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The Romany Rye - A Sequel to 'Lavengro'
by George Borrow
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'Very frequently, brother.'

'And do you ever grant it?'

'Never, brother.'

'How do you avoid it?'

'I gets away as soon as possible, brother. If they follows me, I tries to baffle them, by means of jests and laughter; and if they persist, I uses bad and terrible language, of which I have plenty in store.'

'But if your terrible language has no effect?'

'Then I screams for the constable, and if he comes not, I uses my teeth and nails.'

'And are they always sufficient?'

'I have only had to use them twice, brother; but then I found them sufficient.'

'But suppose the person who followed you was highly agreeable, Ursula? A handsome young officer of local militia, for example, all dressed in Lincoln green, would you still refuse him the choomer?'

'We makes no difference, brother; the daughters of the gypsy-father makes no difference; and, what's more, sees none.'

'Well, Ursula, the world will hardly give you credit for such indifference.'

'What cares we for the world, brother! we are not of the world.'

'But your fathers, brothers, and uncles, give you credit I suppose, Ursula.'

'Ay, ay, brother, our fathers, brothers, and cokos {68b} gives us all manner of credit; for example, I am telling lies and dukkerin in a public-house where my batu {69} or coko—perhaps both—are playing on the fiddle; well, my batu and my coko beholds me amongst the public-house crew, talking nonsense and hearing nonsense; but they are under no apprehension; and presently they sees the good-looking officer of militia, in his greens and Lincolns, get up and give me a wink, and I go out with him abroad, into the dark night perhaps; well, my batu and my coko goes on fiddling, just as if I were six miles off asleep in the tent, and not out in the dark street with the local officer, with his Lincolns and his greens.'

'They know they can trust you, Ursula?'

'Ay, ay, brother; and, what's more, I knows I can trust myself.'

'So you would merely go out to make a fool of him, Ursula?'

'Merely go out to make a fool of him, brother, I assure you.'

'But such proceedings really have an odd look, Ursula.'

'Amongst gorgios, very so, brother.'

'Well, it must be rather unpleasant to lose one's character even amongst gorgios, Ursula; and suppose the officer, out of revenge for being tricked and duped by you, were to say of you the thing that is not, were to meet you on the race-course the next day, and boast of receiving favours which he never had, amidst a knot of jeering militia-men, how would you proceed, Ursula? would you not be abashed?'

'By no means, brother; I should bring my action of law against him.'

'Your action at law, Ursula?'

'Yes, brother; I should give a whistle, whereupon all one's cokos and batus, and all my near and distant relations, would leave their fiddling, dukkerin, and horse-dealing, and come flocking about me. "What's the matter, Ursula?" says my coko. "Nothing at all," I replies, "save and except that gorgio, in his greens and his Lincolns, says that I have played the —- with him." "Oho, he does, Ursula," says my coko, "try your action of law against him, my lamb," and he puts something privily into my hands; whereupon I goes close up to the grinning gorgio, and staring him in the face, with my head pushed forward, I cries out: "You say I did what was wrong with you last night when I was out with you abroad?" "Yes," says the local officer, "I says you did," looking down all the time. "You are a liar," says I, and forthwith I breaks his head with the stick which I holds behind me, and which my coko has conveyed privily into my hand.'

'And this is your action at law, Ursula?'

'Yes, brother, this is my action at club-law.'

'And would your breaking the fellow's head quite clear you of all suspicion in the eyes of your batus, cokos, and what not?'

'They would never suspect me at all, brother, because they would know that I would never condescend to be over intimate with a gorgio; the breaking the head would be merely intended to justify Ursula in the eyes of the gorgios.'

'And would it clear you in their eyes?'

'Would it not, brother? When they saw the blood running down from the fellow's cracked poll on his greens and Lincolns, they would be quite satisfied; why the fellow would not be able to show his face at fair or merry-making for a year and three-quarters.'

'Did you ever try it, Ursula?'

'Can't say I ever did, brother, but it would do.'

'And how did you ever learn such a method of proceeding?'

'Why 't is advised by gypsy liri, {70} brother. It's part of our way of settling difficulties amongst ourselves; for example, if a young Roman were to say the thing which is not respecting Ursula and himself, Ursula would call a great meeting of the people, who would all sit down in a ring, the young fellow amongst them; a coko would then put a stick in Ursula's hand, who would then get up and go to the young fellow, and say, "Did I play the —- with you?" and were he to say "Yes," she would crack his head before the eyes of all.'

'Well,' said I, 'Ursula, I was bred an apprentice to gorgio law, and of course ought to stand up for it, whenever I conscientiously can, but I must say the gypsy manner of bringing an action for defamation is much less tedious, and far more satisfactory than the gorgiko one. I wish you now to clear up a certain point which is rather mysterious to me. You say that for a Romany chi to do what is unseemly with a gorgio, is quite out of the question, yet only the other day I heard you singing a song in which a Romany chi confesses herself to be cambri {71a} by a grand gorgious gentleman.'

'A sad let down,' said Ursula.

'Well,' said I, 'sad or not, there's the song that speaks of the thing, which you give me to understand is not.'

'Well, if the thing ever was,' said Ursula, 'it was a long time ago, and perhaps after all not true.'

'Then why do you sing the song?'

'I'll tell you, brother; we sings the song now and then to be a warning to ourselves to have as little to do as possible in the way of acquaintance with the gorgios; and a warning it is; you see how the young woman in the song was driven out of her tent by her mother, with all kind of disgrace and bad language; but you don't know that she was afterwards buried alive by her cokos and pals {71b} in an uninhabited place; the song doesn't say it, but the story says it, for there is a story about it, though, as I said before, it was a long time ago, and perhaps, after all, wasn't true.'

'But if such a thing were to happen at present, would the cokos and pals bury the girl alive?'

'I can't say what they would do,' said Ursula; 'I suppose they are not so strict as they were long ago; at any rate she would be driven from the tan, {71c} and avoided by all her family and relations as a gorgio's acquaintance, so that, perhaps, at last, she would be glad if they would bury her alive.'

'Well, I can conceive that there would be an objection on the part of the cokos and batus that a Romany chi should form an improper acquaintance with a gorgio, but I should think that the batus and cokos could hardly object to the chi's entering into the honourable estate of wedlock with a gorgio.'

Ursula was silent.

'Marriage is an honourable estate, Ursula.'

'Well, brother, suppose it be?'

'I don't see why a Romany chi should object to enter into the honourable estate of wedlock with a gorgio.'

'You don't, brother; don't you?'

'No,' said I, 'and, moreover, I am aware, notwithstanding your evasion, Ursula, that marriages and connections now and then occur between gorgios and Romany chies; the result of which is the mixed breed called half-and-half, which is at present travelling about England, and to which the Flaming Tinman belongs, otherwise called Anselo Herne.'

'As for the half-and-halfs,' said Ursula, 'they are a bad set; and there is not a worse blackguard in England than Anselo Herne.' {72}

'All what you say may be very true, Ursula, but you admit that there are half-and-halfs.'

'The more's the pity, brother.'

'Pity or not, you admit the fact; but how do you account for it?'

'How do I account for it? Why, I will tell you, by the break up of a Roman family, brother—the father of a small family dies, and perhaps the mother, and the poor children are left behind, sometimes they are gathered up by their relations, and sometimes, if they have none, by charitable Romans, who bring them up in the observance of gypsy law; but sometimes they are not so lucky, and falls into the company of gorgios, trampers, and basket-makers, who live in caravans, with whom they take up, and so—I hate to talk of the matter, brother, but so comes this race of the half-and-halfs.'

'Then you mean to say, Ursula, that no Romany chi, unless compelled by hard necessity, would have anything to do with a gorgio?'

'We are not over fond of gorgios, brother, and we hates basket-makers, and folks that live in caravans.'

'Well,' said I, 'suppose a gorgio, who is not a basket-maker, a fine handsome gorgious gentleman, who lives in a fine house—'

'We are not fond of houses, brother, I never slept in a house in my life.'

'But would not plenty of money induce you?'

'I hate houses, brother, and those who live in them.'

'Well, suppose such a person were willing to resign his fine house, and for love of you to adopt gypsy law, speak Romany, and live in a tan, would you have nothing to say to him?'

'Bringing plenty of money with him, brother?'

'Well, bringing plenty of money with him, Ursula.'

'Well, brother, suppose you produce your man; where is he?'

'I was merely supposing such a person, Ursula.'

'Then you don't know of such a person, brother?'

'Why, no, Ursula; why do you ask?'

'Because, brother, I was almost beginning to think that you meant yourself.'

'Myself! Ursula; I have no fine house to resign; nor have I money. Moreover, Ursula, though I have a great regard for you, and though I consider you very handsome, quite as handsome, indeed, as Meridiana in—'

'Meridiana! where did you meet with her?' said Ursula, with a toss of her head.

'Why in old Pulci's—'

'At old Fulcher's! that's not true, brother. Meridiana is a Borzlam, {73a} and travels with her own people, and not with old Fulcher, {73b} who is a gorgio, and a basket-maker.'

