“It’s time I set about making my own living,” said Dot Burton.
She spoke resolutely, and her face was resolute also; its young lines were for the moment almost grim. She stood in the doorway of the stable, watching her brother rub down the animal he had just been riding. Behind her the rays of the Australian sun smote almost level, making of her fair hair a dazzling aureole of gold. The lashes of her blue eyes were tipped with gold also, but the brows above them were delicately dark. They were slightly drawn just then, as if she were considering a problem of considerable difficulty.
Jack Burton was frankly frowning over his task. It was quite evident that his sister’s announcement was not a welcome one.
She continued after a moment, as he did not respond in words: “I am sure I could make a living, Jack. I’m not the ‘new chum’ I used to be, thanks to you. You’ve taught me a whole heap of things.”
Jack glanced up for a second. “Aren’t you happy here?” he said.
She eluded the question. “You’ve been awfully good to me, dear old boy. But really, you know, I think you’ve got burdens enough without me. In any case, it isn’t fair that I should add to them.”
Jack grunted. “It isn’t fair that you should do more than half the work on the place and not be paid for it, you mean. You’re quite right, it isn’t.”
“No, I don’t mean that, Jack.” Quite decidedly she contradicted him. “I don’t mind work. I like to have my time filled. I love being useful. It isn’t that at all. But all the same, you and Adela are quite complete without me. Before you were married it was different. I was necessary to you then. But I’m not now. And so—”
“Has Adela been saying that to you?”
Jack Burton straightened himself abruptly. His expression was almost fierce.
Dot laughed at sight of it. “No, Jack, no! Don’t be so jumpy! Of course she hasn’t. As if she would! She hasn’t said a thing. But I know how she feels, and I should feel exactly the same in her place. Now do be sensible! You must see my point. I’m getting on, you know, Jack. I’m twenty-five. Just fancy! You’ve sheltered me quite long enough—too long, really. You must—you really must—let me go.”
He was looking at her squarely. “I can’t prevent your going,” he said, gruffly. “But it won’t be with my consent—ever—or my approval. You’ll go against my will—dead against it.”
“Jack—darling!” She went to him impulsively and took him by the shoulders. “Now that isn’t reasonable of you. It really isn’t. You’ve got to take that back.”
He looked at her moodily. “I shan’t take it back. I can’t. I am dead against your going. I know this country. It’s not a place for lone women. And you’re not much more than a child, whatever you may say. It’s rough, I tell you. And you”—he looked down upon her slender fairness—“you weren’t made for rough things.”