The stepmother also added her threats to those of Helen, and with vigorous blows they pushed Marouckla outside and shut the door upon her. The weeping girl made her way to the mountain. The snow lay deep, and there was no trace of any human being. Long she wandered hither and thither, and lost herself in the wood. She was hungry, and shivered with cold, and prayed to die. Suddenly she saw a light in the distance, and climbed towards it, till she reached the top of the mountain. Upon the highest peak burnt a large fire, surrounded by twelve blocks of stone, on which sat twelve strange beings. Of these the first three had white hair, three were not quite so old, three were young and handsome, and the rest still younger.
There they all sat silently looking at the fire. They were the twelve months of the year. The great Setchene (January) was placed higher than the others; his hair and mustache were white as snow, and in his hand he held a wand. At first Marouckla was afraid, but after a while her courage returned and drawing near she said:
“Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? I am chilled by the winter cold.”
The great Setchene raised his head and answered:
“What brings thee here, my daughter? What dost thou seek?”
“I am looking for violets,” replied the maiden.
“This is not the season for violets; dost thou not see the snow everywhere?” said Setchene.
“I know well, but my sister Helen and my stepmother have ordered me to bring them violets from your mountain: if I return without them they will kill me. I pray you, good shepherds, tell me where they may be found?”
Here the great Setchene arose and went over to the youngest of the months, and placing his wand in his hand, said:
“Brother Brezene (March), do thou take the highest place.”
Brezene obeyed, at the same time waving his wand over the fire. Immediately the flames rose towards the sky, the snow began to melt and the tress and shrubs to bud; the grass became green, and from between its blades peeped the pale primrose. It was Spring, and the meadows were blue with violets.
“Gather them quickly, Marouckla,” said Brezene.
Joyfully she hastened to pick the flowers, and having soon a large bunch she thanked them and ran home. Helen and the stepmother were amazed at the sight of the flowers, the scent of which filled the house.
“Where did you find them?” asked Helen.
“Under the trees on the mountain slope,” said Marouckla.
Helen kept the flowers for herself and her mother; she did not even thank her stepsister for the trouble she had taken. The next day she desired Marouckla to fetch her strawberries.
“Run,” said she, “and fetch me strawberries from the mountain: they must be very sweet and ripe.”
“But who ever heard of strawberries ripening in the snow?” exclaimed Marouckla.