'I was not speaking of old Fulcher, but Pulci, a great Italian writer, who lived many hundred years ago, and who, in his poem called the "Morgante Maggiore," speaks of Meridiana, the daughter of—'

'Old Carus Borzlam,' said Ursula; 'but if the fellow you mention lived so many hundred years ago, how, in the name of wonder, could he know anything of Meridiana?'

'The wonder, Ursula, is, how your people could ever have got hold of that name, and similar ones. The Meridiana of Pulci was not the daughter of old Carus Borzlam, but of Caradoro, a great pagan king of the East, who, being besieged in his capital by Manfredonio, another mighty pagan king, who wished to obtain possession of his daughter, who had refused him, was relieved in his distress by certain paladins of Charlemagne, with one of whom, Oliver, his daughter Meridiana fell in love.'

'I see,' said Ursula, 'that it must have been altogether a different person, for I am sure that Meridiana Borzlam would never have fallen in love with Oliver. Oliver! why that is the name of the curo-mengro, {73c} who lost the fight near the chong gav, {74a} the day of the great tempest, when I got wet through. {74b} No, no! Meridiana Borzlam would never have so far forgot her blood as to take up with Tom Oliver.'

'I was not talking of that Oliver, Ursula, but of Oliver, peer of France, and paladin of Charlemagne, with whom Meridiana, daughter of Caradoro, fell in love, and for whose sake she renounced her religion and became a Christian, and finally ingravidata, or cambri, by him:

'"E nacquene un figliuol, dice la storia, Che dette a Carlo-man poi gran vittoria:"

which means—'

'I don't want to know what it means,' said Ursula; 'no good, I'm sure. Well, if the Meridiana of Charles's wain's pal was no handsomer than Meridiana Borzlam, she was no great catch, brother; for though I am by no means given to vanity, I think myself better to look at than she, though I will say she is no lubbeny, and would scorn—'

'I make no doubt she would, Ursula, and I make no doubt that you are much handsomer than she, or even the Meridiana of Oliver. What I was about to say, before you interrupted me, is this, that though I have a great regard for you, and highly admire you, it is only in a brotherly way, and—'

'And you had nothing better to say to me,' said Ursula, 'when you wanted to talk to me beneath a hedge, than that you liked me in a brotherly way! well, I declare—'

'You seem disappointed, Ursula.'

'Disappointed, brother! not I.'

'You were just now saying that you disliked gorgios, so, of course, could only wish that I, who am a gorgio, should like you in a brotherly way; I wished to have a conversation with you beneath a hedge, but only with the view of procuring from you some information respecting the song which you sung the other day, and the conduct of Roman females, which has always struck me as being highly unaccountable, so, if you thought anything else—'

'What else should I expect from a picker-up of old words, brother? Bah! I dislike a picker-up of old words worse than a picker-up of old rags.'

'Don't be angry, Ursula, I feel a great interest in you; you are very handsome, and very clever; indeed, with your beauty and cleverness, I only wonder that you have not long since been married.'

'You do, do you, brother?'

'Yes. However, keep up your spirits, Ursula, you are not much past the prime of youth, so—'

'Not much past the prime of youth! Don't be uncivil, brother, I was only twenty-two last month.'

'Don't be offended, Ursula, but twenty-two is twenty-two, or, I should rather say, that twenty-two, in a woman is more than twenty-six in a man. You are still very beautiful, but I advise you to accept the first offer that's made to you.'

'Thank you, brother, but your advice comes rather late; I accepted the first offer that was made me five years ago.'

'You married five years ago, Ursula! is it possible?'

'Quite possible, brother, I assure you.'

'And how came I to know nothing about it?'

'How comes it that you don't know many thousand things about the Romans, brother? Do you think they tell you all their affairs?'

'Married Ursula! married! Well, I declare!'

'You seem disappointed, brother.'

'Disappointed! Oh! no, not at all; but Jasper, only a few weeks ago, told me that you were not married; and, indeed, almost gave me to understand that you would be very glad to get a husband.'

'And you believed him? I'll tell you, brother, for your instruction, that there is not in the whole world a greater liar than Jasper Petulengro.'

'I am sorry to hear it, Ursula; but with respect to him you married—who might he be? A gorgio, or a Romany chal?'

'Gorgio, or Romany chal? Do you think I would ever condescend to a gorgio? It was a Camomescro, {75} brother, a Lovell, a distant relation of my own.'

'And where is he, and what became of him? Have you any family?'

'Don't think I am going to tell you all my history, brother; and, to tell you the truth, I am tired of sitting under hedges with you, talking nonsense. I shall go to my house.'

'Do sit a little longer, sister Ursula. I most heartily congratulate you on your marriage. But where is this same Lovell? I have never seen him: I should wish to congratulate him, too. You are quite as handsome as the Meridiana of Pulci, Ursula, ay, or the Despina of Riciardetto. Riciardetto, Ursula, is a poem written by one Fortiguerra, about ninety years ago, in imitation of the Morgante of Pulci. It treats of the wars of Charlemagne and his Paladins with various barbarous nations, who came to besiege Paris. Despina was the daughter and heiress of Scricca, King of Cafria; she was the beloved of Riciardetto, and was beautiful as an angel; but I make no doubt you are quite as handsome as she.'

'Brother,' said Ursula—but the reply of Ursula I reserve for another chapter, the present having attained to rather an uncommon length, for which, however, the importance of the matter discussed is a sufficient apology.



CHAPTER XI

URSULA'S TALE—THE PATTERAN—THE DEEP WATER—SECOND HUSBAND

'Brother,' said Ursula, plucking a dandelion which grew at her feet, 'I have always said that a more civil and pleasant-spoken person than yourself can't be found. I have a great regard for you and your learning, and am willing to do you any pleasure in the way of words or conversation. Mine is not a very happy story, but as you wish to hear it, it is quite at your service. Launcelot Lovell made me an offer, as you call it, and we were married in Roman fashion; that is, we gave each other our right hands, and promised to be true to each other. We lived together two years, travelling sometimes by ourselves, sometimes with our relations; I bore him two children, both of which were still-born, partly, I believe, from the fatigue I underwent in running about the country telling dukkerin when I was not exactly in a state to do so, and partly from the kicks and blows which my husband, Launcelot, was in the habit of giving me every night, provided I came home with less than five shillings, which it is sometimes impossible to make in the country, provided no fair or merry-making is going on. At the end of two years my husband, Launcelot, whistled a horse from a farmer's field, and sold it for forty pounds; and for that horse he was taken, put in prison, tried, and condemned to be sent to the other country for life. Two days before he was to be sent away, I got leave to see him in the prison, and in the presence of the turnkey I gave him a thin cake of gingerbread, in which there was a dainty saw which could cut through iron. I then took on wonderfully, turned my eyes inside out, fell down in a seeming fit, and was carried out of the prison. That same night my husband sawed his irons off, cut through the bars of his window, and dropping down a height of fifty feet, lighted on his legs, and came and joined me on a heath where I was camped alone. We were just getting things ready to be off, when we heard people coming, and sure enough they were runners after my husband, Launcelot Lovell; for his escape had been discovered within a quarter of an hour after he had got away. My husband, without bidding me farewell, set off at full speed, and they after him, but they could not take him, and so they came back and took me, and shook me, and threatened me, and had me before the poknees, {77a} who shook his head at me, and threatened me in order to make me discover where my husband was, but I said I did not know, which was true enough, not that I would have told him if I had. So at last the poknees and the runners, {77b} not being able to make anything out of me, were obliged to let me go, and I went in search of my husband. I wandered about with my cart for several days in the direction in which I saw him run off, with my eyes bent on the ground, but could see no marks of him; at last, coming to four cross roads, I saw my husband's patteran.'

'You saw your husband's patteran?' {77c}

'Yes, brother. Do you know what patteran means?'

'Of course, Ursula; the gypsy trail, the handful of grass which the gypsies strew in the roads as they travel, to give information to any of their companions who may be behind, as to the route they have taken. The gypsy patteran has always had a strange interest for me, Ursula.'

'Like enough, brother; but what does patteran mean?'

'Why, the gypsy trail, formed as I told you before.'

'And you know nothing more about patteran, brother?'

'Nothing at all, Ursula; do you?'

'What's the name for the leaf of a tree, brother?'

'I don't know,' said I; 'it's odd enough that I have asked that question of a dozen Romany chals and chies, and they always told me that they did not know.'

'No more they did, brother; there's only one person in England that knows, and that's myself—the name for a leaf is patteran. Now there are two that knows it—the other is yourself.'

'Dear me, Ursula, how very strange! I am much obliged to you. I think I never saw you look so pretty as you do now; but who told you?'

