The Twelve Months: The Story of Marushka and the Wicked Holena
There was once a woman who had two girls. One was her own daughter, the other a stepchild. Holena, her own daughter, she loved dearly, but she couldn't bear even the sight of Marushka, the stepchild. This was because Marushka was so much prettier than Holena. Marushka, the dear child, didn't know how pretty she was and so she never understood why, whenever she stood beside Holena, the stepmother frowned so crossly.
Mother and daughter made Marushka do all the housework alone. She had to cook and wash and sew and spin and take care of the garden and look after the cow. Holena, on the contrary, spent all her time decking herself out and sitting around like a grand lady.
Marushka never complained. She did all she was told to do and bore patiently their everlasting fault-finding. In spite of all the hard work she did she grew prettier from day to day, and in spite of her lazy life Holena grew uglier.
"This will never do," the stepmother thought to herself. "Soon the boys will come courting and once they see how pretty Marushka is, they'll pay no attention at all to my Holena. We had just better do all we can to get rid of that Marushka as soon as possible."
So they both nagged Marushka all day long. They made her work harder, they beat her, they didn't give her enough to eat, they did everything they could think of to make her ugly and nasty. But all to no avail. Marushka was so good and sweet that, in spite of all their harsh treatment, she kept on growing prettier.
One day in the middle of January Holena took the notion that nothing would do but she must have a bunch of fragrant violets to put in her bodice.
"Marushka!" she ordered sharply. "I want some violets. Go out to the forest and get me some."
"Good heavens, my dear sister!" cried poor Marushka. "What can you be thinking of? Whoever heard of violets growing under the snow in January?"
"What, you lazy little slattern!" Holena shouted. "You dare to argue with me! You go this minute and if you come back without violets I'll kill you!