Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 "A red letter day"
 In the garden
 St. Alwys' Gardens
 A visitor for Iris
 Mr. Clifford-Leicester
 At the academy
 A wakeful night
 Blighted hopes
 Travelling under difficulties
 "Home, sweet home"
 "The daily round"
 In blossom time
 Back Cover

Title: Under the blossom
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00085528/00001
 Material Information
Title: Under the blossom
Physical Description: 96, 16 p. : ill. ; 19 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Haycraft, Margaret S ( Margaret Scott )
S. W. Partridge & Co. (London, England) ( Publisher )
William Brendon and Son ( Printer )
Publisher: S.W. Partridge & Co.
Place of Publication: London
Manufacturer: W. Brendon and Son
Publication Date: [1896?]
Subject: Youth -- Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Students -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Gardens -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Friendship -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Journalists -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Brothers and sisters -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Teaching -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Success -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Diligence -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Publishers' catalogues -- 1896   ( rbgenr )
Prize books (Provenance) -- 1896   ( rbprov )
Bldn -- 1896
Genre: Publishers' catalogues   ( rbgenr )
Prize books (Provenance)   ( rbprov )
novel   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: England -- London
England -- Plymouth
General Note: Publisher's catalogue follows text.
General Note: Date of publication from inscription.
Statement of Responsibility: by M.S. Haycraft.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00085528
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002231375
notis - ALH1751
oclc - 234194678

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page 1
        Page 1a
    Front Matter
        Page 2
        Page 3
    Title Page
        Page 4
    Table of Contents
        Page 5
        Page 6
    "A red letter day"
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
    In the garden
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
    St. Alwys' Gardens
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
    A visitor for Iris
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
    Mr. Clifford-Leicester
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
    At the academy
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
    A wakeful night
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
    Blighted hopes
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
    Travelling under difficulties
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
    "Home, sweet home"
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
    "The daily round"
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
    In blossom time
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
    Back Cover
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
Full Text

1reths terian Oturlc

Presented to

Awarded for Attendance, Good
Conduct & Lessons.

,January, 18

II II ~_ -. .. ----

I., -

I'' ':I

'' I I

5 ... 1



[p. 19.














. 14

S 21

S 30

. 36

. 45



6 Contents.









"How I wish it could always be Saturday !"
"Oh, Iris! I think that is the hardest day of all
the week."
But Iris Elwood, who had little to do with the
details of cleaning and sweeping, took her place at the
breakfast-table with a sigh of relief, at the thought
that she had not to hurry off as usual to the customary
round of unwelcome teaching.
Her mother looked up at her anxiously. Delicate
herself and overworked, Mrs. Elwood was always in
dread lest her children should break down in health,
owing to the necessity laid upon them now to work
hard, and carefully consider ways and means.
"You must rest to-day, darling," she said. "I wish
you could find a lighter engagement than teaching in

Under the Blossom.

Miss Crockard's school, but the money is such a help,
and Miss Crockard, of course, is not like a stranger
-in many ways she does her best to spare you, I
"Oh, I shall always hate teaching," said Iris, care-
lessly; "it is so terribly monotonous-just an endless
repetition of commonplaces. But what else is one to
do ? I can't paint pictures, or write books, or lecture,
like some women can, so I suppose I must be content
to coach the girls at Miss Crockard's for many a long
year yet."
"Not a day longer than Jack can help, though," said
her sister Nelly, decisively.
"Jack!" Iris sighed again, this time a little im-
patiently. "Why, Nelly, what chance of making a
home has a young journalist, without interest or con-
nection to help him on? We are quite prepared to
wait till the time of grey hairs; I have no desire to
marry just to be perpetual maid-of-all-work."
Mrs. Elwood was too gentle-natured to remind her
daughter that she had begged her to think well over
the matter of entering into an engagement that bade
"fair to be so lengthy. There had been one or two
stormy scenes anent the question of the engagement,
but the mother had ere this become more than reconciled
to the idea, for she had gauged John Hyldon's character
as true and steadfast, and she knew him as a willing,
tireless toiler. It was Iris herself who seemed a little
dissatisfied, now the first glamour of being betrothed
had worn off. Iris had a way of getting tired of things
when they ceased to be a novelty, and she certainly
wished in her secret thoughts that her fiance were as
well-to-do as the head of the banking firm-Mr.

"A Red Letter Day."

Burner-whom one of her former schoolfellows had
espoused, winning mention among the "Fashionable
Marriages," and insertion of her photograph and Mr.
Burner's in a society journal.
"What a girl you are!" laughed pleasant-faced
Nelly ; "what are you sighing for now, Iris ?"
"I was thinking of those words of Whittier's-
Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these-it might have been !'"
"Well," said practical Nelly, "of course, if father
had not lost so much in that mine we might have
been better off now; but I am sure we have no need
to complain. We can pay our rent and get food and
clothing, and, though I am not clever like you, I can
teach Clover and Colin, and save keeping a servant
now. It is so nice that all of us can be together;
I do feel sorry for people when losing money makes
them obliged to give up the old home, and scatter
themselves here and there to find work."
Just then the conversation was drowned by a shout
-in rushed Clover and Colin, the nine-year-old twins,
the youngest of a large family, many of whom died in
infancy and childhood.
"We've been down the lane to meet the postman,"
shouted Clover, "because Sophia promised us a present
from Hastings, when she got into her new situation,
and here it is! and there's a letter for mother too-a
grand letter with an animal's head or something on the
The children brought their packet to Nelly, who,
with great interest and expectancy, untied the string,
and produced for Colin a shell money-box, and for
Clover a little pebble brooch.

Under the Blossom.

"But I haven't any money," said Colin, looking a
Little gloomy over the ornamental bank.
Nelly soon brought a brighter look to his face by
producing a penny from her own scanty store, which
Colin dropped in for a nest-egg, quickly resolving to
save up in view of mother's birthday; and Clover
admired herself so much when the brooch was fastened
at her neck, that only Iris noticed Mrs. Elwood's
agitation over her letter.
Mother, is something the matter?" she asked;
who is that letter from ? can't we read it ?"
Mrs. Elwood had no secrets from her grown-up girls,
and she handed the letter to Iris, who read it aloud
with excited look and tones:-
"DEAR HELEN,--I have only recently heard of your
pecuniary losses, also that you are now a widow. How
many years have elapsed since we were neighbours and
playmates in our Kentish homes! Poor Mr. Danyers
died in Italy five years ago, and I now reside chiefly in
town, for the sake of my only child, Leila, who is
delicate' and requires livelier surroundings than the
country can offer. In remembrance of past times, I
am desirous of extending to you in your reverses a
helping hand, and, if you will send one of your family
here on a long visit, I will do my best to render the
change from country life enjoyable and advantageous.
"In haste, yours very sincerely,
"Well, mother, this is a red-letter day indeed," cried
Iris, examining the crest and the monogram; "but it
will take nearly all my money this term to pay the fare

"A Red Letter Day."

to town, and to get my things ready for the visit, won't
it, mother ?"
"Who is Mrs. Danyers, mother ?" asked Nelly. "I
have never heard of her before."
Mother, you won't send me away, will you ?" asked
Colin, who had a vague idea that somebody was desiring
one of Mrs. Elwood's family.
"I won't go," said sturdy Clover. I can't bear
London; pickpockets live there, and burglars-Sophia
told me so."
"There are many good, kind people in London too,
my pet," said her mother, who looked startled and per-
plexed. "But, Iris, I do not think this letter need be
answered at once. It seems to me that such a proposal
as this is a matter to be thought over-to be prayed
about," she added in earnest tones. "We may make
some mistake if we decide hastily; let us wait, dear
child, and ask to be directed and guided in this
"Why, mother," said Iris, excitedly, "it is quite
providential. You know I would not upset you by
complaining, but really I have had headaches at school
of late, and people have noticed how pale I look
at times; Dr. Weston told me the other day, when I
met him in the High Street, that I ought to be taking
"Oh, Dr. Weston, what does he know ?" cried Nell,
who somehow could not be reconciled to the fact that a
stranger should be medical practitioner in Bayston now,
instead of her own dear father, who was so long the
one doctor of the place.
Dr. Weston holds very high qualifications, I am
told," said Iris, "so his opinion is worth something, I

Under the Blossom.

should think. I am sure I need a thorough change,
and it will be a great help to mother to be saved my
board; Miss Crockard will spare me at once, I know,
for the holidays are quite near. Mother, let me answer
the letter for you, and say I will come up at the end of
next week."
You won't go, will you, Nelly? We never could
do without Nelly," said Clover.
"I don't see," said Nelly, "how we can do without
your help here, Iris; what you contribute is such a
help towards the rent."
"Oh, it is not that," said Mrs. Elwood, hastily-" we
shall manage, my dear; if it comes to the worst, we
might let part of the house, perhaps. And you and I,
Nelly, must not be too proud to undertake a little
dressmaking when we can get it, for that seems to be
my one talent. There are other reasons why I hesitate
to decide at once. My children have been brought up
very quietly, and dear father and I have tried to sur-
round them with Christian influences; I am not sure if
this household is one that will be helpful to a young
girl, in the surroundings and habits of the place."
"Why, mother, they are not heathen," said Iris;
" and what could be quieter than a family consisting of
a widowed mother and her daughter? I hope my
principles are firm enough to resist temptation, but
what harm I could possibly get by availing myself of
this warm invitation I fail to see! Of course, if Nelly
wants to go, I should not wish to stand in her light,"
she added, glancing rather anxiously at her sister.
Nelly did want to go very much; she was only
nineteen, and had an impression, derived from a
childish visit to town with her father, that London

"A Red Letter Day."

meant a round of Madame Tussaud's, Crystal Palace,
Zoological Gardens, and the like. How delightful it
would be to enjoy herself once more after this fashion!
But the remembrance came to her that somebody must
help the charwoman on washing days, and someone
must keep the home clean, and light the kitchen fire,
and make the beds, and cook the meals-" mother"
could not do all this alone. No, she felt she could not
possibly be spared, and, besides, she knew Iris longed
to be the one selected.
"You are the eldest, Iris," she said, "so if anyone
goes, I suppose you must be the one. But, oh dear,
how we shall miss you and as for poor Jack -- !"
Iris scarcely heard this latter exclamation. "Yes,
of course, you will miss me at first, Nelly dear," she
said; "but think of all I shall be able to do for you
and mother and the children! I believe my cultivation
of this friendship will turn out to be the making of
the family."





THAT was a delightful day for Iris; she learnt as much
as she could concerning the writer of the invitation-
how she and Mrs. Elwood had been girl friends, till
" mother rather came down in the world by marrying
a young doctor, and Alicia Graham espoused a rising
barrister who had continued to rise till there came a
break-down in health. The girls knew that Dr. Elwood
had invested his wife's fortune, whereby he expected
to provide comfortably for the children, in mining
speculations that proved disastrous; the losses had
probably hastened his end, but his widow and children
had managed to stay on at Lime-Tree Grange, the
landlord allowing them now to be yearly tenants.
John Hyldon, after his walk from the neighboring
town of Wykford, thought the pretty country house
had never looked fairer than on that Saturday after-
noon; he had managed to come over unexpectedly,
and he enjoyed the thought of taking Iris by surprise.
The garden door in the wall was unfastened, and in
he went, putting his hand over Clover's mouth as he

In thze Garden.

came across the child playing with her dolls on the
"Don't call out, Clovie. I want to surprise Iris
tell me where she is."
"She's in the breakfast-room, showing Nelly how to
alter mother's grey silk for her," said Clover in a
whisper. "I say, Jack, I'11 tell you something if you
give me some toffee-no, I forgot, mother said I must
never say that; but you have brought the toffee, haven't
you ? she asked, anxiously. "That's right-well, I'll
tell you without; mother says I mustn't want bribes.
Iris is going to London to be a grand lady, and be
presented to her MIajesty the Queen at a drawing-
room, perhaps ; Iris told me so while we made the beds
this morning. I'm so glad it's Iris, and not Nelly !"
John Hyldon thought his lady-love had been relating
some fairy-tale to amuse the little girl. He deposited
a bag of sweets in the lap of Clover's principal doll,
and went on to the house, where he certainly took Iris
by surprise, but received an uncomfortable impression
that for once he was rather in the way.
"You here to-day ?" she exclaimed, "and I have a
list of things to make out for Nelly to get on Monday,
and all this unpicking to do! I am very busy, Jack;
it is settled that I am to go up to town to-day week,
on a visit to the Danyers, of St. Alwys' Gardens.
Mrs. Danyers and mother knew each other long ago,
and I shall be like another daughter of the house;
there is only one girl, so it will be nice for her to have
a companion."
Going to London, Iris !" said John Hyldon, looking
extremely disconcerted for a moment; "but for how
long ? This is very sudden, is it not ?"

Under the Blossom.

