Part 2 out of 4
needs to be told again and again before he will understand. You
have orders enough to start with, and you will find, as you go on,
and as you need to know, what you have to do. But I warn you that
perhaps it will not look the least like what you may have been
fancying I should require of you. I have one idea of you and your
work, and you have another. I do not blame you for that - you
cannot help it yet; but you must be ready to let my idea, which
sets you working, set your idea right. Be true and honest and
fearless, and all shall go well with you and your work, and all
with whom your work lies, and so with your parents - and me too,
Curdie,' she added after a little pause.
The young miner bowed his head low, patted the strange head that
lay at the princess's feet, and turned away. As soon as he passed
the spinning wheel, which looked, in the midst of the glorious
room, just like any wheel you might find in a country cottage - old
and worn and dingy and dusty - the splendour of the place vanished,
and he saw but the big bare room he seemed at first to have
entered, with the moon - the princess's moon no doubt - shining in
at one of the windows upon the spinning wheel.
Curdie went home, pondering much, and told everything to his father
and mother. As the old princess had said, it was now their turn to
find what they heard hard to believe. if they had not been able to
trust Curdie himself, they would have refused to believe more than
the half of what he reported, then they would have refused that
half too, and at last would most likely for a time have disbelieved
in the very existence of the princess, what evidence their own
senses had given them notwithstanding.
For he had nothing conclusive to show in proof of what he told
them. When he held out his hands to them, his mother said they
looked as if he had been washing them with soft soap, only they did
smell of something nicer than that, and she must allow it was more
like roses than anything else she knew. His father could not see
any difference upon his hands, but then it was night, he said, and
their poor little lamp was not enough for his old eyes. As to the
feel of them, each of his own hands, he said, was hard and horny
enough for two, and it must be the fault of the dullness of his own
thick skin that he felt no change on Curdie's palms.
'Here, Curdie,' said his mother, 'try my hand, and see what beast's
paw lies inside it.'
'No, Mother,' answered Curdie, half beseeching, half indignant, 'I
will not insult my new gift by making pretence to try it. That
would be mockery. There is no hand within yours but the hand of a
true woman, my mother.'
'I should like you just to take hold of my hand though,' said his
mother. 'You are my son, and may know all the bad there is in me.'
Then at once Curdie took her hand in his. And when he had it, he
kept it, stroking it gently with his other hand.
'Mother,' he said at length, 'your hand feels just like that of the
'What! My horny, cracked, rheumatic old hand, with its big joints,
and its short nails all worn down to the quick with hard work -
like the hand of the beautiful princess! Why, my child, you will
make me fancy your fingers have grown very dull indeed, instead of
sharp and delicate, if you talk such nonsense. Mine is such an
ugly hand I should be ashamed to show it to any but one that loved
me. But love makes all safe - doesn't it, Curdie?'
'Well, Mother, all I can say is that I don't feel a roughness, or
a crack, or a big joint, or a short nail. Your hand feels just and
exactly, as near as I can recollect, and it's not more than two
hours since I had it in mine - well, I will say, very like indeed
to that of the old princess.'
'Go away, you flatterer,' said his mother, with a smile that showed
how she prized the love that lay beneath what she took for its
hyperbole. The praise even which one cannot accept is sweet from
a true mouth. 'If that is all your new gift can do, it won't make
a warlock of you,' she added.
'Mother, it tells me nothing but the truth,' insisted Curdie,
'however unlike the truth it may seem. it wants no gift to tell
what anybody's outside hands are like. But by it I know your
inside hands are like the princess's.'
'And I am sure the boy speaks true,' said Peter. 'He only says
about your hand what I have known ever so long about yourself,
Joan. Curdie, your mother's foot is as pretty a foot as any lady's
in the land, and where her hand is not so pretty it comes of
killing its beauty for you and me, my boy. And I can tell you
more, Curdie. I don't know much about ladies and gentlemen, but I
am sure your inside mother must be a lady, as her hand tells you,
and I will try to say how I know it. This is how: when I forget
myself looking at her as she goes about her work - and that happens
often as I grow older - I fancy for a moment or two that I am a
gentleman; and when I wake up from my little dream, it is only to
feel the more strongly that I must do everything as a gentleman
should. I will try to tell you what I mean, Curdie. If a
gentleman - I mean a real gentleman, not a pretended one, of which
sort they say there are a many above ground - if a real gentleman
were to lose all his money and come down to work in the mines to
get bread for his family - do you think, Curdie, he would work like
the lazy ones? Would he try to do as little as he could for his
wages? I know the sort of the true gentleman pretty near as well
as he does himself. And my wife, that's your mother, Curdie, she's
a true lady, you may take my word for it, for it's she that makes
me want to be a true gentleman. Wife, the boy is in the right
about your hand.'
'Now, Father, let me feel yours,' said Curdie, daring a little
'No, no, my boy,' answered Peter. 'I don't want to hear anything
about my hand or my head or my heart. I am what I am, and I hope
growing better, and that's enough. No, you shan't feel my hand.
You must go to bed, for you must start with the sun.'
It was not as if Curdie had been leaving them to go to prison, or
to make a fortune, and although they were sorry enough to lose him,
they were not in the least heartbroken or even troubled at his
As the princess had said he was to go like the poor man he was,
Curdie came down in the morning from his little loft dressed in his
working clothes. His mother, who was busy getting his breakfast
for him, while his father sat reading to her out of an old book,
would have had him put on his holiday garments, which, she said,
would look poor enough among the fine ladies and gentlemen he was
going to. But Curdie said he did not know that he was going among
ladies and gentlemen, and that as work was better than play, his
workday clothes must on the whole be better than his playday
Clothes; and as his father accepted the argument, his mother gave
in. When he had eaten his breakfast, she took a pouch made of
goatskin, with the long hair on it, filled it with bread and
cheese, and hung it over his shoulder. Then his father gave him a
stick he had cut for him in the wood, and he bade them good-bye
rather hurriedly, for he was afraid of breaking down. As he went
out he caught up his mattock and took it with him. It had on the
one side a pointed curve of strong steel for loosening the earth
and the ore, and on the other a steel hammer for breaking the
stones and rocks. just as he crossed the threshold the sun showed
the first segment of his disc above the horizon.
He had to go to the bottom of the hill to get into a country he
could cross, for the mountains to the north were full of
precipices, and it would have been losing time to go that way. Not
until he had reached the king's house was it any use to turn
northwards. Many a look did he raise, as he passed it, to the dove
tower, and as long as it was in sight, but he saw nothing of the
lady of the pigeons.
On and on he fared, and came in a few hours to a country where
there were no mountains more - only hills, with great stretches of
desolate heath. Here and there was a village, but that brought him
little pleasure, for the people were rougher and worse mannered
than those in the mountains, and as he passed through, the children
came behind and mocked him.
'There's a monkey running away from the mines!' they cried.
Sometimes their parents came out and encouraged them.
'He doesn't want to find gold for the king any longer - the
lazybones!' they would say. 'He'll be well taxed down here though,
and he won't like that either.'
But it was little to Curdie that men who did not know what he was
about should not approve of his proceedings. He gave them a merry
answer now and then, and held diligently on his way. When they got
so rude as nearly to make him angry, he would treat them as he used
to treat the goblins, and sing his own songs to keep out their
foolish noises. Once a child fell as he turned to run away after
throwing a stone at him. He picked him up, kissed him, and carried
him to his mother. The woman had run out in terror when she saw
the strange miner about, as she thought, to take vengeance on her
boy. When he put him in her arms, she blessed him, and Curdie went
on his way rejoicing.
And so the day went on, and the evening came, and in the middle of
a great desolate heath he began to feel tired, and sat down under
an ancient hawthorn, through which every now and then a lone wind
that seemed to come from nowhere and to go nowhither sighed and
hissed. It was very old and distorted. There was not another tree
for miles all around. it seemed to have lived so long, and to have
been so torn and tossed by the tempests on that moor, that it had
at last gathered a wind of its own, which got up now and then,
tumbled itself about, and lay down again.
Curdie had been so eager to get on that he had eaten nothing since
his breakfast. But he had had plenty of water, for Many little
streams had crossed his path. He now opened the wallet his mother
had given him, and began to eat his supper. The sun was setting.
A few clouds had gathered about the west, but there was not a
single cloud anywhere else to be seen.
Now Curdie did not know that this was a part of the country very
hard to get through. Nobody lived there, though many had tried to
build in it. Some died very soon. Some rushed out of it. Those
who stayed longest went raving mad, and died a terrible death.
Such as walked straight on, and did not spend a night there, got
through well and were nothing the worse. But those who slept even
a single night in it were sure to meet with something they could
never forget, and which often left a mark everybody could read.
And that old hawthorn Might have been enough for a warning - it
looked so like a human being dried up and distorted with age and
suffering, with cares instead of loves, and things instead of
thoughts. Both it and the heath around it, which stretched on all
sides as far as he could see, were so withered that it was
impossible to say whether they were alive or not.
And while Curdie ate there came a change. Clouds had gathered over
his head, and seemed drifting about in every direction, as if not
'shepherded by the slow, unwilling wind,' but hunted in all
directions by wolfish flaws across the plains of the sky. The sun
was going down in a storm of lurid crimson, and out of the west
came a wind that felt red and hot the one moment, and cold and pale
the other. And very strangely it sang in the dreary old hawthorn
tree, and very cheerily it blew about Curdie, now making him creep
close up to the tree for shelter from its shivery cold, now fan
himself with his cap, it was so sultry and stifling. It seemed to
come from the deathbed of the sun, dying in fever and ague.
And as he gazed at the sun, now on the verge of the horizon, very
large and very red and very dull - for though the clouds had broken
away a dusty fog was spread all over the disc - Curdie saw
something strange appear against it, moving about like a fly over
its burning face. This looked as if it were coming out of the
sun's furnace heart, and was a living creature of some kind surely;
but its shape was very uncertain, because the dazzle of the light
all around melted the outlines.
