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- The World For Sale, Volume 3. - 6/14 -


that rules over us. His word prevails, although his daughter is mad. Daughter of the Ry of Rys, you have seen us once again. We have sung to you; we have spoken to you; we have told you what is in our hearts; we have shown you how good is the end of those who are faithful, and how terrible is the end of the traitor. Do not forget it. Speak to us."

Fleda had a fierce desire to spring to her feet and declare to them all that the sentence of the patrin had been passed upon Jethro Fawe, but she laid a hand upon herself. She knew they were unaware that the Sentence had been passed, else they would not have been with Jethro. In that case none would give him food or shelter or the hand of friendship; none dare show him any kindness; and it was the law that any one against whom he committed an offence, however small, might take his life. The Sentence had been like a cloud upon her mind ever since her father had passed it; she could not endure the thought of it. She could not bring herself to speak of it--to denounce him. Sooner or later the Sentence would reach every Romany everywhere, and Jethro would pass into the darkness of oblivion, not in his own time nor in the time of Fate. The man was abhorrent to her, yet his claim was there. Mad and bad as it was, he made his claim of her upon ancient rights, and she was still enough a Romany to see his point of view.

Getting to her feet slowly, she ignored Jethro, looked into the face of the crowd, and said:

"I am the daughter of the Ry of Rys still, though I am a Romany no longer. I made a pledge to be no more a Romany and I will keep it; yet you and all Romany people are dear to me because through long generations the Druses have been of you. You have brought me here against my will. Do you think the Ry of Rys will forgive that? In your words you have been kind to me, but yet you have threatened me. Do you think that a Druse has any fear? Did a Druse ever turn his cheek to be smitten? You know what the Druses are. I am a Druse still. I will not talk longer, I have nothing to say to you all except that you must take me back to my father, and I will see that he forgives you. Some of you have done this out of love; some of you have done it out of hate; yet set me free again upon the path to my home, and I shall forget it, and the Ry of Rys will forget it."

At that instant there suddenly came forward from the doorway of a tent on the outskirts of the crowd a stalwart woman, with a strong face and a self-reliant manner. She was still young, but her slightly pockmarked countenance showed the wear and tear of sorrow of some kind. She had, indeed, lost her husband and her father in the Montenegrin wars. Hastening forward to Fleda she reached out a hand.

"Come with me," she said; "come and sleep in my tent to-night. To-morrow you shall go back to the Ry of Rys, perhaps. Come with me."

There was a sudden murmuring in the crowd, which was stilled by a motion of Jethro Fawe's hand, and a moment afterwards Fleda gave her hand to the woman.

"I will go with you," Fleda said. Then she turned to Jethro: "I wish to speak to you alone, Jethro Fawe," she added.

He laughed triumphantly. "The wife of Jethro Fawe wishes to speak with him," he bombastically cried aloud to the assembled people, and he prepared to follow Fleda.

As Fleda entered the woman's tent a black-eyed girl, with tousled hair and a bold, sensual face, ran up to Jethro, and in an undertone of evil suggestion said to him:

"To-night is yours, Jethro. You can make tomorrow sure."

CHAPTER XXII

THE SECRET MAN

"You are wasting your time."

Fleda said the words with a quiet determination, and yet in the tone was a slight over-emphasis which was like a call upon reserve forces within herself.

"Time is nothing to me," was the complete reply, clothed in a tone of soft irony. "I'm young enough to waste it. I've plenty of it in my knapsack."

"Have you forgotten the Sentence of the Patrin?" Fleda asked the question in a voice which showed a sudden access of determination.

"He will have to wipe it out after to-morrow," replied the other with a gleam of sulky meaning and furtive purpose in his eyes.

"If you mean that I will change my mind to-morrow, and be your wife, and return to the Gipsy life, it is the thought of a fool. I asked you to come here to speak with me because I was sure I could make you see things as they truly are. I wanted to explain why I did not tell the Romanys outside there that the Sentence had been passed on you. I did not tell them because I can't forget that your people and my people have been sib for hundreds of years; that you and I were children together; that we were sealed to one another when neither of us could have any say about it. If I had remained a Gipsy, who can tell--my mind might have become like yours! I think there must be something rash and bad in me somewhere, because I tell you frankly now that a chord in my heart rang when you made your wild speeches to me there in the hut in the Wood months ago, even when I hated you, knowing you for what you are."

"That was because there was another man," interjected Jethro.

She inclined her head. "Yes, it was partly because of another man," she replied. "It is a man who suffers because of you. When he was alone among his foes, a hundred to one, you betrayed him. That itself would have made me despise you to the end of my life, even if the man had been nothing at all to me.

