From "The Goldenrod Fairy Book" selected and translated by Esther Singleton; Dodd, Mead & Company; New York; pp. 91-108.
“My faithful John, I feel that my end draws nigh, and I have no care excepting for my son; he is still young, and does not always know how to guide himself. If you will promise to instruct him in all that he ought to know, and be to him a father, then I shall close my eyes in peace.”
“I promise,” replied John. “I will never leave him, and I will serve him faithfully always, though it should cost me my life.”
“Then,” said the King, “now I can die in peace. After my death you must show my son the whole castle — all the rooms, the vaults, and the treasures concealed therein. But the last 92 room at the end of the gallery he must not enter, for it contains the picture of “the Princess of the Golden Dome.” If he should see this, he will fall in love, and will be in great danger. You must keep him from it.”
When Faithful John had taken the old King’s hand, and again promised to do all he wished, the King’s mind became peaceful — he laid his head on his pillow and died.
As soon as the old King was laid in his grave, Faithful John related to the young monarch what his father had made him promise on his death-bed, and said, “That promise I will firmly hold, and I will serve you as faithfully as I have served your father, even should it cost me my life.”
The days of mourning being over, John said to the young King, “It is time that you should go round the estate which has been left by your father, and I am ready to show you over the castle.” Then he led him all through the different saloons, and allowed him to see the beautiful rooms and the rich treasures. Only one chamber he did not open, that in which the dangerous picture hung.93
This picture was so placed that on opening the door it attracted the eye at once, it was so well painted that it seemed to live, and the colour was more beautiful than anything else in the whole world.
The young king perceived that Faithful John passed by this door without opening it, and said, “Why do you not unlock this door for me?”
“There is something in that chamber too terrible for you to see,” replied John.
But the King replied, “I have seen all over the rest of the castle, and I will know what this room contains.”
He went forward as he spoke and tried to open the door by force. But John held him back, saying, “I promised your father on his death-bed never to allow you to see the interior of this chamber, and I know that misfortune will be the result to both if I break that promise.”
“Ah, no,” replied the King; “on the contrary, if I go not into that room it will be my certain ruin; I shall have no rest day or night till I have seen it with mine eyes. Neither will I stir from this spot till you have unlocked the door.”
Then Faithful John saw that it was useless to 94 resist any longer, so with a heavy heart and many sighs he separated the key from the rest and opened the door. As he did so he stepped in first and tried to hide the picture, but it was of no use. The King, standing on tiptoe, saw it over John’s shoulder. But as soon as he caught sight of the beautiful portrait of the young lady bedecked with gold and jewels he fainted and fell insensible on the floor. Faithful John lifted him up and carried him to his room full of sorrow, saying to himself, “The misfortune has commenced now. Oh, what will become of us!” Then he gave the young King some wine, and after a time he came to himself. The first words he uttered were to ask whose beautiful portrait he had seen.
“That is ‘The Princess of the Golden Dome,’” answered Faithful John.
“Oh!” he replied, “my love for her is so great that if every leaf on every tree were a tongue they could not express it. My life depends upon obtaining her hand. You are my Faithful John, and you must help me.”
The faithful servant reflected for a long time on the best way to find the young princess for 95 his master. At last he thought of a plan, and said to the King: “Everything she has about her is of gold: the tables, the chairs, the dishes, the cups, the goblets, and even the furniture. In the castle you have five tons of golden treasures. All these you must place in the hands of the goldsmith to be formed into various and beautiful articles, such as vases and curious ornaments in the forms of birds, beasts, and wild animals. As soon as these are ready, we will set out on our travels and try our luck.”
On hearing this, the King summoned all the goldsmiths in his kingdom, and desired them to work night and day to get the articles ready as quickly as possible.
The goldsmiths worked day and night to get these beautiful things finished, and Faithful John having engaged a ship, they were carried on board and stowed away carefully. The King and his faithful servant both arrayed themselves in the dress of a merchant that they might not be recognised. As soon as everything was ready they started, and after a long and prosperous voyage reached the city where “The Princess of the Golden Dome” dwelt.96
Faithful John left the King on board, and landed by himself, carrying with him in his bag several beautiful little ornaments of gold. “Very likely I shall bring the Princess back with me to visit you on board ship,” he said before he went. “Have the golden vases placed where they can be seen, and let the ship be ornamented with them.” Then Faithful John went ashore at found his way to the castle in which the Princess lived.
When he entered the courtyard of the palace he saw standing by a fountain a beautiful maiden who was drawing water in a golden vessel. As she turned with the sparkling water in her hands, she caught sight of the strange man and inquired who he was. “I am a merchant,” he replied, and, opening his basket, he showed her some of its contents.
