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|The Princess and the Goblin||George MacDonald|
Curdie Comes to Grief
|Page 2 of 3||
At length, early one evening, whether it was that he had got careless of his own safety, or that the growing moon had become strong enough to expose him, his watching came to a sudden end. He was creeping from behind the rock where the stream ran out, for he had been listening all round it in the hope it might convey to his ear some indication of the whereabouts of the goblin miners, when just as he came into the moonlight on the lawn, a whizz in his ear and a blow upon his leg startled him. He instantly squatted in the hope of eluding further notice. But when he heard the sound of running feet, he jumped up to take the chance of escape by flight. He fell, however, with a keen shoot of pain, for the bolt of a crossbow had wounded his leg, and the blood was now streaming from it. He was instantly laid Hold of by two or three of the men-at-arms. It was useless to struggle, and he submitted in silence.
'It's a boy!' cried several of them together, in a tone of amazement. 'I thought it was one of those demons. What are you about here?'
'Going to have a little rough usage, apparently,' said Curdie, laughing, as the men shook him.
'Impertinence will do you no good. You have no business here in the king's grounds, and if you don't give a true account of yourself, you shall fare as a thief.'
'Why, what else could he be?' said one.
'He might have been after a lost kid, you know,' suggested another.
'I see no good in trying to excuse him. He has no business here, anyhow.'
'Let me go away, then, if you please,' said Curdie.
'But we don't please - not except you give a good account of yourself.'
'I don't feel quite sure whether I can trust you,' said Curdie.
'We are the king's own men-at-arms,' said the captain courteously, for he was taken with Curdie's appearance and courage.
'Well, I will tell you all about it - if you will promise to listen to me and not do anything rash.'
'I call that cool!' said one of the party, laughing. 'He will tell us what mischief he was about, if we promise to do as pleases him.'
'I was about no mischief,' said Curdie. -
But ere he could say more he turned faint, and fell senseless on the grass. Then first they discovered that the bolt they had shot, taking him for one of the goblin creatures, had wounded him.
They carried him into the house and laid him down in the hall. The report spread that they had caught a robber, and the servants crowded in to see the villain. Amongst the rest came the nurse. The moment she saw him she exclaimed with indignation:
'I declare it's the same young rascal of a miner that was rude to me and the princess on the mountain. He actually wanted to kiss the princess. I took good care of that - the wretch! And he was prowling about, was he? Just like his impudence!' The princess being fast asleep, she could misrepresent at her pleasure.
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