In the morning the old woman said to her husband, "Drive off now to the forest, and wake the young couple."
The old man wept when he thought of his little daughter, for he was sure that he would find her dead. He harnessed the mare, and drove off through the snow. He came to the tree, and heard his little daughter singing merrily, while Frost crackled and laughed. There she was, alive and warm, with a good fur cloak about her shoulders, a rich veil, costly blankets round her feet, and a box full of splendid presents.
The old man did not say a word. He was too surprised. He just sat in the sledge staring, while the little maid lifted her box and the box of presents, set them in the sledge, climbed in, and sat down beside him.
They came home, and the little maid, Martha, fell at the feet of her stepmother. The old woman nearly went off her head with rage when she saw her alive, with her fur cloak and rich veil, and the box of splendid presents fit for the daughter of a prince.
"Ah, you slut," she cried, "you won't get round me like that!"
And she would not say another word to the little maid, but went about all day long biting her nails and thinking what to do.
At night she said to the old man,—
"You must take my daughters, too, to that bridegroom in the forest. He will give them better gifts than these."
Things take time to happen, but the tale is quickly told. Early next morning the old woman woke her daughters, fed them with good food, dressed them like brides, hustled the old man, made him put clean hay in the sledge and warm blankets, and sent them off to the forest.
The old man did as he was bid—drove to the big fir tree, set the boxes under the tree, lifted out the stepdaughters and set them on the boxes side by side, and drove back home.
They were warmly dressed, these two, and well fed, and at first, as they sat there, they did not think about the cold.
"I can't think what put it into mother's head to marry us both at once," said the first, "and to send us here to be married.