“Your Majesty,” said John, speaking gently, “if you will allow me to give the Prince a healing draught which I myself have made from life-giving herbs, I think now he will sleep and waken refreshed.”
“Do as you will!” cried the King. “Whatever you wish shall be done in the palace. Whatever you ask shall be given.”
With a word and a gentle touch John roused the Prince, who swallowed the draught which the boy gave him. “Now let us leave him to sleep,” said John.
But when they would have removed the cat and kittens, a cloud came over the Prince’s face, and his hand wandered feebly, as if craving the touch of the silky fur.
“We will leave them here,” said John. “They are what he needs.”
“Oh, let me stay too!” cried the little Princess, with shining eyes.
And across the room she and John smiled at each other, as he nodded, saying, “Yes, O King, I pray that you will let the little maid stay.”
So they withdrew from the chamber, and left the Prince to dream with his new friends sleeping about him, and the little sister with her head upon the pillow at his side. And all night long he slept like a baby with a smile upon his face.
The Prince’s cure had begun.
There was wonder and excitement in the palace, for the news of John’s success had been told from mouth to mouth. The King ordered the Hermit’s chains to be removed, and he and his pupil were treated with utmost honor. But they refused all gifts which the monarch made them; and he was annoyed.
In the morning John and the Hermit went once more to see their patient. They found him and the little Princess playing with the kittens, and both looked up with a smile when the visitors entered. But at sight of John the Prince’s color faded and the smile died on his lips. John bore the white pigeon in his hands, and going to the bedside bent over the Prince with a gay manner.
“You are better?” he asked.
The Prince’s eyes looked into his wonderingly.
“Why do you try to help me?” he asked. “Once I tried to kill you.”
The little Princess gasped.
“I came to heal and help you if I could,” said John, laughing. “I brought my pets to cheer you. See, here is the dove of peace. She brought me the message which has saved your life. Will you not love her as I do?”
He placed the bird on the Prince’s breast, and with a gentle coo the creature nestled there confidingly. Tears came to the Prince’s eyes.
“You are very good,” he said. “I tried to kill your pets in the forest.”
“O brother!” cried the little maid, clasping her hands with a sob. “How could you!”
“Let us forget that,” said John brightly. “Let us be friends. You will get well and learn to love the animals for their own sake.”