“If I could but have taken them back myself and seen them safe!” she kept thinking. “But I daren’t. With Tim no one will notice them much, but with me it’d be different. And it’d get Mick and the others into trouble, even if I didn’t care for myself. It’s safer for them too for me to stay behind. But how to get them safe out of Crookford! I must speak to Tim. And I don’t care what Mick says or does after this. I’ll never, never again have a hand in this kind of business; he may steal horses and poultry and what he likes, but I’ll have no more to do with stealing children. If ill had come, or did come, to these innocent creatures I’d never know another easy moment.”
“And the booths of mountebanks,
With the smell of tan and planks.”
The jolting had ceased, and it was quite dark before Duke and Pamela awoke. But through the little window of the van came twinkling lights, and as they sat up and looked about them they heard a good many unusual sounds—the voices of people outside calling to each other, the noise of wheels along stony roadways—a sort of general clatter and movement which soon told that the encampment for the night was not, as hitherto, on the edge of some quiet village or on a lonely moor.
“Bruvver,” said Pamela, who had been the first to rouse up, “are you awake? What a long time us has been asleep! Is it the middle of the night, and what a noise there is.”
Duke slowly collected his ideas. He did not speak, but he stood up on the bench and peeped out of the window.
“It must be that big place where there’s a fair,” he said. “Look, sister, there’s lots and lots of carts and peoples. And over there do you see there’s rows of little shops—that must be the fair.”
He seemed rather excited, but Pamela, after one peep, would not look any more.
“No, no, bruvver,” she said. “I am frightened. If it is the fair, that man will be coming that Diana told us about, and perhaps he’ll take us before Diana and Tim can help us to run away. I’m too frightened.”
But Duke had managed to get the window unhooked, and was now on tiptoe, stretching out his head as far as it would go.
“Oh sister,” he exclaimed, drawing it in again, “you should see. It’s such a big place, and such lots and lots of peoples, and such a noise. Oh do climb up here, sister, and look out.”
But Pamela still cowered down in her corner. Suddenly they heard the well-known sound of the key in the door,—for when the children were alone in the van they were always locked in,—and turning to look, they saw Diana. She brought with her a bowl of milk and some bread, which the children were very glad of, as they had eaten so little at dinner, and she said nothing till they had finished it.