It was growing larger, it must be approaching! It grew so rapidly
that by the time the sun was half down its head reached the top of
the arch, and presently nothing but its legs were to be seen,
crossing and recrossing the face of the vanishing disc.
When the sun was down he could see nothing of it more, but in a
moment he heard its feet galloping over the dry crackling heather,
and seeming to come straight for him. He stood up, lifted his
pickaxes and threw the hammer end over his shoulder: he was going
to have a fight for his life! And now it appeared again, vague,
yet very awful, in the dim twilight the sun had left behind. But
just before it reached him, down from its four long legs it dropped
flat on the ground, and came crawling towards him, wagging a huge
tail as it came.
IT was Lina. All at once Curdie recognized her - the frightful
creature he had seen at the princess's. He dropped his pickaxes
and held out his hand. She crept nearer and nearer, and laid her
chin in his palm, and he patted her ugly head. Then she crept away
behind the tree, and lay down, panting hard.
Curdie did not much like the idea of her being behind him.
Horrible as she was to look at, she seemed to his mind more
horrible when he was not looking at her. But he remembered the
child's hand, and never thought of driving her away. Now and then
he gave a glance behind him, and there she lay flat, with her eyes
closed and her terrible teeth gleaming between her two huge
After his supper and his long day's journey it was no wonder Curdie
should now be sleepy. Since the sun set the air had been warm and
pleasant. He lay down under the tree, closed his eyes, and thought
to sleep. He found himself mistaken, however. But although he
could not sleep, he was yet aware of resting delightfully.
Presently he heard a sweet sound of singing somewhere, such as he
had never heard before - a singing as of curious birds far off,
which drew nearer and nearer. At length he heard their wings, and,
opening his eyes, saw a number of very large birds, as it seemed,
alighting around him, still singing. It was strange to hear song
from the throats of such big birds.
And still singing, with large and round but not the less birdlike
voices, they began to weave a strange dance about him, moving their
wings in time with their legs. But the dance seemed somehow to be
troubled and broken, and to return upon itself in an eddy, in place
of sweeping smoothly on.
And he soon learned, in the low short growls behind him, the cause
of the imperfection: they wanted to dance all round the tree, but
Lina would not permit them to come on her side.
Now curdie liked the birds, and did not altogether like Lina. But
neither, nor both together, made a reason for driving away the
princess's creature. Doubtless she had been the goblins' creature,
but the last time he saw her was in the king's house and the dove
tower, and at the old princess's feet. So he left her to do as she
would, and the dance of the birds continued only a semicircle,
troubled at the edges, and returning upon itself.
But their song and their motions, nevertheless, and the waving of
their wings, began at length to make him very sleepy. All the time
he had kept doubting whether they could really be birds, and the
sleepier he got, the more he imagined them something else, but he
suspected no harm.
Suddenly, just as he was sinking beneath the waves of slumber, he
awoke in fierce pain. The birds were upon him - all over him - and
had begun to tear him with beaks and claws. He had but time,
however, to feel that he could not move under their weight, when
they set up a hideous screaming, and scattered like a cloud. Lina
was among them, snapping and striking with her paws, while her tail
knocked them over and over. But they flew up, gathered, and
descended on her in a swarm, perching upon every part of her body,
so that he could see only a huge misshapen mass, which seemed to go
rolling away into the darkness. He got up and tried to follow, but
could see nothing, and after wandering about hither and thither for
some time, found himself again beside the hawthorn. He feared
greatly that the birds had been too much for Lina, and had torn her
to pieces. In a little while, however, she came limping back, and
lay down in her old place. Curdie also lay down, but, from the
pain of his wounds, there was no sleep for him. When the light
came he found his clothes a good deal torn and his skin as well,
but gladly wondered why the wicked birds had not at once attacked
his eyes. Then he turned, looking for Lina. She rose and crept to
him. But she was in far worse plight than he - plucked and gashed
and torn with the beaks and claws of the birds, especially about
the bare part of her neck, so that she was pitiful to see. And
those worst wounds she could not reach to lick.
'Poor Lina!' said Curdie, 'you got all those helping me.'
She wagged her tail, and made it clear she understood him. Then it
flashed upon Curdie's mind that perhaps this was the companion the
princess had promised him. For the princess did so many things
differently from what anybody looked for! Lina was no beauty
certainly, but already, the first night, she had saved his life.
'Come along, Lina,' he said, 'we want water.'
She put her nose to the earth, and after snuffing for a moment,
darted off in a straight line. Curdie followed. The ground was so
uneven, that after losing sight of her many times, at last he
seemed to have lost her altogether. In a few minutes, however, he
came upon her waiting for him. Instantly she darted off again.
After he had lost and found her again many times, he found her the
last time lying beside a great stone. As soon as he came up she
began scratching at it with her paws. When he had raised it an
inch or two, she shoved in first her nose and then her teeth, and
lifted with all the might of her neck.
When at length between them they got it up, there was a beautiful
little well. He filled his cap with the clearest and sweetest
water, and drank. Then he gave to Lina, and she drank plentifully.
Next he washed her wounds very carefully. And as he did so, he
noted how much the bareness of her neck added to the strange
repulsiveness of her appearance. Then he bethought him of the
goatskin wallet his mother had given him, and taking it from his
shoulders, tried whether it would do to make a collar of for the
poor animal. He found there was just enough, and the hair so
similar in colour to Lina's, that no one could suspect it of having
grown somewhere else.
He took his knife, ripped up the seams of the wallet, and began
trying the skin to her neck. it was plain she understood perfectly
what he wished, for she endeavoured to hold her neck conveniently,
turning it this way and that while he contrived, with his rather
scanty material, to make the collar fit. As his mother had taken
care to provide him with needles and thread, he soon had a nice
gorget ready for her. He laced it on with one of his boot laces,
which its long hair covered. Poor Lina looked much better in it.
Nor could any one have called it a piece of finery. If ever green
eyes with a yellow light in them looked grateful, hers did.
As they had no longer any bag to carry them in, Curdie and Lina now
ate what was left of the provisions. Then they set out again upon
their journey. For seven days it lasted. They met with various
adventures, and in all of them Lina proved so helpful, and so ready
to risk her life for the sake of her companion, that Curdie grew
not merely very fond but very trustful of her; and her ugliness,
which at first only moved his pity, now actually increased his
affection for her. One day, looking at her stretched on the grass
before him, he said:
'Oh, Lina! If the princess would but burn you in her fire of
She looked up at him, gave a mournful whine like a dog, and laid
her head on his feet. What or how much he could not tell, but
clearly she had gathered something from his words.
One day from morning till night they had been passing through a
forest. As soon as the sun was down Curdie began to be aware that
there were more in it than themselves. First he saw only the swift
rush of a figure across the trees at some distance. Then he saw
another and then another at shorter intervals. Then he saw others
both farther off and nearer. At last, missing Lina and looking
about after her, he saw an appearance as marvellous as herself
steal up to her, and begin conversing with her after some beast
fashion which evidently she understood.
Presently what seemed a quarrel arose between them, and stranger
noises followed, mingled with growling. At length it came to a
fight, which had not lasted long, however, before the creature of
the wood threw itself upon its back, and held up its paws to Lina.
She instantly walked on, and the creature got up and followed her.
They had not gone far before another strange animal appeared,
approaching Lina, when precisely the same thing was repeated, the
vanquished animal rising and following with the former. Again, and
yet again, and again, a fresh animal came up, seemed to be reasoned
and certainly was fought with and overcome by Lina, until at last,
before they were out of the wood, she was followed by forty-nine of
the most grotesquely ugly, the most extravagantly abnormal animals
imagination can conceive. To describe them were a hopeless task.
I knew a boy who used to make animals out of heather roots.
Wherever he could find four legs, he was pretty sure to find a head
and a tail. His beasts were a most comic menagerie, and right
fruitful of laughter. But they were not so grotesque and
extravagant as Lina and her followers. One of them, for instance,
was like a boa constrictor walking on four little stumpy legs near
its tail. About the same distance from its head were two little
wings, which it was forever fluttering as if trying to fly with
them. Curdie thought it fancied it did fly with them, when it was
merely plodding on busily with its four little stumps. How it
managed to keep up he could not think, till once when he missed it
from the group: the same moment he caught sight of something at a
distance plunging at an awful serpentine rate through the trees,
and presently, from behind a huge ash, this same creature fell
again into the group, quietly waddling along on its four stumps.
Watching it after this, he saw that, when it was not able to keep
up any longer, and they had all got a little space ahead, it shot
into the wood away from the route, and made a great round,
serpentine alone in huge billows of motion, devouring the ground,
undulating awfully, galloping as if it were all legs together, and
its four stumps nowhere. In this mad fashion it shot ahead, and,
a few minutes after, toddled in again among the rest, walking
peacefully and somewhat painfully on its few fours.
From the time it takes to describe one of them it will be readily
seen that it would hardly do to attempt a description of each of
the forty-nine. They were not a goodly company, but well worth
contemplating, nevertheless; and Curdie had been too long used to
the goblins' creatures in the mines and on the mountain, to feel
the least uncomfortable at being followed by such a herd. On the
contrary, the marvellous vagaries of shape they manifested amused
him greatly, and shortened the journey much.
Before they were all gathered, however, it had got so dark that he
could see some of them only a part at a time, and every now and
then, as the company wandered on, he would be startled by some
extraordinary limb or feature, undreamed of by him before,
thrusting itself out of the darkness into the range of his ken.
Probably there were some of his old acquaintances among them,
although such had been the conditions of semi-darkness, in which
alone he had ever seen any of them, that it was not like he would
be able to identify any of them.
