The Princess and the Goblin
Part 1 out of 4
THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN
1. Why the Princess Has a Story About Her
2. The Princess Loses Herself
3. The Princess and - We Shall See Who
4. What the Nurse Thought of It
5. The Princess Lets Well Alone
6. The Little Miner
7. The Mines 44
8. The Goblins
9. The Hall of the Goblin Palace
10. The Princess's King-Papa
11. The Old Lady's Bedroom
12. A Short Chapter About Curdie
13. The Cobs' Creatures
14. That Night Week
15. Woven and then Spun
16. The Ring
18. Curdie's Clue
19. Goblin Counsels
20. Irene's Clue
21. The Escape
22. The Old Lady and Curdie
23. Curdie and His Mother
24. Irene Behaves Like a Princess
25. Curdie Comes to Grief
26. The Goblin-Miners
27. The Goblins in the King's House
28. Curdie's Guide
30. The King and the Kiss
31. The Subterranean Waters
32. The Last Chapter
Why the Princess Has a Story About Her
There was once a little princess whose father was king over a great
country full of mountains and valleys. His palace was built upon
one of the mountains, and was very grand and beautiful. The
princess, whose name was Irene, was born there, but she was sent
soon after her birth, because her mother was not very strong, to be
brought up by country people in a large house, half castle, half
farmhouse, on the side of another mountain, about half-way between
its base and its peak.
The princess was a sweet little creature, and at the time my story
begins was about eight years old, I think, but she got older very
fast. Her face was fair and pretty, with eyes like two bits of
night sky, each with a star dissolved in the blue. Those eyes you
would have thought must have known they came from there, so often
were they turned up in that direction. The ceiling of her nursery
was blue, with stars in it, as like the sky as they could make it.
But I doubt if ever she saw the real sky with the stars in it, for
a reason which I had better mention at once.
These mountains were full of hollow places underneath; huge
caverns, and winding ways, some with water running through them,
and some shining with all colours of the rainbow when a light was
taken in. There would not have been much known about them, had
there not been mines there, great deep pits, with long galleries
and passages running off from them, which had been dug to get at
the ore of which the mountains were full. In the course of
digging, the miners came upon many of these natural caverns. A few
of them had far-off openings out on the side of a mountain, or into
Now in these subterranean caverns lived a strange race of beings,
called by some gnomes, by some kobolds, by some goblins. There was
a legend current in the country that at one time they lived above
ground, and were very like other people. But for some reason or
other, concerning which there were different legendary theories,
the king had laid what they thought too severe taxes upon them, or
had required observances of them they did not like, or had begun to
treat them with more severity, in some way or other, and impose
stricter laws; and the consequence was that they had all
disappeared from the face of the country. According to the legend,
however, instead of going to some other country, they had all taken
refuge in the subterranean caverns, whence they never came out but
at night, and then seldom showed themselves in any numbers, and
never to many people at once. It was only in the least frequented
and most difficult parts of the mountains that they were said to
gather even at night in the open air. Those who had caught sight
of any of them said that they had greatly altered in the course of
generations; and no wonder, seeing they lived away from the sun, in
cold and wet and dark places. They were now, not ordinarily ugly,
but either absolutely hideous, or ludicrously grotesque both in
face and form. There was no invention, they said, of the most
lawless imagination expressed by pen or pencil, that could surpass
the extravagance of their appearance. But I suspect those who said
so had mistaken some of their animal companions for the goblins
themselves - of which more by and by. The goblins themselves were
not so far removed from the human as such a description would
imply. And as they grew misshapen in body they had grown in
knowledge and cleverness, and now were able to do things no mortal
could see the possibility of. But as they grew in cunning, they
grew in mischief, and their great delight was in every way they
could think of to annoy the people who lived in the open-air storey
above them. They had enough of affection left for each other to
preserve them from being absolutely cruel for cruelty's sake to
those that came in their way; but still they so heartily cherished
the ancestral grudge against those who occupied their former
possessions and especially against the descendants of the king who
had caused their expulsion, that they sought every opportunity of
tormenting them in ways that were as odd as their inventors; and
although dwarfed and misshapen, they had strength equal to their
cunning. In the process of time they had got a king and a
government of their own, whose chief business, beyond their own
simple affairs, was to devise trouble for their neighbours. It
will now be pretty evident why the little princess had never seen
the sky at night. They were much too afraid of the goblins to let
her out of the house then, even in company with ever so many
attendants; and they had good reason, as we shall see by and by.
The Princess Loses Herself
I have said the Princess Irene was about eight years old when my
story begins. And this is how it begins.
One very wet day, when the mountain was covered with mist which was
constantly gathering itself together into raindrops, and pouring
down on the roofs of the great old house, whence it fell in a
fringe of water from the eaves all round about it, the princess
could not of course go out. She got very tired, so tired that even
her toys could no longer amuse her. You would wonder at that if I
had time to describe to you one half of the toys she had. But
then, you wouldn't have the toys themselves, and that makes all the
difference: you can't get tired of a thing before you have it. It
was a picture, though, worth seeing - the princess sitting in the
nursery with the sky ceiling over her head, at a great table
covered with her toys. If the artist would like to draw this, I
should advise him not to meddle with the toys. I am afraid of
attempting to describe them, and I think he had better not try to
draw them. He had better not. He can do a thousand things I
can't, but I don't think he could draw those toys. No man could
better make the princess herself than he could, though - leaning
with her back bowed into the back of the chair, her head hanging
down, and her hands in her lap, very miserable as she would say
herself, not even knowing what she would like, except it were to go
out and get thoroughly wet, and catch a particularly nice cold, and
have to go to bed and take gruel. The next moment after you see
her sitting there, her nurse goes out of the room.
Even that is a change, and the princess wakes up a little, and
looks about her. Then she tumbles off her chair and runs out of
the door, not the same door the nurse went out of, but one which
opened at the foot of a curious old stair of worm-eaten oak, which
looked as if never anyone had set foot upon it. She had once
before been up six steps, and that was sufficient reason, in such
a day, for trying to find out what was at the top of it.
Up and up she ran - such a long way it seemed to her! - until she
came to the top of the third flight. There she found the landing
was the end of a long passage. Into this she ran. It was full of
doors on each side. There were so many that she did not care to
open any, but ran on to the end, where she turned into another
passage, also full of doors. When she had turned twice more, and
still saw doors and only doors about her, she began to get
frightened. It was so silent! And all those doors must hide rooms
with nobody in them! That was dreadful. Also the rain made a
great trampling noise on the roof. She turned and started at full
speed, her little footsteps echoing through the sounds of the rain
- back for the stairs and her safe nursery. So she thought, but
she had lost herself long ago. It doesn't follow that she was
lost, because she had lost herself, though.
She ran for some distance, turned several times, and then began to
be afraid. Very soon she was sure that she had lost the way back.
Rooms everywhere, and no stair! Her little heart beat as fast as
her little feet ran, and a lump of tears was growing in her throat.
But she was too eager and perhaps too frightened to cry for some
time. At last her hope failed her. Nothing but passages and doors
everywhere! She threw herself on the floor, and burst into a
wailing cry broken by sobs.
She did not cry long, however, for she was as brave as could be
expected of a princess of her age. After a good cry, she got up,
and brushed the dust from her frock. Oh, what old dust it was!
Then she wiped her eyes with her hands, for princesses don't always
have their handkerchiefs in their pockets, any more than some other
little girls I know of. Next, like a true princess, she resolved
on going wisely to work to find her way back: she would walk
through the passages, and look in every direction for the stair.
This she did, but without success. She went over the same ground
again an again without knowing it, for the passages and doors were
all alike. At last, in a corner, through a half-open door, she did
see a stair. But alas! it went the wrong way: instead of going
down, it went up. Frightened as she was, however, she could not
help wishing to see where yet further the stair could lead. It was
very narrow, and so steep that she went on like a four-legged
creature on her hands and feet.
