“Teach me to live that I may dread The Grave as little as my bed,”
Sabrina, the eldest, interpreted.
“Ah!... But won’t you play at cheerful things, dears?”
“Yes, we will, presently, Aunt Rachel; gee up, horse!... Shall we go and ask the chair-woman if she’s warm enough?”
Again the message was taken, and this time it seemed as if Annabel, the gipsy, was not warm enough, for she gathered up her loops of cane and brought the chair she was mending a little way into the hall-kitchen itself. She sat down on the square box they used to cover the sewing machine.
“Thank you, lady dear,” she murmured, lifting her handsome almond eyes to Aunt Rachel. Aunt Rachel did not see the long, furtive, curious glance. Her own eyes were closed, as if she was tired; her cheeks were smiling; one of them had dropped a little to one shoulder, as it might have dropped had she held in her arms a babe; and she was rocking, softly, slowly, the rocker of the chair making a little regular noise on the polished floor.
The gipsy woman beckoned to one of the children.
“Tell the lady, when she wakes, that I will tack a strip of felt to the rocker, and then it will make no noise at all,” said the low and wheedling voice; and the child retired again.
The interment of Flora proceeded....
An hour later Flora had taken up the burden of Life again. It was as Angela, the youngest, was chastising her for some offence, that Sabrina, the eldest, looked with wondering eyes on the babe in the gipsy’s sling. She approached on tiptoe.
“May I look at it, please?” she asked timidly.
The gipsy set one shoulder forward, and Sabrina put the shawl gently aside, peering at the dusky brown morsel within.
“Sometime, perhaps—if I’m very careful—”
Sabrina ventured diffidently, “—if I’m very careful—may I hold it?”
Before replying, the gipsy once more turned her almond eyes towards Aunt Rachel’s chair. Aunt Rachel had been awakened for the conclusion of Flora’s funeral, but her eyes were closed again now, and once more her cheek was dropped in that tender suggestive little gesture, and she rocked. But you could see that she was not properly asleep.... It was, somehow, less to Sabrina, still peering at the babe in the sling, than to Aunt Rachel, apparently asleep, that the gipsy seemed to reply.
“You’ll know some day, little missis, that a wean knows its own pair of arms,” her seductive voice came.
And Aunt Rachel heard. She opened her eyes with a start. The little regular noise of the rocker ceased. She turned her head quickly; tremulously she began to knit again; and, as her eyes rested on the sidelong eyes of the gipsy woman, there was an expression in them that almost resembled fright.