On they marched solemnly, almost in silence, for either with feet
or voice the creatures seldom made any noise. By the time they
reached the outside of the wood it was morning twilight. Into the
open trooped the strange torrent of deformity, each one following
Lina. Suddenly she stopped, turned towards them, and said
something which they understood, although to Curdie's ear the
sounds she made seemed to have no articulation. Instantly they all
turned, and vanished in the forest, and Lina alone came trotting
lithely and clumsily after her master.
The Baker's Wife
They were now passing through a lovely country of hill and dale and
rushing stream. The hills were abrupt, with broken chasms for
watercourses, and deep little valleys full of trees. But now and
then they came to a larger valley, with a fine river, whose level
banks and the adjacent meadows were dotted all over with red and
white kine, while on the fields above, that sloped a little to the
foot of the hills, grew oats and barley and wheat, and on the sides
of the hills themselves vines hung and chestnuts rose.
They came at last to a broad, beautiful river, up which they must
go to arrive at the city of Gwyntystorm, where the king had his
court. As they went the valley narrowed, and then the river, but
still it was wide enough for large boats. After this, while the
river kept its size, the banks narrowed, until there was only room
for a road between the river and the great Cliffs that overhung it.
At last river and road took a sudden turn, and lo! a great rock in
the river, which dividing flowed around it, and on the top of the
rock the city, with lofty walls and towers and battlements, and
above the city the palace of the king, built like a strong castle.
But the fortifications had long been neglected, for the whole
country was now under one king, and all men said there was no more
need for weapons or walls. No man pretended to love his neighbour,
but every one said he knew that peace and quiet behaviour was the
best thing for himself, and that, he said, was quite as useful, and
a great deal more reasonable. The city was prosperous and rich,
and if everybody was not comfortable, everybody else said he ought
When Curdie got up opposite the mighty rock, which sparkled all
over with crystals, he found a narrow bridge, defended by gates and
portcullis and towers with loopholes. But the gates stood wide
open, and were dropping from their great hinges; the portcullis was
eaten away with rust, and clung to the grooves evidently immovable;
while the loopholed towers had neither floor nor roof, and their
tops were fast filling up their interiors. Curdie thought it a
pity, if only for their old story, that they should be thus
neglected. But everybody in the city regarded these signs of decay
as the best proof of the prosperity of the place. Commerce and
self-interest, they said, had got the better of violence, and the
troubles of the past were whelmed in the riches that flowed in at
their open gates.
Indeed, there was one sect of philosophers in it which taught that
it would be better to forget all the past history of the city, were
it not that its former imperfections taught its present inhabitants
how superior they and their times were, and enabled them to glory
over their ancestors. There were even certain quacks in the city
who advertised pills for enabling people to think well of
themselves, and some few bought of them, but most laughed, and
said, with evident truth, that they did not require them. Indeed,
the general theme of discourse when they met was, how much wiser
they were than their fathers.
Curdie crossed the river, and began to ascend the winding road that
led up to the city. They met a good many idlers, and all stared at
them. It was no wonder they should stare, but there was an
unfriendliness in their looks which Curdie did not like. No one,
however, offered them any molestation: Lina did not invite
liberties. After a long ascent, they reached the principal gate of
the city and entered.
The street was very steep, ascending toward the palace, which rose
in great strength above all the houses. just as they entered, a
baker, whose shop was a few doors inside the gate, came out in his
white apron, and ran to the shop of his friend, the barber, on the
opposite side of the way. But as he ran he stumbled and fell
heavily. Curdie hastened to help him up, and found he had bruised
his forehead badly. He swore grievously at the stone for tripping
him up, declaring it was the third time he had fallen over it
within the last month; and saying what was the king about that he
allowed such a stone to stick up forever on the main street of his
royal residence of Gwyntystorm! What was a king for if he would
not take care of his people's heads! And he stroked his forehead
'Was it your head or your feet that ought to bear the blame of your
fall?' asked Curdie.
'Why, you booby of a miner! My feet, of course,' answered
'Nay, then,' said Curdie, 'the king can't be to blame.'
'Oh, I see!' said the baker. 'You're laying a trap for me. Of
course, if you come to that, it was my head that ought to have
looked after my feet. But it is the king's part to look after us
all, and have his streets smooth.'
'Well, I don't see, said Curdie, 'why the king should take care of
the baker, when the baker's head won't take care of the baker's
'Who are you to make game of the king's baker?' cried the man in a
But, instead of answering, Curdie went up to the bump on the street
which had repeated itself on the baker's head, and turning the
hammer end of his mattock, struck it such a blow that it flew wide
in pieces. Blow after blow he struck until he had levelled it with
But out flew the barber upon him in a rage.
'What do you break my window for, you rascal, with your pickaxe?'
'I am very sorry,' said Curdie. 'It must have been a bit of stone
that flew from my mattock. I couldn't help it, you know.'
'Couldn't help it! A fine story! What do you go breaking the rock
for - the very rock upon which the city stands?'
'Look at your friend's forehead,' said Curdie. 'See what a lump he
has got on it with falling over that same stone.'
'What's that to my window?' cried the barber. 'His forehead can
mend itself; my poor window can't.'
'But he's the king's baker,' said Curdie, more and more surprised
at the man's anger.
'What's that to me? This is a free city. Every man here takes
care of himself, and the king takes care of us all. I'll have the
price of my window out of you, or the exchequer shall pay for it.'
Something caught Curdie's eye. He stooped, picked up a piece of
the stone he had just broken, and put it in his pocket.
'I suppose you are going to break another of my windows with that
stone!' said the barber.
'Oh no,' said Curdie. 'I didn't mean to break your window, and I
certainly won't break another.'
'Give me that stone,' said the barber.
Curdie gave it him, and the barber threw it over the city wall.
'I thought you wanted the stone,' said Curdie.
'No, you fool!' answered the barber. 'What should I want with a
Curdie stooped and picked up another.
'Give me that stone,' said the barber.
'No,' answered Curdie. 'You have just told me YOU don't want a
stone, and I do.'
The barber took Curdie by the collar.
'Come, now! You pay me for that window.'
'How much?' asked Curdie.
The barber said, 'A crown.' But the baker, annoyed at the
heartlessness of the barber, in thinking more of his broken window
than the bump on his friend's forehead, interfered.
'No, no,' he said to Curdie; 'don't you pay any such sum. A little
pane like that cost only a quarter.'
'Well, to be certain,' said Curdie, 'I'll give a half.' For he
doubted the baker as well as the barber. 'Perhaps one day, if he
finds he has asked too much, he will bring me the difference.'
'Ha! ha!' laughed the barber. 'A fool and his money are soon
But as he took the coin from Curdie's hand he grasped it in
affected reconciliation and real satisfaction. In Curdie's, his
was the cold smooth leathery palm of a monkey. He looked up,
almost expecting to see him pop the money in his cheek; but he had
not yet got so far as that, though he was well on the road to it:
then he would have no other pocket.
'I'm glad that stone is gone, anyhow,' said the baker. 'It was the
bane of my life. I had no idea how easy it was to remove it. Give
me your pickaxes young miner, and I will show you how a baker can
make the stones fly.'
He caught the tool out of Curdie's hand, and flew at one of the
foundation stones of the gateway. But he jarred his arm terribly,
scarcely chipped the stone, dropped the mattock with a cry of pain,
and ran into his own shop. Curdie picked up his implement, and,
looking after the baker, saw bread in the window, and followed him
in. But the baker, ashamed of himself, and thinking he was coming
to laugh at him, popped out of the back door, and when Curdie
entered, the baker's wife came from the bakehouse to serve him.
Curdie requested to know the price of a certain good-sized loaf.
Now the baker's wife had been watching what had passed since first
her husband ran out of the shop, and she liked the look of Curdie.
Also she was more honest than her husband. Casting a glance to the
back door, she replied:
'That is not the best bread. I will sell you a loaf of what we
bake for ourselves.' And when she had spoken she laid a finger on
her lips. 'Take care of yourself in this place, MY son,' she
added. 'They do not love strangers. I was once a stranger here,
and I know what I say.' Then fancying she heard her husband, 'That
is a strange animal you have,' she said, in a louder voice.
'Yes,' answered Curdie. 'She is no beauty, but she is very good,
and we love each other. Don't we, Lina?'
Lina looked up and whined. Curdie threw her the half of his loaf,
which she ate, while her master and the baker's wife talked a
little. Then the baker's wife gave them some water, and Curdie
having paid for his loaf, he and Lina went up the street together.
The Dogs of Gwyntystorm
The steep street led them straight up to a large market place with
butchers' shops, about which were many dogs. The moment they
caught sight of Lina, one and all they came rushing down upon her,
giving her no chance of explaining herself. When Curdie saw the
dogs coming he heaved up his mattock over his shoulder, and was
ready, if they would have it so. Seeing him thus prepared to
defend his follower, a great ugly bulldog flew at him. With the
first blow Curdie struck him through the brain and the brute fell
dead at his feet. But he could not at once recover his weapon,
which stuck in the skull of his foe, and a huge mastiff, seeing him
thus hampered, flew at him next.
Now Lina, who had shown herself so brave upon the road thither, had
grown shy upon entering the city, and kept always at Curdie's heel.
But it was her turn now. The moment she saw her master in danger
she seemed to go mad with rage. As the mastiff jumped at Curdie's
throat, Lina flew at him, seized him with her tremendous jaws, gave
one roaring grind, and he lay beside the bulldog with his neck
broken. They were the best dogs in the market, after the judgement
of the butchers of Gwyntystorm. Down came their masters, knives in
Curdie drew himself up fearlessly, mattock on shoulder, and awaited
their coming, while at his heel his awful attendant showed not only
her outside fringe of icicle teeth, but a double row of right
serviceable fangs she wore inside her mouth, and her green eyes
flashed yellow as gold. The butchers, not liking the look of
either of them or of the dogs at their feet, drew back, and began
to remonstrate in the manner of outraged men.
'Stranger,' said the first, 'that bulldog is mine.'
'Take him, then,' said Curdie, indignant.
'You've killed him!'
