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|The Princess and Curdie||George MacDonald|
|Page 1 of 4||
By the time the girl reached the servants' hall they were seated at supper. A loud, confused exclamation arose when she entered. No one made room for her; all stared with unfriendly eyes. A page, who entered the next minute by another door, came to her side.
'Where do you come from, hussy?' shouted the butler, and knocked his fist on the table with a loud clang.
He had gone to fetch wine, had found the stair door broken open and the cellar door locked, and had turned and fled. Among his fellows, however, he had now regained what courage could be called his. 'From the cellar,' she replied. 'The messenger broke open the door, and sent me to you again.'
'The messenger! Pooh! What messenger?'
'The same who sent me before to tell you to repent.'
'What! Will you go fooling it still? Haven't you had enough of it?' cried the butler in a rage, and starting to his feet, drew near threateningly.
'I must do as I am told,' said the girl.
'Then why don't you do as I tell you, and hold your tongue?' said the butler. 'Who wants your preachments? If anybody here has anything to repent Of, isn't that enough - and more than enough for him - but you must come bothering about, and stirring up, till not a drop of quiet will settle inside him? You come along with me, young woman; we'll see if we can't find a lock somewhere in the house that'll hold you in!'
'Hands off, Mr Butler!' said the page, and stepped between.
'Oh, ho!' cried the butler, and pointed his fat finger at him. 'That's you, is it, my fine fellow? So it's you that's up to her tricks, is it?'
The youth did not answer, only stood with flashing eyes fixed on him, until, growing angrier and angrier, but not daring a step nearer, he burst out with a rude but quavering authority:
'Leave the house, both of you! Be off, or I'll have Mr Steward to talk to you. Threaten your masters, indeed! Out of the house with you, and show us the way you tell us of!'
Two or three of the footmen got up and ranged themselves behind the butler.
'Don't say I threaten you, Mr Butler,' expostulated the girl from behind the page. 'The messenger said I was to tell you again, and give you one chance more.'
'Did the messenger mention me in particular?' asked the butler, looking the page unsteadily in the face.
'No, sir,' answered the girl.
'I thought not! I should like to hear him!'
'Then hear him now,' said Curdie, who that moment entered at the opposite corner of the hall. 'I speak of the butler in particular when I say that I know more evil of him than of any of the rest. He will not let either his own conscience or my messenger speak to him: I therefore now speak myself. I proclaim him a villain, and a traitor to His Majesty the king. But what better is any one of you who cares only for himself, eats, drinks, takes good money, and gives vile service in return, stealing and wasting the king's property, and making of the palace, which ought to be an example of order and sobriety, a disgrace to the country?'
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