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Overheard in Fairyland by  Madge A. Bingham
Table of Contents


 

 

THE ORIGIN OF PUSSY WILLOWS

[81] IT seems that the fairies are always on the look-out for kind deeds, and whenever they find one they like to change it into something beautiful for the earth-children.

Now it was the small baby willow that asked the big mother willow tree why it was she bore such lovely, soft gray pussies on her branches each spring.

And the mother willow replied: "There is always a reason, little one, for everything beautiful, and the reason why willows have pussies, so soft and gray, is because of a kind deed a willow tree did once, long ago. I will tell you about it." Then she told this story:

"The willow tree that did this kind deed grew on the bank of a deep river and her wide-spreading branches almost swept the surface of the water.

"One morning, while she was busy caring for her baby buds and new leaves, she [82] heard rapid footsteps, and in another moment she saw a boy rush down to the edge of the river and throw something into the water with a great splash! Then he was off again as quickly as he had come.

"Now what do you suppose the big willow tree saw floating and struggling in the water, just beneath the shade of her limbs?

"Three of the softest, prettiest, gray kittens that anyone ever saw.

"They were just about the colour of blue curling smoke, and each one wore a pair of fuzzy, silver-gray mittens, with the daintiest of little pink cushions tucked underneath.

"Just as the willow tree was wondering what to do about it, she heard something else come flying down the path, jumping over bushes and stumps and scattering the dry leaves in her pathway as she ran.

"It was the mother of the dear little soft gray pussies, and when she reached the river's edge and saw her own baby kittens struggling in the deep water, she jumped right in, with a great splash, and tried her best to save their lives.

[83] "Poor baby pussies! the water was getting into their pretty blue eyes and running into their noses and ears and mouths, and in a very few minutes they most surely would have been dead, had it not been for the kindness of the big willow tree.

" 'Quick, oh, quick!' she cried, bending her branches low over the water's edge. 'Catch my limbs, hold tight, and I will hold you above the water.'

"And then, one by one, the mother cat and her three baby kittens were caught up by the strong branches of the willow and held tight, until the brave mother cat brought each half-drowned kitten safely to the shore.

"In the snug hollow of the big willow tree she made them a bed and soon licked them all dry with the queer pink towel mother cats carry about in their mouths.

"The baby kittens seemed to like their new home very much, and in a few hours were as well and happy as ever.

"Perhaps they thought it was better to live in the woods with a kind willow tree than in a house with an unkind earth-child.

[84] I know the mother cat believed this, because she did not try to carry her kittens away, but began to make herself at home as they did.

"The willow tree was very glad of this and she enjoyed watching the baby kittens.

"They grew fatter and plumper and rounder every day, and their mother was kept busy trying to bring them up in just the right way.

"She showed them their soft, silver-gray mittens and told them how to keep them washed clean with their long, pink tongues.

"And she showed them their sharp little claws and told them how to use them and how to say 'sput-t!' and how to arch their gray backs when anything came to frighten them.

"So every day the baby kittens grew smarter. They even learned to climb to the very top of the big willow tree, and would sometimes curl up on her branches for a morning nap,—tiny little balls of silver-gray fuzz they seemed to be.

"It was then the willow tree loved them most, and the more she watched them [85] asleep in her branches, the more she wanted some like them for her very own—some who would always stay with her and never run away.

"How the fairy queen did laugh when she heard of this wish! It seemed so very queer that a tree should want silver-gray pussies.

"But she had also heard about the kind deed of the big willow tree in saving the lives of the little gray kittens and their mother too; so, waving her jewelled wand over the willow tree, she sang:

" 'Willow fair, dear willow fair

silver-gray pussies shalt thou bear,

Because thy heart is kind and true,

This thy wish I grant to you.'

"And so it was and always has been since.

"Every spring the willow tree and all of her kindred are decked with soft fuzzy pussies of silver gray,—and even though you frighten them they never run away."


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