'Yes - else he would have killed me.'
'That's no business of mine.'
'That makes it the more mine, then.'
'This sort of thing won't do, you know,' said the other butcher.
'That's true,' said Curdie.
'That's my mastiff,' said the butcher.
'And as he ought to be,' said Curdie.
'Your brute shall be burned alive for it,' said the butcher.
'Not yet,' answered Curdie. 'We have done no wrong. We were
walking quietly up your street when your dogs flew at us. If you
don't teach your dogs how to treat strangers, you must take the
'They treat them quite properly,' said the butcher. 'What right
has any one to bring an abomination like that into our city? The
horror is enough to make an idiot of every child in the place.'
'We are both subjects of the king, and my poor animal can't help
her looks. How would you like to be served like that because you
were ugly? She's not a bit fonder of her looks than you are - only
what can she do to change them?'
'I'll do to change them,' said the fellow.
Thereupon the butchers brandished their long knives and advanced,
keeping their eyes upon Lina.
'Don't be afraid, Lina,' cried Curdie. 'I'll kill one - you kill
Lina gave a howl that might have terrified an army, and crouched
ready to spring. The butchers turned and ran.
By this time a great crowd had gathered behind the butchers, and in
it a number of boys returning from school who began to stone the
strangers. It was a way they had with man or beast they did not
expect to make anything by. One of the stones struck Lina; she
caught it in her teeth and crunched it so that it fell in gravel
from her mouth. Some of the foremost of the crowd saw this, and it
terrified them. They drew back; the rest took fright from their
retreat; the panic spread; and at last the crowd scattered in all
directions. They ran, and cried out, and said the devil and his
dam were come to Gwyntystorm. So Curdie and Lina were left
standing unmolested in the market place. But the terror of them
spread throughout the city, and everybody began to shut and lock
his door so that by the time the setting sun shone down the street,
there was not a shop left open, for fear of the devil and his
horrible dam. But all the upper windows within sight of them were
crowded with heads watching them where they stood lonely in the
deserted market place.
Curdie looked carefully all round, but could not see one open door.
He caught sight of the sign of an inn, however, and laying down his
mattock, and telling Lina to take care of it, walked up to the door
of it and knocked. But the people in the house, instead of opening
the door, threw things at him from the windows. They would not
listen to a word he said, but sent him back to Lina with the blood
running down his face. When Lina saw that she leaped up in a fury
and was rushing at the house, into which she would certainly have
broken; but Curdie called her, and made her lie down beside him
while he bethought him what next he should do.
'Lina,' he said, 'the people keep their gates open, but their
houses and their hearts shut.'
As if she knew it was her presence that had brought this trouble
upon him, she rose and went round and round him, purring like a
tigress, and rubbing herself against his legs.
Now there was one little thatched house that stood squeezed in
between two tall gables, and the sides of the two great houses shot
out projecting windows that nearly met across the roof of the
little one, so that it lay in the street like a doll's house. In
this house lived a poor old woman, with a grandchild. And because
she never gossiped or quarrelled, or chaffered in the market, but
went without what she could not afford, the people called her a
witch, and would have done her many an ill turn if they had not
been afraid of her.
Now while Curdie was looking in another direction the door opened,
and out came a little dark-haired, black-eyed, gypsy-looking child,
and toddled across the market place toward the outcasts. The
moment they saw her coming, Lina lay down flat on the road, and
with her two huge forepaws covered her mouth, while Curdie went to
meet her, holding out his arms. The little one came straight to
him, and held up her mouth to be kissed. Then she took him by the
hand, and drew him toward the house, and Curdie yielded to the
But when Lina rose to follow, the child shrank from her, frightened
a little. Curdie took her up, and holding her on one arm, patted
Lina with the other hand. Then the child wanted also to pat doggy,
as she called her by a right bountiful stretch of courtesy, and
having once patted her, nothing would serve but Curdie must let her
have a ride on doggy. So he set her on Lina's back, holding her
hand, and she rode home in merry triumph, all unconscious of the
hundreds of eyes staring at her foolhardiness from the windows
about the market place, or the murmur of deep disapproval that rose
from as many lips.
At the door stood the grandmother to receive them. She caught the
child to her bosom with delight at her courage, welcomed Curdie,
and showed no dread of Lina. Many were the significant nods
exchanged, and many a one said to another that the devil and the
witch were old friends. But the woman was only a wise woman, who,
having seen how Curdie and Lina behaved to each other, judged from
that what sort they were, and so made them welcome to her house.
She was not like her fellow townspeople, for that they were
strangers recommended them to her.
The moment her door was shut the other doors began to open, and
soon there appeared little groups here and there about a threshold,
while a few of the more courageous ventured out upon the square -
all ready to make for their houses again, however, upon the least
sign of movement in the little thatched one.
The baker and the barber had joined one of these groups, and were
busily wagging their tongues against Curdie and his horrible beast.
'He can't be honest,' said the barber; 'for he paid me double the
worth of the pane he broke in my window.'
And then he told them how Curdie broke his window by breaking a
stone in the street with his hammer. There the baker struck in.
'Now that was the stone,' said he, 'over which I had fallen three
times within the last month: could it be by fair means he broke
that to pieces at the first blow? Just to make up my mind on that
point I tried his own hammer against a stone in the gate; it nearly
broke both my arms, and loosened half the teeth in my head!'
Derba and Barbara
Meantime the wanderers were hospitably entertained by the old woman
and her grandchild and they were all very comfortable and happy
together. Little Barbara sat upon Curdie's knee, and he told her
stories about the mines and his adventures in them. But he never
mentioned the king or the princess, for all that story was hard to
believe. And he told her about his mother and father, and how good
they were. And Derba sat and listened. At last little Barbara
fell asleep in Curdie's arms, and her grandmother carried her to
It was a poor little house, and Derba gave up her own room to
Curdie because he was honest and talked wisely. Curdie saw how it
was, and begged her to allow him to lie on the floor, but she would
not hear of it.
In the night he was waked by Lina pulling at him. As soon as he
spoke to her she ceased, and Curdie, listening, thought he heard
someone trying to get in. He rose, took his mattock, and went
about the house, listening and watching; but although he heard
noises now at one place now at another, he could not think what
they meant for no one appeared. Certainly, considering how she had
frightened them all in the day, it was not likely any one would
attack Lina at night. By and by the noises ceased, and Curdie went
back to his bed, and slept undisturbed.
In the morning, however, Derba came to him in great agitation, and
said they had fastened up the door, so that she could not get out.
Curdie rose immediately and went with her: they found that not only
the door, but every window in the house was so secured on the
outside that it was impossible to open one of them without using
great force. Poor Derba looked anxiously in Curdie's face. He
broke out laughing.
'They are much mistaken,' he said, 'if they fancy they could keep
Lina and a miner in any house in Gwyntystorm - even if they built
up doors and windows.'
With that he shouldered his mattock. But Derba begged him not to
make a hole in her house just yet. She had plenty for breakfast,
she said, and before it was time for dinner they would know what
the people meant by it.
And indeed they did. For within an hour appeared one of the chief
magistrates of the city, accompanied by a score of soldiers with
drawn swords, and followed by a great multitude of people,
requiring the miner and his brute to yield themselves, the one that
he might be tried for the disturbance he had occasioned and the
injury he had committed, the other that she might be roasted alive
for her part in killing two valuable and harmless animals belonging
to worthy citizens. The summons was preceded and followed by
flourish of trumpet, and was read with every formality by the city
The moment he ended, Lina ran into the little passage, and stood
opposite the door.
'I surrender,' cried Curdie.
'Then tie up your brute, and give her here.'
'No, no,' cried Curdie through the door. 'I surrender; but I'm not
going to do your hangman's work. If you want MY dog, you must take
'Then we shall set the house on fire, and burn witch and all.'
'It will go hard with us but we shall kill a few dozen of you
first,' cried Curdie. 'We're not the least afraid of you.' With
that Curdie turned to Derba, and said:
'Don't be frightened. I have a strong feeling that all will be
well. Surely no trouble will come to you for being good to
'But the poor dog!' said Derba.
Now Curdie and Lina understood each other more than a little by
this time, and not only had he seen that she understood the
proclamation, but when she looked up at him after it was read, it
was with such a grin, and such a yellow flash, that he saw also she
was determined to take care of herself.
'The dog will probably give you reason to think a little more of
her ere long,' he answered. 'But now,' he went on, 'I fear I must
hurt your house a little. I have great confidence, however, that
I shall be able to make up to you for it one day.'
'Never mind the house, if only you can get safe off,' she answered.
'I don't think they will hurt this precious lamb,' she added,
clasping little Barbara to her bosom. 'For myself, it is all one;
I am ready for anything.'
'it is but a little hole for Lina I want to make,' said Curdie.
'She can creep through a much smaller one than you would think.'
Again he took his mattock, and went to the back wall.
'They won't burn the house,' he said to himself. 'There is too
good a one on each side of it.'
The tumult had kept increasing every moment, and the city marshal
had been shouting, but Curdie had not listened to him. When now
they heard the blows of his mattock, there went up a great cry, and
the people taunted the soldiers that they were afraid of a dog and
his miner. The soldiers therefore made a rush at the door, and cut
The moment they opened it, out leaped Lina, with a roar so
unnaturally horrible that the sword arms of the soldiers dropped by
their sides, paralysed with the terror of that cry; the crowd fled
in every direction, shrieking and yelling with mortal dismay; and
without even knocking down with her tail, not to say biting a man
of them with her pulverizing jaws, Lina vanished - no one knew
whither, for not one of the crowd had had courage to look upon her.
The moment she was gone, Curdie advanced and gave himself up. The
soldiers were so filled with fear, shame, and chagrin, that they
were ready to kill him on the spot. But he stood quietly facing
them, with his mattock on his shoulder; and the magistrate wishing
to examine him, and the people to see him made an example of, the
soldiers had to content themselves with taking him. Partly for
derision, partly to hurt him, they laid his mattock against his
back, and tied his arms to it.
