|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Iris: An Australian Story|
IRIS: An Australian Story.
' What a pleasant evening it was : Iris with a little dainty needlework, Mereditlt reading aloud.''
SHE did not take the hand he proffered her, and
when he acknowledged with genuine remorse his past misdeeds, and humbly begged her to look over the wrong he had done her mother and father, Iris shook her head and gravely answered, ' You ask
me for more than I cm give.'
Then she went away, sick at heart, but resolute ;
and, with a few pounds in her pocket, r.e-commenced
her old artist life.
Ia Richmond, Iris, after some little difficulty, found quiet lodgingg opposite a humble row of labourers' cottages. Here she felt more at ease, and after a few days she decided to show her work at gome of the shops, as of old ; but she had im- proved ginee then, and, to her great satisfaction, she sold several cards and miniature screens, fans, etc, at fair prices. More than this, one firm agreed to take a little water-colour study of strawberries from her if she could paint a companion picture
representing other fruit.
This was encouraging, but' Iris was not always successful, and for a few weeks she made no more sales; hut, on the other hand, she had secured three pupils for her painting class, which formed a source of encouragement to her.
She was not, however, always bright and cheerful ; her old energy and industry were not with her. She felt at times the sense of loneliness and responsi- bility almost unsupportable, and often she doubted wether she should ever gain the power to help others as she longed to do, for the pain and suffering of wich her parents were the helpless victims had wakened in her heart an intense desire to alleviate toe suffering and misery of others. Many were the fondly glances that fell on her from the poor working people among whom she lived, for she wuld not be with them for a few days withont
j «otogsome kindly act.
j Had she not gently picked up little Tommy, the j of the Collins-street ' hansom-driver, after
^JJg his accident with the jug of milk, and gone *Kh him to buy some moi e in a new jug, and then «ran him home to his mother, and explained how , û« it was not from carelessness that he fell and j we his mites of trousers and broke the jug ? Then, I «ter she had crossed the street, had she not smiled
«4 waved her hand at him from the window
felted ^6r puP*ls was a lame £u'l> Yn0 manl* I leñevolént^- mot^er °* her pupil, was a kindly.
. i a strong love of art ; and when Iris visited j M her residence she felt quite at ease. Mrs.
! '»ynne. --ri-- « i u ... ?> . ii
woman, who took a special interest in
3temng tte Uves and training the minds of Li 8 wonien, factory girls, milliners, seamstresses, «a.au young workers of a similar class. Now and J» «He would invite to her house those with whom H she 6 u contact» and one day she asked Iris
wuld remain with her during the evening, as
they were going to have one of these little gather ings._
With sparkling eyes Iris accepted the invitation, and just as she finished a pleasant chat with her pupil, a few ladies and two gentlemen came into the draw- ing-room. After the usual introductions, it tran- spired that the visitors were each gifted in some way or other, and had come to help Mrs Wynne in enter- taining her guests.
Games, singing, and violin-playing were to be in the programme ; and Iris, being pressed to assist in
the work, coloured a little, and answered rather ' gravely that if there should be a pause anywhere she would just talk a little to the guests, as if she
were one of themselves.
Her singular beauty and perfectly-dressed figure had proved very attractive to the little company, and they had no donbt among themselves that her words would be worth hearing.
A homely and plentiful ' high tea ' was provided in the dining-room, and the atmosphere was laden with satisfaction and good feeling. Pleasant talk and inquiry went on, and Iris became a centre of attraction ; her sweet young face and evident sym- pathy, together with a little merriment born of her pleasure at being invited to aid in such a good scene, combined to makeher an object of interest, plea- sure, and even hope to the hard-working girls around.
After tea, half-an-hour was spent in the pleasant garden, and then Mrs. Wynne began unobtrusively but systematically, to move from one to another of her visitors in quiet conversation.
Wise in her charity, she did not indiscriminately open her purse or her doors to those who continued iu folly and levity, or in disregarding her gentle conditions. In so doing she enhanced the value of the privilege accorded her guests. But it would take too long to tell of the maBifold ways she had of asei8ting the advancement of these girls. Suffice it to say, many a honoured wife and mother in
Victoria has learnt to associate the name of Mrs.
Wynne with precious help given when most needed, and of dangerous pitfalls escaped through her kind guidance.
