OH! the cupperty-buts! and oh! the cupperty-buts! out in the meadow, shining under the trees, and sparkling over the lawn, millions and millions of them, each one a bit of purest gold from Mother Nature’s mint. Jessy stood at the window, looking out at them, and thinking, as she often had thought before, that there were no flowers so beautiful. “Cupperty-buts,” she had been used to call them, when she was a wee baby-girl and could not speak without tumbling over her words and mixing them up in the strangest fashion; and now that she was a very great girl, actually six years old, they were still cupperty-buts to her, and would never be anything else, she said. There was nothing she liked better than to watch the lovely golden things, and nod to them as they nodded to her; but this morning her little face looked anxious and troubled, and she gazed at the flowers with an intent and inquiring look, as if she had expected them to reply to her unspoken thoughts. What these thoughts were I am going to tell you.
Half an hour before, she had called to her mother, who was just going out, and begged her to come and look at the cupperty-buts.
“They are brighter than ever, Mamma! Do o’ just come and look at them! golden, golden, golden! There must be fifteen thousand million dollars’ worth of gold just on the lawn, I should think.”
And her mother, pausing to look out, said, very sadly,—
“Ah, my darling! if I only had this day a little of that gold, what a happy woman I should be!”
And then the good mother went out, and there little Jessy stood, gazing at the flowers, and repeating the words to herself, over and over again,—
“If I only had a little of that gold!”
She knew that her mother was very, very poor, and had to go out to work every day to earn food and clothes for herself and her little daughter; and the child’s tender heart ached to think of the sadness in the dear mother’s look and tone. Suddenly Jessy started, and the sunshine flashed into her face.
“Why!” she exclaimed, “why shouldn’t I get some of the gold from the cupperty-buts? I believe I could get some, perfectly well. When Mamma wants to get the juice out of anything, meat, or fruit, or anything of that sort, she just boils it. And so, if I should boil the cupperty-buts, wouldn’t all the gold come out? Of course it would! Oh, joy! how pleased Mamma will be!”
Jessy’s actions always followed her thoughts with great rapidity. In five minutes she was out on the lawn, with a huge basket beside her, pulling away at the buttercups with might and main. Oh! how small they were, and how long it took even to cover the bottom of the basket. But Jessy worked with a will, and at the end of an hour she had picked enough to make at least a thousand dollars, as she calculated. That would do for one day, she thought; and now for the grand experiment! Before going out she had with much labor filled the great kettle with water, so now the water was boiling, and she had only to put the buttercups in and put the cover on. When this was done, she sat as patiently as she could, trying to pay attention to her knitting, and not to look at the clock more often than every two minutes.
“They must boil for an hour,” she said; “and by that time all the gold will have come out.”
Well, the hour did pass, somehow or other, though it was a very long one; and at eleven o’clock, Jessy, with a mighty effort, lifted the kettle from the stove and carried it to the open door, that the fresh air might cool the boiling water. At first, when she lifted the cover, such a cloud of steam came out that she could see nothing; but in a moment the wind blew the steam aside, and then she saw,—oh, poor little Jessy!—she saw a mass of weeds floating about in a quantity of dirty, greenish water, and that was all. Not the smallest trace of gold, even in the buttercups themselves, was to be seen. Poor little Jessy! she tried hard not to cry, but it was a bitter disappointment; the tears came rolling down her cheeks faster and faster, till at length she sat down by the kettle, and, burying her face in her apron, sobbed as if her heart would break.
Presently, through her sobs, she heard a kind voice saying, “What is the matter, little one? Why do you cry so?” She looked up and saw an old gentleman with white hair and a bright, cheery face, standing by her. At first, Jessy could say nothing but “Oh! the cupperty-buts! oh! the cupperty-buts!” but, of course, the old gentleman didn’t know what she meant by that, so, as he urged her to tell him about her trouble, she dried her eyes, and told him the sad little story: how her mother was very poor, and said she wished she had some gold; and how she herself had tried to get the gold out of the buttercups by boiling them. “I was so sure I could get it out,” she said, “and I thought Mamma would be so pleased! And now—”
Here she was very near breaking down again; but the gentleman patted her head and said, cheerfully, “Wait a bit, little girl! Don’t give up the ship yet. You know that gold is heavy, very heavy indeed, and if there were any it would be at the very bottom of the kettle, all covered with the weeds, so that you could not see it. I should not be at all surprised if you found some, after all. Run into the house and bring me a spoon with a long handle, and we will fish in the kettle, and see what we can find.”
Jessy’s face brightened, and she ran into the house. If any one had been standing near just at that moment, I think it is possible that they might have seen the old gentleman’s hand go into his pocket and out again very quickly, and might have heard a little splash in the kettle; but nobody was near, so, of course, I cannot say anything about it. At any rate, when Jessy came out with the spoon, he was standing with both hands in his pockets, looking in the opposite direction. He took the great iron spoon and fished about in the kettle for some time. At last there was a little clinking noise, and the old gentleman lifted the spoon.
Oh, wonder and delight! In it lay three great, broad, shining pieces of gold! Jessy could hardly believe her eyes. She stared and stared; and when the old gentleman put the gold into her hand, she still stood as if in a happy dream, gazing at it. Suddenly she started, and remembered that she had not thanked her kindly helper. She looked up, and began, “Thank you, sir;” but the old gentleman was gone.
Well, the next question was, How could Jessy possibly wait till twelve o’clock for her mother to come home? Knitting was out of the question. She could do nothing but dance and look out the window, and look out the window and dance, holding the precious coins tight in her hand. At last, a well-known footstep was heard outside the door, and Mrs. Gray came in, looking very tired and worn. She smiled, however, when she saw Jessy, and said,—
“Well, my darling, I am glad to see you looking so bright. How has the morning gone with my little housekeeper?”
“Oh, mother!” cried Jessy, hopping about on one foot, “it has gone very well! oh, very, very, very well! Oh, my mother dear, what do you think I have got in my hand? What do you think? oh, what do you think?” and she went dancing round and round, till poor Mrs. Gray was quite dizzy with watching her. At last she stopped, and holding out her hand, opened it and showed her mother what was in it. Mrs. Gray was really frightened.
“Jessy, my child!” she cried, “where did you get all that money?”
“Out of the cupperty-buts, Mamma!” said Jessy, “out of the cupperty-buts! and it’s all for you, every bit of it! Dear Mamma, now you will be happy, will you not?”
“Jessy,” said Mrs. Gray, “have you lost your senses, or are you playing some trick on me? Tell me all about this at once, dear child, and don’t talk nonsense.”
“But it isn’t nonsense, Mamma!” cried Jessy, “and it did come out of the cupperty-buts!”
And then she told her mother the whole story. The tears came into Mrs. Gray’s eyes, but they were tears of joy and gratitude.
“Jessy dear,” she said, “when we say our prayers tonight, let us never forget to pray for that good gentleman. I hope he is blessed and rewarded! For if it had not been for him, Jessy dear, I fear you would never have found the ‘Buttercup Gold.’”