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|The Princess and the Goblin||George MacDonald|
|Page 4 of 5||
Although he knew all the gangs and all the natural galleries with which they communicated in the mined part of the mountain, he had not the least idea where the palace of the king of the gnomes was; otherwise he would have set out at once on the enterprise of discovering what the said design was. He judged, and rightly, that it must lie in a farther part of the mountain, between which and the mine there was as yet no communication. There must be one nearly completed, however; for it could be but a thin partition which now separated them. If only he could get through in time to follow the goblins as they retreated! A few blows would doubtless be sufficient - just where his ear now lay; but if he attempted to strike there with his pickaxe, he would only hasten the departure of the family, put them on their guard, and perhaps lose their involuntary guidance. He therefore began to feel the wall With his hands, and soon found that some of the stones were loose enough to be drawn out with little noise.
Laying hold of a large one with both his hands, he drew it gently out, and let it down softly.
'What was that noise?' said the goblin father.
Curdie blew out his light, lest it should shine through.
'It must be that one miner that stayed behind the rest,' said the mother.
'No; he's been gone a good while. I haven't heard a blow for an hour. Besides, it wasn't like that.'
'Then I suppose it must have been a stone carried down the brook inside.' 'Perhaps. It will have more room by and by.'
Curdie kept quite still. After a little while, hearing nothing but the sounds of their preparations for departure, mingled with an occasional word of direction, and anxious to know whether the removal of the stone had made an opening into the goblins' house, he put in his hand to feel. It went in a good way, and then came in contact with something soft. He had but a moment to feel it over, it was so quickly withdrawn: it was one of the toeless goblin feet. The owner of it gave a cry of fright.
'What's the matter, Helfer?' asked his mother.
'A beast came out of the wall and licked my foot.'
'Nonsense! There are no wild beasts in our country,' said his father.
'But it was, father. I felt it.'
'Nonsense, I say. Will you malign your native realms and reduce them to a level with the country upstairs? That is swarming with wild beasts of every description.'
'But I did feel it, father.'
'I tell you to hold your tongue. You are no patriot.'
Curdie suppressed his laughter, and lay still as a mouse - but no stiller, for every moment he kept nibbling away with his fingers at the edges of the hole. He was slowly making it bigger, for here the rock had been very much shattered with the blasting.
There seemed to be a good many in the family, to judge from the mass of confused talk which now and then came through the hole; but when all were speaking together, and just as if they had bottle-brushes - each at least one - in their throats, it was not easy to make out much that was said. At length he heard once more what the father goblin was saying.
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|The Princess and the Goblin
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