The Princess and - We Shall See Who
When she came to the top, she found herself in a little square
place, with three doors, two opposite each other, and one opposite
the top of the stair. She stood for a moment, without an idea in
her little head what to do next. But as she stood, she began to
hear a curious humming sound. Could it be the rain? No. It was
much more gentle, and even monotonous than the sound of the rain,
which now she scarcely heard. The low sweet humming sound went on,
sometimes stopping for a little while and then beginning again. It
was more like the hum of a very happy bee that had found a rich
well of honey in some globular flower, than anything else I can
think of at this moment. Where could it come from? She laid her
ear first to one of the doors to hearken if it was there - then to
another. When she laid her ear against the third door, there could
be no doubt where it came from: it must be from something in that
room. What could it be? She was rather afraid, but her curiosity
was stronger than her fear, and she opened the door very gently and
peeped in. What do you think she saw? A very old lady who sat
Perhaps you will wonder how the princess could tell that the old
lady was an old lady, when I inform you that not only was she
beautiful, but her skin was smooth and white. I will tell you
more. Her hair was combed back from her forehead and face, and
hung loose far down and all over her back. That is not much like
an old lady - is it? Ah! but it was white almost as snow. And
although her face was so smooth, her eyes looked so wise that you
could not have helped seeing she must be old. The princess, though
she could not have told you why, did think her very old indeed -
quite fifty, she said to herself. But she was rather older than
that, as you shall hear.
While the princess stared bewildered, with her head just inside the
door, the old lady lifted hers, and said, in a sweet, but old and
rather shaky voice, which mingled very pleasantly with the
continued hum of her wheel:
'Come in, my dear; come in. I am glad to see you.'
That the princess was a real princess you might see now quite
plainly; for she didn't hang on to the handle of the door, and
stare without moving, as I have known some do who ought to have
been princesses but were only rather vulgar little girls. She did
as she was told, stepped inside the door at once, and shut it
gently behind her.
'Come to me, my dear,' said the old lady.
And again the princess did as she was told. She approached the old
lady - rather slowly, I confess - but did not stop until she stood
by her side, and looked up in her face with her blue eyes and the
two melted stars in them.
'Why, what have you been doing with your eyes, child?' asked the
'Crying,' answered the princess.
'Because I couldn't find my way down again.'
'But you could find your way up.'
'Not at first - not for a long time.'
'But your face is streaked like the back of a zebra. Hadn't you a
handkerchief to wipe your eyes with?'
'Then why didn't you come to me to wipe them for you?'
'Please, I didn't know you were here. I will next time.'
'There's a good child!' said the old lady.
Then she stopped her wheel, and rose, and, going out of the room,
returned with a little silver basin and a soft white towel, with
which she washed and wiped the bright little face. And the
princess thought her hands were so smooth and nice!
When she carried away the basin and towel, the little princess
wondered to see how straight and tall she was, for, although she
was so old, she didn't stoop a bit. She was dressed in black
velvet with thick white heavy-looking lace about it; and on the
black dress her hair shone like silver. There was hardly any more
furniture in the room than there might have been in that of the
poorest old woman who made her bread by her spinning. There was no
carpet on the floor - no table anywhere - nothing but the
spinning-wheel and the chair beside it. When she came back, she
sat down and without a word began her spinning once more, while
Irene, who had never seen a spinning-wheel, stood by her side and
looked on. When the old lady had got her thread fairly going
again, she said to the princess, but without looking at her:
'Do you know my name, child?'
'No, I don't know it,' answered the princess.
'my name is Irene.'
'That's my name!' cried the princess.
'I know that. I let you have mine. I haven't got your name.
You've got mine.'
'How can that be?' asked the princess, bewildered. 'I've always
had my name.'
'Your papa, the king, asked me if I had any objection to your
having it; and, of course, I hadn't. I let you have it with
'It was very kind of you to give me your name - and such a pretty
one,' said the princess.
'Oh, not so very kind!' said the old lady. 'A name is one of those
things one can give away and keep all the same. I have a good many
such things. Wouldn't you like to know who I am, child?'
'Yes, that I should - very much.'
'I'm your great-great-grandmother,' said the lady.
'What's that?' asked the princess.
'I'm your father's mother's father's mother.'
'Oh, dear! I can't understand that,' said the princess.
'I dare say not. I didn't expect you would. But that's no reason
why I shouldn't say it.'
'Oh, no!' answered the princess.
'I will explain it all to you when you are older,' the lady went
on. 'But you will be able to understand this much now: I came here
to take care of you.'
'Is it long since you came? Was it yesterday? Or was it today,
because it was so wet that I couldn't get out?'
'I've been here ever since you came yourself.'
'What a long time!' said the princess. 'I don't remember it at
'No. I suppose not.'
'But I never saw you before.'
'No. But you shall see me again.'
'Do you live in this room always?'
'I don't sleep in it. I sleep on the opposite side of the landing.
I sit here most of the day.'
'I shouldn't like it. My nursery is much prettier. You must be a
queen too, if you are my great big grand-mother.'
'Yes, I am a queen.'
'Where is your crown, then?'
'In my bedroom.'
'I should like to see it.'
'You shall some day - not today.'
'I wonder why nursie never told me.'
'Nursie doesn't know. She never saw me.'
'But somebody knows that you are in the house?'
'How do you get your dinner, then?'
'I keep poultry - of a sort.'
'Where do you keep them?'
'I will show you.'
'And who makes the chicken broth for you?'
'I never kill any of MY chickens.'
'Then I can't understand.'
'What did you have for breakfast this morning?' asked the lady.
'Oh! I had bread and milk, and an egg - I dare say you eat their
'Yes, that's it. I eat their eggs.'
'Is that what makes your hair so white?'
'No, my dear. It's old age. I am very old.'
'I thought so. Are you fifty?'
'Yes - more than that.'
'Are you a hundred?'
'Yes - more than that. I am too old for you to guess. Come and
see my chickens.'
Again she stopped her spinning. She rose, took the princess by the
hand, led her out of the room, and opened the door opposite the
stair. The princess expected to see a lot of hens and chickens,
but instead of that, she saw the blue sky first, and then the roofs
of the house, with a multitude of the loveliest pigeons, mostly
white, but of all colours, walking about, making bows to each
other, and talking a language she could not understand. She
clapped her hands with delight, and up rose such a flapping of
wings that she in her turn was startled.
'You've frightened my poultry,' said the old lady, smiling.
'And they've frightened me,' said the princess, smiling too. 'But
what very nice poultry! Are the eggs nice?'
'Yes, very nice.'
'What a small egg-spoon you must have! Wouldn't it be better to
keep hens, and get bigger eggs?'
'How should I feed them, though?'
'I see,' said the princess. 'The pigeons feed themselves. They've
'Just so. If they couldn't fly, I couldn't eat their eggs.'
'But how do you get at the eggs? Where are their nests?'
The lady took hold of a little loop of string in the wall at the
side of the door and, lifting a shutter, showed a great many
pigeon-holes with nests, some with young ones and some with eggs in
them. The birds came in at the other side, and she took out the
eggs on this side. She closed it again quickly, lest the young
ones should be frightened.
'Oh, what a nice way!' cried the princess. 'Will you give me an
egg to eat? I'm rather hungry.'
'I will some day, but now you must go back, or nursie will be
miserable about you. I dare say she's looking for you everywhere.'
'Except here,' answered the princess. 'Oh, how surprised she will
be when I tell her about my great big grand-grand-mother!'
'Yes, that she will!' said the old lady with a curious smile.
'Mind you tell her all about it exactly.'
'That I will. Please will you take me back to her?'
'I can't go all the way, but I will take you to the top of the
stair, and then you must run down quite fast into your own room.'
The little princess put her hand in the old lady's, who, looking
this way and that, brought her to the top of the first stair, and
thence to the bottom of the second, and did not leave her till she
saw her half-way down the third. When she heard the cry of her
nurse's pleasure at finding her, she turned and walked up the
stairs again, very fast indeed for such a very great grandmother,
and sat down to her spinning with another strange smile on her
sweet old face.
About this spinning of hers I will tell you more another time.
Guess what she was spinning.
What the Nurse Thought of It
'Why, where can you have been, princess?' asked the nurse, taking
her in her arms. 'It's very unkind of you to hide away so long.
I began to be afraid -' Here she checked herself.
'What were you afraid of, nursie?' asked the princess.
'Never mind,' she answered. 'Perhaps I will tell you another day.
Now tell me where you have been.'
'I've been up a long way to see my very great, huge, old
grandmother,' said the princess.
'What do you mean by that?' asked the nurse, who thought she was
'I mean that I've been a long way up and up to see My GREAT
grandmother. Ah, nursie, you don't know what a beautiful mother of
grandmothers I've got upstairs. She is such an old lady, with such
lovely white hair - as white as my silver cup. Now, when I think
of it, I think her hair must be silver.'
