Part 1 out of 4
The Princess and Curdie
by George MacDonald
1 The Mountain
2 The White Pigeon
3 The Mistress of the Silver Moon
4 Curdie's Father and Mother
5 The Miners
6 The Emerald
7 What Is in a Name?
8 Curdie's Mission
10 The Heath
12 More Creatures
13 The Baker's Wife
14 The Dogs of Gwyntystorm
15 Derba and Barbara
16 The Mattock
17 The Wine Cellar
18 The King's Kitchen
19 The King's Chamber
21 The Loaf
22 The Lord Chamberlain
23 Dr Kelman
24 The Prophecy
25 The Avengers
26 The Vengeance
27 More Vengeance
28 The Preacher
31 The Sacrifice
32 The King's Army
33 The Battle
35 The End
Curdie was the son of Peter the miner. He lived with his father
and mother in a cottage built on a mountain, and he worked with his
father inside the mountain.
A mountain is a strange and awful thing. In old times, without
knowing so much of their strangeness and awfulness as we do, people
were yet more afraid of mountains. But then somehow they had not
come to see how beautiful they are as well as awful, and they hated
them - and what people hate they must fear. Now that we have
learned to look at them with admiration, perhaps we do not feel
quite awe enough of them. To me they are beautiful terrors.
I will try to tell you what they are. They are portions of the
heart of the earth that have escaped from the dungeon down below,
and rushed up and out. For the heart of the earth is a great
wallowing mass, not of blood, as in the hearts of men and animals,
but of glowing hot, melted metals and stones. And as our hearts
keep us alive, so that great lump of heat keeps the earth alive: it
is a huge power of buried sunlight - that is what it is.
Now think: out of that cauldron, where all the bubbles would be as
big as the Alps if it could get room for its boiling, certain
bubbles have bubbled out and escaped - up and away, and there they
stand in the cool, cold sky - mountains. Think of the change, and
you will no more wonder that there should be something awful about
the very look of a mountain: from the darkness - for where the
light has nothing to shine upon, much the same as darkness - from
the heat, from the endless tumult of boiling unrest - up, with a
sudden heavenward shoot, into the wind, and the cold, and the
starshine, and a cloak of snow that lies like ermine above the
blue-green mail of the glaciers; and the great sun, their
grandfather, up there in the sky; and their little old cold aunt,
the moon, that comes wandering about the house at night; and
everlasting stillness, except for the wind that turns the rocks and
caverns into a roaring organ for the young archangels that are
studying how to let out the pent-up praises of their hearts, and
the molten music of the streams, rushing ever from the bosoms of
the glaciers fresh born.
Think, too, of the change in their own substance - no longer molten
and soft, heaving and glowing, but hard and shining and cold.
Think of the creatures scampering over and burrowing in it, and the
birds building their nests upon it, and the trees growing out of
its sides, like hair to clothe it, and the lovely grass in the
valleys, and the gracious flowers even at the very edge of its
armour of ice, like the rich embroidery of the garment below, and
the rivers galloping down the valleys in a tumult of white and
green! And along with all these, think of the terrible precipices
down which the traveller may fall and be lost, and the frightful
gulfs of blue air cracked in the glaciers, and the dark profound
lakes, covered like little arctic oceans with floating lumps of
All this outside the mountain! But the inside, who shall tell what
lies there? Caverns of awfullest solitude, their walls miles
thick, sparkling with ores of gold or silver, copper or iron, tin
or mercury, studded perhaps with precious stones - perhaps a brook,
with eyeless fish in it, running, running ceaselessly, cold and
babbling, through banks crusted with carbuncles and golden topazes,
or over a gravel of which some of the stones arc rubies and
emeralds, perhaps diamonds and sapphires - who can tell? - and
whoever can't tell is free to think - all waiting to flash, waiting
for millions of ages - ever since the earth flew off from the sun,
a great blot of fire, and began to cool.
Then there are caverns full of water, numbingly cold, fiercely hot
- hotter than any boiling water. From some of these the water
cannot get out, and from others it runs in channels as the blood in
the body: little veins bring it down from the ice above into the
great caverns of the mountain's heart, whence the arteries let it
out again, gushing in pipes and clefts and ducts of all shapes and
kinds, through and through its bulk, until it springs newborn to
the light, and rushes down the Mountainside in torrents, and down
the valleys in rivers - down, down, rejoicing, to the mighty lungs
of the world, that is the sea, where it is tossed in storms and
cyclones, heaved up in billows, twisted in waterspouts, dashed to
mist upon rocks, beaten by millions of tails, and breathed by
millions of gills, whence at last, melted into vapour by the sun,
it is lifted up pure into the air, and borne by the servant winds
back to the mountaintops and the snow, the solid ice, and the
Well, when the heart of the earth has thus come rushing up among
her children, bringing with it gifts of all that she possesses,
then straightway into it rush her children to see what they can
find there. With pickaxe and spade and crowbar, with boring chisel
and blasting powder, they force their way back: is it to search for
what toys they may have left in their long-forgotten nurseries?
Hence the mountains that lift their heads into the clear air, and
are dotted over with the dwellings of men, are tunnelled and bored
in the darkness of their bosoms by the dwellers in the houses which
they hold up to the sun and air.
Curdie and his father were of these: their business was to bring to
light hidden things; they sought silver in the rock and found it,
and carried it out. Of the many other precious things in their
mountain they knew little or nothing. Silver ore was what they
were sent to find, and in darkness and danger they found it. But
oh, how sweet was the air on the mountain face when they came out
at sunset to go home to wife and mother! They did breathe deep
The mines belonged to the king of the country, and the miners were
his servants, working under his overseers and officers. He was a
real king - that is, one who ruled for the good of his people and
not to please himself, and he wanted the silver not to buy rich
things for himself, but to help him to govern the country, and pay
the ones that defended it from certain troublesome neighbours, and
the judges whom he set to portion out righteousness among the
people, that so they might learn it themselves, and come to do
without judges at all. Nothing that could be got from the heart of
the earth could have been put to better purposes than the silver
the king's miners got for him. There were people in the country
who, when it came into their hands, degraded it by locking it up in
a chest, and then it grew diseased and was called mammon, and bred
all sorts of quarrels; but when first it left the king's hands it
never made any but friends, and the air of the world kept it clean.
About a year before this story began, a series of very remarkable
events had just ended. I will narrate as much of them as will
serve to show the tops of the roots of my tree.
Upon the mountain, on one of its many claws, stood a grand old
house, half farmhouse, half castle, belonging to the king; and
there his only child, the Princess Irene, had been brought up till
she was nearly nine years old, and would doubtless have continued
much longer, but for the strange events to which I have referred.
At that time the hollow places of the mountain were inhabited by
creatures called goblins, who for various reasons and in various
ways made themselves troublesome to all, but to the little princess
dangerous. Mainly by the watchful devotion and energy of Curdie,
however, their designs had been utterly defeated, and made to
recoil upon themselves to their own destruction, so that now there
were very few of them left alive, and the miners did not believe
there was a single goblin remaining in the whole inside of the
The king had been so pleased with the boy - then approaching
thirteen years of age - that when he carried away his daughter he
asked him to accompany them; but he was still better pleased with
him when he found that he preferred staying with his father and
mother. He was a right good king and knew that the love of a boy
who would not leave his father and mother to be made a great man
was worth ten thousand offers to die for his sake, and would prove
so when the right time came. As for his father and mother, they
would have given him up without a grumble, for they were just as
good as the king, and he and they understood each other perfectly;
but in this matter, not seeing that he could do anything for the
king which one of his numerous attendants could not do as well,
Curdie felt that it was for him to decide. So the king took a kind
farewell of them all and rode away, with his daughter on his horse
A gloom fell upon the mountain and the miners when she was gone,
and Curdie did not whistle for a whole week. As for his verses,
there was no occasion to make any now. He had made them only to
drive away the goblins, and they were all gone - a good riddance -
only the princess was gone too! He would rather have had things as
they were, except for the princess's sake. But whoever is diligent
will soon be cheerful, and though the miners missed the household
of the castle, they yet managed to get on without them.
Peter and his wife, however, were troubled with the fancy that they
had stood in the way of their boy's good fortune. it would have
been such a fine thing for him and them, too, they thought, if he
had ridden with the good king's train. How beautiful he looked,
they said, when he rode the king's own horse through the river that
the goblins had sent out of the hill! He might soon have been a
captain, they did believe! The good, kind people did not reflect
that the road to the next duty is the only straight one, or that,
for their fancied good, we should never wish our children or
friends to do what we would not do ourselves if we were in their
position. We must accept righteous sacrifices as well as make
The White Pigeon
When in the winter they had had their supper and sat about the
fire, or when in the summer they lay on the border of the
rock-margined stream that ran through their little meadow close by
the door of their cottage, issuing from the far-up whiteness often
folded in clouds, Curdie's mother would not seldom lead the
conversation to one peculiar personage said and believed to have
been much concerned in the late issue of events.
That personage was the great-great-grandmother of the princess, of
whom the princess had often talked, but whom neither Curdie nor his
mother had ever seen. Curdie could indeed remember, although
already it looked more like a dream than he could account for if it
had really taken place, how the princess had once led him up many
stairs to what she called a beautiful room in the top of the tower,
where she went through all the - what should he call it? - the
behaviour of presenting him to her grandmother, talking now to her
and now to him, while all the time he saw nothing but a bare
garret, a heap of musty straw, a sunbeam, and a withered apple.
Lady, he would have declared before the king himself, young or old,
there was none, except the princess herself, who was certainly
vexed that he could not see what she at least believed she saw.
