The Princess and the Goblin
Part 3 out of 4
of course wider towards its base, she had to throw away a multitude
of stones to follow the thread. But this was not all, for she soon
found that the thread, after going straight down for a little way,
turned first sideways in one direction, then sideways in another,
and then shot, at various angles, hither and thither inside the
heap, so that she began to be afraid that to clear the thread she
must remove the whole huge gathering. She was dismayed at the very
idea, but, losing no time, set to work with a will; and with aching
back, and bleeding fingers and hands, she worked on, sustained by
the pleasure of seeing the heap slowly diminish and begin to show
itself on the opposite side of the fire. Another thing which
helped to keep up her courage was that, as often as she uncovered
a turn of the thread, instead of lying loose upon the stone, it
tightened up; this made her sure that her grandmother was at the
end of it somewhere.
She had got about half-way down when she started, and nearly fell
with fright. Close to her ears as it seemed, a voice broke out
'Jabber, bother, smash!
You'll have it all in a crash.
Jabber, smash, bother!
You'll have the worst of the pother.
Smash, bother, jabber! -'
Here Curdie stopped, either because he could not find a rhyme to
'jabber', or because he remembered what he had forgotten when he
woke up at the sound of Irene's labours, that his plan was to make
the goblins think he was getting weak. But he had uttered enough
to let Irene know who he was.
'It's Curdie!' she cried joyfully.
'Hush! hush!' came Curdie's voice again from somewhere. 'Speak
'Why, you were singing loud!' said Irene.
'Yes. But they know I am here, and they don't know you are. Who
'I'm Irene,' answered the princess. 'I know who you are quite
well. You're Curdie.'
'Why, how ever did you come here, Irene?'
'My great-great-grandmother sent me; and I think I've found out
why. You can't get out, I suppose?'
'No, I can't. What are you doing?'
'Clearing away a huge heap of stones.'
'There's a princess!' exclaimed Curdie, in a tone of delight, but
still speaking in little more than a whisper. 'I can't think how
you got here, though.'
'my grandmother sent me after her thread.'
'I don't know what you mean,' said Curdie; 'but so you're there, it
doesn't much matter.'
'Oh, yes, it does!' returned Irene. 'I should never have been here
but for her.'
'You can tell me all about it when we get out, then. There's no
time to lose now,'said Curdie.
And Irene went to work, as fresh as when she began.
'There's such a lot of stones!' she said. 'It will take me a long
time to get them all away.'
'How far on have you got?' asked Curdie.
'I've got about the half away, but the other half is ever so much
'I don't think you will have to move the lower half. Do you see a
slab laid up against the wall?'
Irene looked, and felt about with her hands, and soon perceived the
outlines of the slab.
'Yes,' she answered, 'I do.'
'Then, I think,' rejoined Curdie, 'when you have cleared the slab
about half-way down, or a bit more, I shall be able to push it
'I must follow my thread,' returned Irene, 'whatever I do.'
'What do you mean?'exclaimed Curdie.
'You will see when you get out,' answered the princess, and went on
harder than ever.
But she was soon satisfied that what Curdie wanted done and what
the thread wanted done were one and the same thing. For she not
only saw that by following the turns of the thread she had been
clearing the face of the slab, but that, a little more than
half-way down, the thread went through the chink between the slab
and the wall into the place where Curdie was confined, so that she
could not follow it any farther until the slab was out of her way.
As soon as she found this, she said in a right joyous whisper:
'Now, Curdie, I think if you were to give a great push, the slab
would tumble over.'
'Stand quite clear of it, then,' said Curdie, 'and let me know when
you are ready.'
Irene got off the heap, and stood on one side of it. 'Now,
Curdie!' she cried.
Curdie gave a great rush with his shoulder against it. Out tumbled
the slab on the heap, and out crept Curdie over the top of it.
'You've saved my life, Irene!' he whispered.
'Oh, Curdie! I'm so glad! Let's get out of this horrid place as
fast as we can.'
'That's easier said than done,' returned he.
'Oh, no, it's quite easy,' said Irene. 'We have only to follow my
thread. I am sure that it's going to take us out now.'
She had already begun to follow it over the fallen slab into the
hole, while Curdie was searching the floor of the cavern for his
'Here it is!' he cried. 'No, it is not,' he added, in a
disappointed tone. 'What can it be, then? I declare it's a torch.
That is jolly! It's better almost than my pickaxe. Much better if
it weren't for those stone shoes!' he went on, as he lighted the
torch by blowing the last embers of the expiring fire.
When he looked up, with the lighted torch casting a glare into the
great darkness of the huge cavern, he caught sight of Irene
disappearing in the hole out of which he had himself just come.
'Where are you going there?' he cried. 'That's not the way out.
That's where I couldn't get out.'
'I know that,' whispered Irene. 'But this is the way my thread
goes, and I must follow it.'
'What nonsense the child talks!' said Curdie to himself. 'I must
follow her, though, and see that she comes to no harm. She will
soon find she can't get out that way, and then she will come with
So he crept over the slab once more into the hole with his torch in
his hand. But when he looked about in it, he could see her
nowhere. And now he discovered that although the hole was narrow,
it was much longer than he had supposed; for in one direction the
roof came down very low, and the hole went off in a narrow passage,
of which he could not see the end. The princess must have crept in
there. He got on his knees and one hand, holding the torch with
the other, and crept after her. The hole twisted about, in some
parts so low that he could hardly get through, in others so high
that he could not see the roof, but everywhere it was narrow - far
too narrow for a goblin to get through, and so I presume they never
thought that Curdie might. He was beginning to feel very
uncomfortable lest something should have befallen the princess,
when he heard her voice almost close to his ear, whispering:
'Aren't you coming, Curdie?'
And when he turned the next corner there she stood waiting for him.
'I knew you couldn't go wrong in that narrow hole, but now you must
keep by me, for here is a great wide place,' she said.
'I can't understand it,' said Curdie, half to himself, half to
'Never mind,' she returned. 'Wait till we get out.'
Curdie, utterly astonished that she had already got so far, and by
a path he had known nothing of, thought it better to let her do as
she pleased. 'At all events,' he said again to himself, 'I know
nothing about the way, miner as I am; and she seems to think she
does know something about it, though how she should passes my
comprehension. So she's just as likely to find her way as I am,
and as she insists on taking the lead, I must follow. We can't be
much worse off than we are, anyhow.' Reasoning thus, he followed
her a few steps, and came out in another great cavern, across which
Irene walked in a straight line, as confidently as if she knew
every step of the way. Curdie went on after her, flashing his
torch about, and trying to see something of what lay around them.
Suddenly he started back a pace as the light fell upon something
close by which Irene was passing. It was a platform of rock raised
a few feet from the floor and covered with sheepskins, upon which
lay two horrible figures asleep, at once recognized by Curdie as
the king and queen of the goblins. He lowered his torch instantly
lest the light should awake them. As he did so it flashed upon his
pickaxe, lying by the side of the queen, whose hand lay close by
the handle of it.
'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
'Now,'said Curdie; 'I think we shall be safe.'
'Of course we shall,' returned Irene. 'Why do you think so?'asked
'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
'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
'There might be ways round,' said the princess.
'To be sure there might: we are not out of it yet,' acknowledged
'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.
'But how ever did Lootie come to let you go into the mountains
'Lootie knows nothing about it. I left her fast asleep - at least
I think so. I hope my grandmother won't let her get into trouble,
for it wasn't her fault at all, as my grandmother very well knows.'
'But how did you find your way to me?' persisted Curdie.
'I told you already,' answered Irene; 'by keeping my finger upon my
grandmother's thread, as I am doing now.'
'You don't mean you've got the thread there?'
'Of course I do. I have told you so ten times already. I have
hardly - except when I was removing the stones - taken my finger
off it. There!' she added, guiding Curdie's hand to the thread,
'you feel it yourself - don't you?'
'I feel nothing at all,' replied Curdie.
'Then what can be the matter with your finger? I feel it
perfectly. To be sure it is very thin, and in the sunlight looks
just like the thread of a spider, though there are many of them
twisted together to make it - but for all that I can't think why
you shouldn't feel it as well as I do.'
Curdie was too polite to say he did not believe there was any
thread there at all. What he did say was:
'Well, I can make nothing of it.'
'I can, though, and you must be glad of that, for it will do for
both of us.'
'We're not out yet,' said Curdie.
'We soon shall be,' returned Irene confidently. And now the thread
went downwards, and led Irene's hand to a hole in the floor of the
cavern, whence came a sound of running water which they had been
hearing for some time.
'It goes into the ground now, Curdie,' she said, stopping.
He had been listening to another sound, which his practised ear had
caught long ago, and which also had been growing louder. It was
the noise the goblin-miners made at their work, and they seemed to
be at no great distance now. Irene heard it the moment she
'What is that noise?' she asked. 'Do you know, Curdie?'