'What nonsense you are talking, princess!' said the nurse.
'I'm not talking nonsense,' returned Irene, rather offended. 'I
will tell you all about her. She's much taller than you, and much
'Oh, I dare say!' remarked the nurse.
'And she lives upon pigeons' eggs.'
'Most likely,' said the nurse.
'And she sits in an empty room, spin-spinning all day long.'
'Not a doubt of it,' said the nurse.
'And she keeps her crown in her bedroom.'
'Of course - quite the proper place to keep her crown in. She
wears it in bed, I'll be bound.'
'She didn't say that. And I don't think she does. That wouldn't
be comfortable - would it? I don't think my papa wears his crown
for a night-cap. Does he, nursie?'
'I never asked him. I dare say he does.'
'And she's been there ever since I came here - ever so many years.'
'Anybody could have told you that,' said the nurse, who did not
believe a word Irene was saying.
'Why didn't you tell me, then?'
'There was no necessity. You could make it all up for yourself.'
'You don't believe me, then!' exclaimed the princess, astonished
and angry, as she well might be.
'Did you expect me to believe you, princess?' asked the nurse
coldly. 'I know princesses are in the habit of telling
make-believes, but you are the first I ever heard of who expected
to have them believed,' she added, seeing that the child was
strangely in earnest.
The princess burst into tears.
'Well, I must say,' remarked the nurse, now thoroughly vexed with
her for crying, 'it is not at all becoming in a princess to tell
stories and expect to be believed just because she is a princess.'
'But it's quite true, I tell you.'
'You've dreamt it, then, child.'
'No, I didn't dream it. I went upstairs, and I lost myself, and if
I hadn't found the beautiful lady, I should never have found
'Oh, I dare say!'
'Well, you just come up with me, and see if I'm not telling the
'Indeed I have other work to do. It's your dinnertime, and I won't
have any more such nonsense.'
The princess wiped her eyes, and her face grew so hot that they
were soon quite dry. She sat down to her dinner, but ate next to
nothing. Not to be believed does not at all agree with princesses:
for a real princess cannot tell a lie. So all the afternoon she
did not speak a word. Only when the nurse spoke to her, she
answered her, for a real princess is never rude - even when she
does well to be offended.
Of course the nurse was not comfortable in her mind - not that she
suspected the least truth in Irene's story, but that she loved her
dearly, and was vexed with herself for having been cross to her.
She thought her crossness was the cause of the princess's
unhappiness, and had no idea that she was really and deeply hurt at
not being believed. But, as it became more and more plain during
the evening in her every motion and look, that, although she tried
to amuse herself with her toys, her heart was too vexed and
troubled to enjoy them, her nurse's discomfort grew and grew. When
bedtime came, she undressed and laid her down, but the child,
instead of holding up her little mouth to be kissed, turned away
from her and lay still. Then nursie's heart gave way altogether,
and she began to cry. At the sound of her first sob the princess
turned again, and held her face to kiss her as usual. But the
nurse had her handkerchief to her eyes, and did not see the
'Nursie,' said the princess, 'why won't you believe me?'
'Because I can't believe you,' said the nurse, getting angry again.
'Ah! then, you can't help it,' said Irene, 'and I will not be vexed
with you any more. I will give you a kiss and go to sleep.'
'You little angel!' cried the nurse, and caught her out of bed, and
walked about the room with her in her arms, kissing and hugging
'You will let me take you to see my dear old great big grandmother,
won't you?' said the princess, as she laid her down again.
'And you won't say I'm ugly, any more - will you, princess?'
'Nursie, I never said you were ugly. What can you mean?'
'Well, if you didn't say it, you meant it.'
'Indeed, I never did.'
'You said I wasn't so pretty as that -'
'As my beautiful grandmother - yes, I did say that; and I say it
again, for it's quite true.'
'Then I do think you are unkind!' said the nurse, and put her
handkerchief to her eyes again.
'Nursie, dear, everybody can't be as beautiful as every other body,
you know. You are very nice-looking, but if you had been as
beautiful as my grandmother -'
'Bother your grandmother!' said the nurse.
'Nurse, that's very rude. You are not fit to be spoken to till you
can behave better.'
The princess turned away once more, and again the nurse was ashamed
'I'm sure I beg your pardon, princess,' she said, though still in
an offended tone. But the princess let the tone pass, and heeded
only the words.
'You won't say it again, I am sure,' she answered, once more
turning towards her nurse. 'I was only going to say that if you
had been twice as nice-looking as you are, some king or other would
have married you, and then what would have become of me?'
'You are an angel!' repeated the nurse, again embracing her.
'Now,' insisted Irene, 'you will come and see my grandmother -
'I will go with you anywhere you like, my cherub,' she answered;
and in two minutes the weary little princess was fast asleep.
The Princess Lets Well Alone
When she woke the next morning, the first thing she heard was the
rain still falling. Indeed, this day was so like the last that it
would have been difficult to tell where was the use of It. The
first thing she thought of, however, was not the rain, but the lady
in the tower; and the first question that occupied her thoughts was
whether she should not ask the nurse to fulfil her promise this
very morning, and go with her to find her grandmother as soon as
she had had her breakfast. But she came to the conclusion that
perhaps the lady would not be pleased if she took anyone to see her
without first asking leave; especially as it was pretty evident,
seeing she lived on pigeons' eggs, and cooked them herself, that
she did not want the household to know she was there. So the
princess resolved to take the first opportunity of running up alone
and asking whether she might bring her nurse. She believed the
fact that she could not otherwise convince her she was telling the
truth would have much weight with her grandmother.
The princess and her nurse were the best of friends all
dressing-time, and the princess in consequence ate an enormous
'I wonder, Lootie' - that was her pet name for her nurse - 'what
pigeons' eggs taste like?' she said, as she was eating her egg -
not quite a common one, for they always picked out the pinky ones
'We'll get you a pigeon's egg, and you shall judge for yourself,'
said the nurse.
'Oh, no, no!' returned Irene, suddenly reflecting they might
disturb the old lady in getting it, and that even if they did not,
she would have one less in consequence.
'What a strange creature you are,' said the nurse - 'first to want
a thing and then to refuse it!'
But she did not say it crossly, and the princess never minded any
remarks that were not unfriendly.
'Well, you see, Lootie, there are reasons,' she returned, and said
no more, for she did not want to bring up the subject of their
former strife, lest her nurse should offer to go before she had had
her grandmother's permission to bring her. Of course she could
refuse to take her, but then she would believe her less than ever.
Now the nurse, as she said herself afterwards, could not be every
moment in the room; and as never before yesterday had the princess
given her the smallest reason for anxiety, it had not yet come into
her head to watch her more closely. So she soon gave her a chance,
and, the very first that offered, Irene was off and up the stairs
This day's adventure, however, did not turn out like yesterday's,
although it began like it; and indeed to- day is very seldom like
yesterday, if people would note the differences - even when it
rains. The princess ran through passage after passage, and could
not find the stair of the tower. My own suspicion is that she had
not gone up high enough, and was searching on the second instead of
the third floor. When she turned to go back, she failed equally in
her search after the stair. She was lost once more.
Something made it even worse to bear this time, and it was no
wonder that she cried again. Suddenly it occurred to her that it
was after having cried before that she had found her grandmother's
stair. She got up at once, wiped her eyes, and started upon a
This time, although she did not find what she hoped, she found what
was next best: she did not come on a stair that went up, but she
came upon one that went down. It was evidently not the stair she
had come up, yet it was a good deal better than none; so down she
went, and was singing merrily before she reached the bottom.
There, to her surprise, she found herself in the kitchen. Although
she was not allowed to go there alone, her nurse had often taken
her, and she was a great favourite with the servants. So there was
a general rush at her the moment she appeared, for every one wanted
to have her; and the report of where she was soon reached the
nurse's ears. She came at once to fetch her; but she never
suspected how she had got there, and the princess kept her own
Her failure to find the old lady not only disappointed her, but
made her very thoughtful. Sometimes she came almost to the nurse's
opinion that she had dreamed all about her; but that fancy never
lasted very long. She wondered much whether she should ever see
her again, and thought it very sad not to have been able to find
her when she particularly wanted her. She resolved to say nothing
more to her nurse on the subject, seeing it was so little in her
power to prove her words.
