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   Chapter 6 THE MAN AND THE WOMAN.

Red Money By Fergus Hume Characters: 24677

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


The interview between Lady Agnes and Lambert could scarcely be called a love-scene, since it was dominated by a stern sense of duty. Chaldea, lying at length amongst the crushed and fragrant flowers, herself in her parti-colored attire scarcely distinguishable from the rainbow blossoms, was puzzled by the way in which the two reined in their obvious passions. To her simple, barbaric nature, the situation appeared impossible. If he loved her and she loved him, why did they not run away to enjoy life together? The husband who had paid money for the wife did not count, nor did the brother, who had sold his sister to hide his criminal folly. That Lady Agnes should have traded herself to save Garvington from a well-deserved punishment, seemed inexcusable to the gypsy. If he had been the man she loved, then indeed might she have acted rightly. But having thrown over that very man in this silly fashion, for the sake of what did not appear to be worth the sacrifice, Chaldea felt that Agnes did not deserve Lambert, and she then and there determined that the Gentile lady should never possess him.

Of course, on the face of it, there was no question of possession. The man being weaker than the woman would have been only too glad to elope, and thus cut the Gordian knot of the unhappy situation. But the woman, having acted from a high sense of duty, which Chaldea could not rise to, evidently was determined to continue to be a martyr. The question was, could she keep up that pose in the face of the undeniable fact that she loved her cousin? The listening girl thought not. Sooner or later the artificial barrier would be broken through by the held-back flood of passion, and then Lady Agnes would run away from the man who had bought her. And quite right, too, thought Chaldea, although she had no notion of permitting such an elopement to take place. That Agnes would hold to her bargain all her life, because Hubert had fulfilled his part, never occurred to the girl. She was not civilized enough to understand this problem of a highly refined nature.

Since the situation was so difficult, Lambert was glad to see the back of his cousin. He escorted her to the door, but did not attend her through the wood. In fact, they parted rather abruptly, which was wise. All had been said that could be said, and Lambert had given his promise to share the burden with Agnes by acting the part of a lover who had never really been serious. But it did not do to discuss details, as these were too painful, so the woman hurried away without a backward glance, and Lambert, holding his heart between his teeth, returned to the studio. Neither one of the two noticed Chaldea crouching amongst the flowers. Had they been less pre-occupied, they might have done so; as it was she escaped observation.

As soon as the coast was clear, Chaldea stole like a snake along the ground, through the high herbage of the garden, and beyond the circle of the mysterious monoliths. Even across the lawns of the glade did she crawl, so as not to be seen, although she need not have taken all this trouble, since Lambert, with a set face and a trembling hand, was working furiously at a minor picture he utilized to get rid of such moods. But the gypsy did not know this, and so writhed into the woods like the snake of Eden-and of that same she was a very fair sample-until, hidden by the boles of ancient trees, she could stand upright. When she did so, she drew a long breath, and wondered what was best to be done.

The most obvious course was to seek Ishmael and make a lying report of the conversation. That his wife should have been with Lambert would be quite enough to awaken the civilized gypsy's jealousy, for after all his civilization was but skin deep. Still, if she did this, Chaldea was clever enough to see that she would precipitate a catastrophe, and either throw Agnes into Lambert's arms, or make the man run the risk of getting Pine's knife tickling his fifth rib. Either result did not appeal to her. She wished to get Lambert to herself, and his safety was of vital importance to her. After some consideration, she determined that she would boldly face the lover, and confess that she had overheard everything. Then she would have him in her power, since to save the wife from the vengeance of the husband, although there was no reason for such vengeance, he would do anything to keep the matter of the visit quiet. Of course the interview had been innocent, and Chaldea knew that such was the case. Nevertheless, by a little dexterous lying, and some vivid word-painting, she could make things extremely unpleasant for the couple. This being so, Lambert would have to subscribe to her terms. And these were, that he should leave Agnes and marry her. That there was such a difference in their rank mattered nothing to the girl. Love levelled all ranks, in her opinion.

