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|The Princess and Curdie||George MacDonald|
The King's Chamber
|Page 4 of 5||
As he spoke, his eyes fell upon something shining on the table under the lamp. His heart gave a great throb, and he went nearer. Yes, there could be no doubt - it was the same flagon that the butler had filled in the wine cellar.
'It looks worse and worse!'he said to himself, and went back to Irene, where she stood half dreaming.
'When will the doctor be here?' he asked once more - this time hurriedly.
The question was answered - not by the princess, but by something which that instant tumbled heavily into the room. Curdie flew toward it in vague terror about Lina.
On the floor lay a little round man, puffing and blowing, and uttering incoherent language. Curdie thought of his mattock, and ran and laid it aside.
'Oh, dear Dr Kelman!' cried the princess, running up and taking hold of his arm; 'I am so sorry!' She pulled and pulled, but might almost as well have tried to set up a cannon ball. 'I hope you have not hurt yourself?'
'Not at all, not at all,' said the doctor, trying to smile and to rise both at once, but finding it impossible to do either.
'if he slept on the floor he would be late for breakfast,' said Curdie to himself, and held out his hand to help him.
But when he took hold of it, Curdie very nearly let him fall again, for what he held was not even a foot: it was the belly of a creeping thing. He managed, however, to hold both his peace and his grasp, and pulled the doctor roughly on his legs - such as they were.
'Your Royal Highness has rather a thick mat at the door,' said the doctor, patting his palms together. 'I hope my awkwardness may not have startled His Majesty.'
While he talked Curdie went to the door: Lina was not there.
The doctor approached the bed.
'And how has my beloved king slept tonight?' he asked.
'No better,' answered Irene, with a mournful shake of her head.
'Ah, that is very well!' returned the doctor, his fall seeming to have muddled either his words or his meaning. 'When we give him his wine, he will be better still.'
Curdie darted at the flagon, and lifted it high, as if he had expected to find it full, but had found it empty.
'That stupid butler! I heard them say he was drunk!' he cried in a loud whisper, and was gliding from the room.
'Come here with that flagon, you! Page!' cried the doctor. Curdie came a few steps toward him with the flagon dangling from his hand, heedless of the gushes that fell noiseless on the thick carpet.
'Are you aware, young man,' said the doctor, 'that it is not every wine can do His Majesty the benefit I intend he should derive from my prescription?'
'Quite aware, sir, answered Curdie. 'The wine for His Majesty's use is in the third cask from the corner.'
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