That same night several of the servants were having a chat together
before going to bed.
'What can that noise be?' said one of the housemaids, who had been
listening for a moment or two.
'I've heard it the last two nights,' said the cook. 'If there were
any about the place, I should have taken it for rats, but my Tom
keeps them far enough.'
'I've heard, though,' said the scullery-maid, 'that rats move about
in great companies sometimes. There may be an army of them
invading us. I've heard the noises yesterday and today too.'
'It'll be grand fun, then, for my Tom and Mrs Housekeeper's Bob,'
said the cook. 'They'll be friends for once in their lives, and
fight on the same side. I'll engage Tom and Bob together will put
to flight any number of rats.'
'It seems to me,' said the nurse, 'that the noises are much too
loud for that. I have heard them all day, and my princess has
asked me several times what they could be. Sometimes they sound
like distant thunder, and sometimes like the noises you hear in the
mountain from those horrid miners underneath.'
'I shouldn't wonder,' said the cook, 'if it was the miners after
all. They may have come on some hole in the mountain through which
the noises reach to us. They are always boring and blasting and
breaking, you know.'
As he spoke, there came a great rolling rumble beneath them, and
the house quivered. They all started up in affright, and rushing
to the hall found the gentlemen-at-arms in consternation also.
They had sent to wake their captain, who said from their
description that it must have been an earthquake, an occurrence
which, although very rare in that country, had taken place almost
within the century; and then went to bed again, strange to say, and
fell -fast asleep without once thinking of Curdie, or associating
the noises they had heard with what he had told them. He had not
believed Curdie. If he had, he would at once have thought of what
he had said, and would have taken precautions. As they heard
nothing more, they concluded that Sir Walter was right, and that
the danger was over for perhaps another hundred years. The fact,
as discovered afterwards, was that the goblins had, in working up
a second sloping face of stone, arrived at a huge block which lay
under the cellars of the house, within the line of the foundations.
It was so round that when they succeeded, after hard work, in
dislodging it without blasting, it rolled thundering down the slope
with a bounding, jarring roll, which shook the foundations of the
house. The goblins were themselves dismayed at the noise, for they
knew, by careful spying and measuring, that they must now be very
near, if not under the king's house, and they feared giving an
alarm. They, therefore, remained quiet for a while, and when they
began to work again, they no doubt thought themselves very
fortunate in coming upon a vein of sand which filled a winding
fissure in the rock on which the house was built. By scooping this
away they came out in the king's wine cellar.
No sooner did they find where they were, than they scurried back
again, like rats into their holes, and running at full speed to the
goblin palace, announced their success to the king and queen with
shouts of triumph.
In a moment the goblin royal family and the whole goblin people
were on their way in hot haste to the king's house, each eager to
have a share in the glory of carrying off that same night the
The queen went stumping along in one shoe of stone and one of skin.
This could not have been pleasant, and my readers may wonder that,
with such skilful workmen about her, she had not yet replaced the
shoe carried off by Curdie. As the king, however, had more than
one ground of objection to her stone shoes, he no doubt took
advantage of the discovery of her toes, and threatened to expose
her deformity if she had another made. I presume he insisted on
her being content with skin shoes, and allowed her to wear the
remaining granite one on the present occasion only because she was
going out to war.
They soon arrived in the king's wine cellar, and regardless of its
huge vessels, of which they did not know the use, proceeded at
once, but as quietly as they could, to force the door that led