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|The Princess and Curdie||George MacDonald|
|Page 1 of 4||
Curdie sat and watched every motion of the sleeping king. All the night, to his ear, the palace lay as quiet as a nursery of healthful children. At sunrise he called the princess.
'How has His Majesty slept?' were her first words as she entered the room.
'Quite quietly,' answered Curdie; 'that is, since the doctor was got rid of.' 'How did you manage that?' inquired Irene; and Curdie had to tell all about it.
'How terrible!' she said. 'Did it not startle the king dreadfully?'
'it did rather. I found him getting out of bed, sword in hand.'
'The brave old man!' cried the princess.
'Not so old!' said Curdie, 'as you will soon see. He went off again in a minute or so; but for a little while he was restless, and once when he lifted his hand it came down on the spikes of his crown, and he half waked.'
'But where is the crown?' cried Irene, in sudden terror.
'I stroked his hands,' answered Curdie, 'and took the crown from them; and ever since he has slept quietly, and again and again smiled in his sleep.'
'I have never seen him do that,' said the princess. 'But what have you done with the crown, Curdie?' 'Look,' said Curdie, moving away from the bedside.
Irene followed him - and there, in the middle of the floor, she saw a strange sight. Lina lay at full length, fast asleep, her tail stretched out straight behind her and her forelegs before her: between the two paws meeting in front of it, her nose just touching it behind, glowed and flashed the crown, like a nest of the humming birds of heaven.
Irene gazed, and looked up with a smile.
'But what if the thief were to come, and she not to wake?' she said. 'Shall I try her?' And as she spoke she stooped toward the crown.
'No, no, no!' cried Curdie, terrified. 'She would frighten you out of your wits. I would do it to show you, but she would wake your father. You have no conception with what a roar she would spring at my throat. But you shall see how lightly she wakes the moment I speak to her. Lina!'
She was on her feet the same instant, with her great tail sticking out straight behind her, just as it had been lying.
'Good dog!' said the princess, and patted her head. Lina wagged her tail solemnly, like the boom of an anchored sloop. Irene took the crown, and laid it where the king would see it when he woke.
'Now, Princess,' said Curdie, 'I must leave you for a few minutes. You must bolt the door, please, and not open it to any one.'
Away to the cellar he went with Lina, taking care, as they passed through the servants' hall, to get her a good breakfast. In about one minute she had eaten what he gave her, and looked up in his face: it was not more she wanted, but work. So out of the cellar they went through the passage, and Curdie into the dungeon, where he pulled up Lina, opened the door, let her out, and shut it again behind her. As he reached the door of the king's chamber, Lina was flying out of the gate of Gwyntystorm as fast as her mighty legs could carry her.
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