'Yes. It is the goblins digging and burrowing,' he answered.
'And you don't know what they do it for?'
'No; I haven't the least idea. Would you like to see them?' he
asked, wishing to have another try after their secret.
'If my thread took me there, I shouldn't much mind; but I don't
want to see them, and I can't leave my thread. It leads me down
into the hole, and we had better go at once.'
'Very well. Shall I go in first?' said Curdie.
'No; better not. You can't feel the thread,' she answered,
stepping down through a narrow break in the floor of the cavern.
'Oh!' she cried, 'I am in the water. It is running strong - but it
is not deep, and there is just room to walk. Make haste, Curdie.'
He tried, but the hole was too small for him to get in.
'Go on a little bit he said, shouldering his pickaxe. In a few
moments he had cleared a larger opening and followed her. They
went on, down and down with the running water, Curdie getting more
and more afraid it was leading them to some terrible gulf in the
heart of the mountain. In one or two places he had to break away
the rock to make room before even Irene could get through - at
least without hurting herself. But at length they spied a glimmer
of light, and in a minute more they were almost blinded by the full
sunlight, into which they emerged. It was some little time before
the princess could see well enough to discover that they stood in
her own garden, close by the seat on which she and her king-papa
had sat that afternoon. They had come out by the channel of the
little stream. She danced and clapped her hands with delight.
'Now, Curdie!' she cried, 'won't you believe what I told you about
my grandmother and her thread?'
For she had felt all the time that Curdie was not believing what
she told him.
'There! - don't you see it shining on before us?' she added.
'I don't see anything,' persisted Curdie.
'Then you must believe without seeing,' said the princess; 'for you
can't deny it has brought us out of the mountain.'
'I can't deny we are out of the mountain, and I should be very
ungrateful indeed to deny that you had brought me out of it.'
'I couldn't have done it but for the thread,' persisted Irene.
'That's the part I don't understand.'
'well, come along, and Lootie will get you something to eat. I am
sure you must want it very much.'
'Indeed I do. But my father and mother will be so anxious about
me, I must make haste - first up the mountain to tell my mother,
and then down into the mine again to let my father know.'
'Very well, Curdie; but you can't get out without coming this way,
and I will take you through the house, for that is nearest.'
They met no one by the way, for, indeed, as before, the people were
here and there and everywhere searching for the princess. When
they got in Irene found that the thread, as she had half expected,
went up the old staircase, and a new thought struck her. She
turned to Curdie and said:
'My grandmother wants me. Do come up with me and see her. Then
you will know that I have been telling you the truth. Do come - to
please me, Curdie. I can't bear you should think what I say is not
'I never doubted you believed what you said,' returned Curdie. 'I
only thought you had some fancy in your head that was not correct.'
'But do come, dear Curdie.'
The little miner could not withstand this appeal, and though he
felt shy in what seemed to him a huge grand house, he yielded, and
followed her up the stair.
The Old Lady and Curdie
Up the stair then they went, and the next and the next, and through
the long rows of empty rooms, and up the little tower stair, Irene
growing happier and happier as she ascended. There was no answer
when she knocked at length at the door of the workroom, nor could
she hear any sound of the spinning-wheel, and once more her heart
sank within her, but only for one moment, as she turned and knocked
at the other door.
'Come in,' answered the sweet voice of her grandmother, and Irene
opened the door and entered, followed by Curdie.
'You darling!' cried the lady, who was seated by a fire of red
roses mingled with white. 'I've been waiting for you, and indeed
getting a little anxious about you, and beginning to think whether
I had not better go and fetch you myself.'
As she spoke she took the little princess in her arms and placed
her upon her lap. She was dressed in white now, and looking if
possible more lovely than ever.
'I've brought Curdie, grandmother. He wouldn't believe what I told
him and so I've brought him.'
'Yes - I see him. He is a good boy, Curdie, and a brave boy.
Aren't you glad you've got him out?'
'Yes, grandmother. But it wasn't very good of him not to believe
me when I was telling him the truth.'
'People must believe what they can, and those who believe more must
not be hard upon those who believe less. I doubt if you would have
believed it all yourself if you hadn't seen some of it.'
'Ah! yes, grandmother, I dare say. I'm sure you are right. But
he'll believe now.'
'I don't know that,' replied her grandmother.
'Won't you, Curdie?' said Irene, looking round at him as she asked
the question. He was standing in the middle of the floor, staring,
and looking strangely bewildered. This she thought came of his
astonishment at the beauty of the lady.
'Make a bow to my grandmother, Curdie,' she said.
'I don't see any grandmother,' answered Curdie rather gruffly.
'Don't see my grandmother, when I'm sitting in her lap?' exclaimed
'No, I don't,' reiterated Curdie, in an offended tone.
'Don't you see the lovely fire of roses - white ones amongst them
this time?' asked Irene, almost as bewildered as he.
'No, I don't,' answered Curdie, almost sulkily.
'Nor the blue bed? Nor the rose-coloured counterpane? - Nor the
beautiful light, like the moon, hanging from the roof?'
'You're making game of me, Your Royal Highness; and after what we
have come through together this day, I don't think it is kind of
you,' said Curdie, feeling very much hurt.
'Then what do you see?' asked Irene, who perceived at once that for
her not to believe him was at least as bad as for him not to
'I see a big, bare, garret-room - like the one in mother's cottage,
only big enough to take the cottage itself in, and leave a good
margin all round,' answered Curdie.
'And what more do you see?'
'I see a tub, and a heap of musty straw, and a withered apple, and
a ray of sunlight coming through a hole in the middle of the roof
and shining on your head, and making all the place look a curious
dusky brown. I think you had better drop it, princess, and go down
to the nursery, like a good girl.'
'But don't you hear my grandmother talking to me?' asked Irene,
'No. I hear the cooing of a lot of pigeons. If you won't come
down, I will go without you. I think that will be better anyhow,
for I'm sure nobody who met us would believe a word we said to
them. They would think we made it all up. I don't expect anybody
but my own father and mother to believe me. They know I wouldn't
tell a story.'
'And yet you won't believe me, Curdie?' expostulated the princess,
now fairly crying with vexation and sorrow at the gulf between her
'No. I can't, and I can't help it,' said Curdie, turning to leave
'What SHALL I do, grandmother?' sobbed the princess, turning her
face round upon the lady's bosom, and shaking with suppressed sobs.
'You must give him time,' said her grandmother; 'and you must be
content not to be believed for a while. It is very hard to bear;
but I have had to bear it, and shall have to bear it many a time
yet. I will take care of what Curdie thinks of you in the end.
You must let him go now.'
'You're not coming, are you?' asked Curdie.
'No, Curdie; my grandmother says I must let you go. Turn to the
right when you get to the bottom of all the stairs, and that will
take you to the hall where the great door is.'
'Oh! I don't doubt I can find my way - without you, princess, or
your old grannie's thread either,' said Curdie quite rudely.
'Oh, Curdie! Curdie!'
'I wish I had gone home at once. I'm very much obliged to you,
Irene, for getting me out of that hole, but I wish you hadn't made
a fool of me afterwards.'
He said this as he opened the door, which he left open, and,
without another word, went down the stair. Irene listened with
dismay to his departing footsteps. Then turning again to the lady:
'What does it all mean, grandmother?' she sobbed, and burst into
'It means, my love, that I did not mean to show myself. Curdie is
not yet able to believe some things. Seeing is not believing - it
is only seeing. You remember I told you that if Lootie were to see
me, she would rub her eyes, forget the half she saw, and call the
other half nonsense.'
'Yes; but I should have thought Curdie -'
'You are right. Curdie is much farther on than Lootie, and you
will see what will come of it. But in the meantime you must be
content, I say, to be misunderstood for a while. We are all very
anxious to be understood, and it is very hard not to be. But there
is one thing much more necessary.'
'What is that, grandmother?'
'To understand other people.'
'Yes, grandmother. I must be fair - for if I'm not fair to other
people, I'm not worth being understood myself. I see. So as
Curdie can't help it, I will not be vexed with him, but just wait.'
'There's my own dear child,' said her grandmother, and pressed her
close to her bosom.
'Why weren't you in your workroom when we came up, grandmother?'
asked Irene, after a few moments' silence.
'If I had been there, Curdie would have seen me well enough. But
why should I be there rather than in this beautiful room?'
'I thought you would be spinning.'
'I've nobody to spin for just at present. I never spin without
knowing for whom I am spinning.'
'That reminds me - there is one thing that puzzles me,' said the
princess: 'how are you to get the thread out of the mountain again?
Surely you won't have to make another for me? That would be such
The lady set her down and rose and went to the fire. Putting in
her hand, she drew it out again and held up the shining ball
between her finger and thumb.