The Little Miner
The next day the great cloud still hung over the mountain, and the
rain poured like water from a full sponge. The princess was very
fond of being out of doors, and she nearly cried when she saw that
the weather was no better. But the mist was not of such a dark
dingy grey; there was light in it; and as the hours went on it grew
brighter and brighter, until it was almost too brilliant to look
at; and late in the afternoon the sun broke out so gloriously that
Irene clapped her hands, crying:
'See, see, Lootie! The sun has had his face washed. Look how
bright he is! Do get my hat, and let us go out for a walk. Oh,
dear! oh, dear! how happy I am!'
Lootie was very glad to please the princess. She got her hat and
cloak, and they set out together for a walk up the mountain; for
the road was so hard and steep that the water could not rest upon
it, and it was always dry enough for walking a few minutes after
the rain ceased. The clouds were rolling away in broken pieces,
like great, overwoolly sheep, whose wool the sun had bleached till
it was almost too white for the eyes to bear. Between them the sky
shone with a deeper and purer blue, because of the rain. The trees
on the roadside were hung all over with drops, which sparkled in
the sun like jewels. The only things that were no brighter for the
rain were the brooks that ran down the mountain; they had changed
from the clearness of crystal to a muddy brown; but what they lost
in colour they gained in sound - or at least in noise, for a brook
when it is swollen is not so musical as before. But Irene was in
raptures with the great brown streams tumbling down everywhere; and
Lootie shared in her delight, for she too had been confined to the
house for three days.
At length she observed that the sun was getting low, and said it
was time to be going back. She made the remark again and again,
but, every time, the princess begged her to go on just a little
farther and a little farther; reminding her that it was much easier
to go downhill, and saying that when they did turn they would be at
home in a moment. So on and on they did go, now to look at a group
of ferns over whose tops a stream was pouring in a watery arch, now
to pick a shining stone from a rock by the wayside, now to watch
the flight of some bird. Suddenly the shadow of a great mountain
peak came up from behind, and shot in front of them. When the
nurse saw it, she started and shook, and catching hold of the
princess's hand turned and began to run down the hill.
'What's all the haste, nursie?' asked Irene, running alongside of
'We must not be out a moment longer.'
'But we can't help being out a good many moments longer.'
It was too true. The nurse almost cried. They were much too far
from home. It was against express orders to be out with the
princess one moment after the sun was down; and they were nearly a
mile up the mountain! If His Majesty, Irene's papa, were to hear
of it, Lootie would certainly be dismissed; and to leave the
princess would break her heart. It was no wonder she ran. But
Irene was not in the least frightened, not knowing anything to be
frightened at. She kept on chattering as well as she could, but it
was not easy.
'Lootie! Lootie! why do you run so fast? It shakes my teeth when
'Then don't talk,' said Lootie.
'But the princess went on talking. She was always saying: 'Look,
look, Lootie!' but Lootie paid no more heed to anything she said,
only ran on.
'Look, look, Lootie! Don't you see that funny man peeping over the
Lootie only ran the faster. They had to pass the rock, and when
they came nearer, the princess saw it was only a lump of the rock
itself that she had taken for a man.
'Look, look, Lootie! There's such a curious creature at the foot
of that old tree. Look at it, Lootie! It's making faces at us, I
Lootie gave a stifled cry, and ran faster still - so fast that
Irene's little legs could not keep up with her, and she fell with
a crash. It was a hard downhill road, and she had been running
very fast - so it was no wonder she began to cry. This put the
nurse nearly beside herself; but all she could do was to run on,
the moment she got the princess on her feet again.
'Who's that laughing at me?' said the princess, trying to keep in
her sobs, and running too fast for her grazed knees.
'Nobody, child,' said the nurse, almost angrily.
But that instant there came a burst of coarse tittering from
somewhere near, and a hoarse indistinct voice that seemed to say:
'Lies! lies! lies!'
'Oh!' cried the nurse with a sigh that was almost a scream, and ran
on faster than ever.
'Nursie! Lootie! I can't run any more. Do let us walk a bit.'
'What am I to do?' said the nurse. 'Here, I will carry you.'
She caught her up; but found her much too heavy to run with, and
had to set her down again. Then she looked wildly about her, gave
a great cry, and said:
'We've taken the wrong turning somewhere, and I don't know where we
are. We are lost, lost!'
The terror she was in had quite bewildered her. It was true enough
they had lost the way. They had been running down into a little
valley in which there was no house to be seen.
Now Irene did not know what good reason there was for her nurse's
terror, for the servants had all strict orders never to mention the
goblins to her, but it was very discomposing to see her nurse in
such a fright. Before, however, she had time to grow thoroughly
alarmed like her, she heard the sound of whistling, and that
revived her. Presently she saw a boy coming up the road from the
valley to meet them. He was the whistler; but before they met his
whistling changed to singing. And this is something like what he
'Ring! dod! bang!
Go the hammers' clang!
Hit and turn and bore!
Whizz and puff and roar!
Thus we rive the rocks,
Force the goblin locks. -
See the shining ore!
One, two, three -
Bright as gold can be!
Four, five, six -
Shovels, mattocks, picks!
Seven, eight, nine -
Light your lamp at mine.
Ten, eleven, twelve -
Loosely hold the helve.
We're the merry miner-boys,
Make the goblins hold their noise.'
'I wish YOU would hold your noise,' said the nurse rudely, for the
very word GOBLIN at such a time and in such a place made her
tremble. It would bring the goblins upon them to a certainty, she
thought, to defy them in that way. But whether the boy heard her
or not, he did not stop his singing.
'Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen -
This is worth the siftin';
Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen -
There's the match, and lay't in.
Nineteen, twenty -
Goblins in a plenty.'
'Do be quiet,' cried the nurse, in a whispered shriek. But the
boy, who was now close at hand, still went on.
'Hush! scush! scurry!
There you go in a hurry!
Gobble! gobble! goblin!
There you go a wobblin';
Hobble, hobble, hobblin' -
Cobble! cobble! cobblin'!
'There!' said the boy, as he stood still opposite them. 'There!
that'll do for them. They can't bear singing, and they can't stand
that song. They can't sing themselves, for they have no more voice
than a crow; and they don't like other people to sing.'
The boy was dressed in a miner's dress, with a curious cap on his
head. He was a very nice-looking boy, with eyes as dark as the
mines in which he worked and as sparkling as the crystals in their
rocks. He was about twelve years old. His face was almost too
pale for beauty, which came of his being so little in the open air
and the sunlight - for even vegetables grown in the dark are white;
but he looked happy, merry indeed - perhaps at the thought of
having routed the goblins; and his bearing as he stood before them
had nothing clownish or rude about it.
'I saw them,' he went on, 'as I came up; and I'm very glad I did.
I knew they were after somebody, but I couldn't see who it was.
They won't touch you so long as I'm with you.'
'Why, who are you?' asked the nurse, offended at the freedom with
which he spoke to them.
'I'm Peter's son.'
'Peter the miner.'
'I don't know him.'
'I'm his son, though.'
'And why should the goblins mind you, pray?'
'Because I don't mind them. I'm used to them.'
'What difference does that make?'
'If you're not afraid of them, they're afraid of you. I'm not
afraid of them. That's all. But it's all that's wanted - up here,
that is. It's a different thing down there. They won't always
mind that song even, down there. And if anyone sings it, they
stand grinning at him awfully; and if he gets frightened, and
misses a word, or says a wrong one, they - oh! don't they give it
'What do they do to him?' asked Irene, with a trembling voice.
'Don't go frightening the princess,' said the nurse.
'The princess!' repeated the little miner, taking off his curious
cap. 'I beg your pardon; but you oughtn't to be out so late.
Everybody knows that's against the law.'
'Yes, indeed it is!' said the nurse, beginning to cry again. 'And
I shall have to suffer for it.'
'What does that matter?' said the boy. 'It must be your fault. It
is the princess who will suffer for it. I hope they didn't hear
you call her the princess. If they did, they're sure to know her
again: they're awfully sharp.'
'Lootie! Lootie!' cried the princess. 'Take me home.'
'Don't go on like that,' said the nurse to the boy, almost
fiercely. 'How could I help it? I lost my way.'
'You shouldn't have been out so late. You wouldn't have lost your
way if you hadn't been frightened,' said the boy. 'Come along.
