162 THE GREEN KNIGHT
' But what has made him ill ?' asked the princess. The bird, however, had flown away, and there was nothing for it but to go to her father's palace and look for the snakes. When she came there she found the mother snake with the nine little snakes all curled up so that you could hardly tell their heads from their tails. The princess did not like having to touch them, but when the old snake had wriggled out of the nest to bask a little in the sun, she picked up the young ones and put them in a basket as the bird had told her, and ran off to find the Green Knight's castle. All day she walked along, sometimes stopping to pick the wild berries, or to gather a nosegay; but though she rested now and then, she would not lie down to sleep before she reached the castle. At last she came in sight of it, and just then she met a girl driving a flock of geese.
' Good day ! ' said the princess ; ' can you tell me if this is the castle of the Green Knight ? '
' Yes, that it is,' answered the goose-girl, ' for I am driving his geese. But the Green Knight is very ill, and they say that unless he can be cured within three days he will surely die.'
At this news the princess grew as white as death. The ground seemed to spin round, and she closed her hand tight on a bush that was standing beside her. By-and-by, with a great effort, she recovered herself and said to the goose-girl:
' Would you like to have a fine silk dress to wear ? '
The goose-girl's eyes glistened.
' Yes, that I would !' answered she.
' Then take off your dress and give it to me, and I will give you mine,' said the princess.
The girl could scarcely believe her ears, but the princess was already unfastening her beautiful silk dress, and taking off her silk stockings and pretty red shoes ; and the goose-girl lost no time in slipping out of her rough linen skirt and tunic. Then the princess put on