Queen Aster by
Louisa M. Alcott
For many seasons the Golden-rods had reigned over the meadow, and no one
thought of choosing a king from any other family, for they were strong
and handsome, and loved to rule.
But one autumn something happened which caused great excitement among
the flowers. It was proposed to have a queen, and such a thing had never
been heard of before. It began among the Asters; for some of them grew
outside the wall beside the road, and saw and heard what went on in the
great world. These sturdy plants told the news to their relations
inside; and so the Asters were unusually wise and energetic flowers,
from the little white stars in the grass to the tall sprays tossing
their purple plumes above the mossy wall.
"Things are moving in the great world, and it is time we made a change
in our little one," said one of the roadside Asters, after a long talk
with a wandering wind. "Matters are not going well in the meadow; for
the Golden-rods rule, and they care only for money and power, as their
name shows. Now, we are descended from the stars, and are both wise
and good, and our tribe is even larger than the Golden-rod tribe; so it
is but fair that we should take our turn at governing. It will soon be
time to choose, and I propose our stately cousin, Violet Aster, for
queen this year. Whoever agrees with me, say Aye."
Quite a shout went up from all the Asters; and the late Clovers and
Buttercups joined in it, for they were honest, sensible flowers, and
liked fair play. To their great delight the Pitcher-plant, or
Forefathers' Cup, said "Aye" most decidedly, and that impressed all the
other plants; for this fine family came over in the "Mayflower," and was
much honored everywhere.
But the proud Cardinals by the brook blushed with shame at the idea of a
queen; the Fringed Gentians shut their blue eyes that they might not see
the bold Asters; and Clematis fainted away in the grass, she was so
shocked. The Golden-rods laughed scornfully, and were much amused at the
suggestion to put them off the throne where they had ruled so long.
"Let those discontented Asters try it," they said. "No one will vote for
that foolish Violet, and things will go on as they always have done; so,
dear friends, don't be troubled, but help us elect our handsome cousin
who was born in the palace this year."
In the middle of the meadow stood a beautiful maple, and at its foot lay
a large rock overgrown by a wild grape-vine. All kinds of flowers
sprung up here; and this autumn a tall spray of Golden-rod and a lovely
violet Aster grew almost side by side, with only a screen of ferns
between them. This was called the palace; and seeing their cousin there
made the Asters feel that their turn had come, and many of the other
flowers agreed with them that a change of rulers ought to be made for
the good of the kingdom.
So when the day came to choose, there was great excitement as the wind
went about collecting the votes. The Golden-rods, Cardinals, Gentians,
Clematis, and Bitter-sweet voted for the Prince, as they called the
handsome fellow by the rock. All the Asters, Buttercups, Clovers, and
Pitcher-plants voted for Violet; and to the surprise of the meadow the
Maple dropped a leaf, and the Rock gave a bit of lichen for her also.
They seldom took part in the affairs of the flower people,—the tree
living so high above them, busy with its own music, and the rock being
so old that it seemed lost in meditation most of the time; but they
liked the idea of a queen (for one was a poet, the other a
philosopher), and both believed in gentle Violet.
Their votes won the day, and with loud rejoicing by her friends she was
proclaimed queen of the meadow and welcomed to her throne.
"We will never go to Court or notice her in any way," cried the haughty
Cardinals, red with anger.
"Nor we! Dreadful, unfeminine creature! Let us turn our backs and be
grateful that the brook flows between us," added the Gentians, shaking
their fringes as if the mere idea soiled them.
Clematis hid her face among the vine leaves, feeling that the palace was
no longer a fit home for a delicate, high-born flower like herself. All
the Golden-rods raged at this dreadful disappointment, and said many
untrue and disrespectful things of Violet. The Prince tossed his yellow
head behind the screen, and laughed as if he did not mind, saying
"Let her try; she never can do it, and will soon be glad to give up and
let me take my proper place."
So the meadow was divided: one half turned its back on the new queen;
the other half loved, admired, and believed in her; and all waited to
see how the experiment would succeed. The wise Asters helped her with
advice; the Pitcher-plant refreshed her with the history of the brave
Puritans who loved liberty and justice and suffered to win them; the
honest Clovers sweetened life with their sincere friendship, and the
cheerful Buttercups brightened her days with kindly words and deeds. But
her best help came from the rock and the tree,—for when she needed
strength she leaned her delicate head against the rough breast of the
rock, and courage seemed to come to her from the wise old stone that had
borne the storms of a hundred years; when her heart was heavy with care
or wounded by unkindness, she looked up to the beautiful tree, always
full of soft music, always pointing heavenward, and was comforted by
these glimpses of a world above her.
The first thing she did was to banish the evil snakes from her kingdom;
for they lured the innocent birds to death, and filled many a happy nest
with grief. Then she stopped the bees from getting tipsy on the wild
grapes and going about stupid, lazy, and cross, a disgrace to their
family and a terror to the flowers. She ordered the field-mice to nibble
all the stems of the clusters before they were ripe; so they fell and
withered, and did no harm. The vine was very angry, and the bees and
wasps scolded and stung; but the Queen was not afraid, and all her good
subjects thanked her. The Pitcher-plant offered pure water from its
green and russet cups to the busy workers, and the wise bees were
heartily glad to see the Grape-vine saloon shut up.
The next task was to stop the red and black ants from constantly
fighting; for they were always at war, to the great dismay of more
peaceful insects. She bade each tribe keep in its own country, and if
any dispute came up, to bring it to her, and she would decide it fairly.
