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Adela Cathcart, Volume 2 by George MacDonald

Adela might at least refuse whom she pleased


style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER III.

THE SHADOWS.

It was again my turn to read. I opened my manuscript and had just opened my mouth as well, when I was arrested for a moment. For, happening to glance to the other side of the room, I saw that Percy had thrown himself at full length on a couch, opposite to that on which Adela was seated, and was watching her face with all his eyes. But his look did not express love so much as jealousy. Indeed I had seen small sign of his being attached to her. If she had encouraged him, which certainly she did not, I daresay his love might have come out; but I presume that he had been comfortably content until now, when perhaps some remark of his mother had made him fear a rival. Mischief of some sort was evidently brewing. A human cloud, surcharging itself with electric fire, lay swelling on the horizon of our little assembly; but I did not anticipate much danger from any storm that could break from such a quarter. I believed that as far as my good friend, the colonel, was concerned, Adela might at least refuse whom she pleased. Whether she might find herself at equal liberty to choose whom she pleased, was a question that I was unprepared to answer. And I could not think about it now. I had to read. So I gave out the title--and went on:

"THE SHADOWS.

"Old Ralph Rinkelmann made his living by comic sketches,

and all but lost it again by tragic poems. So he was just the man to be chosen king of the fairies, for in Fairy-land the sovereignty is elective."

* * * * *

"But, uncle," interrupted Adela, "you said it was not to be a fairy-tale."

"Well, I don't think you will call it one, when you have heard it," I answered. "But I am not particular as to names. The fairies have not much to do with it anyhow."

"I beg your pardon, uncle," rejoined my niece; and I went on.

* * * * *

"They did not mean to insist on his residence; for they needed his presence only on special occasions. But they must get hold of him somehow, first of all, in order to make him king. Once he was crowned, they could get him as often as they pleased; but before this ceremony, there was a difficulty. For it is only between life and death that the fairies have power over grown-up mortals, and can carry them off to their country. So they had to watch for an opportunity.

"Nor had they to wait long. For old Ralph was taken dreadfully ill; and while hovering between life and death, they carried him off, and crowned him king of Fairy-land. But after he was crowned, it was no wonder, considering the state of his health, that he should not be able to sit quite upright on the throne of Fairy-land; or that, in consequence, all the gnomes and goblins, and ugly, cruel things that live in the holes and corners of the kingdom, should take advantage of his condition, and run quite wild, playing him, king as he was, all sorts of tricks; crowding about his throne, climbing up the steps, and actually scrambling and quarrelling like mice about his ears and eyes, so that he could see and think of nothing else. But I am not going to tell anything more about this part of his adventures just at present. By strong and sustained efforts, he succeeded, after much trouble and suffering, in reducing his rebellious subjects to order. They all vanished to their respective holes and corners; and King Ralph, coming to himself, found himself in his bed, half propped up with pillows.


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