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Trusty John.

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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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