Daisy and Buttercup, Part 4
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 disabled, exemplary 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 fourth of four parts:
KATY went home that afternoon sorely troubled in mind for her poor little friend.
According to her usual custom, her first care was to outpour all to her mother; telling her all the sad state Stella seemed to be in, the unsatisfactory nature of their interview, Mrs. Branscombe’s coldness and apparent want of sympathy with her daughter, and ended up with the request, “Please, mother, won’t you go to see her soon? I am sure you would do her good, and you always know exactly what to say.”
“Do you think Stella would care to see me?” Mrs. Marston asked. “I should be sorry for her to think me intrusive.”
“Oh, I am sure she would!” Katy cried, eagerly. “She was telling me only to-day how much she liked you, and how at home she always felt when she was with you. ‘She is so motherly,’ she said, and I know just what she means. Mrs. Lowe, I am sure, means to be very kind, but she has no children, and she somehow feels to chill you, while you—why, you’re just mother, and that explains everything!”
Mrs. Marston kissed the flushed, eager little face and promised to do as Katy desired.
Accordingly, two days later she went to see Stella, carrying an offering from Katy of two newly laid eggs of her own special hen, over which she had placed the largest and darkest red rose she could find in the garden.
“I know she has everything she can possibly want,” Katy said, “and far finer roses than any I could send her; but I want her to see I do not forget her.”
Mrs. Marston was shown to the same room where Katy had last seen Stella; and, as before, the poor child was lying, listless and idle, looking out into the garden and absently caressing her favourite cat.
Mrs. Marston came forward with a bright, gentle greeting.
“I am so glad to find you are rather better to-day, my dear,” she said, stooping down to bestow a warm, motherly kiss on the pale, wan little face.
Stella laughed in her old way—hard, cold, and joyless.
“I don’t think that is much to be congratulated upon,” she replied, ungraciously. “The very best news anyone could give me would be that I was growing worse every day, and could not possibly live long.”
“Is not that rather a selfish wish, my dear?” Mrs. Marston asked, kindly, but without any of the horror and reproach in her tone which Stella half expected to hear. “If you do not want to live for yourself, think of all of us, and how ill we could spare you.”
“Why, no one would care!” Stella cried, impetuously. “What earthly use can I ever be to anyone, unless,” sneeringly, “it is to teach people to be patient? I am sure that mamma for one will need endless patience to bear having a daughter who is only a stupid, helpless cripple.”
“Don’t talk so, my child. Please God, there is plenty of happiness left for you yet, though it mayn’t be of the kind you feel to want just now.”
“Happiness!” echoed Stella; “I never can be happy again; never! never! That is all over and done with for me; but oh! it does seem so hard! And, think, I am not sixteen yet.”
There was something in Mrs. Marston’s look of tender pity and in her softly-murmured, “You poor darling,” that won the girl’s confidence, and led her to outpour all that was in her sad little heart—all the pent-up misery and rebellion and hopeless longings after the impossible, which her own mother would have had no patience to listen to nor power to sympathise with.
“I know I’m very wicked,” the poor child finished up with. “I suppose, as Mrs. Lowe says, I ought never to think of repining, but be quite content as I am. But I don’t think she would find it so easy to talk if she were in my place. I can’t help it, Mrs. Marston, but I am quite desperate at times, and I feel as if I were going mad; and then I almost hate everybody else who is strong and well; and I hate the sun for shining, and I could kill the very birds for singing so happily when I am so utterly miserable. Oh! tell me how to bear it! Say something to comfort me!” she wailed.
Mrs. Marston made no reply for a moment beyond smoothing the bright hair and patting the thin white hand with a comforting little gesture. When she spoke her words sounded irrelevant to Stella. “Do you know my little baby Harold?” she asked. “He’s hardly two years old yet, and, of course, being the youngest he is a pet. Well, yesterday Katy brought him in from the garden crying a little, with a great thorn from the rose tree in his little finger. It was rather a bad wound for such a little fellow, and of course I had to take the thorn out for him, and of course that hurt him, and he cried and struggled hard to get away. I had to hold his little hand very tightly, for I knew that thorn must come out unless I wanted him to have a bad wound there. Do you suppose I gave up hurting him until I got the thorn out?”