'My mother, Mrs. Herne, told it me one day, brother, when she was in a good humour, which she very seldom was, as no one has a better right to know than yourself, as she hated you mortally: it was one day when you had been asking our company what was the word for a leaf, and nobody could tell you, that she took me aside and told me, for she was in a good humour, and triumphed in seeing you balked. She told me the word for leaf was patteran, which our people use now for trail, having forgotten the true meaning. She said that the trail was called patteran, because the gypsies of old were in the habit of making the marks with the leaves and branches of the trees, placed in a certain manner. She said that nobody knew it but herself, who was one of the old sort, and begged me never to tell the word to any one but him I should marry, and to be particularly cautious never to let you know it, whom she hated. Well, brother, perhaps I have done wrong to tell you; but, as I said before, I likes you, and am always ready to do your pleasure in words and conversation; my mother, moreover, is dead and gone, and, poor thing, will never know anything about the matter. So, when I married, I told my husband about the patteran, and we were in the habit of making our private trail with leaves and branches of trees, which none of the other gypsy people did; so, when I saw my husband's patteran, I knew it at once, and I followed it upwards of two hundred miles towards the north; and then I came to a deep, awful-looking water, with an overhanging bank, and on the bank I found the patteran, which directed me to proceed along the bank towards the east, and I followed my husband's patteran towards the east; and before I had gone half a mile, I came to a place where I saw the bank had given way, and fallen into the deep water. Without paying much heed I passed on, and presently came to a public-house, not far from the water, and I entered the public-house to get a little beer, and perhaps to tell a dukkerin, for I saw a great many people about the door; and when I entered I found there was what they calls an inquest being held upon a body in that house, and the jury had just risen to go and look at the body, and being a woman, and having a curiosity, I thought I would go with them, and so I did; and no sooner did I see the body than I knew it to be my husband's; it was much swelled and altered, but I knew it partly by the clothes and partly by a mark on the forehead, and I cried out, "It is my husband's body," and I fell down in a fit, and the fit that time, brother, was not a seeming one.'

'Dear me,' said I, 'how terrible! but tell me, Ursula, how did your husband come by his death?'

'The bank, overhanging the deep water, gave way under him, brother, and he was drowned; for, like most of our people, he could not swim, or only a little. The body, after it had been in the water a long time, came up of itself, and was found floating. Well, brother, when the people of the neighbourhood found that I was the wife of the drowned man, they were very kind to me, and made a subscription for me, with which, after having seen my husband buried, I returned the way I had come, till I met Jasper and his people, and with them I have travelled ever since: I was very melancholy for a long time, I assure you, brother; for the death of my husband preyed very much upon my mind.'

'His death was certainly a very shocking one, Ursula; but, really, if he had died a natural one, you could scarcely have regretted it, for he appears to have treated you barbarously.'

'Women must bear, brother; and, barring that he kicked and beat me, and drove me out to tell dukkerin when I could scarcely stand, he was not a bad husband. A man, by gypsy law, brother, is allowed to kick and beat his wife, and to bury her alive, if he thinks proper. I am a gypsy, and have nothing to say against the law.'

'But what has Mikailia Chikno to say about it?'

'She is a cripple, brother, the only cripple amongst the Roman people: so she is allowed to do and say as she pleases. Moreover, her husband does not think fit to kick or beat her, though it is my opinion she would like him all the better if he were occasionally to do so, and threaten to bury her alive; at any rate, she would treat him better, and respect him more.'

'Your sister does not seem to stand much in awe of Jasper Petulengro, Ursula.'

'Let the matters of my sister and Jasper Petulengro alone, brother; you must travel in their company some time before you can understand them; they are a strange two, up to all kind of chaffing: but two more regular Romans don't breathe, and I'll tell you, for your instruction, that there isn't a better mare-breaker in England than Jasper Petulengro, if you can manage Miss Isopel Berners as well as—'

'Isopel Berners,' said I, 'how came you to think of her?'

'How should I but think of her, brother, living as she does with you in Mumper's dingle, and travelling about with you; you will have, brother, more difficulty to manage her, than Jasper has to manage my sister Pakomovna. I should have mentioned her before, only I wanted to know what you had to say to me; and when we got into discourse, I forgot her. I say, brother, let me tell you your dukkerin, with respect to her, you will never—'

'I want to hear no dukkerin, Ursula.'

'Do let me tell you your dukkerin, brother, you will never manage—'

'I want to hear no dukkerin, Ursula, in connection with Isopel Berners. Moreover, it is Sunday, we will change the subject; it is surprising to me that, after all you have undergone, you should still look so beautiful. I suppose you do not think of marrying again, Ursula?'

'No, brother, one husband at a time is quite enough for any reasonable mort; especially such a good husband as I have got.'

'Such a good husband! why, I thought you told me your husband was drowned?'

'Yes, brother, my first husband was.'

'And have you a second?'

'To be sure, brother.'

'And who is he? in the name of wonder.'

'Who is he? Why Sylvester, to be sure.'

'I do assure you, Ursula, that I feel disposed to be angry with you; such a handsome young woman as yourself to take up with such a nasty pepper-faced good-for-nothing—'

'I won't hear my husband abused, brother; so you had better say no more.'

'Why, is he not the Lazarus of the gypsies? Has he a penny of his own, Ursula?'

'Then the more his want, brother, of a clever chi like me to take care of him and his childer. I tell you what, brother, I will chore, if necessary, and tell dukkerin for Sylvester, if even so heavy as scarcely to be able to stand. You call him lazy; you would not think him lazy if you were in a ring with him; he is a proper man with his hands. Jasper is going to back him for twenty pounds against Slammocks of the Chong gav, the brother of Roarer and Bell-metal. He says he has no doubt that he will win.'

'Well, if you like him, I, of course, can have no objection. Have you been long married?'

'About a fortnight, brother; that dinner, the other day, when I sang the song, was given in celebration of the wedding.'

'Were you married in a church, Ursula?'

'We were not, brother; none but gorgios, cripples, and lubbenys, are ever married in a church; {81} we took each other's words. Brother, I have been with you near three hours beneath this hedge. I will go to my husband.'

'Does he know that you are here?'

'He does, brother.'

'And is he satisfied?'

'Satisfied! of course. Lor', you gorgies! Brother, I go to my husband and my house.' And, thereupon, Ursula rose and departed.

After waiting a little time I also arose; it was now dark, and I thought I could do no better than betake myself to the dingle; at the entrance of it I found Mr. Petulengro. 'Well, brother,' said he, 'what kind of conversation have you and Ursula had beneath the hedge?'

'If you wished to hear what we were talking about, you should have come and sat down beside us; you knew where we were.'

'Well, brother, I did much the same, for I went and sat down behind you.'

'Behind the hedge, Jasper?'

'Behind the hedge, brother.'

'And heard all our conversation?'

'Every word, brother; and a rum conversation it was.'

''Tis an old saying, Jasper, that listeners never hear any good of themselves; perhaps you heard the epithet that Ursula bestowed upon you.'

'If, by epitaph, you mean that she called me a liar, I did, brother, and she was not much wrong, for I certainly do not always stick exactly to truth; you, however, have not much to complain of me.'

'You deceived me about Ursula, giving me to understand she was not married.'

'She was not married when I told you so, brother; that is, not to Sylvester; nor was I aware that she was going to marry him. I once thought you had a kind of regard for her, and I am sure she had as much for you as a Romany chi can have for a gorgio. I half expected to have heard you make love to her behind the hedge, but I begin to think you care for nothing in this world but old words and strange stories. Lor', to take a young woman under a hedge, and talk to her as you did to Ursula; and yet you got everything out of her that you wanted, with your gammon about old Fulcher and Meridiana. You are a cunning one, brother.'

'There you are mistaken, Jasper. I am not cunning. If people think I am, it is because, being made up of art themselves, simplicity of character is a puzzle to them. Your women are certainly extraordinary creatures, Jasper.'

'Didn't I say they were rum animals? Brother, we Romans shall always stick together as long as they stick fast to us.'

'Do you think they always will, Jasper?'

'Can't say, brother; nothing lasts for ever. Romany chies are Romany chies still, though not exactly what they were sixty years ago. My wife, though a rum one, is not Mrs. Herne, brother. I think she is rather fond of Frenchmen and French discourse. I tell you what, brother, if ever gypsyism breaks up, it will be owing to our chies having been bitten by that mad puppy they calls gentility.'



