24 THE PRINCESS AND CURDIE.
I must add, a little in amusement at the odd look of the old marvel. Her grey hair mixed with the moonlight so that he could not tell where the one began and the other ended. Her crooked back bent forward over her chest, her shoulders nearly swallowed up her head between them, and her two little hands were just like the grey claws of a hen, scratching at the thread, which to Curdie was of course invisible across the moonlight. Indeed Curdie laughed within himself, just a little, at the sight; and when he thought of how the princess used to talk about her huge great old grandmother, he laughed more. But that moment the little lady leaned forward into the moonlight, and Curdie caught a glimpse of her eyes, and all the laugh went out of him.
"What do you come here for, Curdie?" she said, as gently as before.
Then Curdie remembered that he stood there as a culprit, and worst of all, as one who had his confession yet to make. There was no time to hesitate over it.
" Oh, ma'am ! see here," he said, and advanced a step or two, holding out the dead pigeon.
" What have you got there ? " she asked.
Again Curdie advanced a few steps, and held out his hand with the pigeon, that she might see what it was. into the moonlight. The moment the rays fell upon it the pigeon gave a faint flutter. The old lady put out