They led him up a very steep street, and up another still, all the
crowd following. The king's palace-castle rose towering above
them; but they stopped before they reached it, at a low-browed door
in a great, dull, heavy-looking building.
The city marshal opened it with a key which hung at his girdle, and
ordered Curdie to enter. The place within was dark as night, and
while he was feeling his way with his feet, the marshal gave him a
rough push. He fell, and rolled once or twice over, unable to help
himself because his hands were tied behind him.
It was the hour of the magistrate's second and more important
breakfast, and until that was over he never found himself capable
of attending to a case with concentration sufficient to the
distinguishing of the side upon which his own advantage lay; and
hence was this respite for Curdie, with time to collect his
thoughts. But indeed he had very few to collect, for all he had to
do, so far as he could see, was to wait for what would come next.
Neither had he much power to collect them, for he was a good deal
in a few minutes he discovered, to his great relief, that, from the
projection of the pick end of his mattock beyond his body, the fall
had loosened the ropes tied round it. He got one hand disengaged,
and then the other; and presently stood free, with his good mattock
once more in right serviceable relation to his arms and legs.
While The magistrate reinvigorated his selfishness with a greedy
breakfast, Curdie found doing nothing in the dark rather tiresome
work. it was useless attempting to think what he should do next,
seeing the circumstances in which he was presently to find himself
were altogether unknown to him. So he began to think about his
father and mother in their little cottage home, high in the clear
air of the open Mountainside, and the thought, instead of making
his dungeon gloomier by the contrast, made a light in his soul that
destroyed the power of darkness and captivity.
But he was at length startled from his waking dream by a swell in
the noise outside. All the time there had been a few of the more
idle of the inhabitants about the door, but they had been rather
quiet. Now, however, the sounds of feet and voices began to grow,
and grew so rapidly that it was plain a multitude was gathering.
For the people of Gwyntystorm always gave themselves an hour of
pleasure after their second breakfast, and what greater pleasure
could they have than to see a stranger abused by the officers of
The noise grew till it was like the roaring of the sea, and that
roaring went on a long time, for the magistrate, being a great man,
liked to know that he was waited for: it added to the enjoyment of
his breakfast, and, indeed, enabled him to eat a little more after
he had thought his powers exhausted.
But at length, in the waves of the human noises rose a bigger wave,
and by the running and shouting and outcry, Curdie learned that the
magistrate was approaching.
Presently came the sound of the great rusty key in the lock, which
yielded with groaning reluctance; the door was thrown back, the
light rushed in, and with it came the voice of the city marshal,
calling upon Curdie, by many legal epithets opprobrious, to come
forth and be tried for his life, inasmuch as he had raised a tumult
in His Majesty's city of Gwyntystorm, troubled the hearts of the
king's baker and barber, and slain the faithful dogs of His
Majesty's well-beloved butchers.
He was still reading, and Curdie was still seated in the brown
twilight of the vault, not listening, but pondering with himself
how this king the city marshal talked of could be the same with the
Majesty he had seen ride away on his grand white horse with the
Princess Irene on a cushion before him, when a scream of agonized
terror arose on the farthest skirt of the crowd, and, swifter than
flood or flame, the horror spread shrieking. In a moment the air
was filled with hideous howling, cries of unspeakable dismay, and
the multitudinous noise of running feet. The next moment, in at
the door of the vault bounded Lina, her two green eyes flaming
yellow as sunflowers, and seeming to light up the dungeon. With
one spring she threw herself at Curdie's feet, and laid her head
upon them panting. Then came a rush of two or three soldiers
darkening the doorway, but it was only to lay hold of the key, pull
the door to, and lock it; so that once more Curdie and Lina were
For a few moments Lina lay panting hard: it is breathless work
leaping and roaring both at once, and that in a way to scatter
thousands of people. Then she jumped up, and began snuffing about
all over the place; and Curdie saw what he had never seen before -
two faint spots of light cast from her eyes upon the ground, one on
each side of her snuffing nose. He got out his tinder box - a
miner is never without one - and lighted a precious bit of candle
he carried in a division of it just for a moment, for he must not
The light revealed a vault without any window or other opening than
the door. It was very old and much neglected. The mortar had
vanished from between the stones, and it was half filled with a
heap of all sorts of rubbish, beaten down in the middle, but looser
at the sides; it sloped from the door to the foot of the opposite
wall: evidently for a long time the vault had been left open, and
every sort of refuse thrown into it. A single minute served for
the survey, so little was there to note.
Meantime, down in the angle between the back wall and the base of
the heap Lina was scratching furiously with all the eighteen great
strong claws of her mighty feet.
'Ah, ha!' said Curdie to himself, catching sight of her, 'if only
they will leave us long enough to ourselves!'
With that he ran to the door, to see if there was any fastening on
the inside. There was none: in all its long history it never had
had one. But a few blows of the right sort, now from the one, now
from the other end of his mattock, were as good as any bolt, for
they so ruined the lock that no key could ever turn in it again.
Those who heard them fancied he was trying to get out, and laughed
spitefully. As soon as he had done, he extinguished his candle,
and went down to Lina.
She had reached the hard rock which formed the floor of the
dungeon, and was now clearing away the earth a little wider.
Presently she looked up in his face and whined, as much as to say,
'My paws are not hard enough to get any farther.'
'Then get out of my way, Lina,' said Curdie, and mind you keep your
eyes shining, for fear I should hit you.'
So saying, he heaved his mattock, and assailed with the hammer end
of it the spot she had cleared.
The rock was very hard, but when it did break it broke in
good-sized pieces. Now with hammer, now with pick, he worked till
he was weary, then rested, and then set to again. He could not
tell how the day went, as he had no light but the lamping of Lina's
eyes. The darkness hampered him greatly, for he would not let Lina
come close enough to give him all the light she could, lest he
should strike her. So he had, every now and then, to feel with his
hands to know how he was getting on, and to discover in what
direction to strike: the exact spot was a mere imagination.
He was getting very tired and hungry, and beginning to lose heart
a little, when out of the ground, as if he had struck a spring of
it, burst a dull, gleamy, lead-coloured light, and the next moment
he heard a hollow splash and echo. A piece of rock had fallen out
of the floor, and dropped into water beneath. Already Lina, who
had been lying a few yards off all the time he worked, was on her
feet and peering through the hole. Curdie got down on his hands
and knees, and looked. They were over what seemed a natural cave
in the rock, to which apparently the river had access, for, at a
great distance below, a faint light was gleaming upon water. If
they could but reach it, they might get out; but even if it was
deep enough, the height was very dangerous. The first thing,
whatever might follow, was to make the hole larger. It was
comparatively easy to break away the sides of it, and in the course
of another hour he had it large enough to get through.
And now he must reconnoitre. He took the rope they had tied him
with - for Curdie's hindrances were always his furtherance - and
fastened one end of it by a slipknot round the handle of his
pickaxes then dropped the other end through, and laid the pickaxe
so that, when he was through himself, and hanging on the edge, he
could place it across the hole to support him on the rope. This
done, he took the rope in his hands, and, beginning to descend,
found himself in a narrow cleft widening into a cave. His rope was
not very long, and would not do much to lessen the force of his
fall - he thought to himself - if he should have to drop into the
water; but he was not more than a couple of yards below the dungeon
when he spied an opening on the opposite side of the cleft: it
might be but a shadow hole, or it might lead them out. He dropped
himself a little below its level, gave the rope a swing by pushing
his feet against the side of the cleft, and so penduled himself
into it. Then he laid a stone on the end of the rope that it
should not forsake him, called to Lina, whose yellow eyes were
gleaming over the mattock grating above, to watch there till he
returned, and went cautiously in. It proved a passage, level for
some distance, then sloping gently up. He advanced carefully,
feeling his way as he went. At length he was stopped by a door -
a small door, studded with iron. But the wood was in places so
much decayed that some of the bolts had dropped out, and he felt
sure of being able to open it. He returned, therefore, to fetch
Lina and his mattock. Arrived at the cleft, his strong miner arms
bore him swiftly up along the rope and through the hole into the
dungeon. There he undid the rope from his mattock, and making Lina
take the end of it in her teeth, and get through the hole, he
lowered her - it was all he could do, she was so heavy. When she
came opposite the passage, with a slight push of her tail she shot
herself into it, and let go the rope, which Curdie drew up.
Then he lighted his candle and searching in the rubbish found a bit
of iron to take the place of his pickaxe across the hole. Then he
searched again in the rubbish, and found half an old shutter. This
he propped up leaning a little over the hole, with a bit of stick,
and heaped against the back of it a quantity of the loosened earth.
Next he tied his mattock to the end of the rope, dropped it, and
let it hang. Last, he got through the hole himself, and pulled
away the propping stick, so that the shutter fell over the hole
with a quantity of earth on the top of it. A few motions of hand
over hand, and he swung himself and his mattock into the passage
There he secured the end of the rope, and they went on together to
The Wine Cellar
He lighted his candle and examined it. Decayed and broken as it
was, it was strongly secured in its place by hinges on the one
side, and either lock or bolt, he could not tell which, on the
other. A brief use of his pocket-knife was enough to make room for
his hand and arm to get through, and then he found a great iron
bolt - but so rusty that he could not move it.
Lina whimpered. He took his knife again, made the hole bigger, and
stood back. In she shot her small head and long neck, seized the
bolt with her teeth, and dragged it, grating and complaining, back.
A push then opened the door. it was at the foot of a short flight
of steps. They ascended, and at the top Curdie found himself in a
space which, from the echo to his stamp, appeared of some size,
though of what sort he could not at first tell, for his hands,
feeling about, came upon nothing. Presently, however, they fell on
a great thing: it was a wine cask.