I'll soon set you right again. Shall I carry your little
'Impertinence!' murmured the nurse, but she did not say it aloud,
for she thought if she made him angry he might take his revenge by
telling someone belonging to the house, and then it would be sure
to come to the king's ears. 'No, thank you,' said Irene. 'I can
walk very well, though I can't run so fast as nursie. If you will
give me one hand, Lootie will give me another, and then I shall get
They soon had her between them, holding a hand of each.
'Now let's run,' said the nurse.
'No, no!' said the little miner. 'That's the worst thing you can
do. If you hadn't run before, you would not have lost your way.
And if you run now, they will be after you in a moment.'
'I don't want to run,' said Irene.
'You don't think of me,' said the nurse.
'Yes, I do, Lootie. The boy says they won't touch us if we don't
'Yes, but if they know at the house that I've kept you out so late
I shall be turned away, and that would break my heart.'
'Turned away, Lootie! Who would turn you away?'
'Your papa, child.'
'But I'll tell him it was all my fault. And you know it was,
'He won't mind that. I'm sure he won't.'
'Then I'll cry, and go down on my knees to him, and beg him not to
take away my own dear Lootie.'
The nurse was comforted at hearing this, and said no more. They
went on, walking pretty fast, but taking care not to run a step.
'I want to talk to you,' said Irene to the little miner; 'but it's
so awkward! I don't know your name.'
'My name's Curdie, little princess.'
'What a funny name! Curdie! What more?'
'Curdie Peterson. What's your name, please?'
'I don't know what more. What more is my name, Lootie?'
'Princesses haven't got more than one name. They don't want it.'
'Oh, then, Curdie, you must call me just Irene and no more.'
'No, indeed,' said the nurse indignantly. 'He shall do no such
'What shall he call me, then, Lootie?'
'Your Royal Highness.'
'My Royal Highness! What's that? No, no, Lootie. I won't be
called names. I don't like them. You told me once yourself it's
only rude children that call names; and I'm sure Curdie wouldn't be
rude. Curdie, my name's Irene.'
'Well, Irene,' said Curdie, with a glance at the nurse which showed
he enjoyed teasing her; 'it is very kind of you to let me call you
anything. I like your name very much.'
He expected the nurse to interfere again; but he soon saw that she
was too frightened to speak. She was staring at something a few
yards before them in the middle of the path, where it narrowed
between rocks so that only one could pass at a time.
'It is very much kinder of you to go out of your way to take us
home,' said Irene.
'I'm not going out of my way yet,' said Curdie. 'It's on the other
side of those rocks the path turns off to my father's.'
'You wouldn't think of leaving us till we're safe home, I'm sure,'
gasped the nurse.
'Of course not,' said Curdie.
'You dear, good, kind Curdie! I'll give you a kiss when we get
home,' said the princess.
The nurse gave her a great pull by the hand she held. But at that
instant the something in the middle of the way, which had looked
like a great lump of earth brought down by the rain, began to move.
One after another it shot out four long things, like two arms and
two legs, but it was now too dark to tell what they were. The
nurse began to tremble from head to foot. Irene clasped Curdie's
hand yet faster, and Curdie began to sing again:
'One, two -
Hit and hew!
Three, four -
Blast and bore!
Five, six -
There's a fix!
Seven, eight -
Hold it straight!
Nine, ten -
There's a toad
In the road!
Up and off!
There's enough! -
As he uttered the last words, Curdie let go his hold of his
companion, and rushed at the thing in the road as if he would
trample it under his feet. It gave a great spring, and ran
straight up one of the rocks like a huge spider. Curdie turned
back laughing, and took Irene's hand again. She grasped his very
tight, but said nothing till they had passed the rocks. A few
yards more and she found herself on a part of the road she knew,
and was able to speak again.
'Do you know, Curdie, I don't quite like your song: it sounds to me
rather rude,' she said.
'Well, perhaps it is,' answered Curdie. 'I never thought of that;
it's a way we have. We do it because they don't like it.'
'Who don't like it?'
'The cobs, as we call them.'
'Don't!' said the nurse.
'Why not?' said Curdie.
'I beg you won't. Please don't.'
'Oh! if you ask me that way, of course, I won't; though I don't a
bit know why. Look! there are the lights of your great house down
below. You'll be at home in five minutes now.'
Nothing more happened. They reached home in safety. Nobody had
missed them, or even known they had gone out; and they arrived at
the door belonging to their part of the house without anyone seeing
them. The nurse was rushing in with a hurried and not
over-gracious good night to Curdie; but the princess pulled her
hand from hers, and was just throwing her arms round Curdie's neck,
when she caught her again and dragged her away.
'Lootie! Lootie! I promised a kiss,' cried Irene.
'A princess mustn't give kisses. It's not at all proper,' said
'But I promised,' said the princess.
'There's no occasion; he's only a miner-boy.'
'He's a good boy, and a brave boy, and he has been very kind to us.
Lootie! Lootie! I promised.'
'Then you shouldn't have promised.'
'Lootie, I promised him a kiss.'
'Your Royal Highness,' said Lootie, suddenly grown very respectful,
'must come in directly.'
'Nurse, a princess must not break her word,' said Irene, drawing
herself up and standing stock-still.
Lootie did not know which the king might count the worst - to let
the princess be out after sunset, or to let her kiss a miner-boy.
She did not know that, being a gentleman, as many kings have been,
he would have counted neither of them the worse. However much he
might have disliked his daughter to kiss the miner-boy, he would
not have had her break her word for all the goblins in creation.
But, as I say, the nurse was not lady enough to understand this,
and so she was in a great difficulty, for, if she insisted, someone
might hear the princess cry and run to see, and then all would come
out. But here Curdie came again to the rescue.
'Never mind, Princess Irene,' he said. 'You mustn't kiss me
tonight. But you shan't break your word. I will come another
time. You may be sure I will.'
'Oh, thank you, Curdie!' said the princess, and stopped crying.
'Good night, Irene; good night, Lootie,' said Curdie, and turned
and was out of sight in a moment.
'I should like to see him!' muttered the nurse, as she carried the
princess to the nursery.
'You will see him,' said Irene. 'You may be sure Curdie will keep
his word. He's sure to come again.'
'I should like to see him!' repeated the nurse, and said no more.
She did not want to open a new cause of strife with the princess
by saying more plainly what she meant. Glad enough that she had
succeeded both in getting home unseen, and in keeping the princess
from kissing the miner's boy, she resolved to watch her far better
in future. Her carelessness had already doubled the danger she was
in. Formerly the goblins were her only fear; now she had to
protect her charge from Curdie as well.
Curdie went home whistling. He resolved to say nothing about the
princess for fear of getting the nurse into trouble, for while he
enjoyed teasing her because of her absurdity, he was careful not to
do her any harm. He saw no more of the goblins, and was soon fast
asleep in his bed.
He woke in the middle of the night, and thought he heard curious
noises outside. He sat up and listened; then got up, and, opening
the door very quietly, went out. When he peeped round the corner,
he saw, under his own window, a group of stumpy creatures, whom he
at once recognized by their shape. Hardly, however, had he begun
his 'One, two, three!' when they broke asunder, scurried away, and
were out of sight. He returned laughing, got into bed again, and
was fast asleep in a moment.
Reflecting a little over the matter in the morning, he came to the
conclusion that, as nothing of the kind had ever happened before,
they must be annoyed with him for interfering to protect the
princess. By the time he was dressed, however, he was thinking of
something quite different, for he did not value the enmity of the
goblins in the least. As soon as they had had breakfast, he set
off with his father for the mine.
They entered the hill by a natural opening under a huge rock, where
a little stream rushed out. They followed its course for a few
yards, when the passage took a turn, and sloped steeply into the
heart of the hill. With many angles and windings and
branchings-off, and sometimes with steps where it came upon a
natural gulf, it led them deep into the hill before they arrived at
the place where they were at present digging out the precious ore.
This was of various kinds, for the mountain was very rich in the
better sorts of metals. With flint and steel, and tinder-box, they
lighted their lamps, then fixed them on their heads, and were soon
hard at work with their pickaxes and shovels and hammers. Father
and son were at work near each other, but not in the same gang -
the passages out of which the ore was dug, they called gangs - for
when the lode, or vein of ore, was small, one miner would have to
dig away alone in a passage no bigger than gave him just room to
work - sometimes in uncomfortable cramped positions. If they
stopped for a moment they could hear everywhere around them, some
nearer, some farther off, the sounds of their companions burrowing
away in all directions in the inside of the great mountain - some
boring holes in the rock in order to blow it up with gunpowder,
others shovelling the broken ore into baskets to be carried to the
mouth of the mine, others hitting away with their pickaxes.
