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- The World For Sale, Volume 3. - 5/14 -

restored and by her side, and even in that joy her mind felt a hovering sense of invasion, no definite, visible thing, but a presence which made shadow. Suddenly oppressed by it, she turned back into the woods from the river-bank to make for home. She had explored nearly every portion of this river-country for miles up and down, but on this evening, lost in her dreams, she had wandered into less familiar regions. There was no chance of her being lost, so long as she kept near to the river, and indeed by instinct and not by thought or calculation she made her way about at all times. Turned homeward, she walked for about a quarter of a mile, retreading the path by which she had come. It was growing darker, and, being in unfamiliar surroundings, she hurried on, though she knew well what course to take. Following the bank of the river she would have increased her walk greatly, as the stream made a curve at a point above Manitou, and then came back again to its original course; so she cut across the promontory, taking the most direct line homeward.

Presently, however, she became conscious of other people in the wood besides herself. She saw no one, but she heard breaking twigs, the stir of leaves, the flutter of a partridge which told of human presence. The underbrush was considerable, darkness was coming on, and she had a sense of being surrounded. It agitated her, but she pulled herself together, stood still and admonished herself. She called herself a fool; she asked herself if she was going to be a coward. She laughed out loud at her own apprehension; but a chill stole into her blood when she heard near by-- there was no doubt about it now--mockery of her own laughter. Then suddenly, before she could organize her senses, a score of men seemed to rise up from the ground around her, to burst out from the bushes, to drop from the trees, and to storm upon her. She had only time to realize that they were Romanys, before scarfs were thrown around her head, bound around her body, and, unconscious, she was carried away into the deep woods.

When she regained consciousness Fleda found herself in a tent, set in a kind of prairie amphitheatre valanced by shrubs and trees. Bright fires burned here and there, and dark-featured men squatted upon the ground, cared for their horses, or busied themselves near two large caravans, at the doors or on the steps of which now and again appeared a woman.

She had waked without moving, had observed the scene without drawing the attention of a man--a sentry--who sat beside the tent-door. The tent was empty save for herself. There was little in it besides the camp-bed against the tent wall, upon which she lay, and the cushions supporting her head. She had waked carefully, as it were: as though some inward monitor had warned her of impending danger. She realized that she had been kidnapped by Romanys, and that the hand behind the business was that of Jethro Fawe. The adventurous and reckless Fawe family had its many adherents in the Romany world, and Jethro was its head, the hereditary claimant for its leadership.

Notwithstanding the Ry of Rys' prohibition, there had drawn nearer and ever nearer to him, from the Romany world he had abandoned, many of his people, never, however, actually coming within his vision till the appearance of Jethro Fawe. Here and there on the prairie, to a point just beyond Gabriel Druse's horizon, they had come from all parts of the world; and Jethro, reckless and defiant under the Sentence, and knowing that the chances against his life were a million to one, had determined on one bold stroke which, if it failed, would make his fate no worse, and, if it succeeded, would give him his wife and, maybe, headship over all the Romany world. For weeks he had planned, watched and waited, filling the woods with his adherents, secretly following Fleda day by day, until, at last, the place, the opportunity, seemed perfect; and here she lay in a Romany tan once more, with the flickering fires outside in the night, and the sentry at her doorway. This watchman was not Jethro Fawe, but she knew well that Jethro was not far off.

Through the open door of the tent, for some minutes, her eyes studied the segment of the circle within her vision, and she realized that here was an organized attempt to force her back into the Romany world. If she repudiated the Gorgio life and acknowledged herself a Romany once again, she knew her safety would be secured; but in truth she had no fear for her life, for no one would dare to defy the Ry of Rys so far as to kill his daughter. But she was in danger of another kind--in deep and terrible danger; and she knew it well. As the thought of it took possession of her, her heart seemed almost to burst. Not fear, but anger and emotion possessed her. All the Romany in her stormed back again from the past. It sent her to her feet with a scarcely smothered cry. She was not quicker, however, than was the figure at the tent door, which, with a half-dozen others, sprang up as she appeared. A hand was raised, and, as if by magic, groups of Gipsies, some sitting, some standing, some with the Gipsy fiddle, one or two with flutes, began a Romany chant in a high, victorious key, and women threw upon the fire powders from which flamed up many coloured lights.

In a moment the camp was transformed. From the woods around came swarthy-faced men, with great gold rings in their ears and bright scarfs around their necks or waists, some of them handsome, dirty and insolent; others ugly, watchful, and quiet in manner and face; others still most friendly and kind in face and manner. All showed instant respect for Fleda. They raised their hands in a gesture of salutation as a Zulu chief thrusts up a long arm and shouts "Inkoos!" to one whom he honours. Some, however, made the sweeping Oriental gesture of the right hand, palm upward, and almost touching the ground--a sign of obedience and infinite respect. It had all been well arranged. Skilfully managed as it was, however, there was something in it deeper than theatrical display or dramatic purpose.

