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Utu: A Story of Love, Hate and Revenge

Chapter IV. In The Tent of the Gipsy—Dorrikipen—The Voice of Nature

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Chapter IV. In The Tent of the Gipsy—Dorrikipen—The Voice of Nature.

Sacishan, dye.’*

Sarishan, miri kamli. Ava kai, bersh tu alay. O baro duvel atch pa leste, miri shukar. Welcome once more to the tent of the poor gipsy, my child. Let me look again upon thy fresh young beauty. Ah, thou art fairer than ever, my dear one. The rose on thy cheek is brighter, the love-light shines in thine eyes. Ah, thou canst hide nothing from her upon whose breast thou wert nourished. Thou hast met thy fate, and the little wild dove, thy heart, has been snared since I saw thee last. Say, is it not so, child of my bosom?’

The utterer of these gushing phrases was a tall gipsy woman past life's meridian, whose erect figure must, in her youth, have been very fine. Around her head was bound a red kerchief, from under which black snaky tresses strayed over her shoulders. Her features were handsome, but the parchment skin was swart and wrinkled, and her coal black eyes, bright as an eagle's, had a peculiar glance that never failed to rivet those of anyone she chose to hold converse with. As she stood now, bending over her visitor with a skinny hand on either shoulder, they seemed to be looking through the liquid upturned orbs into the very soul of the owner.

‘Truly thou art a witch, dye. Thou leavest me no news to tell thee,’ replied Eleanor Radcliffe, for it was the beautiful heiress who thus sat familiarly in the lowly home of the despised Bohemian.

‘Ah, my child, my heart watches over thee always. And so thou hast had grand doings up at the Hall. Little wonder thou couldst not spare an hour for thy old nurse.’

‘In good sooth, dye, since my uncle came home I have had less freedom than of yore. He wills not that the heiress of Radcliffe should run wild, and my father contends not. And since the company came we have all been busy. But now the last guest has departed, and my uncle, who has of late been indisposed, keeps his chamber, so I made haste to come while opportunity offered, for I feared lest you should think yourself forgotten.’

‘Thou hadst another reason also. Is it not so, deary?’

‘Oh, dye! Who can hide anything from you? Prithee, then, tell me page break
Now read me a fair fortune, I pray thee.

Now read me a fair fortune, I pray thee.

page 21 once again my dorriki17. See, I have brought a brand new coin to cross thy hand withal; and now read me a fair fortune, I pray thee.’

‘What the lines say, I can read, and that only, my child, and thine cross each other more than I like, but thou hast met the man who will wed thee, deary, and he who loves thee truly will be true till death. Yet give not all thine heart where thine eyes love most to rest, for the true and the false desire thee, and thou canst not yet discern betwixt them. Also I would warn thee the sky-eyed are oft unstable.’

‘Hush, dye! I will not hear thee if thou speakest treason,’ and the young girl laid her hand on the other's lips. ‘You know not my brave Islander. His eyes are wells of truth, and his heart a fountain of honour. And oh, he is so handsome, dye, my broad-shouldered, yellow-haired Irishman.’

‘Well, well, deary. The young love the gay, and like seeks like, and nature will have its way, and every cloud is lined with light, and there's a way out of the darkest trouble.’

‘Of course there is, dye, and we shall find it, my blue-eyed love and I. But, by the way, dye, why have I not also blue eyes? My mother's eyes, like those of my father, were like sapphires, yet mine are dark as night. You, who know all things, tell me why is this.’ She paused, for the gipsy—who appeared strangely disturbed by the query—had set her dusky orbs in what the damsel was wont laughingly to call her ‘witch stare,’ and seemed searching the young heart for the motive which prompted it. Presently she spoke.

‘Thy question, my child, opens up the vistas of the past, and forgotten memories come thronging through; but I may not answer it, at least not yet, albeit thou art discreet and canst guard a secret. as I know.’

