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|The Princess and Curdie||George MacDonald|
|Page 1 of 3||
As soon as he had reason to hope the way was clear, Curdie ventured softly into the hall, with Lina behind him. There was no one asleep on the bench or floor, but by the fading fire sat a girl weeping. It was the same who had seen him carrying off the food, and had been so hardly used for saying so. She opened her eyes when he appeared, but did not seem frightened at him.
'I know why you weep,' said Curdie, 'and I am sorry for you.'
'It is hard not to be believed just because one speaks the truth,' said the girl, 'but that seems reason enough with some people. My mother taught me to speak the truth, and took such pains with me that I should find it hard to tell a lie, though I could invent many a story these servants would believe at once; for the truth is a strange thing here, and they don't know it when they see it. Show it them, and they all stare as if it were a wicked lie, and that with the lie yet warm that has just left their own mouths! You are a stranger,' she said, and burst out weeping afresh, 'but the stranger you are to such a place and such people the better!'
'I am the person,' said Curdie, whom you saw carrying the things from the supper table.' He showed her the loaf. 'If you can trust, as well as speak the truth, I will trust you. Can you trust me?'
She looked at him steadily for a moment.
'I can,' she answered.
'One thing more,' said Curdie: 'have you courage as well as truth?'
'I think so.'
'Look my dog in the face and don't cry out. Come here, Lina.'
Lina obeyed. The girl looked at her, and laid her hand on Lina's head.
'Now I know you are a true woman,' said curdie. 'I am come to set things right in this house. Not one of the servants knows I am here. Will you tell them tomorrow morning that, if they do not alter their ways, and give over drinking, and lying, and stealing, and unkindness, they shall every one of them be driven from the palace?'
'They will not believe me.'
'Most likely; but will you give them the chance?'
'Then I will be your friend. Wait here till I come again.'
She looked him once more in the face, and sat down.
When he reached the royal chamber, he found His Majesty awake, and very anxiously expecting him. He received him with the utmost kindness, and at once, as it were, put himself in his hands by telling him all he knew concerning the state he was in. His voice was feeble, but his eye was clear, although now and then his words and thoughts seemed to wander. Curdie could not be certain that the cause of their not being intelligible to him did not lie in himself. The king told him that for some years, ever since his queen's death, he had been losing heart over the wickedness of his people. He had tried hard to make them good, but they got worse and worse. Evil teachers, unknown to him, had crept into the schools; there was a general decay of truth and right principle at least in the city; and as that set the example to the nation, it must spread.
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|The Princess and Curdie
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