"Iris dear, I can manage the unpicking," said Nelly;
"you go out in the garden, with Jack, till tea-time.
We did not expect to see you over here to-day, Jack."
"No; I came over to tell Iris a bit of news. I have
been offered an appointment on the Western Telephone
-a post holding a good chance of promotion."
Why, Jack, you are fortunate said Nelly. "Did
you know anyone on that paper ?"
"No; but the editor says he likes my articles in the
Wykford Times. I shall be away next week making
arrangements, but I shall not have to desert this
neighbourhood; the publishers of the Telephone are
very enterprising, and I fancy they have some idea of
buying the Wykford Times."
"But, Jack," said Nelly, "if you will be away next
week, this is 'good-bye,' for Iris goes on Saturday.
You two will want a long talk, so I shall -just turn
you out into the garden !"
Jack led the way to their favourite retreat, a seat
beneath the boughs of a spreading lime-tree, now
garlanded with sweet-smelling blossoms. The air was
filled with the scent of the bloom, and all around the
old-fashioned garden was gay with roses and lilies and
blushing carnations ; it was a fair summer scene. But
the joy had gone from John Hyldon's heart; he could
not bear the thought of losing Iris, and then he blamed
himself for selfishness in grudging the weary little
teacher an enjoyable trip to town !
"Come, sweetheart," said he, taking into his own the
hand that bore his simple betrothal ring; "tell me all
about your London plans, and how long you will be
I have no idea, Jack," she answered, her thoughts

In the Garden.

busy just then with the fresh trimming her best hat
would surely need, ere it was ready to make its
appearance in St. Always' Gardens.
"No idea how long you will be away, Iris!" said
John Hyldon, in astonishment.
"Of course not-now, where is that letter? I
thought I had it in my pocket; oh, here it is! You
see I shall probably be like an adopted daughter to
Mrs. Danyers, and like a sister to Leila; no doubt it
will be my future home, and I am sure I am heartily
tired of Lime-Tree Grange, and of dull old Bayston."
"But, Iris, has your mother consented to give you
up entirely, then ?" asked John, looking grave and
"Why, Jack, I am over age-I am twenty-two, and
I can live where I like. Of course, I should not wish
to act undutifully towards mother, but I have shown
her it is for the best that I should accept this generous
offer; it would never do to miss such advantages."
"What advantages, Iris ?"
"Oh, London is full of advantages, of course, and
we must do our best to get on in life, now our income
is so small. Poor dear father was a great student, but
he was so unbusinesslike; he let other people make
investments for him, and the whole thing that was to
be so prosperous failed, as you know! Now, my char-
acter is more prudent and businesslike. I feel that by
making influential friends I can help on Nelly and
Clover, and do great things for Colin; boys need a start
in life, and really we know nobody well-off here. Of
course, one shrinks from going among strangers, but I
feel it is my duty in the present case."
"Well, Iris, if you do not know how long you will

Under the Blossom.

be away, I can inform you," he said, gazing into the
beautiful face that he was well aware could not miss
admiration even amid a bevy of the daughters of
fashion; "you may stay there, if you choose, till the
nest is ready for my bird, but no longer. I really
have hopes now of working my way up, for my book
will be ready early next year, and this is a first-rate
offer of the Telephone people. I shall work hard for
your sake, my darling, and one of these days I shall
appear in Kensington, or wherever this place may be,
and bring you back to the hills and dales, to reign over
our home, and make summer weather by your sweet
face there "
Iris laughed and coloured, and leant back against
him well content. After all, she felt she would sadly
miss him amid her new surroundings; yet she would
be quite ready, no doubt, for the happy time he
pictured a year or two hence. Meanwhile it would be
delightful to exchange the tiring teaching and the
struggling family life, for ease and enjoyment with
those to whom money was no consideration.
"You will make many new acquaintances, Iris," he
said, rather wistfully, as he stroked her wavy hair;
" perhaps some of them may want my dear little woman
for their own, but you will be wearing your ring, so they
will soon see such longings are hopeless."
"You silly old Jack if I see millions and millions
of men, I shall always be just the same. It will be
like the song says, you know-
'All men besides are to me like shadows !'

I have no patience with girls who can be inconstant."
"And as you will be in London, Iris, you will go

In the Garden.

and see my married sister at Peckham, won't you?
She is my only relation, you know, and she was like
a mother to me. I hope you two will be great
Of course I will go and see her, Jack; her name is
Harper, is it not ?"
"Yes, she married a worthy fellow, one of the choir
to which she used to belong; he has not had much
education, but his heart is in the right place, and that
is the great thing, after all."
Of course it is, Jack; you must be sure and let me
have their address. Why, the clock is actually striking
five How time seems to fly to-day !"
"Tea's ready, Jack, and there are scones!" cried
Colin's shrill voice close to them just then; and it isn't
the salt butter-Nelly sent me for a quarter of a
pound of fresh."
"I can't stay, Colin. Say good-bye to the rest for me;
I have work waiting, and I must hurry back," said the
young man.
"But there's scones!" persisted Colin, keeping his
observant eyes fixed upon the couple, who had now
risen from the blossom-shadowed seat.
Nelly came into the porch, and called the boy away.
It was a very tender parting beneath the lime-tree,
watched only by the birds.
"Write to me often, Jack," said Iris, and of course
I will send you a letter every day. I am so glad I
have your photograph, and then my ring will always
be reminding me of you. You won't quite forget me,
will you, when there are miles and miles between
us ? "
"Forget you, sweetheart ? Never here or there,

20 Under the Blossom.

you are always my own, and the one queen of my
heart and life. God keep you, my darling, and unite
us again before very long, nevermore to be parted!"
Iris watched him out of sight and turned back to
the house with tearful eyes, that for awhile could
scarcely contemplate the festal tea, or the folds of grey
silk, long laid by, that would now furnish forth her
evening dress.



MISS CROCKARD, an old friend of the Elwood family,
readily consented to set Iris free from her duties
at once, and the girl entered delightedly into all the
bustle of preparations for her London visit. Very
little of her salary found its way this term into the
household purse; the money was just due, as the long
holidays were near, and Iris found many uses for it
as concerned her own wardrobe. She did not see, or
she too easily forgot, how worn and shabby was Mrs.
Elwood's one black dress, how evidently the mother's
bonnet and mantle needed renewing, and how little
Mrs. Elwood went out, lest there should be the need of
new boots and gloves. Like many other mothers, Mrs.
Elwood thought last of her own needs, and was far
more careful to make provision for the wants of the
young folks. Nelly often longed for the power of
earning money, so that she could surprise her mother
by the gift of some material to replenish her scanty
wardrobe; but Iris, so long as she was daintily attired
herself, seemed to think it quite natural that "mother"

Unde-r the Blossom.

should be content with apparel that long since had
seen its best days So Mrs. Elwood continued to wear
the brown-black merino, and Iris started for town in a
neat fawn-coloured beige costume, with a pretty cape
to match, and a hat that the mirror owned as remark-
ably becoming.
She was rather disconcerted at having to travel
third-class, especially as her former schoolfellow, Mrs.
Burner, the banker's wife, was on the platform with
footman and maid in attendance, and recognized her, as
she chose to imagine, with a somewhat patronizing
glance. But Mrs. Danyers had sent no travelling
money, and the third-class ticket was taken by necessity.
It was only a passing annoyance, for the scenery was
so beautiful along the line, and the anticipation of
London life was so vivid, that Iris thoroughly enjoyed
the journey; and expectation was at its height by the
time the train steamed into Paddington, and she knew
she was fairly launched upon her much dreamed-of
experiences in the great metropolis.
A stylish-looking though quietly-attired individual
came forward towards her through the crowd, and, as
she glanced round her uncertainly, asked if she were
Miss Elwood from Bayston. Iris concluded this must
be Leila Danyers, and felt relieved she had not greeted
her thus when her new acquaintance said-
I am Mrs. Danyers' maid, and the carriage is outside.
Please tell me what l .i- you have brought, and
Harris and the porter will find it."
Very soon Iris was being wheeled away in a cosy
little carriage to St. Alwys' Gardens; she was rather
silent and constrained, for, despite the pains her mother
and Nelly had taken with her fawn dress, she somehow

St. Alwys' Gardens.

felt that in the eyes of her companion it looked
countrified and behind the times. Poor Iris made the
mistake of continually thinking concerning other
people's opinions. Could she but have known it,
Stevens was occupied just then in wondering if they
would reach home in time for her to dress her mistress
for dinner. The train had been late, and Mrs. Danyers
was not one to make allowances. Stevens was anxious
to stay on in that situation, for the wages were good,
and she kept her old parents out of the Union. She
could have given the young visitor a few valuable
lessons in filial consideration.
Iris did not see Mrs. Danyers till just before dinner,
but Leila, who gave her a cup of tea on her arrival,
welcomed her kindly, and turned out to be a far from
alarming little personage. Iris thought she had never
seen a pleasanter face. Leila was not exactly pretty,
and her attire, though well-made and perfectly fitting,
was quiet and simple. Certainly, it was neither beauty
nor fashion that attracted Iris to her young hostess;
but, as time went on, Iris understood the gentle calm
and kindly expression were reflections of the heart
within, that had learnt the secret of rest and peace.
Leila Danyers was a bright young Christian. How it
would have rejoiced Mrs. Elwood to know this, as her
tender prayers followed the traveller! Truly has it
been said that the Lord has His flowers of grace in
strange gardens. It was difficult for Leila, in an un-
sympathetic and fashion-following circle, to shine for
the Master, yet she did so, and many in that household
were influenced by her gentle life, more than she
imagined or understood.
Iris soon felt quite at home with Leila, but they had

Under the Blossom.

little time for conversation then, as the dinner-hour was
nearing. Leila's maid, a quick, willing girl, helped the
visitor, and ere long Iris was in the drawing-room,
where a sense of awe fell upon her in the presence of
Mrs. Danyers. Imposing-looking by nature, and much
addicted to expensive costumes, Leila's mother looked
still but middle-aged, though in reality she was older
than Mrs. Elwood, whose hair showed many a streak of
grey. Mrs. Danyers had keen black eyes, and a hand-
some, resolute face; she looked like one who always had
her own way, and Iris instinctively felt she would not
like in any matter to thwart or offend her hostess.
Warmly and almost effusively the young visitor was
welcomed; and she began to think Mrs. Danyers was
kindness itself, as she was called dear one" and "my
dear child," and told to consider the house of her
mother's old friend as her own home. It was not till
long afterwards Iris understood she was there as a sort
of object-lesson to Leila, that if she crossed her
mother's will and intentions, it was not difficult to
adopt another heiress, the money being under the sole
control of Mrs. Danyers.
"You must tell me all about your dear, good mother,"
said the hostess, and your brothers and sisters-Oh, is
there only one brother ? Come and sit by my side, and
tell me all the home news; it is delightful to hear of my
dearest Helen, the friend of my girlhood, again."
It did occur to Iris that a letter now and then might
have brought such delight long ere this to the mind of
Mrs. Danyers; but she felt too flattered by the warmth
of her reception, and by the favourable impression she
had evidently made upon her grand-looking hostess, to
be aught but grateful and admiring, and anxious to

,II~ ''0

14,. s

it k

it ki


St. Aheys' Gardens.

please. So she described her country home and told
of Nelly and the twins, and promised to show the
portraits of her mother and the others after dinner;
but, somehow, of John Hyldon she said nothing-
shyness or some other motive prevented any allusion
to him-and Mrs. Danyers did not seem to notice
the ring on her left hand, for she spoke playfully of
damage that would no doubt be done to many a heart
among their friends and acquaintances, by the arrival
of "such a little country mouse with such violets of
The dinner, set forth with silver and flowers, com-
mended itself to Iris in every way; but the butler
looked so dignified, and the footman was so attentive
to her needs, that she felt a little nervous this first
evening, and it was a relief to her when the meal was
"Leila, go and play something," said her mother,
rather coldly, when they were again in the drawing-
room. "I want a nice confidential chat with this
dear child, so go and give us some music, unless you
consider it worldly to amuse your mother, and part
of your religion to disobey her."
"Mother dear!" said Leila, colouring and looking
distressed. She went at once to the piano, and Iris
would fain have listened to the sweet strains drawn
forth by the music-loving spirit; but Mrs. Danyers
was speaking in low, confidential tones, and Iris was
too anxious to be on good terms with her hostess not to
listen with interest and politeness.
"You come, my dear," said Mrs. Danyers, "at a time
when my nerves are quite out of order-wholly un-
strung, and indeed in such a condition that I am under

Under the Blossom.

treatment by Sir Eustace Traver, a specialist for
sufferers like myself."
Iris murmured sympathy, and wondered what could
be amiss with one who looked the very opposite of an
"I have had a heavy domestic trial," continued her
hostess, "in the waywardness and caprice of my only
child, who might have married a title but for her
ridiculously Puritanical notions. I have no patience
with the idea of young girls presuming to judge the
characters of those whom their parents select for them;
but that is past, and the extremely eligible parti is now
a married man, so I will not enter into details of what
was to me a great annoyance and distress."
Iris did not quite know what to say. "These things
are very trying," was the safe remark on which she
ventured timidly.
Ah, dear one, what we mothers go through only a
mother's heart can know. I feel you have been brought
up to be filial and dutiful and so forth, and you will be
a great comfortto me, I can see, amid poor Leila's
wayward and eccentric proceedings."
"I think you said in your letter to mother that Miss
Danyers is delicate," said Iris.
4,," Yes, my dear, I feel sure her nerves must be
disordered, and I had hoped that going out into society
would work her cure, but she still holds some very
strange opinions. When I had to travel about with
her poor father, we left her in a school where I fear the
influence of one of the teachers made the child quite a
little fanatic. On her joining us, I was dismayed to
find my daughter much more interested in some union
that worked for the poor and for missionary societies-

St. Alzvys' Gardens. 29

just think of it !-than enjoying herself at parties and
so on, as is natural to young people. She was a good
little nurse to her poor father and a great comfort in his
last days-I will say that of her-and as a rule she is
an obedient, sweet-tempered child still; but somehow
she has set her face against Sunday entertainments and
'at homes' and so on, so now I just let her go her own
way, and manage without her. I shall be so glad to
have you, dear child, for my little companion to-
morrow I always run into Mrs. Druce-Farwick's 'at
home,' and you will thoroughly enjoy it, and meet quite
the best people there, I assure you. I consider myself
responsible for you now, my dear, and it shall not be my
fault if your stay with me is not only very happy, but
a real success. You must try and atone to me, my
child, for the disappointment I have suffered through
the wilfulness of poor Leila !"