'I've got it now, you see,' she said, coming back to the princess,
'all ready for you when you want it.'
Going to her cabinet, she laid it in the same drawer as before.
'And here is your ring,' she added, taking it from the little
finger of her left hand and putting it on the forefinger of Irene's
'Oh, thank you, grandmother! I feel so safe now!'
'You are very tired, my child,' the lady went on. 'Your hands are
hurt with the stones, and I have counted nine bruises on you. just
look what you are like.'
And she held up to her a little mirror which she had brought from
the cabinet. The princess burst into a merry laugh at the sight.
She was so draggled with the stream and dirty with creeping through
narrow places, that if she had seen the reflection without knowing
it was a reflection, she would have taken herself for some gipsy
child whose face was washed and hair combed about once in a month.
The lady laughed too, and lifting her again upon her knee, took off
her cloak and night-gown. Then she carried her to the side of the
room. Irene wondered what she was going to do with her, but asked
no questions - only starting a little when she found that she was
going to lay her in the large silver bath; for as she looked into
it, again she saw no bottom, but the stars shining miles away, as
it seemed, in a great blue gulf. Her hands closed involuntarily on
the beautiful arms that held her, and that was all.
The lady pressed her once more to her bosom, saying:
'Do not be afraid, my child.'
'No, grandmother,' answered the princess, with a little gasp; and
the next instant she sank in the clear cool water.
When she opened her eyes, she saw nothing but a strange lovely blue
over and beneath and all about her. The lady, and the beautiful
room, had vanished from her sight, and she seemed utterly alone.
But instead of being afraid, she felt more than happy - perfectly
blissful. And from somewhere came the voice of the lady, singing
a strange sweet song, of which she could distinguish every word;
but of the sense she had only a feeling - no understanding. Nor
could she remember a single line after it was gone. It vanished,
like the poetry in a dream, as fast as it came. In after years,
however, she would sometimes fancy that snatches of melody suddenly
rising in her brain must be little phrases and fragments of the air
of that song; and the very fancy would make her happier, and abler
to do her duty.
How long she lay in the water she did not know. It seemed a long
time - not from weariness but from pleasure. But at last she felt
the beautiful hands lay hold of her, and through the gurgling water
she was lifted out into the lovely room. The lady carried her to
the fire, and sat down with her in her lap, and dried her tenderly
with the softest towel. It was so different from Lootie's drying.
When the lady had done, she stooped to the fire, and drew from it
her night-gown, as white as snow.
'How delicious!' exclaimed the princess. 'It smells of all the
roses in the world, I think.'
When she stood up on the floor she felt as if she had been made
over again. Every bruise and all weariness were gone, and her
hands were soft and whole as ever.
'Now I am going to put you to bed for a good sleep,' said her
'But what will Lootie be thinking? And what am I to say to her
when she asks me where I have been?'
'Don't trouble yourself about it. You will find it all come
right,' said her grandmother, and laid her into the blue bed, under
the rosy counterpane.
'There is just one thing more,' said Irene. 'I am a little anxious
about Curdie. As I brought him into the house, I ought to have
seen him safe on his way home.'
'I took care of all that,' answered the lady. 'I told you to let
him go, and therefore I was bound to look after him. Nobody saw
him, and he is now eating a good dinner in his mother's cottage far
up in the mountain.'
'Then I will go to sleep,' said Irene, and in a few minutes she was
Curdie and His Mother
Curdie went up the mountain neither whistling nor singing, for he
was vexed with Irene for taking him in, as he called it; and he was
vexed with himself for having spoken to her so angrily. His mother
gave a cry of joy when she saw him, and at once set about getting
him something to eat, asking him questions all the time, which he
did not answer so cheerfully as usual. When his meal was ready,
she left him to eat it, and hurried to the mine to let his father
know he was safe. When she came back, she found him fast asleep
upon her bed; nor did he wake until his father came home in the
'Now, Curdie,' his mother said, as they sat at supper, 'tell us the
whole story from beginning to end, just as it all happened.'
Curdie obeyed, and told everything to the point where they came out
upon the lawn in the garden of the king's house.
'And what happened after that?' asked his mother. 'You haven't
told us all. You ought to be very happy at having got away from
those demons, and instead of that I never saw you so gloomy. There
must be something more. Besides, you do not speak of that lovely
child as I should like to hear you. She saved your life at the
risk of her own, and yet somehow you don't seem to think much of
'She talked such nonsense' answered Curdie, 'and told me a pack of
things that weren't a bit true; and I can't get over it.'
'What were they?' asked his father. 'Your mother may be able to
throw some light upon them.'
Then Curdie made a clean breast of it, and told them everything.
They all sat silent for some time, pondering the strange tale. At
last Curdie's mother spoke.
'You confess, my boy,' she said, 'there is something about the
whole affair you do not understand?'
'Yes, of course, mother,' he answered. 'I cannot understand how a
child knowing nothing about the mountain, or even that I was shut
up in it, should come all that way alone, straight to where I was;
and then, after getting me out of the hole, lead me out of the
mountain too, where I should not have known a step of the way if it
had been as light as in the open air.'
'Then you have no right to say what she told you was not true. She
did take you out, and she must have had something to guide her: why
not a thread as well as a rope, or anything else? There is
something you cannot explain, and her explanation may be the right
'It's no explanation at all, mother; and I can't believe it.'
'That may be only because you do not understand it. If you did,
you would probably find it was an explanation, and believe it
thoroughly. I don't blame you for not being able to believe it,
but I do blame you for fancying such a child would try to deceive
you. Why should she? Depend upon it, she told you all she knew.
Until you had found a better way of accounting for it all, you
might at least have been more sparing of your judgement.'
'That is what something inside me has been saying all the time,'
said Curdie, hanging down his head. 'But what do you make of the
grandmother? That is what I can't get over. To take me up to an
old garret, and try to persuade me against the sight of my own eyes
that it was a beautiful room, with blue walls and silver stars, and
no end of things in it, when there was nothing there but an old tub
and a withered apple and a heap of straw and a sunbeam! It was too
bad! She might have had some old woman there at least to pass for
her precious grandmother!'
'Didn't she speak as if she saw those other things herself,
'Yes. That's what bothers me. You would have thought she really
meant and believed that she saw every one of the things she talked
about. And not one of them there! It was too bad, I say.'
'Perhaps some people can see things other people can't see,
Curdie,' said his mother very gravely. 'I think I will tell you
something I saw myself once - only Perhaps You won't believe me
'Oh, mother, mother!' cried Curdie, bursting into tears; 'I don't
deserve that, surely!'
'But what I am going to tell you is very strange,' persisted his
mother; 'and if having heard it you were to say I must have been
dreaming, I don't know that I should have any right to be vexed
with you, though I know at least that I was not asleep.'
'Do tell me, mother. Perhaps it will help me to think better of
'That's why I am tempted to tell you,' replied his mother. 'But
first, I may as well mention that, according to old whispers, there
is something more than common about the king's family; and the
queen was of the same blood, for they were cousins of some degree.
There were strange stories told concerning them - all good stories
- but strange, very strange. What they were I cannot tell, for I
only remember the faces of my grandmother and my mother as they
talked together about them. There was wonder and awe - not fear -
in their eyes, and they whispered, and never spoke aloud. But what
I saw myself was this: Your father was going to work in the mine
one night, and I had been down with his supper. It was soon after
we were married, and not very long before you were born. He came
with me to the mouth of the mine, and left me to go home alone, for
I knew the way almost as well as the floor of our own cottage. It
was pretty dark, and in some parts of the road where the rocks
overhung nearly quite dark. But I got along perfectly well, never
thinking of being afraid, until I reached a spot you know well
enough, Curdie, where the path has to make a sharp turn out of the
way of a great rock on the left-hand side. When I got there, I was
suddenly surrounded by about half a dozen of the cobs, the first I
had ever seen, although I had heard tell of them often enough. One
of them blocked up the path, and they all began tormenting and
teasing me in a way it makes me shudder to think of even now.'
'If I had only been with you!' cried father and son in a breath.
The mother gave a funny little smile, and went on.
'They had some of their horrible creatures with them too, and I
must confess I was dreadfully frightened. They had torn my clothes
very much, and I was afraid they were going to tear myself to
pieces, when suddenly a great white soft light shone upon me. I
looked up. A broad ray, like a shining road, came down from a
large globe of silvery light, not very high up, indeed not quite so
high as the horizon - so it could not have been a new star or
another moon or anything of that sort. The cobs dropped
persecuting me, and looked dazed, and I thought they were going to
run away, but presently they began again. The same moment,
however, down the path from the globe of light came a bird, shining
like silver in the sun. It gave a few rapid flaps first, and then,
with its wings straight out, shot,sliding down the slope of the
light. It looked to me just like a white pigeon. But whatever it
was, when the cobs caught sight of it coming straight down upon
them, they took to their heels and scampered away across the
mountain, leaving me safe, only much frightened. As soon as it had
sent them off, the bird went gliding again up the light, and the
moment it reached the globe the light disappeared, just as if a
shutter had been closed over a window, and I saw it no More. But
I had no more trouble with the cobs that night or ever after.'
