THE GOLDEN BRANCH
them ; the Princess's arms ached with tearing them down, and yet she was no nearer to getting out, and the wicked Enchanter behind her laughed maliciously. At last he said :
' You might spend the rest of your life over that without doing any good, but as you are young, and quite the prettiest creature I have seen for a long time, I will marry you if you like, and I will give you those cats and mice that you see there for your own. They are princes and princesses who have happened to offend me. They used to love one another as much as they now hate one another. Aha ! It's a pretty little revenge to keep them like that.'
' Oh ! If you would only change me into a mouse too,' cried the Princess.
' Oh ! so you won't marry me ? ' said he. ' Little simpleton, you should have everything heart can desire.'
' No, indeed; nothing should make me marry you; in fact, I don't think I shall ever love anyone,' cried the Princess.
' In that case,' said the Enchanter, touching her, ' you had better become a. particular kind of creature that is neither fish nor fowl; you shall be light and airy, and as green as the grass you live in. Off with you, Madam Grasshopper.' And the Princess, rejoicing to find herself free once more, skipped out into the garden, the prettiest little green Grasshopper in the world. But as soon as she was safely out she began to be rather sorry for herself.
'Ah! Florimond,' she sighed, 'is this the end of your gift? Certainly beauty is short-lived, and this funny little face and a green crape dress are a comical end to it. I had better have married my amiable shepherd. It must be for my pride that I am condemned to be a Grasshopper, and sing day and night in the grass by this brook, when I feel far more inclined to cry."
In the meantime Prince Peerless had discovered the Princess's absence, and was lamenting over it by the river's brim, when he suddenly became aware of the presence of a little old woman. She was quaintly dressed in a ruff and farthingale, and a velvet hood covered her snow-white hair.
' You seem sorrowful, my son,' she said. ' What is the matter ? '
' Alas! mother,' answered the Prince, ' I have lost my sweet shepherdess, but I am determined to find her again, though I should have to traverse the whole world in search of her.'
' Go that way, my son,' said the old woman, pointing towards the path that led to the castle. ' I have an idea that you will soon overtake her.'