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  The Princess and Curdie George MacDonald

The Lord Chamberlain

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At noon the lord chamberlain appeared. With a long, low bow, and paper in hand, he stepped softly into the room. Greeting His Majesty with every appearance of the profoundest respect, and congratulating him on the evident progress he had made, he declared himself sorry to trouble him, but there were certain papers, he said, which required his signature - and therewith drew nearer to the king, who lay looking at him doubtfully. He was a lean, long, yellow man, with a small head, bald over the top, and tufted at the back and about the ears. He had a very thin, prominent, hooked nose, and a quantity of loose skin under his chin and about the throat, which came craning up out of his neckcloth. His eyes were very small, sharp, and glittering, and looked black as jet. He had hardly enough of a mouth to make a smile with. His left hand held the paper, and the long, skinny fingers of his right a pen just dipped in ink.

But the king, who for weeks had scarcely known what he did, was today so much himself as to be aware that he was not quite himself; and the moment he saw the paper, he resolved that he would not sign without understanding and approving of it. He requested the lord chamberlain therefore to read it. His Lordship commenced at once but the difficulties he seemed to encounter, and the fits of stammering that seized him, roused the king's suspicion tenfold. He called the princess.

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'I trouble His Lordship too much,' he said to her: 'you can read print well, my child - let me hear how you can read writing. Take that paper from His Lordship's hand, and read it to me from beginning to end, while my lord drinks a glass of my favourite wine, and watches for your blunders.'

'Pardon me, Your Majesty,' said the lord chamberlain, with as much of a smile as he was able to extemporize, 'but it were a thousand pities to put the attainments of Her Royal Highness to a test altogether too severe. Your Majesty can scarcely with justice expect the very organs of her speech to prove capable of compassing words so long, and to her so unintelligible.'

'I think much of my little princess and her capabilities,' returned the king, more and more aroused. 'Pray, my lord, permit her to try.'

'Consider, Your Majesty: the thing would be altogether without precedent. it would be to make sport of statecraft,' said the lord chamberlain.

'Perhaps you are right, my lord,' answered the king, with more meaning than he intended should be manifest, while to his growing joy he felt new life and power throbbing in heart and brain. 'So this morning we shall read no further. I am indeed ill able for business of such weight.'

'Will Your Majesty please sign your royal name here?' said the lord chamberlain, preferring the request as a matter of course, and approaching with the feather end of the pen pointed to a spot where there was a great red seal.

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The Princess and Curdie
George MacDonald

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