'How strange!' exclaimed Curdie.
'Yes, it was strange; but I can't help believing it, whether you do
or not,' said his mother.
'It's exactly as your mother told it to me the very next morning,'
said his father.
'You don't think I'm doubting my own mother?' cried Curdie.
'There are other people in the world quite as well worth believing
as your own mother,' said his mother. 'I don't know that she's so
much the fitter to be believed that she happens to be your mother,
Mr. Curdie. There are mothers far more likely to tell lies than
the little girl I saw talking to the primroses a few weeks ago. If
she were to lie I should begin to doubt my own word.'
'But princesses have told lies as well as other people,' said
'Yes, but not princesses like that child. She's a good girl, I am
certain, and that's more than being a princess. Depend upon it you
will have to be sorry for behaving so to her, Curdie. You ought at
least to have held your tongue.'
'I am sorry now,' answered Curdie.
'You ought to go and tell her so, then.'
'I don't see how I could manage that. They wouldn't let a miner
boy like me have a word with her alone; and I couldn't tell her
before that nurse of hers. She'd be asking ever so many questions,
and I don't know how many the little princess would like me to
answer. She told me that Lootie didn't know anything about her
coming to get me out of the mountain. I am certain she would have
prevented her somehow if she had known it. But I may have a chance
before long, and meantime I must try to do something for her. I
think, father, I have got on the track at last.'
'Have you, indeed, my boy?' said Peter. 'I am sure you deserve
some success; you have worked very hard for it. What have you
'It's difficult, you know, father, inside the mountain, especially
in the dark, and not knowing what turns you have taken, to tell the
lie of things outside.'
'Impossible, my boy, without a chart, or at least a compass,'
returned his father.
'Well, I think I have nearly discovered in what direction the cobs
are mining. If I am right, I know something else that I can put to
it, and then one and one will make three.'
'They very often do, Curdie, as we miners ought to be very well
aware. Now tell us, my boy, what the two things are, and see
whether we can guess at the same third as you.'
'I don't see what that has to do with the princess,' interposed his
'I will soon let you see that, mother. Perhaps you may think me
foolish, but until I am sure there, is nothing in my present fancy,
I am more determined than ever to go on with my observations. just
as we came to the channel by which we got out, I heard the miners
at work somewhere near - I think down below us. Now since I began
to watch them, they have mined a good half-mile, in a straight
line; and so far as I am aware, they are working in no other part
of the mountain. But I never could tell in what direction they
were going. When we came out in the king's garden, however, I
thought at once whether it was possible they were working towards
the king's house; and what I want to do tonight is to make sure
whether they are or not. I will take a light with me -'
'Oh, Curdie,' cried his mother, 'then they will see you.'
'I'm no more afraid of them now than I was before,' rejoined
Curdie, 'now that I've got this precious shoe. They can't make
another such in a hurry, and one bare foot will do for my purpose.
Woman as she may be, I won't spare her next time. But I shall be
careful with my light, for I don't want them to see me. I won't
stick it in my hat.'
'Go on, then, and tell us what you mean to do.'
'I mean to take a bit of paper with me and a pencil, and go in at
the mouth of the stream by which we came out. I shall mark on the
paper as near as I can the angle of every turning I take until I
find the cobs at work, and so get a good idea in what direction
they are going. If it should prove to be nearly parallel with the
stream, I shall know it is towards the king's house they are
'And what if you should? How much wiser will you be then?'
'Wait a minute, mother dear. I told you that when I came upon the
royal family in the cave, they were talking of their prince -
Harelip, they called him - marrying a sun-woman - that means one of
us - one with toes to her feet. Now in the speech one of them made
that night at their great gathering, of which I heard only a part,
he said that peace would be secured for a generation at least by
the pledge the prince would hold for the good behaviour of her
relatives: that's what he said, and he must have meant the
sun-woman the prince was to marry. I am quite sure the king is
much too proud to wish his son to marry any but a princess, and
much too knowing to fancy that his having a peasant woman for a
wife would be of any great advantage to them.'
'I see what you are driving at now,' said his mother.
'But,' said his father, 'our king would dig the mountain to the
plain before he would have his princess the wife of a cob, if he
were ten times a prince.'
'Yes; but they think so much of themselves!' said his mother.
'Small creatures always do. The bantam is the proudest cock in my
'And I fancy,' said Curdie, 'if they once got her, they would tell
the king they would kill her except he consented to the marriage.'
'They might say so,' said his father, 'but they wouldn't kill her;
they would keep her alive for the sake of the hold it gave them
over our king. Whatever he did to them, they would threaten to do
the same to the princess.'
'And they are bad enough to torment her just for their own
amusement - I know that,' said his mother.
'Anyhow, I will keep a watch on them, and see what they are up to,'
said Curdie. 'It's too horrible to think of. I daren't let myself
do it. But they shan't have her - at least if I can help it. So,
mother dear - my clue is all right - will you get me a bit of paper
and a pencil and a lump of pease pudding, and I will set out at
once. I saw a place where I can climb over the wall of the garden
'You must mind and keep out of the way of the men on the watch,'
said his mother.
'That I will. I don't want them to know anything about it. They
would spoil it all. The cobs would only try some other plan - they
are such obstinate creatures! I shall take good care, mother.
They won't kill and eat me either, if they should come upon me. So
you needn't mind them.'
His mother got him what he had asked for, and Curdie set out.
Close beside the door by which the princess left the garden for the
mountain stood a great rock, and by climbing it Curdie got over the
wall. He tied his clue to a stone just inside the channel of the
stream, and took his pickaxe with him. He had not gone far before
he encountered a horrid creature coming towards the mouth. The
spot was too narrow for two of almost any size or shape, and
besides Curdie had no wish to let the creature pass. Not being
able to use his pickaxe, however, he had a severe struggle with
him, and it was only after receiving many bites, some of them bad,
that he succeeded in killing him with his pocket-knife. Having
dragged him out, he made haste to get in again before another
should stop up the way.
I need not follow him farther in this night's adventures. He
returned to his breakfast, satisfied that the goblins were mining
in the direction of the palace - on so low a level that their
intention must, he thought, be to burrow under the walls of the
king's house, and rise up inside it - in order, he fully believed,
to lay hands on the little princess, and carry her off for a wife
to their horrid Harelip.
Irene Behaves Like a Princess
When the princess awoke from the sweetest of sleeps, she found her
nurse bending over her, the housekeeper looking over the nurse's
shoulder, and the laundry- maid looking over the housekeeper's.
The room was full of women-servants; and the gentlemen-at-arms,
with a long column of servants behind them, were peeping, or trying
to peep in at the door of the nursery.
'Are those horrid creatures gone?' asked the princess, remembering
first what had terrified her in the morning.
'You naughty, naughty little princess!' cried Lootie.
Her face was very pale, with red streaks in it, and she looked as
if she were going to shake her; but Irene said nothing - only
waited to hear what should come next.
'How could you get under the clothes like that, and make us all
fancy you were lost! And keep it up all day too! You are the most
obstinate child! It's anything but fun to us, I can tell you!'
It was the only way the nurse could account for her disappearance.
'I didn't do that, Lootie,' said Irene, very quietly.
'Don't tell stories!' cried her nurse quite rudely.
'I shall tell you nothing at all,' said Irene.
'That's just as bad,' said the nurse.
'Just as bad to say nothing at all as to tell stories?' exclaimed
the princess. 'I will ask my papa about that. He won't say so.
And I don't think he will like you to say so.'
'Tell me directly what you mean by it!' screamed the nurse, half
wild with anger at the princess and fright at the possible
consequences to herself.
'When I tell you the truth, Lootie,' said the princess, who somehow
did not feel at all angry, 'you say to me "Don't tell stories": it
seems I must tell stories before you will believe me.'
'You are very rude, princess,' said the nurse.
'You are so rude, Lootie, that I will not speak to you again till
you are sorry. Why should I, when I know you will not believe me?'
returned the princess. For she did know perfectly well that if she
were to tell Lootie what she had been about, the more she went on
to tell her, the less would she believe her.
'You are the most provoking child!' cried her nurse. 'You deserve
to be well punished for your wicked behaviour.'
'Please, Mrs Housekeeper,' said the princess, 'will you take me to
your room, and keep me till my king-papa comes? I will ask him to
come as soon as he can.'
Every one stared at these words. Up to this moment they had all
regarded her as little more than a baby.