But while arranging what she should do, if Lambert proved obstinate, Chaldea also arranged to fascinate him, if possible, into loving her. She did not wish to use her power of knowledge until her power of fascination failed. And this for two reasons. In the first place, it was not her desire to drive the man into a corner lest he should defy her and fight, which would mean-to her limited comprehension-that everything being known to Pine, the couple would confess all and elope. In the second place, Chaldea was piqued to think that Lambert should prove to be so indifferent to her undeniable beauty, as to love this pale shadow of a Gentile lady. She would make certain, she told herself, if he really preferred the lily to the full-blown rose, and on his choice depended her next step. Gliding back to the camp, she decided to attend to one thing at a time, and the immediate necessity was to charm the man into submission. For this reason Chaldea sought out the Servian gypsy, who was her slave.

Her slave Kara certainly was, but not her rom. If he had been her husband she would not have dared to propose to him what she did propose. He was amiable enough as a slave, because he had no hold over her, but if she married him according to the gypsy law, he would then be her master, and should she indulge her fancy for a Gentile, he would assuredly use a very nasty-looking knife, which he wore under the green coat. Even as it was, Kara would not be pleased to fiddle to her dancing, since he already was jealous of Lambert. But Chaldea knew how to manage this part of the business, risky though it was. The hairy little ape with the musician's soul had no claim on her, unless she chose to give him that of a husband. Then, indeed, things would be different, but the time had not come for marital slavery.

The schemer found Kara at the hour of sunset sitting at the door of the tent he occupied, drawing sweet tones from his violin. This was the little man's way of conversing, for he rarely talked to human beings. He spoke to the fiddle and the fiddle spoke to him, probably about Chaldea, since the girl was almost incessantly in his thoughts. She occupied them now, and when he raised his shaggy head at the touch on his hump-back, he murmured with joy at the sight of her flushed beauty. Had he known that the flush came from jealousy of a rival, Kara might not have been so pleased. The two conversed in Romany, since the Servian did not speak English.

"Brother?" questioned Chaldea, standing in the glory of the rosy sunset which slanted through the trees. "What of Ishmael?"

"He is with Gentilla in her tent, sister. Do you wish to see him?"

Chaldea shook her proud head. "What have I to do with the half Romany? Truly, brother, his heart is Gentile, though his skin be of Egypt."

"Why should that be, sister, when his name signifies that he is of the gentle breed?" asked Kara, laying down his violin.

"Gentile but not gentle," said Chaldea punning, then checked herself lest she should say too much. She had sworn to keep Pine's secret, and intended to do so, until she could make capital out of it. At present she could not, so behaved honorably. "But he's Romany enough to split words with the old witch by the hour, so let him stay where he is. Brother, would you make money?" Kara nodded and looked up with diamond eyes, which glittered and gloated on the beauty of her dark face. "Then, brother," continued the girl, "the Gorgio who paints gives me gold to dance for him."

The Servian's face-what could be seen of it for hair-grew sombre, and he spat excessively. "Curses on the Gentile!" he growled low in his throat.

"On him, but not on the money, brother," coaxed the girl, stooping to pat his face. "It's fine work, cheating the rye. But jealous you must not be, if the gold is to chink in our pockets."

Kara still frowned. "Were you my romi, sister-"

"Aye, if I were. Then indeed. But your romi I am not yet."

"Some day you will be. It would be a good fortune, sister. I am as ugly as you are lovely, and we two together, you dancing to my playing, would make pockets of red gold. White shows best when placed on black."

"What a mine of wisdom you are," jeered Chaldea, nodding. "Yes. It is so, and my rom you may be, if you obey."

"But if you let the Gorgio make love to you-"

"Hey! Am I not a free Roman, brother? You have not yet caught the bird. It still sings on the bough. If I kiss him I suck gold from his lips. If I put fond arms around his neck I but gather wealth for us both. Can you snare a mouse without cheese, brother?"

Kara looked at her steadily, and then lifted his green coat to show the gleam of a butcher knife. "Should you go too far," he said significantly; and touched the blade.

Chaldea bent swiftly, and snatching the weapon from his belt, flung it into the coarse grass under the trees. "So I fling you away," said she, and stamped with rage. "Truly, brother, speaking Romanly, you are a fool of fools, and take cheating for honesty. I lure the Gorgio at my will, and says you whimpering-like, 'She's my romi,' the which is a lie. Bless your wisdom for a hairy toad, and good-bye, for I go to my own people near Lundra, and never will he who doubted my honesty see me more."