As for his mother, she had once seen, long before Curdie was born,
a certain mysterious light of the same description as one Irene
spoke of, calling it her grandmother's moon; and Curdie himself had
seen this same light, shining from above the castle, just as the
king and princess were taking their leave. Since that time neither
had seen or heard anything that could be supposed connected with
her. Strangely enough, however, nobody had seen her go away. if
she was such an old lady, she could hardly be supposed to have set
out alone and on foot when all the house was asleep. Still, away
she must have gone, for, of course, if she was so powerful, she
would always be about the princess to take care of her.
But as Curdie grew older, he doubted more and more whether Irene
had not been talking of some dream she had taken for reality: he
had heard it said that children could not always distinguish
betwixt dreams and actual events. At the same time there was his
mother's testimony: what was he to do with that? His mother,
through whom he had learned everything, could hardly be imagined by
her own dutiful son to have mistaken a dream for a fact of the
So he rather shrank from thinking about it, and the less he thought
about it, the less he was inclined to believe it when he did think
about it, and therefore, of course, the less inclined to talk about
it to his father and mother; for although his father was one of
those men who for one word they say think twenty thoughts, Curdie
was well assured that he would rather doubt his own eyes than his
There were no others to whom he could have talked about it. The
miners were a mingled company - some good, some not so good, some
rather bad - none of them so bad or so good as they might have
been; Curdie liked most of them, and was a favourite with all; but
they knew very little about the upper world, and what might or
might not take place there. They knew silver from copper ore; they
understood the underground ways of things, and they could look very
wise with their lanterns in their hands searching after this or
that sign of ore, or for some mark to guide their way in the
hollows of the earth; but as to great-great-grandmothers, they
would have mocked Curdie all the rest of his life for the absurdity
of not being absolutely certain that the solemn belief of his
father and mother was nothing but ridiculous nonsense. Why, to
them the very word 'great-great-grandmother' would have been a
week's laughter! I am not sure that they were able quite to
believe there were such persons as great-great-grandmothers; they
had never seen one. They were not companions to give the best of
help toward progress, and as Curdie grew, he grew at this time
faster in body than in mind - with the usual consequence, that he
was getting rather stupid - one of the chief signs of which was
that he believed less and less in things he had never seen. At the
same time I do not think he was ever so stupid as to imagine that
this was a sign of superior faculty and strength of mind. Still,
he was becoming more and more a miner, and less and less a man of
the upper world where the wind blew. On his way to and from the
mine he took less and less notice of bees and butterflies, moths
and dragonflies, the flowers and the brooks and the clouds. He was
gradually changing into a commonplace man.
There is this difference between the growth of some human beings
and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in
the other a continuous resurrection. One of the latter sort comes
at length to know at once whether a thing is true the moment it
comes before him; one of the former class grows more and more
afraid of being taken in, so afraid of it that he takes himself in
altogether, and comes at length to believe in nothing but his
dinner: to be sure of a thing with him is to have it between his
Curdie was not in a very good way, then, at that time. His father
and mother had, it is true, no fault to find with him and yet - and
yet - neither of them was ready to sing when the thought of him
came up. There must be something wrong when a mother catches
herself sighing over the time when her boy was in petticoats, or a
father looks sad when he thinks how he used to carry him on his
shoulder. The boy should enclose and keep, as his life, the old
child at the heart of him, and never let it go. He must still, to
be a right man, be his mother's darling, and more, his father's
pride, and more. The child is not meant to die, but to be forever
Curdie had made himself a bow and some arrows, and was teaching
himself to shoot with them. One evening in the early summer, as he
was walking home from the mine with them in his hand, a light
flashed across his eyes. He looked, and there was a snow-white
pigeon settling on a rock in front of him, in the red light of the
level sun. There it fell at once to work with one of its wings, in
which a feather or two had got some sprays twisted, causing a
certain roughness unpleasant to the fastidious creature of the air.
It was indeed a lovely being, and Curdie thought how happy it must
be flitting through the air with a flash - a live bolt of light.
For a moment he became so one with the bird that he seemed to feel
both its bill and its feathers, as the one adjusted the other to
fly again, and his heart swelled with the pleasure of its
involuntary sympathy. Another moment and it would have been aloft
in the waves of rosy light - it was just bending its little legs to
spring: that moment it fell on the path broken-winged and bleeding
from Curdie's cruel arrow.
With a gush of pride at his skill, and pleasure at his success, he
ran to pick up his prey. I must say for him he picked it up gently
- perhaps it was the beginning of his repentance. But when he had
the white thing in his hands its whiteness stained with another red
than that of the sunset flood in which it had been revelling - ah
God! who knows the joy of a bird, the ecstasy of a creature that
has neither storehouse nor barn! - when he held it, I say, in his
victorious hands, the winged thing looked up in his face - and with
such eyes! - asking what was the matter, and where the red sun had
gone, and the clouds, and the wind of its flight. Then they
closed, but to open again presently, with the same questions in
And as they closed and opened, their look was fixed on his. It did
not once flutter or try to get away; it only throbbed and bled and
looked at him. Curdie's heart began to grow very large in his
bosom. What could it mean? It was nothing but a pigeon, and why
should he not kill a pigeon? But the fact was that not till this
very moment had he ever known what a pigeon was. A good many
discoveries of a similar kind have to be made by most of us. Once
more it opened its eyes - then closed them again, and its throbbing
ceased. Curdie gave a sob: its last look reminded him of the
princess - he did not know why. He remembered how hard he had
laboured to set her beyond danger, and yet what dangers she had had
to encounter for his sake: they had been saviours to each other -
and what had he done now? He had stopped saving, and had begun
killing! What had he been sent into the world for? Surely not to
be a death to its joy and loveliness. He had done the thing that
was contrary to gladness; he was a destroyer! He was not the
Curdie he had been meant to be!
Then the underground waters gushed from the boy's heart. And with
the tears came the remembrance that a white pigeon, just before the
princess went away with her father, came from somewhere - yes, from
the grandmother's lamp, and flew round the king and Irene and
himself, and then flew away: this might be that very pigeon!
Horrible to think! And if it wasn't, yet it was a white pigeon,
the same as this. And if she kept a great Many pigeons - and white
ones, as Irene had told him, then whose pigeon could he have killed
but the grand old princess's?
Suddenly everything round about him seemed against him. The red
sunset stung him; the rocks frowned at him; the sweet wind that had
been laving his face as he walked up the hill dropped - as if he
wasn't fit to be kissed any more. Was the whole world going to
cast him out? Would he have to stand there forever, not knowing
what to do, with the dead pigeon in his hand? Things looked bad
indeed. Was the whole world going to make a work about a pigeon -
a white pigeon? The sun went down. Great clouds gathered over the
west, and shortened the twilight. The wind gave a howl, and then
lay down again. The clouds gathered thicker. Then came a
rumbling. He thought it was thunder. It was a rock that fell
inside the mountain. A goat ran past him down the hill, followed
by a dog sent to fetch him home. He thought they were goblin
creatures, and trembled. He used to despise them. And still he
held the dead pigeon tenderly in his hand.
It grew darker and darker. An evil something began to move in his
heart. 'What a fool I am!' he said to himself. Then he grew
angry, and was just going to throw the bird from him and whistle,
when a brightness shone all round him. He lifted his eyes, and saw
a great globe of light - like silver at the hottest heat: he had
once seen silver run from the furnace. It shone from somewhere
above the roofs of the castle: it must be the great old princess's
moon! How could she be there? Of course she was not there! He
had asked the whole household, and nobody knew anything about her
or her globe either. it couldn't be! And yet what did that
signify, when there was the white globe shining, and here was the
dead white bird in his hand? That moment the pigeon gave a little
flutter. 'It's not dead!' cried Curdie, almost with a shriek. The
same instant he was running full speed toward the castle, never
letting his heels down, lest he should shake the poor, wounded
The Mistress of the Silver Moon
When Curdie reached the castle, and ran into the little garden in
front of it, there stood the door wide open. This was as he had
hoped, for what could he have said if he had had to knock at it?
Those whose business it is to open doors, so often mistake and shut
them! But the woman now in charge often puzzled herself greatly to
account for the strange fact that however often she shut the door,
which, like the rest, she took a great deal of unnecessary trouble
to do, she was certain, the next time she went to it, to find it
open. I speak now of the great front door, of course: the back
door she as persistently kept wide: if people could only go in by
that, she said, she would then know what sort they were, and what
they wanted. But she would neither have known what sort Curdie
was, nor what he wanted, and would assuredly have denied him
admittance, for she knew nothing of who was in the tower. So the
front door was left open for him, and in he walked.
But where to go next he could not tell. It was not quite dark: a
dull, shineless twilight filled the place. All he knew was that he
must go up, and that proved enough for the present, for there he
saw the great staircase rising before him. When he reached the top
of it, he knew there must be more stairs yet, for he could not be
near the top of the tower. Indeed by the situation of the stairs,
he must be a good way from the tower itself. But those who work
well in the depths more easily understand the heights, for indeed
in their true nature they are one and the same; miners are in
mountains; and Curdie, from knowing the ways of the king's mines,
and being able to calculate his whereabouts in them, was now able
to find his way about the king's house. He knew its outside
perfectly, and now his business was to get his notion of the inside
right with the outside.
