Daisy and Buttercup, Part 1
The Girl’s Own Paper, vol. 3, issue 110 (1882)
Introductory Note: “Daisy and Buttercup” is a didactic tale written for young women. It begins with Katy, the daughter of a humble country doctor, who becomes jealous of her friend Stella, the daughter of the local squire. The ensuing narrative explores the definition of what it means to be a “lady” in its comparison of Stella’s wealthy, fashionable mother and Kate’s serviceable, pleasant one. Furthermore, the story examines the nature of beauty through the example of Stella’s transformation from a physically beautiful, shallow girl, to a handicapped, wonderful young woman and through Kate’s consistent internal beauty shining through in her good deeds and qualities, despite her temptation to covet riches and physical beauty. The story reinforces The Girl’s Own Paper’s aim to provide moral instruction to young women through entertaining stories.
Advisory: This story contains ableist language.
This entry was published as the first of four parts:
“WELL, good-bye, Katy. I’ve enjoyed having you here ever so much. Mind you come and see me again before we go abroad.”
“Yes, if I can. Good-bye, Stella.” And Katy descended the flight of low stone steps, and set off down the drive on her homeward walk. But the smile with which she had bidden good-bye faded from her face as she walked on, and a very grave expression took its place.1For “expression,” the original reads “expre sion.” She had not her usual bright smile for the lodgekeeper’s two little children who came running out to meet her, but passed them by coldly and rather hurriedly. She was not in a humour just then for their shy, pleased greeting.
Outside the gates the road stretched long and straight, with the trees meeting overhead and the declining sun sending shafts of light through their stems. The rooks were cawing lazily on their homeward flight; a lark was singing his vesper song far away in the blue sky; the air seemed full of the fragrance of wild flowers.
But neither birds, sun, nor flowers had any attractions just then for Katy Marston as she trudged along the dusty road with her head bent and a very dissatisfied expression on her usually bright face.
Katy had been spending the afternoon with her friend Stella Branscombe, the only daughter of the squire, and a very important little personage, not only in her own eyes, but in those of the villagers and of the servants at the hall.
Katy, on the contrary, was only the daughter of the village doctor, and, instead of being an only child, had four brothers to share the doctor’s rather small home and narrow income; consequently the two girls led very different lives, and it was this difference which Katy was reviewing at the present moment, and which was filling her mind with envy and discontent.
She and Stella had not met for two or three months until to-day, as the latter had been paying a prolonged visit to London with her parents, and had just returned very full of all the delights of the gay season: the sights she had seen, the parties she had attended, her new dresses, her birthday presents, and, in short, her own affairs generally. These were infinitely more interesting to her than her friend’s concerns, about which she inquired scarcely anything; but poor Katy had found it rather an effort to keep up an appearance of interest all the afternoon, and had felt tired and vexed repeatedly.
“How selfish and egotistical Stella has grown!” she said to herself in some disgust, which, however, was not unmixed with envy.
Altogether, the long afternoon the two friends had spent together had not been quite so pleasant to Katy as she had anticipated. Stella had greeted her effusively, to be sure, and seemed heartily glad to see her; but then, as Katy said, rather bitterly, to herself, “it was only because she wanted to have some one to show off before.”2For “heartily,” the original reads “he rtily.”
So when Stella had displayed all her new dresses and Paris hats, and the birthday presents she had received a few days before, including a lovely necklace of pearls, with earrings to match—her father’s gift — she must needs take Katy out to the stables to show her her new horse.3For “dresses,” the original reads “dre ses.”
“We’d ride together, if only you knew how,” she said, patronisingly; “for I shall never care to ride Dandy again,” turning rather disdainfully to a loose-box where stood a pretty, cream-coloured pony, an old favourite, superseded now by the new horse. “I should not care to ride Dandy again,” Stella repeated, “but he’d do for you very well; only, you see, you do not know how to ride.”
“And I should not have time, either, thank you,” Katy responded, coldly. She did not like to be patronised.
Then the girls adjourned to the garden, where tea was presently served under the shade of the large weeping ash. Such a dainty little tea-table, with its small silver gipsy kettle hissing and bubbling merrily, the silver teapot and cake-basket, the piled-up dish of strawberries, and the staid old butler to wait upon the two girls.
If Katy were inclined to be quiet Stella never noticed, only too well pleased to hear the sound of her own voice. She was busy now dilating upon the anticipated pleasure of a tour in Switzerland upon which she was to start in a few days’ time with her parents. “Don’t you wish you were going with us, Katy?” she demanded. “It will be awfully jolly; for, though I have been on the Continent three times already, I have never been the whole round of the Swiss lakes. I wish you had been going, too; we should have had such fun. But, oh! there’s the carriage coming round! Have you finished tea? Then let us run back to the house. Papa and mamma are going out to dinner, and I want to see if mamma has finished dressing yet. She looks so lovely in full dress.” 4For “dressing,” the original reads “dres ing.”
