Faithful John, the King's Servant
THE old King lay dying and was very much worried
in his mind because he was leaving behind him, as his
heir, his son, who was a headstrong and willful youth,
not yet come to years of wisdom. He called to his bedside
faithful John, who had been his servant ever since he was a
boy, and charged him thus:
"I am going to my last rest, and am sorrowful because my
boy is left alone in a high position, and will have no other
guidance but yours. Be his guardian and counselor, and serve
him faithfully even as you have served me, or I cannot die
"Master, I will," answered faithful John, "even if it cost
me my life."
"Now I can rest in peace," said the King. "When I am
dead you must lead him all over the castle, and show him the
halls and chambers and the vaults and the treasures therein.
But one room he must never enter, the last room in the long
corridor, for there hangs the portrait of the daughter of the
King of the Golden Palace, and she is so beautiful that whoever
gazes on her picture will fall down in a swoon for love
of her, and will go through great perils for her sake. Therefore
he must never enter that room."
The trusty servant pressed his master's hand and promised
to do his commands, and soon afterwards the King laid
his head on the pillow and died.
After the old King was laid in his grave, the faithful John
told the young King of the commands his father had laid
upon him, and swore to serve him faithfully, even unto death.
When the days of mourning were over he told the young
King that it was now time for him to see his inheritance; so
they went all over the castle, up into the towers and down into
the vaults, and saw all the great treasure the old King had
collected; and they went into all the grand halls and splendid
chambers, into all save one—the last room at the end of the
long corridor, wherein hung the portrait.
The King noticed that they always passed this door, and
asked John why.
"There is something there that it is dangerous to see," said
"But," answered the King, "I have seen everything else
that I possess, and you must not imagine I am going away
without seeing this."
Faithful John tried to argue him out of it, but it was of no
use, and the obstinate King even made an effort to force the
door open, and declared that he would not leave the spot till
he had seen the contents of the chamber.
So John, seeing that there was nothing for it but to yield,
sorrowfully took the key from the bunch and put it in the
lock. He turned it suddenly and hurried in, hoping to cover
over the portrait before the King saw it; but he was close on
his heels, and John was too late to prevent the catastrophe, for
no sooner had his master set eyes on the wonderful painting,
which appeared to be living, breathing flesh, than he fell on the
floor in a swoon.
Poor John carried him tenderly to his bed, deeply bewailing
the misfortune that had come upon them, and by dint of
forcing wine down his throat he brought him round again.
The first words that he uttered were:
"Who is the lady of the beautiful picture?"
"She is the daughter of the King of the Golden Palace,"
"Then," said the King, "we must seek her at once, for I
am filled with so great a love for her that if all the leaves on
the trees had tongues they should not gainsay it."
Then trusty John thought for a long, long time as how to
set about the matter, for it was very difficult to reach the
presence of the beautiful Princess. At last he thought of a
plan, and he said to the King:
"I have thought of a way by which you may achieve your
end; all the things the Princess uses, and all the things about
her, are gold—chairs, tables, dishes, pots and pans, all are
fashioned of gold. There are five tons of gold bars in your
cellars; you must have them wrought into articles of every
kind, even into beasts and flowers, and then we will set out and
seek her favor."
So the King sent for all the goldsmiths in the kingdom,
and they worked day and night till all the gold was made
into most wonderful and beautiful forms of the finest workmanship.
Then they took them all aboard a great ship and
set sail. They sailed for many days, till they came to the
city where dwelt the daughter of the King of the Golden
The faithful John had decided that it was better for him to
go ashore, so he told the King to remain on board and have
all things in readiness, the treasures displayed and all in order,
lest he should bring the Princess back with him. Then he
tied up some of the smaller things in a handkerchief and rowed
When he entered the courtyard of the palace, he saw a beautiful
girl filling two golden pails at the well. When they were
full she turned, and, perceiving the stranger, demanded his
business. So he untied the handkerchief and showed her the
dainty trinkets. She was delighted with them, and at once
"The Princess must see these, for she has a passion for
golden things, and will, no doubt, buy them all." So she took
him by the hand and led him to the King's daughter. The
Princess was even more beautiful than report had made her,
and John was dazzled. The lady was very gracious to him,
and was charmed with his treasures, which she wished to purchase.
But John said:
"I am only a servant. My master is a rich merchant who
has even more beautiful things than these aboard his ship."
"Let them be brought hither," replied the Princess; but he
"That would take many days and nights, their number is
so vast, and even if they were all brought hither there is
no room in the palace large enough to show them to advantage."
The Princess's curiosity was very much excited by this time,
and she said:
"Bring me to the ship, and I will see them there."
Faithful John was overjoyed at the success of his plans,
and conducted her thither immediately. When the King saw
her, he was so overcome with her beauty that he could hardly
help her aboard, but he managed to control the violent beatings
of his heart, and led her down into the cabin. John remained
on deck, and commanded the helmsman to steer out to
sea, and put on all the sail he could, so that they might leave
the land far behind.
Down below the Princess was enjoying herself immensely,
looking at all the beautiful and curious things, and several
hours passed before she bethought her that it was time to go
ashore. So she went on deck prepared to land immediately,
and behold! no land was to be seen, nothing but the wide sea
all around her.
"Ah!" she screamed, in sudden terror, "I am entrapped by
a strange merchant. I would rather die than remain in his
The King reassured her, and taking her hand he said: "I
am no merchant, I am a king of royal blood like yourself. I
have carried you off because my love for you is so great that I
cannot live without you. You must know that when I saw
your portrait, I was so stricken with love for you that I fell in
a swoon before it."
