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|The Princess and Curdie||George MacDonald|
|Page 2 of 4||
'What's come to the wench?' growled the menservants one to another, when the chambermaid appeared among them the next morning. There was something in her face which they could not understand, and did not like.
'Are we all dirt?' they said. 'What are you thinking about? Have you seen yourself in the glass this morning, miss?'
She made no answer.
'Do you want to be treated as you deserve, or will you speak, you hussy?' said the first woman-cook. 'I would fain know what right you have to put on a face like that!' 'You won't believe me,' said the girl.
'Of course not. What is it?'
'I must tell you, whether you believe me or not,' she said.
'of course you must.'
'It is this, then: if you do not repent of your bad ways, you are all going to be punished - all turned out of the palace together.'
'A mighty punishment!' said the butler. 'A good riddance, say I, of the trouble of keeping minxes like you in order! And why, pray, should we be turned out? What have I to repent of now, your holiness?'
'That you know best yourself,' said the girl.
'A pretty piece of insolence! How should I know, forsooth, what a menial like you has got against me! There are people in this house - oh! I'm not blind to their ways! - but every one for himself, say I! Pray, Miss judgement, who gave you such an impertinent message to His Majesty's household?'
'One who is come to set things right in the king's house.'
'Right, indeed!' cried the butler; but that moment the thought came back to him of the roar he had heard in the cellar, and he turned pale and was silent.
The steward took it up next. 'And pray, pretty prophetess,' he said, attempting to chuck her under the chin, 'what have I got to repent of?'
'That you know best yourself,' said the girl. 'You have but to look into your books or your heart.'
'Can you tell me, then, what I have to repent of?' said the groom of the chambers. 'That you know best yourself,' said the girl once more. 'The person who told me to tell you said the servants of this house had to repent of thieving, and lying, and unkindness, and drinking; and they will be made to repent of them one way, if they don't do it of themselves another.'
Then arose a great hubbub; for by this time all the servants in the house were gathered about her, and all talked together, in towering indignation.
'Thieving, indeed!' cried one. 'A pretty word in a house where everything is left lying about in a shameless way, tempting poor innocent girls! A house where nobody cares for anything, or has the least respect to the value of property!'
'I suppose you envy me this brooch of mine,' said another. 'There was just a half sheet of note paper about it, not a scrap more, in a drawer that's always open in the writing table in the study! What sort of a place is that for a jewel? Can you call it stealing to take a thing from such a place as that? Nobody cared a straw about it. it might as well have been in the dust hole! If it had been locked up - then, to be sure!'
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