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The Enchanted Wreath
by [?]

Once upon a time there lived near a forest a man and his wife and two girls; one girl was the daughter of the man, and the other the daughter of his wife; and the man’s daughter was good and beautiful, but the woman’s daughter was cross and ugly. However, her mother did not know that, but thought her the most bewitching maiden that ever was seen.

One day the man called to his daughter and bade her come with him into the forest to cut wood. They worked hard all day, but in spite of the chopping they were very cold, for it rained heavily, and when they returned home, they were wet through. Then, to his vexation, the man found that he had left his axe behind him, and he knew that if it lay all night in the mud it would become rusty and useless. So he said to his wife:

‘I have dropped my axe in the forest, bid your daughter go and fetch it, for mine has worked hard all day and is both wet and weary.’

But the wife answered:

‘If your daughter is wet already, it is all the more reason that she should go and get the axe. Besides, she is a great strong girl, and a little rain will not hurt her, while my daughter would be sure to catch a bad cold.’

By long experience the man knew there was no good saying any more, and with a sigh he told the poor girl she must return to the forest for the axe.

The walk took some time, for it was very dark, and her shoes often stuck in the mud, but she was brave as well as beautiful and never thought of turning back merely because the path was both difficult and unpleasant. At last, with her dress torn by brambles that she could not see, and her fact scratched by the twigs on the trees, she reached the spot where she and her father had been cutting in the morning, and found the axe in the place he had left it. To her surprise, three little doves were sitting on the handle, all of them looking very sad.

‘You poor little things,’ said the girl, stroking them. ‘Why do you sit there and get wet? Go and fly home to your nest, it will be much warmer than this; but first eat this bread, which I saved from my dinner, and perhaps you will feel happier. It is my father’s axe you are sitting on, and I must take it back as fast as I can, or I shall get a terrible scolding from my stepmother.’ She then crumbled the bread on the ground, and was pleased to see the doves flutter quite cheerfully towards it.

‘Good-bye,’ she said, picking up the axe, and went her way homewards.

By the time they had finished all the crumbs the doves felt must better, and were able to fly back to their nest in the top of a tree.

‘That is a good girl,’ said one; ‘I really was too weak to stretch out a wing before she came. I should like to do something to show how grateful I am.’

‘Well, let us give her a wreath of flowers that will never fade as long as she wears it,’ cried another.

‘And let the tiniest singing birds in the world sit amongst the flowers,’ rejoined the third.

‘Yes, that will do beautifully,’ said the first. And when the girl stepped into her cottage a wreath of rosebuds was on her head, and a crowd of little birds were singing unseen.

The father, who was sitting by the fire, thought that, in spite of her muddy clothes, he had never seen his daughter looking so lovely; but the stepmother and the other girl grew wild with envy.

‘How absurd to walk about on such a pouring night, dressed up like that,’ she remarked crossly, and roughly pulled off the wreath as she spoke, to place it on her own daughter. As she did so the roses became withered and brown, and the birds flew out of the window.