The Fir Tree And The Willow Wand by Margaret White Eggleston
Story type: Literature
The Fir Tree and the Willow Wand[A]
All this happened years ago when the red men lived along the lake shores and hunted in the woods. The Indians still tell the tale and shake their heads sadly, whether because of the sadness of the story or because they sigh for the old days, I do not know.
Willow Wand was the daughter of old Chief Seafog. She was not like the other girls of the tribe. She was straight and lithe like a willow, and she looked more like a beautiful boy than she did like an Indian maiden. This is not strange when you think that she wore the leather leggins and the short jacket of the Indian boy and carried a bow and quiver of arrows thrown over her shoulder. And in spite of the fact that she shot a straighter arrow than most of the lads about her, they all loved her, for she would run with them and hunt with them, and at night, by the fire, she would tell them strange and beautiful stories. In her face they saw a light that they did not see in the faces of the other girls and squaws of the village, for Willow Wand had a secret which made her full of mysteries.
As Willow Wand grew taller, the time came when she thought of wedding. Young Fir Tree, the most daring of the young braves, loved her, and Willow Wand knew that she loved him. And when Fir Tree went to old Chief Seafog, Willow Wand went with him, which made it not difficult for them to receive the old man’s blessing.
So on one brilliant day in Indian summer, Fir Tree and Willow Wand were married. The fallen leaves danced at their wedding feast and the blue mists of autumn were the bridal veil. Every one was as happy as an Indian could be. And in the starlight, Fir Tree took Willow Wand to his tepee. He brought a great buffalo robe from the tent and spread it on the hillside, and they sat down close together and looked up at the stars.
“I love you, my brave Fir Tree,” said Willow Wand.
Fir Tree put his arm about her. “And I love you, my little Willow Wand,” he said. “You are the most beautiful woman in the world. I would not have you like the rest. They are good; they grind the corn; they do the work, but their faces are like stones. Yours is full of secrets and lovely memories. What makes you so different, my love?”
“My secret, Fir Tree. My father says that a woman’s secret is her beauty.”
“But a woman must tell her secret to her love,” and Fir Tree looked off into the distance.
“Willow Wand must not tell her secret even to her love,” she said very, very softly.
“You cannot trust me nor love me then, Willow Wand,” said Fir Tree, growing stiff and cold.
“I love you, Fir Tree. I will tell you my secret.”
Fir Tree continued to look off in the darkness, but he bent his head a little so that he might not miss anything she said.
“One night, long ago, I sat out in the evening like this with my father. ‘Father, I want to shoot your bow, your smallest bow,’ I said. ‘You haven’t the strength to draw it, even my smallest bow, little Willow Wand,’ he said. ‘Oh, but I have. I have tried it,’ and I ran into the tent and brought the little bow with the red bear painted on it. ‘See, I shall shoot that star, the red one there.’ I pulled the string and the arrow was off. We waited to hear it fall. ‘It takes a long time to reach the stars,’ I said. Just then there was a splash in the jar by the tepee door. ‘There it is,’ said my father, ‘your star has fallen into the rain jar.’
“I looked, and, sure enough, there was the little red star, lying on the bottom of the crock, and shining so brightly that we could see it through the water. ‘My star!’ I said. ‘We shall always keep it here, my father. I brought it down with my arrow.’
“The next day my father took me hunting, and he gave orders that that jar was never to be moved from beside his door until I should leave him, and then it was to go with me. And always he has kept fresh water from the spring in the jar. See, he has brought it up here beside your tepee that it would be waiting for me. Yes, my Fir Tree, see, here is my own star still shining brightly–more brightly to-night because of my great happiness with you.”
“Dear little Willow Wand, what a beautiful child you are,” said Fir Tree, and he brushed back her black hair and looked into her eyes. “Don’t you know that the star in the crock is only a reflection of a real star above your dear head in the sky? No one can really shoot a star, Willow Wand.”
“But of course it is a real star, Fir Tree; we heard it splash as it fell into the jar, my father and I. And I see it now; it has always been here since that night. You are mistaken, Fir Tree.”
Fir Tree rose and lifted up the jar, and, tipping the water out, said, “See, I shall show you that Fir Tree is never mistaken. I shall empty the crock. See, there is no star left in the jar, nor has any red star tumbled out with the water onto the grass. Ah, your secret was very beautiful, little Willow Wand, but now you know the truth. The truth, too, is beautiful.”
There was a little moan of anguish, and Willow Wand disappeared into the darkness.
The next morning a tall squaw came out of Fir Tree’s tepee. She picked up the empty rain jar and with tired footsteps walked down to the spring for water. She was dressed in the conventional clothing of her tribe, and her face was dull and expressionless like the stones on the path over which she walked. Down the long trail to the spring she walked. It was very, very early, so the moon still shone and the little stars twinkled in the sky. Often she looked at them, longing for her little red star.
Slowly she stooped, filled the jar, and lifted it to place it on her head when suddenly she stopped, looked–then gave a cry of surprise and delight, for there, shining clear as crystal in the water of the pail, was the little red star.
Willow Wand set the jar carefully on the ground and then knelt long beside it. How she loved the little red star! How happy she was to have it once more beside her! And as she looked, the tired look left her face and a smile of joy and peace took its place.
Picking up the jar, she looked once more into the clear cold water. Then she said,
“Come, little star. Come with me to the wigwam of brave, strong Fir Tree. Together we will make it the happiest wigwam in the encampment. You shall still help me to be my best, for I shall still have a star.”