So he shut his eyes and made a picture of the outside of it in his
mind. Then he came in at the door of the picture, and yet kept the
picture before him all the time - for you can do that kind of thing
in your mind - and took every turn of the stair over again, always
watching to remember, every time he turned his face, how the tower
lay, and then when he came to himself at the top where he stood, he
knew exactly where it was, and walked at once in the right
On his way, however, he came to another stair, and up that he went,
of course, watching still at every turn how the tower must lie. At
the top of this stair was yet another - they were the stairs up
which the princess ran when first, without knowing it, she was on
her way to find her great-great-grandmother. At the top of the
second stair he could go no farther, and must therefore set out
again to find the tower, which, as it rose far above the rest of
the house, must have the last of its stairs inside itself.
Having watched every turn to the very last, he still knew quite
well in what direction he must go to find it, so he left the stair
and went down a passage that led, if not exactly toward it, yet
nearer it. This passage was rather dark, for it was very long,
with only one window at the end, and although there were doors on
both sides of it, they were all shut. At the distant window
glimmered the chill east, with a few feeble stars in it, and its
like was dreary and old, growing brown, and looking as if it were
thinking about the day that was just gone. Presently he turned
into another passage, which also had a window at the end of it; and
in at that window shone all that was left of the sunset, just a few
ashes, with here and there a little touch of warmth: it was nearly
as sad as the east, only there was one difference - it was very
plainly thinking of tomorrow.
But at present Curdie had nothing to do with today or tomorrow; his
business was with the bird, and the tower where dwelt the grand old
princess to whom it belonged. So he kept on his way, still
eastward, and came to yet another passage, which brought him to a
door. He was afraid to open it without first knocking. He
knocked, but heard no answer. He was answered nevertheless; for
the door gently opened, and there was a narrow stair - and so steep
that, big lad as he was, he, too, like the Princess Irene before
him, found his hands needful for the climbing. And it was a long
climb, but he reached the top at last - a little landing, with a
door in front and one on each side. Which should he knock at?
As he hesitated, he heard the noise of a spinning wheel. He knew
it at once, because his mother's spinning wheel had been his
governess long ago, and still taught him things. It was the
spinning wheel that first taught him to make verses, and to sing,
and to think whether all was right inside him; or at least it had
helped him in all these things. Hence it was no wonder he should
know a spinning wheel when he heard it sing - even although as the
bird of paradise to other birds was the song of that wheel to the
song of his mother's.
He stood listening, so entranced that he forgot to knock, and the
wheel went on and on, spinning in his brain songs and tales and
rhymes, till he was almost asleep as well as dreaming, for sleep
does not always come first. But suddenly came the thought of the
poor bird, which had been lying motionless in his hand all the
time, and that woke him up, and at once he knocked.
'Come in, Curdie,' said a voice.
Curdie shook. It was getting rather awful. The heart that had
never much heeded an army of goblins trembled at the soft word of
invitation. But then there was the red-spotted white thing in his
hand! He dared not hesitate, though. Gently he opened the door
through which the sound came, and what did he see? Nothing at
first - except indeed a great sloping shaft of moonlight that came
in at a high window, and rested on the floor. He stood and stared
at it, forgetting to shut the door.
'Why don't you come in, Curdie?' said the voice. 'Did you never
see moonlight before?'
'Never without a moon,' answered Curdie, in a trembling tone, but
'Certainly not,' returned the voice, which was thin and quavering:
'I never saw moonlight without a moon.'
'But there's no moon outside,' said Curdie.
'Ah! but you're inside now,' said the voice.
The answer did not satisfy Curdie; but the voice went on.
'There are more moons than you know of, Curdie. Where there is one
sun there are many moons - and of many sorts. Come in and look out
of my window, and you will soon satisfy yourself that there is a
moon looking in at it.'
The gentleness of the voice made Curdie remember his manners. He
shut the door, and drew a step or two nearer to the moonlight.
All the time the sound of the spinning had been going on and on,
and Curdie now caught sight of the wheel. Oh, it was such a thin,
delicate thing - reminding him of a spider's web in a hedge. It
stood in the middle of the moonlight, and it seemed as if the
moonlight had nearly melted it away. A step nearer, he saw, with
a start, two little hands at work with it. And then at last, in
the shadow on the other side of the moonlight which came like
silver between, he saw the form to which the hands belonged: a
small withered creature, so old that no age would have seemed too
great to write under her picture, seated on a stool beyond the
spinning wheel, which looked very large beside her, but, as I said,
very thin, like a long-legged spider holding up its own web, which
was the round wheel itself She sat crumpled together, a filmy thing
that it seemed a puff would blow away, more like the body of a fly
the big spider had sucked empty and left hanging in his web, than
anything else I can think of.
When Curdie saw her, he stood still again, a good deal in wonder,
a very little in reverence, a little in doubt, and, I must add, a
little in amusement at the odd look of the old marvel. Her grey
hair mixed with the moonlight so that he could not tell where the
one began and the other ended. Her crooked back bent forward over
her chest, her shoulders nearly swallowed up her head between them,
and her two little hands were just like the grey claws of a hen,
scratching at the thread, which to Curdie was of course invisible
across the moonlight. Indeed Curdie laughed within himself, just
a little, at the sight; and when he thought of how the princess
used to talk about her huge, great, old grandmother, he laughed
more. But that moment the little lady leaned forward into the
moonlight, and Curdie caught a glimpse of her eyes, and all the
laugh went out of him.
'What do you come here for, Curdie?' she said, as gently as before.
Then Curdie remembered that he stood there as a culprit, and worst
of all, as one who had his confession yet to make. There was no
time to hesitate over it.
'Oh, ma'am! See here,' he said, and advanced a step or two,
holding out the pigeon.
'What have you got there?' she asked.
Again Curdie advanced a few steps, and held out his hand with the
pigeon, that she might see what it was, into the moonlight. The
moment the rays fell upon it the pigeon gave a faint flutter. The
old lady put out her old hands and took it, and held it to her
bosom, and rocked it, murmuring over it as if it were a sick baby.
When Curdie saw how distressed she was he grew sorrier still, and
'I didn't mean to do any harm, ma'am. I didn't think of its being
'Ah, Curdie! If it weren't mine, what would become of it now?' she
returned. 'You say you didn't mean any harm: did you mean any
'No,' answered Curdie.
'Remember, then, that whoever does not mean good is always in
danger of harm. But I try to give everybody fair play; and those
that are in the wrong are in far more need of it always than those
who are in the right: they can afford to do without it. Therefore
I say for you that when you shot that arrow you did not know what
a pigeon is. Now that you do know, you are sorry. It is very
dangerous to do things you don't know about.'
'But, please, ma'am - I don't mean to be rude or to contradict
you,' said Curdie, 'but if a body was never to do anything but what
he knew to be good, he would have to live half his time doing
'There you are much mistaken,' said the old quavering voice. 'How
little you must have thought! Why, you don't seem even to know the
good of the things you are constantly doing. Now don't mistake me.
I don't mean you are good for doing them. It is a good thing to
eat your breakfast, but you don't fancy it's very good of you to do
it. The thing is good, not you.'
'There are a great many more good things than bad things to do.
Now tell me what bad thing you have done today besides this sore
hurt to my little white friend.'
While she talked Curdie had sunk into a sort of reverie, in which
he hardly knew whether it was the old lady or his own heart that
spoke. And when she asked him that question, he was at first much
inclined to consider himself a very good fellow on the whole. 'I
really don't think I did anything else that was very bad all day,'
he said to himself. But at the same time he could not honestly
feel that he was worth standing up for. All at once a light seemed
to break in upon his mind, and he woke up and there was the
withered little atomy of the old lady on the other side of the
moonlight, and there was the spinning wheel singing on and on in
the middle of it!
'I know now, ma'am; I understand now,' he said. 'Thank you, ma'am,
for spinning it into me with your wheel. I see now that I have
been doing wrong the whole day, and such a many days besides!
Indeed, I don't know when I ever did right, and yet it seems as if
I had done right some time and had forgotten how. When I killed
your bird I did not know I was doing wrong, just because I was
always doing wrong, and the wrong had soaked all through me.'
'What wrong were you doing all day, Curdie? It is better to come
to the point, you know,' said the old lady, and her voice was
gentler even than before.
'I was doing the wrong of never wanting or trying to be better.
And now I see that I have been letting things go as they would for
a long time. Whatever came into my head I did, and whatever didn't
come into my head I didn't do. I never sent anything away, and
never looked out for anything to come. I haven't been attending to
my mother - or my father either. And now I think of it, I know I
have often seen them looking troubled, and I have never asked them
what was the matter. And now I see, too, that I did not ask
because I suspected it had something to do with me and my
behaviour, and didn't want to hear the truth. And I know I have
been grumbling at my work, and doing a hundred other things that
'You have got it, Curdie,' said the old lady, in a voice that
sounded almost as if she had been crying. 'When people don't care
to be better they must be doing everything wrong. I am so glad you
shot my bird!'
'Ma'am!' exclaimed Curdie. 'How can you be?'
'Because it has brought you to see what sort you were when you did
it, and what sort you will grow to be again, only worse, if you
don't mind. Now that you are sorry, my poor bird will be better.
Look up, my dovey.'
The pigeon gave a flutter, and spread out one of its red-spotted
wings across the old woman's bosom.
'I will mend the little angel,' she said, 'and in a week or two it
will be flying again. So you may ease your heart about the
'Oh, thank you! Thank you!' cried Curdie. 'I don't know how to
'Then I will tell you. There is only one way I care for. Do
better, and grow better, and be better. And never kill anything
without a good reason for it.'
'Ma'am, I will go and fetch my bow and arrows, and you shall burn
'I have no fire that would burn your bow and arrows, Curdie.'