He was just setting out to explore the place thoroughly, when he
heard steps coming down a stair. He stood still, not knowing
whether the door would open an inch from his nose or twenty yards
behind his back. It did neither. He heard the key turn in the
lock, and a stream of light shot in, ruining the darkness, about
fifteen yards away on his right.
A man carrying a candle in one hand and a large silver flagon in
the other, entered, and came toward him. The light revealed a row
of huge wine casks, that stretched away into the darkness of the
other end of the long vault. Curdie retreated into the recess of
the stair, and peeping round the corner of it, watched him,
thinking what he could do to prevent him from locking them in. He
came on and on, until curdie feared he would pass the recess and
see them. He was just preparing to rush out, and master him before
he should give alarm, not in the least knowing what he should do
next, when, to his relief, the man stopped at the third cask from
where he stood. He set down his light on the top of it, removed
what seemed a large vent-peg, and poured into the cask a quantity
of something from the flagon. Then he turned to the next cask,
drew some wine, rinsed the flagon, threw the wine away, drew and
rinsed and threw away again, then drew and drank, draining to the
bottom. Last of all, he filled the flagon from the cask he had
first visited, replaced then the vent-peg, took up his candle, and
turned toward the door.
'There is something wrong here!' thought Curdie.
'Speak to him, Lina,' he whispered.
The sudden howl she gave made Curdie himself start and tremble for
a moment. As to the man, he answered Lina's with another horrible
howl, forced from him by the convulsive shudder of every muscle of
his body, then reeled gasping to and fro, and dropped his candle.
But just as Curdie expected to see him fall dead he recovered
himself, and flew to the door, through which he darted, leaving it
open behind him. The moment he ran, Curdie stepped out, picked up
the candle still alight, sped after him to the door, drew out the
key, and then returned to the stair and waited. in a few minutes
he heard the sound of many feet and voices. Instantly he turned
the tap of the cask from which the man had been drinking, set the
candle beside it on the floor, went down the steps and out of the
little door, followed by Lina, and closed it behind them.
Through the hole in it he could see a little, and hear all. He
could see how the light of many candles filled the place, and could
hear how some two dozen feet ran hither and thither through the
echoing cellar; he could hear the clash of iron, probably spits and
pokers, now and then; and at last heard how, finding nothing
remarkable except the best wine running to waste, they all turned
on the butler and accused him of having fooled them with a drunken
dream. He did his best to defend himself, appealing to the
evidence of their own senses that he was as sober as they were.
They replied that a fright was no less a fright that the cause was
imaginary, and a dream no less a dream that the fright had waked
him from it.
When he discovered, and triumphantly adduced as corroboration, that
the key was gone from the door, they said it merely showed how
drunk he had been - either that or how frightened, for he had
certainly dropped it. In vain he protested that he had never taken
it out of the lock - that he never did when he went in, and
certainly had not this time stopped to do so when he came out; they
asked him why he had to go to the cellar at such a time of the day,
and said it was because he had already drunk all the wine that was
left from dinner. He said if he had dropped the key, the key was
to be found, and they must help him to find it. They told him they
wouldn't move a peg for him. He declared, with much language, he
would have them all turned out of the king's service. They said
they would swear he was drunk.
And so positive were they about it, that at last the butler himself
began to think whether it was possible they could be in the right.
For he knew that sometimes when he had been drunk he fancied things
had taken place which he found afterward could not have happened.
Certain of his fellow servants, however, had all the time a doubt
whether the cellar goblin had not appeared to him, or at least
roared at him, to protect the wine. in any case nobody wanted to
find the key for him; nothing could please them better than that
the door of the wine cellar should never more be locked. By
degrees the hubbub died away, and they departed, not even pulling
to the door, for there was neither handle nor latch to it.
As soon as they were gone, Curdie returned, knowing now that they
were in the wine cellar of the palace, as indeed, he had suspected.
Finding a pool of wine in a hollow of the floor, Lina lapped it up
eagerly: she had had no breakfast, and was now very thirsty as well
as hungry. Her master was in a similar plight, for he had but just
begun to eat when the magistrate arrived with the soldiers. If
only they were all in bed, he thought, that he might find his way
to the larder! For he said to himself that, as he was sent there
by the young princess's great-great-grandmother to serve her or her
father in some way, surely he must have a right to his food in the
Palace, without which he could do nothing. He would go at once and
So he crept up the stair that led from the cellar. At the top was
a door, opening on a long passage dimly lighted by a lamp. He told
Lina to lie down upon the stair while he went on. At the end of
the passage he found a door ajar, and, peering through, saw right
into a great stone hall, where a huge fire was blazing, and through
which men in the king's livery were constantly coming and going.
Some also in the same livery were lounging about the fire. He
noted that their colours were the same as those he himself, as
king's miner, wore; but from what he had seen and heard of the
habits of the place, he could not hope they would treat him the
better for that.
The one interesting thing at the moment, however, was the plentiful
supper with which the table was spread. It was something at least
to stand in sight of food, and he was unwilling to turn his back on
the prospect so long as a share in it was not absolutely hopeless.
Peeping thus, he soon made UP his mind that if at any moment the
hall should be empty, he would at that moment rush in and attempt
to carry off a dish. That he might lose no time by indecision, he
selected a large pie upon which to pounce instantaneously. But
after he had watched for some minutes, it did not seem at all
likely the chance would arrive before suppertime, and he was just
about to turn away and rejoin Lina, when he saw that there was not
a person in the place. Curdie never made up his mind and then
hesitated. He darted in, seized the pie, and bore it swiftly and
noiselessly to the cellar stair.
The King's Kitchen
Back to the cellar Curdie and Lina sped with their booty, where,
seated on the steps, Curdie lighted his bit of candle for a moment.
A very little bit it was now, but they did not waste much of it in
examination of the pie; that they effected by a more summary
process. Curdie thought it the nicest food he had ever tasted, and
between them they soon ate it up. Then Curdie would have thrown
the dish along with the bones into the water, that there might be
no traces of them; but he thought of his mother, and hid it
instead; and the very next minute they wanted it to draw some wine
into. He was careful it should be from the cask of which he had
seen the butler drink.
Then they sat down again upon the steps, and waited until the house
should be quiet. For he was there to do something, and if it did
not come to him in the cellar, he must go to meet it in other
places. Therefore, lest he should fall asleep, he set the end of
the helve of his mattock on the ground, and seated himself on the
cross part, leaning against the wall, so that as long as he kept
awake he should rest, but the moment he began to fall asleep he
must fall awake instead. He quite expected some of the servants
would visit the cellar again that night, but whether it was that
they were afraid of each other, or believed more of the butler's
story than they had chosen to allow, not one of them appeared.
When at length he thought he might venture, he shouldered his
mattock and crept up the stair. The lamp was out in the passage,
but he could not miss his way to the servants' hall. Trusting to
Lina's quickness in concealing herself, he took her with him.
When they reached the hall they found it quiet and nearly dark.
The last of the great fire was glowing red, but giving little
light. Curdie stood and warmed himself for a few moments: miner as
he was, he had found the cellar cold to sit in doing nothing; and
standing thus he thought of looking if there were any bits of
candle about. There were many candlesticks on the supper table,
but to his disappointment and indignation their candles seemed to
have been all left to burn out, and some of them, indeed, he found
still hot in the neck.
Presently, one after another, he came upon seven men fast asleep,
most of them upon tables, one in a chair, and one on the floor.
They seemed, from their shape and colour, to have eaten and drunk
so much that they might be burned alive without wakening. He
grasped the hand of each in succession,and found two ox hoofs,
three pig hoofs, one concerning which he could not be sure whether
it was the hoof of a donkey or a pony, and one dog's paw. 'A nice
set of people to be about a king!' thought Curdie to himself, and
turned again to his candle hunt. He did at last find two or three
little pieces, and stowed them away in his pockets. They now left
the hall by another door, and entered a short passage, which led
them to the huge kitchen, vaulted and black with smoke. There,
too, the fire was still burning, so that he was able to see a
little of the state of things in this quarter also.
The place was dirty and disorderly. In a recess, on a heap of
brushwood, lay a kitchen-maid, with a table cover around her, and
a skillet in her hand: evidently she too had been drinking. In
another corner lay a page, and Curdie noted how like his dress was
to his own. in the cinders before the hearth were huddled three
dogs and five cats, all fast asleep, while the rats were running
about the floor. Curdie's heart ached to think of the lovely
child-princess living over such a sty. The mine was a paradise to
a palace with such servants in it.
Leaving the kitchen, he got into the region of the sculleries.
There horrible smells were wandering about, like evil spirits that
come forth with the darkness. He lighted a candle - but only to
see ugly sights. Everywhere was filth and disorder. Mangy
turnspit dogs were lying about, and grey rats were gnawing at
refuse in the sinks. It was like a hideous dream. He felt as if
he should never get out of it, and longed for one glimpse of his
mother's poor little kitchen, so clean and bright and airy.
Turning from it at last in miserable disgust, he almost ran back
through the kitchen, re-entered the hall, and crossed it to another
It opened upon a wider passage leading to an arch in a stately
corridor, all its length lighted by lamps in niches. At the end of
it was a large and beautiful hall, with great pillars. There sat
three men in the royal livery, fast asleep, each in a great
armchair, with his feet on a huge footstool. They looked like
fools dreaming themselves kings; and Lina looked as if she longed
to throttle them. At one side of the hall was the grand staircase,
and they went up.
Everything that now met Curdie's eyes was rich - not glorious like
the splendours of the mountain cavern, but rich and soft - except
where, now and then, some rough old rib of the ancient fortress
came through, hard and discoloured. Now some dark bare arch of
stone, now some rugged and blackened pillar, now some huge beam,
brown with the smoke and dust of centuries, looked like a thistle
in the midst of daisies, or a rock in a smooth lawn.
They wandered about a good while, again and again finding
themselves where they had been before. Gradually, however, Curdie
was gaining some idea of the place. By and by Lina began to look
frightened, and as they went on Curdie saw that she looked more and
more frightened. Now, by this time he had come to understand that
what made her look frightened was always the fear of frightening,
and he therefore concluded they must be drawing nigh to somebody.
