7GW

7GW

"There's no time to say more," interrupted Mother Cockleshell rudely, for, having secured her money, she did not think it worth while to be polite, especially in the face of her visitor's scepticism. "One of our tribe—aye, and he's a great Romany for sure—is coming to camp with us. Each minute he may come, and I go to get ready a stew of hedgehog, for Gentile words I must use to you, who are a Gorgio. And so good day to you, my lady," ended the old hag, again becoming the truly respectable pew-opener. Then she dropped a curtsey—whether ironical or not, Miss Greeby could not tell—and disappeared into the tent, followed by the white cat, who haunted her footsteps like the ghost she declared it to be.

Clearly there was nothing more to be learned from Mother Cockleshell, who, in the face of her visitor's doubts, had become hostile, so Miss Greeby, dismissing the whole episode as over and done with, turned her attention toward finding Lambert. With her bludgeon under her arm and her hands in the pockets of her jacket, she stalked through the camp in quite a masculine fashion, not vouchsafing a single reply to the greetings which the gypsies gave her. Shortly she saw the artist chatting with Chaldea at the beginning of the path which led to his cottage. Beside them, on the grass, squatted a queer figure.

It was that of a little man, very much under-sized, with a hunch back and a large, dark, melancholy face covered profusely with black hair. He wore corduroy trousers and clumsy boots—his feet and hands were enormous—together with a green coat and a red handkerchief which was carelessly twisted round his hairy throat. On his tangled locks—distressingly shaggy and unkempt—he wore no hat, and he looked like a brownie, grotesque, though somewhat sad. But even more did he resemble an ape—or say the missing link—and only his eyes seemed human. These were large, dark and brilliant, sparkling like jewels under his elf-locks. He sat cross-legged on the sward and hugged a fiddle, as though he were nursing a baby. And, no doubt, he was as attached to his instrument as any mother could be to her child. It was not difficult for Miss Greeby to guess that this weird, hairy dwarf was the Servian gypsy Kara, of whom Lambert had spoken. She took advantage of the knowledge to be disagreeable to the girl.

"Is this your husband?" asked Miss Greeby amiably.

Chaldea's eyes flashed and her cheeks grew crimson. "Not at all," she said contemptuously. "I have no rom."

"Ah, your are not married?"

"No," declared Chaldea curtly, and shot a swift glance at Lambert.

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"She is waiting for the fairy prince," said that young gentleman smiling. "And he is coming to this camp almost immediately."

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"Ishmael Hearne is coming," replied the gypsy. "But he is no rom of mine, and never will be."

"Who is he, then?" asked Lambert carelessly.

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"One of the great Romany."

Miss Greeby remembered that Mother Cockleshell had also spoken of the expected arrival at the camp in these terms. "A kind of king?" she asked.

Chaldea laughed satirically. "Yes; a kind of king," she assented; then turned her back rudely on the speaker and addressed Lambert: "I can't come, rye. Ishmael will want to see me. I must wait."

"What a nuisance," said Lambert, looking annoyed. "Fancy, Clara. I have an idea of painting these two as Beauty and the Beast, or perhaps as Esmeralda and Quasimodo. I want them to come to the cottage and sit now, but they will wait for this confounded Ishmael."

"We can come to-morrow," put in Chaldea quickly. "This afternoon I must dance for Ishmael, and Kara must play."

"Ishmael will meet with a fine reception," said Miss Greeby, and then, anxious to have a private conversation with Chaldea so as to disabuse her mind of any idea she may have entertained of marrying Lambert, she added, "I think I shall stay and see him."

"In that case, I shall return to my cottage," replied Lambert, sauntering up the pathway, which was strewn with withered leaves.

"When are you coming to The Manor?" called Miss Greeby after him.