But the housekeeper was afraid of the nurse, and sought to patch
matters up, saying:
'I am sure, princess, nursie did not mean to be rude to you.'
'I do not think my papa would wish me to have a nurse who spoke to
me as Lootie does. If she thinks I tell lies, she had better
either say so to my papa, or go away. Sir Walter, will you take
charge of me?'
'With the greatest of pleasure, princess,' answered the captain of
the gentlemen-at-arms, walking with his great stride into the room.
The crowd of servants made eager way for him, and he bowed low
before the little princess's bed. 'I shall send my servant at
once, on the fastest horse in the stable, to tell your king-papa
that Your Royal Highness desires his presence. When you have
chosen one of these under-servants to wait upon you, I shall order
the room to be cleared.'
'Thank you very much, Sir Walter,' said the princess, and her eye
glanced towards a rosy-cheeked girl who had lately come to the
house as a scullery-maid.
But when Lootie saw the eyes of her dear princess going in search
of another instead of her, she fell upon her knees by the bedside,
and burst into a great cry of distress.
'I think, Sir Walter,' said the princess, 'I will keep Lootie. But
I put myself under your care; and you need not trouble my king-papa
until I speak to you again. Will you all please to go away? I am
quite safe and well, and I did not hide myself for the sake either
of amusing myself, or of troubling my people. Lootie, will you
please to dress me.'
Curdie Comes to Grief
Everything was for some time quiet above ground. The king was
still away in a distant part of his dominions. The men-at-arms
kept watching about the house. They had been considerably
astonished by finding at the foot of the rock in the garden the
hideous body of the goblin creature killed by Curdie; but they came
to the conclusion that it had been slain in the mines, and had
crept out there to die; and except an occasional glimpse of a live
one they saw nothing to cause alarm. Curdie kept watching in the
mountain, and the goblins kept burrowing deeper into the earth. As
long as they went deeper there was, Curdie judged, no immediate
To Irene the summer was as full of pleasure as ever, and for a long
time, although she often thought of her grandmother during the day,
and often dreamed about her at night, she did not see her. The
kids and the flowers were as much her delight as ever, and she made
as much friendship with the miners' children she met on the
mountain as Lootie would permit; but Lootie had very foolish
notions concerning the dignity of a princess, not understanding
that the truest princess is just the one who loves all her brothers
and sisters best, and who is most able to do them good by being
humble towards them. At the same time she was considerably altered
for the better in her behaviour to the princess. She could not
help seeing that she was no longer a mere child, but wiser than her
age would account for. She kept foolishly whispering to the
servants, however - sometimes that the princess was not right in
her mind, sometimes that she was too good to live, and other
nonsense of the same sort.
All this time Curdie had to be sorry, without a chance of
confessing, that he had behaved so unkindly to the princess. This
perhaps made him the more diligent in his endeavours to serve her.
His mother and he often talked on the subject, and she comforted
him, and told him she was sure he would some day have the
opportunity he so much desired.
Here I should like to remark, for the sake of princes and
princesses in general, that it is a low and contemptible thing to
refuse to confess a fault, or even an error. If a true princess
has done wrong, she is always uneasy until she has had an
opportunity of throwing the wrongness away from her by saying: 'I
did it; and I wish I had not; and I am sorry for having done it.'
So you see there is some ground for supposing that Curdie was not
a miner only, but a prince as well. Many such instances have been
known in the world's history.
At length, however, he began to see signs of a change in the
proceedings of the goblin excavators: they were going no deeper,
but had commenced running on a level; and he watched them,
therefore, more closely than ever. All at once, one night, coming
to a slope of very hard rock, they began to ascend along the
inclined plane of its surface. Having reached its top, they went
again on a level for a night or two, after which they began to
ascend once more, and kept on at a pretty steep angle. At length
Curdie judged it time to transfer his observation to another
quarter, and the next night he did not go to the mine at all; but,
leaving his pickaxe and clue at home, and taking only his usual
lumps of bread and pease pudding, went down the mountain to the
king's house. He climbed over the wall, and remained in the garden
the whole night, creeping on hands and knees from one spot to the
other, and lying at full length with his ear to the ground,
listening. But he heard nothing except the tread of the
men-at-arms as they marched about, whose observation, as the night
was cloudy and there was no moon, he had little difficulty in
avoiding. For several following nights he continued to haunt the
garden and listen, but with no success.
At length, early one evening, whether it was that he had got
careless of his own safety, or that the growing moon had become
strong enough to expose him, his watching came to a sudden end. He
was creeping from behind the rock where the stream ran out, for he
had been listening all round it in the hope it might convey to his
ear some indication of the whereabouts of the goblin miners, when
just as he came into the moonlight on the lawn, a whizz in his ear
and a blow upon his leg startled him. He instantly squatted in the
hope of eluding further notice. But when he heard the sound of
running feet, he jumped up to take the chance of escape by flight.
He fell, however, with a keen shoot of pain, for the bolt of a
crossbow had wounded his leg, and the blood was now streaming from
it. He was instantly laid Hold of by two or three of the
men-at-arms. It was useless to struggle, and he submitted in
'It's a boy!' cried several of them together, in a tone of
amazement. 'I thought it was one of those demons. What are you
'Going to have a little rough usage, apparently,' said Curdie,
laughing, as the men shook him.
'Impertinence will do you no good. You have no business here in
the king's grounds, and if you don't give a true account of
yourself, you shall fare as a thief.'
'Why, what else could he be?' said one.
'He might have been after a lost kid, you know,' suggested another.
'I see no good in trying to excuse him. He has no business here,
'Let me go away, then, if you please,' said Curdie.
'But we don't please - not except you give a good account of
'I don't feel quite sure whether I can trust you,' said Curdie.
'We are the king's own men-at-arms,' said the captain courteously,
for he was taken with Curdie's appearance and courage.
'Well, I will tell you all about it - if you will promise to listen
to me and not do anything rash.'
'I call that cool!' said one of the party, laughing. 'He will tell
us what mischief he was about, if we promise to do as pleases him.'
'I was about no mischief,' said Curdie. -
But ere he could say more he turned faint, and fell senseless on
the grass. Then first they discovered that the bolt they had shot,
taking him for one of the goblin creatures, had wounded him.
They carried him into the house and laid him down in the hall. The
report spread that they had caught a robber, and the servants
crowded in to see the villain. Amongst the rest came the nurse.
The moment she saw him she exclaimed with indignation:
'I declare it's the same young rascal of a miner that was rude to
me and the princess on the mountain. He actually wanted to kiss
the princess. I took good care of that - the wretch! And he was
prowling about, was he? Just like his impudence!' The princess
being fast asleep, she could misrepresent at her pleasure.
When he heard this, the captain, although he had considerable doubt
of its truth, resolved to keep Curdie a prisoner until they could
search into the affair. So, after they had brought him round a
little, and attended to his wound, which was rather a bad one, they
laid him, still exhausted from the loss of blood, upon a mattress
in a disused room - one of those already so often mentioned - and
locked the door, and left him. He passed a troubled night, and in
the morning they found him talking wildly. In the evening he came
to himself, but felt very weak, and his leg was exceedingly
painful. Wondering where he was, and seeing one of the men-at-arms
in the room, he began to question him and soon recalled the events
of the preceding night. As he was himself unable to watch any
more, he told the soldier all he knew about the goblins, and begged
him to tell his companions, and stir them up to watch with tenfold
vigilance; but whether it was that he did not talk quite
coherently, or that the whole thing appeared incredible, certainly
the man concluded that Curdie was only raving still, and tried to
coax him into holding his tongue. This, of course, annoyed Curdie
dreadfully, who now felt in his turn what it was not to be
believed, and the consequence was that his fever returned, and by
the time when, at his persistent entreaties, the captain was
called, there could be no doubt that he was raving. They did for
him what they could, and promised everything he wanted, but with no
intention of fulfilment. At last he went to sleep, and when at
length his sleep grew profound and peaceful, they left him, locked
the door again, and withdrew, intending to revisit him early in the
That same night several of the servants were having a chat together
before going to bed.
'What can that noise be?' said one of the housemaids, who had been
listening for a moment or two.
'I've heard it the last two nights,' said the cook. 'If there were
any about the place, I should have taken it for rats, but my Tom
keeps them far enough.'
'I've heard, though,' said the scullery-maid, 'that rats move about
in great companies sometimes. There may be an army of them
invading us. I've heard the noises yesterday and today too.'
'It'll be grand fun, then, for my Tom and Mrs Housekeeper's Bob,'
said the cook. 'They'll be friends for once in their lives, and
fight on the same side. I'll engage Tom and Bob together will put
to flight any number of rats.'
