|Chapter Title||THE HURRIED RETURN.|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Iris: An Australian Story|
|article text|| |
THE HURRIED RETURN.
THE next moment the boat drew into the little
cove, and Allan sprang out.
" I hope you have been safe and not felt lonely in this strange place, Miss Vaughan," he said, with some anxiety, thinking she looked pale and tired.
" Have you had any lunch ?"
" Oh, yes, thank you," replied Iris to the latter part of his question. " Look at this pillar-like rock.
Isn't this a strange place ?"
" It is, indeed. I don't know that I should care to be here on a dark night ; some of these rocks would look rather suggestive of foul-play. But how deeply blue and beautiful the sky is today !"
" Yes, and rather difficult to represent," said the girl as she briskly sketched, while he, seated a couple of rocks away, watched the little hands, and
the fair face so intent and beautiful.
" I have not been polite enough to ask how Mrs. Vaughan is today," he said, presently, in a
genuinely apologetic voice.
" She is not so well, Mr. Rainsford ; she will never be well any more.'
The poor girl said it quite quietly, and with a tone of pathetic resignation, for the sad prospect was never far from her mind, and her desolate feeling at the thought could rarely be relieved by tears ; it was a tearless despair..
She had finished sketching now, and commenced to wash in the sky. Her brush moved swiftly, for Allan's words had increased the feverish anxiety that she had been controlling with difficulty all day, unimportant though his words might seem.
He could not be blind to the sorrow and anxiety in her face and manner, and yet the steady adherence to her work, and her noble effort to do what she beiieved to be the right thing, whatever she suffered,
made his whole being bow in respect and admiration.
This young girl shamed his luxurious, selfish life : whatever could she think of him, if ever she thought of him at all ; a purposeless, idle fellow fed and clothed by his father's exertions ; while she, a fragile creature, whose young life should be sheltered by every care and comfort, was toiling for herself and her dying mother."
Moody and miserable he looked out at the sea. The voice of Iris, low, agitated, roused him sharply. " I must go home at once, Mr. Rainsford ; I feel
that something is wrong at home ; it will be nearest to go by the boat, will it not ?'
She tried to speak quietly, and the words were hardly intelligible. However, he heard them, and saying, " Yes, the quickest way, and we will catch the train at a nearer station ; you will see presently." He took her sketching materials from her, darted to the boat, and said to the fisherman : " A sovereign if you'll row us to Mentone jetty ; it is
a matter of life or death.'
They sprang up, and Iris speedily got into the boat ; the men rowed well, and ten minutes brought them to the jetty.
" Will you take my arm, Miss Vaughan ?" said Allan, " we have a stretch of steep road before we
can reach the station."
She shook her head ; words were impossible ; and he watched her anxiously, but did not speak again.
It was almost four o'clock when they reached the station, and Allan, with the greatest anxiety, scanned the time-table. A train would come up from Frankston at five minutes past, and a great thankfulness filled his heart. He walked back to the seat and quietly told Iris.
For a few minutes, the dead silence was oppressive ; Allan not daring to speak of anything, lest the overwrought nerves of Iris should suffer more, and wondering vaguely whether Mrs. Vaughan was worse, or dying ; and whether she was alone.
Not knowing how to comfort Iris, and yet feeling an unutterable tenderness and sympathy for the girl who was growing so dear to him, he sat with his eyes fixed on the station-window, looking down the
line towards Mordialloc.
Suddenly, Iris turned to him her pale face, white as the daisies in her hat, and her eyes wide open, dilated in misery.
" Mr. Rainsford," she said, in a strange, choking voice ; " You are human ; tell me how I am to bear this great trouble that has come upon me ? My mother is going from me, she will never be with me any more !'
Such misery of grief he had never witnessed ; no tears, no gesticulation ; only a loving soul enduring the bitter thought of losing the object of its love. Her hands were tightly locked, and her lovely eyes were fixed on the blue ranges that faced the little station.
Mechanically, she stepped into the train, and Allan led her to a seat by the open window, and, seeing they were alone, said with earnestness, " Miss
Vaughan, it is so hard to say a helpful word in the presence of such suffering as yours ; I can
only tell you that I wish to do anything I can to help you, and that you have my deepest sympathy."
She turned a little towards him, and he, encouraged, went on, with some hesitation :
" I don't profess to know much about another life, although I believe in my heart that there is one. God only knows whether such a state is for a selfish, useless fellow like myself - but your mother - his voice was very quiet, almost reverent, as he said this -" surely it will be better for her to pass from this world of care into one of perfect rest, and you a little tremulously, because the role of comforter was so new to him - " you should be glad at the idea of her being at rest after so many years of trial and anxiety."
" I ought to be, I know I ought to be glad," said Iris, in a husky voice ; " but I must be very selfish, for I feel as if I could not give her up."
" The childlike confidence, her grief and helplessness, appealed to every tender emotion in the young man's heart, and, moved by a pure loving impulse, he laid his hand on hers, and held it in a warm, sympathetic grasp for a few seconds. But Iris, though vaguely conscious of sympathy, was not outwardly affected, and made no sign when he reverently released her fingers.