Gigi did not understand the words at all, but the tone was kind. He pushed the bandage from his head, looked up at the Hermit, and smiled his own strange smile. “I think you will not beat me,” he said. The brown spot on his eyelid gave him the wink of mischief.
“Beat you!” The old man’s face broke into an answering smile, and he rocked to and fro with pleasure in Gigi’s little joke. Then he bent forward suddenly, and stared into the boy’s face with a keen look.
“The wicked eye of him!” he said, talking to himself. “How like it is! Strange, strange! About nine years old, he is. Nine years ago—” He paused, gazing at Gigi, and murmuring under his breath. “What are you wearing about your neck?” he asked suddenly.
Gigi put his hand to a tiny silver chain which just peeped above his green doublet, and drew out a flat piece of silver of strange shape, and with one side carved deeply with a notched Cross.
“Where did you get this?” asked the Hermit, strangely excited.
“I do not know,” said Gigi, wondering. “I have worn it always. Not even Cecco dared take it from me. I have heard him say so. But I do not know why!”
“The lost one!” cried the Hermit, embracing Gigi, with tears in his eyes. Then, crossing himself, he added piously, “Dear little lad! We are in the Lord’s hands. Gigi, you shall stay with me until the time is come. But you wear the Cross, a blessed emblem. I shall call you no more by that heathen Gypsy name. You shall bear the beloved Christian name of John, to which perhaps you have as good a right as any. Ah! I will not tell you more. I will wait until I see if you be worthy indeed. If not—his son shall never know!”
All this Gigi did not understand. But he was happy to know that he might stay. And he began his new life as one of the Hermit’s animal kingdom by hugging close old Brutus, his first four-footed friend, who had brought him safely to this haven.
But ask now the beasts and they shall teach thee, and the fowls of the air and they shall tell thee.—Holy writ.
Gigi the Gypsy was now become John; no longer an outcast and a wanderer, but a happy little Christian boy. Surely no child ever lived so strange a life as he. Surely no boy ever had such queer playmates, or studied in so wild a school.
First of all he had to become acquainted with his oddly-mixed family of two-footed and four-footed brothers. Brutus was his friend from the beginning. The great dog seemed to have adopted for his very own the boy whom, led by some kindly angel, he had found that night in the forest. But the other creatures were shy at first. They ran at the sound of John’s shrill boyish voice, and shrank from his quick movements. They hid in the bushes when he came dashing and dancing into the clearing after a romp with Brutus, and it would take some patience to coax them back again.