“You are a sharp one, Mick, and no mistake,” she said, with a strange hard laugh. The gipsy was too muddled in his head to notice anything peculiar in her tone, and he took her answer for a consent.
“That’s right. I thought ye’d hear reason,” he said. And then he lurched off to his own quarters.
Diana stood where she was for a moment. Suddenly she raised her hands to her face, and Tim fancied he heard a smothered sob. Without stopping to think what he was risking, the boy crept out of the shadow where he had been hidden, and caught hold of her skirts just as she was turning to mount into the van where the children were.
“Diana,” he said breathlessly, “I’ve heard all he said. You don’t mean to take part with him, do you? You’ll never help to sell those pretty babies like that? I’ll do anything—anything you tell me—if you’ll join with me to get them sent home.”
In her turn Diana caught hold of him and held him fast.
“Tim,” she said, “you want to get off yourself, and you’d do your best for them. I’ve seen it. But alone you’d never manage it. I’ll help you, Tim. I won’t have it on my conscience that I stood by and saw those innocents sold to such a life. If it had been to keep them a while longer with us, I mightn’t have done anything, not just yet, not till I saw a chance. But whatever Mick and the others say, I won’t see them taken away unless it is to go back to their own people.”
“That’s right, Diana,” said Tim.
“And I’ll help you. Keep your wits about you and be ready when I give the sign. Now get out of the way and take care. If Mick hadn’t made himself stupid lately he’d have seen you were thinking of something. You mustn’t say a word to the children; leave them to me,” and again squeezing the boy’s arm meaningly, she climbed up into the waggon, where the two little prisoners, tired of waiting for her, had fallen fast asleep.
Tim, for his part, tumbled into his so-called bed that night, with a wonderfully lightened heart, and his dreams were filled with the most joyous hopes.
“I am a friend to them and
It was a good thing Tim had some new ground of hope, for otherwise the next day or two would have sadly distressed him. He never once could get near the children. And, what he found very strange, Diana herself seemed to be doing her utmost to keep him from them. Two or three times, especially when Mick or the Missus happened to be near, she roughly pushed him back when he was making his way to the door of the van, where Duke and his sister were. And at first the boy was not only surprised, but rather offended.
“What for will you not let me play with them a bit?” he said to her, half inclined to appeal to Mick, who did not interfere.
“They’ve no need of you—keep out of my way,” Diana answered roughly, at which Mick and the others laughed as if it was a very good joke, for hitherto Diana had been always accused of “favouring” the boy.