“My name is Iris Aglen.”
“Iris! It is a pretty name!”
“It was, I believe, my grandmother’s. But I never saw her, and I do not know who or what my father’s relations are.”
“Iris Aglen!” he repeated. “Iris was the Herald of the Gods, and the rainbow was constructed on purpose to serve her for a way from Heaven to the Earth.”
“Mathematicians do not allow that,” said the girl, smiling.
“I don’t know any mathematics. But now I understand in what school you learned your heraldry. You are Queen-at-Arms at least, and Herald to the Gods of Olympus.”
He wished to add something about the loveliness of Aphrodite, and the wisdom of Athene, but he refrained, which was in good taste.
“Thank you, Mr. Arbuthnot,” Iris replied. “I learned my heraldry of my grandfather, who taught himself from the books he sells. And my mathematics I learned of Lala Roy, who is our lodger, and a learned Hindoo gentleman. My father is dead—and my mother as well—and I have no friends in the world except these two old men, who love me, and have done their best to spoil me.”
Her eyes grew humid and her voice trembled.
No other friends in the world! Strange to say, this young man felt a little sense of relief. No other friends. He ought to have sympathized with the girl’s loneliness; he might have asked her how she could possibly endure life without companionship, but he did not; he only felt that other friends might have been rough and ill-bred; this girl derived her refinement, not only from nature, but also from separation from the other girls who might in the ordinary course have been her friends and associates. And if no other friends, then no lover. Arnold was only going to visit the young lady as her brother; but lovers do not generally approve the introduction of such novel effects as that caused by the appearance of a brand-new and previously unsuspected brother. He was glad, on the whole, that there was no lover.
Then he left her, and went home to his studio, where he sat till midnight, sketching a thousand heads one after the other with rapid pencil. They were all girls’ heads, and they all had hair parted on the left side, with a broad, square forehead, full eyes, and straight, clear-cut features.
“No,” he said, “it is no good. I cannot catch the curve of her mouth—nobody could. What a pretty girl! And I am to be her brother! What will Clara say? And how—oh, how in the world can she be, all at the same time, so young, so pretty, so learned, so quick, so sympathetic, and so wise?”
The wolf at home.
There is a certain music-hall, in a certain street, leading out of a certain road, and this is quite clear and definite enough. Its distinctive characteristics, above any of its fellows, is a vulgarity so profound, that the connoisseur or student in that branch of mental culture thinks that here at last he has reached the lowest depths. For this reason one shrinks from actually naming it, because it might become fashionable, and then, if it fondly tried to change its character to suit its changed audience, it might entirely lose its present charm, and become simply commonplace.