She turned away, and Kara limped after her to implore forgiveness. He assured her that he trusted her fully, and that whatever tricks she played the Gentile would not be taken seriously by himself. "Poison him I would," grumbled the little gnome in his beard. "For his golden talk makes you smile sweetly upon him. But for the gold-"

"Yes, for the gold we must play the fox. Well, brother, now that you talk so, wait until the moon is up, then hide in the woods round the cottage dell with your violin to your chin. I lure the rabbit from its hole, and then you play the dance that delights the Gorgios. But what I do, with kisses or arm-loving, my brother," she added shaking her finger, "is but the play of the wind to shake the leaves. Believe me honest and my rom you shall be-some day!" and she went away laughing, to eat and drink, for the long watching had tired her. As for Kara he crawled again into the underwood to search for his knife. Apparently he did not trust Chaldea as much as she wanted him to.

Thus it came about that when the moon rolled through a starry sky like a golden wheel, Lambert, sighing at his studio window, saw a slim and graceful figure glide into the clear space of lawn beyond the monoliths. So searching was the thin moonlight that he recognized Chaldea at once, as she wandered here and there restless as a butterfly, and apparently as aimless. But, had he known it, she had her eyes on the cottage all the time, and had he failed to come forth she would have come to inquire if he was at home. But the artist did come forth, thinking to wile away an hour with the fascinating gypsy girl. Always dressing for dinner, even in solitude, for the habit of years was too strong to lay aside-and, moreover, he was fastidious in his dress to preserve his self-respect-he appeared at the door looking slender and well-set up in his dark clothes. Although it was August the night was warm, and Lambert did not trouble to put on cap or overcoat. With his hands in his pockets and a cigar between his lips he strolled over to the girl, where she swayed and swung in the fairy light.

"Hullo, Chaldea," he said leisurely, and lean

ing against one of the moss-grown monoliths, "what are you doing here?"

"The rye," exclaimed Chaldea, with a well-feigned start of surprise. "Avali the rye. Sarishan, my Gorgious gentleman, you, too, are a nightbird. Have you come out mousing like an owl? Ha! ha! and you hear the nightingale singing, speaking in the Gentile manner," and clapping her hands she lifted up a full rich voice.

"Dyal o pani repedishis,

M'ro pirano hegedishis."

"What does that mean, Chaldea?"

"It is an Hungarian song, and means that while the stream flows I hear the violin of my love. Kara taught me the ditty."

"And Kara is your love?"

"No. Oh, no; oh, no," sang Chaldea, whirling round and round in quite a magical manner. "No rom have I, but a mateless bird I wander. Still I hear the violin of my true love, my new love, who knows my droms, and that means my habits, rye," she ended, suddenly speaking in a natural manner.

"I don't hear the violin, however," said Lambert lazily, and thinking what a picturesque girl she was in her many-hued rag-tag garments, and with the golden coins glittering in her black hair.

"You will, rye, you will," she said confidentially. "Come, my darling gentleman, cross my hand with silver and I dance. I swear it. No hokkeny baro will you behold when the wind pipes for me."

"Hokkeny baro."

"A great swindle, my wise sir. Hai, what a pity you cannot patter the gentle Romany tongue. Kek! Kek! What does it matter, when you speak Gentile gibberish like an angel. Sit, rye, and I dance for you."

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

"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.

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.

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

"You are crazy," retorted Lambert, quivering with many emotions to which he could scarcely put a name, so shaken was he by the experience. "What the devil do you mean by behaving in this way?" and his voice rose in such a gust of anger that Kara, hidden in the wood, rejoiced. He could not understand what was being said, but the tone of the voice was enough for him. He did not know whether Chaldea was cheating the Gentile, or cheating him; but he gathered that in either case, she had been repulsed. The girl knew that also, when her ardent eyes swept across Lambert's white face, and she burst into tears of anger and disappointment.

"Oh, rye, I give you all, and you take nothing," she wailed tearfully.

"I don't want anything. You silly girl, do you think that for one moment I was ever in love with you?"

"I-I-want you-to-to-love me," sobbed Chaldea, grovelling on the grass.

"Then you want an impossibility," and to Lambert's mind's eye there appeared the vision of a calm and beautiful face, far removed in its pure looks from the flushed beauty of the fiery gypsy. To gain control of himself, he took out a cigar and lighted it. But his hand trembled. "You little fool," he muttered, and sauntered, purposely, slowly toward the cottage.

