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The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald

Part 4 out of 4

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In full panic fled the invaders, sweeping down their tents,
stumbling over their baggage, trampling on their dead and wounded,
ceaselessly pursued and buffeted by the white-winged army of
heaven. Homeward they rushed the road they had come, straight for
the borders, many dropping from pure fatigue, and lying where they
fell. And still the pigeons were in their necks as they ran. At
length to the eyes of the king and his army nothing was visible
save a dust cloud below, and a bird cloud above. Before night the
bird cloud came back, flying high over Gwyntystorm. Sinking
swiftly, it disappeared among the ancient roofs of the palace.


The king and his army returned, bringing with them one prisoner
only, the lord chancellor. Curdie had dragged him from under a
fallen tent, not by the hand of a man, but by the foot of a mule.

When they entered the city, it was still as the grave. The
citizens had fled home. 'We must submit,' they cried, 'or the king
and his demons will destroy us.' The king rode through the streets
in silence, ill-pleased with his people. But he stopped his horse
in the midst of the market place, and called, in a voice loud and
clear as the cry of a silver trumpet, 'Go and find your own. Bury
your dead, and bring home your wounded.' Then he turned him
gloomily to the palace.
just as they reached the gates, Peter, who, as they went, had been
telling his tale to Curdie, ended it with the words:

'And so there I was, in the nick of time to save the two

'The two princesses, Father! The one on the great red horse was
the housemaid,' said Curdie, and ran to open the gates for the

They found Derba returned before them, and already busy preparing
them food. The king put up his charger with his own hands, rubbed
him down, and fed him.

When they had washed, and eaten and drunk, he called the colonel,
and told Curdie and the page to bring out the traitors and the
beasts, and attend him to the market place.

By this time the people were crowding back into the city, bearing
their dead and wounded. And there was lamentation in Gwyntystorm,
for no one could comfort himself, and no one had any to comfort
him. The nation was victorious, but the people were conquered.

The king stood in the centre of the market place, upon the steps of
the ancient cross. He had laid aside his helmet and put on his
crown, but he stood all armed beside, with his sword in his hand.
He called the people to him, and, for all the terror of the beasts,
they dared not disobey him. Those, even, who were carrying their
wounded laid them down, and drew near trembling.

Then the king said to Curdie and the page:

'Set the evil men before me.'

He looked upon them for a moment in mingled anger and pity, then
turned to the people and said:

'Behold your trust! Ye slaves, behold your leaders! I would have
freed you, but ye would not be free. Now shall ye be ruled with a
rod of iron, that ye may learn what freedom is, and love it and
seek it. These wretches I will send where they shall mislead you
no longer.'

He made a sign to Curdie, who immediately brought up the
legserpent. To the body of the animal they bound the lord
chamberlain, speechless with horror. The butler began to shriek
and pray, but they bound him on the back of Clubhead. One after
another, upon the largest of the creatures they bound the whole
seven, each through the unveiling terror looking the villain he
was. Then said the king:

'I thank you, my good beasts; and I hope to visit you ere long.
Take these evil men with you, and go to your place.'

Like a whirlwind they were in the crowd, scattering it like dust.
Like hounds they rushed from the city, their burdens howling and

What became of them I have never heard.

Then the king turned once more to the people and said, 'Go to your
houses'; nor vouchsafed them another word. They crept home like
chidden hounds.

The king returned to the palace. He made the colonel a duke, and
the page a knight, and Peter he appointed general of all his mines.
But to Curdie he said:

'You are my own boy, Curdie. My child cannot choose but love you,
and when you are grown up - if you both will - you shall marry each
other, and be king and queen when I am gone. Till then be the
king's Curdie.'

Irene held out her arms to Curdie. He raised her in his, and she
kissed him.

'And my Curdie too!' she said.

Thereafter the people called him Prince Conrad; but the king always
called him either just Curdie, or my miner boy.

