|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 |
 HE had to go to the bottom of the hill to get into a country he could cross, for the mountains to the north
were full of precipices, and it would have been losing time to go that way. Not until he had reached the
king's house was it any use to turn northwards. Many a look did he raise, as he passed it, to the dove tower,
and as long as it was in sight, but he saw nothing of the lady of the pigeons.
On and on he fared, and came in a few hours to a country where there were no mountains more—only hills,
with great stretches of desolate heath. Here and there was a village, but that brought him little pleasure,
for the people were rougher and worse mannered than those in the
 mountains, and as he passed through, the children came behind and mocked him.
"There's a monkey running away from the mines!" they cried. Sometimes their parents came out and encouraged
"He doesn't want to find gold for the king any longer—the lazybones!" they would say. "He'll be well
taxed down here though, and he won't like that either."
But it was little to Curdie that men who did not know what he was about should not approve of his proceedings.
He gave them a merry answer now and then, and held diligently on his way. When they got so rude as nearly to
make him angry, he would treat them as he used to treat the goblins, and sing his own songs to keep out their
foolish noises. Once a child fell as he turned to run away after throwing a stone at him. He picked him up,
kissed him, and carried him to his mother. The woman had run out in terror when she saw the strange miner
about, as she thought, to take vengeance on her boy. When he put him in her arms, she blessed him, and Curdie
went on his way rejoicing.
 And so the day went on, and the evening came, and in the middle of a great desolate heath he began to feel
tired, and sat down under an ancient hawthorn, through which every now and then a lone wind that seemed to
come from nowhere and to go nowhither sighed and hissed. It was very old and distorted. There was not another
tree for miles all around. it seemed to have lived so long, and to have been so torn and tossed by the
tempests on that moor, that it had at last gathered a wind of its own, which got up now and then, tumbled
itself about, and lay down again.
Curdie had been so eager to get on that he had eaten nothing since his breakfast. But he had had plenty of
water, for Many little streams had crossed his path. He now opened the wallet his mother had given him, and
began to eat his supper. The sun was setting. A few clouds had gathered about the west, but there was not a
single cloud anywhere else to be seen.
Now Curdie did not know that this was a part of the country very hard to get through. Nobody lived there,
though many had tried to build in it. Some died very soon. Some rushed out
 of it. Those who stayed longest went raving mad, and died a terrible death. Such as walked straight on, and
did not spend a night there, got through well and were nothing the worse. But those who slept even a single
night in it were sure to meet with something they could never forget, and which often left a mark everybody
could read. And that old hawthorn Might have been enough for a warning—it looked so like a human being
dried up and distorted with age and suffering, with cares instead of loves, and things instead of thoughts.
Both it and the heath around it, which stretched on all sides as far as he could see, were so withered that it
was impossible to say whether they were alive or not.
And while Curdie ate there came a change. Clouds had gathered over his head, and seemed drifting about in
every direction, as if not 'shepherded by the slow, unwilling wind," but hunted in all directions by wolfish
flaws across the plains of the sky. The sun was going down in a storm of lurid crimson, and out of the west
came a wind that felt red and hot the one moment, and cold and pale the other. And very strangely it sang in
the dreary old hawthorn tree, and very
 cheerily it blew about Curdie, now making him creep close up to the tree for shelter from its shivery cold,
now fan himself with his cap, it was so sultry and stifling. It seemed to come from the deathbed of the sun,
dying in fever and ague.
And as he gazed at the sun, now on the verge of the horizon, very large and very red and very dull—for
though the clouds had broken away a dusty fog was spread all over the disc—Curdie saw something strange
appear against it, moving about like a fly over its burning face. This looked as if it were coming out of the
sun's furnace heart, and was a living creature of some kind surely; but its shape was very uncertain, because
the dazzle of the light all around melted the outlines.
It was growing larger, it must be approaching! It grew so rapidly that by the time the sun was half down its
head reached the top of the arch, and presently nothing but its legs were to be seen, crossing and recrossing
the face of the vanishing disc.
When the sun was down he could see nothing of it more, but in a moment he heard its feet galloping over the
dry crackling heather, and seeming to come straight for him.
 He stood up, lifted his pickaxes and threw the hammer end over his shoulder: he was going to have a fight for
his life! And now it appeared again, vague, yet very awful, in the dim twilight the sun had left behind. But
just before it reached him, down from its four long legs it dropped flat on the ground, and came crawling
towards him, wagging a huge tail as it came.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics