THE TRAVELLING COMPANION 57
as the people asserted. Then they betook themselves to the hall, and the little pages waited upon them with preserves and gingerbread nuts. But the old king was quite sorrowful ; he could not eat anything at all. Besides, gingerbread nuts were too hard for him.
It was settled: that John shouIcTcome to the palace again the next morning ; then the judges and the whole council would be assembled, and would hear how he succeeded with his answers. If it went well, he should come twice more ; but no one had yet come who had succeeded in guessing right the first time, and so they had to lose their lives.
John was not at all anxious as to how he should fare. On the contrary, he was merry, thought only of the beautiful princess, and felt quite certain that he should be helped; but how he did not know, and preferred not to think of it. He danced along on the road returning to the inn, where his travelling companion was waiting for him.
John could not leave off telling how polite the princess had been to him, and how beautiful she was. He declared he already longed for the next day, when he was to go into the palace and try his luck in guessing.
But the travelling companion shook his head and was quite downcast. ' I am so fond of you ! ' said he. * We might have been together a long time yet, and now I am to lose you already ! You poor dear John ! I should like to cry, but I will not disturb your merriment on the last evening, perhaps, we shall ever spend together. We will be merry, very merry ! To-morrow, when j^ou are gone, I can weep undisturbed.'
All the people in the town had heard directly that a new suitor for the princess had arrived ; and there was great sorrow on that account. The theatre remained closed ; the women who sold cakes tied bits of crape round their sugar pigs, and the king and the priests were on their knees in the churches. There was great lamentation ; for John would not, they all thought, fare better than the other suitors had fared.
Towards evening the travelling companion mixed a great bowl of punch, and said to John, ' Now we will be very merry, and drink to the health of the princess.' But when
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