"WAS it Sunday at all ?" Iris asked herself more than
once next day. The breakfast-gong sounded when
those at home were already, she knew, at the morning
service, and, though she had been ready some time,
she did not like to go down before she heard the
"You must not think we Londoners are heathen,"
said M/rs. Danyers, smilingly, as Iris kissed her rather
timidly; I usually go to church on Sunday mornings
-I think it is only right to set a good example to
one's servants. But this afternoon I am driving to
Hampstead to see some pictures in a friend's studio-
you will be so interested, Iris, for I am sure you have
a soul for art-and then I am due at Mrs. Druce-
Farwick's, so I feel I must save myself to-day. Sir
Eustace Traver warns me against exhausting the
nervous system, and I feel I must lie down till
lunch, so I shall get you to read me to sleep."
The book chosen was the lightest of novels, but
Iris went through the opening chapter obediently,
though troubled and uncomfortable; the girl's thoughts

A Visitor for Iris.

were far from the narrative she was reading. These
Sunday "at homes" perplexed her; she wondered
what they were like, and whether she did wrong in
accompanying Mrs. Danyers, she who had been so
differently trained, and whose Sundays at Bayston
had been so happy and quiet-real days of rest and
praise and glad service in the Sunday-school. Leila
came in to lunch, which on Sundays she made her
dinner, though late dinner was served as usual, at
half-past seven. Leila had a class of children in
connection with some mission, and Iris would have
liked to hear all about it, and to have gone there too
in the afternoon; but the subject evidently annoyed
Mrs. Danyers, so her guest prudently avoided it.
At the end of the day the girl felt thoroughly tired
and worn out-the Sabbath hours had seemed to go
round "in mazes of heat and sound." The drive to
Hampstead had been pleasant, and the studio a dream
of delight; then afternoon tea at Mrs. Druce-Farwick's
had been gay and enjoyable, and there had been some
charming music. "After all, where was the harm ?"
thought Iris, laying her tired head upon the pillow.
But somehow it had not seemed at all like Sunday-
not at all like an oasis in the journey of life-that day
of visiting, and of chitchat as to the doings of society,
and plans for the pleasures of the week.
As time went on, Iris found Leila had much more to
do for Mrs. Danyers than she had supposed. The girl
always read her mother to sleep at night, wrote her
letters for her, and managed much of her business.
Leila loved her mother tenderly, and by no means
neglected her home duties-it was only when con-
science forbade her aught, that Leila ever absented

Under the Blossom.

herself when Mrs. Danyers desired her company.
The mother allowed her to take part in a society
that looked after the recreation of poor children,
because "some quite unobjectionable people were
connected with it." Leila was happy in making others
happy, and meanwhile Iris went everywhere with her
hostess, who lent her handsome jewellery, and gave
her some very becoming apparel, and made quite a
pet of the pretty, attractive girl. At first Iris wrote
often to Bayston and to John-letters full of en-
joyment and delight in the new life that was such
a contrast to all she had hitherto known; but soon
the correspondence became more fitful, for the glamour
of the present eclipsed the past, and becoming the
focus of admiration amid a brilliant circle resulted
in dimming within the girlish heart the image of
John Hyldon.
It was a rainy afternoon. Leila had gone in her
waterproof to see a former maid who was ill, and
Mrs. Danyers was lying down. Iris was wondering
if anyone interesting would call that wet day, and
she was turning over the pages of a fashion publi-
cation, when she heard a ring, and the footman
announced "Mr. Harper."
"Miss Hiris, I presume ?" said aw stalwart, good-
tempered looking man, the sight of whom brought
the colour to the girl's face, for she had wholly
forgotten John Hyldon's Peckham relatives.
What a dreadful visitor for Mrs. Danyers to see
Was this really Jack's brother-in-law, this vulgar
creature who found a difficulty with his H's ?
"Is it Mr. Harper from Peckham?" she faltered,
forgetting to ask him to be seated.

A Visitor for Iris.

"Yes, miss, James 'Arper, of Mountain Hash
Cottage, not far off from the Rye. And finding
myself, so to say, in your vicinity to-day on a matter
of business, thinks I, I'll kill two birds with one
stone, and see young Jack's sweetheart, and get her
over to Peckham on a visit! The wife sends her
kind love, Miss Hiris, and hopes you'll favour us
soon-suit yourself as to the time, and you'll suit us.
I suppose you know young Jack is coming up to
London to see some publishers, or something of the
sort, in a few weeks ?"
"No, I have not heard," said Iris, not looking as
charmed to hear the news as he evidently expected.
"Ah, then he meant to take you by surprise, depend
upon it, miss! Yes, he's coming up to town, and
maybe he'll hang up his hat at his sister's; but don't
you wait till then-give us a few days whenever you
feel so disposed."
"Thank you, Mr. Harper," said Iris, stiffly, "but I
really have no leisure for visiting-all my time is
engaged, and I must decline Mrs. Harper's kind in-
vitation to Peckham. How very wet, is it not ? Did
you come in a hansom ? "
"Yes, miss, for I brought neither top-coat nor
umbrella, the morning being so promising. It's
clearing up a bit now, though, and I promised the
wife I wouldn't miss the sight of you to-day, being
so handy. The wife's real interested in you, Miss
Hiris, seeing you keep company with her only brother."
The girl's cheeks flamed. It is very kind of Mrs.
Harper," she said; there-there was a sort of friend-
ship between her brother and myself, but, really,
things are so different now."

34 Under the Blossom.
"You don't mean as the engagement is broke off,
surely, miss ?" asked Harper, looking much concerned.
"Now I come to think of it, the wife was remarking
only yesterday as how young Jack's letters didn't
seem over-cheerful of late, but we set it down to his
working too hard with his brain. I hope, Miss Hiris,
it will turn out only a lover's quarrel, as the saying is."
"There is no quarrel at all," said Iris, rather
pettishly. "Well, I must not detain you, Mr. Harper
-these cabmen charge extra for waiting, you know."
Just then Mrs. Danyers entered the room, followed
by her pug with silver collar and embroidered coat.
Mr. Harper hastened to bow politely, and nearly fell
over the pug, much to the indignation of Fifine and
her mistress.
"Who is this, Iris?" asked Mrs. Danyers, putting
up her glass, and gazing with perplexity at the visitor.
"Someone-somebody I know knows," said Iris,
stammeringly-" he is just going. Really, Mr. Harper,
I must ask you to excuse me; my engagements are so
very numerous that it will be quite impossible for me
to visit Mrs. Harper. Good afternoon," and she laid
her hand upon the bell.
Since nobody has introduced us, ma'am," said Mr.
Harper, "I '11 take the liberty of handing you my card;
and my wife would have had the pleasure of bearing
me company, but the little one can't well be left just
now, seeing as he is teething. Well, miss, I won't
detain you, seeing you're so busy; but you'll find a
welcome with us any time you are so disposed, and it
isn't a very long run from Victoria."
Harper had intended drawing forth one of his
visiting cards, but being rather nervous beneath the

A Visitor for Iris.

bewildered scrutiny of Mrs. Danyers, he produced
a business card instead, and, after his departure, the
two read with horrified looks beneath his name, the
inscription Milk Purveyor."
"A milkman!" gasped Mrs. Danyers, "and he
actually put out his hand in leaving! My dear Iris,
is it possible this person is a friend of yours or of
your family ? Perhaps he married a former servant ?"
He is no friend of ours," said Iris, quickly, we do
not know him at all, and I am astonished he should be
so impertinent to pay me a visit-a man who drops
his H's and is quite a common person."
"But how did he come to call here, Iris, unless he
knew something of you?"
"Oh," said Iris, rather falteringly, his wife's brother
lives near Bayston; his wife is his superior, I should
think, but I really do not know her. We-we know
the brother, and he must have told his Peckham
friends of my coming to London, for this person
called to ask me to go and see them. Of course, I
said it was impossible."
"The lower classes are always intrusive," said Mrs.
Danyers; "you must let Harris understand that you
are not at home, should that extremely objectionable
person call again. And to think of his bringing his
wife here! Really, Iris, I wonder your poor mother
let you form such acquaintances. Just suppose the
Druce-Farwicks or the Ramsay-Luptons had happened
to call this afternoon!"
And Iris crimsoned with annoyance as she thought
of "James 'Arper," and how his visit might have
imperilled herself in the favour of Mrs. Danyers,
and the esteem of that lady's coterie.



IRIs was a good deal disturbed by the information that
John'Hyldon was likely to come up to town. Somehow
those days that once seemed to her summer-bright,
when the young journalist wooed and won her, belonged
to a past which appeared strongly different from. the
brilliancy of the present. "I have everything now
that heart can wish," the girl felt, looking round at the
rich curtains and carpets, the beautiful pictures and
the dainty appointments to which she had grown
accustomed; "I can't think how ever I endured the
dreary teaching life, and all the petty, worrying cares
of home Nelly is not nearly so sensitive as I am; I
believe she really enjoys planning and contriving how
to make the most out of a little; but I hope such an
existence as that is over for me now for ever! and I
believe it is, if-if-" and here Iris fell into a dream
in which a certain Mr. Clifford-Leicester, a wealthy
bachelor who was a frequent visitor in St. Alwys'
Gardens, figured conspicuously.
"I did not know my own mind when I became

Mr. Clifford-Leicester. 37

engaged to Jack," she reflected. "Mother was quite
right-an engagement is something to be thought over
carefully and seriously-and I feel I decided in that
case too quickly. I dare say Jack has changed his
mind too by this time, for he does not often write now,
and he must see it would only be romantic folly for us
to continue engaged. 'Love in a cottage' sounds well
enough in a story, but I am not fitted for a hard,
struggling life, and somehow-somehow-I know Mr.
Clifford-Leicester likes me."
Other people were likewise aware of that fact. Mrs.
Danyers was secretly very proud that the fair girl
introduced to society beneath her wing should have
attracted the most eligible parti available, so far as
wealth was concerned. And Leila knew also, by some
subtle intuition which to the quiet girl was a pain
none guessed or understood, that the kind-hearted,
honorable, highly-principled man she had somehow
set up as her hero, came to St. Alwys' Gardens with
no special interest in seeing her, but because the house
held for him such attractions in those eyes like dark
violets, and the wavy auburn hair, and sweet dimpled.
face, of the girl who was now Mrs. Danyers' petted
It was hard not to be a little jealous of Iris; she
seemed to have stolen from Leila her mother's love and
caresses, and then to have taken away Max Clifford-
Leicester, once her special friend, and her helper and
adviser in many a benevolent scheme. It must be
owned that in Leila's heart there was more than one
struggle against envy and dislike, as concerned their
beautiful young guest; but the girl's life had been
given into His keeping whose will is ever the best of

Under the Blossom.

