He leant down, looking through the branches, and asked,—
"Are you warm, maidens? Are you warm, little red cheeks? Are you warm, little pigeons?"
"Ugh, Frost, the cold is hurting us. We are frozen. We are waiting for our bridegrooms, but the cursed fellows have not turned up."
Frost came a little lower in the tree, and crackled louder and swifter.
"Are you warm, maidens? Are you warm, my little red cheeks?"
"Go to the devil!" they cried out. "Are you blind? Our hands and feet are frozen!"
Frost came still lower in the branches, and cracked and crackled louder than ever.
"Are you warm, maidens?" he asked.
"Into the pit with you, with all the fiends," the girls screamed at him, "you ugly, wretched fellow!"... And as they were cursing at him their bad words died on their lips, for the two girls, the cross children of the cruel stepmother, were frozen stiff where they sat.
Frost hung from the lowest branches of the tree, swaying and crackling while he looked at the anger frozen on their faces. Then he climbed swiftly up again, and crackling and cracking, chuckling to himself, he went off, leaping from fir tree to fir tree, this way and that through the white, frozen forest.
In the morning the old woman says to her husband,—
"Now then, old man, harness the mare to the sledge, and put new hay in the sledge to be warm for my little ones, and lay fresh rushes on the hay to be soft for them; and take warm rugs with you, for maybe they will be cold, even in their furs. And look sharp about it, and don't keep them waiting. The frost is hard this morning, and it was harder in the night."
The old man had not time to eat even a mouthful of black bread before she had driven him out into the snow. He put hay and rushes and soft blankets in the sledge, and harnessed the mare, and went off to the forest. He came to the great fir, and found the two girls sitting under it dead, with their anger still to be seen on their frozen, ugly faces.
He picked them up, first one and then the other, and put them in the rushes and the warm hay, covered them with the blankets, and drove home.