Sometimes, if the miner was in a very lonely part, he would hear
only a tap-tapping, no louder than that of a woodpecker, for the
sound would come from a great distance off through the solid
The work was hard at best, for it is very warm underground; but it
was not particularly unpleasant, and some of the miners, when they
wanted to earn a little more money for a particular purpose, would
stop behind the rest and work all night. But you could not tell
night from day down there, except from feeling tired and sleepy;
for no light of the sun ever came into those gloomy regions. Some
who had thus remained behind during the night, although certain
there were none of their companions at work, would declare the next
morning that they heard, every time they halted for a moment to
take breath, a tap-tapping all about them, as if the mountain were
then more full of miners than ever it was during the day; and some
in consequence would never stay overnight, for all knew those were
the sounds of the goblins. They worked only at night, for the
miners' night was the goblins' day. Indeed, the greater number of
the miners were afraid of the goblins; for there were strange
stories well known amongst them of the treatment some had received
whom the goblins had surprised at their work during the night. The
more courageous of them, however, amongst them Peter Peterson and
Curdie, who in this took after his father, had stayed in the mine
all night again and again, and although they had several times
encountered a few stray goblins, had never yet failed in driving
them away. As I have indicated already, the chief defence against
them was verse, for they hated verse of every kind, and some kinds
they could not endure at all. I suspect they could not make any
themselves, and that was why they disliked it so much. At all
events, those who were most afraid of them were those who could
neither make verses themselves nor remember the verses that other
people made for them; while those who were never afraid were those
who could make verses for themselves; for although there were
certain old rhymes which were very effectual, yet it was well known
that a new rhyme, if of the right sort, was even more distasteful
to them, and therefore more effectual in putting them to flight.
Perhaps my readers may be wondering what the goblins could be
about, working all night long, seeing they never carried up the ore
and sold it; but when I have informed them concerning what Curdie
learned the very next night, they will be able to understand.
For Curdie had determined, if his father would permit him, to
remain there alone this night - and that for two reasons: first, he
wanted to get extra wages that he might buy a very warm red
petticoat for his mother, who had begun to complain of the cold of
the mountain air sooner than usual this autumn; and second, he had
just a faint hope of finding out what the goblins were about under
his window the night before.
When he told his father, he made no objection, for he had great
confidence in his boy's courage and resources.
'I'm sorry I can't stay with you,' said Peter; 'but I want to go
and pay the parson a visit this evening, and besides I've had a bit
of a headache all day.'
'I'm sorry for that, father,' said Curdie.
'Oh, it's not much. You'll be sure to take care of yourself, won't
'Yes, father; I will. I'll keep a sharp look-out, I promise you.'
Curdie was the only one who remained in the mine. About six
o'clock the rest went away, everyone bidding him good night, and
telling him to take care of himself; for he was a great favourite
with them all.
'Don't forget your rhymes,' said one.
'No, no,'answered Curdie.
'It's no matter if he does,' said another, 'for he'll only have to
make a new one.'
'Yes: but he mightn't be able to make it fast enough,' said
another; 'and while it was cooking in his head, they might take a
mean advantage and set upon him.'
'I'll do my best,' said Curdie. 'I'm not afraid.'
'We all know that,' they returned, and left him.
For some time Curdie worked away briskly, throwing all the ore he
had disengaged on one side behind him, to be ready for carrying out
in the morning. He heard a good deal of goblin-tapping, but it all
sounded far away in the hill, and he paid it little heed. Towards
midnight he began to feel rather hungry; so he dropped his pickaxe,
got out a lump of bread which in the morning he had laid in a damp
hole in the rock, sat down on a heap of ore, and ate his supper.
Then he leaned back for five minutes' rest before beginning his
work again, and laid his head against the rock. He had not kept
the position for one minute before he heard something which made
him sharpen his ears. It sounded like a voice inside the rock.
After a while he heard it again. It was a goblin voice - there
could be no doubt about that - and this time he could make out the
'Hadn't we better be moving?'it said.
A rougher and deeper voice replied:
'There's no hurry. That wretched little mole won't be through
tonight, if he work ever so hard. He's not by any means at the
'But you still think the lode does come through into our house?'
said the first voice.
'Yes, but a good bit farther on than he has got to yet. If he had
struck a stroke more to the side just here,' said the goblin,
tapping the very stone, as it seemed to Curdie, against which his
head lay, 'he would have been through; but he's a couple of yards
past it now, and if he follow the lode it will be a week before it
leads him in. You see it back there - a long way. Still, perhaps,
in case of accident it would be as well to be getting out of this.
Helfer, you'll take the great chest. That's your business, you
'Yes, dad,' said a third voice. 'But you must help me to get it on
my back. It's awfully heavy, you know.'
'Well, it isn't just a bag of smoke, I admit. But you're as strong
as a mountain, Helfer.'
'You say so, dad. I think myself I'm all right. But I could carry
ten times as much if it wasn't for my feet.'
'That is your weak point, I confess, my boy.'
'Ain't it yours too, father?'
'Well, to be honest, it's a goblin weakness. Why they come so
soft, I declare I haven't an idea.'
'Specially when your head's so hard, you know, father.'
'Yes my boy. The goblin's glory is his head. To think how the
fellows up above there have to put on helmets and things when they
go fighting! Ha! ha!'
'But why don't we wear shoes like them, father? I should like it
- especially when I've got a chest like that on my head.'
'Well, you see, it's not the fashion. The king never wears shoes.'
'The queen does.'
'Yes; but that's for distinction. The first queen, you see - I
mean the king's first wife - wore shoes, of course, because she
came from upstairs; and so, when she died, the next queen would not
be inferior to her as she called it, and would wear shoes too. It
was all pride. She is the hardest in forbidding them to the rest
of the women.'
'I'm sure I wouldn't wear them - no, not for - that I wouldn't!'
said the first voice, which was evidently that of the mother of the
family. 'I can't think why either of them should.'
'Didn't I tell you the first was from upstairs?' said the other.
'That was the only silly thing I ever knew His Majesty guilty of.
Why should he marry an outlandish woman like that-one of our
natural enemies too?'
'I suppose he fell in love with her.'
'Pooh! pooh! He's just as happy now with one of his own people.'
'Did she die very soon? They didn't tease her to death, did they?'
'Oh, dear, no! The king worshipped her very footmarks.'
'What made her die, then? Didn't the air agree with her?'
'She died when the young prince was born.'
'How silly of her! We never do that. It must have been because
she wore shoes.'
'I don't know that.'
'Why do they wear shoes up there?'
'Ah, now that's a sensible question, and I will answer it. But in
order to do so, I must first tell you a secret. I once saw the
'Without her shoes?'
'Yes - without her shoes.'
'No! Did you? How was it?'
'Never you mind how it was. She didn't know I saw them. And what
do you think! - they had toes!'
'Toes! What's that?'
'You may well ask! I should never have known if I had not seen the
queen's feet. just imagine! the ends of her feet were split up
into five or six thin pieces!'
'Oh, horrid! How could the king have fallen in love with her?'
'You forget that she wore shoes. That is just why she wore them.
That is why all the men, and women too, upstairs wear shoes. They
can't bear the sight of their own feet without them.'
'Ah! now I understand. If ever you wish for shoes again, Helfer,
I'll hit your feet - I will.'
'No, no, mother; pray don't.'
'Then don't you.'
'But with such a big box on my head -'
A horrid scream followed, which Curdie interpreted as in reply to
a blow from his mother upon the feet of her eldest goblin.
'Well, I never knew so much before!' remarked a fourth voice.
'Your knowledge is not universal quite yet,' said the father. 'You
were only fifty last month. Mind you see to the bed and bedding.
As soon as we've finished our supper, we'll be up and going. Ha!
'What are you laughing at, husband?'
'I'm laughing to think what a mess the miners will find themselves
in - somewhere before this day ten years.'
'Why, what do you mean?'
'Oh, yes, you do mean something. You always do mean something.'
'It's more than you do, then, wife.'
'That may be; but it's not more than I find out, you know.'
'Ha! ha! You're a sharp one. What a mother you've got, Helfer!'
