Trusty John





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.





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