“I gave your companion a sign last night that should have warned him. I speak to you now, to warn you again. The next time I shall not give a warning; I shall act, and your punishment will be swift and terrible. Take heed; go, while there is time.”
For a moment the two gypsies were speechless, looking at one another in wonder, and Bessie was not disposed to blame them. Her own head was in a whirl.
“Quick; it is in that tree!” said Lolla, easily the braver of the two of them. “Climb up there, and see who it is that is trying to frighten us, Peter.”
But Peter was not prepared to do anything of the sort. He was trembling, and casting nervous glances behind him, as if he were more minded to make a break and run down the trail.
“Climb yourself! I shall stay here,” he retorted.
And Lolla, without further hesitation, sprang into the branches of the tree and began to climb.
As she did so the mysterious voice sounded again.
“You cannot see me, yet,” it said. “You can only hear me. See, my voice is in your ears, but you cannot see as much as my little finger. Beware; go before you do see me. For when you do, you will regret it; regret it as long as you live!”
When Lolla, a moment later, reached firm ground again, she was trembling, and Bessie saw that her courage was beginning to fail. She looked about her nervously, as Peter was doing. And suddenly the voice spoke again, but this time it shouted, and it was in a stronger, more vigorous tone, and one of great anger.
“Must I show myself! Must I punish you?” it said, furiously. “Fear me; you will do well! Go—go!”
With a yell of terror Peter turned suddenly, and ran through the thick bushes toward the trail, crying out as he went, and stumbling.
“Come; it is the devil! I saw his horns and his tail then,” he screamed. “Come, Lolla, this is an accursed place. I told John it was wrong to try to do this; that he would get into trouble.”
“He is wise; he is safe!” said the mysterious voice. “Go too, Lolla; I am growing impatient. Go, if you want to see John, your lover, and the brothers that you love, again. The time is growing short. I come; I come; and when I come—”
And then at last Lolla’s nerves, too, gave way, and she followed Peter, screaming, as he had done, while she ran. Bessie, as astonished and almost as frightened as the two gypsies had been, turned then to see how Dolly was bearing this extraordinary affair, to see her chum rolling about on the ground, with tears in her eyes.
“Oh, that was funny!” Dolly exclaimed. “They were easy, after all, Bessie.”
“They’ve gone! It’s all right now,” said Bessie. “But who was it, Dolly? Who could it have been?”
“It was me!” exclaimed Dolly, weakly, between gasps of laughter, forgetting her grammar altogether. “I learned that trick last summer. They call it ventriloquism. It just means throwing your voice out so that it doesn’t seem to come from you at all, and changing it, so that people won’t recognize it.”