all, and, whatever she missed of her heart's desire, she
could give thanks rejoicingly that all was well, and all
would be well for ever. Victorious over jealousy and
repining, she even took part at last in arrangements
whereby the two could enjoy one another's society, for
she had never heard of John Hyldon-she knew of
no betrothal tie-and the engagement ring had been
missing from the finger of Iris Elwood within three or
four days of her coming to town. Somehow it had
looked so shabby among those lent to her by Mrs.
Who is that lovely girl with Mrs. Danyers ?" was
asked again and again, greatly to the gratification of
the chaperone. A well-known artist of her acquaintance
requested as a favour that he might paint Iris, and a
most picturesque effect was the result-the graceful
figure was draped in a quaint robe that had belonged to
an ancestress of Mrs. Danyers, and the girl's hand held
some of her namesake-flowers. The picture was in the
Academy, and many would have liked to buy it, but
Mrs. Danyers,, who loved to fill her rooms with all
that was beautiful, had asked the painter to consider
it her own property.
Truly Iris Elwood was a grand social success; Mrs.
Danyers felt that if Leila had been a failure, she was
recompensed now for all her former disappointment,
and she loved to array her fair young charge in the
becoming attire that so daintily set forth the girlish
"Iris, you will be the making of all your family,"
she said one day, when some exquisite flowers had been
left for the girl, with Mr. Clifford-Leicester's card; "it
is quite evident you have made a great impressiofi on a

IIP 11

'1' r1 I


Mr. Clifford-Leicester.

certain friend of ours, and he is in a most satisfactory
position-I am sure such a marriage would be a real
comfort to your dear mother. Mr. Clifford-Leicester
would be able to do so much for the rest, and he is
generosity itself. He is of good family, though, being
a younger son, he chose to engage in commerce; he is
now partner in a firm of Greek merchants, very
wealthy and influential, and his character is one highly
respected. Really, Iris, I congratulate you from my
heart. And you must be married from my house, of
course; I dare say your dear mother would like to
come up for the ceremony."
A sudden remembrance came to Iris of the merry
talks with Nelly and "mother," about the far-off day
when her simple wedding with John Hyldon would
take place-how she was to wear some dress that
would come in nicely afterwards for "best," and how
Nelly and Clover were to be bridesmaids, and Colin
was to be best man."
It was doubtful if there could be any honeymoon,
beyond Saturday to Monday at the ten-mile distant
sea-side town of Beachcombe, perhaps-now Mrs.
Danyers was talking complacently of Nice and
Cannes, for she thought Mr. Clifford-Leicester would
"very likely decide upon being married this winter,
and long engagements are always a mistake where
everything is so eminently satisfactory."
Iris still wrote sometimes to John Hyldon, but very
rarely, and her brief notes had become stiff and con-
strained, containing little else but a catalogue of the
entertainments she attended, and the "delightful
people" who were introduced to her. He, too, wrote
but seldom, but his letters were always full of the old

Under the Blossom.

ring of affection. It was not till Iris let two months
pass by without writing, that she detected an altered
tone in his letter of anxious inquiry. She felt he was
hurt by her silence, but her mind just then was full of
a fancy ball where she was to figure as "Daybreak," in
wondrous garb of grey and rose, and that letter
likewise remained unanswered.
"Jack has gone away from this neighbourhood,"
wrote Nelly, soon after; "have you two been
quarrelling? He seems to be getting on very well,
and several papers have asked him for articles, of
late; but he looks worried and depressed-I suppose
he misses you sadly, Iris, and I am sure vwe do.
Clover has a cold, and seems fretful and irritable.
Mother and I have been dressmaking, but the people
take so long to pay, and think we should charge
almost nothing, because we are friends of theirs!
It is time, too, that Colin went to school, and I think
we must pocket our pride and send him to the free
school, for I do not see how he is to be educated
otherwise. I do with as little as I can, and mother eats
next to nothing; but it is all we can do to get along.
I only hope Clover will not get worse, for I am sure I
do not want that grand-looking young doctor here,
knowing all the time that we should have to keep him
waiting ever so long for his bill!"
Iris folded the letter with a feeling of pity for
Nelly, and relief, as concerned herself, at being away
from all the struggles and worries of "making both
ends meet."
"Nelly always coddled up the children," she
reflected, and dosed them if the slightest thing were
the matter, and Clover likes to be fussed over'as an

Hi-. Clifford-Leicester.

invalid. Fancy that dumpling of a child wanting
the doctor! Mother is the best doctor in all the
world, and I am sure Clover is all right by this time."
But on the morrow she sent her little sister a story-
book and a packet of chocolate-creams, and her
sympathy for Nelly led her to do them up in a serge
dress that she had torn in descending from a four-
in-hand. Mrs. Danyers had told her to give it away,
and she knew Nelly could darn it and use it for many
a month to come.
One day Mr. Clifford-Leicester invited a party of
friends to dine with him at the "Star and Garter."
IRichmond, and previously gave his guests a river-trip
in a steam-launch. Iris thoroughly enjoyed the day;
everyone seemed to take it for granted that she and
the genial host were to have tele-d-tWtes, and she
accepted the position of queen of the fdte with much
satisfaction. After dinner, she and Mr. Clifford-
Leicester enjoyed the moonlight together, and he gave
vent to several quotations from the poets; he went no
further, however, rather to the surprise of Mrs.
Danyers. But everyone had noticed his attentions,
and Iris felt the day had been worth living for. She had
looked her best, and knew she had been quite the most
tastefully attired of the ladies present; in a short
time, she knew, Max Clifford-Leicester and all his
possessions would be offered to her for her acceptance.
On her return home Iris found a card waiting for
her. "The gentleman seemed very disappointed," said
the footman, "to find nobody at home." The card
bore John Hyldon's name, and he had pencilled upon
it an address near to the British Museum.
Iris decided to take no notice of the card; she knew

Under the Blossom.

John Hyldon had a spice of pride in his composition,
and he would not be likely to call again unless he
heard from her.
"Oh, how fortunate," she thought, "that we were
out! Whatever could I have said to Mrs. Danyers?
He might have flown into a passion and made a scene
here, when I told him our engagement is ended; and
what a good thing he did not see Leila for he might
have told her all about everything, and somehow I
would rather Leila did not know, she seems to look at
things so differently from the rest of us. Leila puts
me in mind of mother sometimes-oh, mother, mother,
there is no face in all the world like yours! I was
happier at the dear old home, but I must do the best
for you and for Nelly and the rest," and Iris tore up
the card, trying to convince herself she was forsaking
John Hyldon from heroic motives of self-sacrifice.

hi.. '-,--', ". -
..' ...



EVERYBODY who was anybody was out of town, and
Mrs. Danyers was about to follow the general example,
but her place" in Devonshire, a pretty country-house
very dear to Leila, had been lately renovated; and, as
the drainage was found to be defective, all this had to
be seen to ere the exodus could take place. Mrs.
Danyers did not regret the delay, for Mr. Clifford-
Leicester was detained in town at present by business,
and she patiently waited with triumphant spirit, till he
should conquer his natural shyness sufficiently to offer
his hand and heart to her young charge.
Certainly he was a man in the prime of life, and
there were just a few grey lines to be seen upon his
head; but she felt sure Iris would prefer him to
anyone else amongst their friends, and then his position
at his banker's might assure him success, argued Mrs.
Danyers, with any girl of common sense The flowers
and books that found their way to Iris were tokens of
the proposal that was evidently upon the way ; scarcely
a day passed without some exquisite floral offering, yet

Under the Blossom.

the choice spoils of the florist's establishment never
thrilled her nerves as the perfume of the lime-tree
blossom, beneath which in the past John Hyldon had
won her promise.
It was half a relief to her, and half a pain, that
Jack came no more to St. Alwys' Gardens; she
concluded at last that he only ran up to town for
a day or two, and that he had now gone back to
his country work, convinced without further ex-
planation that she must look higher than a struggling
They had been several times to the Academy, but
Leila wanted to take a young gprotge'e of hers, with
artistic talents, and Mrs. Danyers, being in the best
of humours just then, allowed her to invite the
young teacher to lunch, and they all drove to
Burlington House afterwards. Leila's friend had
only two hours to spare, and would then have to
hasten off; so the two girls wandered away, catalogue
in hand. Mrs. Danyers strolled about with some
acquaintances she met, and Iris accompanied them
for awhile, but' sat down by-and-by to rest before
a lovely sunset-picture, till the group should return
in her direction. She had not been there long when
a sudden trembling took possession of her frame.
She looked up, and found John Hyldon was beside
her, looking at her with a grave, troubled face that
nearly brought the tears to her eyes, though she
quickly recovered her composure, resolved to end the
interview before Mrs. Danyers returned.
"I am glad to have this opportunity of a conversa-
tion," he said, in a low voice; "you look well and
happy, Iris, but you are very much changed."

At the Academy. 47
Time brings changes, of course," she said, trying to
speak lightly; "besides, we do not dress in Kensington
exactly as at dead-and-alive Bayston. So you are still
in town, Mr. Hyldon ?"
He paused for an instant, then remarked : "So it is
to be 'Jack' no longer? I felt you had changed
your mind, Iris, seeing you have ceased to write to me;
but it would have been kinder to tell me the truth
He spoke so calmly, and with so little approach to a
"scene," that Iris began to comfort herself with the
feeling that the end of their engagement was not much
of a trouble to him, and yet somehow this thought did
not hold much consolation for herself.
The fact is," she said, carelessly, "we were little
more than boy and girl in bygone days; and in these
times one has to learn to be practical. Since coming
to London, I have moved, of course, in very different
society from that of Bayston, and I have made many
new acquaintances. I am convinced our engagement
was a mistake-and, really, that Mr. Harper was quite
insufferable! You never told me he was a milkman!"
"Never mind Mr. Harper," said John Hyldon, in
stern, low tones that Iris had never heard from him
before; "why do you not tell me the truth, that you
have now the opportunity of advantages I am too poor
to offer you ? Be that as it may, I accept my dis-
missal, and I need scarcely say I wish you from my
heart all happiness."
"Well," said Iris, "there is nothing settled-but-if
anything occurs, you will see it in the papers. I am
sure I wish you happiness, too; and, by the way,
where shall I post that ring you gave me?"

Under the Blossom.

Put it over the nearest bridge to your house, and
my letters, too," he replied; "oblige me by throwing
them away somewhere. But before I wish you good
afternoon, I feel it my duty to tell you they are having
a very hard time of it at Lime-Tree Grange, and Nelly
has been working all day and half the night. I suppose
you know Clover has been ill ?"
"No, they never told me; at least, they said she had
a cold, but colds are nothing."
"I suppose they found most of the home news un-
noticed, so they would not trouble you more than
needful," said Hyldon, gravely; "but Clover and
Colin have had pleurisy, and your mother broke
down through nursing. The doctor has been there
constantly, and Nelly is greatly troubled, I know, how
to pay his bill."
"Things will brighten for them soon," said Iris. I
certainly think Nelly should have told me more fully
of their troubles, but Nelly was always a bad letter-
writer, and I have had so little time lately to write
home. Of course, I shall send off some jelly and
things to them' to-morrow--but now I must find my
party, please."
Iris was growing nervous, for she felt sure that in
the distance she recognized Mr. Clifford-Leicester, and
it would be so awkward if the two came face to face !
John Hyldon lifted his hat, and turned away; he
did not even wish her good-bye. She kept her gaze
upon the picture before her till he had mingled with
the throng, and then she looked in his direction, and
nearly cried out to him to come back! But he was
lost to sight; and Iris felt lonely and bewildered, and
intensely wretched.

At the Academy. 49

It was very cruel of him," she said to herself, to
tell me of all those home troubles-he only wanted to
make me unhappy. Poor darling mother! she shall
never know care or trouble when once I am rich; it is
my duty to stay on here and do the best I can to help
them all. As for him, I believe he likes somebody else
already, or he never, never could have spoken so
quietly, or told me to throw that ring away Well,
it is no good thinking about it any more; the past
is past, and I never, never could do again without
the kind of things I am accustomed to now-I can't
be poor, and I will not. I like Mr. Clifford-Leicester
well enough, and he is my fate, I must make up my
mind to it; but, oh, dear, how tiring these pictures
are, and how weary I am of these countless exhibitions !
Surely it must be time for us to get away from this
stifling place !"
"My dearest child, what has become of you ? How
faint and tired you look! Nothing makes one's head
ache so much as looking at a collection of pictures.
You see we have found a friend, and now we must
all go and have some tea."
Mr. Clifford-Leicester lifted his hat to Iris, his eyes
full of the admiration that Leila was able to recognize
now without even a heartache. Certainly there was
just a little dimness across the pictures for her, as the
two proceeded somewhat in front of her mother and
herself, but she only answered by a good-tempered
smile when Mrs. Danyers remarked, "Iris will be one
of the richest women in London, Leila; I only wish I
could hope to settle you as brilliantly; but Iris knows
how to make the most of herself, and you have no self-

Under the Blossom.

"Oh, mother dear," said Leila, "I am going to be
your little old-maid daughter; you don't want to lose
me yet, do you ?"
"Well, I suppose I should miss you, Leila, though
you are such an old-fashioned little thing; no one can
be quite like one's own child, of course," said Mrs.
Danyers, "but I hope one of these days you will
marry as well as Iris Elwood."
Meanwhile there was a very eloquent silence between
the two in front of them, for the gentleman was de-
cidedly nervous, and somehow Iris was not in the best
of spirits. It was not till they had had tea, and Mr.
Clifford-Leicester was escorting the ladies to their
waiting carriage, that he found courage and oppor-
tunity to whisper-
"I am leaving town to-morrow evening for a few
days; with your permission I will call to-morrow
afternoon to speak with you, before I go, on a
subject of great importance to my happiness and my
Iris made no answer, but the colour leaped to her
face, and he went away in a condition of unclouded
assurance and anticipation.



