|Chapter Title||A NEW LIFE.|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Iris: An Australian Story|
A NEW LIFE.
After a week's quiet and complete change, Iris began to view things from the new standpoint at
which she had now arrived.
As a struggling artist, penniless and unknown, she had often been made to feel what an atom she was in the tide of affairs, and the petty trials of poverty had fretted her soul, and caused her to realise the grave side of life ere she had tasted any of its joys. But her mother had been such a wise counsellor, she could look back to long happy conversations that made a beautiful thing of the pure, honest life they had led after Mr. Vaughan's death, and glorified the homely duties by the presence of love, and a large-hearted way of looking at things.
Iris had learned many valuable lessons during these years of real home life, and had had the good points in her character carefully encouraged, and the weak ones strengthened ; while, in the one cherished dream of her heart, that of becoming an artist, her mother was an earnest sympathiser.
Many an over-wise woman would have discouraged it as a practical impossibility, and hoped for the protection and support of the married state for her child; but Mrs. Vaughan was one who knew that difficulties stand in the paths of all, and her plan was to strengthen and prepare Iris against the day of trouble ; not to discourage her, and so aid the possibility of failure.
She had herself carefully instructed Iris in drawing original design, and water-colour painting, and together they had gone through a standard work on oil-painting. As Iris had great taste and a genuine love of art, she used the brush very fairly, giving the promise of future good work.
And now she was to become a pupil of the School of Design, and practice at home as much as she pleased. This change in the state of affairs was only one of many. Her graceful figure was clad in the most elegant mourniag attire that Mowbray's could furnish, and her fair beauty shone like a star in the black night. Instead of confined space and close air, shabby surroundings, and that almost total absence of beauty so frequent in the houses of those that struggle with poverty, Iris trod on rich carpets, lived on dainty food, of which she never had to count the cost, and had her artistic tastes gratified by a wealth of beautiful forms, wisely distributed and utilised.
The songs of myriads of birds saluted her in the early morning, and around her window grew wistaria and yellow roses, framing a miniature picture of Richmond and Melbourne, with the gleaming Yarra in the foreground. In bright array these charms of her new life ranged themselves one morning as she sat in her bedroom before breakfast, thinking less of the substantial viands than of the motherly kindness of Mrs. Barry, and the thoughtful attention and cordiality of Mr. Rainsford and his son.
However, there still was something about her position which seemed a mystery. Although she had been told that Mrs. Vaughan and her mother had
been friends long ago, and that, for her sake, Mr. Rainsford only too gladly took Iris to his own house, to live as his adopted child.
Dimly her thoughts went back to one evening when Mrs. Vaughan had spoken of a brother - her only one - in Canada, whom she had not heard from for years.
" If he would love me and take me to his home," thought Iris, " it would seem so different ; but if I at any time displeased Mr. Rainsford, I have no claim on him, and how would it be with me ? And where is my scheme for working steadily as an artist till I win fame ? I myself can earn enough for my own living, and can help others who are still
Her face was aglow with enthusiism, and unconsciously her last sentence was uttered aloud in an earnest, sympathetic voice.
" Iris, the breakfast bell has gone. Are you ready ?" said Mrs. Barry, just inside the open door. " I knocked, dear, but thought you had gone down as you did not answer."
" I was thinking," returned Iris, flushing a little. " Thinking aloud ? Who are the toilers, Iris ?"
" Young artists," said the girl, gravely now, " and authors and poets - and many others."
"One pair of shoulders cannot bear the burdens of the whole world," returned her friend, as they went downstairs ; " there are many who have saddened their whole lives by trying to do it. You will help hundreds, Iris, if you are bright and cheerful, and keep a wise control over your words and actions in times of excitement. We'll talk of it a little more by-and-by."
Allan Rainsford found it a difficult thing to get out of the easy comfortable ways to which he was accustomed, and the groove into which he had naturally fallen. More than that, he found it a very novel and pleasant thing to have the presence of a beautiful and gifted girl in the house, to loiter through the conservatories with her, and to sit on
the wide balcony in the summer evening ; and although her example had stimulated him into having a purpose, it was not quite a help to him just at this point, that they should be under the same roof.
If his mind could arrive at a right course, very possibly he would leave Victoria and go to Leipzig to study music in earnest, as that was the decision he had mentally arrived at.
Anxious, however, to do nothing hastily, he had a long talk with his father, which considerably astonished that gentleman.
Allan's determination obliged him to go practically into the matter, the result of which was that both came to the conclusion that he would not make
a business man. But Mr. Rainsford felt that possibly the musical talent possessed by Allan would gain him a high position among his fellows, and as he would never need to make money to any extent, it might, on the whole, be a satisfactory arrangement.
" And how about Iris ? Can't you manage an engagement before you leave ?" asked Allan's father
in sudden concern.
Allan's tone was cool, though he flushed a little as he replied : " I could hardly speak of such things to any girl so soon af ter her mother's death, father ; but I shall ask her permission to write to her if I go away, and I suppose you can keep me up to the times and let me know if she is happy and well."
The old man looked keenly at his son for a few seconds, wondering whether his scheme would turn out well ; whether Allan and Iris were sufficiently drawn to one another to make it safe to separate them just now, or would time and distance prove barriers to any attachment, and Iris be tempted to
form other ties.
Apart from his genuine remorseful desire to atone for the past by seeing the child of his old love happy and wealthy, Iris had endeared herself to
them all in the few days she had been with them ; and, hard as he had become during these years of money-making, his heart was touched and his respect called forth by the evident loneliness and sorrow of the girl, and the brave patience and cheerfulness she outwardly maintained.
No, he could not bear the thought of her being wife to any other man than his son. He would watch affairs meanwhile. But nothing of this appeared in his words as he and his son talked about ways and means, and it was decided at last that Allan should leave in three weeks' time for Europe.
That evening Jack Meredith came into dinner, and Iris, entering the drawing-room after dressing, barely recognised her late travelling companion from
the Mordialloc train.
" My friend, Mr. Meredith," said Allan, seeing her perplexity.
" I think I have met Mr. Meredith before."
Iris spoke a little tremulously ; the sight of his dark face recalled the saddest day of her life, and a dimness blotted out the room and its occupants from her sight for a brief moment ere she moved away to one of the long windows and looked out into the summer evening full of mystery and beauty.
Of all hours, this summer twilight brought sweetest, saddest memories of the precious heart companion taken from her side ; when from those now silent lips she had learnt so much, and to whom in lovely innocence she had confided her hopes and fears, her troubles and misgivings.
Oh, that she might live up to the high standard of womanhood that had been set before her, that the undeserved blessings of home might not come to be dearer to her than the higher life of doing that work that was waiting for her somewhere in the
The unspoken prayer went out from her heart ; for she had learned the bitter lesson that of all hearts one's own is the least to be trusted.