We had been more than a year exercising our talents in this lucrative manner, when one day, as I was sitting at the entrance to the tent, with a book in my hand, out of which Fleta was reading to me, a gipsy not belonging to our gang made his appearance. He was covered with dust, and the dew drops hanging on his dark forehead, proved that he had travelled fast. He addressed Nattee, who was standing by, in their own language, which I did not understand; but I perceived that he asked for Melchior. After an exchange of a few sentences, Nattee expressed astonishment and alarm, put her hands over her face, and removed them as quickly, as if derogatory in her to show emotion, and then remained in deep thought. Perceiving Melchior approaching, the gipsy hastened to him, and they were soon in animated conversation. In ten minutes it was over: the gipsy went to the running brook, washed his face, took a large draught of water, and then hastened away and was soon out of sight.
Melchior, who had watched the departure of the gipsy, slowly approached us. I observed him and Nattee, as they met, as I was certain that something important had taken place. Melchior fixed his eyes upon Nattee—she looked at him mournfully—folded her arms, and made a slight bow as if in submission, and in a low voice, quoted from the Scriptures, “Whither thou goest, I will go—thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” He then walked away with her: they sat down apart, and were in earnest conversation for more than an hour.
“Japhet,” said Melchior to me, after he had quitted his wife, “what I am about to tell you will surprise you. I have trusted you with all I dare trust any one, but there are some secrets in every man’s life which had better be reserved for himself and her who is bound to him by solemn ties. We must now part. In a few days this camp will be broken up, and these people will join some other division of the tribe. For me, you will see me no more. Ask me not to explain, for I cannot.”
“And Nattee,” said I.
“Will follow my fortunes, whatever they may be—you will see her no more.”
“For myself I care not, Melchior; the world is before me, and remain with the gipsies without you I will not; but answer me one question—what is to become of little Fleta? Is she to remain with the tribe, to which she does not belong, or does she go with you?”
Melchior hesitated. “I hardly can answer, but what consequence can the welfare of a soldier’s brat be to you?”
“Allowing her to be what you assert, Melchior, I am devotedly attached to that child, and could not bear that she should remain here. I am sure that you deceived me in what you stated, for the child remembers, and has told me, anecdotes of her infancy, which proves that she is of no mean family, and that she has been stolen from her friends.”
“Indeed, is her memory so good?” replied Melchior, firmly closing his teeth. “To Nattee or to me she has never hinted so much.”