THE KING'S CHAMBER. 143
but like a true princess, and the princess he used to know, she walked straight on to meet him. As she came she lowered the hand she had lifted, and laid the fore≠finger of it upon her lips. Nearer and nearer, quite near, close up to him she came, then stopped, and stood a moment looking at him.
"You are Curdie," she said.
"And you are the Princess Irene," he returned.
" Then we know each other still," she said, with a sad smile of pleasure. " You will help me."
"That I will," answered Curdie. He did not say, "If I can ;" for he knew that what he was sent to do, that he could do. " May I kiss your hand, little princess ? "
She was only between nine and ten, though indeed she looked several years older, and her eyes almost those of a grown woman, for she had had terrible trouble of late.
She held out her hand.
" I am not the little princess any more. I have grown up since I saw you last, Mr. Miner."
The smile wLich accompanied the words had in it a strange mixture of j, lay fulness and sadness.
"So I see, Miss Princess," returned Curdie; "and therefore, being more of a princess, you are the more my princess. Here I am, sent by your great-great-grand≠mother, to be your servant.óMay I ask why you aie up so late, princess ? "