'It seems to me,' said the nurse, 'that the noises are much too
loud for that. I have heard them all day, and my princess has
asked me several times what they could be. Sometimes they sound
like distant thunder, and sometimes like the noises you hear in the
mountain from those horrid miners underneath.'
'I shouldn't wonder,' said the cook, 'if it was the miners after
all. They may have come on some hole in the mountain through which
the noises reach to us. They are always boring and blasting and
breaking, you know.'
As he spoke, there came a great rolling rumble beneath them, and
the house quivered. They all started up in affright, and rushing
to the hall found the gentlemen-at-arms in consternation also.
They had sent to wake their captain, who said from their
description that it must have been an earthquake, an occurrence
which, although very rare in that country, had taken place almost
within the century; and then went to bed again, strange to say, and
fell -fast asleep without once thinking of Curdie, or associating
the noises they had heard with what he had told them. He had not
believed Curdie. If he had, he would at once have thought of what
he had said, and would have taken precautions. As they heard
nothing more, they concluded that Sir Walter was right, and that
the danger was over for perhaps another hundred years. The fact,
as discovered afterwards, was that the goblins had, in working up
a second sloping face of stone, arrived at a huge block which lay
under the cellars of the house, within the line of the foundations.
It was so round that when they succeeded, after hard work, in
dislodging it without blasting, it rolled thundering down the slope
with a bounding, jarring roll, which shook the foundations of the
house. The goblins were themselves dismayed at the noise, for they
knew, by careful spying and measuring, that they must now be very
near, if not under the king's house, and they feared giving an
alarm. They, therefore, remained quiet for a while, and when they
began to work again, they no doubt thought themselves very
fortunate in coming upon a vein of sand which filled a winding
fissure in the rock on which the house was built. By scooping this
away they came out in the king's wine cellar.
No sooner did they find where they were, than they scurried back
again, like rats into their holes, and running at full speed to the
goblin palace, announced their success to the king and queen with
shouts of triumph.
In a moment the goblin royal family and the whole goblin people
were on their way in hot haste to the king's house, each eager to
have a share in the glory of carrying off that same night the
The queen went stumping along in one shoe of stone and one of skin.
This could not have been pleasant, and my readers may wonder that,
with such skilful workmen about her, she had not yet replaced the
shoe carried off by Curdie. As the king, however, had more than
one ground of objection to her stone shoes, he no doubt took
advantage of the discovery of her toes, and threatened to expose
her deformity if she had another made. I presume he insisted on
her being content with skin shoes, and allowed her to wear the
remaining granite one on the present occasion only because she was
going out to war.
They soon arrived in the king's wine cellar, and regardless of its
huge vessels, of which they did not know the use, proceeded at
once, but as quietly as they could, to force the door that led
The Goblins in the King's House
When Curdie fell asleep he began at once to dream. He thought he
was ascending the Mountainside from the mouth of the mine,
whistling and singing 'Ring, dod, bang!' when he came upon a woman
and child who had lost their way; and from that point he went on
dreaming everything that had happened to him since he thus met the
princess and Lootie; how he had watched the goblins, how he had
been taken by them, how he had been rescued by the princess;
everything, indeed, until he was wounded, captured, and imprisoned
by the men-at-arms. And now he thought he was lying wide awake
where they had laid him, when suddenly he heard a great thundering
'The cobs are coming!' he said. 'They didn't believe a word I told
them! The cobs'll be carrying off the princess from under their
stupid noses! But they shan't! that they shan't!'
He jumped up, as he thought, and began to dress, but, to his
dismay, found that he was still lying in bed.
'Now then, I will!' he said. 'Here goes! I am up now!'
But yet again he found himself snug in bed. Twenty times he tried,
and twenty times he failed; for in fact he was not awake, only
dreaming that he was. At length in an agony of despair, fancying
he heard the goblins all over the house, he gave a great cry. Then
there came, as he thought, a hand upon the lock of his door. It
opened, and, looking up, he saw a lady with white hair, carrying a
silver box in her hand, enter the room. She came to his bed, he
thought, stroked his head and face with cool, soft hands, took the
dressing from his leg, rubbed it with something that smelt like
roses, and then waved her hands over him three times. At the last
wave of her hands everything vanished, he felt himself sinking into
the profoundest slumber, and remembered nothing more until he awoke
The setting moon was throwing a feeble light through the casement,
and the house was full of uproar. There was soft heavy
multitudinous stamping, a clashing and clanging of weapons, the
voices of men and the cries of women, mixed with a hideous
bellowing, which sounded victorious. The cobs were in the house!
He sprang from his bed, hurried on some of his clothes, not
forgetting his shoes, which were armed with nails; then spying an
old hunting-knife, or short sword, hanging on the wall, he caught
it, and rushed down the stairs, guided by the sounds of strife,
which grew louder and louder.
When he reached the ground floor he found the whole place swarming.
All the goblins of the mountain seemed gathered there. He rushed
amongst them, shouting:
Hit and hew!
Blast and bore!'
and with every rhyme he came down a great stamp upon a foot,
cutting at the same time their faces - executing, indeed, a sword
dance of the wildest description. Away scattered the goblins in
every direction - into closets, up stairs, into chimneys, up on
rafters, and down to the cellars. Curdie went on stamping and
slashing and singing, but saw nothing of the people of the house
until he came to the great hall, in which, the moment he entered
it, arose a great goblin shout. The last of the men-at-arms, the
captain himself, was on the floor, buried beneath a wallowing crowd
of goblins. For, while each knight was busy defending himself as
well as he could, by stabs in the thick bodies of the goblins, for
he had soon found their heads all but invulnerable, the queen had
attacked his legs and feet with her horrible granite shoe, and he
was soon down; but the captain had got his back to the wall and
stood out longer. The goblins would have torn them all to pieces,
but the king had given orders to carry them away alive, and over
each of them, in twelve groups, was standing a knot of goblins,
while as many as could find room were sitting upon their prostrate
Curdie burst in dancing and gyrating and stamping and singing like
a small incarnate whirlwind.
'Where 'tis all a hole, sir,
Never can be holes:
Why should their shoes have soles, sir,
When they've got no souls?
'But she upon her foot, sir,
Has a granite shoe:
The strongest leather boot, sir,
Six would soon be through.'
The queen gave a howl of rage and dismay; and before she recovered
her presence of mind, Curdie, having begun with the group nearest
him, had eleven of the knights on their legs again.
'Stamp on their feet!' he cried as each man rose, and in a few
minutes the hall was nearly empty, the goblins running from it as
fast as they could, howling and shrieking and limping, and cowering
every now and then as they ran to cuddle their wounded feet in
their hard hands, or to protect them from the frightful stamp-stamp
of the armed men.
And now Curdie approached the group which, in trusting in the queen
and her shoe, kept their guard over the prostrate captain. The
king sat on the captain's head, but the queen stood in front, like
an infuriated cat, with her perpendicular eyes gleaming green, and
her hair standing half up from her horrid head. Her heart was
quaking, however, and she kept moving about her skin-shod foot with
nervous apprehension. When Curdie was within a few paces, she
rushed at him, made one tremendous stamp at his opposing foot,
which happily he withdrew in time, and caught him round the waist,
to dash him on the marble floor. But just as she caught him, he
came down with all the weight of his iron-shod shoe upon her
skin-shod foot, and with a hideous howl she dropped him, squatted
on the floor, and took her foot in both her hands. Meanwhile the
rest rushed on the king and the bodyguard, sent them flying, and
lifted the prostrate captain, who was all but pressed to death. It
was some moments before he recovered breath and consciousness.
'Where's the princess?' cried Curdie, again and again.
No one knew, and off they all rushed in search of her.
Through every room in the house they went, but nowhere was she to
be found. Neither was one of the servants to be seen. But Curdie,
who had kept to the lower part of the house, which was now quiet
enough, began to hear a confused sound as of a distant hubbub, and
set out to find where it came from. The noise grew as his sharp
ears guided him to a stair and so to the wine cellar. It was full
of goblins, whom the butler was supplying with wine as fast as he
could draw it.
While the queen and her party had encountered the men-at-arms,
Harelip with another company had gone off to search the house.
They captured every one they met, and when they could find no more,
they hurried away to carry them safe to the caverns below. But
when the butler, who was amongst them, found that their path lay
through the wine cellar, he bethought himself of persuading them to
taste the wine, and, as he had hoped, they no sooner tasted than
they wanted more. The routed goblins, on their way below, joined
them, and when Curdie entered they were all, with outstretched
hands, in which were vessels of every description from sauce pan to
silver cup, pressing around the butler, who sat at the tap of a
huge cask, filling and filling. Curdie cast one glance around the
place before commencing his attack, and saw in the farthest corner
a terrified group of the domestics unwatched, but cowering without
courage to attempt their escape. Amongst them was the
terror-stricken face of Lootie; but nowhere could he see the
princess. Seized with the horrible conviction that Harelip had
already carried her off, he rushed amongst them, unable for wrath
to sing any more, but stamping and cutting with greater fury than
'Stamp on their feet; stamp on their feet!' he shouted, and in a
moment the goblins were disappearing through the hole in the floor
like rats and mice.
