GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES - online book

130 Fairy Stories Adapted & Arranged for young people

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There once lived a poor maiden, who was young and fair, but she had lost her own mother, and her step-mother did all she could to make her miserable. When she gave her any work to do, she made it as hard and heavy as possible, so that it was often almost beyond her strength. She exerted herself to do what was required of her, but the wicked woman's envious heart made her always discontented with what the poor girl did—it was never enough to please her. The more diligent she was, and the more she had to do, the less thanks she received. It seemed always to her as if she were carrying a great burden, which made her life sad and miserable.
One day her step-mother said to her, " Here are twelve pounds of feathers for you to sort in three different sizes, and if they are not finished by this evening you may expect a sound thrashing. Do you think you are to waste the whole day in idleness ?"
After she was gone the poor maiden seated herself by the table, but the tears rolled down her cheeks, for she knew it was impossible for her to finish such a task by the end of the day. She made an attempt, however, but after she had put several feathers together in little heaps, if she happened to sigh, or clasp her hands in her agony, away flew the feathers, and were so scattered that she had to commence her task anew.
At last she placed her elbows on the table, rested her face in her hands, and cried, " Is there no one in all this earth who will pity me ?"
Immediately she heard a soft voice say, " Be comforted, my child; I am come to help you."
The maiden looked up, and saw an old woman standing near her. She took the maiden's hand, and said kindly, " Now tell me what is troubling you ?''
She spoke so heartily, that the maiden told her all about her un­happy life, and of one burden after another which her step-mother laid upon her, and of the terrible tasks which never would come to an end. " If I do not finish sorting these feathers by the evening/7