It was clear that many of them were deeply moved at being in the presence of the daughter of the Ry of Rys, who had for so long exiled himself. Racial, family, clan feeling spoke in voice and gesture, in look and attitude; but yet there were small groups of younger men whose salutations were perfunctory, not to say mocking. These were they who resented deeply Fleda's defection, and truthfully felt that she had passed out of their circle for ever; that she despised them, and looked down on them from another sphere. They were all about the age of Jethro Fawe, but were of a less civilized type, and had semi-barbarism written all over them. Unlike Jethro they had never known the world of cities. They repudiated Fleda, because their ambition could not reach to her. They recognized the touch of fashion and of form, of a worldly education, of a convention which lifted her away from the tan and the caravan, from the everlasting itinerary. They had not had Jethro's experiences in fashionable hotels of Europe, at midnight parties, at gay suppers, at garish dances, where Gorgio ladies answered the amorous looks of the ambitious Romany with the fiddle at his chin. Because these young Romanys knew they dare not aspire, they were resentful; but Jethro, the head of the rival family and the son of the dead claimant to the headship, had not such compulsory modesty. He had ranged far and wide, and his expectations were extensive. He was nowhere to be seen in the groups which sang and gestured in the light of the many coloured fires, though once or twice Fleda's quickened ear detected his voice, exulting, in the chorus of song.

Presently, as she stood watching, listening, and strangely moved in spite of herself by the sudden dramatic turn which things had taken, a seat was brought to her. It was a handsome stool, looted perhaps from some chateau in the Old World, and over it was thrown a dark-red cloth which gave a semblance of dignity to the seat of authority, which it was meant to be.

Fleda did not refuse the honour. She had choked back the indignant words which had rushed to her lips as she left the tent where she had been lying. Prudence had bade her await developments. She could not yet make up her mind what to do. It was clear that a bold and deep purpose lay behind it all, and she could not tell how far-reaching it was, nor what it represented of rebellion against her father's authority. That it did represent rebellion she had no doubt. She was well enough aware of the claims of Jethro's dead father to the leadership, abandoned for three thousand pounds and marriage with herself; and she was also aware that while her father's mysterious isolation might possibly have developed a reverence for him, yet active pressure and calumny might well have done its work. Also, if the marriage was repudiated, Jethro would be justified in resuming the family claim to the leadership.

She seated herself upon the scarlet seat with a gesture of thanks, while the salutations and greetings increased; then she awaited events, thrilled by the weird and pleasant music, with its touches of Eastern fantasy. In spite of herself she was moved, as Romanys, men and women, ran forward in excitement with arms raised towards her as though they meant to strike her, then suddenly stopped short, made obeisance, called a greeting, and ran backwards to their places.

Presently a group of men began a ceremony or ritual, before which the spectators now and again covered their eyes, or bent their heads low, or turned their backs, and raised their hands in a sort of ascription. As the ceremony neared its end, with its strange genuflections, a woman dressed in white was brought forward, her hands bound behind her, her hair falling over her shoulders, and after a moment of apparent denunciation on the part of the head of the ceremony, she was suddenly thrown to the ground, and the pretence of drawing a knife across her throat was made. As Fleda watched it she shuddered, but presently braced herself, because she knew that this ritual was meant to show what the end must be of those who, like herself, proved traitor to the traditions of race.

It was at this point, when fifty knives flashed in the air, with vengeful exclamations, that Jethro Fawe appeared in the midst of the crowd. He was dressed in the well-known clothes which he had worn since the day he first declared himself at Gabriel Druse's home, and, compared with his friends around him, he showed to advantage. There was command in his bearing, and experience of life had given him primitive distinction.

For a moment he stood looking at Fleda in undisguised admiration, for she made a remarkable picture. Animal beauty was hers, too. There was a delicate, athletic charm in her body and bearing; but it added to, rather than took away from, the authority of her presence, so differing from Jethro. She had never compared herself with others, and her passionate intelligence would have rebelled against the supremacy of the body. She had no physical vanity, but she had some mental vanity, and it placed mind so far above matter that her beauty played no part in her calculations. At sight of him, Fleda's blood quickened, but in indignation and in no other sense. As he came towards her, however, despising his vanity as she did, she felt how much he was above all those by whom he was surrounded. She realized his talent, and it almost made her forget his cunning and his loathsomeness. As he came near to her he made a slight gesture to someone in the crowd, and a chorus of salutations rose.

Composed and still she waited for him to come quite close to her, and the look in her face was like that of one who was scarcely conscious of what was passing around her, whose eyes saw distant things of infinite moment.

A few feet away from her he spoke.

"Daughter of the Ry of Rys, you are among your own people once again," he said. "From everywhere in the world they have come to show their love for you. You would not have come to them of your own free will, because a madness 'got hold of you, and so they came to you. You cut yourself off from them and told yourself you had become a Gorgio. But that was only your madness; and madness can be cured. We are the Fawes, the ancient Fawes, who ruled the Romany people before the Druses came to power. We are of the ancient blood, yet we are faithful to the Druse

The World For Sale, Volume 3. - 5/14

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