She led him to the door and pointed out the direction, in the gray dawn. She showed him where, to the north, by a great tree, a lane branched from the highroad. “Follow that,” she said. “It will be safer in case you are pursued. And it comes at last to the great road into another country. There perhaps you will be safe and find friends who can help you more than I have done. Though none can wish you better.” And she hugged him close. “Farewell, Gigi!”
With a lump in his throat, Gigi left the only roof that had ever shown him kindness. In the gray dawn he crept out to the highroad. There was no time to be lost, for already the east was growing pink, and soon the sun would be making long shadows on the open road. Giuseppe would surely spy him and bring him back.
As soon as he was outside the farm enclosure, Gigi began to run. But he found that he was stiff and sore from his fall of the day before, and from the many beatings which he had received of late. Every bone in his body ached, and especially his head, which throbbed so as to make him faint. Still he ran on. For more than anything else he feared being captured and sent back to the Gypsies.
At last Gigi came to the great tree where branched the cross-road to the north. Here he turned aside. Then he drew a deep breath, feeling safer. He ceased running, and presently, being hungry and tired, he sat down upon a stone and opened the bundle which Mother Margherita had given him. He found bread and cheese, and began to eat greedily, until he remembered that he knew not where he should find dinner and supper. He looked at the remnant of bread and cheese longingly, but at last wrapped it up and put it back into the little pouch which, as was the custom in those times, he wore at his belt.
The lane upon which he was now traveling was shadier than the highroad, and as he went on the trees grew even taller and bigger. Apparently the way was leading through the outskirts of a forest. The lane was more crooked, also. Gigi could not see far either before or behind him, because of the constant turnings.
Suddenly, he stopped short and listened. There was a sound; yes, there certainly was a sound on the road behind him,—the noise of galloping hoofs.
Gigi was seized with a panic. Without stopping to think, he plunged from the road into the forest, and began to run wildly through the underbrush. He did not care in which direction he went,—anywhere, as far as possible from the pursuing hoof-beats.
On, on he plunged, sometimes sprawling over roots of trees, sometimes bruising himself against low branches or stumbling upon stones which seemed to rise up on purpose to delay him; torn by briars and tripped by clutching vines. But always he ran on and on, this way and that, wherever there seemed an opening in the forest, which was continually growing denser and more wild.