|The Princess and Curdie|
|by George MacDonald|
|Sequel to The Princess and the Goblin in which Curdie travels to Gwyntystorm, the capital city, with many adventures along the way. There he finds a group of corrupt courtiers plotting to seize the throne. With the aid of Lina, a curious monster, and forty-nine other strange animals, he clears the palaces of these conspirators, eventually marrying the princess and becoming heir to the kingdom. In the sphere of fantasy, author George MacDonald has few equals, and his rare touch of many aspects of life invariably gives to his stories a deeper meaning of the highest value. Ages 7-10 |
DERBA AND BARBARA
 MEANTIME the wanderers were hospitably entertained by the old woman and her grandchild and they were all very
comfortable and happy together. Little Barbara sat upon Curdie's knee, and he told her stories about the mines
and his adventures in them. But he never mentioned the king or the princess, for all that story was hard to
believe. And he told her about his mother and father, and how good they were. And Derba sat and listened. At
last little Barbara fell asleep in Curdie's arms, and her grandmother carried her to bed.
It was a poor little house, and Derba gave up her own room to Curdie because he was honest and talked wisely.
Curdie saw how it was, and
 begged her to allow him to lie on the floor, but she would not hear of it.
In the night he was waked by Lina pulling at him. As soon as he spoke to her she ceased, and Curdie,
listening, thought he heard someone trying to get in. He rose, took his mattock, and went about the house,
listening and watching; but although he heard noises now at one place now at another, he could not think what
they meant for no one appeared. Certainly, considering how she had frightened them all in the day, it was not
likely any one would attack Lina at night. By and by the noises ceased, and Curdie went back to his bed, and
In the morning, however, Derba came to him in great agitation, and said they had fastened up the door, so that
she could not get out. Curdie rose immediately and went with her: they found that not only the door, but every
window in the house was so secured on the outside that it was impossible to open one of them without using
great force. Poor Derba looked anxiously in Curdie's face. He broke out laughing.
"They are much mistaken," he said, "if they fancy they could keep Lina and a miner in any
 house in Gwyntystorm—even if they built up doors and windows."
With that he shouldered his mattock. But Derba begged him not to make a hole in her house just yet. She had
plenty for breakfast, she said, and before it was time for dinner they would know what the people meant by it.
And indeed they did. For within an hour appeared one of the chief magistrates of the city, accompanied by a
score of soldiers with drawn swords, and followed by a great multitude of people, requiring the miner and his
brute to yield themselves, the one that he might be tried for the disturbance he had occasioned and the injury
he had committed, the other that she might be roasted alive for her part in killing two valuable and harmless
animals belonging to worthy citizens. The summons was preceded and followed by flourish of trumpet, and was
read with every formality by the city marshal himself.
The moment he ended, Lina ran into the little passage, and stood opposite the door.
"I surrender," cried Curdie.
"Then tie up your brute, and give her here."
"No, no," cried Curdie through the door. "I
 surrender; but I"m not going to do your hangman's work. If you want MY dog, you must take her."
"Then we shall set the house on fire, and burn witch and all."
"It will go hard with us but we shall kill a few dozen of you first," cried Curdie. "We're not the least
afraid of you." With that Curdie turned to Derba, and said:
"Don't be frightened. I have a strong feeling that all will be well. Surely no trouble will come to you for
being good to strangers."
"But the poor dog!" said Derba.
Now Curdie and Lina understood each other more than a little by this time, and not only had he seen that she
understood the proclamation, but when she looked up at him after it was read, it was with such a grin, and
such a yellow flash, that he saw also she was determined to take care of herself. "The dog will probably give
you reason to think a little more of her ere long," he answered. "But now," he went on, "I fear I must hurt
your house a little. I have great confidence, however, that I shall be able to make up to you for it one day."
 "Never mind the house, if only you can get safe off," she answered. "I don't think they will hurt this
precious lamb," she added, clasping little Barbara to her bosom. "For myself, it is all one; I am ready for
"it is but a little hole for Lina I want to make," said Curdie. 'she can creep through a much smaller one than
you would think."
Again he took his mattock, and went to the back wall.
"They won't burn the house," he said to himself. "There is too good a one on each side of it."
The tumult had kept increasing every moment, and the city marshal had been shouting, but Curdie had not
listened to him. When now they heard the blows of his mattock, there went up a great cry, and the people
taunted the soldiers that they were afraid of a dog and his miner. The soldiers therefore made a rush at the
door, and cut its fastenings.
The moment they opened it, out leaped Lina, with a roar so unnaturally horrible that the sword arms of the
soldiers dropped by their sides, paralysed with the terror of that cry; the crowd
 fled in every direction, shrieking and yelling with mortal dismay; and without even knocking down with her
tail, not to say biting a man of them with her pulverizing jaws, Lina vanished—no one knew whither, for
not one of the crowd had had courage to look upon her.
The moment she was gone, Curdie advanced and gave himself up. The soldiers were so filled with fear, shame,
and chagrin, that they were ready to kill him on the spot. But he stood quietly facing them, with his mattock
on his shoulder; and the magistrate wishing to examine him, and the people to see him made an example of, the
soldiers had to content themselves with taking him. Partly for derision, partly to hurt him, they laid his
mattock against his back, and tied his arms to it.
They led him up a very steep street, and up another still, all the crowd following. The king's palace-castle
rose towering above them; but they stopped before they reached it, at a low-browed door in a great, dull,
The city marshal opened it with a key which hung at his girdle, and ordered Curdie to enter. The place within
was dark as night, and while he
 was feeling his way with his feet, the marshal gave him a rough push. He fell, and rolled once or twice over,
unable to help himself because his hands were tied behind him.
It was the hour of the magistrate's second and more important breakfast, and until that was over he never
found himself capable of attending to a case with concentration sufficient to the distinguishing of the side
upon which his own advantage lay; and hence was this respite for Curdie, with time to collect his thoughts.
But indeed he had very few to collect, for all he had to do, so far as he could see, was to wait for what
would come next. Neither had he much power to collect them, for he was a good deal shaken.
in a few minutes he discovered, to his great relief, that, from the projection of the pick end of his mattock
beyond his body, the fall had loosened the ropes tied round it. He got one hand disengaged, and then the
other; and presently stood free, with his good mattock once more in right serviceable relation to his arms and
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