A crowd of people wandered round the booths, and Swithin found himself obliged to give the girls his arms. ‘Like a little Cockney clerk!’ he thought. His indignation passed unnoticed; they talked, they laughed, each sight and sound in all the hurly-burly seemed to go straight into their hearts. He eyed them ironically—their eager voices, and little coos of sympathy seemed to him vulgar. In the thick of the crowd he slipped his arm out of Margit’s, but, just as he thought that he was free, the unwelcome hand slid up again. He tried again, but again Margit reappeared, serene, and full of pleasant humour; and his failure this time appeared to him in a comic light. But when Rozsi leaned across him, the glow of her round cheek, her curving lip, the inscrutable grey gleam of her eyes, sent a thrill of longing through him. He was obliged to stand by while they parleyed with a gipsy, whose matted locks and skinny hands inspired him with a not unwarranted disgust. “Folly!” he muttered, as Rozsi held out her palm. The old woman mumbled, and shot a malignant look at him. Rozsi drew back her hand, and crossed herself. ‘Folly!’ Swithin thought again; and seizing the girls’ arms, he hurried them away.
“What did the old hag say?” he asked.
Rozsi shook her head.
“You don’t mean that you believe?”
Her eyes were full of tears. “The gipsies are wise,” she murmured.
“Come, what did she tell you?”
This time Rozsi looked hurriedly round, and slipped away into the crowd. After a hunt they found her, and Swithin, who was scared, growled: “You shouldn’t do such things—it’s not respectable.”
On higher ground, in the centre of a clear space, a military band was playing. For the privilege of entering this charmed circle Swithin paid three kronen, choosing naturally the best seats. He ordered wine, too, watching Rozsi out of the corner of his eye as he poured it out. The protecting tenderness of yesterday was all lost in this medley. It was every man for himself, after all! The colour had deepened again in her cheeks, she laughed, pouting her lips. Suddenly she put her glass aside. “Thank you, very much,” she said, “it is enough!”
Margit, whose pretty mouth was all smiles, cried, “Lieber Gott! is it not good-life?” It was not a question Swithin could undertake to answer. The band began to play a waltz. “Now they will dance. Lieber Gott! and are the lights not wonderful?” Lamps were flickering beneath the trees like a swarm of fireflies. There was a hum as from a gigantic beehive. Passers-by lifted their faces, then vanished into the crowd; Rozsi stood gazing at them spellbound, as if their very going and coming were a delight.
The space was soon full of whirling couples. Rozsi’s head began to beat time. “O Margit!” she whispered.
Swithin’s face had assumed a solemn, uneasy expression. A man raising his hat, offered his arm to Margit. She glanced back across her shoulder to reassure Swithin. “It is a friend,” she said.