The Star Wife
The young man was ugly, not fancied by the girls in his village. They judged by the outside when they were young and did not value his loving heart enough. He worked his potato fields carefully, bringing baskets of earth up from the valley every year to replenish the fields he had made on the steep mountain side. Stone walls held the fields, and he felt his heart beginning to turn to stone too. The nights were the worst, and then he would leave his empty hut and wander lonely to the mountain top and stand and stare long at the stars. They seemed so bright, so close that he could almost stretch out and touch them. Some nights silver tears would sparkle coldly on his cheeks.
One night, everything changed. He could not bring himself to look at the stars, their bright beauty that filled the sky seemed to mock his empty heart. He sat on the top of the world, his face buried in his hands, and felt himself in hell.
A touch on his shoulder made him start. He looked up. A dazzling silver light shone on the mountain top. It came from the young woman standing straight in front of him, a young woman so beautiful he could only stare.
The Star-Woman held out her hand and said, "Will you take me home? I wish to be your wife."
You must know that the star people can see into people's hearts, and our ugly young man had a most beautiful heart and the Star-Woman had fallen in love with him. The Star World is a land of fires of ice, and the warmth of his heart drew her to him across the sky.
He stretched out his hand and took hers. It was cold but it gripped his firmly. Her long silver hair swung as she turned her head and her clothes were like mist in the moonlight. He led the way down at the steep and narrow paths and into his hut. It was filled now with silvery light and he feared what his neighbours would think and say next day.
And so the Star-Wife wrapped her hair up in a scarf and put on his mother's old clothes and hid hers under the bed. Her face and hands still glowed starry silver and the young man made her stay indoors and said nothing to the villagers about his new wife but went cheerfully to his potato fields every day, and ran home each evening. His crops prospered; his house gleamed. His wife was cold, so cold, but he had enough warmth for them both. He had not known there was such happiness in the world.
But the Star-Woman was not happy. She began to long for the dazzling whiteness of her world. The hut was dark, and rough, and grubby. No matter how hard she scrubbed, dirt would come in. The air in this mountain hut was heavy to her and sat on her shoulders, bowing her down. And, although she loved the heat of her husband's heart, the warmth of his body fevered her and his mother's old clothes scratched her fair skin.
She longed to wear her light robes and to walk in the thin air in the cool of the night. She pined and lost her sparkle.
The young man, who loved her with all his generous heart, could not bear to see her so but he knew what trouble his narrow neighbours might cause if they saw someone so strange, so different from themselves, for few people have the heart to welcome real strangers.
And so, one night, she shook loose her hair, put on her starry robes again and they walked up the steep and stony paths to the mountain top. She flung back her head and drank in the myriad of stars above.
"Will you come?" she asked.
"Of course," he said.
She held his hand tightly and streamed like a shooting star through the air pulling her Earth-Husband after her until they landed in her land, the land of fires of ice. The young man was shaking with the cold, shuddering as if he would come apart. She clutched him to her but her coldness made him shake the more violently and the dazzling brightness blinded him.
Nothing she could do could stop his frozen shivering or let him open his eyes. Icicles of terror sank into her heart and she knew she must take him him back to his mountain.
As soon as he could speak he said, "We must part. You can never be happy in my world, and I could not live an hour in yours."
"I will stay, because I love you," the Star-Woman said.
"You must go, because I love you, " he said, and she looked into his generous heart and knew that he was right. She must go, for he could never be happy if she stayed.
And now, at night, he leaves his empty hut and wanders lonely to the mountain top and stands and stares long at the stars. They seem so bright, so close that he can almost stretch out and touch them. Some nights silver tears sparkle coldly on his cheeks.
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