So the girls ran off to the drawing-room, where they found Mrs. Branscombe standing in front of the pier-glass giving a few finishing touches to the flowers she wore in her bosom, while her maid stood by holding a delicate white opera-cloak ready to throw round her shoulders.
Mrs. Branscombe was a tall, handsome woman, and Stella had not exaggerated when she said her mother looked lovely in full dress. She was wearing a creamy satin gown, which fell round her stately figure in lustrous folds, matching in shade the fragrant Gloire de Dijon roses with which it was lavishly adorned. Diamonds were twinkling and glittering on her neck and arms, and shining in the smooth bands of her black hair.
Katy felt slightly awed by the stately beauty of Mrs. Branscombe, but Stella sprang forward with a rapturous little cry of admiration as she seized her mother’s hand.5For “Stella,” the original reads “Stel a.” “Oh, mamma, how beautiful you look! I wish I was just two years older, and then I could be going with you!”
But Mrs. Branscombe pushed her away a trifle impatiently, and her voice sounded fretful and complaining as she answered, “There, there, child, that will do! You will only soil my glove with your hot hand.”
The irritable repulse and the fretful tones struck Katy with a sort of little shock. Her own mother never spoke so to her children, and she looked anxiously at Stella to see how she took the words. Evidently they were nothing new to Stella, who continued to chat away in her usual tones, and Katy soon forgot the momentary impression.
It had faded almost entirely from her mind as she wended her way homewards through the fragrant country lane. She was thinking, instead, of how lovely Mrs. Branscombe had looked in her creamy satin robes, and wishing that her own mother could dress as grandly and richly. How proud she would feel of her if she could only see her so instead of in that never-ending brown merino, or the worn and turned black silk which Katy seemed to have known for many years. How poor and mean and shabby they were in comparison, while as for diamonds—why, Mrs. Marston did not possess one in the world, and her jewellery seemed to be confined to her wedding-ring and simple keeper, and the one gold brooch with Katy’s grandmother’s hair in it.
She caught herself up suddenly here. Was she going to feel ashamed—even in her inner-most heart—of her own dear mother? Her mother, whom she loved more than anyone else in the world; the mother with her never-failing love and tenderness; her smiles, her kind words, her unceasing care for and devotion to her husband and children. A great rush of compunction and self-reproach filled Katy’s heart as she asked herself the question: Was she going to be ashamed of that tender gentle mother? No; a thousand times no!
She had reached home by this time, and as she tripped up the little garden pathway she could see into the drawing-room, where, at the table in the window, dressed in the worn brown merino, with an overflowing work-basket by her side, Mrs. Marston was sitting. She looked up with her usual gentle smile of welcome as she caught sight of her little daughter. Katy was in the room in half a minute kissing the dear loving face.
“Back again, mother dear!” she said.
“Yes, little one, I am glad to have you back. Have you had a nice day?”
“Yes, thank you,” Katy answered, rather shortly. “Mother, I’ll help you with those socks. You know I can mend them nearly as neatly as you do now.”
She was soon seated in a low chair by the window with a small heap of unmended socks on the floor by her side; but as she sat darning away industriously she unconsciously fell into silence, and her thoughts began to take the same line they had done as she walked home.6For “industriously,” the original reads “indus riously.” Mrs. Marston, watching her from time to time, saw the shadow gathering over her face, and with fond motherly intuition guessed that something was wrong. But she was never in the habit of forcing the confidence of her children, and so waited for Katy to speak. The silence did not last very long; Katy soon began to speak of what was in her mind.
“Oh, mother dear,” she began, “I saw Mrs. Branscombe this evening, dressed for a dinner party. She looked lovely; in such a rich satin dress, such a lovely creamy shade, and with such exquisite diamonds; they almost dazzled one, they sparkled so. Oh, mother, I should like to see you dressed so; you’d be every bit as beautiful as Mrs. Branscombe, and you’re just as much a lady as she is. Don’t you ever wish you could dress as she does? Why, you haven’t got any silk dress but your old black one, and I don’t think you have a diamond in the world.”
“That does not trouble me, darling,” Mrs. Marston answered, smiling back into her little daughter’s face. “I have my jewels which are of much greater value—you and the boys— and so long as I have you all safe and well, and dear father too, I am more than content.”
Katy carefully threaded her needle and began another large darn before she replied, and when she spoke she changed the subject.
