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- The World For Sale, Volume 1. - 10/16 -
suddenly he added: "This much I will say, it shall be before--"
The girl stopped him. "It shall be when it shall be. Am I a chattel to be bartered by any will except my own? I will have naught to do with any Romany law. Not by Starzke shall the matter be dealt with, but here by the River Sagalac. This Romany has no claim upon me. My will is my own; I myself and no other shall choose my husband, and he will never be a Romany."
The young man's eyes suddenly took on a dreaming, subtle look, submerging the sulkiness which had filled him. Twice he essayed to speak, but faltered. At last, with an air, he said:
"For seventeen years I have kept the faith. I was sealed to you, and I hold by the sealing. Wherever you went, it was known to me. In my thoughts I followed. I read the Gorgio books; I made ready for this day. I saw you as you were that day by Starzke, like the young bird in the nest; and the thought of it was with me always. I knew that when I saw you again the brown eyes would be browner, the words at the lips would be sweeter--and so it is. All is as I dreamed for these long years. I was ever faithful. By night and day I saw you as you were when Romany law made you mine for ever. I looked forward to the day when I would take you to my 'tan', and there we two would--"
A flush sprang suddenly to Fleda Druse's face, then slowly faded, leaving it pale and indignant. Sharply she interrupted him.
"They should have called you Ananias," she said scornfully. "My father has called you a rogue, and now I know you are one. I have not heard, but I know--I know that you have had a hundred loves, and been true to none. The red scarfs you have given to the Romany and the Gorgio fly- aways would make a tent for all the Fawes in all the world."
At first he flung up his head in astonishment at her words, then, as she proceeded, a flush swept across his face and his eyes filled up again with sullenness. She had read the real truth concerning him. He had gone too far. He had been convincing while he had said what was true, but her instinct had suddenly told her what he was. Her perception had pierced to the core of his life--a vagabondage, a little more gilded than was common among his fellows, made possible by his position as the successor to her father, and by the money of Lemuel Fawe which he had dissipated.
He had come when all his gold was gone to do the one bold thing which might at once restore his fortunes. He had brains, and he knew now that his adventure was in grave peril.
He laughed in his anger. "Is only the Gorgio to embrace the Romany lass? One fondled mine to-day in his arms down there at Carillon. That's the way it goes! The old song tells the end of it:
"'But the Gorgio lies 'neath the beech-wood tree; He'll broach my tan no more; And my love she sleeps afar from me, But near to the churchyard door.
'Time was I went to my true love, Time was she came to me--'"
He got no farther. Gabriel Druse was on him, gripping his arms so tight to his body that his swift motion to draw a weapon was frustrated. The old man put out all his strength, a strength which in his younger days was greater than any two men in any Romany camp, and the "breath and beauty" of Jethro Fawe grew less and less. His face became purple and distorted, his body convulsed, then limp, and presently he lay on the ground with a knee on his chest and fierce, bony hands at his throat.
"Don't kill him--father, don't!" cried the girl, laying restraining hands on the old man's shoulders. He withdrew his hands and released the body from his knee. Jethro Fawe lay still.
"Is he dead?" she whispered, awestricken. "Dead?" The old man felt the breast of the unconscious man. He smiled grimly. "He is lucky not to be dead."
"What shall we do?" the girl asked again with a white face.
The old man stooped and lifted the unconscious form in his arms as though it was that of a child. "Where are you going?" she asked anxiously, as he moved away.
"To the hut in the juniper wood," he answered. She watched till he had disappeared with his limp burden into the depths of the trees. Then she turned and went slowly towards the house.
THE UNGUARDED FIRES
The public knew well that Ingolby had solved his biggest business problem, because three offices of three railways--one big and two small-- suddenly became merged under his control. At which there was rejoicing at Lebanon, followed by dismay and indignation at Manitou, for one of the smaller merged railways had its offices there, and it was now removed to Lebanon; while several of the staff, having proved cantankerous, were promptly retired. As they were French Canadians, their retirement became a public matter in Manitou and begot fresh quarrel between the rival towns.