When the King's daughter heard this her fear disappeared,
and love grew in its place and she was willing to be his
One day, when John was sitting on deck piping sweet
music, three crows flew over the ship, talking hard all the
time. John understood every word they said, and this is what
"There he is, sailing home with the daughter of the
King of the Golden Palace," said the first. "Ah! they are
not home yet," said the second. "But she is with him in the
ship," said the third. "What matters that?" began the first
again; "when they land there will come a beautiful fox-colored
horse, and he will spring upon it and the horse will bound
away with him up into the air and he will never be seen
"But is there no way to save him?" the second one asked.
"Yes, if one springs up quickly behind him and seizes the
pistols which are in the holsters and shoots the fox-colored
horse, then the King will be saved. But nobody knows, and
if one knew and told him, he would be turned into stone from
toe to knee."
Then the second crow spoke again:
"I know still more, for even if the horse be shot he will not
keep his lovely bride. When they arrive at the castle a bridal
shirt will be brought to him on a dish, looking as though it
were made of silver and gold, but it is only sulphur and pitch,
and when he puts it on he will be burned to the marrow of
"Is there no way to save him?" asked the third crow.
"Oh, yes! if one were to take up the shirt with his gloves
on and throw it on the fire before the King touches it, he will
be saved. But what matter? for no one knows that, and if
one knew and were to tell, he would be turned into stone from
his knee to his heart."
Then the third crow spoke again:
"I know even more. Even if the shirt be burned the King
will not keep his bride. After supper a dance will be held,
and suddenly, when she is dancing, the Queen will turn pale
and fall in a faint; and if some one does not raise her up
and take three drops of blood from her little finger and throw
them away, she will die. But if anyone knows that and tells
it, he will be turned into stone from the crown of his head
to the toes of his feet."
Then the crows flew away, leaving John very quiet and
sad; for if he concealed what he knew, misfortune would fall
upon his master, and if he told, he must lose his own life; but
he decided that whatever happened to himself he must save
When they landed it happened just as the crows had said,
and a beautiful fox-colored horse appeared in front of the
King. He exclaimed with pleasure:
"Splendid! this shall carry us to the castle." And he
sprang into the saddle.
But John sprang up after him, and finding the pistols, shot
the horse dead. The other servants who were jealous of
John, began to grumble at this, and said:
"Shame to kill such a lovely animal, which was fit to bear
But the King said:
"Peace; be silent. He is my faithful servant and I trust
him. Who knows what he has saved us from?"
Then they went on to the castle, and in the hall it happened
just as it had been foretold—a beautiful bridal shirt was
brought to the King. He was just about to pick it up and
put it on when John threw himself in front of him, and seizing
the shirt, carried it to the fire and burned it.
Again the other servants set up a murmur:
"What is he about? See, he has burned the bridal shirt!"
But the King silenced them and said:
"He is my faithful John, and I trust him. Who knows
what danger he has averted?"
After the wedding supper a grand ball was given, and John
watched the Queen very carefully while she danced. Suddenly
he saw her turn pale and fall in a faint. He hurried
toward her, and lifting her up he carried her away to her
chamber. Then he knelt down, and drawing three drops of
blood from her little finger he threw them away. Soon the
Queen stirred, and then sat up, quite herself again. But the
King had watched all this, and this time he was furiously
angry with faithful John, and ordered him to be thrown into
prison. Next day he was brought to trial and condemned to
be hanged at the gallows. When he was about to be executed
he asked for the usual privilege of a condemned prisoner, to
speak once what was in his mind. The King granted it, and
faithful John began:
"I am innocent of any crime against you, and have always
served you faithfully."
Then he told what he had heard the crows saying at sea;
and how he had done all these things to save his master's
Then the King cried: "Pardon, pardon, my faithful friend;
you are innocent!"
But at the last word he had spoken John had fallen down,
turned into stone.
After this there was great sorrow and lamentation in the
palace, and they had the statue raised and taken to their chamber
and placed near the bed, and often the King looked at it
"Ah! my trusty John, could I but bring you back to life
Some time afterwards, to their great joy, twins were born
to them, two healthy boys. One day the Queen was at church
and the King was at home playing with his children, when he
looked up at the statue and said:
"Ah, my poor faithful John, what would I not do to bring
you back to life!"
To his surprise the statue answered him and said:
"If you will sacrifice what is dearest to you, you can restore
my life to me."
"I will do anything in the world for you, only tell me what,"
answered the King.
Then the statue spoke again:
"Cut off the heads of your children, and sprinkle me with
their blood, and I will be restored to life."
The poor King was horrified when he heard this, for how
could he do such an awful deed as to kill his own children?
But he thought of all John had done for him, and how much
he had sacrificed, and, without flinching, he drew his sword
to cut off their heads.
But as he was about to kill the little princes, faithful John
became alive again, crying:
"Stop, stop, my master! Your faith in me is rewarded, and
I am free."
The King was now as happy as he could be, and he thought
to give his wife a pleasant surprise; so when he heard her coming
he hid faithful John and the twins in a cupboard. When
she came in he asked her if she had prayed for all her friends.
"Yes," she answered; "but I have been thinking of poor
John, who is past our prayers."
Then the King said:
"We can restore him to life again, but we must sacrifice
both our sons."
The Queen turned very pale at this and nearly fainted;
but she thought of how it was their fault that John had suffered,
and she said bravely that if it was to restore him to life
it must be done.
The King was overjoyed to find that she thought as he
did, and he threw open the cupboard door and disclosed, not
only the twins, but faithful John also. Then they all rejoiced
and were happy together to the end of their days.