"It was a low, cowardly thing to do. You did it; and if you were my brother, I would hate you for it; if you were my father, I should leave your house; if you were my husband, I should kill you. I asked you to speak with me now because I thought that if you would go away--far away-- promising never to cross my father's path, or my path, again, I could get him to withdraw the Sentence. You have kidnapped me. Where do you think you are? In Mesopotamia? You can't break the law of this country and escape as you would there. They don't take count of Romany custom here. Not only you, but every one of the Fawes here will be punished if the law reaches for your throat. I want you to escape, and I tell you to go now. Go back to Europe. I advise you this for your own sake--because you are a Fawe and of the clan."

The blood mounted to Jethro's forehead, and he made an angry gesture. "And leave you here for him! 'Mi Duvel!' I can only die once, and I would rather die near you than far away," he exclaimed.

His eyes had a sardonic look, there was a savage edge to his tongue, yet his face was flushed with devouring emotion and he was quivering with hope. That which he called love was flooding the field of his feelings, and the mad thing--the toxic impulse which is deep in the brain of Eastern races bled into his brain now. He was reckless, rebellious against fate, insanely wilful, and what she had said concerning Ingolby had roused in him the soul of Cain.

She realized it, and she was apprehensive of some desperate act; yet she had no physical fear of him. Something seemed to tell her that, no matter what happened, Ingolby would not wait for her in vain, and that he would yet see her enter to him again with the love-light in her eyes.

"But listen to me," Jethro said, with an unnatural shining in his eyes, his voice broken in its passion. "You think you can come it over me with your Gorgio talk and the clever things you've learned in the Gorgio world. You try to look down on me. I'm as well born or as ill born as you. The only difference between us is the way you dress, the way you live and use your tongue. All that belongs to the life of the cities. Anyone can learn it. Anyone well born like you and me, with a little practice, can talk like Gorgio dukes and earls. I've been among them and I know. I've had my friends among them, too. I've got the hang of it all. It's no good to me, and I don't want it. It's all part of a set piece. There's no independence in that life; you live by rule. Diable! I know. I've been in palaces; I've played my fiddle to the women in high places who can't blush. It's no good; it brings nothing in the end. It's all hollow. Look at our people there." He swept a hand to the tent door.

"They're tanned and rough, as all out-door things are rough, but they've got their share of happiness, and every day has its pleasures. Listen to them!" he cried with a gesture of exultation. "Listen to that!"

The colour slowly left Fleda's face. Outside in the light of the dying fires, under the glittering stars, in the shade of the trees, groups of Romanys were singing the Romany wedding melody, called "The Song of the Sealing." It was not like the ringing of wedding bells alone, it sealed blessing upon the man and the woman. It was a poem in praise of marriage passion; it was a paean proclaiming the accomplishment of life. Crude, primitive, it thrilled with Eastern feeling; a weird charm was showered from its notes.

"Listen!" exclaimed Jethro again, a fire burning in his face. "That's for you and me. To them you are my wife, and I am your man. 'Mi Duvel' --it shall be so! I know women. For an hour you will hate me; for a day you will resent me, and then you will begin to love me. You will fight me, but I will conquer. I know you--I know you--all you women. But no, it will not be I that will conquer. It's my love that will do it. It's a den of tigers. When it breaks loose it will have its way. Here it is. Can't you see it in my face? Can't you hear it in my voice? Don't you hear my heart beating? Every throb says, 'Fleda--Fleda--Fleda, come to me.' I have loved you since you were three. I want you now. We can be happy. Every night we will make a new home. The world will be ours; the best that is in it will come to us. We will tap the trees of happiness --they're hid from the Gorgio world. You and I will know where to find them. Every land shall be ours; every gift of paradise within our reach --riches, power, children. Come back to your own people; be a true daughter of the Ry of Rys; live with your Romany chal. You will never be at home anywhere else. It's in your bones; it's in your blood; it's deeper than all. Here, now, come to me--my wife."

He flung the flap of the tent door across the opening, shutting out the camp-fires and the people. "Here--now--come. Be mine while they sing."

For one swift moment the great passion and eloquence of the man lifted her off her feet; for one instant the Romany in her triumphed, and a thrill of passion passed through her, storming her senses, like a mist shutting out all the rest of the world. This Romany was right; there was in her the wild thing--the everlasting strain of race and years breaking down all the defences which civilized life had built up within her. Just for one instant so--and then there flashed before her a face with two blind eyes.


The World For Sale, Volume 3. - 6/14

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