CHAPTER XII

THE DINGLE AT NIGHT—THE TWO SIDES OF THE QUESTION—ROMAN FEMALES—FILLING THE KETTLE—THE DREAM—THE TALL FIGURE

I descended to the bottom of the dingle. It was nearly involved in obscurity. To dissipate the feeling of melancholy which came over my mind, I resolved to kindle a fire; and having heaped dry sticks upon my hearth, and added a billet or two, I struck a light, and soon produced a blaze. Sitting down, I fixed my eyes upon the blaze, and soon fell into a deep meditation. I thought of the events of the day, the scene at church, and what I had heard at church, the danger of losing one's soul, the doubts of Jasper Petulengro as to whether one had a soul. I thought over the various arguments which I had either heard, or which had come spontaneously to my mind, for or against the probability of a state of future existence. They appeared to me to be tolerably evenly balanced. I then thought that it was at all events taking the safest part to conclude that there was a soul. It would be a terrible thing, after having passed one's life in the disbelief of the existence of a soul, to wake up after death a soul, and to find one's self a lost soul. Yes, methought I would come to the conclusion that one has a soul. Choosing the safe side, however, appeared to me playing rather a dastardly part. I had never been an admirer of people who chose the safe side in everything; indeed I had always entertained a thorough contempt for them. Surely it would be showing more manhood to adopt the dangerous side, that of disbelief. I almost resolved to do so—but yet in a question of so much importance, I ought not to be guided by vanity. The question was not which was the safe, but the true side—yet how was I to know which was the true side? Then I thought of the Bible—which I had been reading in the morning—that spoke of the soul and a future state; but was the Bible true? I had heard learned and moral men say that it was true, but I had also heard learned and moral men say that it was not: how was I to decide? Still that balance of probabilities! If I could but see the way of truth, I would follow it, if necessary, upon hands and knees—on that I was determined; but I could not see it. Feeling my brain begin to turn round, I resolved to think of something else; and forthwith began to think of what had passed between Ursula and myself in our discourse beneath the hedge.

I mused deeply on what she had told me as to the virtue of the females of her race. How singular that virtue must be which was kept pure and immaculate by the possessor, whilst indulging in habits of falsehood and dishonesty! I had always thought the gypsy females extraordinary beings. I had often wondered at them, their dress, their manner of speaking, and, not least, at their names; but, until the present day, I had been unacquainted with the most extraordinary point connected with them. How came they possessed of this extraordinary virtue? Was it because they were thievish? I remembered that an ancient thief-taker, who had retired from his useful calling, and who frequently visited the office of my master at law, the respectable S—-, {84} who had the management of his property—I remembered to have heard this worthy, with whom I occasionally held discourse, philosophic and profound, when he and I chanced to be alone together in the office, say that all first-rate thieves were sober, and of well-regulated morals, their bodily passions being kept in abeyance by their love of gain; but this axiom could scarcely hold good with respect to these women—however thievish they might be, they did care for something besides gain: they cared for their husbands. If they did thieve, they merely thieved for their husbands; and though, perhaps, some of them were vain, they merely prized their beauty because it gave them favour in the eyes of their husbands. Whatever the husbands were—and Jasper had almost insinuated that the males occasionally allowed themselves some latitude—they appeared to be as faithful to their husbands as the ancient Roman matrons were to theirs. Roman matrons! and, after all, might not these be in reality Roman matrons? They called themselves Romans; might not they be the descendants of the old Roman matrons? Might not they be of the same blood as Lucretia? And were not many of their strange names—Lucretia amongst the rest—handed down to them from old Rome? It is true their language was not that of old Rome; it was not, however, altogether different from it. After all, the ancient Romans might be a tribe of these people, who settled down and founded a village with the tilts of carts, which by degrees, and the influx of other people, became the grand city of the world. I liked the idea of the grand city of the world owing its origin to a people who had been in the habit of carrying their houses in their carts. Why, after all, should not the Romans of history be a branch of these Romans? There were several points of similarity between them; if Roman matrons were chaste, both men and women were thieves. Old Rome was the thief of the world; yet still there were difficulties to be removed before I could persuade myself that the old Romans and my Romans were identical; and in trying to remove these difficulties, I felt my brain once more beginning to turn, and in haste took up another subject of meditation, and that was the patteran, and what Ursula had told me about it.

I had always entertained a strange interest for that sign by which in their wanderings the Romanese gave to those of their people who came behind intimation as to the direction which they took; but it now inspired me with greater interest than ever—now that I had learnt that the proper meaning of it was the leaves of trees. I had, as I have said in my dialogue with Ursula, been very eager to learn the word for leaf in the Romanian language, but had never learnt it till this day; so patteran signified leaf, the leaf of a tree; and no one at present knew that but myself and Ursula, who had learnt it from Mrs. Herne, the last, it was said, of the old stock; and then I thought what strange people the gypsies must have been in the old time. They were sufficiently strange at present, but they must have been far stranger of old; they must have been a more peculiar people—their language must have been more perfect—and they must have had a greater stock of strange secrets. I almost wish that I had lived some two or three hundred years ago, that I might have observed these people when they were yet stranger than at present. I wondered whether I could have introduced myself to their company at that period, whether I should have been so fortunate as to meet such a strange, half-malicious, half good-humoured being as Jasper, who would have instructed me in the language, then more deserving of note than at present. What might I not have done with that language, had I known it in its purity? Why, I might have written books in it; yet those who spoke it would hardly have admitted me to their society at that period, when they kept more to themselves. Yet I thought that I might possibly have gained their confidence, and have wandered about with them, and learnt their language, and all their strange ways, and then—and then—and a sigh rose from the depth of my breast; for I began to think, 'Supposing I had accomplished all this, what would have been the profit of it? and in what would all this wild gypsy dream have terminated?'

Then rose another sigh, yet more profound, for I began to think, 'What was likely to be the profit of my present way of life; the living in dingles, making pony and donkey shoes, conversing with gypsy-women under hedges, and extracting from them their odd secrets?' What was likely to be the profit of such a kind of life, even should it continue for a length of time?—a supposition not very probable, for I was earning nothing to support me, and the funds with which I had entered upon this life were gradually disappearing. I was living, it is true, not unpleasantly, enjoying the healthy air of heaven; but, upon the whole, was I not sadly misspending my time? Surely I was; and, as I looked back, it appeared to me that I had always been doing so. What had been the profit of the tongues which I had learnt? had they ever assisted me in the day of hunger? No, no! it appeared to me that I had always misspent my time, save in one instance, when by a desperate effort I had collected all the powers of my imagination, and written the Life of Joseph Sell; {87} but even when I wrote the life of Sell, was I not in a false position? Provided I had not misspent my time, would it have been necessary to make that effort, which, after all, had only enabled me to leave London, and wander about the country for a time? But could I, taking all circumstances into consideration, have done better than I had? With my peculiar temperament and ideas, could I have pursued with advantage the profession to which my respectable parents had endeavoured to bring me up? It appeared to me that I could not, and that the hand of necessity had guided me from my earliest years, until the present night in which I found myself seated in the dingle, staring on the brands of the fire. But ceasing to think of the past which, as irrecoverably gone, it was useless to regret, even were there cause to regret it, what should I do in future? Should I write another book like the Life of Joseph Sell; take it to London, and offer it to a publisher? But when I reflected on the grisly sufferings which I had undergone whilst engaged in writing the Life of Sell, I shrank from the idea of a similar attempt; moreover, I doubted whether I possessed the power to write a similar work—whether the materials for the life of another Sell lurked within the recesses of my brain? Had I not better become in reality what I had hitherto been merely playing at—a tinker or a gypsy? But I soon saw that I was not fitted to become either in reality. It was much more agreeable to play the gypsy or the tinker, than to become either in reality. I had seen enough of gypsying and tinkering to be convinced of that. All of a sudden the idea of tilling the soil came into my head; tilling the soil was a healthful and noble pursuit! but my idea of tilling the soil had no connection with Britain; for I could only expect to till the soil in Britain as a serf. I thought of tilling it in America, in which it was said there was plenty of wild, unclaimed land, of which any one, who chose to clear it of its trees, might take possession. I figured myself in America, in an immense forest, clearing the land destined, by my exertions, to become a fruitful and smiling plain. Methought I heard the crash of the huge trees as they fell beneath my axe; and then I bethought me that a man was intended to marry—I ought to marry; and if I married, where was I likely to be more happy as a husband and a father than in America, engaged in tilling the ground? I fancied myself in America, engaged in tilling the ground, assisted by an enormous progeny. Well, why not marry, and go and till the ground in America? I was young, and youth was the time to marry in, and to labour in. I had the use of all my faculties; my eyes, it is true, were rather dull from early study, and from writing the Life of Joseph Sell; but I could see tolerably well with them, and they were not bleared. I felt my arms, and thighs, and teeth—they were strong and sound enough; so now was the time to labour, to marry, eat strong flesh, and beget strong children—the power of doing all this would pass away with youth, which was terribly transitory. I bethought me that a time would come when my eyes would be bleared, and, perhaps, sightless; my arms and thighs strengthless and sapless; when my teeth would shake in my jaws, even supposing they did not drop out. No going a wooing then—no labouring—no eating strong flesh, and begetting lusty children then; and I bethought me how, when all this should be, I should bewail the days of my youth as misspent, provided I had not in them founded for myself a home, and begotten strong children to take care of me in the days when I could not take care of myself; and thinking of these things, I became sadder and sadder, and stared vacantly upon the fire till my eyes closed in a doze.

