158 The Princess and the Goblin
with all that. The right old age means strength and beauty and mirth and courage and clear eyes and strong painless limbs. I am older than you are able to think, and------"
" And look at you, grandmother!" cried Irene, jumping up and flinging her arms about her neck. "I won't be so silly again, I promise you. At least—I'm rather afraid to promise—but if I am, I promise to be sorry for it—I do.—I wish I were as old as you, grandmother. I don't think you are ever afraid of anything."
" Not for long, at least, my child. Perhaps by the time I am two thousand years of age, I shall, indeed, never be afraid of anything. But I confess I have sometimes been afraid about my children—sometimes about you, Irene."
" Oh, I'm so sorry, grandmother!—To-night, I suppose, you mean."
" Yes—a little to-night; but a good deal when you had all but made up your mind that I was a dream, and no real great-great-grandmother.— You must not suppose I am blaming you for that. I dare say you could not help it."
"I don't know, grandmother," said the princess, beginning to cry. " I can't always do