Among the company in the large dining-room sat Iiis, intently listening to the exquisite strains of a violin, touched with as much skill as if the player stood before the elite of Melbourne.. A pleasant, kind-hearted German he was, and his spectacles twinkled like miniature lamps from the shadowy
corner in which he had chosen to stand. ' There
will be more mystery here,' he said, enigmatically,
' more romance.'
Then a lady sang to a piano accompaniment, and afterwards a charming glee was sung, while Iris and the others showed the contents of photographic albums and picture-books to the guests, and aided with pleasant talk to make them feel at home.
No pause had occurred, but presently Mrs. Wynne reminded Iris of her promise. Iris, thinking of a
few words of conversation she had overheard between two of the visitors, stood on a little hassock which her hostess told her was to form her 'platform,' and began to speak in such a friendly and plea- sant manner that everybody gave her their undi- vided attention. Iris, who was rapidly warming into confidence and eloquence, did not notice a fresh arrival whom Mrs. Wynne welcomed cordially, and who quietly sat down with her among the
' I think we who are young are unconsciously so uncharitable and judge so harshly; I am dread- fully ashamed of my own hasty words and looks and actions, towards my elders, tco,' went on the young orator, with lovely glowing face and earnest look. 4 How seldom the infirmities of old age and disease draw forth the proper feeling in us of pity and con- sideration. Once I heard a girl say to some one, " Imagine what I have to hear living with a stone deaf aunt," and she was sympathised with kindly ; but it was suggested to her that possibly her poor aunt had a harder lot, never to hear a human voice or the sound of music or the singing of birds, and being always dependent on others. Dear girls, old age and helplessness, disease and trouble, will come to us all by-and-by, and we may each one day be helplessly dependent on others. If for no higher reason than this, let us try and give in our youth and strength the kindness and thought we hope to
have when we are ourselves in need.'
Her heart was full, but not being sure of a right action in saying any more, she was stepping from the little hassock, with a sweet smile and a little murmur of not saying all she had wished to say, when Mrs. Wynne, with marked cordiality, came forward and said, ' No, no ; we want to hear you a little longer.'
Colouring with pleasure, and an unmistakable thrill of feeling at the unexpected sight of a face not previously seen during that evening, Iris stood, her white hands clasped together, and after a few seconds silence she began in a low, rich voice :
What if I saved from trampling feet
The drooping plumes of a wounded bird, And tended its hurt with a gentle hand
Till a new life stirred ?
What if it nestled against my cheek,
And tamed its shyness upon my breast Until I believed that it loved me more
Than its old-time nest ?
And if some day, when I prized it most.
It should leave my hand with a sudden spring, And cleave the blue of the summer sky With a freshened wing,
And never pause at my pleading call,
Never come back to my desolate breast, And forget I had saved its life, and forget
I had loved it best,
Should I never open my arms again
To any helpless or suffering thing ? Never bind up the bruised heart,
Nor the broken wing ?
Better a thousand times to bear
A blow in place of an earned caress Tuan to turn aside into selfish ways
Or to pity less. .
Better the long-abiding pain
Of a wronged, love in its sufferance meek
Thau the hardened heart, and the bitter tongue,
And the sullen cheek.
Those who heard Iris recite this touching poenu never afterwards forgot the wonderful effect produced .. on them, and when she moved away to the only vacant seat, Jack Meredith's dark eyes gazed into hers . with such earnest sympathy, and some other even. stronger feeling, that as she gave him her hand,
the warm colour flooded her face, and a shy feeling . kept the quivering lids over her eyes. And he, with* an eager look on the fair face so long missing from his sight, noted these little signs with a thankful-
ness and a joy that made him listen, as in a dream,, to Mrs. Wynne's voice, as she spoke something about supper. He heard and saw some gentleman on the alert as the servants brought in milk, coffee, lemonade, cake, and fruit, and then he impulsively said in a low voice, ' Miss Vaughan, will you excuse, me if I make myself useful to you ?'
She looked up and nodded pleasantly. As hes left, her eyes followed the stalwart figure, and the honest, manly face, now softened and brighter than
she had ever seen it look.
When the girls went away, Iris shook hands warmly with each of them, and then prepared to depart also, despite the warm remonstrances of her
' Edith will soon lose her instructress,' thought shrewd Mrs. Wynne, as she looked at Iris and Mr. Meredith standing together under the hall lamp ; and she decided in her own mind that they made a splendid couple.
The reverent, protecting manner of Jaclc was un- mistakable, and with a tender reminiscence of her own love-tale so many years ago, the kind-hearted widow bade them' Good night.'