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|The Princess and the Goblin||George MacDonald|
|Page 4 of 6||
'Stop one moment,' he whispered. 'Hold my torch, and don't let the light on their faces.'
Irene shuddered when she saw the frightful creatures, whom she had passed without observing them, but she did as he requested, and turning her back, held the torch low in front of her. Curdie drew his pickaxe carefully away, and as he did so spied one of her feet, projecting from under the skins. The great clumsy granite shoe, exposed thus to his hand, was a temptation not to be resisted. He laid hold of it, and, with cautious efforts, drew it off. The moment he succeeded, he saw to his astonishment that what he had sung in ignorance, to annoy the queen, was actually true: she had six horrible toes. Overjoyed at his success, and seeing by the huge bump in the sheepskins where the other foot was, he proceeded to lift them gently, for, if he could only succeed in carrying away the other shoe as well, he would be no more afraid of the goblins than of so many flies. But as he pulled at the second shoe the queen gave a growl and sat up in bed. The same instant the king awoke also and sat up beside her.
'Run, Irene!' cried Curdie, for though he was not now in the least afraid for himself, he was for the princess.
Irene looked once round, saw the fearful creatures awake, and like the wise princess she was, dashed the torch on the ground and extinguished it, crying out:
'Here, Curdie, take my hand.'
He darted to her side, forgetting neither the queen's shoe nor his pickaxe, and caught hold of her hand, as she sped fearlessly where her thread guided her. They heard the queen give a great bellow; but they had a good start, for it would be some time before they could get torches lighted to pursue them. just as they thought they saw a gleam behind them, the thread brought them to a very narrow opening, through which Irene crept easily, and Curdie with difficulty.
'Now,'said Curdie; 'I think we shall be safe.'
'Of course we shall,' returned Irene. 'Why do you think so?'asked Curdie.
'Because my grandmother is taking care of us.'
'That's all nonsense,' said Curdie. 'I don't know what you mean.'
'Then if you don't know what I mean, what right have you to call it nonsense?' asked the princess, a little offended.
'I beg your pardon, Irene,' said Curdie; 'I did not mean to vex you.'
'Of course not,' returned the princess. 'But why do you think we shall be safe?' 'Because the king and queen are far too stout to get through that hole.'
'There might be ways round,' said the princess.
'To be sure there might: we are not out of it yet,' acknowledged Curdie.
'But what do you mean by the king and queen?' asked the princess. 'I should never call such creatures as those a king and a queen.'
'Their own people do, though,' answered Curdie.
The princess asked more questions, and Curdie, as they walked leisurely along, gave her a full account, not only of the character and habits of the goblins, so far as he knew them, but of his own adventures with them, beginning from the very night after that in which he had met her and Lootie upon the mountain. When he had finished, he begged Irene to tell him how it was that she had come to his rescue. So Irene too had to tell a long story, which she did in rather a roundabout manner, interrupted by many questions concerning things she had not explained. But her tale, as he did not believe more than half of it, left everything as unaccountable to him as before, and he was nearly as much perplexed as to what he must think of the princess. He could not believe that she was deliberately telling stories, and the only conclusion he could come to was that Lootie had been playing the child tricks, inventing no end of lies to frighten her for her own purposes.
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