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Chapter NumberVIII
Chapter Url
Full Date1889-03-07
Page Number0
Word Count1647
Last Corrected2018-07-05
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleIris: An Australian Story
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Under Canadian skies an elderly man, reclining on a cane couch, and turning over an accumulation of newspapers, sees an Australian journal - the Argus.

Perusing in a desultory fashion the names among the obituary notices, he reads- " Iris, the beloved wife of the late Richard Vaughan." And a sudden shock startles him into a sitting position. Iris, his

only sister, gone !

It could not be. Memories of his Victorian home crowded thick and fast upon him, and he experienceda vague fear that, should he return to Melbourne, as his first impulse directed him, he would not find any of his own blood.

This fear agitated him deeply. A lonely bachelor all his life, he had always looked forward to going home to Iris when success should crown his efforts ; and now that the ball was at his feet, what was life worth if no one could share in his prospeiity ?

Well, he would go home, and see at least whether his sister had left any children ; and, if she had, why, he must take care that they had what they needed. Now that his mind was made up, the necessary delays on his departure seemed very

irksome ; but the doctor's permission was at last granted, and there was only some minor business affairs to be wound up, a few farewells to be said and he was free to embark for Australia.

By constantly revolving the wish in his mind, it seemed to him almost a fact that there were children of his sister's to be found and loved, and his imagination conjured up pictures of fair-haired boys and girls to be educated and started in life. As he thought of this, he felt his heart glow within him. He was free now to indulge some of his pet projects with regard to the training of children, and the preparation of lads for the duties of business life. During the voyage - first to London, and thence to Melbourne - he kept a diary, which aided in reducing the monotony of the passage ; nor did he, after leaving the Thames, find his appetite spoiled at meal times, as he had anticipated, by the presence of Chinese waiters on board. As an old Victorian, he never much cared for them, and although in Canada the prejudice against the Celestial, with his smile ' so childlike and bland,' is less marked than in Australia, Mr. Moore never quite got over a shrinking sensation at the thought of the Chinese at close quarters. Yet, after a few days' experience of their company, he actually found himself writing very amiably about them.

Arrived in Melbourne, he went straight to Scott's Hotel, at the top of Collins-street, and forthwith commenced his search for the supposed children of his sister. The last address from which she had written was Richmond. It was, therefore, in this neighbourhood that he began the work of discovery. Every street was visited, and numerous inquiries made, but to no purpose. Then advertisements were inserted in the papers, but they were somewhat obscurely worded, Mr. Moore being of a retiring disposition, and it rather reflected on him not to know more about his only sister's affairs. Consequently his advertisement met with no response and he began to feel discouraged and wretched.

At last they attracted the attention of a lady, who fancied she could understand to whom they referred. She accordingly proceeded to the address given, and though the name on her card, ' Mrs. John Morecombe,' was unfamiliar to him, he found, as he began to explain who he was and why he was anxious to find his dead sister's children, that she knew enough to make his heart very sore and fill it with great anxiety about this girl, this niece, so beautiful and brave.'

Mrs. Morecombe gave the anxious uncle Mr. Rainsford's address in Hawthorn, at the same time informing him that she had on one occasion seen Iris, beautifully dressed, driving in an open carriage with an elderly lady, and hoped she was with

good friends.

As Mrs. Morecombe withdrew, followed by the hearty thanks of Mr. Moore, the latter could scarcely control his impatience ; and directly the door was closed upon her, he seized his hat, and half-an-hour later stood at the hall door of the Grange asking for Rainsford. Admitted to that gentleman's study, he was astonished and inwardly alarmed at

the haggard look that passed over the face of the old gentleman when he stated frankly the reason of his visit ; and when he would have thanked him for what he imagined was kindness to his orphan niece, the conscious-stricken man bent his head in shame and put out his hands deprecatingly murmuring :

"No no." Then in a husky voice, "She is not here and where she is I cannot tell you either."

He then buried his face in his hands, and appeared much troubled.

" I beg that you will explain to me, sir," said John Moore, who had become suspicious and anxious by turns. " Did she leave your house, or has she been

here at all ?"

Mr. Rainsford rose and rang a bell. " Ask Mrs. Barry to step this way, please," he said to the man who answered it.

Gentle Mrs. Barry, looking graver and older than when we last saw her, came in. As Mr. Moore was introduced to her, Joshua Rainsford said briefly :

" This is Mrs. Vaughan's only brother, and the Iris's uncle. Will you tell him all you know about her ?"

" There is not much to be told, Mr. Moore," replied

Mrs. Barry, looking at him with her kindly, honest eyes, which were a little dim with the rising tear. " Iris came to live with us after her mother's death, and was with us a few weeks. Then she had

an attack of brain fever, consequent upon the heavy strain upon her strength, occasioned by the task of

supporting herself and her mother by working as an artist; and afterwards there was the loss of her mother. It was too much for her. " But she was a strange girl. When she was hardly quite well again, she made up her mind suddenly to leave us, and go out into the world again to practice the

vocation of an artist. I suppose she did not definitely say that, but I know it was the great aim of her life. She said that she wished us not to attempt to discover her new residence, for she was determined

upon the course she had taken, and believed it would be in accordance with the wish of her parents. We have tried to find out where she is living, but without success. She has been gone from us about two months."

As Mrs. Barry concluded, a depressing silence fell on them, till Mr. Moore, unable to see anything beyond these simple statements, and having no clue to the appearance of Iris, suddenly thought to himself that there might be a portrait of her. Had they one ?

" Yes," said Mrs. Barry cheerfully, " we have a good one of her ; and, rising, she brought in an album, and soon the distressed uncle was looking into his sister's face again, or so it seemed to him.

But the face was younger than when he had seen his sister last, a bride, and it had a more resolute mouth and a thoughtful brow. It was a lovely feminine countenance, and with eyes a little moist. Placing the portrait in his pocket-book, he put it tenderly in his breast pocket, and thanked Mrs. Barry for allowing him to retain it.

By this time, Mr. Rainsford had in some measure regained his self-possession, and, rising from his chair, he offered Mr. Moore a glass of wine, at the same time wishing him success in his search, for both he and Mrs. Barry saw he would hunt the world to find this only relative, so beautiful and yet penniless, and perhaps even now dying from want.

" No wine for me until I find the child," said

Mr. Moore, with stern gravity ; and bidding them 'good-day,' he passed out of the Grange gates, with a dead weight of anxiety pressing on his heart.

" Drive on for your life," he said with such sharp brevity, that the startled hansom-driver flew down the long road and through Richmond to the city, and up to the hotel, where, he watched curiously

as his fare got out..

" Suthin' up, Polly," he muttered, as he patted his reeking horse ; " if he was younger, now, I should say it was about a gal, but not at 'is time o' life, no Polly ; and having thus assured himself, he calmly began to discuss the affair with other comrades in the row with sundry embellishments of his own.

" And how should Mr. Moore, sick at heart, looking absently down from his window at the lounging group know that the man who drove him in and

out ot town that day could have told him in two minutes all that he longed to know ; and by a strange coincidence the driver, was the one he

always hailed.

It was almost like Gabriel and Evangeline in Longfellow's beautiful poem, who were at one time so near, during their long search for each other, that

their voices could have been heard had they spoken ; yet they knew it not.