Chaldea gathered herself up with the spring of a tigress, and in a moment was at his elbow with her face black with rage. Her tears had vanished and with them went her softer mood. "You-you reject me," she said in grating tones, and shaking from head to foot as she gripped his shoulder.

"Take away your hand," commanded Lambert sharply, and when she recoiled a pace he faced her squarely. "You must have been drinking," he declared, hoping to insult her into common sense. "What would Kara say if-"

"I don't want Kara. I want you," interrupted Chaldea, her breast heaving, and looking sullenly wrathful.

"Then you can't have me. Why should you think of me in this silly way? We were very good friends, and now you have spoiled everything. I can never have you to sit for me again."

Chaldea's lip drooped. "Never again? Never again?"

"No. It is impossible, since you have chosen to act in this way. Come, you silly girl, be sensible, and-"

"Silly girl! Oh, yes, silly girl," flashed out Chaldea. "And what is she?"

"She?" Lambert stiffened himself. "What do you mean?"

"I mean the Gentile lady. I was under the window this afternoon. I heard all you were talking about."

The man stepped back a pace and clenched his hands. "You-listened?" he asked slowly, and with a very white face.

Chaldea nodded with a triumphant smile.

"Avali! And why not? You have no right to love another man's romi."

"I do not love her," began Lambert, and then checked himself, as he really could not discuss so delicate a matter with this wildcat. "Why did you listen, may I ask?" he demanded, passing his tongue over his dry lips.

"Because I love you, and love is jealous."

Lambert restrained himself by a violent effort from shaking her. "You are talking nonsense," he declared with enforced calmness. "And it is ridiculous for you to love a man who does not care in the least for you."

"It will come-I can wait," insisted Chaldea sullenly.

"If you wait until Doomsday it will make no difference. I don't love you, and I have never given you any reason to think so."

"Chee-chee!" bantered the girl. "Is that because I am not a raclan?"

"A raclan?"

"A married Gentile lady, that is. You love her?"

"I-I-see, here, Chaldea, I am not going to talk over such things with you, as my affairs are not your business."

"They are the business of the Gorgious female's rom."

"Rom? Her husband, you mean. What do you know of-"

"I know that the Gentle Pine is really one of us," interrupted the girl quickly. "Ishmael Hearne is his name."

"Sir Hubert Pine?"

"Ishmael Hearne," insisted Chaldea pertly. "He comes to the fire of the Gentle Romany when he wearies of your Gorgious flesh-pots."

"Pine a gypsy," muttered Lambert, and the memory of that dark, lean, Eastern face impressed him with the belief that what the girl said was true.

"Avali. A true son of the road. He is here."

"Here?" Lambert started violently. "What do you mean?"

"I say what I mean, rye. He you call Pine is in our camp enjoying the old life. Shall I bring him to you?" she inquired demurely.

In a flash Lambert saw his danger, and the danger of Agnes, seeing that the millionaire was as jealous as Othello. However, it seemed to him that honesty was the best policy at the moment. "I shall see him myself later," he declared after a pause. "If you listened, you must know that there is no reason why I should not see him. His wife is my cousin, and paid me a friendly visit-that is all."

"Yes; that is all," mocked the girl contemptuously. "But if I tell him-"

"Tell him what?"

"That you love his romi!"

"He knows that," said Lambert quietly. "And knows also that I am an honorable man. See here, Chaldea, you are dangerous, because this silly love of yours has warped your common sense. You can make a lot of mischief if you so choose, I know well."

"And I shall choose, my golden rye, if you love me not."

"Then set about it at once," said Lambert boldly. "It is best to be honest, my girl. I have done nothing wrong, and I don't intend to do anything wrong, so you can say what you like. To-night I shall go to London, and if Pine, or Hearne, or whatever you call him, wants me, he knows my town address."

"You defy me?" panted Chaldea, her breast rising and falling quickly.

"Yes; truth must prevail in the end. I make no bargain with a spy," and he gave her a contemptuous look, as he strode into the cottage and shut the door with an emphatic bang.

"Hai!" muttered the gypsy between her teeth. "Hatch till the dood wells apré," which means: "Wait until the moon rises!" an ominous saying for Lambert.

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