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light and shade, and the birds singing as they do in such a premature long-drawn-out gloaming, when Iris in her solitary state drove along the wide grass-bordered roads, through the pastures and downs and occasional cornfields. She had selected—with a sense of strangeness in having the privilege of selection—Cavesham instead of Knotley for her station, because of a violent apprehension which still harassed her, and caused her to shrink with a nervous horror from the most distant chance of encountering Major Pollock, though she had no just cause to fear the encounter. He could not stop her flight. It would not even matter though he should convey to her grandmother the information that he had seen her departure.
While Iris avoided Major Pollock, she could not altogether shake off a delusion, though she knew it to be a delusion. She fancied that the people whom she passed were looking at her; that they were surprised to see her alone, and wondered why she came to Cavesham, instead of the usual station for the Lambford household ; that they were suspecting a family quarrel, and watching with idle yet oppressive curiosity her every movement. VOL. II.
She had no doubt what she would do to begin with, for her mind, naturally courageous, quick and fertile in resource, had decided promptly within a few minutes of her having come to the conclusion that she must act for herself and go away from Lambford.
Iris was unacquainted with her cousins, the . Dugdales and Powells, and her grandmother had told her, what was too probable, that they would not acknowledge her as a relation. She knew her other cousin, the present Lord Fermor; she was conscious that he had been politely passive in his bearing towards her, but unless in the last necessity she would not appeal to him, though she believed that in spite of some faults and his wife's influence, he was on the whole an upright, tolerably humane man. Iris had been brought up in the practice of patience and long-suffering, but even the meekest will turn in self-defence, especially when the meekness is co-existent with a strong sense of justice and generosity. Iris was even passionately indignant with the wholesale condemnation and loose summing up of offences and offenders which had been displayed in the Mildmays' dealings with her. Besides, she could not commit the last wrong
against her grandmother which would be implied in Iris's addressing herself to Lady Fermor's natural enemy and claiming his protection. Lady Fermor, whatever she had done, remained Iris's mother's mother, her nearest relative, the guardian of her childhood and youth, as the old woman had so often reminded the girl lately with cruel reproaches. Nothing could do away with that obligation, which entered like iron into Iris's soul, so that under the sharp smarting of the wound there was little probability of her forgetting a duty which, according to her notions, was still paramount. .
To expose her grandmother, if Iris could prevent it, especially to expose her relative to her greatest foe, would be to expose herself, so the girl argued, to the well-warranted charge of household baseness.
Iris was shut up to one course. Her old friend, Miss Burrage, had a sister in London who kept a boarding-house in which the girl and her governess had once lived for a few days. Iris would go to Fitzroy Square, to Mrs. Haigh, who knew all about Iris Compton, and would surely receive her without difficulty. Perhaps Mrs. Haigh would help Iris to look
about and find some way of working for her living, since fifty pounds and the small sum left of her last quarter's allowance, with which she had intended to pay her expenses to London, would not last for ever. It did not strike Iris that there would be anything degrading in entering the great army of workers, though she had the sense to anticipate that there might be much that was not agreeable, that was trying and full of drudgery. She even failed to see, and there was considerable simplicity and short-sightedness in the failure, that Lady Fermor was certain to regard the project with the utmost hostility. On the contrary, the wanderer sought to pacify her tender conscience, and the aching longing of her affectionate heart, by telling herself that she might soon write to Lucy Acton, when the Rector, if he saw fit, could inform Lady Fermor that Iris was well, and able to maintain herself.
But Iris, in her ignorance, thought less of these questions than of the strangeness of her solitude and independence as she left the carriage and entered the station, took out her ticket for London, and paced up and down the most secluded end of the platform. Did
the man in the ticket-office recognise her, and regard it as odd that she should be travelling alone, which she had never done before? Was the stationmaster keeping his eye upon her, or did he direct the porters to do it? She saw one of her fellow-travellers, a harmlesslooking middle-class woman, surreptitiously reading the address on Iris's portmanteau. It might be to gratify idle curiosity, at the same time the action was suspicious. Yet why should she mind, even though what she dreaded, next to being followed by Major Pollock, came to pass, and some of her personal acquaintances, Lady Thwaite, or one of the Hollises, or even an officer from Birkett—were to appear through the archway ? None of them could interfere to prevent her departure, not even though she or he knew all about it, that Iris Compton was not coming back, that she had only her old governess's sister, whom Iris had seen but once nine years ago, for a friend in need with whom to take refuge.
But was Iris really going away from Lambford, from Eastham, from country sights and sounds, and all she had ever known and loved ? She stooped, as she pondered over what seemed still impossible, and gathered a