George Lane drew his wife tenderly close to him.
“She shall be punished,” he said, “but first she shall hear, before you all, that I love her and that I know she has not lost the spirit of our love. Her fault was born of lightness of heart and vanity, not of evil.”
“What is her fault? Name it,” commanded Aunty Lee.
George Lane looked over at Jan.
“Her fault is that she trusted a gorgio to understand the ways of a Romany. For our girls have the spirit of love in their eyes, but no man among us would kiss a girl unless he received the sign from her. But the gorgio men are without honour. To-day, as this woman who is mine stopped to talk with a gorgio, among some trees where I waited, thinking to enter her wagon there, he kissed her, and she kissed him, in return.”
“Not with the lubbeny kiss—not with that kiss!” Dora Parse cried. “May I be lost as Pharaoh was in the sea if I speak not the truth!”
The solemn oath, never taken by any Romany lightly and never falsely sworn to, rang out on the still night air. A cold, but firm little hand was slipped into Dora Parse’s. Marda was near, as she had promised, and the hot palm of the princess closed gratefully upon it.
George Lane drew his wife upon his breast, and over her glossy head he looked for encouragement to Aunty Lee, who knew what he must do. He was very pale, but he must not hesitate.
“Kiss me, my love,” he said, loudly and clearly, “here before my people, that I may punish you. Give me the kiss of love, when tongues and lips meet, that you may know your fault.”
Now Dora Parse grew very pale, too, and she leaned far back against her man’s arms, her eyes wide with terror. And no one spoke, for in all the history of the tribe this thing had never happened before, though every one had heard of it. Dora Parse knew that, if she refused, her oath would be considered false, and she would be cast out, not only from her husband’s tent and wagon, but from all Romany tribes. And slowly she leaned forward, and George Lane bent down.
Jan Jacobus, although he had not understood the words of the ritual, thought he knew what had happened. The gypsy fool was forgiving his pretty wife. The young Dutchman settled back on his haunches, suddenly aware that he was no longer held. And then, with all the others, he sprang to his feet, for Dora Parse was hanging in her husband’s arms, with blood pouring from her mouth and George Lane was sobbing aloud as he called her name.
“What—what—what happened?” Jan stammered. “Gawd—did he kill her?”
Old John Lane, his serene face unruffled, turned the bewildered and frightened boy toward the lane and spoke, in the silky, incisive tones which were half of his enchanting charm.
“Nothing much has happened. One of our girls allowed a gorgio to kiss her, so her man bit off the tip of her tongue. It is not necessary, often, to do it, but it is not a serious matter. It will soon heal. She will be able to talk—a little. It is really nothing, but I thought you might like to see it. It is seldom that gorgios are allowed to see a thing like that.