176 The Princess and the Goblin
" You must acknowledge, however," the king said, with a little groan, "that this at least is no whim of Harelip's, but a matter of state-policy. You are well aware that his gratification comes purely from the pleasure of sacrificing himself to the public good. Does it not, Harelip?"
" Yes, father; of course it does. Only it will be nice to make her cry. I'll have the skin taken off between her toes, and tie them up till they grow together. Then her feet will be like other people's, and there will be no occasion for her to wear shoes."
" Do you mean to insinuate /'ve got toes, you unnatural wretch?" cried the queen; and she moved angrily towards Harelip. The councillor, however, who was betwixt them, leaned forward so as to prevent her touching him, but only as if to address the prince.
" Your royal highness," he said, "possibly requires to be reminded that you have got three toes yourself—one on one foot, two on the other."
" Ha! ha! ha!" shouted the queen triumphantly.
The councillor, encouraged by this mark of favour, went on.