"MR. CLIFFORD-LEICESTER asked me to see hhi to-
morrow afternoon," Iris told Mrs. Danyers, in response
to that lady's questioning.
"Well, my dear, I hope to congratulate you both
very heartily to-morrow," said Mrs. Danyers, with
much satisfaction; "on such an event as this I can
breathe my blessing indeed. And what news we shall
have for the home folks, shall we not? I am par-
ticularly glad Mr. Clifford-Leicester did not come
forward for one of the Severn girls; I know Mrs.
Severn would have liked the match for Eva, and I
consider her a most objectionable creature. I shall
take care the Severns hear of it soon through the
Mrs. Danyers passed the evening in triumphant
reverie concerning her success as a chaperone, and the
brilliant event in society of Mr. Clifford-Leicester's
wedding (from her house) with his beautiful choice.
Leila likewise heard the news, and had no doubt as to

Under the Blossom.

the purport of their friend's visit. From her heart
she wished the two every blessing that Heaven can
bestow-yet, woman-like, she was thankful she would
be away all the morrow, for she had promised to spend
the day with the former maid, who was now con-
valescent, so that the sister who had nursed her might
have a day's outing.
"How happy Iris must feel this evening!" she
thought, glancing at the fair face bending over the
But Mrs. Danyers, struck by the girl's pallor, sent
Iris early to bed, telling her she must lose the headache
to which she owned, before "a certain person appears
on the scene to-morrow."
Mrs. Danyers was so gratified and complacent that
she began to plan once more ambitiously for quiet
little Leila, remembering that "one wedding makes
many," and, as the bridesmaid of her friend, Leila would
be prominent upon the festal occasion in prospect.
When she went upstairs, Leila found an offering
upon her dressingtable-a parcel left by a young girl
who was one of a helpful association in which Leila
took great interest. This girl was at a wholesale
perfumer's, and had saved her money to secure for
Leila a little Ikeepsake of love. The pretty basket
contained four bottles of scent, and Leila selected one
of daintily-cut glass and hurried off to Iris, who
generally came in for a share of anything bestowed
upon her friend.
"Iris, dear," she said, knocking at the door, here is
a present for you. I thought Alice was brushing your
hair by this time. Are you all alone ?"
Iris had not begun to prepare for repose; she looked





A Wakeful Night.

wakeful and yet weary, and Leila thought there were
tears in the violet eyes, though Iris turned aside as she
took the scent.
Leila what made you give me this ?" she ex-
claimed, with a start. She pointed to the label, "Lime-
tree Blossom," and Leila looked surprised.
"I only chose it because it was a pretty bottle.
Grace Milton, one of our girls, sent me a basket of
scent. I am sure you will like it, Iris. But why are
you so nervous, dear ? Is anything the matter ?"
"Oh, yes, .'.,.I/" cried Iris. "I am so be-
wildered to-night, and so miserable, but it is only
because I am tired and stupid; I shall be all right in
the morning. Don't mind about me, Leila. Oh, I
wish-I wish I could be good like you!"
"Good like nme, dear Iris don't say that. But won't
you try to tell me what troubles you? Tell me in
confidence, darling; indeed I will help you if I can,"
and Leila stroked with a gentle hand the beautiful hair
she had so often admired.
How could Iris pour out the story of the broken
engagement, the thoughts, the yearnings that filled her
heart this evening, and made her conscious that to
promise herself to another save John Hyldon would
be to act a lie ? Yet Jack was lost to her! Had she
not determined to give him up for the sake of money
and position, and were not these now within her reach?
"I must take this rich man I feel I can never, never
love," she was thinking; "he will give me all I want,
and he will provide for the rest. I have lost Jack, and
I dare not say 'No' to Mr. Clifford-Leicester,-Mrs.
Danyers would never forgive me; but if I marry him
I shall be miserable all my life!"

Under the Blossom.

"Oh, no, Leila, I can't tell you," faltered the poor
girl; and I have only a bad headache, I shall be all
right to-morrow. You go to bed, for I know you have
plenty to do before you start for Fulham."
"If you cannot tell ve, Iris," whispered Leila,
colouring-for it cost her an effort to speak thus to one
who seemed unsympathetic-" tell Jesus. Pray about
these troubles, dear. You can speak to Him as to no one
on earth, for He loves you better than anyone else does,
and He can make what seems crooked straight and
plain before you."
Oh, no," said Iris, "I can't pray; my prayers now
don't seem real-oh, I seem so far off from God!"
"Why can't you pray, dear Iris?" asked Leila,
putting her arms around her.
"Oh, because this trouble isn't the sort Christian
people have; I brought all this tangle upon myself
through my own selfishness and ambition."
"Why, Iris, that kind of trouble-the difficulty we
bring on ourselves-is the worst of all, and it is more
than you can bear alone. Do to-night just tell God the
whole-all the mistakes and the sins and the worries.
If you feel you cannot pray, tell Him that too, Iris, and
ask Him to help you. Indeed He will hear you and
have pity upon you; He never casts out any who turn
to Him, and He will not begin with you."
"I wish I knew what to do," said Iris, clinging to
Leila, with a look as if frightened at the future.
"Ask Him to show you," said Leila, tenderly. Her
mother's bell was ringing just then, and, as Stevens did
not hear, Leila had to respond; but she paused to kiss
Iris good-night, and to whisper, "I shall be praying for
you, dear, that the Lord will guide you and strengthen

A Wakeful Night.

you to do His will, and prove your very present Helper,
whatever these troubles may be."
Yes, Leila, you pray for me," said Iris; for herself,
she felt just then too selfish, too false, too desolate
to pray.
The merciful tears came to her relief as the night
wore on, and her eyes were held waking-the tears
which were outpoured at last as she knelt beside her
bed, crying for pardon and for succour in her
bewilderment to the Friend no suppliant seeks in
Iris passed that night through a time of darkness
and heart-searching. She faltered a prayer for help,
and she seemed yet more deeply in the Slough of
Despond; for she saw in their true light her neglect
of her mother and her home, her selfishness towards
care burdened Nelly, her vanity and ambition in
making up her mind to secure the matrimonial prize
of her new circle, her unkindness towards the one
whom she loved still, and knew she must love all her
life, though for money's sake she had put that love
In bitter shame poor Iris pleaded to be delivered
from her selfishness, to be strengthened even at this
late hour to do what was right. A sense of peace
came to her at last, an assurance that the heart which
is humble and abased shall not fail of succour and
guidance, and she fell asleep towards morning, to
dream that she and Jack were out in the old-
fashioned home-garden, under the lime-tree blossom
Somehow, Iris felt stronger and calmer and braver
next morning. The one she loved was lost to her, lost

Under the Blossom.

by her own vanity and folly; but one thing lay clear
and plain before her-she must not act the dishonour-
able part of taking Mr. Clifford-Leicester for his
money, when she had no love to offer him. She must
not perpetrate the mockery of a loveless marriage, or
wrong this man by pretending she could care for him
otherwise than as a friend.
Leila had been obliged to leave early for Fulham,
but on waking Iris had found beside her pillow a
spray of mignonette from a pet plant of her friend's,
and attached thereto were the words, "I the Lord
thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee,
Fear not: I will help thee."
How sorely Iris needed help to-day! How she
longed that something would prevent Mr. Clifford-
Leicester from calling, or that at the last moment he
would change his intention of speaking of that which
had become to her such a sorrow and pain!
The text attached to the flowers echoed in her heart
like sweet music as she went downstairs, and Mrs.
Danyers remarked:,
"You look much brighter and better, my love, for
your night's rest. Ah, it is well to be young, and to
be able to sink into the arms of Morpheus without
a care My very joy on your behalf, dear one, excited
my tiresome nerves, and kept me awake. But never
mind, so long as you have had your beauty-sleep.
Confess now, did you not dream of your wedding-dress,
and of orange-blossoms and those envious Severns ?"
But Iris had not courage to tell her hostess that her
mind was made up, whatever came of it, to say "No"
to the grandeur within her reach.
It was a very busy morning; for Mrs. Danyers was

A Wakeful Night. 59

just in the humour to make presents, and, in the
height of her complacence, she bestowed upon Iris,
during their round of shopping, a handsome sunshade,
half-a-dozen pairs of gloves, and a new pair of buckled
slippers, expressly to wear at the momentous interview.
Iris faintly protested, but Mrs. Danyers would brook
no objection. She would have added an expensive hat,
but here Iris was firm, for some sweet birds of heaven
had been slaughtered to adorn it, and from a child she
had been brought up with aversion to such millinery.
"Now, dear one," said Mrs. Danyers, at lunch, you
must look your best this afternoon. Put on your
cream nun's veiling, and just a few of those rose-
buds would be becoming. You look a rosebud your-
self Don't be nervous, dear child; we poor women
must bring ourselves to endure such ordeals. Be ready
by three, for I fancy he will not be late."
And just about three o'clock, Harris, with much in-
ward interest in the forthcoming proceedings, ushered
in Mr. Clifford-Leicester, with moustache arranged with
extra care, and specially choice button-hole.



MAX CLIFFORD-LEICESTER had his wits about him as a
rule, and was at no loss for self-possession when speak-
ing publicly on behalf of objects that would help and
benefit his fellow-men; but to make a proposal of
marriage when the lady fair does not meet one half-
way, or exhibit aught but an anxious interest in the
trees in the grassy enclosure of a garden, is considerably
more difficult than to air one's ideas on public spaces,
free libraries, and the like. And Max Clifford-Leicester
was decidedly nervous on this interesting occasion he
almost wished now he had decided to make his proposal
by letter.
The past weeks have been very happy ones for me,"
he began, making a brave plunge at last, after certain
desultory conversation as to the weather and the
Academy-" happy, Miss Elwood, in the enjoyment
of your society. May I venture to hope you also--"
Oh," said Iris, rather abruptly, "I haven't enjoyed
myself much of late; I think one gets very tired of
entertaining and sight-seeing."

Blighted Hopes. 61

You have a higher aim in life than mere pleasure-
taking," said he, eagerly. Yes, I felt it was so from
the first; you, like Miss Danyers, want to live, not for
yourself, but for others."
"I am not like Leila at all," said Iris, hurriedly.
"Leila is the sweetest woman I know, next to mother;
and I-sometimes I feel I am the most selfish creature
in all the world."
Then be unselfish for once," said her companion,
gaining courage as those lovely eyes were lifted to his
in championship of Leila, and say that which will
make one of your fellow-creatures the happiest and
most thankful- "
Oh, Mr. ('i H-!..1, -Leicester, please don't "
There was no mistaking the earnest ring in the girl's
pleading voice; Iris was too much distressed to be
self-conscious, and a look of pain crossed his face as
he asked," Don't what, my dear Miss Elwood ? "
Don't talk like that-don't-don't ask me to--"
I hope you are not pleading that I should refrain
from telling you what is in my heart-what I have
come to tell you as simply, as earnestly as I can--"
Oh, no, don't!" cried Iris, her nervous excitement
bringing the tears to her eyes as she spoke. "Mrs.
Danyers will ask me if-if you proposed, and I want
to tell her you did not-I cannot bear to make her
angry-I am frightened of her."
"But she will not be angry, dear," he said gently;
your guardian quite approves of my suit."
Oh," said Iris, you do not understand. Mrs.
Danyers is not my guardian; my darling mother is
alive, and I only wish I had never left her."
"Will you not try to tell me, Iris, of what you are

Under the Blossom.

afraid ? If you will look upon me as your guardian
and protector henceforth--"
"Oh, no, no, no 1 Iris cried out, wondering if that
were the proposal she dreaded to hear. Mr. Clifford-
Leicester, you are good and kind-please don't say any
more. I could not say' Yes'; and Mrs. Danyers will
be angry-if-if I do not."
"Never mind Mrs. Danyers," said he, looking pale
and troubled as the feeling came to him that his hopes,
after all, had been without foundation; I want to
know why that 'Yes' should not be spoken. It may
have been only unintentional kindness, but sometimes
I have fancied you like me just a little, Iris."
"I do like you," she said;" I like you better than
anyone-Mrs. Danyers knows."
But not better than anyone Iris Elwood knows ?
I am sorry I indulged the foolish fancy; forgive me
for having caused you this distress."
"It is all my own fault," said Iris, vehemently. "I
am engaged really-at least, I was-only he is poor,
and I wanted money, and I never told anyone about
him here. And I did try to make you think I-
I "
"Do not distress yourself, Miss Elwood," he said,
with the kindly courtesy that was part of his nature.
" I am thankful you have thus frankly spoken before,
under any misunderstanding, a union took place which
on one side would have been unhappiness, and perhaps
a wrong done thoughtlessly on the other. Forgive the
suggestion, but since you confided to me that you are
afraid of Mrs. Danyers, afraid perhaps also of being
persuaded to act against your conscience, would you
not be better under the care of your good mother ?

