70 THE PRINCESS AND CURDIE.
'Go and thrust both your hands into that fire," she said quickly, almost hurriedly.
Curdie dared not stop to think. It was much too terrible to think about He rushed to the fire, and thrust both his hands right into the middle of the heap of flaming roses, and his arms halfway up to the elbows. And it did hurt! But he did not draw them back. He held the pain as if it were a thing that would kill him if he let it go—as indeed it would have done. He was in terrible fear lest it should conquer him. But when it had risen to the pitch that he thought he could bear it no longer, it began to fall again, and went on growing less and less until by contrast with its former severity it had become rather pleasant. At last it ceased altogether, and Curdie thought his hands must be burnt to cinders if not ashes, for he did not feel them at all. The princess told him to take them out and look at them. He did so, and found that all that was gone of them was the rough hard skin; they were white and smooth like the princess's.
' Come to me," she said.
He obeyed, and saw, to his surprise, that her face looked as if she had been weeping.
" Oh, princess ! what is the matter ? " he cried. " Did I make a noise and vex you ? "
m No, Curdie," she answered; " but it was very bad."
1 Did you feel it too then ? n