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The Princess and Curdie George MacDonald

Curdie's Mission

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But when it had risen to the pitch that he thought he could bear it no longer, it began to fall again, and went on growing less and less until by contrast with its former severity it had become rather pleasant. At last it ceased altogether, and Curdie thought his hands must be burned to cinders if not ashes, for he did not feel them at all. The princess told him to take them out and look at them. He did so, and found that all that was gone of them was the rough, hard skin; they were white and smooth like the princess's.

'Come to me,' she said.

He obeyed and saw, to his surprise, that her face looked as if she had been weeping.

'Oh, Princess! What is the matter?' he cried. 'Did I make a noise and vex you?'

'No, Curdie, she answered; 'but it was very bad.'

'Did you feel it too then?'

'Of course I did. But now it is over, and all is well. Would you like to know why I made You put your hands in the fire?' Curdie looked at them again - then said:

'To take the marks of the work off them and make them fit for the king's court, I suppose.'

'No, Curdie,' answered the princess, shaking her head, for she was not pleased with the answer. 'It would be a poor way of making your hands fit for the king's court to take off them signs of his service. There is a far greater difference on them than that. Do you feel none?'

'No, ma'am.'

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'You will, though, by and by, when the time comes. But perhaps even then you might not know what had been given you, therefore I will tell you. Have you ever heard what some philosophers say - that men were all animals once?'

'No, ma'am.'

'it is of no consequence. But there is another thing that is of the greatest consequence - this: that all men, if they do not take care, go down the hill to the animals' country; that many men are actually, all their lives, going to be beasts. People knew it once, but it is long since they forgot it.'

'I am not surprised to hear it, ma'am, when I think of some of our miners.'

'Ah! But you must beware, Curdie, how you say of this man or that man that he is travelling beastward. There are not nearly so many going that way as at first sight you might think. When you met your father on the hill tonight, you stood and spoke together on the same spot; and although one of you was going up and the other coming down, at a little distance no one could have told which was bound in the one direction and which in the other. just so two people may be at the same spot in manners and behaviour, and yet one may be getting better and the other worse, which is just the greatest of all differences that could possibly exist between them.'

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The Princess and Curdie
George MacDonald

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