'Well, I suppose I must tell you. They're all at the palace
consulting about it tonight; and as soon as we've got away from
this thin place I'm going there to hear what night they fix upon.
I should like to see that young ruffian there on the other side,
struggling in the agonies of -'
He dropped his voice so low that Curdie could hear only a growl.
The growl went on in the low bass for a good while, as inarticulate
as if the goblin's tongue had been a sausage; and it was not until
his wife spoke again that it rose to its former pitch.
'But what shall we do when you are at the palace?' she asked.
'I will see you safe in the new house I've been digging for you for
the last two months. Podge, you mind the table and chairs. I
commit them to your care. The table has seven legs - each chair
three. I shall require them all at your hands.'
After this arose a confused conversation about the various
household goods and their transport; and Curdie heard nothing more
that was of any importance.
He now knew at least one of the reasons for the constant sound of
the goblin hammers and pickaxes at night. They were making new
houses for themselves, to which they might retreat when the miners
should threaten to break into their dwellings. But he had learned
two things of far greater importance. The first was, that some
grievous calamity was preparing, and almost ready to fall upon the
heads of the miners; the second was - the one weak point of a
goblin's body; he had not known that their feet were so tender as
he had now reason to suspect. He had heard it said that they had
no toes: he had never had opportunity of inspecting them closely
enough, in the dusk in which they always appeared, to satisfy
himself whether it was a correct report. Indeed, he had not been
able even to satisfy himself as to whether they had no fingers,
although that also was commonly said to be the fact. One of the
miners, indeed, who had had more schooling than the rest, was wont
to argue that such must have been the primordial condition of
humanity, and that education and handicraft had developed both toes
and fingers - with which proposition Curdie had once heard his
father sarcastically agree, alleging in support of it the
probability that babies' gloves were a traditional remnant of the
old state of things; while the stockings of all ages, no regard
being paid in them to the toes, pointed in the same direction. But
what was of importance was the fact concerning the softness of the
goblin feet, which he foresaw might be useful to all miners. What
he had to do in the meantime, however, was to discover, if
possible, the special evil design the goblins had now in their
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
'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
'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
'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.
'Now, then,' he said, 'get your bundles on your backs. Here,
Helfer, I'll help you up with your chest.'
'I wish it was my chest, father.'
'Your turn will come in good time enough! Make haste. I must go
to the meeting at the palace tonight. When that's over, we can
come back and clear out the last of the things before our enemies
return in the morning. Now light your torches, and come along.
What a distinction it is, to provide our own light, instead of
being dependent on a thing hung up in the air - a most disagreeable
contrivance - intended no doubt to blind us when we venture out
under its baleful influence! Quite glaring and vulgar, I call it,
though no doubt useful to poor creatures who haven't the wit to
make light for themselves.'
Curdie could hardly keep himself from calling through to know
whether they made the fire to light their torches by. But a
moment's reflection showed him that they would have said they did,
inasmuch as they struck two stones together, and the fire came.
The Hall of the Goblin Palace
A sound of many soft feet followed, but soon ceased. Then Curdie
flew at the hole like a tiger, and tore and pulled. The sides gave
way, and it was soon large enough for him to crawl through. He
would not betray himself by rekindling his lamp, but the torches of
the retreating company, which he found departing in a straight line
up a long avenue from the door of their cave, threw back light
enough to afford him a glance round the deserted home of the
goblins. To his surprise, he could discover nothing to distinguish
it from an ordinary natural cave in the rock, upon many of which he
had come with the rest of the miners in the progress of their
excavations. The goblins had talked of coming back for the rest of
their household gear: he saw nothing that would have made him
suspect a family had taken shelter there for a single night. The
floor was rough and stony; the walls full of projecting corners;
the roof in one place twenty feet high, in another endangering his
forehead; while on one side a stream, no thicker than a needle, it
is true, but still sufficient to spread a wide dampness over the
wall, flowed down the face of the rock. But the troop in front of
him was toiling under heavy burdens. He could distinguish Helfer
now and then, in the flickering light and shade, with his heavy
chest on his bending shoulders; while the second brother was almost
buried in what looked like a great feather bed. 'Where do they get
the feathers?' thought Curdie; but in a moment the troop
disappeared at a turn of the way, and it was now both safe and
necessary for Curdie to follow them, lest they should be round the
next turning before he saw them again, for so he might lose them
altogether. He darted after them like a greyhound. When he
reached the corner and looked cautiously round, he saw them again
at some distance down another long passage. None of the galleries
he saw that night bore signs of the work of man - or of goblin
either. Stalactites, far older than the mines, hung from their
roofs; and their floors were rough with boulders and large round
stones, showing that there water must have once run. He waited
again at this corner till they had disappeared round the next, and
so followed them a long way through one passage after another. The
passages grew more and more lofty, and were more and more covered
in the roof with shining stalactites.
It was a strange enough procession which he followed. But the
strangest part of it was the household animals which crowded
amongst the feet of the goblins. It was true they had no wild
animals down there - at least they did not know of any; but they
had a wonderful number of tame ones. I must, however, reserve any
contributions towards the natural history of these for a later
position in my story.
At length, turning a corner too abruptly, he had almost rushed into
the middle of the goblin family; for there they had already set
down all their burdens on the floor of a cave considerably larger
than that which they had left. They were as yet too breathless to
speak, else he would have had warning of their arrest. He started
back, however, before anyone saw him, and retreating a good way,
stood watching till the father should come out to go to the palace.
Before very long, both he and his son Helfer appeared and kept on
in the same direction as before, while Curdie followed them again
with renewed precaution. For a long time he heard no sound except
something like the rush of a river inside the rock; but at length
what seemed the far-off noise of a great shouting reached his ears,
which, however, presently ceased. After advancing a good way
farther, he thought he heard a single voice. It sounded clearer
and clearer as he went on, until at last he could almost
distinguish the words. In a moment or two, keeping after the
goblins round another corner, he once more started back - this time
He was at the entrance of a magnificent cavern, of an oval shape,
once probably a huge natural reservoir of water, now the great
palace hall of the goblins. It rose to a tremendous height, but
the roof was composed of such shining materials, and the multitude
of torches carried by the goblins who crowded the floor lighted up
the place so brilliantly, that Curdie could see to the top quite
well. But he had no idea how immense the place was until his eyes
had got accustomed to it, which was not for a good many minutes.
The rough projections on the walls, and the shadows thrown upwards
from them by the torches, made the sides of the chamber look as if
they were crowded with statues upon brackets and pedestals,
reaching in irregular tiers from floor to roof. The walls
themselves were, in many parts, of gloriously shining substances,
some of them gorgeously coloured besides, which powerfully
contrasted with the shadows. Curdie could not help wondering
whether his rhymes would be of any use against such a multitude of
goblins as filled the floor of the hall, and indeed felt
considerably tempted to begin his shout of 'One, two, three!', but
as there was no reason for routing them and much for endeavouring
to discover their designs, he kept himself perfectly quiet, and
peering round the edge of the doorway, listened with both his sharp
At the other end of the hall, high above the heads of the
multitude, was a terrace-like ledge of considerable height, caused
by the receding of the upper part of the cavern- wall. Upon this
sat the king and his court: the king on a throne hollowed out of a
huge block of green copper ore, and his court upon lower seats
around it. The king had been making them a speech, and the
applause which followed it was what Curdie had heard. One of the
court was now addressing the multitude. What he heard him say was
to the following effect: 'Hence it appears that two plans have been
for some time together working in the strong head of His Majesty
for the deliverance of his people. Regardless of the fact that we
were the first possessors of the regions they now inhabit;
regardless equally of the fact that we abandoned that region from
the loftiest motives; regardless also of the self-evident fact that
we excel them so far in mental ability as they excel us in stature,
they look upon us as a degraded race and make a mockery of all our
finer feelings. But, the time has almost arrived when - thanks to
His Majesty's inventive genius - it will be in our power to take a
thorough revenge upon them once for all, in respect of their
'May it please Your Majesty -' cried a voice close by the door,
which Curdie recognized as that of the goblin he had followed.
'Who is he that interrupts the Chancellor?' cried another from near
'Glump,' answered several voices.
'He is our trusty subject,' said the king himself, in a slow and
stately voice: 'let him come forward and speak.'
