“John! John!” they shouted. “We knew the silver Cross which the holy John always wore when he went about doing good to us. Oh, we remember now! We shall never again forget! John! Hurrah for his son John!”
John himself stood bewildered, and the animals around him shivered and looked surprised. They were not used to such tumults. Suddenly John felt his hand clasped softly. The little Princess was at his side, looking up in his face and smiling through tears. “Dear John!” she said. “Now you are safe. Now you will be our brother indeed!”
“Yes, he is safe,” said the Hermit, embracing the boy tenderly. “My John! My brother’s son! Oh, how I have longed to tell you and claim you for my nephew! But I vowed that I would wait until you had proved yourself worthy of him, worthy of the name by which I christened you. And you are worthy, O my dear John, even to wear the silver Cross!”
“I do not understand yet,” said John. “Who am I? And why do the people shout my name and seem to love me so much?”
“You are the son of John, the holy friend of the people,” answered the Hermit.
“But you, my father,—for so I must call you still,” said John; “who are you, and how came you to be living in the forest?”
“I was but a humble servant of God,” said the Hermit. “But when King Cyril died, and my brother and you were gone, there was not happiness for me in the city of sorrow. I became an exile. I fled to the forest with the hunted animals who were my brother’s friends. And there I made a home for them, a kingdom of my own, with Brutus for my prime minister. And there, after many years, you came to find me, my dear son! It was a miracle!”
Now the Prince came forward and laid his hand timidly on John’s shoulder. “John,” he said, “now you know how less than ever you have reason to love the rulers of this land. But oh, John! I beg you to forgive us. Be my brother, John; and if you can forget, let me be your friend!”
“My brother and friend!” cried John; and the two hugged each other affectionately, while Brutus leaped up and licked the face first of one, then of the other, and the other animals frisked joyously.
“Hurrah! Hurrah!” shouted the people, “They are like good King Cyril and his friend the holy John. Let it be so! Let it be so! Hurrah! Hurrah!”
And so it turned out to be. For soon the old King died, worn out by wicked passions, and Prince Hugh became King. Then began a new order of things. The land was now a happy kingdom, full of love and peace. Like his uncle, the new monarch became known as the Good King. In his realm was never hunting or cruel sport. The houses of his subjects were full of pets. And the palace itself was a perfect menagerie, so that John called it “The Ark.” There were hundreds of new four-footed friends in the park and palace; and hundreds of two-footed friends in the trees and dovecotes. To and fro they went between the city and the forest. For all ways were safe now to wandering creatures. A highroad was made connecting the King’s city with the Hermit’s wood. And the path to the door of the hut was worn smooth. For this soon became a favorite place of pilgrimage.