I continued dozing over the fire, until rousing myself I perceived that the brands were nearly consumed, and I thought of retiring for the night. I arose, and was about to enter my tent, when a thought struck me. 'Suppose,' thought I, 'that Isopel Berners should return in the midst of the night, how dark and dreary would the dingle appear without a fire! truly, I will keep up the fire, and I will do more; I have no board to spread for her, but I will fill the kettle, and heat it, so that, if she comes, I may be able to welcome her with a cup of tea, for I know she loves tea.' Thereupon, I piled more wood upon the fire, and soon succeeded in producing a better blaze than before; then, taking the kettle, I set out for the spring. On arriving at the mouth of the dingle, which fronted the east, I perceived that Charles's wain was nearly opposite to it, high above in the heavens, by which I knew that the night was tolerably well advanced. The gypsy encampment lay before me; all was hushed and still within it, and its inmates appeared to be locked in slumber; as I advanced, however, the dogs, which were fastened outside the tents, growled and barked; but presently recognising me, they were again silent, some of them wagging their tails. As I drew near a particular tent, I heard a female voice say—'Some one is coming!' and, as I was about to pass it, the cloth which formed the door was suddenly lifted up, and a black head, and part of a huge naked body protruded. It was the head and upper part of the giant Tawno, who, according to the fashion of gypsy men, lay next the door, wrapped in his blanket; the blanket, had, however, fallen off, and the starlight shone clear on his athletic tawny body, and was reflected from his large staring eyes.

'It is only I, Tawno,' said I, 'going to fill the kettle, as it is possible that Miss Berners may arrive this night.' 'Kos-ko,' {89} drawled out Tawno, and replaced the curtain. 'Good, do you call it?' said the sharp voice of his wife; 'there is no good in the matter; if that young chap were not living with the rawnee in the illegal and uncertificated line, he would not be getting up in the middle of the night to fill her kettles.' Passing on, I proceeded to the spring, where I filled the kettle, and then returned to the dingle.

Placing the kettle upon the fire, I watched it till it began to boil; then removing it from the top of the brands, I placed it close beside the fire, and leaving it simmering, I retired to my tent, where, having taken off my shoes, and a few of my garments, I lay down on my palliasse, and was not long in falling asleep. I believe I slept soundly for some time, thinking and dreaming of nothing; suddenly, however, my sleep became disturbed, and the subject of the patterans began to occupy my brain. I imagined that I saw Ursula tracing her husband, Launcelot Lovell, by means of his patterans; I imagined that she had considerable difficulty in doing so; that she was occasionally interrupted by parish beadles and constables, who asked her whither she was travelling, to whom she gave various answers. Presently methought that, as she was passing by a farmyard, two fierce and savage dogs flew at her; I was in great trouble, I remember, and wished to assist her, but could not, for though I seemed to see her, I was still at a distance; and now it appeared that she had escaped from the dogs, and was proceeding with her cart along a gravelly path which traversed a wild moor; I could hear the wheels grating amidst sand and gravel. The next moment I was awake, and found myself silting up in my tent; there was a glimmer of light through the canvas caused by the fire. A feeling of dread came over me, which was perhaps natural on starting suddenly from one's sleep in that wild lone place; I half imagined that someone was nigh the tent; the idea made me rather uncomfortable, and, to dissipate it, I lifted up the canvas of the door and peeped out, and, lo! I had an indistinct view of a tall figure standing by the tent. 'Who is that?' said I, whilst I felt my blood rush to my heart. 'It is I,' said the voice of Isopel Berners; 'you little expected me, I dare say; well, sleep on, I do not wish to disturb you.' 'But I was expecting you,' said I, recovering myself, 'as you may see by the fire and the kettle. I will be with you in a moment.'

Putting on in haste the articles of dress which I had flung off, I came out of the tent, and addressing myself to Isopel, who was standing beside her cart, I said: 'Just as I was about to retire to rest I thought it possible that you might come to-night, and got everything in readiness for you. Now, sit down by the fire whilst I lead the donkey and cart to the place where you stay; I will unharness the animal, and presently come and join you.' 'I need not trouble you,' said Isopel; 'I will go myself and see after my things.' 'We will go together,' said I, 'and then return and have some tea.' Isopel made no objection, and in about half an hour we had arranged everything at her quarters. I then hastened and prepared tea. Presently Isopel rejoined me, bringing her stool; she had divested herself of her bonnet, and her hair fell over her shoulders; she sat down, and I poured out the beverage, handing her a cup. 'Have you made a long journey to-night?' said I. 'A very long one,' replied Belle, 'I have come nearly twenty miles since six o'clock.' 'I believe I heard you coming in my sleep,' said I; 'did the dogs above bark at you?' 'Yes,' said Isopel, 'very violently; did you think of me in your sleep?' 'No,' said I, 'I was thinking of Ursula and something she had told me.' 'When and where was that?' said Isopel. 'Yesterday evening,' said I, 'beneath the dingle hedge.' 'Then you were talking with her beneath the hedge?' 'I was,' said I, 'but only upon gypsy matters. Do you know, Belle, that she has just been married to Sylvester, so you need not think that she and I—.' 'She and you are quite at liberty to sit where you please,' said Isopel. 'However, young man,' she continued, dropping her tone, which she had slightly raised, 'I believe what you said, that you were merely talking about gypsy matters, and also what you were going to say, if it was, as I suppose, that she and you had no particular acquaintance.' Isopel was now silent for some time. 'What are you thinking of?' said I. 'I was thinking,' said Belle, 'how exceedingly kind it was of you to get everything in readiness for me, though you did not know that I should come.' 'I had a presentiment that you would come,' said I; 'but you forget that I have prepared the kettle for you before, though it was true I was then certain that you would come.' 'I had not forgotten your doing so, young man,' said Belle; 'but I was beginning to think that you were utterly selfish, caring for nothing but the gratification of your own strange whims.' 'I am very fond of having my own way,' said I, 'but utterly selfish I am not, as I dare say I shall frequently prove to you. You will often find the kettle boiling when you come home.' 'Not heated by you,' said Isopel with a sigh. 'By whom else?' said I; 'surely you are not thinking of driving me away?' 'You have as much right here as myself,' said Isopel, 'as I have told you before; but I must be going myself.' 'Well,' said I, 'we can go together; to tell you the truth, I am rather tired of this place.' 'Our paths must be separate,' said Belle. 'Separate,' said I, 'what do you mean? I shan't let you go alone, I shall go with you; and you know the road is as free to me as to you; besides, you can't think of parting company with me, considering how much you would lose by doing so; remember that you scarcely know anything of the Armenian language; now, to learn Armenian from me would take you twenty years.'

Belle faintly smiled. 'Come,' said I, 'take another cup of tea.' Belle took another cup of tea, and yet another; we had some indifferent conversation, after which I arose and gave her donkey a considerable feed of corn. Belle thanked me, shook me by the hand, and then went to her own tabernacle, and I returned to mine.



CHAPTER XIII

VISIT TO THE LANDLORD—HIS MORTIFICATIONS—HUNTER AND HIS CLAN—RESOLUTION

On the following morning, after breakfasting with Belle, who was silent and melancholy, I left her in the dingle, and took a stroll amongst the neighbouring lanes. After some time I thought I would pay a visit to the landlord of the public house, whom I had not seen since the day when he communicated to me his intention of changing his religion. I therefore directed my steps to the house, and on entering it found the landlord standing in the kitchen. Just then two mean-looking fellows, who had been drinking at one of the tables, and who appeared to be the only customers in the house, got up, brushed past the landlord, and saying in a surly tone, 'We shall pay you some time or other,' took their departure. 'That's the way they serve me now,' said the landlord, with a sigh. 'Do you know those fellows,' I demanded, 'since you let them go away in your debt?' 'I know nothing about them,' said the landlord, 'save that they are a couple of scamps.' 'Then why did you let them go away without paying you?' said I. 'I had not the heart to stop them,' said the landlord; 'and, to tell you the truth, everybody serves me so now, and I suppose they are right, for a child could flog me.' 'Nonsense,' said I, 'behave more like a man, and with respect to those two fellows run after them, I will go with you, and if they refuse to pay the reckoning I will help you to shake some money out of their clothes.' 'Thank you,' said the landlord; 'but as they are gone, let them go on. What they have drank is not of much consequence.' 'What is the matter with you?' said I, staring at the landlord, who appeared strangely altered; his features were wild and haggard, his formerly bluff cheeks were considerably sunken in, and his figure had lost much of its plumpness. 'Have you changed your religion already, and has the fellow in black commanded you to fast?' 'I have not changed my religion yet,' said the landlord, with a kind of shudder; 'I am to change it publicly this day fortnight, and the idea of doing so—I do not mind telling you—preys much upon my mind; moreover, the noise of the thing has got abroad, and everybody is laughing at me, and what's more, coming and drinking my beer, and going away without paying for it, whilst I feel myself like one bewitched, wishing but not daring to take my own part. Confound the fellow in black, I wish I had never seen him! yet what can I do without him? The brewer swears that unless I pay him fifty pounds within a fortnight he'll send a distress warrant into the house, and take all I have. My poor niece is crying in the room above; and I am thinking of going into the stable and hanging myself; and perhaps it's the best thing I can do, for it's better to hang myself before selling my soul than afterwards, as I'm sure I should, like Judas Iscariot, whom my poor niece, who is somewhat religiously inclined, has been talking to me about.' 'I wish I could assist you,' said I, 'with money, but that is quite out of my power. However, I can give you a piece of advice. Don't change your religion by any means; you can't hope to prosper if you do; and if the brewer chooses to deal hardly with you, let him. Everybody would respect you ten times more provided you allowed yourself to be turned into the roads rather than change your religion, than if you got fifty pounds for renouncing it.' 'I am half inclined to take your advice,' said the landlord, 'only, to tell you the truth, I feel quite low, without any heart in me.' 'Come into the bar,' said I, 'and let us have something together—you need not be afraid of my not paying for what I order.'