A lane was parted through the crowd, and Glump, having ascended the
platform and bowed to the king, spoke as follows:
'Sire, I would have held my peace, had I not known that I only knew
how near was the moment, to which the Chancellor had just referred.
In all probability, before another day is past, the enemy will have
broken through into my house - the partition between being even now
not more than a foot in thickness.'
'Not quite so much,' thought Curdie to himself.
'This very evening I have had to remove my household effects;
therefore the sooner we are ready to carry out the plan, for the
execution of which His Majesty has been making such magnificent
preparations, the better. I may just add, that within the last few
days I have perceived a small outbreak in my dining-room, which,
combined with observations upon the course of the river escaping
where the evil men enter, has convinced me that close to the spot
must be a deep gulf in its channel. This discovery will, I trust,
add considerably to the otherwise immense forces at His Majesty's
He ceased, and the king graciously acknowledged his speech with a
bend of his head; whereupon Glump, after a bow to His Majesty, slid
down amongst the rest of the undistinguished multitude. Then the
Chancellor rose and resumed.
'The information which the worthy Glump has given us,' he said,
'might have been of considerable import at the present moment, but
for that other design already referred to, which naturally takes
precedence. His Majesty, unwilling to proceed to extremities, and
well aware that such measures sooner or later result in violent
reactions, has excogitated a more fundamental and comprehensive
measure, of which I need say no more. Should His Majesty be
successful - as who dares to doubt? - then a peace, all to the
advantage of the goblin kingdom, will be established for a
generation at least, rendered absolutely secure by the pledge which
His Royal Highness the prince will have and hold for the good
behaviour of her relatives. Should His Majesty fail - which who
shall dare even to imagine in his most secret thoughts? - then will
be the time for carrying out with rigour the design to which Glump
referred, and for which our preparations are even now all but
completed. The failure of the former will render the latter
Curdie, perceiving that the assembly was drawing to a close and
that there was little chance of either plan being more fully
discovered, now thought it prudent to make his escape before the
goblins began to disperse, and slipped quietly away.
There was not much danger of meeting any goblins, for all the men
at least were left behind him in the palace; but there was
considerable danger of his taking a wrong turning, for he had now
no light, and had therefore to depend upon his memory and his
hands. After he had left behind him the glow that issued from the
door of Glump's new abode, he was utterly without guide, so far as
his eyes were concerned.
He was most anxious to get back through the hole before the goblins
should return to fetch the remains of their furniture. It was not
that he was in the least afraid of them, but, as it was of the
utmost importance that he should thoroughly discover what the plans
they were cherishing were, he must not occasion the slightest
suspicion that they were watched by a miner.
He hurried on, feeling his way along the walls of rock. Had he not
been very courageous, he must have been very anxious, for he could
not but know that if he lost his way it would be the most difficult
thing in the world to find it again. Morning would bring no light
into these regions; and towards him least of all, who was known as
a special rhymester and persecutor, could goblins be expected to
exercise courtesy. Well might he wish that he had brought his lamp
and tinder-box with him, of which he had not thought when he crept
so eagerly after the goblins! He wished it all the more when,
after a while, he found his way blocked up, and could get no
farther. It was of no use to turn back, for he had not the least
idea where he had begun to go wrong. Mechanically, however, he
kept feeling about the walls that hemmed him in. His hand came
upon a place where a tiny stream of water was running down the face
of the rock. 'What a stupid I am!' he said to himself. 'I am
actually at the end of my journey! And there are the goblins
coming back to fetch their things!' he added, as the red glimmer of
their torches appeared at the end of the long avenue that led up to
the cave. In a moment he had thrown himself on the floor, and
wriggled backwards through the hole. The floor on the other side
was several feet lower, which made it easier to get back. It was
all he could do to lift the largest stone he had taken out of the
hole, but he did manage to shove it in again. He sat down on the
ore-heap and thought.
He was pretty sure that the latter plan of the goblins was to
inundate the mine by breaking outlets for the water accumulated in
the natural reservoirs of the mountain, as well as running through
portions of it. While the part hollowed by the miners remained
shut off from that inhabited by the goblins, they had had no
opportunity of injuring them thus; but now that a passage was
broken through, and the goblins' part proved the higher in the
mountain, it was clear to Curdie that the mine could be destroyed
in an hour. Water was always the chief danger to which the miners
were exposed. They met with a little choke-damp sometimes, but
never with the explosive firedamp so common in coal-mines. Hence
they were careful as soon as they saw any appearance of water.
As the result of his reflections while the goblins were busy in
their old home, it seemed to Curdie that it would be best to build
up the whole of this gang, filling it with stone, and clay or lie,
so that there should be no smallest channel for the water to get
into. There was not, however, any immediate danger, for the
execution of the goblins' plan was contingent upon the failure of
that unknown design which was to take precedence of it; and he was
most anxious to keep the door of communication open, that he might
if possible discover what the former plan was. At the same time
they could not resume their intermitted labours for the inundation
without his finding it out; when by putting all hands to the work,
the one existing outlet might in a single night be rendered
impenetrable to any weight of water; for by filling the gang
entirely up, their embankment would be buttressed by the sides of
the mountain itself.
As soon as he found that the goblins had again retired, he lighted
his lamp, and proceeded to fill the hole he had made with such
stones as he could withdraw when he pleased. He then thought it
better, as he might have occasion to be up a good many nights after
this, to go home and have some sleep.
How pleasant the night air felt upon the outside of the mountain
after what he had gone through in the inside of it! He hurried up
the hill without meeting a single goblin on the way, and called and
tapped at the window until he woke his father, who soon rose and
let him in. He told him the whole story; and, just as he had
expected, his father thought it best to work that lode no farther,
but at the same time to pretend occasionally to be at work there
still in order that the goblins might have no suspicions. Both
father and son then went to bed and slept soundly until the
The Princess's King-Papa
The weather continued fine for weeks, and the little princess went
out every day. So long a period of fine weather had indeed never
been known upon that mountain. The only uncomfortable thing was
that her nurse was so nervous and particular about being in before
the sun was down that often she would take to her heels when
nothing worse than a fleecy cloud crossing the sun threw a shadow
on the hillside; and many an evening they were home a full hour
before the sunlight had left the weather-cock on the stables. If
it had not been for such odd behaviour Irene would by this time
have almost forgotten the goblins. She never forgot Curdie, but
him she remembered for his own sake, and indeed would have
remembered him if only because a princess never forgets her debts
until they are paid.
One splendid sunshiny day, about an hour after noon, Irene, who was
playing on a lawn in the garden, heard the distant blast of a
bugle. She jumped up with a cry of joy, for she knew by that
particular blast that her father was on his way to see her. This
part of the garden lay on the slope of the hill and allowed a full
view of the country below. So she shaded her eyes with her hand
and looked far away to catch the first glimpse of shining armour.
In a few moments a little troop came glittering round the shoulder
of a hill. Spears and helmets were sparkling and gleaming, banners
were flying, horses prancing, and again came the bugle-blast which
was to her like the voice of her father calling across the
distance: 'Irene, I'm coming.'
On and on they came until she could clearly distinguish the king.
He rode a white horse and was taller than any of the men with him.
He wore a narrow circle of gold set with jewels around his helmet,
and as he came still nearer Irene could discern the flashing of the
stones in the sun. It was a long time since he had been to see
her, and her little heart beat faster and faster as the shining
troop approached, for she loved her king-papa very dearly and was
nowhere so happy as in his arms. When they reached a certain
point, after which she could see them no more from the garden, she
ran to the gate, and there stood till up they came, clanging and
stamping, with one more bright bugle-blast which said: 'Irene, I am
By this time the people of the house were all gathered at the gate,
but Irene stood alone in front of them. When the horsemen pulled
up she ran to the side of the white horse and held up her arms.
The king stopped and took her hands. In an instant she was on the
saddle and clasped in his great strong arms.
I wish I could describe the king so that you could see him in your
mind. He had gentle, blue eyes, but a nose that made him look like
an eagle. A long dark beard, streaked with silvery lines, flowed
from his mouth almost to his waist, and as Irene sat on the saddle
and hid her glad face upon his bosom it mingled with the golden
hair which her mother had given her, and the two together were like
a cloud with streaks of the sun woven through it. After he had
held her to his heart for a minute he spoke to his white horse, and
the great beautiful creature, which had been prancing so proudly a
little while before, walked as gently as a lady - for he knew he
had a little lady on his back - through the gate and up to the door
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