'Then I promise you to burn them all under my mother's porridge pot
'No, no, Curdie. Keep them, and practice with them every day, and
grow a good shot. There are plenty of bad things that want
killing, and a day will come when they will prove useful. But I
must see first whether you will do as I tell you.'
'That I will!' said Curdie. 'What is it, ma'am?'
'Only something not to do,' answered the old lady; 'if you should
hear anyone speak about me, never to laugh or make fun of me.'
'Oh, ma'am!' exclaimed Curdie, shocked that she should think such
a request needful.
'Stop, stop,' she went on. 'People hereabout sometimes tell very
odd and in fact ridiculous stories of an old woman who watches what
is going on, and occasionally interferes. They mean me, though
what they say is often great nonsense. Now what I want of you is
not to laugh, or side with them in any way; because they will take
that to mean that you don't believe there is any such person a bit
more than they do. Now that would not be the case - would it,
'No, indeed, ma'am. I've seen you.'
The old woman smiled very oddly.
'Yes, you've seen me,' she said. 'But mind,' she continued, 'I
don't want you to say anything - only to hold your tongue, and not
seem to side with them.'
'That will be easy,'said Curdie,'now that I've seen you with my
very own eyes, ma'am.'
'Not so easy as you think, perhaps,' said the old lady, with
another curious smile. 'I want to be your friend,' she added after
a little pause, 'but I don't quite know yet whether you will let
'Indeed I will, ma'am,' said Curdie.
'That is for me to find out,' she rejoined, with yet another
strange smile. 'in the meantime all I can say is, come to me again
when you find yourself in any trouble, and I will see what I can do
for you - only the canning depends on yourself. I am greatly
pleased with you for bringing me my pigeon, doing your best to set
right what you had set wrong.'
As she spoke she held out her hand to him, and when he took it she
made use of his to help herself up from her stool, and - when or
how it came about, Curdie could not tell - the same instant she
stood before him a tall, strong woman - plainly very old, but as
grand as she was old, and only rather severe-looking. Every trace
of the decrepitude and witheredness she showed as she hovered like
a film about her wheel, had vanished. Her hair was very white, but
it hung about her head in great plenty, and shone like silver in
the moonlight. Straight as a pillar she stood before the
astonished boy, and the wounded bird had now spread out both its
wings across her bosom, like some great mystical ornament of
'Oh, now I can never forget you!' cried Curdie. 'I see now what
you really are!'
'Did I not tell you the truth when I sat at my wheel?' said the old
'Yes, ma'am,' answered Curdie.
'I can do no more than tell you the truth now,' she rejoined. 'It
is a bad thing indeed to forget one who has told us the truth. Now
Curdie obeyed, and took a few steps toward the door. 'Please,
ma'am - what am I to call you?' he was going to say; but when he
turned to speak, he saw nobody. Whether she was there or not he
could not tell, however, for the moonlight had vanished, and the
room was utterly dark. A great fear, such as he had never before
known, came upon him, and almost overwhelmed him. He groped his
way to the door, and crawled down the stair - in doubt and anxiety
as to how he should find his way out of the house in the dark. And
the stair seemed ever so much longer than when he came up. Nor was
that any wonder, for down and down he went, until at length his
foot struck a door, and when he rose and opened it, he found
himself under the starry, moonless sky at the foot of the tower.
He soon discovered the way out of the garden, with which he had
some acquaintance already, and in a few minutes was climbing the
mountain with a solemn and cheerful heart. It was rather dark, but
he knew the way well. As he passed the rock from which the poor
pigeon fell wounded with his arrow, a great joy filled his heart at
the thought that he was delivered from the blood of the little
bird, and he ran the next hundred yards at full speed up the hill.
Some dark shadows passed him: he did not even care to think what
they were, but let them run. When he reached home, he found his
father and mother waiting supper for him.
Curdie's Father and Mother
The eyes of the fathers and mothers are quick to read their
children's looks, and when Curdie entered the cottage, his parents
saw at once that something unusual had taken place. When he said
to his mother, 'I beg your pardon for being so late,' there was
something in the tone beyond the politeness that went to her heart,
for it seemed to come from the place where all lovely things were
born before they began to grow in this world. When he set his
father's chair to the table, an attention he had not shown him for
a long time, Peter thanked him with more gratitude than the boy had
ever yet felt in all his life. It was a small thing to do for the
man who had been serving him since ever he was born, but I suspect
there is nothing a man can be so grateful for as that to which he
has the most right.
There was a change upon Curdie, and father and mother felt there
must be something to account for it, and therefore were pretty sure
he had something to tell them. For when a child's heart is all
right, it is not likely he will want to keep anything from his
parents. But the story of the evening was too solemn for Curdie to
come out with all at once. He must wait until they had had their
porridge, and the affairs of this world were over for the day.
But when they were seated on the grassy bank of the brook that went
so sweetly blundering over the great stones of its rocky channel,
for the whole meadow lay on the top of a huge rock, then he felt
that the right hour had come for sharing with them the wonderful
things that had come to him. It was perhaps the loveliest of all
hours in the year. The summer was young and soft, and this was the
warmest evening they had yet had - dusky, dark even below, while
above, the stars were bright and large and sharp in the blackest
blue sky. The night came close around them, clasping them in one
universal arm of love, and although it neither spoke nor smiled,
seemed all eye and ear, seemed to see and hear and know everything
they said and did. It is a way the night has sometimes, and there
is a reason for it. The only sound was that of the brook, for
there was no wind, and no trees for it to make its music upon if
there had been, for the cottage was high up on the mountain, on a
great shoulder of stone where trees would not grow.
There, to the accompaniment of the water, as it hurried down to the
valley and the sea, talking busily of a thousand true things which
it could not understand, Curdie told his tale, outside and in, to
his father and mother. What a world had slipped in between the
mouth of the mine and his mother's cottage! Neither of them said
a word until he had ended.
'Now what am I to make of it, Mother? it's so strange!' he said,
'It's easy enough to see what Curdie has got to make of it, isn't
it, Peter?' said the good woman, turning her face toward all she
could see of her husband's.
'it seems so to me,' answered Peter, with a smile which only the
night saw, but his wife felt in the tone of his words. They were
the happiest couple in that country, because they always understood
each other, and that was because they always meant the same thing,
and that was because they always loved what was fair and true and
right better, not than anything else, but than everything else put
'Then will you tell Curdie?' said she.
'You can talk best, Joan,' said he. 'You tell him, and I will
listen - and learn how to say what I think,' he added.
'I,' said Curdie, 'don't know what to think.'
'it does not matter so much,' said his mother. 'If only you know
what to make of a thing, you'll know soon enough what to think of
it. Now I needn't tell you, surely, Curdie, what you've got to do
'I suppose you mean, Mother,' answered Curdie, 'that I must do as
the old lady told me?'
'That is what I mean: what else could it be? Am I not right,
'Quite right, Joan,' answered Peter, 'so far as my judgement goes.
It is a very strange story, but you see the question is not about
believing it, for Curdie knows what came to him.'
'And you remember, Curdie,' said his mother, 'that when the
princess took you up that tower once before, and there talked to
her great-great-grandmother, you came home quite angry with her,
and said there was nothing in the place but an old tub, a heap of
straw - oh, I remember your inventory quite well! - an old tub, a
heap of straw, a withered apple, and a sunbeam. According to your
eyes, that was all there was in the great, old, musty garret. But
now you have had a glimpse of the old princess herself!'
'Yes, Mother, I did see her - or if I didn't -' said Curdie very
thoughtfully - then began again. 'The hardest thing to believe,
though I saw it with my own eyes, was when the thin, filmy creature
that seemed almost to float about in the moonlight like a bit of
the silver paper they put over pictures, or like a handkerchief
made of spider threads, took my hand, and rose up. She was taller
and stronger than you, Mother, ever so much! - at least, she looked
'And most certainly was so, Curdie, if she looked so,' said Mrs
'Well, I confess,' returned her son, 'that one thing, if there were
no other, would make me doubt whether I was not dreaming, after
all, wide awake though I fancied myself to be.'
'Of course,' answered his mother, 'it is not for me to say whether
you were dreaming or not if you are doubtful of it yourself; but it
doesn't make me think I am dreaming when in the summer I hold in my
hand the bunch of sweet peas that make my heart glad with their
colour and scent, and remember the dry, withered-looking little
thing I dibbled into the hole in the same spot in the spring. I
only think how wonderful and lovely it all is. It seems just as
full of reason as it is of wonder. How it is done I can't tell,
only there it is! And there is this in it, too, Curdie - of which
you would not be so ready to think - that when you come home to
your father and mother, and they find you behaving more like a
dear, good son than you have behaved for a long time, they at least
are not likely to think you were only dreaming.'
'Still,' said Curdie, looking a little ashamed, 'I might have
dreamed my duty.'
'Then dream often, my son; for there must then be more truth in
your dreams than in your waking thoughts. But however any of these
things may be, this one point remains certain: there can be no harm
in doing as she told you. And, indeed, until you are sure there is
no such person, you are bound to do it, for you promised.'
'it seems to me,' said his father, 'that if a lady comes to you in
a dream, Curdie, and tells you not to talk about her when you wake,
the least you can do is to hold your tongue.'
'True, Father! Yes, Mother, I'll do it,' said Curdie.
Then they went to bed, and sleep, which is the night of the soul,
next took them in its arms and made them well.
