YHKAFy

YHKAFy

"Quite like Carmen and Don José in the opera," murmured Lambert, sliding down to the foot of the rude stone.

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"What of her and of him? Were they Romans?"

"Carmen was and José wasn't. She danced herself into his heart."

Chaldea's eyes flashed, and she made a hasty sign to attract the happy omen of his saying to herself. "Kushto bak," cried Chaldea, using the gypsy for good luck. "And to me, to me," she clapped her hand. "Hark, my golden rye, and watch me dance your love into my life."

The wind was rising and sighed through the wood, shaking myriad leaves from the trees. Blending with its faint cry came a long, sweet, sustained note of music. Lambert started, so weird and unexpected was the sound. "Kara, isn't it?" he asked, looking inquiringly at Chaldea.

"He talks to the night—he speaks with the wind. Oh-ah-ah-ah. Ah-oha-oha-oha-ho," sang the gypsy, clapping her hands softly, then, as the music came breathing from the hidden violin in dreamy sensuous tones, she raised her bare arms and began to dance. The place, the dancer, the hour, the mysterious music, and the pale enchantments of the moon—it was like fairyland.

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Lambert soon let his cigar go out, so absorbed did he become in watching the dance. It was a wonderful performance, sensuous and weirdly unusual. He had never seen a dance exactly like it before. The violin notes sounded like actual words, and the dancer answered them with responsive movements of her limbs, so that without speech the onlooker saw a love-drama enacted before his eyes. Chaldea—so he interpreted the dance—swayed gracefully from the hips, without moving her feet, in the style of a Nautch girl. She was waiting for some one, since to right and left she swung with a delicate hand curved behind her ear. Suddenly she started, as if she heard an approaching footstep, and in maidenly confusion glided to a distance, where she stood with her hands across her bosom, the very picture of a surprised nymph. Mentally, the dance translated itself to Lambert somewhat after this fashion:

"She waits for her lover. That little run forward means that she sees him coming. She falls at his feet; she kisses them. He raises her—I suppose that panther spring from the ground means that he raises her. She caresses him with much fondling and many kisses. By Jove, what pantomime! Now she dances to please him. She stops and trembles; the dance does not satisfy. She tries another. No! No! Not that! It is too dreamy—the lover is in a martial mood. This time she strikes his fancy. Kara is playing a wild Hungarian polonaise. Wonderful! Wonderful!"

He might well say so, and he struggled to his feet, leaning against the pillar of stone to see the dancer better. From the wood came the fierce and stirring Slav music, and Chaldea's whole expressive body answered to every note as a needle does to a magnet. She leaped, clicking her heels together, advanced, as if on the foe, with a bound—was flung back—so it seemed—and again sprang to the assault. She stiffened to stubborn resistance—she unexpectedly became pliant and yielding and graceful, and voluptuous, while the music took on the dreamy tones of love. And Lambert translated the change after his own idea:

"The music does not please the dancer—it is too martial. She fears lest her lover should rush off to the wars, and seeks to detain him by the dance of Venus. But he will go. He rises; he speeds away; she breaks off the dance. Ah! what a cry of despair the violin gave just now. She follows, stretching out her empty arms. But it is useless—he is gone. Bah! She snaps her fingers. What does she care! She will dance to please herself, and to show that her heart is yet whole. What a Bacchanalian strain. She whirls and springs and swoops and leaps. She comes near to me, whirling like a Dervish; she recedes, and then comes spinning round again, like a mad creature. And then—oh, hang it! What do you mean? Chaldea, what are you doing?"

Lambert had some excuse for suddenly bursting into speech, when he cried out vigorously: "Oh, hang it!" for Chaldea whirled right up to him and had laid her arms round his neck, and her lips against his cheek. The music stopped abruptly, with a kind of angry snarl, as if Kara, furious at the sight, had put his wrath into the last broken note. Then all was silent, and the artist found himself imprisoned in the arms of the woman, which were locked round his neck. With an oath he unlinked her fingers and flung her away from him fiercely.

"You fool—you utter fool!" cried Lambert, striving to calm down the beating of his heart, and restrain the racing of his blood, for he was a man, and the sudden action of the gypsy had nearly swept away his self-restraint.

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"I love you—I love you," panted Chaldea from the grass, where he had thrown her. "Oh, my beautiful one, I love you."