They could not vanish so fast, however, but that many more goblin
feet had to go limping back over the underground ways of the
mountain that morning.
Presently, however, they were reinforced from above by the king and
his party, with the redoubtable queen at their head. Finding
Curdie again busy amongst her unfortunate subjects, she rushed at
him once more with the rage of despair, and this time gave him a
bad bruise on the foot. Then a regular stamping fight got up
between them, Curdie, with the point of his hunting- knife, keeping
her from clasping her mighty arms about him, as he watched his
opportunity of getting once more a good stamp at her skin-shod
foot. But the queen was more wary as well as more agile than
The rest meantime, finding their adversary thus matched for the
moment, paused in their headlong hurry, and turned to the shivering
group of women in the corner. As if determined to emulate his
father and have a sun-woman of some sort to share his future
throne, Harelip rushed at them, caught up Lootie, and sped with her
to the hole. She gave a great shriek, and Curdie heard her, and
saw the plight she was in. Gathering all his strength, he gave the
queen a sudden cut across the face with his weapon, came down, as
she started back, with all his weight on the proper foot, and
sprung to Lootie's rescue. The prince had two defenceless feet,
and on both of them Curdie stamped just as he reached the hole. He
dropped his burden and rolled shrieking into the earth. Curdie
made one stab at him as he disappeared, caught hold of the
senseless Lootie, and having dragged her back to the corner, there
mounted guard over her, preparing once more to encounter the queen.
Her face streaming with blood, and her eyes flashing green
lightning through it, she came on with her mouth open and her teeth
grinning like a tiger's, followed by the king and her bodyguard of
the thickest goblins. But the same moment in rushed the captain
and his men, and ran at them stamping furiously. They dared not
encounter such an onset. Away they scurried, the queen foremost.
Of course, the right thing would have been to take the king and
queen prisoners, and hold them hostages for the princess, but they
were so anxious to find her that no one thought of detaining them
until it was too late.
Having thus rescued the servants, they set about searching the
house once more. None of them could give the least information
concerning the princess. Lootie was almost silly with terror, and,
although scarcely able to walk would not leave Curdie's side for a
single moment. Again he allowed the others to search the rest of
the house - where, except a dismayed goblin lurking here and there,
they found no one - while he requested Lootie to take him to the
princess's room. She was as submissive and obedient as if he had
been the king.
He found the bedclothes tossed about, and most of them on the
floor, while the princess's garments were scattered all over the
room, which was in the greatest confusion. It was only too evident
that the goblins had been there, and Curdie had no longer any doubt
that she had been carried off at the very first of the inroad.
With a pang of despair he saw how wrong they had been in not
securing the king and queen and prince; but he determined to find
and rescue the princess as she had found and rescued him, or meet
the worst fate to which the goblins could doom him.
just as the consolation of this resolve dawned upon his mind and he
was turning away for the cellar to follow the goblins into their
hole, something touched his hand. It was the slightest touch, and
when he looked he could see nothing. Feeling and peering about in
the grey of the dawn, his fingers came upon a tight thread. He
looked again, and narrowly, but still could see nothing. It
flashed upon him that this must be the princess's thread. Without
saying a word, for he knew no one would believe him any more than
he had believed the princess, he followed the thread with his
finger, contrived to give Lootie the slip, and was soon out of the
house and on the mountainside - surprised that, if the thread were
indeed the grandmother's messenger, it should have led the
princess, as he supposed it must, into the mountain, where she
would be certain to meet the goblins rushing back enraged from
their defeat. But he hurried on in the hope of overtaking her
first. When he arrived, however, at the place where the path
turned off for the mine, he found that the thread did not turn with
it, but went straight up the mountain. Could it be that the thread
was leading him home to his mother's cottage? Could the princess
be there? He bounded up the mountain like one of its own goats,
and before the sun was up the thread had brought him indeed to his
mother's door. There it vanished from his fingers, and he could
not find it, search as he might.
The door was on the latch, and he entered. There sat his mother by
the fire, and in her arms lay the princess, fast asleep.
'Hush, Curdie!' said his mother. 'Do not wake her. I'm so glad
you're come! I thought the cobs must have got you again!'
With a heart full of delight, Curdie sat down at a corner of the
hearth, on a stool opposite his mother's chair, and gazed at the
princess, who slept as peacefully as if she had been in her own
bed. All at once she opened her eyes and fixed them on him.
'Oh, Curdie! you're come!' she said quietly. 'I thought you
Curdie rose and stood before her with downcast eyes.
'Irene,' he said, 'I am very sorry I did not believe you.'
'Oh, never mind, Curdie!' answered the princess. 'You couldn't,
you know. You do believe me now, don't you?'
'I can't help it now. I ought to have helped it before.'
'Why can't you help it now?'
'Because, just as I was going into the mountain to look for you, I
got hold of your thread, and it brought me here.'
'Then you've come from my house, have you?'
'Yes, I have.'
'I didn't know you were there.'
'I've been there two or three days, I believe.'
'And I never knew it! Then perhaps you can tell me why my
grandmother has brought me here? I can't think. Something woke me
- I didn't know what, but I was frightened, and I felt for the
thread, and there it was! I was more frightened still when it
brought me out on the mountain, for I thought it was going to take
me into it again, and I like the outside of it best. I supposed
you were in trouble again, and I had to get you out. But it
brought me here instead; and, oh, Curdie! your mother has been so
kind to me - just like my own grandmother!'
Here Curdie's mother gave the princess a hug, and the princess
turned and gave her a sweet smile, and held up her mouth to kiss
'Then you didn't see the cobs?'asked Curdie.
'No; I haven't been into the mountain, I told you, Curdie.'
'But the cobs have been into your house - all over it - and into
your bedroom, making such a row!'
'What did they want there? It was very rude of them.'
'They wanted you - to carry you off into the mountain with them,
for a wife to their prince Harelip.'
'Oh, how dreadful' cried the princess, shuddering.
'But you needn't be afraid, you know. Your grandmother takes care
'Ah! you do believe in my grandmother, then? I'm so glad! She
made me think you would some day.'
All at once Curdie remembered his dream, and was silent, thinking.
'But how did you come to be in my house, and me not know it?' asked
Then Curdie had to explain everything - how he had watched for her
sake, how he had been wounded and shut up by the soldiers, how he
heard the noises and could not rise, and how the beautiful old lady
had come to him, and all that followed.
'Poor Curdie! to lie there hurt and ill, and me never to know it!'
exclaimed the princess, stroking his rough hand. 'I would have
come and nursed you, if they had told me.'
'I didn't see you were lame,' said his mother.
'Am I, mother? Oh - yes - I suppose I ought to be! I declare I've
never thought of it since I got up to go down amongst the cobs!'
'Let me see the wound,' said his mother.
He pulled down his stocking - when behold, except a great scar, his
leg was perfectly sound!
Curdie and his mother gazed in each other's eyes, full of wonder,
but Irene called out:
'I thought so, Curdie! I was sure it wasn't a dream. I was sure
my grandmother had been to see you. Don't you smell the roses? It
was my grandmother healed your leg, and sent you to help me.'
'No, Princess Irene,' said Curdie; 'I wasn't good enough to be
allowed to help you: I didn't believe you. Your grandmother took
care of you without me.'
'She sent you to help my people, anyhow. I wish my king-papa would
come. I do want so to tell him how good you have been!'
'But,' said the mother, 'we are forgetting how frightened your
people must be. You must take the princess home at once, Curdie -
or at least go and tell them where she is.'
'Yes, mother. Only I'm dreadfully hungry. Do let me have some
breakfast first. They ought to have listened to me, and then they
wouldn't have been taken by surprise as they were.'
'That is true, Curdie; but it is not for you to blame them much.
'Yes, mother, I do. Only I must really have something to eat.'
'You shall, my boy - as fast as I can get it,' said his mother,
rising and setting the princess on her chair.
But before his breakfast was ready, Curdie jumped up so suddenly as
to startle both his companions.
'Mother, mother!' he cried, 'I was forgetting. You must take the
princess home yourself. I must go and wake my father.'
Without a word of explanation, he rushed to the place where his
father was sleeping. Having thoroughly roused him with what he
told him he darted out of the cottage.
He had all at once remembered the resolution of the goblins to
carry out their second plan upon the failure of the first. No
doubt they were already busy, and the mine was therefore in the
greatest danger of being flooded and rendered useless - not to
speak of the lives of the miners.
