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Trusty John.

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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."

       



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