It much increased Curdie's feeling of the strangeness of the whole
affair, that, the next morning, when they were at work in the mine,
the party of which he and his father were two, just as if they had
known what had happened to him the night before, began talking
about all manner of wonderful tales that were abroad in the
country, chiefly, of course, those connected with the mines, and
the mountains in which they lay. Their wives and mothers and
grandmothers were their chief authorities. For when they sat by
their firesides they heard their wives telling their children the
selfsame tales, with little differences, and here and there one
they had not heard before, which they had heard their mothers and
grandmothers tell in one or other of the same cottages.
At length they came to speak of a certain strange being they called
Old Mother Wotherwop. Some said their wives had seen her. It
appeared as they talked that not one had seen her more than once.
Some of their mothers and grandmothers, however, had seen her also,
and they all had told them tales about her when they were children.
They said she could take any shape she liked, but that in reality
she was a withered old woman, so old and so withered that she was
as thin as a sieve with a lamp behind it; that she was never seen
except at night, and when something terrible had taken place, or
was going to take place - such as the falling in of the roof of a
mine, or the breaking out of water in it.
She had more than once been seen - it was always at night - beside
some well, sitting on the brink of it, and leaning over and
stirring it with her forefinger, which was six times as long as any
of the rest. And whoever for months after drank of that well was
sure to be ill. To this, one of them, however, added that he
remembered his mother saying that whoever in bad health drank of
the well was sure to get better. But the majority agreed that the
former was the right version of the story- for was she not a witch,
an old hating witch, whose delight was to do mischief? One said he
had heard that she took the shape of a young woman sometimes, as
beautiful as an angel, and then was most dangerous of all, for she
struck every man who looked upon her stone-blind.
Peter ventured the question whether she might not as likely be an
angel that took the form of an old woman, as an old woman that took
the form of an angel. But nobody except Curdie, who was holding
his peace with all his might, saw any sense in the question. They
said an old woman might be very glad to make herself look like a
young one, but who ever heard of a young and beautiful one making
herself look old and ugly?
Peter asked why they were so much more ready to believe the bad
that was said of her than the good. They answered, because she was
bad. He asked why they believed her to be bad, and they answered,
because she did bad things. When he asked how they knew that, they
said, because she was a bad creature. Even if they didn't know it,
they said, a woman like that was so much more likely to be bad than
good. Why did she go about at night? Why did she appear only now
and then, and on such occasions? One went on to tell how one night
when his grandfather had been having a jolly time of it with his
friends in the market town, she had served him so upon his way home
that the poor man never drank a drop of anything stronger than
water after it to the day of his death. She dragged him into a
bog, and tumbled him up and down in it till he was nearly dead.
'I suppose that was her way of teaching him what a good thing water
was,' said Peter; but the man, who liked strong drink, did not see
'They do say,' said another, 'that she has lived in the old house
over there ever since the little princess left it. They say too
that the housekeeper knows all about it, and is hand and glove with
the old witch. I don't doubt they have many a nice airing together
on broomsticks. But I don't doubt either it's all nonsense, and
there's no such person at all.'
'When our cow died,' said another, 'she was seen going round and
round the cowhouse the same night. To be sure she left a fine calf
behind her - I mean the cow did, not the witch. I wonder she
didn't kill that, too, for she'll be a far finer cow than ever her
'My old woman came upon her one night, not long before the water
broke out in the mine, sitting on a stone on the hillside with a
whole congregation of cobs about her. When they saw my wife they
all scampered off as fast as they could run, and where the witch
was sitting there was nothing to be seen but a withered bracken
bush. I made no doubt myself she was putting them up to it.'
And so they went on with one foolish tale after another, while
Peter put in a word now and then, and Curdie diligently held his
peace. But his silence at last drew attention upon it, and one of
'Come, young Curdie, what are you thinking of?'
'How do you know I'm thinking of anything?' asked Curdie.
'Because you're not saying anything.'
'Does it follow then that, as you are saying so much, you're not
thinking at all?' said Curdie.
'I know what he's thinking,' said one who had not yet spoken; 'he's
thinking what a set of fools you are to talk such rubbish; as if
ever there was or could be such an old woman as you say! I'm sure
Curdie knows better than all that comes to.'
'I think,' said Curdie, 'it would be better that he who says
anything about her should be quite sure it is true, lest she should
hear him, and not like to be slandered.'
'But would she like it any better if it were true?' said the same
man. 'If she is What they say - I don't know - but I never knew a
man that wouldn't go in a rage to be called the very thing he was.'
'if bad things were true of her, and I knew it,' said Curdie, 'I
would not hesitate to say them, for I will never give in to being
afraid of anything that's bad. I suspect that the things they
tell, however, if we knew all about them, would turn out to have
nothing but good in them; and I won't say a word more for fear I
should say something that mightn't be to her mind.'
They all burst into a loud laugh.
'Hear the parson!' they cried. 'He believes in the witch! Ha!
'He's afraid of her!'
'And says all she does is good!'
'He wants to make friends with her, that she may help him to find
the silver ore.'
'Give me my own eyes and a good divining rod before all the witches
in the world! And so I'd advise you too, Master Curdie; that is,
when your eyes have grown to be worth anything, and you have
learned to cut the hazel fork.'
Thus they all mocked and jeered at him, but he did his best to keep
his temper and go quietly on with his work. He got as close to his
father as he could, however, for that helped him to bear it. As
soon as they were tired of laughing and mocking, Curdie was
friendly with them, and long before their midday meal all between
them was as it had been.
But when the evening came, Peter and Curdie felt that they would
rather walk home together without other company, and therefore
lingered behind when the rest of the men left the mine.
Father and son had seated themselves on a projecting piece of rock
at a corner where three galleries met - the one they had come along
from their work, one to the right leading out of the mountain, and
the other to the left leading far into a portion of it which had
been long disused. Since the inundation caused by the goblins, it
had indeed been rendered impassable by the settlement of a quantity
of the water, forming a small but very deep lake, in a part where
there was a considerable descent.
They had just risen and were turning to the right, when a gleam
caught their eyes, and made them look along the whole gallery. Far
up they saw a pale green light, whence issuing they could not tell,
about halfway between floor and roof of the passage. They saw
nothing but the light, which was like a large star, with a point of
darker colour yet brighter radiance in the heart of it, whence the
rest of the light shot out in rays that faded toward the ends until
they vanished. It shed hardly any light around it, although in
itself it was so bright as to sting the eyes that beheld it.
Wonderful stories had from ages gone been current in the mines
about certain magic gems which gave out light of themselves, and
this light looked just like what might be supposed to shoot from
the heart of such a gem.
They went up the old gallery to find out what it could be. To
their surprise they found, however, that, after going some
distance, they were no nearer to it, so far as they could judge,
than when they started. It did not seem to move, and yet they
moving did not approach it. Still they persevered, for it was far
too wonderful a thing to lose sight of, so long as they could keep
it. At length they drew near the hollow where the water lay, and
still were no nearer the light. Where they expected to be stopped
by the water, however, water was none: something had taken place in
some part of the mine that had drained it off, and the gallery lay
open as in former times.
And now, to their surprise, the light, instead of being in front of
them, was shining at the same distance to the right, where they did
not know there was any passage at all. Then they discovered, by
the light of the lanterns they carried, that there the water had
broken through, and made an entrance to a part of the mountain of
which Peter knew nothing. But they were hardly well into it, still
following the light, before Curdie thought he recognized some of
the passages he had so often gone through when he was watching the
After they had advanced a long way, with many turnings, now to the
right, now to the left, all at once their eyes seemed to come
suddenly to themselves, and they became aware that the light which
they had taken to be a great way from them was in reality almost
within reach of their hands.
The same instant it began to grow larger and thinner, the point of
light grew dim as it spread, the greenness melted away, and in a
moment or two, instead of the star, a dark, dark and yet luminous
face was looking at them with living eyes. And Curdie felt a great
awe swell up in his heart, for he thought he had seen those eyes
'I see you know me, Curdie,' said a voice.
'if your eyes are you, ma'am, then I know you,' said Curdie. 'But
I never saw your face before.'
'Yes, you have seen it, Curdie,' said the voice. And with that the
darkness of its complexion melted away, and down from the face
dawned out the form that belonged to it, until at last Curdie and
his father beheld a lady, beautiful exceedingly, dressed in
something pale green, like velvet, over which her hair fell in
cataracts of a rich golden colour. it looked as if it were pouring
down from her head, and, like the water of the Dustbrook, vanishing
in a golden vapour ere it reached the floor. It came flowing from
under the edge of a coronet of gold, set with alternated pearls and
emeralds. In front of the crown was a great emerald, which looked
somehow as if out of it had come the light they had followed.
There was no ornament else about her, except on her slippers, which
were one mass of gleaming emeralds, of various shades of green, all
mingling lovelily like the waving of grass in the wind and sun.
She looked about five-and-twenty years old. And for all the
difference, Curdie knew somehow or other, he could not have told
how, that the face before him was that of the old princess, Irene's
By this time all around them had grown light, and now first they
could see where they were. They stood in a great splendid cavern,
which Curdie recognized as that in which the goblins held their
state assemblies. But, strange to tell, the light by which they
saw came streaming, sparkling, and shooting from stones of many
colours in the sides and roof and floor of the cavern - stones of
all the colours of the rainbow, and many more. It was a glorious
sight - the whole rugged place flashing with colours - in one spot
a great light of deep carbuncular red, in another of sapphirine
blue, in another of topaz yellow; while here and there were groups
of stones of all hues and sizes, and again nebulous spaces of
thousands of tiniest spots of brilliancy of every conceivable
shade. Sometimes the colours ran together, and made a little river
or lake of lambent, interfusing, and changing tints, which, by
their variegation, seemed to imitate the flowing of water, or waves
made by the wind.