Bliu/ted Hopes.

Is there any urgent reason why you should live away
from home ?"
No, only I was tired of working for my living," said
the girl, with a flush of shame. How kind you are !
Please forgive me for treating you so. Oh, I do hope
you will be very, very happy before long !"
Thank you," he answered gently. May the clouds
be lifted for you, Iris; and I trust you and I will
always look upon each other as friends. Now forget
this afternoon, and get back to your mother as soon as
you can; you will lose your country roses if you stay
much longer amid your present surroundings."
After the lapse of reasonable time in the opinion of
the mistress of the house, Mrs. Danyers and tea made
their appearance almost simultaneously. Harris set
down the tray, and when she had left the room, Mrs.
Danyers, who had made a careful toilet, and shone
resplendent in a tasteful tea-gown, asked in astonish-
ment, Where is Mr. Clifford-Leicester, my love?
Surely he waited to converse with me on such an
important matter ?"
"No, he is gone; he is travelling this evening," said
Iris, bending over the tea-pot.
"Yes, but not for nearly three hours; he told me
yesterday he is to catch the express. It would only
have been polite to wait till I came down; but there,
there 1 one must make excuses for lovers, and every-
one knows he is shy. Of course, he will write to
me to-morrow. You silly, romantic child! you have
actually been crying. Why, before I was your age
I had received seven proposals; poor Mr. Danyers was
the tenth, I remember, and I was quite tired of that
kind of thing, so you see I yielded at last! Well,

Under the Blossom.

now, I must not be inquisitive as to the conversation,
must I? But was anything said as to the time of
the marriage, and do you think the dear good mother
would like to be present ? "
Oh, Mrs. Danyers," said Iris, trying to speak care-
lessly, but feeling very much frightened, "you are
mistaken in supposing there will be any marriage. I
dare say I shall never marry; and mother always says
some of the best and happiest people she knows, and
some of the most useful, are single ladies."
"What does all this mean, Iris ? I am astonished at
Mr. Clifford-Leicester! Do you mean to say this was
only an ordinary call, and that, after all his attentions
to you and your pleasure in receiving them, he never
proposed to you this afternoon ? "
"I-I don't know," stammered Iris, wanting to speak
the truth, and beginning to tremble beneath the keen
glance of those cold black eyes.
"You do not know if he proposed or not ? Come,
Iris, do not jest or trifle; did Mr. Clifford-Leicester
ask you to become his wife ?"
"Not exactly," said Iris; then she stood up erect,
and with a beating heart she continued, He said
enough to show that he wanted me, but I asked
him not to go on. I don't know that I ought to
tell you what, after all, was private; but you have
been very kind to me, and mother isn't here, so I
will tell you. I asked him to stop, because I knew in
my very heart that I could never-never marry him."
Oh, indeed. May I ask the reason for this decision
so late in the day ? I suppose Mr. Clifford-Leicester
reminded you of the very open encouragement you
have given him for some time ? "

Blighted Hopes. 65

He was kindness itself," said Iris, the tears falling
again, and I am not a quarter good enough for
him. I did try to make up my mind to say 'Yes,'
Mrs. Danyers. I know I have disappointed you;
but, oh, I am so miserable! I have made such mis-
takes and been so unkind, and now it is too late."
I suppose all this means," said Mrs. Danyers, "that
some bygone childish fancy is still in your thoughts.
Nonsense, Iris, be a woman; remember all your poor
mother's struggles. Do not, for a silly schoolgirl
memory, throw away such a chance- as Max Clifford-
Leicester; I will write to him to-night."
"No," said Iris, firmly. To marry without love to
help the others would be to do evil that good may
come-I saw that plainly as I lay awake last night.
Mr. Clifford-Leicester knows he and I can only be
friends; I will act no falsehood towards him. He
deserves a wife's whole heart, and I only hope he will
be very happy yet."
Oh, as to that, one of the Severns will soon comfort
him, no doubt-a man of his possessions need not
go begging for a wife," said Mrs. Danyers; "but
I shall not accept this as your final decision, Iris. I
must ask you to leave me now, and to see me again on
this subject to-morrow morning. If you decide to act
sensibly, a letter will soon recall him here. If you
persist in flying so obstinately in the face of Provi-
dence, I, for one, wash my hands of you, and in
that case I shall ask you to pack up and return
to Bayston to-morrow. I never keep ungrateful,
self-willed people under my roof, if I can help it;
so make your choice-you know me, and you know
I mean what I say."

66 Under the Blossom.
I have made my choice! cried Iris, impetuously,
"and I cannot-will not-marry just for money. I will
not wait till to-morrow-I will go back to Bayston,
home to mother, this very night!"
Just as you choose," said Mrs. Danyers, coldly.
Iris left the room in a heat of indignant excitement,
and the thought suddenly flashed upon her that to
reach Bayston would cost nearly thirty shillings, and
she possessed but two-and-ninepence in all the
world I



WHAT was Iris to do ? Remain another night beneath
the roof of one whose looks expressed such anger
and contempt she felt she could not, and would not.
Impetuous by nature, and now longing only to escape
from the house which had become to her like a cage,
she hurried upstairs, removed the dainty costume that
had been the gift of Mrs. Danyers, and packed a
hand-bag with a few articles that she had brought to
the house (safe within that bag were Jack's photograph
and letters and the discarded ring, though Iris gathered
these together ahnost unconsciously). She had scarcely
worn since her arrival the fawn dress and cape, of
which the style seemed now a little behind the times,
though a few months back she donned them for her
journey with proud satisfaction; now she put them
on again with trembling hands, and, thinking she heard
Leila's step, she opened the door hurriedly, for she
knew Leila would lend her the travelling money till
she could repay it by her earnings. It was only
Stevens, and Iris asked with a face that betrayed

Under the Blossom.

her perplexity and disappointment: "Has not Miss
Danyers come home yet, Stevens ?"
"No, Miss Elwood; she expected to be back about
seven. I beg your pardon, miss, but you do not look
well; can I get anything for you ?"
"No, Stevens. I am going away. I am going home
at once. Do you know the cheapest way to get to
Paddington ?"
"I hope, Miss Elwood," said Stevens, looking con-
cerned, "you will change your mind, and not travel
till the morning. I am sure Miss Danyers-and Mrs.
Danyers, too--would not like you to travel by the
night train, and it's five o'clock already; you don't
know London, Miss Elwood, and it isn't well for you
to be about alone in the evening. Won't you stay and
have a talk with Miss Danyers, miss ?"
Stevens evidently had some idea that there had
been "unpleasantness" between her mistress and the
visitor, and she guessed the reason in her own mind
pretty correctly.
"No, Stevens; I must go at once, the box I brought
with me can follow later," said Iris. "I know there is
a train from Paddington at 7.15. I wish," she added,
colouring, I had something to leave for you and
Alice, and for the others too, but I shall not forget
you by-and-by."
Don't mention it, Miss Elwood," said Stevens, "I
am sure we have been very pleased to do anything
for you. Well, miss, if you really want to catch that
train, I think you had better go by the Underground
Railway; it isn't very pleasant travelling by it, but
the station is not far from here, you know, and the
fares are not expensive. You can go to Praed Street,

Travelling under Difficulties. 69

and then you are at Paddington. Begging your pardon
for asking the question, but are you provided as to
money, miss? Going off all of a sudden like this,
perhaps- "
"I have only two-and-ninepence," said Iris, with
burning cheeks, "but I thought, if I left my umbrella
and brooch-you see it is gold-at Paddington, the
station-master would let me have a ticket to Bayston."
"Oh, don't put yourself to all that trouble, Miss
Elwood. I have only just been paid, and I was going
to put two pounds away in the Post Office to-morrow;
you're very welcome to the two sovereigns, miss, and
more, if you '11 tell me how much you're wanting."
Iris was silent for awhile; she did not like to borrow
from Stevens, yet somehow she felt as if, through the
considerate kindness of the maid, the way was made
clear and plain for her to take that long journey in
"It is very, very good of you, Stevens," she said,
brokenly. Thirty shillings will cover all the expenses,
and I will send you the money as soon as I can, with
the same interest you would have had in the savings-
"Oh, yes, miss, that will be all right; but you must
take the two pounds, one never knows what may
happen in travelling," said Stevens; and not only did
she insist on lending this amount, but she put on her
things, and escorted Iris to the station, where she saw
her safely into the train that would carry her on her
way to Paddington.
"I know Miss Leila would wish it," she said, and
so would mistress, I am sure." But Miss Leila" was
Stevens' help and ideal; and, in befriending bewildered

Under the Blossom.

Iris, she felt she was only "passing on" the sympathy
and kindness her young mistress had shown to her
and hers.
"Now you will be all right, miss," she said, as Iris
bade her good-bye.
Iris leant back, weary, but, oh! how thankful, in
the railway-carriage, feeling almost as in a dream, as
she realized that within a few hours she would see the
old home again. Why, they would all be in bed!
But they would know her old, familiar knock, and she
knew how glad and tender would be the welcome, and
how her mother's face would brighten at sight of her
long-absent child again!
It seemed to Iris, who was not used to that mode of
travelling, that they stopped very often, and that
people were continually getting in and out. I wonder
if I change for Praed Street," she thought at last;
"perhaps it will be on my ticket," and she put her
hand in her pocket to find her purse. Poor Iris!
her face grew crimson, and her heart beat quickly
in affright-there' was no purse to be found! It
was quite a small one, a birthday present once
from Nelly, and well-worn and old; but it held
Stevens' two sovereigns and the ticket, and Iris was
so frightened, she cried out almost unconsciously.
The carriage was full of people, and everyone looked
in her direction.
"Is anything the matter ?" asked an old gentleman,
rather testily, for he had been startled and interrupted
while reading the evening paper.
"I have lost my purse !" cried Iris, and it had my
ticket and the money to take me home, and now I
have nothing at all; and whatever am I to do ?" She

Travelling under Difficulties. 7

suddenly noticed that many of the passengers looked
incredulous, and betook themselves to their own
concerns again; one had to be so cautious, they felt,
for London is so full of impostors !
Where did you lose it ?" asked the old gentleman,
surveying Iris with a severe aspect of cross-examination.
I don't know," said Iris, who was nearly breaking
down in her agitation. "I might have dropped it
on the stairs, for we ran down quickly to catch the
train. Perhaps it did not go properly into my pocket,
but I think I had it all right in the train. I don't
know what to do now."
"Poor girl! perhaps someone took it and got out
at the next station," suggested a lady compassionately,
and then she once more perused her magazine.
You had better let the railway people know," said
If ladies will wear their pockets in places which
can so easily be reached by the criminal classes, and
which are a temptation to dishonesty- commenced
the old gentleman, shaking his head disapprovingly at
Iris. But a quiet-looking lady in the corner, with a
sweet, kind face that gave Iris a sensation of rest and
relief directly, said in a low voice, Would you come
and sit by me, my dear, and tell me your destination ?
Perhaps I can advise you in your dilemma."
"I have to go to Bayston," said Iris, "and now I
have nothing left; and what shall I say when they
ask for my ticket ?"
The lady asked her where she came from, and how
much it would cost to take her home. She could see
the girl was in great trouble, and really ill from fright;
and after thinking it over, she said, I have only about

Under the Blossom.

ten shillings with me, but I could send you home
to-morrow, if you like to come with me and have a
rest. I could telegraph to your friends that you are
safe with me-and you look quite unfit to take a
long journey now. The station-master where I am
going to alight knows me very well, as I often meet
country girls on behalf of the union for befriending
young women with which I am connected. I have
just been to visit one of our girls who is an assistant
now in a fancy-shop at Notting Hill. This is my
card," and, as she handed it to Iris, the girl looked
at her in startled dismay, and faltered-
"I scarcely think you will want me to visit you
-I am Iris Elwood; and-and-it is over now-
my engagement to your brother."
"So you are Iris!" said the lady, in astonishment.
"I have seen your photograph, but you look different
in a hat. Oh, you know you owe me a visit; and,
though things may be changed between you and Jack,
my home is always open to anyone in trouble and
needing a helping ,hand. You really must have a rest
before you go home, and I am sure your mother would
prefer for you to take that long journey by daylight."
Iris made no further protest; she was tired out,
body and mind, and, somehow, it was pleasant to be
protected and cared for by the one who had been as
a mother to Jack. She explained to Mrs. Harper
that she wanted to surprise them at home on the
morrow, so no telegram was sent to Bayston; but
Mrs. Harper acquainted the railway officials with the
details of the lost purse, and they promised to let Iris
know if anything further were heard concerning it.
Poor Iris had food for troubled thought indeed in
the fact that she would now have two loans to repay-

Travelling under Difficulties.

