Daisy and Buttercup, Part 2
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 second of four parts:
NEXT day was Saturday, always a busy day at the doctor’s house, where there were seven in family, and only two young and not very competent handmaidens to assist. It was a holiday from lessons for Katy, who was accustomed to make herself useful in the house in a hundred ways. She helped to get her two older brothers off to school, finding their lesson books for them and wrapping up their luncheon to be eaten in recess; she helped to make the beds, dusted the drawing-room, nursed and amused baby Harold, and then, with apron and gloves on, she began to clean the silver. She had been too busy all morning to think much of Stella and her feelings of yesterday; but as she rubbed away at the spoons she found her thoughts flying once more to the hall, and as she began mentally to review all she had done the day before, all she had seen, and all she had listened to, the old discontented envious feelings began to reassert themselves.
“I won’t!” she cried vigorously; “I won’t give way to them. It’s shameful and it’s wicked! I will be content. I’ll be a buttercup, and be glad to be one too!”
And to drive away unwelcome thoughts she began to sing a merry Scotch air, rubbing away vigorously meanwhile.
The silver cleaned and put away in its place, Katy’s next duty was to take her mother’s, market basket and set off to the village to make some purchases which were needed for the house. It was a glorious July afternoon, with the sun shining hot and bright, and Katy tripped lightly along, swinging her empty basket as she went.
She came back rather more soberly, for the basket was heavy; it was an up-hill walk from the village shop, and the sun beat rather too warmly upon her back.
Half way home she encountered Stella Branscombe mounted upon her new horse, a slim-legged, high-bred animal, with a black coat that shone like satin.
Stella drew rein when she met Katy, with a merry exclamation, “Is that you, Katy? Who would have thought of meeting you walking out on such a hot afternoon and carrying such a big basket!”
Katy flushed with annoyance at the rude little speech, and felt suddenly ashamed of her errand and the market basket. But Stella never noticed the effect of her careless words, and proceeded, “Look at Duke, Katy; you can see him to more advantage now than you could when he was in his stable. Is not he a beauty? I am so proud of him, and he has got to know me already. Simpson,” motioning towards the groom, who was riding at a respectful distance behind his little mistress, “wants to keep by my side. As if I would allow such a thing. It would be a very poor compliment to my horsemanship. I’m not an atom nervous, and don’t see why I should be. I’ve ridden ever since I could sit upright. But I won’t keep you now; I see you are in a hurry to get home with your precious basket, and I’m going for a long ride round by Warne’s Wood. It will be deliciously cool coming back in the evening.” And, waving an adieu to Katy, Stella touched her horse lightly on the shoulder and trotted away—a slim, girlish figure in her perfectly fitting blue habit, “chimney-pot” hat, snowy gloves, and tight coil of yellow hair.
Katy proceeded on her homeward way, but the basket seemed to have grown unaccountably heavier, the sun was unbearably hot, she was, oh! so tired, and it did feel so hard that she should have to go on errands like a servant and carry heavy baskets, while Stella had nothing in the world to do but amuse herself with riding a lovely horse in a beautiful riding-habit with a servant to attend her. It was all very well for mother to talk about daisies and buttercups, and each one filling its own place, but she had forgotten what it was like to be a girl and to want a hundred things she could not get.
It was a gloomy little face that Katy brought home with her that afternoon, but Mrs. Marston, who met her at the door, was too busy to take very particular notice. She relieved her of the heavy basket, saying as she did so, “You look tired, love; I am afraid you found it very hot walking up the hill. But run away and change your dress; the boys have come in and so has father, and tea will be ready in ten minutes. You will feel refreshed when you have had it, so don’t be late.”
So Katy had only time to run away to her little room and change her rather crushed and soiled cotton dress for a smooth clean muslin, and then trip downstairs again as the bell rang for tea, and found no further time for brooding over her troubles. Then they were such a merry party round the table that she could not have indulged her discontent if she had chosen; and, indeed, very soon Katy was the gayest of all.
Saturday evening was always made a sort of little family festival at Dr. Marston’s. The boys were home from school with no lessons to do; the doctor always made a special effort to be at home in time for the social meal, while Mrs. Marston and Katy made a point of working particularly hard on Saturday that they might feel more at leisure for the evening.
But on this Saturday the boys hurried over their meal rather more than they were accustomed to, for Harry had had a present of a fishing-rod made him, and he and Tom (Tom and Harry always went shares in what each had) must needs go to the pond on the common to try their fortune, and take little six-year-old Charley with them. Charley was only too glad and proud when invited to share his elder brothers’ pursuits.
“See if we don’t bring you home ever such a big dish of fish for breakfast, mother,” they called out as they set forth upon their expedition, and the doctor bade them a merry “Good luck to you!”
Katy was disposed to feel a little aggrieved that neither Harry nor Tom had thought of asking her to join them, and watched them depart rather wistfully. The doctor had thrown himself on the couch with the day’s paper in his hand to snatch a few moments of well-earned rest; Mrs. Marston had taken her place by his side, knitting busily with fingers which were never idle. Her eyes soon caught sight of the rather doleful little figure in the window.
“I am glad you did not go with the boys, dear,” she said, kindly, “it would have been too far for you to walk without being tired after your busy day. Would you like to take Harold out into the garden for a little while instead, before he goes to bed?”
Katy’s face brightened at the proposition, and when baby Harold crowed with delight and held out his little chubby arms to his sister, Katy felt consoled for the defection of the boys.
She took the little fellow in her arms and carried him out into the garden, where she began to walk slowly up and down, singing softly, while Harold over her shoulder kept up a low crooning as accompaniment.
