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The Princess and Curdie George MacDonald

The Lord Chamberlain

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'Not today, my lord,' replied the king.

'It is of the greatest importance, Your Majesty,' softly insisted the other.

'I descried no such importance in it,' said the king.

'Your Majesty heard but a part.'

'And I can hear no more today.'

'I trust Your Majesty has ground enough, in a case of necessity like the present, to sign upon the representation of his loyal subject and chamberlain? Or shall I call the lord chancellor?' he added, rising.

'There is no need. I have the very highest opinion of your judgement, my lord,' answered the king; 'that is, with respect to means: we might differ as to ends.'

The lord chamberlain made yet further attempts at persuasion; but they grew feebler and feebler, and he was at last compelled to retire without having gained his object. And well might his annoyance be keen! For that paper was the king's will, drawn up by the attorney-general; nor until they had the king's signature to it was there much use in venturing farther. But his worst sense of discomfiture arose from finding the king with so much capacity left, for the doctor had pledged himself so to weaken his brain that he should be as a child in their hands, incapable of refusing anything requested of him: His Lordship began to doubt the doctor's fidelity to the conspiracy.

The princess was in high delight. She had not for weeks heard so many words, not to say words of such strength and reason, from her father's lips: day by day he had been growIng weaker and more lethargic. He was so much exhausted, however, after this effort, that he asked for another piece of bread and more wine, and fell fast asleep the moment he had taken them.

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The lord chamberlain sent in a rage for Dr Kelman. He came, and while professing himself unable to understand the symptoms described by His Lordship, yet pledged himself again that on the morrow the king should do whatever was required of him.

The day went on. When His Majesty was awake, the princess read to him - one storybook after another; and whatever she read, the king listened as if he had never heard anything so good before, making out in it the wisest meanings. Every now and then he asked for a piece of bread and a little wine, and every time he ate and drank he slept, and every time he woke he seemed better than the last time. The princess bearing her part, the loaf was eaten up and the flagon emptied before night. The butler took the flagon away, and brought it back filled to the brim, but both were thirsty and hungry when Curdie came again. Meantime he and Lina, watching and waking alternately, had plenty of sleep. In the afternoon, peeping from the recess, they saw several of the servants enter hurriedly, one after the other, draw wine, drink it, and steal out; but their business was to take care of the king, not of his cellar, and they let them drink. Also, when the butler came to fill the flagon, they restrained themselves, for the villain's fate was not yet ready for him. He looked terribly frightened, and had brought with him a large candle and a small terrier - which latter indeed threatened to be troublesome, for he went roving and sniffing about until he came to the recess where they were. But as soon as he showed himself, Lina opened her jaws so wide, and glared at him so horribly, that, without even uttering a whimper, he tucked his tail between his legs and ran to his master. He was drawing the wicked wine at the moment, and did not see him, else he would doubtless have run too.

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The Princess and Curdie
George MacDonald

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