“Oh, mother, do you know Stella is going to Switzerland with her parents in about a week’s time? They are to stay for ever so many weeks. I wish, how I wish, I was going too! I do so long to go abroad, and I don’t think I shall ever have the chance.” Then, after a short pause, “Mother, I do think Stella is the very luckiest girl there ever was. Here she is just home from London, where she has been seeing all there was to see; going to picture galleries and attending concerts—how I should love to go to a concert!—and dancing at parties. I don’t mean real grown-up parties, for of course she hasn’t come out yet; and then she has got such hosts of the loveliest dresses you ever saw—evening dresses and travelling dresses, and every other kind. Mrs. Branscombe seems to think nothing is too good for her; and the squire has just bought her a most lovely horse, and a set of pearls that I am sure have cost ever so much, besides a whole host of birthday presents. I think it would be so nice to be made as much of and to be as pretty as Stella is. She has such a quantity of golden hair, and such a fair complexion, and such blue eyes. It does feel hard that one girl should have so many advantages and another so few. It doesn’t seem fair!”
“Discontented, Katy?” asked her mother, gently. “Have you been seeing all the nice things Stella has got, and been growing dissatisfied with your own lot? You must not say it is unfair, my love. It is right that some should be rich and some poorer, but I assure you that happiness does not consist in wealth. If Stella has some advantages you have not, perhaps she has many other things to grieve and trouble her that you know nothing of.”
“But she can’t have,” Katy replied, decidedly. “What more could any girl want than she has? Beautiful dresses, a fine house, plenty of servants to wait on her, a horse to ride, and, oh! mother, she is so pretty with it all.”
Mrs. Marston looked down into the little flushed, eager face, but she did not give words to the thought which passed through her mind that the clear, sun-burnt complexion, the dark shining eyes, and the wealth of unruly brown curls were, in their way, quite as lovely as Stella Branscombe’s blonde beauty. She only replied, as she gently stroked the flushed cheek—
“Do you remember that little poem I gave you to learn the other day about the daisy and the buttercup?”
“You mean the buttercup that wished she was a daisy, because she was tired of always dressing in ‘the same old tiresome colour,’ and had always wanted to wear a nice white frill. Oh, you naughty mother, you mean I am the discontented buttercup. I don’t mean to be, but I afraid I am,” she added ingenuously.
“And what did the robin say to the discontented buttercup?” questioned her mother, with a smile.
And Katy repeated—
“‘The swallows leave me out of sight;
We’d better keep our places;
Perhaps the world would all go wrong
With one too many daisies.
Look bravely up into the skies,
And be content with knowing
That God wished for a buttercup
Exactly where you’re growing.’”7These two stanzas come from the poem “Discontent” by Sarah Orne Jewett, published in 1876. However, in the original poem the poem reads, “Though swallows leave me out of sight, / We’d better keep our places; / Perhaps the world would all go wrong / With one too many daisies. / Look bravely up into the sky, / And be content with knowing / That God wished for a buttercup / Just here, where you are growing.”
Katy’s voice took a lower and more reverent tone as she repeated the last two lines, and the cloud lifted a little from her face.
Mrs. Marston went on, “I always like that little parable; it teaches so much. And you may be very sure, little daughter, that if God wants to have a buttercup growing just where He places it, that He knew quite well all about it when He put Stella Branscombe in her place as the squire’s only child and you as the doctor’s daughter, your brothers’ kind, helpful little friend and your mother’s right hand. Won’t you try to be content to be a buttercup, Katy, and leave the daisies to bloom where God has placed them?”
Katy made no reply. She bent her head over her work, but she could see neither needle nor thread for the tears which were filling her eyes. Of course, mother was right; she always was, and then Katy relieved herself by a burst of quiet crying on that loving mother’s breast, while Mrs. Marston laid her work aside and talked to her little daughter wisely and tenderly as they sat alone in the gathering twilight, until Katy’s eyes were once more quite dry and the little evil spirit of envy and discontent had been exorcised for the time being.
To be mother’s great comfort; mother’s right hand; yes, that was better even than Paris dresses and pearl necklaces; better even than a journey to Switzerland. Yes, she would be content to be a buttercup and bloom where God had placed her.
(To be continued.)
This story is continued in Daisy and Buttercup, Part 2.
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How To Cite (MLA Format)
Mrs. J. F. B. Firth. “Daisy and Buttercup, Part 1.” The Girl’s Own Paper, vol. 3, no. 110, 1882, pp. 297-8. Edited by Lora Hudson. Victorian Short Fiction Project, 9 June 2023, https://vsfp.byu.edu/index.php/title/daisy-and-buttercup-part-1/.
5 March 2021
7 June 2023
|↑1||For “expression,” the original reads “expre sion.”|
|↑2||For “heartily,” the original reads “he rtily.”|
|↑3||For “dresses,” the original reads “dre ses.”|
|↑4||For “dressing,” the original reads “dres ing.”|
|↑5||For “Stella,” the original reads “Stel a.”|
|↑6||For “industriously,” the original reads “indus riously.”|
|↑7||These two stanzas come from the poem “Discontent” by Sarah Orne Jewett, published in 1876. However, in the original poem the poem reads, “Though swallows leave me out of sight, / We’d better keep our places; / Perhaps the world would all go wrong / With one too many daisies. / Look bravely up into the sky, / And be content with knowing / That God wished for a buttercup / Just here, where you are growing.”|