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From The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.
Start of Story
Age Rating 6 to 8.
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.