At last, in a gorgeously painted gallery, he saw a curtain of
crimson, and on the curtain a royal crown wrought in silks and
stones. He felt sure this must be the king's chamber, and it was
here he was wanted; or, if it was not the place he was bound for,
something would meet him and turn him aside; for he had come to
think that so long as a man wants to do right he may go where he
can: when he can go no farther, then it is not the way. 'Only,'
said his father, in assenting to the theory, 'he must really want
to do right, and not merely fancy he does. He must want it with
his heart and will, and not with his rag of a tongue.'
So he gently lifted the corner of the curtain, and there behind it
was a half-open door. He entered, and the moment he was in, Lina
stretched herself along the threshold between the curtain and the
The King's Chamber
He found himself in a large room, dimly lighted by a silver lamp
that hung from the ceiling. Far at the other end was a great bed,
surrounded with dark heavy curtains. He went softly toward it, his
heart beating fast. It was a dreadful thing to be alone in the
king's chamber at the dead of night. To gain courage he had to
remind himself of the beautiful princess who had sent him.
But when he was about halfway to the bed, a figure appeared from
the farther side of it, and came towards him, with a hand raised
warningly. He stood still. The light was dim, and he could
distinguish little more than the outline of a young girl. But
though the form he saw was much taller than the princess he
remembered, he never doubted it was she. For one thing, he knew
that most girls would have been frightened to see him there in the
dead of the night, but like a true princess, and the princess he
used to know, she walked straight on to meet him. As she came she
lowered the hand she had lifted, and laid the forefinger of it upon
her lips. Nearer and nearer, quite near, close up to him she came,
then stopped, and stood a moment looking at him.
'You are Curdie,' she said.
'And you are the Princess Irene,' he returned.
'Then we know each other still,' she said, with a sad smile of
pleasure. 'You will help me.'
'That I will,' answered Curdie. He did not say, 'If I can';
for he knew that what he was sent to do, that he could do. 'May I
kiss your hand, little Princess?'
She was only between nine and ten, though indeed she looked several
years older, and her eyes almost those of a grown woman, for she
had had terrible trouble of late.
She held out her hand.
'I am not the little princess any more. I have grown up since I
saw you last, Mr Miner.'
The smile which accompanied the words had in it a strange mixture
of playfulness and sadness.
'So I see, Miss Princess,' returned Curdie; 'and therefore, being
more of a princess, you are the more my princess. Here I am, sent
by your great-great-grandmother, to be your servant. May I ask why
you are up so late, Princess?'
'Because my father wakes so frightened, and I don't know what he
would do if he didn't find me by his bedside. There! he's waking
She darted off to the side of the bed she had come from.
Curdie stood where he was.
A voice altogether unlike what he remembered of the mighty, noble
king on his white horse came from the bed, thin, feeble, hollow,
and husky, and in tone like that of a petulant child:
'I will not, I will not. I am a king, and I will be a king. I
hate you and despise you, and you shall not torture me!'
'Never mind them, Father dear,' said the princess. 'I am here, and
they shan't touch you. They dare not, you know, so long as you
'They want my crown, darling; and I can't give them my crown, can
I? For what is a king without his crown?'
'They shall never have your crown, my king,' said Irene. 'Here it
is - all safe. I am watching it for you.'
Curdie drew near the bed on the other side. There lay the grand
old king - he looked grand still, and twenty years older. His body
was pillowed high; his beard descended long and white over the
crimson coverlid; and his crown, its diamonds and emeralds gleaming
in the twilight of the curtains, lay in front of him, his long thin
old hands folded round it, and the ends of his beard straying among
the lovely stones. His face was like that of a man who had died
fighting nobly; but one thing made it dreadful: his eyes, while
they moved about as if searching in this direction and in that,
looked more dead than his face. He saw neither his daughter nor
his crown: it was the voice of the one and the touch of the other
that comforted him. He kept murmuring what seemed words, but was
unintelligible to Curdie, although, to judge from the look of
Irene's face, she learned and concluded from it.
By degrees his voice sank away and the murmuring ceased, although
still his lips moved. Thus lay the old king on his bed, slumbering
with his crown between his hands; on one side of him stood a lovely
little maiden, with blue eyes, and brown hair going a little back
from her temples, as if blown by a wind that no one felt but
herself; and on the other a stalwart young miner, with his mattock
over his shoulder. Stranger sight still was Lina lying along the
threshold - only nobody saw her just then.
A moment more and the king's lips ceased to move. His breathing
had grown regular and quiet. The princess gave a sigh of relief,
and came round to Curdie.
'We can talk a little now,' she said, leading him toward the middle
of the room. 'My father will sleep now till the doctor wakes him
to give him his medicine. It is not really medicine, though, but
wine. Nothing but that, the doctor says, could have kept him so
long alive. He always comes in the middle of the night to give it
him with his own hands. But it makes me cry to see him wake up
when so nicely asleep.'
'What sort of man is your doctor?' asked Curdie.
'Oh, such a dear, good, kind gentleman!' replied the princess. 'He
speaks so softly, and is so sorry for his dear king! He will be
here presently, and you shall see for yourself. You will like him
'Has your king-father been long ill?' asked Curdie.
'A whole year now,' she replied. 'Did you not know? That's how
your mother never got the red petticoat my father promised her.
The lord chancellor told me that not only Gwyntystorm but the whole
land was mourning over the illness of the good man.'
Now Curdie himself had not heard a word of His Majesty's illness,
and had no ground for believing that a single soul in any place he
had visited on his journey had heard of it. Moreover, although
mention had been made of His Majesty again and again in his hearing
since he came to Gwyntystorm, never once had he heard an allusion
to the state of his health. And now it dawned upon him also that
he had never heard the least expression of love to him. But just
for the time he thought it better to say nothing on either point.
'Does the king wander like this every night?' he asked.
'Every night,' answered Irene, shaking her head mournfully. 'That
is why I never go to bed at night. He is better during the day -
a little, and then I sleep - in the dressing room there, to be with
him in a moment if he should call me. It is so sad he should have
only me and not my mamma! A princess is nothing to a queen!'
'I wish he would like me,' said Curdie, 'for then I might watch by
him at night, and let you go to bed, Princess.'
'Don't you know then?' returned Irene, in wonder. 'How was it you
came? Ah! You said my grandmother sent you. But I thought you
knew that he wanted you.'
And again she opened wide her blue stars.
'Not I,' said Curdie, also bewildered, but very glad.
'He used to be constantly saying - he was not so ill then as he is
now - that he wished he had you about him.'
'And I never to know it!' said Curdie, with displeasure.
'The master of the horse told papa's own secretary that he had
written to the miner-general to find you and send you up; but the
miner-general wrote back to the master of the horse, and he told
the secretary, and the secretary told my father, that they had
searched every mine in the kingdom and could hear nothing of you.
My father gave a great sigh, and said he feared the goblins had got
you, after all, and your father and mother were dead of grief. And
he has never mentioned you since, except when wandering. I cried
very much. But one of my grandmother's pigeons with its white wing
flashed a message to me through the window one day, and then I knew
that my Curdie wasn't eaten by the goblins, for my grandmother
wouldn't have taken care of him one time to let him be eaten the
next. Where were you, Curdie, that they couldn't find you?'
'We will talk about that another time, when we are not expecting
the doctor,' said Curdie.
As he spoke, his eyes fell upon something shining on the table
under the lamp. His heart gave a great throb, and he went nearer.
Yes, there could be no doubt - it was the same flagon that the
butler had filled in the wine cellar.
'It looks worse and worse!'he said to himself, and went back to
Irene, where she stood half dreaming.
'When will the doctor be here?' he asked once more - this time
The question was answered - not by the princess, but by something
which that instant tumbled heavily into the room. Curdie flew
toward it in vague terror about Lina.
On the floor lay a little round man, puffing and blowing, and
uttering incoherent language. Curdie thought of his mattock, and
ran and laid it aside.
'Oh, dear Dr Kelman!' cried the princess, running up and taking
hold of his arm; 'I am so sorry!' She pulled and pulled, but might
almost as well have tried to set up a cannon ball. 'I hope you
have not hurt yourself?'
'Not at all, not at all,' said the doctor, trying to smile and to
rise both at once, but finding it impossible to do either.
'if he slept on the floor he would be late for breakfast,' said
Curdie to himself, and held out his hand to help him.
But when he took hold of it, Curdie very nearly let him fall again,
for what he held was not even a foot: it was the belly of a
creeping thing. He managed, however, to hold both his peace and
his grasp, and pulled the doctor roughly on his legs - such as they
'Your Royal Highness has rather a thick mat at the door,' said the
doctor, patting his palms together. 'I hope my awkwardness may not
have startled His Majesty.'
While he talked Curdie went to the door: Lina was not there.
The doctor approached the bed.
'And how has my beloved king slept tonight?' he asked.
'No better,' answered Irene, with a mournful shake of her head.
'Ah, that is very well!' returned the doctor, his fall seeming to
have muddled either his words or his meaning. 'When we give him
his wine, he will be better still.'
Curdie darted at the flagon, and lifted it high, as if he had
expected to find it full, but had found it empty.
'That stupid butler! I heard them say he was drunk!' he cried in
a loud whisper, and was gliding from the room.
'Come here with that flagon, you! Page!' cried the doctor.
Curdie came a few steps toward him with the flagon dangling from
his hand, heedless of the gushes that fell noiseless on the thick
'Are you aware, young man,' said the doctor, 'that it is not every
wine can do His Majesty the benefit I intend he should derive from
'Quite aware, sir, answered Curdie. 'The wine for His Majesty's
use is in the third cask from the corner.'
'Fly, then,' said the doctor, looking satisfied.