This was a hard task; for the ants loved to fight, and would go on
struggling after their bodies were separated from their heads, so fierce
were they. But she made them friends at last, and every one was glad.
Another reform was to purify the news that came to the meadow. The wind
was telegraph-messenger; but the birds were reporters, and some of them
very bad ones. The larks brought tidings from the clouds, and were
always welcome; the thrushes from the wood, and all loved to hear their
pretty romances; the robins had domestic news, and the lively wrens bits
of gossip and witty jokes to relate. But the magpies made much mischief
with their ill-natured tattle and evil tales, and the crows criticised
and condemned every one who did not believe and do just as they did; so
the magpies were forbidden to go gossiping about the meadow, and the
gloomy black crows were ordered off the fence where they liked to sit
cawing dismally for hours at a time.
Every one felt safe and comfortable when this was done, except the
Cardinals, who liked to hear their splendid dresses and fine feasts
talked about, and the Golden-rods, who were so used to living in public
that they missed the excitement, as well as the scandal of the magpies
and the political and religious arguments and quarrels of the crows.
A hospital for sick and homeless creatures was opened under the big
burdock leaves; and there several belated butterflies were tucked up in
their silken hammocks to sleep till spring, a sad lady-bug who had lost
all her children found comfort in her loneliness, and many crippled ants
sat talking over their battles, like old soldiers, in the sunshine.
It took a long time to do all this, and it was a hard task, for the rich
and powerful flowers gave no help. But the Asters worked bravely, so did
the Clovers and Buttercups; and the Pitcher-plant kept open house with
the old-fashioned hospitality one so seldom sees now-a-days. Everything
seemed to prosper, and the meadow grew more beautiful day by day. Safe
from their enemies the snakes, birds came to build in all the trees and
bushes, singing their gratitude so sweetly that there was always music
in the air. Sunshine and shower seemed to love to freshen the thirsty
flowers and keep the grass green, till every plant grew strong and fair,
and passers-by stopped to look, saying with a smile,—
"What a pretty little spot this is!"
The wind carried tidings of these things to other colonies, and brought
back messages of praise and good-will from other rulers, glad to know
that the experiment worked so well.
This made a deep impression on the Golden-rods and their friends, for
they could not deny that Violet had succeeded better than any one dared
to hope; and the proud flowers began to see that they would have to give
in, own they were wrong, and become loyal subjects of this wise and
"We shall have to go to Court if ambassadors keep coming with such gifts
and honors to her Majesty; for they wonder not to see us there, and will
tell that we are sulking at home instead of shining as we only can,"
said the Cardinals, longing to display their red velvet robes at the
feasts which Violet was obliged to give in the palace when kings came to
"Our time will soon be over, and I'm afraid we must humble ourselves or
lose all the gayety of the season. It is hard to see the good old ways
changed; but if they must be, we can only gracefully submit," answered
the Gentians, smoothing their delicate blue fringes, eager to be again
the belles of the ball.
Clematis astonished every one by suddenly beginning to climb the
maple-tree and shake her silvery tassels like a canopy over the Queen's
"I cannot live so near her and not begin to grow. Since I must cling to
something, I choose the noblest I can find, and look up, not down,
forevermore," she said; for like many weak and timid creatures, she was
easily guided, and it was well for her that Violet's example had been a
Prince Golden-rod had found it impossible to turn his back entirely upon
her Majesty, for he was a gentleman with a really noble heart under his
yellow cloak; so he was among the first to see, admire, and love the
modest faithful flower who grew so near him. He could not help hearing
her words of comfort or reproof to those who came to her for advice. He
saw the daily acts of charity which no one else discovered; he knew how
many trials came to her, and how bravely she bore them; how humbly she
asked help, and how sweetly she confessed her shortcomings to the wise
rock and the stately tree.
"She has done more than ever we did to make the kingdom beautiful and
safe and happy, and I'll be the first to own it, to thank her and offer
my allegiance," he said to himself, and waited for a chance.
One night when the September moon was shining over the meadow, and the
air was balmy with the last breath of summer, the Prince ventured to
serenade the Queen on his wind-harp. He knew she was awake; for he had
peeped through the ferns and seen her looking at the stars with her
violet eyes full of dew, as if something troubled her. So he sung his
sweetest song, and her Majesty leaned nearer to hear it; for she much
longed to be friends with the gallant Prince, and only waited for him to
speak to own how dear he was to her, because both were born in the
palace and grew up together very happily till coronation time came.
As he ended she sighed, wondering how long it would be before he told
her what she knew was in his heart.
Golden-rod heard the soft sigh, and being in a tender mood, forgot his
pride, pushed away the screen, and whispered, while his face shone and
his voice showed how much he felt,—
"What troubles you, sweet neighbor? Forget and forgive my unkindness,
and let me help you if I can,—I dare not say as Prince Consort, though
I love you dearly; but as a friend and faithful subject, for I confess
that you are fitter to rule than I."
As he spoke the leaves that hid Violet's golden heart opened wide and
let him see how glad she was, as she bent her stately head and answered
"There is room upon the throne for two: share it with me as King, and
let us rule together; for it is lonely without love, and each needs the
What the Prince answered only the moon knows; but when morning came all
the meadow was surprised and rejoiced to see the gold and purple flowers
standing side by side, while the maple showered its rosy leaves over
them, and the old rock waved his crown of vine-leaves as he said,—
"This is as it should be; love and strength going hand in hand, and
justice making the earth glad."