We went into the bar-room, where the landlord and I discussed between us two bottles of strong ale, which he said were part of the last six which he had in his possession. At first he wished to drink sherry, but I begged him to do no such thing, telling him that sherry would do him no good, under the present circumstances; nor, indeed, to the best of my belief under any, it being of all wines the one for which I entertained the most contempt. The landlord allowed himself to be dissuaded, and, after a glass or two of ale, confessed that sherry was a sickly disagreeable drink, and that he had merely been in the habit of taking it from an idea he had that it was genteel. Whilst quaffing our beverage, he gave me an account of the various mortifications to which he had of late been subject, dwelling with particular bitterness on the conduct of Hunter, who he said came every night and mouthed him, and afterwards went away without paying for what he had drank or smoked, in which conduct he was closely imitated by a clan of fellows who constantly attended him. After spending several hours at the public-house I departed, not forgetting to pay for the two bottles of ale. The landlord, before I went, shaking me by the hand, declared that he had now made up his mind to stick to his religion at all hazards, the more especially as he was convinced he should derive no good by giving it up.



CHAPTER XIV

PREPARATIONS FOR THE FAIR—THE LAST LESSON—THE VERB SIRIEL

It might be about five in the evening when I reached the gypsy encampment. Here I found Mr. Petulengro, Tawno Chickno, Sylvester, and others, in a great bustle, clipping and trimming certain ponies and old horses which they had brought with them. On inquiring of Jasper the reason of their being so engaged, he informed me that they were getting the horses ready for a fair, which was to be held on the morrow, at a place some miles distant, at which they should endeavour to dispose of them, adding—'Perhaps, brother, you will go with us, provided you have nothing better to do?' Not having any particular engagement, I assured him that I should have great pleasure in being of the party. It was agreed that we should start early on the following morning. Thereupon I descended into the dingle. Belle was sitting before the fire, at which the kettle was boiling. 'Were you waiting for me?' I inquired. 'Yes,' said Belle, 'I thought that you would come, and I waited for you.' 'That was very kind,' said I. 'Not half so kind,' said she, 'as it was of you to get everything ready for me in the dead of last night, when there was scarcely a chance of my coming.' The tea-things were brought forward, and we sat down. 'Have you been far?' said Belle. 'Merely to that public-house,' said I, 'to which you directed me on the second day of our acquaintance.' 'Young men should not make a habit of visiting public-houses,' said Belle, 'they are bad places.' 'They may be so to some people,' said I, 'but I do not think the worst public-house in England could do me any harm.' 'Perhaps you are so bad already,' said Belle, with a smile, 'that it would be impossible to spoil you.' 'How dare you catch at my words?' said I; 'come, I will make you pay for doing so—you shall have this evening the longest lesson in Armenian which I have yet inflicted upon you.' 'You may well say inflicted,' said Belle, 'but pray spare me. I do not wish to hear anything about Armenian, especially this evening.' 'Why this evening?' said I. Belle made no answer. 'I will not spare you,' said I; 'this evening I intend to make you conjugate an Armenian verb.' 'Well, be it so,' said Belle; 'for this evening you shall command.' 'To command is hramahyel,' said I. 'Ram her ill, indeed,' said Belle; 'I do not wish to begin with that.' 'No,' said I, 'as we have come to the verbs, we will begin regularly; hramahyel is a verb of the second conjugation. We will begin with the first.' 'First of all tell me,' said Belle, 'what a verb is?' 'A part of speech,' said I, 'which, according to the dictionary, signifies some action or passion—for example, I command you, or I hate you.' 'I have given you no cause to hate me,' said Belle, looking me sorrowfully in the face.

'I was merely giving two examples,' said I, 'and neither was directed at you. In those examples, to command and hate are verbs. Belle, in Armenian there are four conjugations of verbs; the first end in el, the second in yel, the third in oul, and the fourth in il. Now, have you understood me?'

'I am afraid, indeed, it will all end ill,' said Belle. 'Hold your tongue,' said I, 'or you will make me lose my patience.' 'You have already made me nearly lose mine,' said Belle. 'Let us have no unprofitable interruptions,' said I. 'The conjugations of the Armenian verbs are neither so numerous nor so difficult as the declensions of the nouns; hear that, and rejoice. Come, we will begin with the verb hntal, a verb of the first conjugation, which signifies to rejoice. Come along; hntam, I rejoice; hntas, thou rejoicest: why don't you follow, Belle?'

'I am sure I don't rejoice, whatever you may do,' said Belle. 'The chief difficulty, Belle,' said I, 'that I find in teaching you the Armenian grammar, proceeds from your applying to yourself and me every example I give. Rejoice, in this instance, is merely an example of an Armenian verb of the first conjugation, and has no more to do with your rejoicing than lal, which is also a verb of the first conjugation, and which signifies to weep, would have to do with your weeping, provided I made you conjugate it. Come along; hntam, I rejoice; hntas, thou rejoicest, hnta, he rejoices; hntamk, we rejoice: now, repeat those words.'

'I can't,' said Belle, 'they sound more like the language of horses than of human beings. Do you take me for—?' 'For what?' said I. Belle was silent. 'Were you going to say mare?' said I. 'Mare! mare! by-the-by, do you know, Belle, that mare in old English stands for woman; and that when we call a female an evil mare, the strict meaning of the term is merely bad woman. So if I were to call you mare, without prefixing bad, you must not be offended.' 'But I should, though,' said Belle. 'I was merely attempting to make you acquainted with a philological fact,' said I. 'If mare, which in old English, and likewise in vulgar English, signifies a woman, sounds the same as mare, which in modern and polite English signifies a female horse, I can't help it. There is no confusion of sounds in Armenian, not, at least, in the same instance. Belle, in Armenian, woman is ghin, the same word, by-the-by, a sour queen, whereas mare is madagh tzi, which signifies a female horse; and perhaps you will permit me to add that a hard-mouthed jade is, in Armenian, madagh tzi hsdierah.'

'I can't bear this much longer,' said Belle. 'Keep yourself quiet,' said I; 'I wish to be gentle with you; and to convince you, we will skip hntal, and also for the present verbs of the first conjugation, and proceed to the second. Belle, I will now select for you to conjugate the prettiest verb in Armenian; not only of the second, but also of all the four conjugations; that verb is siriel. Here is the present tense: siriem, siries, sire, siriemk, sirek, sirien. You observe that it runs on just in the same manner as hntal, save and except that e is substituted for a; and it will be as well to tell you that almost the only difference between the second, third, and fourth conjugations, and the first, is the substituting in the present, preterite, and other tenses, e, or ou, or i for a; so you see that the Armenian verbs are by no means difficult. Come on, Belle, and say siriem.' Belle hesitated. 'Pray oblige me, Belle, by saying siriem!' Belle still appeared to hesitate. 'You must admit, Belle, that it is much softer than hntam.' 'It is so,' said Belle; 'and to oblige you, I will say siriem.' 'Very well indeed, Belle,' said I. 'No vartabied, or doctor, could have pronounced it better; and now, to show you how verbs act upon pronouns in Armenian, I will say siriem zkiez. Please to repeat siriem zkiez!' 'Siriem zkiez!' said Belle, 'that last word is very hard to say.' 'Sorry that you think so, Belle,' said I. 'Now please to say siria zis.' Belle did so. 'Exceedingly well,' said I. 'Now say yerani the sireir zis.' 'Yerani the sireir zis,' said Belle. 'Capital!' said I; 'you have now said, I love you—love me—ah! would that you would love me!'

'And I have said all these things?' said Belle. 'Yes,' said I; 'you have said them in Armenian.' 'I would have said them in no language that I understood,' said Belle; 'and it was very wrong of you to take advantage of my ignorance, and make me say such things.' 'Why so?' said I; 'if you said them, I said them too.' 'You did so,' said Belle; 'but I believe you were merely bantering and jeering.' 'As I told you before, Belle,' said I, 'the chief difficulty which I find in teaching you Armenian proceeds from your persisting in applying to yourself and me every example I give.' 'Then you meant nothing after all?' said Belle, raising her voice. 'Let us proceed,' said I; 'sirietsi, I loved.' 'You never loved any one but yourself,' said Belle; 'and what's more—' 'Sirietsits, I will love,' said I, 'siriestsies, thou wilt love.' 'Never one so thoroughly heartless,' said Belle. 'I tell you what, Belle, you are becoming intolerable; but we will change the verb, or rather I will now proceed to tell you here, that some of the Armenian conjugations have their anomalies; one species of these I wish to bring before your notice. As old Villotte {97} says—from whose work I first contrived to pick up the rudiments of Armenian—"Est verborum transitivorum, quorum infinitivus—" But I forgot, you don't understand Latin. He says there are certain transitive verbs, whose infinitive is in out-saniel; the preterite in outsi; the imperative in oue: for example, parghatsoutsaniem, I irritate—'

'You do, you do!' said Belle; 'and it will be better for both of us, if you leave off doing so.'

