THERE was once upon a time a man who lost his wife, and a woman who lost her husband; and the man had a daughter and so had the woman. The two girls were great friends and used often to play together. One day the woman turned to the man’s daughter and said:
‘Go and tell your father that I will marry him, and then you shall wash in milk and drink wine, but my own daughter shall wash in water and drink it too.’
The girl went straight home and told her father what the woman had said.
‘What am I to do?’ he answered. ‘Marriage is either a success or it is a failure.’
At last, being of an undecided character and not being able to make up his mind, he took off his boot, and handing it to his daughter, said:
‘Take this boot which has a hole in the sole, hang it up on a nail in the hayloft, and pour water into it. If it holds water I will marry again, but if it doesn’t I won’t.’ The girl did as she was bid, but the water drew the hole together and the boot filled up to the very top. So she went and told her father the result. He got up and went to see for himself, and when he saw that it was true and no mistake, he accepted his fate, proposed to the widow, and they were married at once.
On the morning after the wedding, when the two girls awoke, milk was standing for the man’s daughter to wash in and wine for her to drink; but for the woman’s daughter, only water to wash in and only water to drink. On the second morning, water to wash in and water to drink was standing for the man’s daughter as well. And on the third morning, water to wash in and water to drink was standing for the man’s daughter, and milk to wash in and wine to drink for the woman’s daughter; and so it continued ever after. The woman hated her stepdaughter from the bottom of her heart, and did all she could to make her life miserable. She was as jealous as she could possibly be, because the girl was so beautiful and charming, while her own daughter was both ugly and repulsive.
One winter’s day when there was a hard frost, and mountain and valley were covered with snow, the woman made a dress of paper, and calling the girl to her said:
‘There, put on this dress and go out into the wood and fetch me a basket of strawberries!’
‘Now Heaven help us,’ replied her stepdaughter; ‘strawberries don’t grow in winter; the earth is all frozen and the snow has covered up everything; and why send me in a paper dress? it is so cold outside that one’s very breath freezes; the wind will whistle through my dress, and the brambles tear it from my body.’
‘How dare you contradict me!’ said her stepmother; ‘be off with you at once, and don’t show your face again till you have filled the basket with strawberries.’
Then she gave her a hard crust of bread, saying:
‘That will be enough for you to-day,’ and she thought to herself: ‘The girl will certainly perish of hunger and cold outside, and I shan’t be bothered with her any more.’
The girl was so obedient that she put on the paper dress and set out with her little basket. There was nothing but snow far and near, and not a green blade of grass to be seen anywhere. When she came to the wood she saw a little house, and out of it peeped three little dwarfs. She wished them good-day, and knocked modestly at the door. They called out to her to enter, so she stepped in and sat down on a seat by the fire, wishing to warm herself and eat her breakfast. The Dwarfs said at once: ‘Give us some of your food!’