The Boy in the Bush
The Boy in the Bush
CHAPTER II: THE TWIN LAMBS
Jack was tired and a little land-sick, after the long voyage. He felt dazed and rather unhappy, and saw as through a glass, darkly. For he could not yet get used to the fixed land under his feet, after the long weeks on the steamer. And these people went on as if they were wound up, curiously oblivious of him and his feelings. A dream world, with a dark glass between his eyes and it. An uneasy dream.
He waited on the platform. Mr. George had again disappeared somewhere. The train was already backing away. It was evening, and the setting sun from the west, where the great empty sea spread unseen, cast a radiance in the etherealized air, melting the brick shops and the wooden houses and the sandy places in a sort of amethyst glow. And again Jack saw the magic clarity of this new world, as through a glass, darkly. He felt the cool snap of night in the air, coming strange and crude out of the jewel sky. And it seemed to him he was looking through the wrong end of a field-glass, at a far, far country.
Where was Mr. George? Had he gone off to read the letter again, or to inquire about the draft on the bank? Everyone had left the station, the wagonette cabs had driven away. What was to be done? Ought he to have mentioned an hotel? He'd better say something. He'd better say-
But here was Mr. George, with a serious face, coming straight up to say something.
"That vet," he said, "did he think you had a natural gift for veterinary work?"
"He said so, sir. My mother's father was a naval surgeon-if that has anything to do with it."
"Nothing at all.-I knew the old gentleman-and another silly old fossil he was, too.-But he's dead, so we'll make the best of him.-No, it was your character I wanted to get at.-Your father wants you to go on a farm or station for twelve months, and sends a pound a week for your board. Suppose you know-?"
"Yes-I hope it's enough."
"Oh, it's enough, if you're all right yourself-I was thinking of Ellis' place. I've got the twins here now. They're kinsmen of yours, the Ellises-and of mine, too. We're all related, in clans and cliques and gangs, out here in this colony. Your mother belongs to the Ellis clan.-Well, now. Ellis' place is a fine home farm, and not too far. Only he's got a family of fine young lambs, my step-sister's children into the bargain. And y'see, if y're a wolf in sheep's clothing-for you look mild enough-why, I oughtn't be sending you among them. Young lasses and boys bred and reared out there in the bush, why-. Come now, son y' father protected you by silence.-But you're not in court, and you needn't heed me. Tell me straight out what you were expelled from your Bedford school for."
Jack was silent for a moment, rather pale about the nose.
"I was nabbed," he said in a colourless voice, "at a fight with fists for a purse of sovereigns, laid either side. Plenty of others were there. But they got away, and the police nabbed me for the school colours on my cap. My father was just back from Ceylon, and he stood by me. But the Head said for the sake of example and for the name of the school I'd better be chucked out. They were talking about the school in the newspapers. The Head said he was sorry to expel me."
Mr. George blew his nose into a large yellow red-spotted handkerchief, and looked for a few moments into the distance.
"Seems to me you let yourself be made a bit of a cat's paw of," he said dubiously.
"I suppose it's because I don't care," said Jack.
"But you ought to care.-Why don't y'?"
There was no answer.
"You'll have to care some day or other," the old man continued.
"Do you know, sir, which hotel I shall go to?" asked Jack.
"You'll go to no hotel. You'll come home with me.-But mind y'. I've got my two young nieces, Ellis' twins, couple of girls, Ellis' daughters, where I'm going to send you. They