'You would hardly believe, Belle,' said I, 'that the Armenian is in some respects closely connected with the Irish, but so it is; for example, that word parghatsoutsaniem is evidently derived from the same root as feargaim, which, in Irish, is as much as to say I vex.'

'You do, indeed!' said Belle, sobbing.

'But how do you account for it?'

'O man, man!' said Belle, bursting into tears, 'for what purpose do you ask a poor ignorant girl such a question, unless it be to vex and irritate her? If you wish to display your learning, do so to the wise and instructed, and not to me, who can scarcely read or write. Oh, leave off your nonsense; yet I know you will not do so, for it is the breath of your nostrils! I could have wished we should have parted in kindness, but you will not permit it. I have deserved better at your hands than such treatment. The whole time we have kept company together in this place, I have scarcely had one kind word from you, but the strangest—' And here the voice of Belle was drowned in her sobs.

'I am sorry to see you take on so, dear Belle,' said I. 'I really have given you no cause to be so unhappy. Surely teaching you a little Armenian was a very innocent kind of diversion.'

'Yes, but you went on so long, and in such a strange way, and made me repeat such strange examples, as you call them, that I could not bear it.'

'Why, to tell you the truth, Belle, it's my way; and I have dealt with you just as I would with—'

'A hard-mouthed jade,' said Belle, 'and you practising your horse-witchery upon her. I have been of an unsubdued spirit, I acknowledge, but I was always kind to you; and if you have made me cry, it's a poor thing to boast of.'

'Boast of!' said I; 'a pretty thing indeed to boast of; I had no idea of making you cry. Come, I beg your pardon: what more can I do? Come, cheer up, Belle. You were talking of parting; don't let us part, but depart, and that together.'

'Our ways lie different,' said Belle.

'I don't see why they should,' said I. 'Come, let us be off to America together.'

'To America together?' said Belle, looking full at me.

'Yes,' said I; 'where we will settle down in some forest, and conjugate the verb siriel conjugally.'

'Conjugally?' said Belle.

'Yes,' said I; 'as man and wife in America, air yew ghin.'

'You are jesting as usual,' said Belle.

'Not I, indeed. Come, Belle, make up your mind, and let us be off to America; and leave priests, humbug, learning, and languages behind us.'

'I don't think you are jesting,' said Belle; 'but I can hardly entertain your offers. However, young man, I thank you.'

'You had better make up your mind at once,' said I, 'and let us be off. I shan't make a bad husband, I assure you. Perhaps you think I am not worthy of you? To convince you, Belle, that I am, I am ready to try a fall with you this moment upon the grass. Brynhilda, the valkyrie, swore that no one should marry her who could not fling her down. Perhaps you have done the same. The man who eventually married her, got a friend of his, who was called Sygurd, the serpent-killer, to wrestle with her, disguising him in his own armour. Sygurd flung her down, and won her for his friend, though he loved her himself. I shall not use a similar deceit, nor employ Jasper Petulengro to personate me—so get up, Belle, and I will do my best to fling you down.'

'I require no such thing of you, or anybody,' said Belle; 'you are beginning to look rather wild.'

'I every now and then do,' said I. 'Come, Belle, what do you say?'

'I will say nothing at present on the subject,' said Belle; 'I must have time to consider.'

'Just as you please,' said I, 'to-morrow I go to a fair with Mr. Petulengro—perhaps you will consider whilst I am away. Come, Belle, let us have some more tea. I wonder whether we shall be able to procure tea as good as this in the American forest.'



CHAPTER XV

THE DAWN OF DAY—THE LAST FAREWELL—DEPARTURE FOR THE FAIR—THE FINE HORSE—RETURN TO THE DINGLE—NO ISOPEL

It was about the dawn of day when I was awakened by the voice of Mr. Petulengro shouting from the top of the dingle, and bidding me get up. I arose instantly, and dressed myself for the expedition to the fair. On leaving my tent, I was surprised to observe Belle, entirely dressed, standing close to her own little encampment. 'Dear me,' said I, 'I little expected to find you up so early. I suppose Jasper's call awakened you, as it did me.' 'I merely lay down in my things,' said Belle, 'and have not slept during the night.' 'And why did you not take off your things and go to sleep?' said I. 'I did not undress,' said Belle, 'because I wished to be in readiness to bid you farewell when you departed; and as for sleeping I could not.' 'Well, God bless you!' said I, taking Belle by the hand. Belle made no answer, and I observed that her hand was very cold. 'What is the matter with you?' said I, looking her in the face. Belle looked at me for a moment in the eyes, and then cast down her own—her features were very pale. 'You are really unwell,' said I, 'I had better not go to the fair, but stay here, and take care of you.' 'No,' said Belle, 'pray go, I am not unwell.' 'Then go to your tent,' said I, 'and do not endanger your health by standing abroad in the raw morning air. God bless you, Belle, I shall be home to-night, by which time I expect you will have made up your mind, if not, another lesson in Armenian, however late the hour be.' I then wrung Belle's hand, and ascended to the plain above.

I found the Romany party waiting for me, and everything in readiness for departing. Mr. Petulengro and Tawno Chikno were mounted on two old horses. The rest, who intended to go to the fair, amongst whom were two or three women, were on foot. On arriving at the extremity of the plain, I looked towards the dingle. Isopel Berners stood at the mouth, the beams of the early morning sun shone full on her noble face and figure. I waved my hand towards her. She slowly lifted up her right arm. I turned away, and never saw Isopel Berners again.

My companions and myself proceeded on our way. In about two hours we reached the place where the fair was to be held. After breakfasting on bread and cheese and ale behind a broken stone wall, we drove our animals to the fair. The fair was a common cattle and horse fair: there was little merriment going on, but there was no lack of business. By about two o'clock in the afternoon, Mr. Petulengro and his people had disposed of their animals at what they conceived very fair prices—they were all in high spirits, and Jasper proposed to adjourn to a public-house. As we were proceeding to one, a very fine horse, led by a jockey, made its appearance on the ground. Mr. Petulengro stopped short, and looked at it steadfastly: 'Fino covar dove odoy sas miro {101}—a fine thing were that, if it were but mine!' he exclaimed. 'If you covet it,' said I, 'why do you not purchase it?' 'We low gyptians never buy animals of that description; if we did we could never sell them, and most likely should be had up as horse-stealers.' 'Then why did you say just now, "It were a fine thing if it were but yours?"' said I. 'We gyptians always say so when we see anything that we admire. An animal like that is not intended for a little hare like me, but for some grand gentleman like yourself. I say, brother, do you buy that horse!' 'How should I buy the horse, you foolish person!' said I. 'Buy the horse, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'if you have not the money I can lend it you; though I be of lower Egypt.' 'You talk nonsense,' said I; 'however, I wish you would ask the man the price of it.' Mr. Petulengro, going up to the jockey, inquired the price of the horse—the man, looking at him scornfully, made no reply. 'Young man,' said I, going up to the jockey, 'do me the favour to tell me the price of that horse, as I suppose it is to sell.' The jockey, who was a surly-looking man, of about fifty, looked at me for a moment, then, after some hesitation, said, laconically, 'Seventy.' 'Thank you,' said I, and turned away. 'Buy that horse,' said Mr. Petulengro, coming after me; 'the dook tells me that in less than three months he will be sold for twice seventy.' 'I will have nothing to do with him,' said I; 'besides, Jasper, I don't like his tail. Did you observe what a mean scrubby tail he has?' 'What a fool you are, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'that very tail of his shows his breeding. No good bred horse ever yet carried a fine tail—'tis your scrubby-tailed horses that are your out-and-outers. Did you ever hear of Syntax, brother? That tail of his puts me in mind of Syntax. Well, I say nothing more, have your own way—all I wonder at is, that a horse like him was ever brought to such a fair of dog cattle as this.'

We then made the best of our way to a public-house, where we had some refreshment. I then proposed returning to the encampment, but Mr. Petulengro declined, and remained drinking with his companions till about six o'clock in the evening, when various jockeys from the fair came in. After some conversation a jockey proposed a game of cards; and in a little time, Mr. Petulengro and another gypsy sat down to play a game of cards with two of the jockeys.

