THE THREE DWARFS
' 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!'
' Gladly.' she said, and breaking her crust in two, she gave them the half.
Then they asked her what she was doing in the depths of winter in her thin dress.
' Oh,' she answered, ' I have been sent to get a basketful of strawberries, and I daren't show my face again at home till I bring them with me.'
When she had finished her bread they gave her a broom and told her to sweep away the snow from the back door. As soon as she left the room to do so, the three little men consulted what they should give her as a reward for being so sweet and good, and for sharing her last crust with them.
The first said : ' Every day she shall grow prettier.'
The second : ' Every time she opens her mouth a piece of gold shall fall out.'
And the third : 'A King shall come and marry her.'
The girl in the meantime was doing as the Dwarfs had bidden her, and was sweeping the snow away from the back door, and what do you think she found there ?—heaps of fine ripe strawberries that showed out dark red against the white snow. She joyfully picked