THE TRAVELLING COMPANION 53
far, many, many miles away, where they had never been. So much splendour in the lovely world John had never seen at one time before. And the sun shone'warm in the fresh blue air, and among the mountains he could hear the huntsmen blowing their horns so gaily and sweetly that tears came into his eyes, and he could not help calling out, ' How kind has Heaven been to us all, to give us all the splendour that is in this world ! '
The travelling companion also stood there with folded hands, and looked over the forest and the towns in the warm sunshine. At the same time there arose lovely sounds over their heads : they looked up, and a great white swan was soaring in the air, and singing as they had never heard a bird sing till then. But the song became weaker and weaker ; he bowed his head and sank quite slowly down at their feet, where he lay dead, the beautiful bird!
' Two such splendid wings,' said the travelling companion, ' so white and large, as those which this bird has, are worth money ; I will take them with me. Do you see that it was good I got a sabre ? '
And so, with one blow, he cut off both the wings of the dead swan, for he wanted to keep them.
They now travelled for many, many miles over the mountains, till at last they saw a great town before them with hundreds of towers, which glittered like silver in the sun. In the midst of the town was a splendid marble palace, roofed with red gold. And there the king lived.
John and the travelling companion would not go into the town at once, but remained in the inn outside the town, that they might dress themselves ; for they wished to look nice when they came out into the streets. The host told them that the king was a very good man, who never
did harm to agX one j__but his daughter, yes, goodness
preserve us ! Sfl^S^^TbSjsScess. She possessed beauty enough—no one could be so pretty and so charming as she was—but of what use was that ? She was a wicked witch, through whose fault many gallant princes had lost their lives. She had given permission to all men to seek her hand. Any one might come, be he prince- or Jbeggar_;_it was all the same to her. He had only to guess three things