THE ENCHANTED WREATH 113
'See what a trumpery thing it is!' cried the stepmother; 'and now take your supper and go to bed, for it is near upon midnight.'
But though she pretended to despise the wreath, she longed none the less for her daughter to have one like it.
Now it happened that the next evening the father, who had been alone in the forest, came back a second time without his axe. The stepmother's heart was glad when she saw this, and she said quite mildly:
'Why, you have forgotten your axe again, you careless man! But now your daughter shall stay at home, and mine shall go and bring it back'; and throwing a cloak over the girl's shoulders, she bade her hasten to the forest.
With a very ill grace the damsel set forth, grumbling to herself as she went; for though she wished for the wreath, she did not at all want the trouble of getting it.
By the time she reached the spot where her stepfather had been cutting the wood the girl was in a very bad temper indeed, and when she caught sight of the axe, there were the three little doves, with drooping heads and soiled, bedraggled feathers, sitting on the handle.
'You dirty creatures,' cried she, 'get away at once, or I will throw stones at you.' And the doves spread their wings in a fright and flew up to the very top of a tree, their bodies shaking with anger.
'What shall we do to revenge ourselves on her?' asked the smallest of the doves, 'we were never treated like that before.'
'Never,' said the biggest dove. 'We must find some way of paying her back in her own coin!'
'I know,' answered the middle dove; 'she shall never be able to say anything but "dirty creatures" to the end of her life.'
'Oh, how clever of you! That will do beautifully,' exclaimed the other two. And they flapped their wings