242 THE HISTORY OF DWARF LONG NOSE
He noticed one woman sitting apart with a number of geese, but not crying or praising them like the rest. He went up to her, felt and weighed her geese, and, finding them very good, bought three and the cage to put them in, hoisted them on his broad shoulders, and set off on his way back.
As he went, it struck him that two of the geese were gobbling and screaming as geese do, but the third sat quite still, only heaving a deep sigh now and then, like a human being. ' That goose is ill,' said he ; ' I must make haste to kill and dress her.'
But the goose answered him quite distinctly:
' Squeeze too tight And I'll bite,
If my neck a twist you gave I'd bring you to an early grave.'
Quite frightened, the dwarf set down the cage, and the goose gazed at him with sad wise-looking eyes and sighed again.
' Good gracious! ' said Long Nose. ' So you can speak, Mistress Goose. I never should have thought it! Well, don't be anxious. I know better than to hurt so rare a bird. But I could bet you were not always in this plumage — wasn't I a squirrel myself for a time? '
'You are right,' said the goose, ' in supposing I was not born in this horrid shape. Ah ! no one ever thought that Mimi, the daughter of the great Weatherbold, would be killed for the ducal table.'
'Be quite easy, Mistress Mimi,' comforted Jem. ' As sure as I'm an honest man and assistant head cook to his highness, no one shall harm you. I will make a hutch for you in my own rooms, and you shall be well fed, and I'll come and talk to you as much as I can. I'll tell all the other cooks that I am fattening up a goose on very special food for the grand duke, and at the first good opportunity I will set you free.'