Curdie would have gazed entranced, but that all the beauty of the
cavern, yes, of all he knew of the whole creation, seemed gathered
in one centre of harmony and loveliness in the person of the
ancient lady who stood before him in the very summer of beauty and
strength. Turning from the first glance at the circuadjacent
splendour, it dwindled into nothing as he looked again at the lady.
Nothing flashed or glowed or shone about her, and yet it was with
a prevision of the truth that he said,
'I was here once before, ma'am.'
'I know that, Curdie,' she replied.
'The place was full of torches, and the walls gleamed, but nothing
as they do now, and there is no light in the place.'
'You want to know where the light comes from?' she said, smiling.
'Then see: I will go out of the cavern. Do not be afraid, but
She went slowly out. The moment she turned her back to go, the
light began to pale and fade; the moment she was out of their sight
the place was black as night, save that now the smoky yellow-red of
their lamps, which they thought had gone out long ago, cast a dusky
glimmer around them.
What Is in a Name?
For a time that seemed to them long, the two men stood waiting,
while still the Mother of Light did not return. So long was she
absent that they began to grow anxious: how were they to find their
way from the natural hollows of the mountain crossed by goblin
paths, if their lamps should go out? To spend the night there
would mean to sit and wait until an earthquake rent the mountain,
or the earth herself fell back into the smelting furnace of the sun
whence she had issued - for it was all night and no faintest dawn
in the bosom of the world.
So long did they wait unrevisited, that, had there not been two of
them, either would at length have concluded the vision a home-born
product of his own seething brain. And their lamps were going out,
for they grew redder and smokier! But they did not lose courage,
for there is a kind of capillary attraction in the facing of two
souls, that lifts faith quite beyond the level to which either
could raise it alone: they knew that they had seen the lady of
emeralds, and it was to give them their own desire that she had
gone from them, and neither would yield for a moment to the half
doubts and half dreads that awoke in his heart.
And still she who with her absence darkened their air did not
return. They grew weary, and sat down on the rocky floor, for wait
they would - indeed, wait they must. Each set his lamp by his
knee, and watched it die. Slowly it sank, dulled, looked lazy and
stupid. But ever as it sank and dulled, the image in his mind of
the Lady of Light grew stronger and clearer. Together the two
lamps panted and shuddered. First one, then the other went out,
leaving for a moment a great, red, evil-smelling snuff. Then all
was the blackness of darkness up to their very hearts and
everywhere around them. Was it? No. Far away - it looked miles
away - shone one minute faint point of green light - where, who
could tell? They only knew that it shone. it grew larger, and
seemed to draw nearer, until at last, as they watched with
speechless delight and expectation, it seemed once more within
reach of an outstretched hand. Then it spread and melted away as
before, and there were eyes - and a face - and a lovely form - and
lo! the whole cavern blazing with lights innumerable, and gorgeous,
yet soft and interfused - so blended, indeed, that the eye had to
search and see in order to separate distinct spots of special
The moment they saw the speck in the vast distance they had risen
and stood on their feet. When it came nearer they bowed their
heads. Yet now they looked with fearless eyes, for the woman that
was old yet young was a joy to see, and filled their hearts with
reverent delight. She turned first to Peter.
'I have known you long,' she said. 'I have met you going to and
from the mine, and seen you working in it for the last forty
'How should it be, madam, that a grand lady like you should take
notice of a poor man like me?' said Peter, humbly,
but more foolishly than he could then have understood.
'I am poor as well as rich,' said she. 'I, too, work for my bread,
and I show myself no favour when I pay myself my own wages. Last
night when you sat by the brook, and Curdie told you about my
pigeon, and my spinning, and wondered whether he could believe that
he had actually seen me, I heard what you said to each other. I am
always about, as the miners said the other night when they talked
of me as Old Mother Wotherwop.'
The lovely lady laughed, and her laugh was a lightning of delight
in their souls.
'Yes,' she went on, 'you have got to thank me that you are so poor,
Peter. I have seen to that, and it has done well for both you and
me, my friend. Things come to the poor that can't get in at the
door of the rich. Their money somehow blocks it up. It is a great
privilege to be poor, Peter - one that no man ever coveted, and but
a very few have sought to retain, but one that yet many have
learned to prize. You must not mistake, however, and imagine it a
virtue; it is but a privilege, and one also that, like other
privileges, may be terribly misused. Had you been rich, my Peter,
you would not have been so good as some rich men I know. And now
I am going to tell you what no one knows but myself: you, Peter,
and your wife both have the blood of the royal family in your
veins. I have been trying to cultivate your family tree, every
branch of which is known to me, and I expect Curdie to turn out a
blossom on it. Therefore I have been training him for a work that
must soon be done. I was near losing him, and had to send my
pigeon. Had he not shot it, that would have been better; but he
repented, and that shall be as good in the end.'
She turned to Curdie and smiled.
'Ma'am,' said Curdie, 'may I ask questions?'
'Why not, Curdie?'
'Because I have been told, ma'am, that nobody must ask the king
'The king never made that law,' she answered, with some
displeasure. 'You may ask me as many as you please - that is, so
long as they are sensible. Only I may take a few thousand years to
answer some of them. But that's nothing. Of all things time is
'Then would you mind telling me now, ma'am, for I feel very
confused about it - are you the Lady of the Silver Moon?'
'Yes, Curdie; you may call me that if you like. What it means is
'And now I see you dark, and clothed in green, and the mother of
all the light that dwells in the stones of the earth! And up there
they call you Old Mother Wotherwop! And the Princess Irene told me
you were her great-great-grandmother! And you spin the spider
threads, and take care of a whole people of pigeons; and you are
worn to a pale shadow with old age; and are as young as anybody can
be, not to be too young; and as strong, I do believe, as I am.'
The lady stooped toward a large green stone bedded in the rock of
the floor, and looking like a well of grassy light in it. She laid
hold of it with her fingers, broke it out, and gave it to Peter.
'There!' cried Curdie. 'I told you so. Twenty men could not have
done that. And your fingers are white and smooth as any lady's in
the land. I don't know what to make of it.'
'I could give you twenty names more to call me, Curdie, and not one
of them would be a false one. What does it matter how many names
if the person is one?'
'Ah! But it is not names only, ma'am. Look at what you were like
last night, and what I see you now!'
'Shapes are only dresses, Curdie, and dresses are only names. That
which is inside is the same all the time.'
'But then how can all the shapes speak the truth?'
'it would want thousands more to speak the truth, Curdie; and then
they could not. But there is a point I must not let you mistake
about. It is one thing the shape I choose to put on, and quite
another the shape that foolish talk and nursery tale may please to
put upon me. Also, it is one thing what you or your father may
think about me, and quite another what a foolish or bad man may see
in me. For instance, if a thief were to come in here just now, he
would think he saw the demon of the mine, all in green flames, come
to protect her treasure, and would run like a hunted wild goat. I
should be all the same, but his evil eyes would see me as I was
'I think I understand,' said Curdie.
'Peter,' said the lady, turning then to him, 'you will have to give
up Curdie for a little while.'
'So long as he loves us, ma'am, that will not matter - much.'
'Ah! you are right there, my friend,' said the beautiful princess.
And as she said it she put out her hand, and took the hard, horny
hand of the miner in it, and held it for a moment lovingly.
'I need say no more,' she added, 'for we understand each other -
you and I, Peter.'
The tears came into Peter's eyes. He bowed his head in
thankfulness, and his heart was much too full to speak.
Then the great old, young, beautiful princess turned to Curdie.
'Now, Curdie, are you ready?' she said.
'Yes, ma'am,' answered Curdie.
'You do not know what for.'
'You do, ma'am. That is enough.'
'You could not have given me a better answer, or done more to
prepare yourself, Curdie,' she returned, with one of her radiant
smiles. 'Do you think you will know me again?'
'I think so. But how can I tell what you may look like next?'
'Ah, that indeed! How can you tell? Or how could I expect you
should? But those who know me well, know me whatever new dress or
shape or name I may be in; and by and by you will have learned to
do so too.'
'But if you want me to know you again, ma'am, for certain sure,'
said Curdie, 'could you not give me some sign, or tell me something
about you that never changes - or some other way to know you, or
thing to know you by?'
'No, Curdie; that would be to keep you from knowing me. You must
know me in quite another way from that. It would not be the least
use to you or me either if I were to make you know me in that way.
It would be but to know the sign of Me - not to know me myself. it
would be no better than if I were to take this emerald out of my
crown and give it to you to take home with you, and you were to
call it me, and talk to it as if it heard and saw and loved you.
Much good that would do you, Curdie! No; you must do what you can
to know me, and if you do, you will. You shall see me again in
very different circumstances from these, and, I will tell you so
much, it may be in a very different shape. But come now, I will
lead you out of this cavern; my good Joan will be getting too
anxious about you. One word more: you will allow that the men knew
little what they were talking about this morning, when they told
all those tales of Old Mother Wotherwop; but did it occur to you to
think how it was they fell to talking about me at all? It was
because I came to them; I was beside them all the time they were
talking about me, though they were far enough from knowing it, and
had very little besides foolishness to say.'
As she spoke she turned and led the way from the cavern, which, as
if a door had been closed, sank into absolute blackness behind
them. And now they saw nothing more of the lady except the green
star, which again seemed a good distance in front of them, and to
which they came no nearer, although following it at a quick pace
through the mountain. Such was their confidence in her guidance,
however, and so fearless were they in consequence, that they felt
their way neither with hand nor foot, but walked straight on
through the pitch-dark galleries. When at length the night of the
upper world looked in at the mouth of the mine, the green light
seemed to lose its way among the stars, and they saw it no more.
