Flower petals online

Flower petals online

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.

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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.

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"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."