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- The World For Sale, Volume 1. - 16/16 -

were mine by Romany law. It was for me here to claim you--here where a Romany and his wife were alone together!"

His eyes were fixed searchingly on hers, as though he would read the effect of his words before he replied, and his voice had a curious, rough note, as though with difficulty he quelled the tempest within him. "I have my rights, and you had spat upon me," he said with ferocious softness.

She did not blench, but looked him steadily in the eyes.

"I knew what would be in your mind," she answered, "but that did not keep me from coming. You would not bite the hand that set you free."

"You called me a wolf a minute ago."

"But a wolf would not bite the hand that freed it from the trap. Yet if such shame could be, I still would have had no fear, for I should have shot you as wolves are shot that come too near the fold."

He looked at her piercingly, and the pupils of his eyes narrowed to a pin-point. "You would have shot me--you are armed?" he questioned.

"Am I the only woman that has armed herself against you and such as you? Do you not see?"

"Mi Duvel, but I do see now with a thousand eyes!" he said hoarsely.

His senses were reeling. Down beneath everything had been the thought that, as he had prevailed with other women, he could prevail with her; that she would come to him in the end. He had felt, but he had declined to see, the significance of her bearing, of her dress, of her speech, of her present mode of life, of its comparative luxury, its social distinction of a kind which lifted her above even the Gorgios by whom she was surrounded. A fatuous belief in himself and in his personal powers had deluded him. He had told the truth when he said that no woman had ever appealed to him as she did; that she had blotted out all other women from the book of his adventurous and dissolute life; and he had dreamed a dream of conquest of her when Fortune should hand out to him the key of the situation. Did not the beautiful Russian countess on the Volga flee from her liege lord and share his 'tan'? When he played his fiddle to the Austrian princess, did she not give him a key to the garden where she walked of an evening? And this was a Romany lass, daughter of his Chieftain, as he was son of a great Romany chief; and what marvel could there be that she who had been made his child wife, should be conquered as others had been!

"'Mi Duvel', but I see!" he repeated in a husky fierceness. "I am your husband, but you would have killed me if I had taken a kiss from your lips, sealed to me by all our tribes and by your father and mine."

"My lips are my own, my life is my own, and when I marry, I shall marry a man of my own choosing, and he will not be a Romany," she replied with a look of resolution which her beating heart belied. "I'm not a pedlar's basket."

"'Kek! Kek'! That's plain," he retorted. "But the 'wolf' is no lamb either! I said I would not go till your father set me free, since you had no right to do so, but a wife should save her husband, and her husband should set himself free for his wife's sake"--his voice rose in fierce irony--"and so I will now go free. But I will not take the word to the Romany people that you are no more of them. I am a true Romany. I disobeyed my 'Ry' in coming here because my wife was here, and I wanted her. I am a true Romany husband who will not betray his wife to her people; but I will have my way, and no Gorgio shall take her to his home. She belongs to my tent, and I will take her there."

Her gesture of contempt, anger and negation infuriated him. "If I do not take you to my 'tan', it will be because I'm dead," he said, and his white teeth showed fiercely.

"I have set you free. You had better go," she rejoined quietly.

Suddenly he turned at the doorway. A look of passion burned in his eyes. His voice became soft and persuasive. "I would put the past behind me, and be true to you, my girl," he said. "I shall be chief over all the Romany people when Duke Gabriel dies. We are sib; give me what is mine. I am yours--and I hold to my troth. Come, beloved, let us go together."

A sigh broke from her lips, for she saw that, bad as he was, there was a moment's truth in his words. "Go while you can," she said. "You are nothing to me."

For an instant he hesitated, then, with a muttered oath, sprang out into the bracken, and was presently lost among the trees.

For a long time she sat in the doorway, and again and again her eyes filled with tears. She felt a cloud of trouble closing in upon her. At last there was the sound of footsteps, and a moment later Gabriel Druse came through the trees towards her. His eyes were sullen and brooding.

"You have set him free?" he asked.

She nodded. "It was madness keeping him here," she said.

"It is madness letting him go," he answered morosely. "He will do harm. 'Ay bor', he will! I might have known--women are chicken-hearted. I ought to have put him out of the way, but I have no heart any more--no heart; I have the soul of a rabbit."


Saw how futile was much competition When you strike your camp, put out the fires


The World For Sale, Volume 1. - 16/16

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