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The Cruel Stepmother

But the man's success in hunting only angered his witch-wife. She had now no cause for complaint against the little children, and she could no longer scold them and say that because of them there was no food in the house. Her hatred for them grew stronger each day, and at last she decided to kill them and to kill their father as soon as she could. Their father was going away on the morrow in search of wood to make arrows for his bows, and she thought she would have a good chance to kill them while he was gone. Then she would kill their father when he returned. So she laid her plans. But that night the vision of his first wife came again to the man as he slept, and it said, "Your present wife is a witch-woman. She plans to kill the children to-morrow when you are away, and when you come home she will kill you, too. You must kill her while there is yet time. Remember my little children."

When the man awoke in the morning he was much alarmed because of the story told him by the vision of the night. He no longer trusted his witch-wife and he decided to get rid of her. But he feared she would attack the children before he could prevent it. So when the witch-wife went out to get water from the stream to make breakfast, he gave each of the children a stick, a white stone, and a bunch of soft moss, and he said, "You must run away from here and stay away until I can find you, for you are in great danger. You will find these three things I give you of great use. Throw them behind you if any evil thing pursues you, and they will keep you from harm." The children in great fear at once ran away into the forest. Then the man hung his magical spider web over the door of the house, and sat quietly inside waiting for his wife to come back. In a little while she came home, carrying a pail of water, but she did not see the web with its fine strands hanging across the door, and when she walked into it she was at once entangled in its meshes. She struggled hard to get free, but her head was inside the door while her body was outside, and the web held her fast around the neck.

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