When he reached the mouth of the mine, after rousing all the miners
within reach, he found his father and a good many more just
entering. They all hurried to the gang by which he had found a way
into the goblin country. There the foresight of Peter had already
collected a great many blocks of stone, with cement, ready for
building up the weak place - well enough known to the goblins.
Although there was not room for more than two to be actually
building at once, they managed, by setting all the rest to work in
preparing the cement and passing the stones, to finish in the
course of the day a huge buttress filling the whole gang, and
supported everywhere by the live rock. Before the hour when they
usually dropped work, they were satisfied the mine was secure.
They had heard goblin hammers and pickaxes busy all the time, and
at length fancied they heard sounds of water they had never heard
before. But that was otherwise accounted for when they left the
mine, for they stepped out into a tremendous storm which was raging
all over the mountain. The thunder was bellowing, and the
lightning lancing out of a huge black cloud which lay above it and
hung down its edges of thick mist over its sides. The lightning
was breaking out of the mountain, too, and flashing up into the
cloud. From the state of the brooks, now swollen into raging
torrents, it was evident that the storm had been storming all day.
The wind was blowing as if it would blow him off the mountain, but,
anxious about his mother and the princess, Curdie darted up through
the thick of the tempest. Even if they had not set out before the
storm came on, he did not judge them safe, for in such a storm even
their poor little house was in danger. Indeed he soon found that
but for a huge rock against which it was built, and which protected
it both from the blasts and the waters, it must have been swept if
it was not blown away; for the two torrents into which this rock
parted the rush of water behind it united again in front of the
cottage - two roaring and dangerous streams, which his mother and
the princess could not possibly have passed. It was with great
difficulty that he forced his way through one of them, and up to
The moment his hand fell on the latch, through all the uproar of
winds and Waters came the joyous cry of the princess:
'There's Curdie! Curdie! Curdie!'
She was sitting wrapped in blankets on the bed, his mother trying
for the hundredth time to light the fire which had been drowned by
the rain that came down the chimney. The clay floor was one mass
of mud, and the whole place looked wretched. But the faces of the
mother and the princess shone as if their troubles only made them
the merrier. Curdie burst out laughing at the sight of them.
'I never had such fun!' said the princess, her eyes twinkling and
her pretty teeth shining. 'How nice it must be to live in a
cottage on the mountain!'
'It all depends on what kind your inside house is,' said the
'I know what you mean,' said Irene. 'That's the kind of thing my
By the time Peter returned the storm was nearly over, but the
streams were so fierce and so swollen that it was not only out of
the question for the princess to go down the mountain, but most
dangerous for Peter even or Curdie to make the attempt in the
'They will be dreadfully frightened about you,' said Peter to the
princess, 'but we cannot help it. We must wait till the morning.'
With Curdie's help, the fire was lighted at last, and the mother
set about making their supper; and after supper they all told the
princess stories till she grew sleepy. Then Curdie's mother laid
her in Curdie's bed, which was in a tiny little garret-room. As
soon as she was in bed, through a little window low down in the
roof she caught sight of her grandmother's lamp shining far away
beneath, and she gazed at the beautiful silvery globe until she
The King an the Kiss
The next morning the sun rose so bright that Irene said the rain
had washed his face and let the light out clean. The torrents were
still roaring down the side of the mountain, but they were so much
smaller as not to be dangerous in the daylight. After an early
breakfast, Peter went to his work and Curdie and his mother set out
to take the princess home. They had difficulty in getting her dry
across the streams, and Curdie had again and again to carry her,
but at last they got safe on the broader part of the road, and
walked gently down towards the king's house. And what should they
see as they turned the last corner but the last of the king's troop
riding through the gate!
'Oh, Curdie!' cried Irene, clapping her hands right joyfully,'my
king-papa is come.'
The moment Curdie heard that, he caught her up in his arms, and set
off at full speed, crying:
come on, mother dear! The king may break his heart before he knows
that she is safe.'
Irene clung round his neck and he ran with her like a deer. When
he entered the gate into the court, there sat the king on his
horse, with all the people of the house about him, weeping and
hanging their heads. The king was not weeping, but his face was
white as a dead man's, and he looked as if the life had gone out of
him. The men-at-arms he had brought with him sat with
horror-stricken faces, but eyes flashing with rage, waiting only
for the word of the king to do something - they did not know what,
and nobody knew what.
The day before, the men-at-arms belonging to the house, as soon as
they were satisfied the princess had been carried away, rushed
after the goblins into the hole, but found that they had already so
skilfully blockaded the narrowest part, not many feet below the
cellar, that without miners and their tools they could do nothing.
Not one of them knew where the mouth of the mine lay, and some of
those who had set out to find it had been overtaken by the storm
and had not even yet returned. Poor Sir Walter was especially
filled with shame, and almost hoped the king would order his head
to be cut off, for to think of that sweet little face down amongst
the goblins was unendurable.
When Curdie ran in at the gate with the princess in his arms, they
were all so absorbed in their own misery and awed by the king's
presence and grief, that no one observed his arrival. He went
straight up to the king, where he sat on his horse.
'Papa! papa!' the princess cried, stretching out her arms to him;
'here I am!'
The king started. The colour rushed to his face. He gave an
inarticulate cry. Curdie held up the princess, and the king bent
down and took her from his arms. As he clasped her to his bosom,
the big tears went dropping down his cheeks and his beard. And
such a shout arose from all the bystanders that the startled horses
pranced and capered, and the armour rang and clattered, and the
rocks of the mountain echoed back the noises. The princess greeted
them all as she nestled in her father's bosom, and the king did not
set her down until she had told them all the story. But she had
more to tell about Curdie than about herself, and what she did tell
about herself none of them could understand - except the king and
Curdie, who stood by the king's knee stroking the neck of the great
white horse. And still as she told what Curdie had done, Sir
Walter and others added to what she told, even Lootie joining in
the praises of his courage and energy.
Curdie held his peace, looking quietly up in the king's face. And
his mother stood on the outskirts of the crowd listening with
delight, for her son's deeds were pleasant in her ears, until the
princess caught sight of her.
'And there is his mother, king-papa!' she said. 'See - there. She
is such a nice mother, and has been so kind to me!'
They all parted asunder as the king made a sign to her to come
forward. She obeyed, and he gave her his hand, but could not
'And now, king-papa,' the princess went on, 'I must tell you
another thing. One night long ago Curdie drove the goblins away
and brought Lootie and me safe from the mountain. And I promised
him a kiss when we got home, but Lootie wouldn't let me give it
him. I don't want you to scold Lootie, but I want you to tell her
that a princess must do as she promises.'
'Indeed she must, my child - except it be wrong,' said the king.
'There, give Curdie a kiss.'
And as he spoke he held her towards him.
The princess reached down, threw her arms round Curdie's neck, and
kissed him on the mouth, saying: 'There, Curdie! There's the kiss
I promised you!'
Then they all went into the house, and the cook rushed to the
kitchen and the servants to their work. Lootie dressed Irene in
her shiningest clothes, and the king put off his armour, and put on
purple and gold; and a messenger was sent for Peter and all the
miners, and there was a great and a grand feast, which continued
long after the princess was put to bed.
The Subterranean Waters
The king's harper, who always formed a part of his escort, was
chanting a ballad which he made as he went on playing on his
instrument - about the princess and the goblins, and the prowess of
Curdie, when all at once he ceased, with his eyes on one of the
doors of the hall. Thereupon the eyes of the king and his guests
turned thitherward also. The next moment, through the open doorway
came the princess Irene. She went straight up to her father, with
her right hand stretched out a little sideways, and her forefinger,
as her father and Curdie understood, feeling its way along the
invisible thread. The king took her on his knee, and she said in
'King-papa, do you hear that noise?'
'I hear nothing,' said the king.
'Listen,' she said, holding up her forefinger.
The king listened, and a great stillness fell upon the company.
Each man, seeing that the king listened, listened also, and the
harper sat with his harp between his arms, and his finger silent
upon the strings.
'I do hear a noise,' said the king at length - 'a noise as of
distant thunder. It is coming nearer and nearer. What can it be?'
They all heard it now, and each seemed ready to start to his feet
as he listened. Yet all sat perfectly still. The noise came
'What can it be?' said the king again.
'I think it must be another storm coming over the mountain,' said
Then Curdie, who at the first word of the king had slipped from his
seat, and laid his ear to the ground, rose up quickly, and
approaching the king said, speaking very fast:
'Please, Your Majesty, I think I know what it is. I have no time
to explain, for that might make it too late for some of us. Will
Your Majesty give orders that everybody leave the house as quickly
as possible and get up the mountain?'
The king, who was the wisest man in the kingdom, knew well there
was a time when things must be done and questions left till
afterwards. He had faith in Curdie, and rose instantly, with Irene
in his arms. 'Every man and woman follow me,' he said, and strode
out into the darkness.
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