CURDIBS MISSION. 75
wives' fable, a bit of priests' humbug, an effete superstition, and so on."
"And is there no hope for him? Can nothing be done ? It's so awful to think of going down, down, down like that!"
" Even when it is with his own wrill ? n
" That's what seems to me to make it worst of all,* said Curdie.
" You are right," answered the princess, nodding her head; " but there is this amount of excuse to make for all such, remember—that they do not know what or how horrid their coming fate is. Many a lady, so delicate and nice that she can bear nothing coarser than the finest linen to touch her body, if she had a mirror that could show her the animal she is growing to, as it lies waiting within the fair skin and the fine linen and the silk and the jewels, would receive a shock that might possibly wake her up."
"Why then, ma'am, shouldn't she have it?"
The princess held her peace.
"Come here, Lina," she said after a long pause.
From somewhere behind Curdie, crept forward the same hideous -animal which had fawned at his feet at the door, and which, without his knowing it, had followed him every step up the dove-tower. She ran to the princess, and lay down at her feet, looking up at her with