and he proceeded to relate how he
had heard the ravens' conversation on the sea, and how he
had to do all he did in order to save his master. Then
the King cried: "Oh! my most trusty John, pardon!
pardon! Take him down." But as he uttered the last
word Trusty John had fallen lifeless to the ground, and
was a stone.

The King and Queen were in despair, and the King
spake: "Ah! how ill have I rewarded such great fidelity!"
and made them lift up the stone image and place it in
his bedroom near his bed. As often as he looked at it
he wept and said: "Oh! if I could only restore you to
life, my most trusty John!" After a time the Queen
gave birth to twins, two small sons, who throve and grew,
and were a constant joy to her. One day when the
Queen was at church, and the two children sat and played
with their father, he gazed again full of grief on the stone
statue, and sighing, wailed: "Oh, if I could only restore
you to life, my most trusty John!" Suddenly the stone
began to speak, and said: "Yes, you can restore me to
life again if you are prepared to sacrifice what you hold
most dear." And the King cried out: "All I have in the
world will I give up for your sake." The stone
continued: "If you cut off with your own hand the heads of
your two children, and smear me with their blood, I shall
come back to life." The King was aghast when he
heard that he had himself to put his children to death;
but when he thought of Trusty John's fidelity, and how
he had even died for him, he drew his sword, and with
his own hand cut the heads off his children. And when
he had smeared the stone with their blood, life came back,
and Trusty John stood once more safe and sound before
him. He spake to the King: "Your loyalty shall be
rewarded," and taking up the heads of the children, he
placed them on their bodies, smeared the wounds with
their blood, and in a minute they were all right again
and jumping about as if nothing had happened. Then
the King was full of joy, and when he saw the Queen
coming, he hid Trusty John and the two children in a
big cupboard. As she entered he said to her: "Did you
pray in church?" "Yes," she answered, "but my
thoughts dwelt constantly on Trusty John, and of what
he has suffered for us." Then he spake: "Dear wife, we
can restore him to life, but the price asked is our two
little sons; we must sacrifice them." The Queen grew
white and her heart sank, but she replied: "We owe it
to him on account of his great fidelity." Then he
rejoiced that she was of the same mind as he had been, and
going forward he opened the cupboard, and fetched the
two children and Trusty John out, saying: "God be
praised! Trusty John is free once more, and we have our
two small sons again." Then he related to her all that
had passed, and they lived together happily ever
afterward.





Next: The Brave Little Tailor

Previous: Blue Beard



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