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The Traveling Companion

The gold crown on her head twinkled like the stars of heaven, and her cloak was made from thousands of bright butterfly wings. But she herself it; was far lovelier than all these things.

When John first set eyes on her, his face turned red - as red as blood - and he could hardly speak a single word. The Princess was the living image of the lovely girl with the golden crown, of whom he had dreamed on the night when his father died. He found the Princess so fair that he could not help falling in love with her.

"Surely," he thought, "it can't be true that she is a wicked witch who has people hanged or beheaded when they can't guess what she asks them. Anyone at all may ask for her hand, even though he is the poorest beggar, so I really will go to the palace, for I cannot help doing it!

Everyone told him he ought not to try it, lest he meet with the same fate that had befallen the others. His traveling companion also tried to persuade him not to go, but John felt sure he would succeed. He brushed his shoes and his coat, washed his face and his hands, and combed his handsome blond hair. Then, all alone, he went through the town to the palace.

"Come in," the old King said when John came knocking at his door. As John opened it the old King advanced to meet him, wearing a dressing gown and a pair of embroidered slippers. He had his crown on his head, his sceptre in one hand, and his orb in the other. "Just a minute," he said, tucking the orb under his arm so that he could offer a hand to John. But the moment he heard that John had come as a suitor, he fell to sobbing so hard that both the orb and sceptre dropped to the floor, and he had to use his dressing gown to wipe his eyes. The poor old King!

"Don't try it!" he said. "You will fare badly like all the others. Come, let me show them to you."

Then he led John into the Princess's pleasure garden, where he saw a fearful thing. From every tree hung three or four Kings' sons who had been suitors of the Princess but had not been able to answer the questions she put to them.

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