His keen eyes devoured Dolly as he stood before her, and he put out his hand, gently enough, to bar their way.
“Will you marry me?” he said, in English much better than that of most of his tribe.
Dolly laughed, although Bessie looked serious.
“Oh, yes, of course,” said Dolly. “I always marry the first man who asks me, every day; especially if he’s a gypsy and I’ve never seen him before.”
“You’re too young now; you think you are, I suppose,” said the gypsy, showing his white teeth. “You come back with me and wait; by and by we will get married.”
“Nonsense,” said Bessie, decisively. “He means it, Dolly, he’s not joking. Come, we must hurry.”
“Wait, stay,” said the gypsy, eagerly. And he put out his hand as if to hold Dolly. But she screamed before he could touch her, and darted past him. And in a moment both girls, running hard, were out of sight.
A SERIOUS JOKE
Bessie, seriously alarmed, led the race through the woods and they had gone for nearly a quarter of a mile before she would even stop to listen. When she felt that if the gypsy were going to overtake them he would have done it, she stopped, and, breathing hard, listened eagerly for some sign that he was still behind them. But only the noises of the forest came to their ears, the rustling of the leaves in the trees, the call of a bird, the sudden sharp chattering of a squirrel or a chipmunk, and, of course, their own breathing.
“I guess we got away from him all right,” she said. “Oh, Dolly, I was frightened!”
“What?” cried Dolly, amazed. “Do you mean to say that you let that silly gypsy frighten you? I thought you were braver than that, Bessie!”
“You don’t know anything about it, Dolly,” said Bessie, a little irritated. “It really wasn’t your fault, but those people aren’t like our men. He probably meant just what he said, and if he thought you were laughing at him, it would have made him furious. When you said you would marry him, of course I knew you were joking, and so would anyone like us, but I think he took you seriously. He thought you meant it!”
“Bessie! How absurd! He couldn’t! Why, I won’t marry anyone for ever so long, and he surely doesn’t think an American girl would ever marry one of his nasty tribe! You’re joking, aren’t you! He couldn’t ever have really thought anything so perfectly absurd?”
“I only hope we won’t find out that he was serious, Dolly. You couldn’t be expected to understand, but people like that are very different from ourselves. They haven’t got a lot of civilized ideas to hold them in check, the way we have, and when they want something they come right out and say so, and if they can’t get what they want by asking for it, they’re apt to take it.”
“But I didn’t think anyone ever acted like that! And he is going to marry that pretty gypsy girl who is putting the beads and buttons on a jacket for him, anyhow. She said so; she said they were engaged.”