But John and his friends went sturdily upon their way. Up and down hills they traveled; along dusty roads; through lonely stretches of moor and plain. They caused great excitement in the villages through which they passed. It was years since the townsfolk had seen a dancing bear; years even since they had enjoyed the frolics of a cat and kittens. The raven was a source of delight. The birds that followed overhead and came at John’s call, perching on his arms and shoulders, filled the children with envy. The wolf looked so fierce that they were afraid of him; but his brother Brutus was petted in a way to spoil any ordinary dog. Yet he kept his temper and his poise, and endured their homage meekly.
Often, in the country through which they passed, John found sick persons to whom he could bring relief, and gladly he used the knowledge which the Hermit had taught him. It seemed that there were few in that land who had the skill of healing, and many of the sick had long suffered for lack of the simple remedies which John had often used for his pets. He saved several lives. Oh! that was joy for John! The people were very grateful, and would have paid him anything he wished. But all he asked was food or shelter for himself and his friends. Then they spoke his name softly and kissed his hands, which made John laugh.
John found it easy enough to earn all the food he needed in the villages. Remembering his mountebank days, he had but to hold a little performance in the public square. Every one would hurry to see Bruin do his tricks and John himself turn somersaults and walk on his hands; after which the bear would dance and pass the hat, into which the pennies rained generously.
But it was harder to find lodgings for the night. Knowing the King’s hatred for animals, men feared to shelter this caravan. Only when John would pull from his breast the talisman of silver would they soften and yield to his wishes, wondering and almost worshiping, as the farmer had done on that first day. John himself was the most wondering of them all. For he saw no reason why the silver Cross should have such power. Sometimes he wondered if it was bewitched; but he knew the good Hermit would not have bade him rely on magic. Yet it made him almost afraid, so that he used this power only when he had to for the sake of the weary animals. He himself was welcome everywhere,—perhaps for the sake of his yellow hair and blue eyes, which were a wonder in that country; but more likely for the smiling ways and cheerful speech of him, that made his passing through that gloomy land like the passage of a sunbeam through thick clouds; and blessings followed after him.
And so, after six days of travel, they came at last to the King’s city.
About sundown John with his train came to the gates of the city where the King lived. They were all very hungry, dusty, and tired.