They sat down to supper, and Derba and the knight and the housemaid
waited, and Barbara sat at the king's left hand. The housemaid
poured out the wine; and as she poured for Curdie red wine that
foamed in the cup, as if glad to see the light whence it had been
banished so long, she looked him in the eyes. And Curdie started,
and sprang from his seat, and dropped on his knees, and burst into
tears. And the maid said with a smile, such as none but one could

'Did I not tell you, Curdie, that it might be you would not know me
when next you saw me?'
Then she went from the room, and in a moment returned in royal
purple, with a crown of diamonds and rubies, from under which her
hair went flowing to the floor, all about her ruby- slippered feet.
Her face was radiant with joy, the joy overshadowed by a faint mist
as of unfulfilment. The king rose and kneeled on one knee before
her. All kneeled in like homage. Then the king would have yielded
her his royal chair. But she made them all sit down, and with her
own hands placed at the table seats for Derba and the page. Then
in ruby crown and royal purple she served them all.

The End

The king sent Curdie out into his dominions to search for men and
women that had human hands. And many such he found, honest and
true, and brought them to his master. So a new and upright court
was formed, and strength returned to the nation.

But the exchequer was almost empty, for the evil men had squandered
everything, and the king hated taxes unwillingly paid. Then came
Curdie and said to the king that the city stood upon gold. And the
king sent for men wise in the ways of the earth, and they built
smelting furnaces, and Peter brought miners, and they mined the
gold, and smelted it, and the king coined it into money, and
therewith established things well in the land.

The same day on which he found his boy, Peter set out to go home.
When he told the good news to Joan, his wife, she rose from her
chair and said, 'Let us go.' And they left the cottage, and
repaired to Gwyntystorm. And on a mountain above the city they
built themselves a warm house for their old age, high in the clear

As Peter mined one day, at the back of the king's wine Cellar, he
broke into a cavern crusted with gems, and much wealth flowed
therefrom, and the king used it wisely.

Queen Irene - that was the right name of the old princess - was
thereafter seldom long absent from the palace. Once or twice when
she was missing, Barbara, who seemed to know of her sometimes when
nobody else had a notion whither she had gone, said she was with
the dear old Uglies in the wood. Curdie thought that perhaps her
business might be with others there as well. All the uppermost
rooms in the palace were left to her use, and when any one was in
need of her help, up thither he must go. But even when she was
there, he did not always succeed in finding her. She, however,
always knew that such a one had been looking for her.

Curdie went to find her one day. As he ascended the last stair, to
meet him came the well-known scent of her roses; and when he opened
the door, lo! there was the same gorgeous room in which his touch
had been glorified by her fire! And there burned the fire - a huge
heap of red and white roses. Before the hearth stood the princess,
an old grey-haired woman, with Lina a little behind her, slowly
wagging her tail, and looking like a beast of prey that can hardly
so long restrain itself from springing as to be sure of its victim.
The queen was casting roses, more and more roses, upon the fire.
At last she turned and said, 'Now Lina!' - and Lina dashed
burrowing into the fire. There went up a black smoke and a dust,
and Lina was never more seen in the palace.

Irene and Curdie were married. The old king died, and they were
king and queen. As long as they lived Gwyntystorm was a better
city, and good people grew in it. But they had no children, and
when they died the people chose a king. And the new king went
mining and mining in the rock under the city, and grew more and
more eager after the gold, and paid less and less heed to his
people. Rapidly they sank toward their old wickedness. But still
the king went on mining, and coining gold by the pailful, until the
people were worse even than in the old time. And so greedy was the
king after gold, that when at last the ore began to fail, he caused
the miners to reduce the pillars which Peter and they that followed
him had left standing to bear the city. And from the girth of an
oak of a thousand years, they chipped them down to that of a fir
tree of fifty.

One day at noon, when life was at its highest, the whole city fell
with a roaring crash. The cries of men and the shrieks of women
went up with its dust, and then there was a great silence.

Where the mighty rock once towered, crowded with homes and crowned
with a palace, now rushes and raves a stone-obstructed rapid of the
river. All around spreads a wilderness of wild deer, and the very
name of Gwyntystorm had ceased from the lips of men.

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