He must have slept a long time, for when he awoke he felt
wonderfully restored - indeed almost well - and very hungry. There
were voices in the outer cave.
Once more, then, it was night; for the goblins slept during the day
and went about their affairs during the night.
In the universal and constant darkness of their dwelling they had
no reason to prefer the one arrangement to the other; but from
aversion to the sun-people they chose to be busy when there was
least chance of their being met either by the miners below, when
they were burrowing, or by the people of the mountain above, when
they were feeding their sheep or catching their goats. And indeed
it was only when the sun was away that the outside of the mountain
was sufficiently like their own dismal regions to be endurable to
their mole eyes, so thoroughly had they become unaccustomed to any
light beyond that of their own fires and torches.
Curdie listened, and soon found that they were talking of himself.
'How long will it take?' asked Harelip.
'Not many days, I should think,' answered the king. 'They are poor
feeble creatures, those sun-people, and want to be always eating.
We can go a week at a time without food, and be all the better for
it; but I've been told they eat two or three times every day! Can
you believe it? They must be quite hollow inside - not at all like
us, nine-tenths of whose bulk is solid flesh and bone. Yes - I
judge a week of starvation will do for him.'
'If I may be allowed a word,' interposed the queen, - 'and I think
I ought to have some voice in the matter -'
'The wretch is entirely at your disposal, my spouse,' interrupted
the king. 'He is your property. You caught him yourself.We should
never have done it.'
The queen laughed. She seemed in far better humour than the night
'I was about to say,' she resumed, 'that it does seem a pity to
waste so much fresh meat.'
'What are you thinking of, my love?' said the king. 'The very
notion of starving him implies that we are not going to give him
any meat, either salt or fresh.'
'I'm not such a stupid as that comes to,' returned Her Majesty.
'What I mean is that by the time he is starved there will hardly be
a picking upon his bones.'
The king gave a great laugh.
'Well, my spouse, you may have him when you like,' he said. 'I
don't fancy him for my part. I am pretty sure he is tough eating.'
'That would be to honour instead of punish his insolence,' returned
the queen. 'But why should our poor creatures be deprived of so
much nourishment? Our little dogs and cats and pigs and small
bears would enjoy him very much.'
'You are the best of housekeepers, my lovely queen!' said her
husband. 'Let it be so by all means. Let us have our people in,
and get him out and kill him at once. He deserves it. The
mischief he might have brought upon us, now that he had penetrated
so far as our most retired citadel, is incalculable. Or rather let
us tie him hand and foot, and have the pleasure of seeing him torn
to pieces by full torchlight in the great hall.'
'Better and better!' cried the queen and the prince together, both
of them clapping their hands. And the prince made an ugly noise
with his hare-lip, just as if he had intended to be one at the
'But,' added the queen, bethinking herself, 'he is so troublesome.
For poor creatures as they are, there is something about those
sun-people that is very troublesome. I cannot imagine how it is
that with such superior strength and skill and understanding as
ours, we permit them to exist at all. Why do we not destroy them
entirely, and use their cattle and grazing lands at our pleasure?
Of course we don't want to live in their horrid country! It is far
too glaring for our quieter and more refined tastes. But we might
use it as a sort of outhouse, you know. Even our creatures' eyes
might get used to it, and if they did grow blind that would be of
no consequence, provided they grew fat as well. But we might even
keep their great cows and other creatures, and then we should have
a few more luxuries, such as cream and cheese, which at present we
only taste occasionally, when our brave men have succeeded in
carrying some off from their farms.'
'It is worth thinking of,' said the king; 'and I don't know why you
should be the first to suggest it, except that you have a positive
genius for conquest. But still, as you say, there is something
very troublesome about them; and it would be better, as I
understand you to suggest, that we should starve him for a day or
two first, so that he may be a little less frisky when we take him
'Once there was a goblin
Living in a hole;
Busy he was cobblin'
A shoe without a sole.
'By came a birdie:
"Goblin, what do you do?"
"Cobble at a sturdie
Upper leather shoe."
'"What's the good o' that, Sir?"
Said the little bird.
"Why it's very Pat, Sir -
Plain without a word.
'"Where 'tis all a hole, Sir,
Never can be holes:
Why should their shoes have soles, Sir,
When they've got no souls?"'
'What's that horrible noise?' cried the queen, shuddering from
pot-metal head to granite shoes.
'I declare,' said the king with solemn indignation, 'it's the
sun-creature in the hole!'
'Stop that disgusting noise!' cried the crown prince valiantly,
getting up and standing in front of the heap of stones, with his
face towards Curdie's prison. 'Do now, or I'll break your head.'
'Break away,' shouted Curdie, and began singing again:
'Once there was a goblin, Living in a hole -'
'I really cannot bear it,' said the queen. 'If I could only get at
his horrid toes with my slippers again!'
'I think we had better go to bed,' said the king.
'It's not time to go to bed,' said the queen.
'I would if I was you,' said Curdie.
'Impertinent wretch!' said the queen, with the utmost scorn in her
'An impossible if,' said His Majesty with dignity.
'Quite,' returned Curdie, and began singing again:
'Go to bed,
Help the queen
Take off her shoe.
'If you do,
It will disclose
A horrid set
Of sprouting toes.'
'What a lie!' roared the queen in a rage.
'By the way, that reminds me,' said the king, 'that for as long as
we have been married, I have never seen your feet, queen. I think
you might take off your shoes when you go to bed! They positively
hurt me sometimes.'
'I will do as I like,' retorted the queen sulkily.
'You ought to do as your own hubby wishes you,' said the king.
'I will not,' said the queen.
'Then I insist upon it,' said the king.
Apparently His Majesty approached the queen for the purpose of
following the advice given by Curdie, for the latter heard a
scuffle, and then a great roar from the king.
'Will you be quiet, then?' said the queen wickedly.
'Yes, yes, queen. I only meant to coax you.'
'Hands off!' cried the queen triumphantly. 'I'm going to bed. You
may come when you like. But as long as I am queen I will sleep in
my shoes. It is my royal privilege. Harelip, go to bed.'
'I'm going,' said Harelip sleepily.
'So am I,' said the king.
'Come along, then,' said the queen; 'and mind you are good, or
'Oh, no, no, no!' screamed the king in the most supplicating of
Curdie heard only a muttered reply in the distance; and then the
cave was quite still.
They had left the fire burning, and the light came through brighter
than before. Curdie thought it was time to try again if anything
could be done. But he found he could not get even a finger through
the chink between the slab and the rock. He gave a great rush with
his shoulder against the slab, but it yielded no more than if it
had been part of the rock. All he could do was to sit down and
By and by he came to the resolution to pretend to be dying, in the
hope they might take him out before his strength was too much
exhausted to let him have a chance. Then, for the creatures, if he
could but find his axe again, he would have no fear of them; and if
it were not for the queen's horrid shoes, he would have no fear at
Meantime, until they should come again at night, there was nothing
for him to do but forge new rhymes, now his only weapons. He had
no intention of using them at present, of course; but it was well
to have a stock, for he might live to want them, and the
manufacture of them would help to while away the time.