The diminutive new Queen of the Butterflies ascended to the pageant throne to have the borough's Royal Butterfly seal placed on her head by the strikingly slim parish vicar. The seated audience murmured with approval as the crown wobbled on her flaxen hair and she was presented with the regal sceptre : a thin wooden stick topped with a rather large hand-carved butterfly.
what a beauty!” whispered retired Mrs Wilmslow to her neighbour Mrs
Johnson, the proprietress of the village's only florist, “Such an
improvement on last year's – that girl was a monstrosity! You
couldn't have compared her to a rose, a summer's day, or an oil
painting, and to think...”
Johnson loudly tutted and swiftly brought an index finger to her
pursed lips. Mrs Wilmslow, in full opinionated flow, was most put
out; she crossly fidgeted and turned to her other neighbour Mrs
Harrington, the village gossip.
Morris looked on at the proceedings, thankful that the mild weather
had held and that last year's fiasco was forgotten: it had rained and
the strong winds had blown the refreshment tent over; the food had
been ruined and the old cowshed had been a poor substitute for the
play and coronation. It had been a very testing, haphazard day, and
not something she or her husband, Edward wanted to repeat.
hadn't realised when Edward's uncle left the property to them ten
years ago that they'd be obliged to continue the tradition. They had
initially hoped it would end with the deceased as the will hadn't
made it a condition, but Mrs Harrington hearing a rumour had taken it
upon herself to mount a petition to prevent this from becoming fact.
And so every year the garden was opened to the public and the pageant
reigned without a gap.
usual, in the history of its staging, the village's amateur dramatic
society had missed their cues and fluffed their lines, despite being
very obviously prompted by Mrs Bone, the butcher's wife, who crouched
behind the money bush, whilst the girl chosen to be this year's Queen
of the Butterflies had been hidden from sight until the appointed
had mused on this girl as the audience had tittered at the play: an
ambitious modernised version of Shakespeare's Twelfth
Night , publicised under its other lesser known name: What You Will.
Betsy Fisher was in the throes of being transformed from a pretty
girl to an even prettier boy in order to serve a rich squire, and
red-faced old Ned Smith was awkwardly helping her into the manly
attire. The audience had shook like wind-blown trees and tinkled like
church bells, but Isabel, although she heard their reaction, had been
concerned about the main attraction: she couldn't place the village
in that girl and feared snubs from their regular benefactors.
she'd said her name was, just Clarissa. Pale of skin, eyes and
crinkled hair, standing there in her own vivid costume: a huge hooped
multi-coloured layered skirt, a tight gold bodice and puffed sleeves,
the arms of which were attached to two baby blue tulle wings on a
wire frame. She'd picked up her silky skirts and swung herself over
the threshold, before following Isabel with tottering steps to the
dining room: the only room in the crumbling house with folding double
doors that would admit her skirts and all. She'd immediately accepted
some bread and jam and a glass of still lemonade, whereas others
before had cheerily responded: “I couldn't possibly Mrs M.” It
didn't seem right that she should so willingly partake of some
refreshment, but then she'd arrived already clothed and besides she
couldn't very well sit down.
here she stood, in her normal viewing spot, scrutinising this Queen
being crowned, except for the first time in ten years the thought
appeared: Reborn, I'd be a butterfly, but which would I be...? A
Brimstone, a Comma, a Speckled Wood or a Painted Lady?
*Picture Credit: The Queen of the Butterflies, Salvadore Dali
**A tale inspired by Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf