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Her father also missed his wife. But the women of the village gave him some advice: 'You must marry again soon, for your little daughter needs a mother.'

As he had to be away on business a lot, Vasilisa's father thought he had better do just that, for he did not want to leave Vasilisa alone.

There was no shortage of women in the village and soon afterwards he decided to marry a widow with two daughters a little older than Vasilisa.

But when he broke the news to Vasilisa, she was horrified.

'But Father, you can't mean that awful Liliya! Why, you used to say yourself that she was a shrew! No one in the village likes her! And her daughters are just as bad.'

Her father laughed, 'Don't be silly, Vasilisa! I didn't know what Liliya was like then. And you don't know her properly - she's really nice when you get to know her. She told me she'll treat you as she would her own daughters. And she's a fine housekeeper too - she tells me so all the time.'

Vasilisa, who could only think of the way Liliya had of pursing up her lips as if she was sucking on something extremely bitter and wrinkling up her pointed nose, said nothing more.

A few days later, Liliya and her daughters were invited over to tea. Liliya gushed all over Vasilisa, with a look of heartrending sympathy on her face.

Sighing and dabbing at her eyes, she proclaimed loudly: 'We were so sad to hear about your poor mother, Vasilisa darling, how terrible for you - you must be so lonely without her. Don't worry my dear, soon you will have a new Mama to take care of you.'

Vasilisa was even more disgusted when she realised her father was taken in by this falseness.

That night as she was drifting off to sleep, she again saw the pursed up lips and wrinkled up nose in front of her. She could stilll hear Liliya's voice echoing in her head '...soon you will have a new Mama to take care of you!'

'No!' Vasilisa heard herself shouting and awoke with a start, her heart beating fast.

'Oh - it was only a dream!' she thought, but she could not go back to sleep. Then she thought of her little doll and gave it a few crumbs and asked for its advice. 'Do not worry, Vasilisa, everything will work itself out. Now go to sleep and forget your troubles.' Vasilisa at last fell asleep.

The same women of the village who had advised Vasilisa's father to marry, now shook their heads in dismay and muttered among themselves: 'Wait until after the wedding, that's when she'll show her true colours!'

Vasilisa tried her best to dissuade her father, but he had made up his mind to marry the widow, as he had often to go away on business. While Vasilisa's father was around, Liliya was nice to Vasilisa, but as soon as he was out of the house, she would immediately begin to bully her again.

to page 3
(twelve pages in all)