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In the Shadow of the Bush

Chapter XV

page 90

Chapter XV.

Big George, after some persuasion, was prevailed upon by Harry to accompany him on the latter occasion, above referred to, and was made very welcome, as having been Harry's faithful mate and bosom friend for years; but he appeared bashful and ill at ease. Either he found the influence of Mary's bright eyes too over-powering, or, in addition to this, having been away from woman's society for a long time, he could not make himself at home in it.

George had been in the colony now for seven or eight years, but was still the same good-natured, easy-going fellow as he was when he first landed—soft-hearted, and with an innate modesty that had never left him.

Harry's more expensive tastes and pleasures generally left him with a rather bare exchequer, while Big George, of a more frugal turn of mind, though by no means parsimonious, was supposed to have a nice little sum in the savings bank.

Maurice M'Keown had found his way to Robinson's on that day also. Mary and her second youngest brother had walked into church on that morning, and by some fortuitous coincidence Maurice also had gone there, and had walked home with them.

He had heard with surprise that Harry, whose acquaintance he had made some months ago, and in whose camp he had spent an evening or two, had turned out to be Mrs. Robinson's long lost son, and Mary's brother.

Big George, after they had met on this Sunday, could page 91not but notice that between Mary and M'Keown some degree of intimacy existed, a friendship which, at least on the part of the latter, was more than Platonic, for he was evidently "sweet upon her": while Maurice, in the shy, soft looks which the other stole at Mary, and in his embarrassed manner, which was foreign to him in his life in camp, thought he saw suspicious symptoms of what might develop into dangerous rivalry; for George was a good-looking fellow withal, and the particular friend and chum of the regained brother; and Maurice said to himself, with all a lover's fears upon him, "There's no telling what sort of a chap will take a girl's fancy, and you can't be sure of her till you put the wedding-ring on her finger." Morton would have added, "And you can't be sure of her then."

"Another victim, Mary," Maurice said to her, enquiringly, as they were returning from a walk which they had all taken over the farm, during which Robinson had pointed out with pride its various excellencies of soil, of water, and of pasture; had drawn attention to the good qualities of his breed of milkers and their progeny, and to the satisfactory lambing in his small flock of sheep. Maurice, on returning, had managed to drop behind with Mary.

"Another victim, Mary," he said. "How many does that make, I wonder? It's a pity some sweet and lovely things should be so deadly in their effects on us. But you can't help it, I suppose, and that relieves you of responsibility."

"Whatever are you talking about?" asked Mary, looking up at him with a smile.

"Why, Big George, of course," answered Maurice. "Can't anyone see that he's knocked over already. I know the symptoms—love's languishing looks—the soft, adoring glances when he thinks no one is taking notice, the pleased bashfulness when the girl speaks to him or shows him any little favour."

Mary laughed a merry laugh, and said, "If these are the page 92symptoms, Maurice, I don't think you have ever shown them. You could never have been in love, I am sure. I have never seen anything like bashfulness with you, at any rate."

"We don't all take it in the same way," he answered. "Oh! Mary—Mary, I am bold and bashful, hopeful and down-hearted, confident and full of fears, generous and selfish, and made up of fifty other contradictions; and if you could mould a man round every division of me, we would all be in love with you. My bashfulness would throw sheep's eyes at you from a distance, while my bolder self would kiss you on the lips; my jealousy would build you round with stone walls, while my pride of you would like all the world to look at you. When all these are rolled into one individual, and he offers himself to you, don't you think, sweet Mary, he ought to be rewarded."

"Well, perhaps he ought," Mary answered, coyly. "But, then, we don't always get what we deserve. I should advise him not to die of despair, however; but I don't think he is likely to do that in any case. But here's Billy waiting for us."

Billy was seated astride of a log, and they had not observed him till they were close upon him.

"Billy," said Maurice, "there is a place for boys, and a place where boys ought not to be."

"I know where that is," answered Billy; "father says boys oughtn't to be in bed after six o'clock in the morning."

"There's many another place where they're best away from," Maurice said. "Why don't you stay with your big brother?"

"Oh, I have been with him all the afternoon," answered the boy, "and I thought Mary mightn't be pleased if I didn't walk with her a bit. I think I like her best, after all."

"You and I agree there, at any rate, Billy, my boy," said Maurice; "constancy is a virtue, and I suppose I must forgive you for turning up when you're not wanted, as you generally page 93do. I was talking to your sister here about the transmogrification of things metaphysical when you interrupted us and broke the thread of my discourse, and when once the thread is broken, Billy, it's ten to one if you can pick up the ends of it again."

"You wanted to kiss her, like you did in the dairy," said the boy.

"What a deep, knowing, mind-reading young rascal you are, to be sure, Billy," said Maurice, laughing, while Mary blushed, and proceeded to join the others.

Harry came once again to his father's place before the contract for Ashwin's bushfalling was finished, but, poor fellow, he was carried there on that occasion.