|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Iris: An Australian Story|
|article text|| |
CHAPTER VII. Continued.
His face was so full of feeling, and his voice so
tender, that Iris could not be ignorant of his meaning, and her colour came and went, as her quick witted instinct realised the situation.
But she smiled kindly, and returned with delicate
" I hope you will meet with success, and friends, and come back to lend glory to our colony."
" Will you allow me to write to you ?" he asked.
" Yes, do," Iris said earnestly ; " we shall want to hear from you as often as you can manage it."
He did not feel utterly miserable when he left ; these last words sounded very pleasant to his ears. And so he went away into the old world to begin a healthier, higher life, with the sympathy of two true hearts to cheer him on ; those of his friend Meredith, and of the woman he loved.
As soon as Iris was strong enough, she commenced systematically to study at the School of Design, and at the same time took lessons in painting privately.
A pleasant home-life hers began to be, full of womanly ways towards the two companions who endeavoured to make a pleasant path for her feet wherever she should go ; reading the paper to the old man in the early morning, feeding the doves and pigeons, caring for the pet plants and orchids in the conservatories, and learning from their exquisite beauty and varied structure those wonderful lessons only to be found in Nature's book. Then the dainty luncheon and the long enjoyable drives round St. Kilda, Brighton, Toorak, and sometimes to Templestowe, where giant strawberries and ripe cherries were found growing luxuriantly in an old-fashioned garden, and carefully carried home as studies for her to paint from.
Then there were times when Iris, plainly dressed, went up to Carlton in a cab, and paid visits which came like gleams of sunshine to the tired anxious workers ; for, like one of themselves, she would nurse the sick child or make a cup of tea for the invalid, and wisely and keenly find the trouble in their midst, and think out, when alone, how best to help them on.
After her first visit to the old place, Mr. Rainsford had given her some money to relieve whatever distress she had seen ; and she and Mrs Barry went to town and had a long shopping expedition, which seemed to do her so much good that Iris rapidly
regained her peace of mind and cheerfulness.
Jack Meredith came in to see them now and then, and Iris felt, stronger and brighter when he was there ; though the sad cadence in his voice, and a kind of grave control over his words and actions, roused a vague interest and sympathy in her heart, which lingered long after he had gone.
His sister Madeline came with him on the last occasion, and Iris was drawn irresistibly to the graceful, dark-eyed girl, who was so like her brother and tinged with something of the same
The grand piano was touched for the first time since Allan went away, and with equally skilled fingers. The gift of a beautiful voice was also Madeline Meredith's, and the long room echoed with the exquisite strains of ' The Lost Chord,' and its later companion, ' Unfinished is the Song.'
Iris, sitting on a low chair, listened with a face of rapture. She could neither play nor sing, but she took a keen delight in music. As Miss Meredith softly struck the opening chords of ' The Bridge,' Iris asked : * Do you know the whole poem ?"
The player nodded assent.
" Sing it all," pleaded the girl ; " it is an old favourite of mine.
Yet whenever I cross the river,
On its bridge with wooden piers,
Like the odour of brine from the ocean
Comes the thought of other years. And I think how many thousands
Of care-encumbered men,
Each bearing his burden of sorrow,
Have crossed the bridge since then. I see the long procession
Still passing to and fro,
The young heart hot and restless,
And the old subdued and slow !
And forever and forever,
As long as the river flows, -
sang Madeline, with an earnestness and feeling in her lovely voice beyond words to describe ; and when she rose Iris stood up and, clasping both her hands warmly, said :
" Oh, how you have helped me ; my heart feels rested."
A kindly loving look shone in the eyes of Madeleine, and she bent her dark head and kissed the sweet red lips so full of gratitude..
" My dear," said Mrs. Barry, " you must come in often ; we shall always be glad to have you. I don't think I shall take you to anymore of the Liedertafels, Iris," she added, meaningly.
" Oh, I think you will," murmured Iris, with a
When the guests said farewell, Meredith looked down at Iris with a long anxious gaze, and, holding her hand warmly, he said :
" I should like you and my sister to be friends. She is very lonely. We live together, you know, and I, " he said with a sad little smile, " I am but a dull companion."
They were all walking down to the gate now, and the soft moonlight scarcely revealed a little flush that had crept over her at something
inexplicable in his manner, yet stirred depths in her heart that she had never known existed.
" I know we shall be friends," answered the sweet voice ; " I hope she will come often, and I will go
and see her."
" You could hardly give me greater pleasure than to come to our house, if only we can make it enjoyable for you," he began warmly, but his last words were full of misgiving.
" You are very depressing, Mr. Meredith," said Iris, with a little attempt at reproach, which was not strikingly successful. " I shall always be glad
to see Allan's friend."
" You are kind to me for his sake, then, Miss Vaughan," he said, in the old reserved way. " Well, I don't expect much on my own account," he added, rather bitterly, and inwardly anathematising himself that this night he should have been disloyal to his absent friend even in so slight a degree. Yet if - the blood ran wildly in his veins at the thought - if she ever could care for him, what a future would lay before him, how his whole life would be changed and glorified.
" Good-night, Mr. Meredith," Iris was saying, standing in the moonlight, with a gentle look on her lovely face, and with her hand outstretched.
" Good-night," he returned as quietly as he could, but something electric from the touch of his hand remained tingling in Iris all night, and she was preoccupied and full of pleasant musings as she made her simple preparations for rest.