“Oh, what beautiful things!” she exclaimed, setting down her pitcher and examining them one by one. “The Princess must see these,” she continued; “she is so fond of golden trinkets that I am sure she will buy them all.” Then she took him by the hand and led him into the castle, for she was the Princess’s maid.97
As soon as the Princess saw the beautiful merchandise she was delighted, and said, “The workmanship is so exquisite that I should like to buy all you have.”
But Faithful John replied, “I am only the servant of a rich merchant, and these are nothing to what my master has with him on board ship; there you would see most costly golden trinkets and far more precious.”
“Can you not bring them to me?” she asked.
“Oh, no,” he replied; “it would occupy many days to do so, and there are more than your palace would hold.”
This only renewed her anxiety and wish to see them, so at last she said, “Conduct me to the ship; I will go myself and see what your master’s treasures really are.”
The Faithful John joyfully led the beautiful Princess to the ship, and the King, as soon as he beheld her, saw that her beauty was greater than that of the beautiful portrait of her in his own palace, and his heart bounded with joy. He offered his hand to help her on deck, and soon as she was safely on board, Faithful John went over quietly to the captain and told him to 98 weigh anchor and spread all sail immediately. His orders were obeyed, and in a few minutes the ship was flying before the wind like a bird.
Meanwhile the King was showing the beautiful Princess in the cabin and all over the ship the various and rich cups and vessels, vases, and other wonderful things it contained. Many hours passed by, and she was so interested that she did not observe that the ship was leaving the shore. At last, after having seen everything, she thanked the merchant and wished to go home. But when she reached the deck and saw that the ship, in full sail, had left the land, and was far out at sea, she became terribly alarmed, and cried out, “I am betrayed! I am in the power of a merchant who has carried me off; rather let me die.”
Then the King seized her by the hand and said, “No, I am not a merchant; I am a King, and as well born as yourself. Nothing but my great love for you would have induced me to carry you away by stratagem; indeed, it is so overpowering that, when I first glanced at your portrait, I fainted and fell to the earth.”
As the Princess heard this she gained courage, 99 and in her heart was favourably disposed to this young king, and consented to become his wife. One evening, however, when, seated in the stern of the vessel, Faithful John sat playing on the lute, three crows flew over the ship. Faithful John saw them, and stopped his playing to hear what they said to each other, for he understood their language.
“Ah!” said one, “there sails ‘The Princess of the Golden Dome’ with the King who has carried her off.”
“Yes,” replied the second, “but he has not got her yet.”
“Well, but he has her by his side in the ship now,” said the third.
Then the first cried out, “What does that matter? As soon as they land, a chestnut horse will be brought to the King to mount; and if he does so the horse will spring into the air and carry him out of sight, so that he will never see the Princess more.”
“Can nothing be done to save him?” asked the second crow.
“Oh, yes; if some one else would mount quickly, snatch a pistol from the holster, and 100 shoot the horse dead, then the King might be saved.”
“But who knows this? And if any one did know it and speak of it he would instantly be turned into stone from his feet to his knees.”
Then the second crow spoke again: “I know something more; even should the horse be killed, he will never marry his betrothed; for as soon as they enter the palace a splendid bridal robe will be presented to him on a silver salver, and it will appear as if woven of gold and silver thread, instead of which it will be made of sulphur and pitch, and the moment he puts it on it will burn him even to the marrow of his bones.”
“And is there a remedy for this also?” asked the third crow.
“Of course there is; for if any one with gloves on will seize the robe and throw it into the fire, the robe will be burnt, and the King saved. And should any person know this and speak of it, he would be turned into stone from his knees to his heart.”
“Ah, well,” cried the third crow, “supposing the King were saved from the burning robe, he would still lose his bride; for at the ball on the 101 wedding night, while he is dance with her, she will suddenly faint and fall down as if dead; and unless some one will immediately draw three drops of blood from her right breast, and spit it out again, she will really die. And if any one did know this, and spoke of it, he would be changed to stone from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, and become a statue.”
As soon as the crows had finished this conversation they flew away; but Faithful John had heard and understood it all, and remained for a long time still and sad.
At last he determined to be silent, and not say a word to his master of what he had heard; besides, he knew that even to hint about it to the King would cost him his own life.
“Ah, well,” he said to himself, “I will save my master, even if it should be my own ruin.”
