The picture we get of Lady Daylily of Middlecrescent is a strong one when we first glimpse her in Heartless. From Una's perspective, we see a beautiful, blushing bride, a young woman deeply in love and anticipating a blissful wedding.
A rather stark contrast to the Daylily of Veiled Rose.
Lady Daylily is a young woman of rare beauty (a redhead in a country of dark complexions) and intelligence. She is the only child of the powerful Baron of Middlecrescent, and is introduced to us as a willful child, a child full of potential. She is no more than two years old when her father begins to formulate his Plan: The plan to marry her off to the crown prince of Southlands.
Daylily, is not too keen on the notion when first informed. At age sixteen, her willfulness has cooled into a cool, calculating mind, but she is not without an opinion.
"You like the boy, don't you?" her father asks.
"He's a blessed idiot," she replies.
But when Lionheart (under duress) invites her to join him for a summer holiday in the mountains, Daylily, ever the dutiful daughter, agrees. She packs up her belongings and heads for Hill House with every intention of bewitching the Prince of Southlands and securing a fine match for the house of her father. And no one looking at her could possibly guess how little she liked the notion.
So we are introduced to the most distinctive part of Daylily's character. She, more than anyone else in this novel, wears veils, wears masks. One must wonder if she herself knows her true heart and mind. For when she meets Lionheart for the first time since he was ten and she was nine, her impression is of a gawky clown, and she dismisses any possibility of ever loving this man she must make her husband.
Yet, two weeks later, when she learns of his determination to find Rose Red once more, is that jealousy we see flashing from her?
And later on, when Daylily meets Rose Red and sees her covering veils for the first time, she begins to wonder. What secret is Rose Red hiding? Why does this goat girl with her country accent and awkward ways seem to enchant Prince Lionheart in a way that Daylily herself, with all her beauty and grace, cannot?
Why should she care?
We are never entirely certain what Daylily's feelings are toward Lionheart. Does she love him? Does she hate him? Does she want to marry him for himself or for his position? Her father has his own suspicions following his daughter's holiday at Hill House:
"Iubdan's beard," he exclaims, "you've gone and fallen in love with the boy."
To which Daylily, with a contemptuous look, replies, "You think you know me, Father. But you don't." (p. 169).
But perhaps the baron knows her better than she knows herself. She has so long hidden behind veils of decorum and flirtatious manipulation, perhaps she has lost the truth of herself.
It isn't until the Dragon comes to the lowlands, and his poisons invade Daylily's every waking sense, drawing forth the true dreams of her heart and slaying them before her eyes, that we begin to see the first honest glimpses of her true nature. This young woman is not the confident beauty we saw briefly in Heartless. Sitting at the very foot of the Dragon's bloodstained throne, she is broken, and in her brokenness, we catch a glimpse of real honesty.
"Do you think Leo cares for me?" She asks Rose Red. "I've watched my dreams die. Every one of them, burned to oblivion. I will never marry Prince Lionheart. I will never fulfill the expectations placed upon me. I wish--I wish you would go and let me die" (p. 333).
Even here, though, she holds onto her mask. Is she despairing because she knows she cannot have Leo's heart? Or is it simply the knowledge that she will never be queen? Does she even know? She is so lost in her own disguises that even here, at the point of death, she cannot find herself.
In the end, however, the Dragon's poisonous nightmares prove false. Daylily, returned to the mortal world, lives to see Lionheart return and ask for her hand in marriage. It isn't the Death of Dreams, but the Lady of Dreams Realized who commands Daylily's fate.
Lionheart left her. He did not see her sink to her knees. He did not see her weep. No one did. And when she finished, Daylily vowed it would never happen again.
She had her dream. And it was dust and ashes (369).
I have had several fans write and tell me that they thoroughly despised Lady Daylily, considering her the villainess of this novel. While I completely understand this sentiment, I must confess that I actually like this troubled young woman. I find her very real and relatable, tragic and pitiable, but not unsympathetic. Like Princess Una, Daylily is a slave to her own desires, but unlike Una, Daylily isn't even certain what those desires are. She has set herself up in the role of strong, unreachable beauty, and she desperately clings to that role, afraid of the vulnerability should she allowed herself to truly love or truly be loved. She is insanely jealous to the point of cruelty, and yet, one cannot blame her. She is everything Prince Lionheart should want in a woman, a brilliant match . . . and yet it is Rose Red he always turns to for friendship.
So yes, I like her. I found her fascinating to watch as she moved across the pages of this novel, taking on a life of her own and a real vitality that added to the story in ways I could never have predicted. And her story isn't finished yet . . . no indeed. There is plenty more to tell about the Lady of Middlecrescent.