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was very partially acquainted, why it would be by far the happiest prospect for Lucy's friend if she could find herself early and safely settled in life. Supposing Iris could have brought herself to entertain a suitable regard for Sir William, and he were the worthy, plain fellow that Lucy had been persuading herself for the last twelve hours he undoubtedly was, here would have been a grave difficulty joyfully solved at once.
But, of course, it was for Iris to judge, and if she could not of her free-will look on Sir William in the light of her future husbandwhich was not surprising, after all, poor child !-it would never be her friend Lucy who would use pressure on Iris's inclinations. Lucy would leave that to Lady Fermor. Lucy would even aid and abet Iris against her formidable grandmother, so far as the welfare of the Rector and the parish would let so good a Churchwoman endanger it for any private and mundane matter. However, the affair was unfortunate altogether, and Lucy feared with some reason there were hard times in store for Iris.
As for Iris, she was still capable of thankfulness for small mercies. It was a relief to think Lucy would not come to her again and speak of Sir William with the forced, sanguine praise Lucy had adopted last night. Iris had a sense of support in the conviction that Lucy would help her when she could, in keeping out of his reach at the hay-making, were it but to atone for the pain which her friend's credulity had given Iris. Such an atonement would be a hundred times better than any amount of apologies for causing Iris a passing mortification.
The girls had fixed to wear nearly similar gowns—white, with blue ribands for Iris, and pink for Lucy. But when Iris appeared before her grandmother, she was summarily dismissed to change her dress.
'You look too washed out this morning for that childish white frock, girl, What a wretched constitution you must have, to be tired out by one ball! I have danced seven hours and driven to the Derby or the Oaks, and danced again, and gone to a breakfast at Richmond, without being a hair the worse of it. Put on anything rather than that white rag to make an exhibition of your sickliness; which is only a bad trick, after all, for you can walk to Knotley or Mistley Down and
back again, and feel no worse of it, when you choose.
Though Iris was prepared to be miserable, though she despaired of pleasing her grandmother this morning, she had not attained the age when vexation and worry merge into personal hopelessness, and there is a certain listless, half-bitter satisfaction in being utterly indifferent to externals. Iris had still the feelings of her kind, in seeking, however un happy she might be, to comply with her obligation to the world in making the most of her personal advantages, and looking her best under difficulties—whether in public or in private. It seems perverse of Iris, for, apart from her grandmother's wishes, it ought to have served the girl better to wear sack-cloth and ashes, and look in harmony with her attire. Instead, she put on a garment of mixed dark and light blue, which set off her fair complexion, even in its dimness and waxenness, this morning. She tried on a straw hat with maize ribands, which warmed her present lack of colour, and removed from the pale pink in her cheeks the slightest strain of sallowness. If she were no longer like the red, red rose, she was like the maiden's blush, whose very faintness of tint is exquisite, and competes successfully with the hue, 'angry and bright,' of its brilliant sister.
Lady Fermor made no comment on the change, though she spoke a few words apart to Iris. 'You will mind what you are about, Iris. There is neither to be mock-modesty nor barefaced flirtation. I think either of them in shockingly bad taste. I was sorry to receive a hint that you had been guilty of the one or the other last night. What I you do not understand me, Miss Compton ? I give you credit for more brains. What do you call mock-modesty but an assumption of ignorance of a gentleman's intentions, which have been patent to anyone who chose to use his or her eyes for the last three months ? If the ignorance had been real, it must have been idiotic. And what is your idea of a hoydenish flirtation but to turn your shoulder and run away from a man who has my leave to pursue you, and will stop you before many days are done? I could give you a good shaking for your pains.
'Grandmamma, will you let me speak to you ? begged Iris, shaking already in every
re the crisis, but nerving herself, like a brave-hearted girl with a clear conscience, for the encounter.
'No, I will not,' answered Lady Fermor, with hardly restrained violence of absolute denial, so that the sound reached Lucy in the other window. 'I have no time to listen to your flighty maundering nonsense ; besides, there is nothing further to be said. I have already told you that you are not everybody's bargain—that I am doing my best for you, while you are behaving like an ungrateful baby. Come, Miss Acton, I hear the carriage drawing up.'
Such was the seasoning which Iris had beforehand to the various courses of a Dresden china fête.
Lady Fermor's party and Lady Thwaite's party constituted the principal people at Sir William's hay-making. The Hollises had been otherwise engaged, and the contribution from the Rectory, from Knotley, even from Birkett barracks, was of inferior importance. If Lady Fermor's ball had become Miss Compton's, Sir William Thwaite's hay-making was more than half Lady Fermor's. Though Lady Thwaite had engaged to give the guests tea in her old drawing-room, the mistress of