The Twelve Months: The Story of Marushka and the Wicked Holena
Great January nodded and Marushka reached her stiff fingers towards the flames.
"But Marushka," Great January said, "why are you here again? What are you hunting now?"
"I'm hunting for strawberries," Marushka answered.
"Strawberries? But, Marushka, my child, it is winter and strawberries do not grow in the snow."
Marushka shook her head sadly.
"I know that, sir, but my sister, Holena, says I must bring her strawberries from the forest or she will kill me and my mother says so, too. Please, sir, won't you tell me where I can find some?"
Great January slowly stood up and walked over to the Month who sat opposite him. He handed him the long staff and said:
"Here, June, you take the high seat."
So June took the high seat and began waving the staff over the fire. The flames blazed high and with the heat the snow all about melted instantly. The earth grew green; the trees decked themselves in leaves; the birds began to sing; flowers bloomed and, lo, it was summer! Presently little starry white blossoms covered the ground under the beech trees. Soon these turned to fruit, first green, then pink, then red, and, with a gasp of delight, Marushka saw that they were ripe strawberries.
"Now, Marushka," June cried, "there are your strawberries! Pick them quickly!"
Marushka picked an apronful of berries. Then she thanked the Months politely, bade them good-bye, and hurried home.
Just imagine again Holena and the stepmother's surprise as they saw Marushka coming through the snow with an apronful of strawberries!
They opened the door and instantly the fragrance of the berries filled the house.
"Where did you get them?" Holena demanded rudely.
"High up in the mountain," Marushka answered, "under the beech trees."
Holena took the strawberries and gobbled and gobbled and gobbled. Then the stepmother ate all she wanted. But it never occurred to either of them to say:
"Here, Marushka, you take one."
The next day when Holena was sitting idle, as usual, in the chimney corner, the notion took her that she must have some red apples.