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  The Princess and Curdie George MacDonald

The King's Army

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He woke like a giant refreshed with wine.

When he went into the king's chamber, the housemaid sat where he had left her, and everything in the room was as it had been the night before, save that a heavenly odour of roses filled the air of it. He went up to the bed. The king opened his eyes, and the soul of perfect health shone out of them. Nor was Curdie amazed in his delight.

'Is it not time to rise, Curdie?' said the king.

'It is, Your Majesty. Today we must be doing,' answered Curdie.

'What must we be doing today, Curdie?'

'Fighting, sire.'

'Then fetch me my armour - that of plated steel, in the chest there. You will find the underclothing with it.'

As he spoke, he reached out his hand for his sword, which hung in the bed before him, drew it, and examined the blade.

'A little rusty!' he said, 'but the edge is there. We shall polish it ourselves today - not on the wheel. Curdie, my son, I wake from a troubled dream. A glorious torture has ended it, and I live. I know now well how things are, but you shall explain them to me as I get on my armour. No, I need no bath. I am clean. Call the colonel of the guard.'

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In complete steel the old man stepped into the chamber. He knew it not, but the old princess had passed through his room in the night.

'Why, Sir Bronzebeard!' said the king, 'you are dressed before me! You need no valet, old man, when there is battle in the wind!'

'Battle, sire!' returned the colonel. 'Where then are our soldiers?'

'Why, there and here,' answered the king, pointing to the colonel first, and then to himself. 'Where else, man? The enemy will be upon us ere sunset, if we be not upon him ere noon. What other thing was in your brave brain when you donned your armour, friend?'

'Your Majesty's orders, sire,' answered Sir Bronzebeard.

The king smiled and turned to Curdie.

'And what was in yours, Curdie, for your first word was of battle?'

'See, Your Majesty,' answered Curdie; 'I have polished my mattock. If Your Majesty had not taken the command, I would have met the enemy at the head of my beasts, and died in comfort, or done better.'

'Brave boy!' said the king. 'He who takes his life in his hand is the only soldier. You shall head your beasts today. Sir Bronzebeard, will you die with me if need be?'

'Seven times, my king,' said the colonel.

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The Princess and Curdie
George MacDonald

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