‘In sooth can I, dye, Have I not all these years kept that of thy whereabouts? But thy words are mysterious. Prithee explain them.’

‘I question not thy affection, deary. Thou hast proved it well. Yet should my words offend thee, thou wouldst come hither no more, and the heart of the poor sandererx would pine for the child she nourished.’

‘Nay, then, dye, thou couldst not offend me.’

‘And if by any chance those at the Hall should suspect, they would never let me see thee more.’

‘Marry, then! Thinkest thou so poorly of thy child? Knowest thou not that I am a gipsy at heart, and love the tents of thy people better than the halls of my ancestors. Verily I have broken home rules so oft in vain it thou thinkest I could now be enslaved. Was I not suckled at a gipsy breast? With thy milk I drank in thy nature, dye, and who could ever teach thee to obey? Yet I doubt not thou wert wise in thy generation, nursey. Methinks I hear thee saying. “Yea, yea.” page 22 But thou did'st it not.’ And a merry laugh, in which the old woman joined, broke from the girl.

Then standing before her, the gipsy took the soft cheeks in her two hands, and peering into her eyes, asked:

‘Art thou sure, my beautiful, that thou lovest my people better than thine own—the roving life of the tent better than the bondage of Gentile civilization?’

‘In good sooth do I. Were I but mine own mistress I would pack my knapsack and we should roam the world together, thou and I, and my blue-eyed soldier, and visit all the Romanes18 scattered through the world. Think of it, dye!

While she was thus gaily chattering, the old woman had loosened and shaken free of powder her luxuriant hair, which fell in curling masses far below her waist. Then covering the graceful head with a red kerchief, she tied the ends loosely under the chin, and standing back a little, folded her hands, while her piercing eyes grew moist with affectionate admiration.

‘And thou would'st queen it over all their hearts, my deary. Truly there is little of the Gentile in thee. Thy beauty is that of our people. Thy skin only is ivory, not olive; but sun and air would soon amend that. And so thou would'st wander with the gipsies if thou had'st thy way.’

‘Truly, dye.’

‘Verily they labour in vain who will still the voice of nature,’ she murmured, as in self-communing. Aloud she said: ‘Some day, my child, when thou art sick of pomp and pleasure and Gentile insincerities, thou wilt come to us as a wearied child to the breast of its mother. And then, deary, will I tell thee why thine eyes are dark with evening shadows.’

‘But I would know the secret now, dye,’ said Miss Radcliffe, with some asperity.

‘Ay, my dear. The young are ever impatient. But the time is not ripe. Thou first must taste the great city's pleasure, and then will thy dye reveal all thine heart desires to know. And, if in the selfish crowd thou makest enemies, or sufferest wrong; if any dare betray thy trust, thou shalt return hither and learn how the gipsies take vengeance. And then thy dye, shall teach thine eyes the art of witchery, and thy hands the secret crafts. Love philtres thou shalt mix, life elixirs for thy friends, and death potions for those thou hatest, and many a secret art besides unknown to the Gentiles. And now, deary, thy uncle dreams not of thy visits to the gipsy?’

‘Assuredly not. Did I not promise thee to keep the secret always?’

‘Tis well, my child, I would not have him know. He believes me dead; so let it rest.’

page 23

‘You may trust me, dye. But now must I leave thee or I shall be missed.’

‘Fare thee well, my dear one. Forget not my words.’

‘No fear of that, dye. Adieu till again we meet.’

17 This word seems to mean fortune-teller, although the only reference that could be found of this word is in Charles G. Leland’s 1888 version of The Gypsies where it is mentioned that this is an archaic term.

[Note added by Vicki Hughes as annotator]

18 Gypsies.

[Note added by Vicki Hughes as annotator]

* Gipsy greeting signifying. ‘I salute you, mother.’

‘I greet thee, my dear. Come here; sit down. The gret Lord be upon thee, my beautiful.’