THE THREE LITTLE MEN IN THE WOOD. 77
for the wife's daughter, while her step-child had nothing but water, and so from this time it continued.
In the heart of the wife a bitter hatred soon arose against her step-daughter, because she was beautiful and amiable and her own child was ugly and disagreeable. Not a day passed without some unkindness on the step-mother's part, which made the poor girl quite sad, but she bore it all patiently.
One day in the winter, when the ground was frozen hard and mountain and valley lay white with snow, the step-mother made a dress of paper. Then she called the maiden and said to her, " Just put on this dress and go out into the woods and bring me that basket full of blackberries. I have a longing for them."
"Oh, dear." replied the girl, "blackberries do not grow in winter when the ground is frozen and the hedges are covered with snow. Besides, how can I go in this paper dress ? it is so cold out of doors that even one's breath freezes, and the wind will cut through this thin dress, and the thorns tear my skin."
" Hold your tongue, and don't answer me," said the step-mother. " Get off as fast as you can, and let me not see you again till you get the basket full of blackberries." Then she gave her stepdaughter a small piece of dry bread, and said, " That will be enough for you to-day : now go."
" Ah," thought the wicked woman," she will be frozen, or starved with hunger, and will never come before my eyes again."
Now as the maiden was always obedient, she put on the paper dress and went out. Far and wide there could be seen nothing but snow, not even a little blade of green grass; but she walked on, and at last came to a small cottage in the wood, from which peeped out three strange little men.
She wished to know what o'clock it was, so she knocked timidly at the door. " Come in," they cried, and she stepped in and seated herself on a stool near the stove, for she wanted to get warm and eat her breakfast. Presently one of the little men said to her, " Give us some of your bread, maiden."
" Willingly," she replied. So she divided her piece of bread, and gave them half.
Presently they asked again, " What brought you into the forest on such a wintry day as this with only a thin dress ?"
"Ah," she answered, "I was sent into the wood to fill thi*