“Why no, of course not,” Stella answered, looking at her with wondering eyes.
“And you don’t suppose I loved him any less because I hurt him? I should have been more likely to let him go and not take any trouble about his little finger if I had not cared for him at all; shouldn’t I ? And then when the thorn was out, and the little finger bound up, he was soon comforted, and went to sleep quite happily and free from pain on my knee.”
“Yes,” Stella answered, not seeing the drift of Mrs. Marston’s words.
“He is a funny little fellow,” her visitor went on; “when he was much smaller he used to cry for the fire, or the lamp, or candle: he wanted to play with them. Do you think I let him have them to play with, however sadly he cried?”
“No, of course not; he would only have burnt himself. But why do you tell me about him, Mrs. Marston?”
“Because, my dear child, I often think we are all like little ignorant children, never knowing what is best for us, or what will do us harm. And we seem as if we could not trust our Heavenly Father’s love. We feel as if He must have made a mistake when He does not give us what we want, or we think He is cruel and unmindful when He sends us trouble, and will not realise that the very trouble is only a proof of His love and care for us.”
Stella saw the application of the words now, and a sweeter, softer expression stole over her face. She pondered over them in silence. She had no reply to make.
Mrs. Marston, too, was silent for a few minutes, and when she spoke again she changed the subject. She was not given to “preaching,” as Stella would have called it. She was content to have sown a good seed and to leave it undisturbed.
So she produced her basket with Katy’s little present, and began to chat lightly and pleasantly upon all manner of topics which she thought likely to interest the sick girl, and when she rose to go she met with a very earnest request from Stella to come and see her again very soon.
“You have done me such good,” said the girl, gratefully; and she lay silently for long after her visitor had left, thinking deeply with a vague feeling of calm and rest and possible happiness filling her heart.
Those few words spoken by Mrs. Marston were not lost. They were as the good seed which brought forth a hundredfold. Stella was changed from that day.
Not that the alteration was altogether perceptible at first; we cannot change our natures in a moment. She was rebellious, selfish, and irritable many a time again; and yet there was a difference. Her eyes were beginning to be opened. She began to see herself as she really was, and to struggle, feebly and intermittently, to be better. It was a hard fight, and many a time in bitter discouragement she was tempted to give up the struggle. But Mrs. Marston was her true friend, always ready to help her with kind counsel and loving words; and Stella clung to her from that day with an affection of which Mrs. Branscombe grew almost jealous. There was no one like Mrs. Marston in Stella’s eyes, and the squire’s lady learned to look upon the quiet wife of the village doctor with a sort of wistful wonder where the charm lay that had won her daughter’s love and confidence as she had never been able to do.
Nor did Katy forsake her sick friend. She had always been fond of Stella, though perhaps hitherto the affection between the two girls had not been very deep; but Stella’s affliction and Stella’s helplessness were a new bond between them, and appealed to all Katy’s love and tenderness.
The two grew to be almost inseparable, and all Katy’s spare time was spent in the sick room. Had she a new book, she must take it for Stella to read, that they might discuss it together afterwards. Had she learned a new sort of fancy work, she must go and show it to Stella and see if she cared to try her hand at it. There was always some excuse for running to the hall, and the squire and his lady even grew to look for her coming, for no one—unless it were her mother—cheered and brightened their daughter as Katy Marston did.
Ten years have passed away since then, and looking in once more upon the two girls—girls no longer—how do we find them?
Katy is Katy Marston no longer. Four years ago she married the assistant whom with increasing practice Dr. Marston found it necessary to engage, and who has since taken the doctor’s place almost entirely, a small fortune which had come to him rendering the older man independent of his profession.