Out they came into the cool, blessed night. It was very late, and
only starlight. To their surprise, three paces away they saw,
seated upon a stone, an old country-woman, in a cloak which they
took for black. When they came close up to it, they saw it was
'Good evening!' said Peter.
'Good evening!' returned the old woman, in a voice as old as
But Curdie took off his cap and said:
'I am your servant, Princess.'
The old woman replied:
'Come to me in the dove tower tomorrow night, Curdie - alone.'
'I will, ma'am,' said Curdie.
So they parted, and father and son went home to wife and mother -
two persons in one rich, happy woman.
The next night Curdie went home from the mine a little earlier than
usual, to make himself tidy before going to the dove tower. The
princess had not appointed an exact time for him to be there; he
would go as near the time he had gone first as he could. On his
way to the bottom of the hill, he met his father coming up. The
sun was then down, and the warm first of the twilight filled the
evening. He came rather wearily up the hill: the road, he thought,
must have grown steeper in parts since he was Curdie's age. His
back was to the light of the sunset, which closed him all round in
a beautiful setting, and Curdie thought what a grand-looking man
his father was, even when he was tired. It is greed and laziness
and selfishness, not hunger or weariness or cold, that take the
dignity out of a man, and make him look mean.
'Ah, Curdie! There you are!' he said, seeing his son come bounding
along as if it were morning with him and not evening.
'You look tired, Father,' said Curdie.
'Yes, my boy. I'm not so young as you.'
'Nor so old as the princess,' said Curdie.
'Tell me this,' said Peter, 'why do people talk about going
downhill when they begin to get old? It seems to me that then
first they begin to go uphill.'
'You looked to me, Father, when I caught sight of you, as if you
had been climbing the hill all your life, and were soon to get to
'Nobody can tell when that will be,' returned Peter. 'We're so
ready to think we're just at the top when it lies miles away. But
I must not keep you, my boy, for you are wanted; and we shall be
anxious to know what the princess says to you- that is, if she will
allow you to tell us.'
'I think she will, for she knows there is nobody more to be trusted
than my father and mother,' said Curdie, with
And away he shot, and ran, and jumped, and seemed almost to fly
down the long, winding, steep path, until he came to the gate of
the king's house.
There he met an unexpected obstruction: in the open door stood the
housekeeper, and she seemed to broaden herself out until she almost
filled the doorway.
'So!' she said, 'it's you, is it, young man? You are the person
that comes in and goes out when he pleases, and keeps running up
and down my stairs without ever saying by your leave, or even
wiping his shoes, and always leaves the door open! Don't you know
this is my house?'
'No, I do not,' returned Curdie respectfully. 'You forget, ma'am,
that it is the king's house.'
'That is all the same. The king left it to me to take care of -
and that you shall know!'
'Is the king dead, ma'am, that he has left it to you?' asked
Curdie, half in doubt from the self-assertion of the woman.
'Insolent fellow!' exclaimed the housekeeper. 'Don't you see by my
dress that I am in the king's service?'
'And am I not one of his miners?'
'Ah! that goes for nothing. I am one of his household. You are an
out-of-doors labourer. You are a nobody. You carry a pickaxe. I
carry the keys at my girdle. See!'
'But you must not call one a nobody to whom the king has spoken,'
'Go along with you!' cried the housekeeper, and would have shut the
door in his face, had she not been afraid that when she stepped
back he would step in ere she could get it in motion, for it was
very heavy and always seemed unwilling to shut. Curdie came a pace
nearer. She lifted the great house key from her side, and
threatened to strike him down with it, calling aloud on Mar and
Whelk and Plout, the menservants under her, to come and help her.
Ere one of them could answer, however, she gave a great shriek and
turned and fled, leaving the door wide open.
Curdie looked behind him, and saw an animal whose gruesome oddity
even he, who knew so many of the strange creatures, two of which
were never the same, that used to live inside the mountain with
their masters the goblins, had never seen equalled. Its eyes were
flaming with anger, but it seemed to be at the housekeeper, for it
came cowering and creeping up and laid its head on the ground at
Curdie's feet. Curdie hardly waited to look at it, however, but
ran into the house, eager to get up the stairs before any of the
men should come to annoy - he had no fear of their preventing him.
Without halt or hindrance, though the passages were nearly dark, he
reached the door of the princess's workroom, and knocked.
'Come in,' said the voice of the princess.
Curdie opened the door - but, to his astonishment, saw no room
there. Could he have opened a wrong door? There was the great
sky, and the stars, and beneath he could see nothing only darkness!
But what was that in the sky, straight in front of him? A great
wheel of fire, turning and turning, and flashing out blue lights!
'Come in, Curdie,' said the voice again.
'I would at once, ma'am,' said Curdie, 'if I were sure I was
standing at your door.'
'Why should you doubt it, Curdie?'
'Because I see neither walls nor floor, only darkness and the great
'That is all right, Curdie. Come in.'
Curdie stepped forward at once. He was indeed, for the very crumb
of a moment, tempted to feel before him with his foot; but he saw
that would be to distrust the princess, and a greater rudeness he
could not offer her. So he stepped straight in - I will not say
without a little tremble at the thought of finding no floor beneath
his foot. But that which had need of the floor found it, and his
foot was satisfied.
No sooner was he in than he saw that the great revolving wheel in
the sky was the princess's spinning wheel, near the other end of
the room, turning very fast. He could see no sky or stars any
more, but the wheel was flashing out blue - oh, such lovely
sky-blue light! - and behind it of course sat the princess, but
whether an old woman as thin as a skeleton leaf, or a glorious lady
as young as perfection, he could not tell for the turning and
flashing of the wheel.
'Listen to the wheel,' said the voice which had already grown dear
to Curdie: its very tone was precious like a jewel, not as a jewel,
for no jewel could compare with it in preciousness.
And Curdie listened and listened.
'What is it saying?' asked the voice.
'It is singing,' answered Curdie.
'What is it singing?'
Curdie tried to make out, but thought he could not; for no sooner
had he got hold of something than it vanished again.
Yet he listened, and listened, entranced with delight.
'Thank you, Curdie, said the voice.
'Ma'am,' said Curdie, 'I did try hard for a while, but I could not
make anything of it.'
'Oh yes, you did, and you have been telling it to me! Shall I tell
you again what I told my wheel, and my wheel told you, and you have
just told me without knowing it?'
Then the lady began to sing, and her wheel spun an accompaniment to
her song, and the music of the wheel was like the music of an
Aeolian harp blown upon by the wind that bloweth where it listeth.
Oh, the sweet sounds of that spinning wheel! Now they were gold,
now silver, now grass, now palm trees, now ancient cities, now
rubies, now mountain brooks, now peacock's feathers, now clouds,
now snowdrops, and now mid-sea islands. But for the voice that
sang through it all, about that I have no words to tell. It would
make you weep if I were able to tell you what that was like, it was
so beautiful and true and lovely. But this is something like the
words of its song:
The stars are spinning their threads, And the clouds are the dust
that flies, And the suns are weaving them up For the time when the
sleepers shall rise.
The ocean in music rolls, And gems are turning to eyes, And the
trees are gathering souls For the day when the sleepers shall rise.
The weepers are learning to smile, And laughter to glean the sighs;
Burn and bury the care and guile, For the day when the sleepers
oh, the dews and the moths and the daisy red, The larks and the
glimmers and flows! The lilies and sparrows and daily bread, And
the something that nobody knows!
The princess stopped, her wheel stopped, and she laughed. And her
laugh was sweeter than song and wheel; sweeter than running brook
and silver bell; sweeter than joy itself, for the heart of the
laugh was love.
'Come now, Curdie, to this side of my wheel, and you will find me,'
she said; and her laugh seemed sounding on still in the words, as
if they were made of breath that had laughed.
Curdie obeyed, and passed the wheel, and there she stood to receive
him! - fairer than when he saw her last, a little younger still,
and dressed not in green and emeralds, but in pale blue, with a
coronet of silver set with pearls, and slippers covered with opals
that gleamed every colour of the rainbow. It was some time before
Curdie could take his eyes from the marvel of her loveliness.
Fearing at last that he was rude, he turned them away; and, behold,
he was in a room that was for beauty marvellous! The lofty ceiling
was all a golden vine, Whose great clusters of carbuncles, rubies,
and chrysoberyls hung down like the bosses of groined arches, and
in its centre hung the most glorious lamp that human eyes ever saw
- the Silver Moon itself, a globe of silver, as it seemed, with a
heart of light so wondrous potent that it rendered the mass
translucent, and altogether radiant.
The room was so large that, looking back, he could scarcely see the
end at which he entered; but the other was only a few yards from
him - and there he saw another wonder: on a huge hearth a great
fire was burning, and the fire was a huge heap of roses, and yet it
was fire. The smell of the roses filled the air, and the heat of
the flames of them glowed upon his face. He turned an inquiring
look upon the lady, and saw that she was now seated in an ancient
chair, the legs of which were crusted with gems, but the upper part
like a nest of daisies and moss and green grass.
'Curdie,' she said in answer to his eyes, 'you have stood more than
one trial already, and have stood them well: now I am going to put
you to a harder. Do you think you are prepared for it?'
'How can I tell, ma'am,' he returned, 'seeing I do not know what it
is, or what preparation it needs? Judge me yourself, ma'am.'
'It needs only trust and obedience,' answered the lady.
'I dare not say anything, ma'am. If you think me fit, command me.'