Katy’s evil thoughts had taken flight. It would have seemed wicked to have indulged them on such a calm peaceful evening.
“The earth might know Sunday is coming to-morrow, all feels so quiet and restful, as if all the week’s work was done,” said Katy, pausing in her song to listen to the chiming of the church bells, which sounded sweet and low on the evening air. The ringers were practising, as they usually did on Saturday evening, and the tune of the grand “Old Hundredth” was ringing out from the belfry tower. The young men and boys were playing on the village green, and the sounds of their shouts and laughter came faintly on the evening air. No other sound broke the stillness.
The road that led past the doctor’s house was quiet and little frequented. Not a single person came in sight during the half-hour when Katy was walking up and down and singing softly to herself, and the baby hanging sleepily over her shoulder; so that it came almost with a start when she heard the sound of a horse’s feet galloping along the road. She watched in some curiosity to see who was coming. It was a man in livery riding full speed, and he drew up hastily at the garden-gate. Katy recognised the Branscombe livery, and her heart sank with a sudden fear of evil tidings even before the man could inquire, quickly and hurriedly, “Is the doctor at home, Miss Katy?”
“Yes, he is. What do you want him for? Is some one ill, Simpson?” for she knew the man as the groom who rode behind Stella.
“Miss Stella; she’s been thrown, and hurt herself. But, for mercy’s sake, tell the doctor to come at once, Miss Katy. Beg him not to lose a moment.”
Katy did not need a second bidding, but ran breathlessly to the drawing-room with pale face and beating heart.
“Oh, father, Stella has been hurt, and you are to go at once to the hall, please. Simpson has come for you.”
Dr. Marston started up from the comfortable sleep in which he had been indulging, tired out with a hard day’s work, and was awake and ready in a moment. He went out instantly to speak to the messenger and hear a few particulars, collected some things he thought might be required, took his hat and coat from his wife’s watchful hand, and was gone almost before she or Katy could ask him a single question.
“Mother, what does it mean?” Katy asked, when both the doctor and groom had departed. “Simpson only said she had been thrown, but he did not say anything more. Oh, I hope she is not much hurt. I told you I met her in the village this afternoon, riding her beautiful new horse, and she told me then that Simpson wanted to ride by her side, but she would not let him. She always was rather daring, but she was such a good rider that I should have thought no harm could possibly happen to her.”
“Indeed, my love, I know no more than you do,” Mrs. Marston answered; “we must wait until father returns to hear more. Indeed, I trust it is nothing serious. It will be a terrible anxiety to the squire and her mother; she is their only one, and they seem to set the whole of their minds upon her.”
But Katy’s anxiety remained unallayed, for hours passed and still the doctor did not return. The boys came home from their fishing expedition, hot, tired, hungry, and wet through, with not a single fish in their basket, but their hopes high with regard to better sport in the future.
They were glad to go to bed when supper was over, but Katy begged to be allowed to stay up later than usual; at least, until father came home. She could not sleep, she said, until she knew how poor Stella was.
But the hours crept on, and still the doctor did not return.
“It is half-past ten; you must really go to bed, darling,” Mrs. Marston said, at last, “or you will be too tired to-morrow morning to do justice to your little scholars. You know I never like you to get overdone on Saturday evenings.”
And so Katy slowly and reluctantly went to bed.
She slept, in spite of her anxiety; slept almost as soon as her head touched the pillow, and never woke until the morning sun was shining outside her window and the birds were singing their glad welcome to another day.
“How is Stella, mother? Is she better?” was her first eager inquiry, as soon as she could find Mrs. Marston.
“Hush, dear! not so loud,” was the low reply. “Your father is asleep; he never came home until very late. Poor Stella is very ill indeed; they have had to send to London for two more doctors, and the squire and Mrs. Branscombe are almost frantic with trouble and anxiety. It is impossible to know for some time how much mischief is done.”
“But how did it happen?” asked Katy, breathlessly, with white lips.
“It seems that the groom wished to ride close by her side until she had grown more accustomed to her new horse; but she would not allow him. Then something in the wood—Warne’s Wood— frightened the animal and he ran away. All might, perhaps, have gone well, for you know she was a very good rider, but he took her under a tree, and one of the branches struck her on the forehead, and then she fell, and by some means or other the horse fell over her. The man thinks he caught his foot in the roots of the tree, but in the terror and anxiety of the moment he could not tell.”
“But, oh! mother, she will not die?” Katy cried, her eyes beginning to overflow with pity and sorrow. “Tell me she will not die! for I do love her, mother, in spite of all I have said to you about her. Oh! it would break my heart if she were to die!”
“I cannot say darling. God grant she may be spared, for her poor parents’ sake as well as all of ours. You must not forget to pray for her, Katy, that she may live; poor, poor Stella!”
“And oh! mother, to think I grudged her all the things she has! To think I was sorry she was going to Switzerland! For I was sorry, and I was as envious and wicked as I could be; and if she dies I shall never forgive myself!” and Katy ended up with a piteous burst of tears.
(To be continued.)
This story is continued in Daisy and Buttercup, Part 3.
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How To Cite (MLA Format)
Firth, Mrs. J. F. B.. "Daisy and Buttercup, Part 2." The Girl's Own Paper, vol. 3, no. 111, 1882, pp. 313-4. Edited by Lora Hudson. Victorian Short Fiction Project, 5 February 2023, https://vsfp.byu.edu/index.php/title/daisy-and-buttercup-part-2/.
5 March 2021
28 January 2023