In a far-away country, somewhere in Russia, there lived a stepmother who had a stepdaughter and also a daughter of her own. Her own daughter was dear to her, and always whatever she did the mother was the first to praise her, to pet her; but there was but little praise for the stepdaughter; although good and kind, she had no other reward than reproach. What on earth could have been done? The wind blows, but stops blowing at times; the wicked woman never knows how to stop her wickedness. One bright cold day the stepmother said to her husband:
“Now, old man, I want thee to take thy daughter away from my eyes, away from my ears. Thou shalt not take her to thy people into a warm izba. Thou shalt take her into the wide, wide fields to the crackling frost.”
The old father grew sad, began even to weep, but nevertheless helped the young girl into the sleigh. He wished to cover her with a sheepskin in order to protect her from the cold; however, he did not do it. He was afraid; his wife was watching them out of the window. And so he went with his lovely daughter into the wide, wide fields; drove her nearly to the woods, left her there alone, and speedily drove away—he was a good man and did not care to see his daughter’s death.
Alone, quite alone, remained the sweet girl. Broken-hearted and terror-stricken she repeated fervently all the prayers she knew.
Father Frost, the almighty sovereign at that place, clad in furs, with a long, long, white beard and a shining crown on his white head, approached nearer and nearer, looked at this beautiful guest of his and asked:
“Dost thou know me? me, the red-nosed Frost?”
“Be welcome, Father Frost,” answered gently the young girl. “I hope our heavenly Lord sent thee for my sinful soul.”
“Art thou comfortable, sweet child?” again asked the Frost. He was exceedingly pleased with her looks and mild manners.
“Indeed I am,” answered the girl, almost out of breath from cold.
And the Frost, cheerful and bright, kept crackling in the branches until the air became icy, but the good-natured girl kept repeating:
“I am very comfortable, dear Father Frost.”
But the Frost, however, knew all about the weakness of human beings; he knew very well that few of them are really good and kind; but he knew no one of them even could struggle too long against the power of Frost, the king of winter. The kindness of the gentle girl charmed old Frost so much that he made the decision to treat her differently from others, and gave her a large heavy trunk filled with many beautiful, beautiful things. He gave her a rich “schouba” lined with precious furs; he gave her silk quilts light like feathers and warm as a mother’s lap. What a rich girl she became and how many magnificent garments she received! And besides all, old Frost gave her a blue “sarafan” ornamented with silver and pearls.
When the young girl put it on she became such a beautiful maiden that even the sun smiled at her.
The stepmother was in the kitchen busy baking pancakes for the meal which it is the custom to give to the priests and friends after the usual service for the dead.
“Now, old man,” said the wife to the husband, “go down to the wide fields and bring the body of thy daughter; we will bury her.”
From Folk tales from the Russian, by Verra de Blumenthal.
Chicago, New York, London: Rand, McNally and Company, 1903.