Ingolby had made a tactical mistake in at once removing the office of the merged railway from Manitou, and he saw it quickly. It was not possible to put the matter right at once, however.
There had already been collision between his own railway-men and the rivermen from Manitou, whom Felix Marchand had bribed to cause trouble: two Manitou men had been seriously hurt, and feeling ran high. Ingolby's eyes opened wide when he saw Marchand's ugly game. He loathed the dissolute fellow, but he realized now that his foe was a factor to be reckoned with, for Marchand had plenty of money as well as a bad nature. He saw he was in for a big fight with Manitou, and he had to think it out.
So this time he went pigeon-shooting.
He got his pigeons, and the slaughter did him good. As though in keeping with the situation, he shot on both sides of the Sagalac with great good luck, and in the late afternoon sent his Indian lad on ahead to Lebanon with the day's spoil, while he loitered through the woods, a gun slung in the hollow of his arm. He had walked many miles, but there was still a spring to his step and he hummed an air with his shoulders thrown back and his hat on the back of his head. He had had his shooting, he had done his thinking, and he was pleased with himself. He had shaped his homeward course so that it would bring him near to Gabriel Druse's house.
He had seen Fleda only twice since the episode at Carillon, and met her only once, and that was but for a moment at a Fete for the hospital at Manitou, and with other people present--people who lay in wait for crumbs of gossip.
Since the running of the Rapids, Fleda had filled a larger place in the eyes of Manitou and Lebanon. She had appealed to the Western mind: she had done a brave physical thing. Wherever she went she was made conscious of a new attitude towards herself, a more understanding feeling. At the Fete when she and Ingolby met face to face, people had immediately drawn round them curious and excited. These could not understand why the two talked so little, and had such an every-day manner with each other. Only old Mother Thibadeau, who had a heart that sees, caught a look in Fleda's eyes, a warm deepening of colour, a sudden embarrassment, which she knew how to interpret.
"See now, monseigneur," she said to Monseigneur Lourde, nodding towards Fleda and Ingolby, "there would be work here soon for you or Father Bidette if they were not two heretics."
"Is she a heretic, then, madame?" asked the old white-headed priest, his eyes quizzically following Fleda.
She is not a Catholic, and she must be a heretic, that's certain," was the reply.
"I'm not so sure," mused the priest. Smiling, he raised his hat as he caught Fleda's eyes. He made as if to go towards her, but something in her look held him back. He realized that Fleda did not wish to speak with him, and that she was even hurrying away from her father, who lumbered through the crowd as though unconscious of them all.
Presently Monseigneur Lourde saw Fleda leave the Fete and take the road towards home. There was a sense of excitement in her motions, and he also had seen that tremulous, embarrassed look in her eyes. It puzzled him. He did not connect it wholly with Ingolby as Madame Thibadeau had done. He had lived so long among primitive people that he was more accustomed to study faces than find the truth from words, and he had always been conscious that this girl, educated and even intellectual, was at heart as primitive as the wildest daughter of the tepees of the North. There was also in her something of that mystery which belongs to the universal itinerary--that cosmopolitan something which is the native human.
"She has far to go," the priest said to himself as he turned to greet Ingolby with a smile, bright and shy, but gravely reproachful, too.
This happened on the day before the collision between the railway-men and the river-drivers, and the old priest already knew what trouble was afoot.
There was little Felix Marchand did which was hidden from him. He made his way to Ingolby to warn him.
As Ingolby now walked in the woods towards Gabriel Druse's house, he recalled one striking phrase used by the aged priest in reference to the closing of the railway offices.
"When you strike your camp, put out the fires," was the aphorism.
Ingolby stopped humming to himself as the words came to his memory again. Bending his head in thought for a moment, he stood still, cogitating.
"The dear old fellow was right," he said presently aloud with uplifted head. "I struck camp, but I didn't put out the fires. There's a lot of that in life."
That is what had happened also to Gabriel Druse and his daughter. They had struck camp, but had not put out the camp-fires. That which had been done by the River Starzke came again in its appointed time. The untended, unguarded fire may spread devastation and ruin, following with angry freedom the marching feet of those who builded it.
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