So Katy is a village doctor’s wife, as her mother was before her. It is not a very grand position; Katy is never likely to become the great lady she had once longed to be. Their home is small; her husband is a hard-working man; but Katy thinks he is the grandest and noblest man that ever lived, and is heart happy in her devotion to him and to the two little girls who call her mother and who keep her brain and hands busy from morning to night.
And Stella, what of her?
Stella and her father live alone at the hall now, for it is three years since Mrs. Branscombe died, a disappointed, worldly-minded woman to the last. Her daughter’s misfortune had embittered her strangely, and even when Stella had lived down the trouble and grown to be far brighter, gayer, and sweeter than ever she had been before her affliction, her mother still mourned over it and refused to be comforted.
Not so the squire. When he saw his daughter happy once more he soon accommodated himself to circumstances.
“There is a bright side to everything, my dear,” he would say when Stella alluded to her helplessness; “and it is a very great thing to me to know I shall always have you to stay with me. God knows I would have you well if I could, and yet—”
And Stella knew what the unuttered words meant, and kissed the hand which was touching her hair caressingly. The squire and his daughter were all in all to each other after poor Mrs. Branscombe’s death. There was no more hunting for Stella, and the squire seemed to have lost his inclination to follow the hounds now that his daughter could no longer be at his side. So instead he would drive her out in her low easy carriage, with Dandy—grown an old horse now—between the shafts; and the villagers grew to know and to love the sight of the old man and their young lady, with her bright face and kindly interest in their concerns; her ready sympathy in their troubles and unfailing willingness to help.
“The sunshine of his life,” her father would call her fondly; “the sunshine of the village,” her poor neighbours would have echoed.
Could it be the same Stella? The gay, careless, self-centred girl of ten years ago? The same, and yet how different! She was happy and content in her apportioned lot, even when cut off from most of the pleasures in which youth delights; happier even than she had ever been in the heyday of her beauty and her girlhood. For she knew now what she had not known then, that purest and best of all pleasure—the giving of happiness to others.
But the present peace and sunshine had been purchased at the cost of many a hard straggle—many a dark day. Self is so hard to kill in the human heart, and many a time when we think it dead, we see it lifting its serpent head in places where it is least expected. But prayerful effort is sure in the end to be successful, and Stella gained the victory at last.
Her father’s solace and joy; the lady bountiful of the village; the gentle, thoughtful mistress at home; Katy’s bosom friend, and the fairy godmother to her two little ones. How could she help but be happy?
“It was just as you said, dear Mrs. Marston,” she said one day to her faithful friend, “though I could not see it at the time; but I am sure my trouble was sent to me in love. Where should I have been if it had not been sent? Most likely a thoroughly worldly-minded woman, devoted to pleasure and fashion, for I know it was in me to be so. But I have been saved from that, and I see the love now. I don’t mean I’m good”—with a soft little smile—“for I fear I never shall be that, but I’m always trying to be, and it is better to be always trying and always failing, than never trying at all. And I don’t mean to say I don’t sometimes wish I could be well and strong; but I am content to leave it all. I am sure my trouble has taught me to feel for others, and brought me out of myself; and I know—you have always told me so—that it will be made up to me some time. I fancy when I get to heaven”—and her tone was still more tender and reverent—“I shall be like the lame man who ‘walked and leaped and praised God.’ And what a thing that is to look forward to! Yes, I am more than content. There is Katy, a happy, busy little house-mother, and here am I, a poor helpless sort of creature; but we are both trying to fill the place given us, like the daisy and the buttercup in the poem we used to be so fond of when we were girls; and how can we help being happy?”
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How To Cite (MLA Format)
Mrs. J. F. B. Firth. “Daisy and Buttercup, Part 4.” The Girl’s Own Paper, vol. 3, no. 113, 1882, pp. 342-3. Edited by Lora Hudson. Victorian Short Fiction Project, 10 December 2023, https://vsfp.byu.edu/index.php/title/daisy-and-buttercup-part-4/.
5 March 2021
7 December 2023