'it will hurt you terribly, Curdie, but that will be all; no real
hurt but much good will come to you from it.'
Curdie made no answer but stood gazing with parted lips in the
'Go and thrust both your hands into that fire,' she said quickly,
Curdie dared not stop to think. It was much too terrible to think
about. He rushed to the fire, and thrust both of his hands right
into the middle of the heap of flaming roses, and his arms halfway
up to the elbows. And it did hurt! But he did not draw them back.
He held the pain as if it were a thing that would kill him if he
let it go - as indeed it would have done. He was in terrible fear
lest it should conquer him.
But when it had risen to the pitch that he thought he could bear it
no longer, it began to fall again, and went on growing less and
less until by contrast with its former severity it had become
rather pleasant. At last it ceased altogether, and Curdie thought
his hands must be burned to cinders if not ashes, for he did not
feel them at all. The princess told him to take them out and look
at them. He did so, and found that all that was gone of them was
the rough, hard skin; they were white and smooth like the
'Come to me,' she said.
He obeyed and saw, to his surprise, that her face looked as if she
had been weeping.
'Oh, Princess! What is the matter?' he cried. 'Did I make a noise
and vex you?'
'No, Curdie, she answered; 'but it was very bad.'
'Did you feel it too then?'
'Of course I did. But now it is over, and all is well. Would you
like to know why I made You put your hands in the fire?'
Curdie looked at them again - then said:
'To take the marks of the work off them and make them fit for the
king's court, I suppose.'
'No, Curdie,' answered the princess, shaking her head, for she was
not pleased with the answer. 'It would be a poor way of making
your hands fit for the king's court to take off them signs of his
service. There is a far greater difference on them than that. Do
you feel none?'
'You will, though, by and by, when the time comes. But perhaps
even then you might not know what had been given you, therefore I
will tell you. Have you ever heard what some philosophers say -
that men were all animals once?'
'it is of no consequence. But there is another thing that is of
the greatest consequence - this: that all men, if they do not take
care, go down the hill to the animals' country; that many men are
actually, all their lives, going to be beasts. People knew it
once, but it is long since they forgot it.'
'I am not surprised to hear it, ma'am, when I think of some of our
'Ah! But you must beware, Curdie, how you say of this man or that
man that he is travelling beastward. There are not nearly so many
going that way as at first sight you might think. When you met
your father on the hill tonight, you stood and spoke together on
the same spot; and although one of you was going up and the other
coming down, at a little distance no one could have told which was
bound in the one direction and which in the other. just so two
people may be at the same spot in manners and behaviour, and yet
one may be getting better and the other worse, which is just the
greatest of all differences that could possibly exist between
'But ma'am,' said Curdie, 'where is the good of knowing that there
is such a difference, if you can never know where it is?'
'Now, Curdie, you must mind exactly what words I use, because
although the right words cannot do exactly what I want them to do,
the wrong words will certainly do what I do not want them to do.
I did not say you can never know. When there is a necessity for
your knowing, when you have to do important business with this or
that man, there is always a way of knowing enough to keep you from
any great blunder. And as you will have important business to do
by and by, and that with people of whom you yet know nothing, it
will be necessary that you should have some better means than usual
of learning the nature of them.
'Now listen. Since it is always what they do, whether in their
minds or their bodies, that makes men go down to be less than men,
that is, beasts, the change always comes first in their hands - and
first of all in the inside hands, to which the outside ones are but
as the gloves. They do not know it of course; for a beast does not
know that he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast
the less he knows it. Neither can their best friends, or their
worst enemies indeed, see any difference in their hands, for they
see only the living gloves of them. But there are not a few who
feel a vague something repulsive in the hand of a man who is
growing a beast.
'Now here is what the rose-fire has done for you: it has made your
hands so knowing and wise, it has brought your real hands so near
the outside of your flesh gloves, that you will henceforth be able
to know at once the hand of a man who is growing into a beast; nay,
more - you will at once feel the foot of the beast he is growing,
just as if there were no glove made like a man's hand between you
'Hence of course it follows that you will be able often, and with
further education in zoology, will be able always to tell, not only
when a man is growing a beast, but what beast he is growing to, for
you will know the foot - what it is and what beast's it is.
According, then, to your knowledge of that beast will be your
knowledge of the man you have to do with. Only there is one
beautiful and awful thing about it, that if any one gifted with
this perception once uses it for his own ends, it is taken from
him, and then, not knowing that it is gone, he is in a far worse
condition than before, for he trusts to what he has not got.'
'How dreadful!' Said Curdie. 'I must mind what I am about.'
'Yes, indeed, Curdie.'
'But may not one sometimes make a mistake without being able to
'Yes. But so long as he is not after his own ends, he will never
make a serious mistake.'
'I suppose you want me, ma'am, to warn every one whose hand tells
me that he is growing a beast - because, as you say, he does not
know it himself.'
The princess smiled.
'Much good that would do, Curdie! I don't say there are no cases
in which it would be of use, but they are very rare and peculiar
cases, and if such come you will know them. To such a person there
is in general no insult like the truth. He cannot endure it, not
because he is growing a beast, but because he is ceasing to be a
man. It is the dying man in him that it makes uncomfortable, and
he trots, or creeps, or swims, or flutters out of its way - calls
it a foolish feeling, a whim, an old wives' fable, a bit of
priests' humbug, an effete superstition, and so on.'
'And is there no hope for him? Can nothing be done? It's so awful
to think of going down, down, down like that!'
'Even when it's with his own will?'
'That's what seems to me to make it worst of all,' said Curdie.
'You are right,' answered the princess, nodding her head; 'but
there is this amount of excuse to make for all such, remember -
that they do not know what or how horrid their coming fate is.
Many a lady, so delicate and nice that she can bear nothing coarser
than the finest linen to touch her body, if she had a mirror that
could show her the animal she is growing to, as it lies waiting
within the fair skin and the fine linen and the silk and the
jewels, would receive a shock that might possibly wake her up.'
'Why then, ma'am, shouldn't she have it?'
The princess held her peace.
'Come here, Lina,' she said after a long pause.
From somewhere behind Curdie, crept forward the same hideous animal
which had fawned at his feet at the door, and which, without his
knowing it, had followed him every step up the dove tower. She ran
to the princess, and lay down flat at her feet, looking up at her
with an expression so pitiful that in Curdie's heart it overcame
all the ludicrousness of her horrible mass of incongruities. She
had a very short body, and very long legs made like an elephant's,
so that in lying down she kneeled with both pairs. Her tail, which
dragged on the floor behind her, was twice as long and quite as
thick as her body. Her head was something between that of a polar
bear and a snake. Her eyes were dark green, with a yellow light in
them. Her under teeth came up like a fringe of icicles, only very
white, outside of her upper lip. Her throat looked as if the hair
had been plucked off. it showed a skin white and smooth.
'Give Curdie a paw, Lina,' said the princess.
The creature rose, and, lifting a long foreleg, held up a great
doglike paw to Curdie. He took it gently. But what a shudder, as
of terrified delight, ran through him, when, instead of the paw of
a dog, such as it seemed to his eyes, he clasped in his great
mining fist the soft, neat little hand of a child! He took it in
both of his, and held it as if he could not let it go. The green
eyes stared at him with their yellow light, and the mouth was
turned up toward him with its constant half grin; but here was the
child's hand! If he could but pull the child out of the beast!
His eyes sought the princess. She was watching him with evident
'Ma'am, here is a child's hand!' said Curdie.
'Your gift does more for you than it promised. It is yet better to
perceive a hidden good than a hidden evil.'
'But,' began Curdie.
'I am not going to answer any more questions this evening,'
interrupted the princess. 'You have not half got to the bottom of
the answers I have already given you. That paw in your hand now
might almost teach you the whole science of natural history - the
heavenly sort, I mean.'
'I will think,' said Curdie. 'But oh! please! one word more: may
I tell my father and mother all about it?'
'Certainly - though perhaps now it may be their turn to find it a
little difficult to believe that things went just as you must tell
'They shall see that I believe it all this time,' said Curdie.
'Tell them that tomorrow morning you must set out for the court -
not like a great man, but just as poor as you are. They had better
not speak about it. Tell them also that it will be a long time
before they hear of you again, but they must not lose heart. And
tell your father to lay that stone I gave him at night in a safe
place - not because of the greatness of its price, although it is
such an emerald as no prince has in his crown, but because it will
be a news-bearer between you and him. As often as he gets at all
anxious about you, he must take it and lay it in the fire, and
leave it there when he goes to bed. In the morning he must find it
in the ashes, and if it be as green as ever, then all goes well
with you; if it have lost colour, things go ill with you; but if it
be very pale indeed, then you are in great danger, and he must come
'Yes, ma'am,' said Curdie. 'Please, am I to go now?'
'Yes,' answered the princess, and held out her hand to him.
Curdie took it, trembling with joy. It was a very beautiful hand
- not small, very smooth, but not very soft - and just the same to
his fire-taught touch that it was to his eyes. He would have stood
there all night holding it if she had not gently withdrawn it.
'I will provide you a servant,' she said, 'for your journey and to
wait upon you afterward.'
'But where am I to go, ma'am, and what am I to do? You have given
me no message to carry, neither have you said what I am wanted for.
I go without a notion whether I am to walk this way or that, or
what I am to do when I get I don't know where.'
'Curdie!' said the princess, and there was a tone of reminder in
his own name as she spoke it, 'did I not tell you to tell your
father and mother that you were to set out for the court? And you
know that lies to the north. You must learn to use far less direct
directions than that. You must not be like a dull servant that