Curdie stopped outside the curtain and blew an audible breath - no
more; up came Lina noiseless as a shadow. He showed her the
'The cellar, Lina: go,' he said.
She galloped away on her soft feet, and Curdie had indeed to fly to
keep up with her. Not once did she make even a dubious turn. From
the king's gorgeous chamber to the cold cellar they shot. Curdie
dashed the wine down the back stair, rinsed the flagon out as he
had seen the butler do, filled it from the cask of which he had
seen the butler drink, and hastened with it up again to the king's
The little doctor took it, poured out a full glass, smelt, but did
not taste it, and set it down. Then he leaned over the bed,
shouted in the king's ear, blew upon his eyes, and pinched his arm:
Curdie thought he saw him run something bright into it. At last
the king half woke. The doctor seized the glass, raised his head,
poured the wine down his throat, and let his head fall back on the
pillow again. Tenderly wiping his beard, and bidding the princess
good night in paternal tones, he then took his leave. Curdie would
gladly have driven his pick into his head, but that was not in his
commission, and he let him go. The little round man looked very
carefully to his feet as he crossed the threshold.
'That attentive fellow of a page has removed the mat,' he said to
himself, as he walked along the corridor. 'I must remember him.'
Curdie was already sufficiently enlightened as to how things were
going, to see that he must have the princess of one mind with him,
and they must work together. It was clear that among those about
the king there was a plot against him: for one thing, they had
agreed in a lie concerning himself; and it was plain also that the
doctor was working out a design against the health and reason of
His Majesty, rendering the question of his life a matter of little
moment. It was in itself sufficient to justify the worst fears,
that the people outside the palace were ignorant of His Majesty's
condition: he believed those inside it also - the butler excepted
- were ignorant of it as well. Doubtless His Majesty's councillors
desired to alienate the hearts of his subjects from their
sovereign. Curdie's idea was that they intended to kill the king,
marry the princess to one of themselves, and found a new dynasty;
but whatever their purpose, there was treason in the palace of the
worst sort: they were making and keeping the king incapable, in
order to effect that purpose- The first thing to be seen to,
therefore, was that His Majesty should neither eat morsel nor drink
drop of anything prepared for him in the palace. Could this have
been managed without the princess, Curdie would have preferred
leaving her in ignorance of the horrors from which he sought to
deliver her. He feared also the danger of her knowledge betraying
itself to the evil eyes about her; but it must be risked and she
had always been a wise child.
Another thing was clear to him - that with such traitors no terms
of honour were either binding or possible, and that, short of
lying, he might use any means to foil them. And he could not doubt
that the old princess had sent him expressly to frustrate their
While he stood thinking thus with himself, the princess was
earnestly watching the king, with looks of childish love and
womanly tenderness that went to Curdie's heart. Now and then with
a great fan of peacock feathers she would fan him very softly; now
and then, seeing a cloud begin to gather upon the sky of his
sleeping face, she would climb upon the bed, and bending to his ear
whisper into it, then draw back and watch again - generally to see
the cloud disperse. in his deepest slumber, the soul of the king
lay open to the voice of his child, and that voice had power either
to change the aspect of his visions, or, which was better still, to
breathe hope into his heart, and courage to endure them.
Curdie came near, and softly called her.
'I can't leave Papa just yet,' she returned, in a low voice.
'I will wait,' said Curdie; 'but I want very much to say
In a few minutes she came to him where he stood under the lamp.
'Well, Curdie, what is it?' she said.
'Princess,' he replied, 'I want to tell you that I have found why
your grandmother sent me.'
'Come this way, then, she answered, 'where I can see the face of my
Curdie placed a chair for her in the spot she chose, where she
would be near enough to mark any slightest change on her father's
countenance, yet where their low-voiced talk would not disturb him.
There he sat down beside her and told her all the story - how her
grandmother had sent her good pigeon for him, and how she had
instructed him, and sent him there without telling him what he had
to do. Then he told her what he had discovered of the state of
things generally in Gwyntystorm, and especially what he had heard
and seen in the palace that night.
'Things are in a bad state enough,' he said in conclusion - 'lying
and selfishness and inhospitality and dishonesty everywhere; and to
crown all, they speak with disrespect of the good king, and not a
man knows he is ill.'
'You frighten me dreadfully,' said Irene, trembling.
'You must be brave for your king's sake,' said Curdie.
'Indeed I will,' she replied, and turned a long loving look upon
the beautiful face of her father. 'But what is to be done? And
how am I to believe such horrible things of Dr Kelman?'
'my dear Princess,' replied Curdie, 'you know nothing of him but
his face and his tongue, and they are both false. Either you must
beware of him, or you must doubt your grandmother and me; for I
tell you, by the gift she gave me of testing hands, that this man
is a snake. That round body he shows is but the case of a serpent.
Perhaps the creature lies there, as in its nest, coiled round and
'Horrible!' said Irene.
'Horrible indeed; but we must not try to get rid of horrible things
by refusing to look at them, and saying they are not there. Is not
your beautiful father sleeping better since he had the wine?'
'Does he always sleep better after having it?'
She reflected an instant.
'No; always worse - till tonight,' she answered.
'Then remember that was the wine I got him - not what the butler
drew. Nothing that passes through any hand in the house except
yours or mine must henceforth, till he is well, reach His Majesty's
'But how, dear Curdie?' said the princess, almost crying.
'That we must contrive,' answered Curdie. 'I know how to take care
of the wine; but for his food - now we must think.'
'He takes hardly any,' said the princess, with a pathetic shake of
her little head which Curdie had almost learned to look for.
'The more need,' he replied, 'there should be no poison in it.'
Irene shuddered. 'As soon as he has honest food he will begin to
grow better. And you must be just as careful with yourself,
Princess,' Curdie went on, 'for you don't know when they may begin
to poison you, too.'
'There's no fear of me; don't talk about me,' said Irene. 'The
good food! How are we to get it, Curdie? That is the whole
'I am thinking hard,' answered Curdie. 'The good food? Let me see
- let me see! Such servants as I saw below are sure to have the
best of everything for themselves: I will go an see what I can find
on their table.'
'The chancellor sleeps in the house, and he and the master of the
king's horse always have their supper together in a room off the
great hall, to the right as you go down the stairs,' said Irene.
'I would go with you, but I dare not leave my father. Alas! He
scarcely ever takes more than a mouthful. I can't think how he
lives! And the very thing he would like, and often asks for - a
bit of bread - I can hardly ever get for him: Dr Kelman has
forbidden it, and says it is nothing less than poison to him.'
'Bread at least he shall have,' said Curdie; 'and that, with the
honest wine, will do as well as anything, I do believe. I will go
at once and look for some. But I want you to see Lina first, and
know her, lest, coming upon her by accident at any time, you should
'I should like much to see her,' said the princess.
Warning her not to be startled by her ugliness, he went to the door
and called her.
She entered, creeping with downcast head, and dragging her tail
over the floor behind her. Curdie watched the princess as the
frightful creature came nearer and nearer. One shudder went from
head to foot, and next instant she stepped to meet her. Lina
dropped flat on the floor, and covered her face with her two big
paws. It went to the heart of the princess: in a moment she was on
her knees beside her, stroking her ugly head, and patting her all
'Good dog! Dear ugly dog!' she said.
'I believe,' said Curdie, 'from what your grandmother told me, that
Lina is a woman, and that she was naughty, but is now growing
Lina had lifted her head while Irene was caressing her; now she
dropped it again between her paws; but the princess took it in her
hands, and kissed the forehead betwixt the gold-green eyes.
'Shall I take her with me or leave her?' asked Curdie.
'Leave her, poor dear,' said Irene, and Curdie, knowing the way
now, went without her.
He took his way first to the room the princess had spoken of, and
there also were the remains of supper; but neither there nor in the
kitchen could he find a scrap of plain wholesome-looking bread. So
he returned and told her that as soon as it was light he would go
into the city for some, and asked her for a handkerchief to tie it
in. If he could not bring it himself, he would send it by Lina,
who could keep out of sight better than he, and as soon as all was
quiet at night he would come to her again. He also asked her to
tell the king that he was in the house. His hope lay in the fact
that bakers everywhere go to work early. But it was yet much too
early. So he persuaded the princess to lie down, promising to call
her if the king should stir.
His Majesty slept very quietly. The dawn had grown almost day, and
still Curdie lingered, unwilling to disturb the princess.
At last, however, he called her, and she was in the room in a
moment. She had slept, she said, and felt quite fresh. Delighted
to find her father still asleep, and so peacefully, she pushed her
chair close to the bed, and sat down with her hands in her lap.
Curdie got his mattock from where he had hidden it behind a great
mirror, and went to the cellar, followed by Lina. They took some
breakfast with them as they passed through the hall, and as soon as
they had eaten it went out the back way.
At the mouth of the passage Curdie seized the rope, drew himself
up, pushed away the shutter, and entered the dungeon. Then he
swung the end of the rope to Lina, and she caught it in her teeth.
When her master said, 'Now, Lina!' she gave a great spring, and he
ran away with the end of the rope as fast as ever he could. And
such a spring had she made, that by the time he had to bear her
weight she was within a few feet of the hole. The instant she got
a paw through, she was all through.
Apparently their enemies were waiting till hunger should have cowed
them, for there was no sign of any attempt having been made to open
the door. A blow or two of Curdie's mattock drove the shattered
lock clean from it, and telling Lina to wait there till he came
back, and let no one in, he walked out into the silent street, and
drew the door to behind them. He could hardly believe it was not
yet a whole day since he had been thrown in there with his hands
tied at his back.
Down the town he went, walking in the middle of the street, that,
if any one saw him, he might see he was not afraid, and hesitate to
rouse an attack on him. As to the dogs, ever since the death of
their two companions, a shadow that looked like a mattock was
enough to make them scamper. As soon as he reached the archway of
the city gate he turned to reconnoitre the baker's shop, and
perceiving no sign of movement, waited there watching for the