144 THE PRINCESS AND CURDIE.
" Because my father wakes so frightened, and I don't know what he would 60 if he didn't find me Dy his bedside. There ! he's waking now."
She darted off to the side of the bed she had come from. Curdie stood where he was.
A voice altogether unlike what he remembered of the mighty, noble king on his white horse came from the bed, thin, feeble, hollow, and husky, and in tone like that of a petulant child :—
" I will not, I will not. I am a king, and I will be a king. I hate you and despise you, and you shall not torture me !"
" Never mind them, father dear," said the princess. "I am here, and they shan't touch you. They dare not, you know, so long as you defy them."
" They want my crown, darling ; and I can't give them my crown, can I ? for what is a king without his crown ?'»
" They shall never have your crown, my king," said Irene. " Here it is—all safe, you see. I am watching it for you."
Curdie drew near the bed on the other side. There lay the grand old king—he looked grand still, and twenty years older. His body was pillowed high ; his beard descended long and white over the crimson coverlid; and his crown, its diamonds and emeralds gleaming in the twilight of the curtains, lay in front of him, his long,