Then she grew very silent. It made her terribly sad to think of the two tender little creatures in such hands; suddenly Toby, who had been quietly reposing at her feet, jumped up and gave a short sharp bark.
“What is it, Toby?” said Barbara, patting him.
Toby grunted a little, and then lay down again. The reason of his barking was that he had just discovered why old Barbara had brought him away on this journey. It was that he was to find the children—he quite understood all about it now, and wished to say so.
“Oh, who can say
But that this dream may yet come true?”
For some days the gipsy caravan had been making its way along a very lonely road; they had come across no towns at all and no large villages. They got over more ground now, for there was less temptation to linger. The truth was that Mick and the other heads of the party had in some way got news that the great fair to which they were bound was to begin sooner than they expected, and unless they hurried on they might not be there in time to take up a good position among the many strays and waifs of their kind always to be found at such places. There were ever so many ways in which they expected to turn a number of honest or dishonest “pennies” at this same fair. It was one of their regular harvest times. Mick and his friends always managed to do something in the way of horse-dealing on such occasions, and Diana, who was the best-looking of the younger gipsy-women, was thoroughly up to all the tricks of fortune-telling. Her cold haughty manners had often more success than the wheedling flatteries of the others. She looked as if she were quite above trickery of any kind, and no doubt the things she told were not altogether nonsense or falsehood. For she had learned to be wonderfully quick in reading the characters of those who applied to her, even in divining the thoughts and anxieties in their minds. And besides these resources the gipsies had a good show of baskets and brooms of their own manufacture to dispose of; added to which this year a hard bargain was to be driven with Signor Fribusco, the owner of the travelling circus, for the “two lovely orphans,” whose description had already been given to him by some of the gipsy’s confidantes, to whom Mick had sent word, knowing them to be in the Signor’s neighbourhood.
Some of this Tim had found out by dint of listening to bits of conversation when he was supposed to be asleep. He grew more and more afraid as the days passed on and no chance of escape offered, for various things began to make him fear they were not very far from the town they were bound to. For one thing Mick’s wife and Diana began to pay more attention to the two children’s appearance. Their fair hair was brushed and combed every day, and their delicate skin was carefully washed with something that restored it almost to its natural colour; all of which had an ominous meaning for Tim.