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The Princess and Curdie George MacDonald

The King's Army

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'Then shall we win this battle!' said the king. 'Curdie, go and bind securely the six, that we lose not their guards. Can you find me a horse, think you, Sir Bronzebeard? Alas! they told me my white charger was dead.'

'I will go and fright the varletry with my presence, and secure, I trust, a horse for Your Majesty, and one for myself.'

'And look you, brother!' said the king; 'bring one for my miner boy too, and a sober old charger for the princess, for she too must go to the battle, and conquer with us.'

'Pardon me, sire,' said Curdie; 'a miner can fight best on foot. I might smite my horse dead under me with a missed blow. And besides that, I must be near to my beasts.'

'As you will,' said the king. 'Three horses then, Sir Bronzebeard.'

The colonel departed, doubting sorely in his heart how to accoutre and lead from the barrack stables three horses, in the teeth of his revolted regiment.

In the hall he met the housemaid.

'Can you lead a horse?' he asked.
'Yes, sir.'

'Are you willing to die for the king?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Can you do as you are bid?'

'I can keep on trying, sir.'

'Come then. Were I not a man I would be a woman such as you.'

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When they entered the barrack yard, the soldiers scattered like autumn leaves before a blast of winter. They went into the stable unchallenged - and lo! in a stall, before the colonel's eyes, stood the king's white charger, with the royal saddle and bridle hung high beside him!

'Traitorous thieves!' muttered the old man in his beard, and went along the stalls, looking for his own black charger. Having found him, he returned to saddle first the king's. But the maid had already the saddle upon him, and so girt that the colonel could thrust no finger tip between girth and skin. He left her to finish what she had so well begun, and went and made ready his own. He then chose for the princess a great red horse, twenty years old, which he knew to possess every equine virtue. This and his own he led to the palace, and the maid led the king's.

The king and Curdie stood in the court, the king in full armour of silvered steel, with a circlet of rubies and diamonds round his helmet. He almost leaped for joy when he saw his great white charger come in, gentle as a child to the hand of the housemaid. But when the horse saw his master in his armour, he reared and bounded in jubilation, yet did not break from the hand that held him. Then out came the princess attired and ready, with a hunting knife her father had given her by her side. They brought her mother's saddle, splendent with gems and gold, set it on the great red horse, and lifted her to it. But the saddle was so big, and the horse so tall, that the child found no comfort in them.

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The Princess and Curdie
George MacDonald

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