THE GOLDEN BRANCH
in a hollow tree, where he found a forlorn looking little Grasshopper crouching in a corner, too miserable to sing.
Without in the least expecting an answer, the Prince asked it:
' And where may you be going, Gammer Grasshopper ? '
' Where are you going yourself, Gaffer Cricket ?' replied the Grasshopper.
' What! can you speak ? ' said he.
' Why should I not speak as well as you ? Isn't a Grasshopper as good as a Cricket ? ' said she.
' I can talk because I was a Prince,' said the Cricket.
' And for that very same reason I ought to be able to talk more than you, for I was a Princess,' replied the Grasshopper.
' Then you have met with the same fate as I have,' said he. ' But where are you going now ? Cannot we journey together ? '
' I seemed to hear a voice in the air which said: " Be firm, happen what may, and seek the Golden Branch," ' answered the Grasshopper, ' and I thought the command must be for me, so I started at once, though I don't know the way.'
At this moment their conversation was interrupted by two mice, who, breathless from running, flung themselves headlong through the hole into the tree, nearly crushing the Grasshopper and the Cricket, though they got out of the way as fast as they could and stood iip in a dark corner.
I Ah, Madam,' said the fatter of the two, ' I have such a pain in my side from running so fast. How does your Highness find yourself?'
II have pulled my tail off,' replied the younger Mouse, ' but as I should still be on the sorcerer's table unless I had, I do not regret it. Are we pursued, think you'? How lucky we were to escape ! '
'I only trust that we may escape cats and traps, and reach the Golden Branch soon,' said the fat Mouse.
' You know the way then ? ' said the other.
' Oh dear, yes! as well as the way to my own house, Madam. This Golden Branch is indeed a marvel, a single leaf from it makes one rich for ever. It breaks enchantments, and makes all who approach it young and beautiful. We must set out for it at the break of day.'
' May we have the honour of travelling with you—this respectable Cricket and myself ? ' said the Grasshopper, stepping forward. ' We also are on a pilgrimage to the Golden Branch.'
The Mice courteously assented, and after many polite speeches