Though not much acquainted with cards, I soon conceived a suspicion that the jockeys were cheating Mr. Petulengro and his companion, I therefore called Mr. Petulengro aside, and gave him a hint to that effect. Mr. Petulengro, however, instead of thanking me, told me to mind my own bread and butter, and forthwith returned to his game. I continued watching the players for some hours. The gypsies lost considerably, and I saw clearly that the jockeys were cheating them most confoundedly. I therefore once more called Mr. Petulengro aside, and told him that the jockeys were cheating him, conjuring him to return to the encampment. Mr. Petulengro, who was by this time somewhat the worse for liquor, now fell into a passion, swore several oaths, and asking me who had made me a Moses over him and his brethren, told me to return to the encampment by myself. Incensed at the unworthy return which my well-meant words received, I forthwith left the house, and having purchased a few articles of provision, I set out for the dingle alone. It was dark night when I reached it, and descending I saw the glimmer of a fire from the depths of the dingle; my heart beat with fond anticipation of a welcome. 'Isopel Berners is waiting for me,' said I, 'and the first word that I shall hear from her lips is that she has made up her mind. We shall go to America, and be so happy together.' On reaching the bottom of the dingle, however, I saw seated near the fire, not Isopel Berners, but a gypsy girl, who told me that Miss Berners when she went away had charged her to keep up the fire, and have a kettle boiling against my arrival. Startled at these words, I inquired at what hour Isopel had left, and whither she was gone, and was told that she had left the dingle, with her cart, about two hours after I departed; but where she was gone she (the girl) did not know. I then asked whether she had left no message, and the girl replied that she had left none, but had merely given directions about the kettle and fire, putting, at the same time, sixpence into her hand. 'Very strange,' thought I; then dismissing the gypsy girl I sat down by the fire. I had no wish for tea, but sat looking on the embers, wondering what could be the motive of the sudden departure of Isopel. 'Does she mean to return?' thought I to myself. 'Surely she means to return,' Hope replied, 'or she would not have gone away without leaving any message'—'and yet she could scarcely mean to return,' muttered Foreboding, 'or she would assuredly have left some message with the girl.' I then thought to myself what a hard thing it would be, if, after having made up my mind to assume the yoke of matrimony, I should be disappointed of the woman of my choice. 'Well, after all,' thought I, 'I can scarcely be disappointed; if such an ugly scoundrel as Sylvester had no difficulty in getting such a nice wife as Ursula, surely I, who am not a tenth part so ugly, cannot fail to obtain the hand of Isopel Berners, uncommonly fine damsel though she be. Husbands do not grow upon hedge-rows; she is merely gone after a little business and will return to-morrow.'

Comforted in some degree by these hopeful imaginings, I retired to my tent, and went to sleep.



CHAPTER XVI

GLOOMY FOREBODINGS—THE POSTMAN'S MOTHER—THE LETTER—BEARS AND BARONS—THE BEST OF ADVICE

Nothing occurred to me of any particular moment during the following day. Isopel Berners did not return; but Mr. Petulengro and his companions came home from the fair early in the morning. When I saw him, which was about mid-day, I found him with his face bruised and swelled. It appeared that some time after I had left him, he himself perceived that the jockeys with whom he was playing cards were cheating him and his companion, a quarrel ensued, which terminated in a fight between Mr. Petulengro and one of the jockeys, which lasted some time, and in which Mr. Petulengro, though he eventually came off victor, was considerably beaten. His bruises, in conjunction with his pecuniary loss, which amounted to about seven pounds, were the cause of his being much out of humour; before night, however, he had returned to his usual philosophic frame of mind, and, coming up to me as I was walking about, apologized for his behaviour on the preceding day, and assured me that he was determined, from that time forward, never to quarrel with a friend for giving him good advice.

Two more days passed, and still Isopel Berners did not return. Gloomy thoughts and forebodings filled my mind. During the day I wandered about the neighbouring roads in the hopes of catching an early glimpse of her and her returning vehicle; and at night lay awake, tossing about on my hard couch, listening to the rustle of every leaf, and occasionally thinking that I heard the sound of her wheels upon the distant road. Once at midnight, just as I was about to fall into unconsciousness, I suddenly started up, for I was convinced that I heard the sound of wheels. I listened most anxiously, and the sound of wheels striking against stones was certainly plain enough. 'She comes at last,' thought I, and for a few moments I felt as if a mountain had been removed from my breast;—'here she comes at last, now, how shall I receive her? Oh,' thought I, 'I will receive her rather coolly, just as if I was not particularly anxious about her—that's the way to manage these women.' The next moment the sound became very loud, rather too loud, I thought, to proceed from her wheels, and then by degrees became fainter. Rushing out of my tent, I hurried up the path to the top of the dingle, where I heard the sound distinctly enough, but it was going from me, and evidently proceeded from something much larger than the cart of Isopel. I could, moreover, hear the stamping of a horse's hoof at a lumbering trot. Those only whose hopes have been wrought up to a high pitch, and then suddenly dashed down, can imagine what I felt at that moment; and yet when I returned to my lonely tent, and lay down on my hard pallet, the voice of conscience told me that the misery I was then undergoing, I had fully merited, from the unkind manner in which I had intended to receive her, when for a brief minute I supposed that she had returned.

It was on the morning after this affair, and the fourth, if I forget not, from the time of Isopel's departure, that, as I was seated on my stone at the bottom of the dingle, getting my breakfast, I heard an unknown voice from the path above—apparently that of a person descending—exclaim, 'Here's a strange place to bring a letter to;' and presently an old woman, with a belt round her middle, to which was attached a leathern bag, made her appearance, and stood before me.

'Well, if I ever!' said she, as she looked about her. 'My good gentlewoman,' said I, 'pray what may you please to want?' 'Gentlewoman!' said the old dame, 'please to want!—well, I call that speaking civilly, at any rate. It is true, civil words cost nothing; nevertheless, we do not always get them. What I please to want is to deliver a letter to a young man in this place; perhaps you be he?' 'What's the name on the letter?' said I, getting up and going to her. 'There is no name upon it,' said she, taking a letter out of her scrip, and looking at it. 'It is directed to the young man in Mumper's Dingle.' 'Then it is for me, I make no doubt,' said I, stretching out my hand to take it. 'Please to pay me ninepence first,' said the old woman. 'However,' said she, 'civility is civility, and, being rather a scarce article, should meet with some return. Here's the letter, young man, and I hope you will pay for it; for if you do not I must pay the postage myself.' 'You are the postwoman, I suppose,' said I, as I took the letter. 'I am the postman's mother,' said the old woman; 'but as he has a wide beat, I help him as much as I can, and I generally carry letters to places like this, to which he is afraid to come himself.' 'You say the postage is ninepence,' said I, 'here's a shilling.' 'Well, I call that honourable,' said the old woman, taking the shilling, and putting it into her pocket—'here's your change, young man,' said she, offering me threepence. 'Pray keep that for yourself,' said I; 'you deserve it for your trouble.' 'Well, I call that genteel,' said the old woman; 'and as one good turn deserves another, since you look as if you couldn't read, I will read your letter for you. Let's see it; it's from some young woman or other, I dare say.' 'Thank you,' said I, 'but I can read.' 'All the better for you,' said the old woman; 'your being able to read will frequently save you a penny, for that's the charge I generally make for reading letters; though as you behaved so genteely to me, I should have charged you nothing. Well, if you can read, why don't you open the letter, instead of keeping it hanging between your finger and thumb?' 'I am in no hurry to open it,' said I, with a sigh. The old woman looked at me for a moment—'Well, young man,' said she, 'there are some—especially those who can read—who don't like to open their letters when anybody is by, more especially when they come from young women. Well, I won't intrude upon you, but leave you alone with your letter. I wish it may contain something pleasant. God bless you,' and with these words she departed.

I sat down on my stone, with my letter in my hand. I knew perfectly well that it could have come from no other person than Isopel Berners; but what did the letter contain? I guessed tolerably well what its purport was—an eternal farewell! yet I was afraid to open the letter, lest my expectation should be confirmed. There I sat with the letter, putting off the evil moment as long as possible. At length I glanced at the direction, which was written in a fine bold hand, and was directed, as the old woman had said, to the young man in 'Mumper's Dingle,' with the addition near —-, in the county of —-. Suddenly the idea occurred to me, that, after all, the letter might not contain an eternal farewell, and that Isopel might have written, requesting me to join her. Could it be so?' 'Alas! no,' presently said Foreboding. At last I became ashamed of my weakness. The letter must be opened sooner or later. Why not at once? So as the bather who, for a considerable time has stood shivering on the bank, afraid to take the decisive plunge, suddenly takes it, I tore open the letter almost before I was aware. I had no sooner done so than a paper fell out. I examined it; it contained a lock of bright flaxen hair. 'This is no good sign,' said I, as I thrust the lock and paper into my bosom, and proceeded to read the letter, which ran as follows:

'TO THE YOUNG MAN IN MUMPER'S DINGLE.

SIR,

I send these lines, with the hope and trust that they will find you well, even as I am myself at this moment, and in much better spirits, for my own are not such as I could wish they were, being sometimes rather hysterical and vapourish, and at other times, and most often, very low. I am at a sea-port, and am just going on shipboard; and when you get these I shall be on the salt waters, on my way to a distant country, and leaving my own behind me, which I do not expect ever to see again.

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