The ninth in my A to Z of plant-inspired quirky tales:
The Flowering of Iris
Miss Iris Gladwin, to her immense surprise, was finally coming into her own. She had been a plain child, an unprepossessing young woman, and dumpy in her unmarried middle age. But at long last, she had arrived at a degree of maturity that really suited her. I won’t mention her exact tally of years, of course, but suffice it to say that her married contemporaries were now grandmothers – some of them even venturing into great-grandparenthood. Many of them were looking distinctly careworn by the experience, too. Miss Gladwin’s life of spinsterly flower-pressing and light charitable works had left her relatively unscathed. And didn’t the older gentlemen notice it! Droves of widowers, having worn out their wives with child-bearing, but nonetheless missing a woman’s presence in their lives, beat a path to Miss Gladwin’s door with gifts of violet sweets and discreet bouquets. For the first time in her life she learned the gentle art of flirting.
But would she accept any of these suitors, eh? It was a question many people were asking. Money was changing hand in small bets on the subject.
There had been the retired Archdeacon: Miss Gladwin had written him off as dull, fusty and scrawny, which was an accurate summing-up. And then there was the Lieutenant-Colonel – fine figure of a man, that one, and the short-priced favourite for a while. Turned out to be a drinker with gambling debts – but Iris had already given him his marching orders. There had been the mill-owner from the north, too. A bit of a shady character, but personable enough. Still, Miss Gladwin was having none of it.
“You can’t afford to be so choosy, Iris,” her dear friend Alice said. “You’re not getting any younger.” Well, as if she didn’t know.
Alice was shocked – shocked – when the rumours reached her. Miss Iris Gladwin had been seen entering a hotel with a gentleman. A gentleman notably younger than herself. “I have it on excellent authority that they signed in as Mr and Mrs Smith, and that they left together the following morning,” hissed her informant. “Scandalous!”
Alice stoutly defended her friend – surely a case of mistaken identity – and informed her of these unpleasant rumours.
“What nonsense,” said Iris, all smiling serenity. “It’s pure invention. Anyway, I have never been anywhere near the Roxburgh Hotel.”
Alice frowned. She had not mentioned the name of the hotel. And Iris purported to have not heard the rumours. So how did she know? Unless…
Perhaps Miss Iris Gladwin was taking full advantage of her late flowering.
This story was first published in my short fiction collection Mr Muggington’s Discovery and Other Stories. Paperback copies are available from Amazon at £4.95, but the e-book is free. If you’d like one, leave me a message on the Contact page of this site and I’ll email a copy to you.