Stevens' money and Mrs. Harper's. "I must go to
Miss Crockard as soon as I get back," she decided,
"and perhaps she will pay me monthly this time, so
that I can send back these loans; I know she will
take me again as a teacher." But worries and anxieties,
and even her sense of shame in meeting James Harper
again, and remembering how haughtily she had treated
him in St. Alwys' Gardens, passed away when, for the
first time for many months, Iris made one of a circle
gathered for family worship, after the hospitable tea-
supper was over. She learnt to look with different
eyes upon the warm-hearted, Christian master of
Mountain Ash Cottage, as she received his welcome
beneath their roof, and as she heard him lead his
household in prayer so fervent, so sincere, that the
lack of education became as nothing to his fellow-
worshippers. He even gave thanks that "our young
friend when in trouble" was brought into contact
with one whose glad privilege it was to shelter her
that evening; and Iris felt like rendering thanksgiving
too, for her heart was at rest- she felt so safe, so
peaceful, in that kindly Christian home. It was not
that the cottage was in reality a comfortable, roomy
house, or that Mrs. Danyers' milkman" was pro-
prietor of many branch dairies and in a thoroughly
prosperous way of business, but husband and wife
were so genuinely kind, so abounding in hospitality,
that Iris was more than content to be there. Even
when Mrs. Harper, in bidding her good-night, apolo-
gized for her home being so full of portraits of her
much-loved brother, which overflowed even into the
spare bedroom, Iris assured her quite cheerfully that
she did not mind it at all-she "liked looking at



No further mention was made of Jack. Iris awoke
in the morning beneath his beaming smile, as a
cherubic-looking child of four with a lace collar and
an elaborate curl on the top of his head-and, when
she turned to the right, she saw him as a studious youth
of seventeen, posed by the photographer in rapt con-
templation of an array of volumes in his vicinity.
Iris had a good look at these likenesses, and decided
that she preferred the present-day portrait within
the depths of her bag; but she was engaged in a
critical scrutiny of some Welsh views to her left when
Mrs. Harper came in, bearing a most attractive
breakfast-tray, and refusing to let her get up till she
had partaken of refreshment.
"You looked quite worn-out last night," she said,
"and you have a long journey before you; we had to
breakfast early, as Mr. Harper had to go into the
country to-day. Now drink this tea, like a good girl;
and while you take your breakfast you shall see my
boy. I hope he did not keep you awake last night."
Very soon a blue-eyed baby-boy was seated on the

*~ A I






Home, Sweet Home." 77

bed, cooing and crowing and filling the heart of his
mother with pride and delight. Iris inquired his name,
and relapsed into silence when informed this was baby
Jack. Mrs. Harper did not tell her that they were
expecting their brother at Mountain Ash Cottage that
day, to remain till his London business was concluded;
she felt that if they had mutually agreed to end the
engagement, it would be awkward and painful for the
two to meet; and therefore she raised no protest when
Iris suggested she should try for the one-o'clock
London train to Bayston.
I will take you to Paddington myself," she said,
" and you must be careful that this ticket does not go
astray, my dear. What a frightened little mortal you
looked last evening, poor child! I did feel so truly
sorry for you."
"I will keep it in my glove till I give it up at
Bayston," resolved Iris; but, oh, how can I ever
thank you enough for your kindness to me ? I did not
know where to turn-and I am sure I do not know
what would have become of me without you."
"Why, my dear, I saw you were in real distress;
and, as one whose whole life is crowned with goodness
and mercy, I certainly must show mercy to others.
As we go through life it is a joy and privilege to hold
out a helping hand to one another."
They seemed old friends, somehow, by the time they
parted at Paddington. The morning was bright and
sunny, and the weather such as seemed to whisper
hope and peace to the traveller. But even as Mrs.
Harper kissed her, and she looked her last on the kind,
womanly face, her heart ached anew as she realized
they might have met and parted as sisters, and with no

78 Under the Blossom.

mutual reserve between them, save for the selfish am-
bition which had caused her to sever her life from
John Hyldon's.
That journey gave Iris a long, quiet thinking-time.
She remembered with what longings to shine in society,
and to win admiration from all, she had bidden farewell
to dull old Bayston," as she had contemptuously
called the village then. She had excited not only
admiration but envy, and she had spent her time in a
round of so-called enjoyment, but she knew that she
had not been satisfied-her heart had not been at rest.
She was glad and thankful to be going home-she felt
she would rather be sharing the struggles from which
she once longed to escape, than trembling in secret fear
lest the persuasions of her hostess should induce her
to marry for money, and bring upon herself life-
long remorse and unhappiness. She felt during that
homeward journey like a bird that is once more at
It was evening when, after many delays, Iris found
herself again at ,the familiar country station, with
"Bayston," in ornamental stones, and a tidy row of
pansies, adorning the side of the platform. She slipped
out of the side-gate as quietly as she could, for she was
conscious that the porter was gazing after her in open-
mouthed surprise at her appearance on the scene, with
none of the family waiting there to meet her. Short
as was the distance to Lime-Tree Grange, it seemed
long to Iris; for now she was so near her home a dread
seized her lest all should not be well within-lest her
mother's face, tender and gentle as ever, should not be
there to welcome her back.
The garden was empty; Iris thought it looked more

" Home, Sweet Home."

neglected than of old, for she had been fond of gardening,
and Jack had kept the lawn in order. She stole
round to the porch, and there she heard voices through
the open window of the breakfast-room; she paused,
startled, and somewhat amused, for it gradually
became evident to her that Nelly had a lover, and
an affectionate one, and Iris very soon recognized
his voice as belonging to her father's successor, Dr.
"No, Frank, you really must not try to persuade
me," she heard Nelly say; how could I possibly leave
mother and the children to struggle alone ? You know
how feeble mother is; it seems to me she gets weaker
instead of stronger. Do you think I am going to
desert her when she needs me so sorely ? You must
not talk upon that subject any more; I do not expect
to be able to marry you for years and years; you know
I told you so when first you-"
There was an interlude here, and then Nelly went on,
somewhat falteringly, "You see Clover and Colin are
only children, and my sister is away in London; I
do not think she will come back here. Of course, if
Iris were here to help mother- "
"Iris is here," said her elder sister, rushing in, and
taking blushing Nelly into her arms. "Nelly dear, I
have heard some of your talk, but not very much; I
must not listen any more, must I, Dr. Weston- ? "
Excuse me-' Brother Frank,'" said the doctor, who
looked as delighted as Nelly to see Iris back again.
"Brother Frank, then," said Iris, laughing. I beg to
inform you both that I have come back to help mother,
and I mean to stay at home now ; so you can take away
this sister of mine when you choose, only I don't see

Under the Blossom.

how any of us are to do without her. Nelly was always
worth ten or twelve of myself."
But Nelly would let her say no more; she wanted
to prepare Mrs. Elwood for her sister's arrival. The
excited cries of the twins betrayed the news very
soon, however, and Mrs. Elwood told Iris it was better
than all Frank's medicine to see her child's face
again, and know she was glad to get home to her
"We only want Jack now," said Clover, who was
allowed to sit up to the festive supper, and whose eyes
gazed with the deepest admiration at her eldest sister,
with hair arranged so becomingly, and recent experiences
of garden parties and countless delights that seemed
to Clover like a fairy-tale.
"But Jack has gone away," said Colin; "he got very
dull and mopy, and now we never see him at all. Isn't
he your sweetheart now, Iris ?"
Nelly stopped him with a helping of stewed cherries;
her quick eyes had noticed that Iris no longer wore
her betrothal ring.
"She will tell ie about it upstairs," thought Nelly,
full of pity for the sister in whose case the course
of true love was not running smoothly and brightly.
But upstairs Iris only said, "Please do not speak
about John Hyldon, Nelly. I saw him in London, and
we are not engaged now-it has been all my fault; but
it is over now, let us talk about something else. Fancy
you and Dr. Weston becoming engaged! And is he
really going to take a practice in London ?"
"Not in London exactly," said Nelly, "in a lovely
part of Surrey-all hills and wild flowers, he says. A
partnership has quite suddenly been offered him with

" Home, Sweet Home."

an old friend of his father's, and he wants to take me
with him there, but I don't know what to say about
it, Iris."
"Oh, yes, you do," said Iris, laughing; but I
remember a time when you almost resented the said
doctor's practising in this neighbourhood, instead of
poor father. When did you begin to feel interested in
him, Nelly ?"
"Oh," said Nelly, "he was so good to the children in
their illness, and so attentive to mother; and one day
when I was obliged to tell him we would try to do
without his kind help any more, for we had to consider
expenses, and therefore would he mind letting us have
the account in, he said he would not take any payment,
"Nelly herself," said Iris. "Well, he is a lucky
mortal! but, oh, dear, what shall we do without you,
Nell ?"
"I suppose it seems all dreadfully shabby to you,
after St. Alwys' Gardens, doesn't it, Iris ?" asked Nelly
wistfully. "Things will wear out, however careful
one may be; and did you notice that great darn in the
parlour carpet ? It is better, though, than catching
one's foot in the hole."
"I never noticed it," said Iris, truthfully. It does
look shabby, of course, after Mrs. Danyers' house; but
where mother is, is home. Oh, Nelly! how tired and
ill she looks! And she is wearing still that same old
"Yes; she would make me have this blouse," said
Nelly. Mother never thinks of herself. We have
had a lot of worries, Iris; and I think mother has
been anxious about you, too. Your coming back will

82 Under the Blossom.

do her ever so much good. There, mother is coming
up, and she will want a long talk with you, I know;
but, Iris, you and I must manage somehow to get some
material, and surprise mother with a dress. I know I
could make it if I could get the stuff."
"I will help you," said Iris; "I have been watching
Mrs. Danyers' maid, and I know more about dress-
making now. Mother shall have a new dress, Nelly
dear, for her second daughter's wedding-day."



THE day after she came home, Iris went to see her
former employer, Miss Crockard, that she might lose
no time in earning the money to repay Mrs. Harper
and Stevens. It was a great disappointment to her
that Miss Crockard had now satisfactorily filled her
place, and Iris agreed with her it would not be right
to send away one whose duties were faithfully per-
formed. Poor Iris I it was hard to long for employment,
and yet see no prospect at present of procuring it.
"Dear child, let us pray about it," said Mrs. Elwood,
as the fruitless search went on from day to day. Iris
had confided to her mother the reason why she left
town so suddenly, and Mrs. Elwood had told her, with
thankful tears in her eyes, that any struggle was better
than consenting to marry for money or position.
Two things happened to cheer Iris amid her per-
plexity-a long, loving letter came to her from Leila
Danyers, begging her, should she need help or advice,
to write to her in confidence as a friend, a sister, and
reminding her of One who understands our every need

Under the Blossom.

and sorrow, and whose tender succour is not far from
any one of us. Iris felt she could not take her money-
troubles, and those of her mother, to Leila; but the
letter was a real comfort and help to her. And
she was able at once to repay Stevens, for the
railway officials found her purse in the subway of
the station where her ticket was bought, and it was
restored to her, after she had described it to their
Nelly was married in the autumn-time; the leaves
were fading, .but everything was bright as spring for
the young couple, and Nelly's only grief was in leaving
her home, and the mother who seemed so unfitted to
wrestle against adverse circumstances in the battle
of life. Colin and Clover lamented loudly, as they
clung to their sister in farewell. Iris was almost
jealous, as they declared it would not be like home
without Nelly, but she remembered her sister's patient
care for the children, and loving readiness to help.
Iris was more excitable than Nelly, and possessed less
patience; still, she tried her hardest now to take up the
daily tasks, in such a spirit as would please Him whose
servant she longed in her heart to be.
"Iris isn't the same," decided Colin; she never says
'Don't bother me' now, when I want her to mend my
"And she doesn't get cross at my music lessons, and
I play hundreds of wrong notes sometimes, when my
fingers are cold," said Clover. "I think Jack Hyldon
is very stupid, for he wanted Iris for a sweetheart
when she wasn't half as nice as she is now; and when
she's getting to be as kind as Nelly, he never comes to
see her or writes to her. Never mind, perhaps she'll

" The Daily Round."

be like Cinderella and marry a prince, and then per-
haps Jack will be sorry."
The money that repaid Mrs. Harper was earned by
plain sewing, a task Iris disliked from her heart; but,
seeing Mrs. Elwood had an order to supply some
dainty frocks for the little daughter of Mrs. Burner,
the banker's wife, Iris felt she must help her mother,
and she stitched away busily, though she would far
rather have been teaching, or earning the money by
mental work.
Iris hoped she would not have to carry that work
home; she and Mrs. Burner had been classmates,
and Iris sorely felt the difference in their positions
Surely she will send for the things," she thought;
but no messenger came, and, to spare her mother, she
was obliged to go to Wykford House herself.
"Mistress is out," said the parlour-maid, who opened
the door; "she will send Mrs. Elwood the money."
Iris felt her face glow, but she retreated with relief;
she was thankful to be spared the ordeal of meeting
her former schoolfellow.
Poor Iris! just as the door closed she heard the
sound of wheels, and she tried in vain to escape
the notice of Mrs. Burner, returning from a drive.
Her nervous dread was groundless; she had suspected
pride and patronage where they did not exist.
"Iris dear," cried her former schoolfellow, "come
back and have some tea; do stay and have a chat
with me. Why, I heard of you as quite a queen
of fashion; did not a Mrs. Danyers adopt you ?"
"No," said Iris; "I paid Mrs. Danyers a long visit,
but I am home again now, and helping mother to earn