As soon as they landed it happened as the crows had prophesied. There bounded forth a noble chestnut horse. “Heyday!” said the King; “here is a splendid creature for me to ride to my castle! I will mount at once.” But Faithful John sprang on it, and, quickly drawing a pistol from the holster, shot the horse dead.102
The other servants, who were jealous of John, cried out: “It was scandalous to kill such a beautiful horse, just as the King was to ride on it to the castle!”
But the King ordered them to be silent. “Leave him to do as he likes,” he said; “he is my Faithful John, and knows what he is about.”
In a short time they arrived at the castle, and there in the hall lay the splendid bridal robe on a salver. It looked exactly like a web of gold and silver; and the King went forward to touch it. Then John, who had already put on thick gloves, pushed him away, and seizing the bridal robe, threw it into the fire, and left it to burn.
The other servants murmured against John more than ever, and said, “Why, he has actually burnt the King’s bridal robe!” “Never mind,” said the young King, “he knows what he is about. Leave him to himself; he is my Faithful John.”
In a few days the wedding was celebrated, and at the ball in the evening the young Queen danced. John, who watched her face with 103 anxious care, saw her all at once turn pale, and fall on the floor as if dead. Then he sprang hastily forward, lifted her up, bore her into another room, laid her again on the ground; then, kneeling by her side, he sucked three drops of blood from her right breast, and spat them out.
At the same instant she breathed again and raised herself from the ground; but the young King, who had seen all this with astonishment, could not in the least understand the conduct of his faithful servant, so he flew into a passion, and cried, “Take him off to prison!”
Next morning John was brought before the judge, and sentenced to death. As he stood in the King’s presence, he said, “Every one who is about to die is allowed to speak for himself; shall I not also have that right?”
“Yes,” answered the King; “I grant you permission.”
“Then,” said Faithful John, “I have been unjustly condemned, for in every circumstance I have proved myself true and faithful to my King.” And then he related what he had heard of the conversation of the crows while at sea, 104 and how all he had done had been necessary for the safety of the King and Queen.
“Then,” cried the King, “oh, my Faithful John, pardon me! pardon me! Bring him here!” At the last words the faithful servant had uttered in telling the King, he had incurred the consequences spoken of by the crows: he fell lifeless, and was turned into stone.
Then were the King and Queen greatly troubled, and the King said, “Ah, my Faithful John, how badly have I repaid thy devotion!” And he commanded that the stone statue should be carried to his sleeping-room, and placed near his bed; and whenever he looked at it, he said, “Oh, if I could only restore thee to life again, my Faithful John!”
And so time passed on, and the Queen had twin sons, who, as they grew up, were the joy of their parents. One day, while the Queen was at church, the two children were amusing themselves in the room with their father. He cast his eyes on the statue, and feeling full of sorrow, he sighed and said, “Oh, if I could only restore thee to life, my most Faithful John!”105
Then the power of speech was given to the statue, and it replied, “Thou canst restore me to life again if thou wilt give up for me what thou lovest most.”
“Then,” cried the King, “I would sacrifice all I have in the world for thee.”
“Well,” replied the statue, “if thou wilt with thine own hand cut off the heads of thy two dear children, and smear me all over with their blood, I shall be restored to life.”
When the King heard this, he was at first stricken with horror; it was indeed dreadful that to save his Faithful John he must kill his two dear children. But when he recalled the great devotion of this faithful servant, who had died for his sake, he hesitated no longer: he drew his sword, and with his own hand cut off the heads of his dear boys, and smeared the statue with their blood. In an instant the statue received new life, and his Faithful John stood safe and well before the King, and said:
“Thy devotion to me shall not remain unrewarded;” and as he spoke he took up the heads of the two children, replaced them, and quickly 106 healed the wounds by anointing them with their own blood. So completely was this done that the next moment they were jumping about the room as if nothing had happened.
Now indeed was the King’s heart full of joy; and as soon as he heard that the Queen had returned, he made John and the children hide themselves in a large cupboard. Presently she entered the room, and he said, “Have you prayed at church?”
“Yes,” she replied, “for I am constantly thinking of our Faithful John, and what he has endured for our sakes.”
“Dear wife,” he replied, “we have the power to bring him back to life; but it would cost us both our dear little sons, whom we must sacrifice for him.”
The Queen turned very pale, and her heart seemed to stand still, yet she said, “We owe him even this sacrifice, because of his great devotion to us.”
Then was the King glad to find that they both thought alike on the matter, and joyfully unlocking the cupboard, called out the children and Faithful John. “See!” he said. “Heaven be 107 praised! John is set free, and our little sons we have still with us.”
Then he related to her how it had all happened, and they lived in happiness and peace to the end of their lives.