Under the Blossom.

our living by sewing," she added, resolved that her rich
acquaintance should know the truth.
But you can do better than that, Iris. You were
always head of our class; surely you can command
good money as a teacher."
I have tried," said Iris, but I can hear of nothing
just now."
"Then it was very naughty of you not to let me
know you were on the look-out," said Mrs. Burner,
"for we know so many people, and I can answer
for your cleverness You took prizes enough away
from me. I think I know the very place for you;
I will write to you about it. But, Iris dear, I must
congratulate you on Mr. Hyldon's success, his book
has made him quite famous. A lot of papers now
pretend they discovered him in country obscurity;
he is certainly one of those who have awaked to
find themselves great. But his writings are beauti-
ful! he will evidently be one of the best-read and
most popular writers of the day. And then, Iris,
his writings do help one so; my husband and I,
like many others, have to thank him for many a
beautiful thought. Do tell him, Iris, how we like
his works; I am sure he will not let you teach
much longer now."
Oh," said Iris, rather faintly, "we do not see the
papers, though Nelly wrote that he has become quite
famous; but we are not engaged now; that is ended."
Mrs. Burner gave her a quick glance, and then,
scarcely knowing how to reply, pressed upon her some
tea and dainty cakes.
I hope dear Mrs. Elwood did not mind my asking
her to make Mabel's things," she said; "she has such

" The Daily Round."

wonderful taste, and she made them so prettily before.
Let me settle with you at once, Iris dear; and as for a
teaching engagement, I will try hard to find you one."
So the dreaded interview, like many an experience
we have tried to avoid in fear, ended in comfort for
Iris. She was able to pay Mrs. Harper, and she
received a kindly letter in reply, but with no men-
tion of Jack, or his literary successes. How far
away now seemed the lion of society from her who,
according to his words many and many a time, had
inspired his heart and brain That was the one cloud
upon the horizon for Iris; she tried to forget it, and
she was filled with thankfulness indeed when Mrs.
Burner wrote asking her to call on a lady in Wykford
who needed a morning governess for her children.
Happily, she obtained the situation, and was told she
might commence lessons upon the morrow.
This morning engagement at Wykford helped very
materially in making both ends meet for the little
family; the fare by rail was only three-halfpence,
and Iris walked the distance whenever she could.
Her employer procured her also some music pupils,
and she would have felt quite free from anxiety but
for a rheumatic attack which befell Mrs. Elwood, and
which seemed to linger in her hands, thus rendering her
unable to undertake orders for work. Iris and Clover
had to manage the household duties and the sewing.
It was hard for busy Mrs. Elwood to sit still and
see her girls doing all, but she had learnt to know
that even the waiting-time has its lessons of help-
fulness, and Iris thought within her that, in its
brightness and patience, "mother's face was like a
living sermon.

Under the Blossom.

This time last year Iris was one of the gayest of the
gay, richly clad, adorned with the jewellery she had
felt it right to leave behind and that Mrs. Danyers
had not included in the luggage sent after her-faring
sumptuously, and living only for pleasure. But she
was happier now, ministering to her mother and the
children. No compliment had ever gladdened her
as did Mrs. Elwood's heartfelt, What a comfort
you are to me, child!" and the children's exclama-
tion, when she made up for them a charming story
one rainy afternoon, "It's just the same as having
Nelly here. Oh, Iris, don't you ever go away and get
Nelly sent home little gifts of garments for Clover
and so forth, as far as she was able; but Dr. Weston
had to help two maiden sisters, so their means were
limited. Nelly's letters were a great cheer and com-
fort, and, as Mrs. Elwood often said, the mercies around
them were countless; but it became daily more and
more evident that they must face the prospect of
leaving Lime-Tree Grange, for the rent had become
beyond them. The landlord, Mr. Weald, had reduced
it during the time of illness, when Iris was in London;
but even now it was a serious item for them to meet,
and after a long, anxious talk on the subject, and after
taking the matter in prayer to the heavenly Counsellor,
the mother and daughter decided they would advertise
with a view to letting some of the rooms. If they
could secure a lodger, they could still keep their home.
If not, they must prepare to leave it. And so the
notice was put into the paper, and they awaited the
result in hope and suspense.



"No answer to our advertisement!" said Mrs. Elwood,
as day after day passed by, and they received no appli-
cation for apartments-only circulars from news-
papers, suggesting further insertion of the advertise-
ment. "Iris dear, it is our Father's will, and therefore
we know it is sent in love and mercy-this necessity
for us to seek another home. We cannot stay here;
lodgings are cheap in Wykford, and, after all, you will
be nearer your engagement, and Colin and Clover must
go to the free school there. When my hands get well,
I must make up for lost time at the dressmaking."
"Well, mother dear," said Iris bravely, "there are
many worse places than Wykford. I suppose we ought
to give six months' notice, but as Mr. Weald was a
friend of father's, I think he will excuse us sooner.
Shall I write to him, mother, as your hands are painful,
and tell him we find even the reduced rent beyond us
"Yes, love, write to-day. I wish we could have
stayed by letting apartments, but we shall always have

Under the Blossom.

the memory of this place, and of the happy days we
have known here."
Mrs. Elwood's thoughts were full of her lost husband
just their, and Iris could not help remembering the one
who wooed and won her in that fair garden, now bright
again in the loveliness of early summer. But he had
reached to greatness, and she must tread alone the ways
of hardship and anxiety-no, not alone, since she had
learnt to look up to the Friend of the helpless, and to
seek day by day the guidance and strength that none
ever ask in vain. She refused to think what it would
cost her to change that pleasant home for lodgings in
the town. "It is harder for mother," she thought
tenderly, and she got the letter off to Mr. Weald
without troubling Mrs. Elwood about it again, while
she tried to speak cheerfully of some apartments in
Wykford that were handy for the recreation-ground
"I wonder if Mr. Weald is away from home or ill,"
said Mrs. Elwood one day, for her heart was full of the
subject of the removal; till we hear from him, we
shall not know when we are to go out. I wonder if he
will allow us to leave before the full notice has expired."
Iris promised to write again unless they heard by the
end of that week. Next morning the expected letter
arrived. Mr. Weald wrote but a few lines, saying he
was in treaty as to selling the freehold of their. house,
and the purchaser would call at Lime-Tree Grange that
afternoon to see if some arrangement could be made
whereby such old tenants could continue in possession,
if they so desired.
"It must be some former patient of your father's,"
said Mrs. Elwood-" someone who feels under a debt



'' ~o~

~. r~; r I
~~ :i
iht ~FspPk p~li:.
~ILr '-~Sk; ~'

In Blossom-Time.

to us for his sake. It is very kind indeed of the new
owner, but it would not be fair to him for us to pay
less than we do now-Mr. Weald has been most
considerate already."
"Yes," said Iris, "we pay less than the place is worth,
and I think we ought to leave now. But if this gentle-
man wants to help us for father's sake, perhaps he could
get Colin a nomination for Wykford Grammar School;
that would be such a grand thing, mother."
Iris had plenty of sewing to do now, as her mother's
hands were not equal to the duties so tirelessly dis-
charged of old. The children had persuaded Mrs.
Elwood to ramble out with them wild-flower gathering,
and Iris was busy with her needle in the old seat under
the lime-tree, when she heard steps coming up the
garden, and John Hyldon-looking older and more
manly, but John Hyldon still, undoubtedly-lifted his
hat to her.
"Miss Elwood, I presume ?" said he, with grave
politeness. I have called from Mr. Weald; may I ask
if Mrs. Elwood is at home ?"
Iris tried to speak several times, but the words came
at length in a sort of hysterical gasp.
"Mother is out. We expected someone to call, but
not till the Wykford train came in; mother said she
would be back."
"I walked over," said he. "I will wait for Mrs.
Elwood, if I may," and he sat down beside her, as so
often he had done in the past, beneath the overhanging
The girl's pride came to her aid; she lifted her eyes
to his, and said, Have you brought any message to us
from Mr. Weald, or from the one who is to purchase
this property ?"

Under the Blossom.

"Oh, I am buying it myself," said he; "things have
prospered with me lately, and I have the opportunity
of acquiring the freehold very reasonably. This place
will belong to me from the Christmas quarter."
"Oh!" said Iris, faintly; "yes, I know you have
been very successful. Well, Mr. Hyldon, then we will
leave by Christmas, or sooner if we can. I am not
quite sure how much notice we have to give."
"But why should you leave ?" he asked, pulling a
spray of the scented blossom. I thought of doing the
needful inside and outside repairs, and the garden looks
pretty as ever; you will not find a nicer house in this
"I know that," said Iris; but the rent is beyond us,
and to pay less than we do now would be unfair to the
owner, so we have made up our minds to go."
Well," said John Hyldon, "business matters can wait.
So you got your purse back after all, Miss Elwood ?
My sister was very glad to hear it had been found."
"Your sister was very, very kind to me," said Iris. I
shall always be grateful to her, and to Mr. Harper, too."
"Though he is a milkman ?"
"Never mind what he is," she answered. "He is a
good, true-hearted man, and I shall always feel thank-
ful to them both for their kindness to me."
"Well, you need not be in a hurry," said he, as she
prepared to put away her work; "I have some interest-
ing news for you, unless you know it already. I have
made the acquaintance, at a club for working lads in
town, of your friend Miss Danyers, and she is going to
be married."
"Leila! Why, there is nobody good enough for
Leila." And then Iris paused, and flushed crimson, a
sudden thought sending a sharp pain through her heart,

In Blossom-Time.

as she added, Mr. Hyldon, I congratulate you both;
may you be very, very happy !"
Thank you, Miss Elwood, for the blessings breathed
upon us, but Miss Danyers' choice is quite otherwise;
she is about to become Mrs. Clifford-Leicester."
"Oh!" cried Iris, "I am so glad!" and indeed her
heart rejoiced in the knowledge that in gentle Leila Mr.
Clifford-Leicester had found a consoler and a lifelong
companion. Mrs. Danyers will be glad, too," she added.
"Yes. Did you know she had been ill? Mutual
friends tell me her daughter has been the tenderest of
nurses, and the mother is much gentler and altogether
kindlier since her recovery. She even sent you, through
myself, conveyed by Miss Danyers, her love and best
wishes; so if you offended her in any way, you see
you are now forgiven. And, by the way, I have come
across another friend of yours, your old servant Sophia.
My sister manages a sort of agency for servants, and
she heard of Sophia as having lived so long with your
mother. Sophia wants to come and live with me when
I get married."
I-I must put the kettle on now," said Iris, faintly.
"I repeat my congratulations-may you and your's
have every blessing."
"She has the sweetest face in all the world," he
remarked; "but I wish she would forget the kettle
and look in this direction. Iris, do you think I cannot
guess why you so suddenly deserted St. Alwys'
Gardens? You could not marry for money, after all,
could you ? Somehow, I felt in my heart you were
truer and nobler than the Iris you showed me that
day at the Academy. God bless you, my darling!
There shall be no 'Good-bye' between us henceforth,

Under the Blossom.

shall there, Iris ? If you consigned the former ring
to the Thames, I can afford to replace it by a better
one now."
"None can be better than that," said Iris, brokenly.
"And-I- Jack, I did not throw it away."
Still, I will find a better one soon, my dearest-
the plain gold one is best of all. Do you think I am
going to let our mother and the children go away and
struggle on alone ? No, there is room here for all of
us. And Mr. Weald sent word by me that he can get
Colin on the foundation as a Grammar School boy.
So cheer up, darling ; things will brighten soon !"
"I think they have, Jack," said Iris, with a rainbow
face. But the kettle- "
The kettle had to wait till there had been a long
talk under the lime-tree, and still longer silence.
Jack had so much to tell of his literary work.
He was to be joint editor now of an important
magazine, and would have to be in London occasion-
ally; but his love of the country was such that he
preferred to fix, his home amid the woods and dales,
and his chief work would still be the authorship that
could be carried on in his own quiet study.
Mrs. Elwood, coming home laden with flowers, felt
exceedingly nervous, at sight, as she supposed, of a
stranger in the garden; but her heart gave a sigh of
relief and thankfulness as John Hyldon came forward
and told her that he and Iris could not spare her from
Lime-Tree Grange. "And she has promised, mother,"
said he, that our wedding-bells shall ring, and Miss
Elwood will be transformed into Mrs. Jack,' before we
hear the music of the Christmas chimes."




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