This was the picture of the woman who could not weep in her misery.
‘Kiomi, old friend!’ I called to her. I could have cursed that other friend, the son of mischief; for she, I could have sworn, had been fiercely and wantonly hunted. Chastity of nature, intense personal pride, were as proper to her as the free winds are to the heaths: they were as visible to dull divination as the milky blue about the iris of her eyeballs. She had actually no animal vileness, animal though she might be termed, and would have appeared if compared with Heriot’s admirable Cissies and Gwennies, and other ladies of the Graces that run to fall, and spend their pains more in kindling the scent of the huntsman than in effectively flying.
There was no consolation for her.
The girl Eveleen came in sight, loitering and looking, kicking her idle heels.
Kiomi turned sharp round to me.
’I’m going. Your father’s here, up at Bulsted. I’ll see him. He won’t tell. He’ll come soon. You’ll be fit to walk in a day. You’re sound as a nail. Goodbye—I shan’t say good-bye twice,’ she answered my attempt to keep her, and passed into the tent, out of which she brought a small bundle tied in a yellow handkerchief, and walked away, without nodding or speaking.
‘What was that you said to Kiomi?’ I questioned Eveleen, who was quickly beside me.
She replied, accurately or not: ’I told her our men’d give her as good as she gave me, let her wait and see.’
Therewith she pouted; or, to sketch her with precision, ‘snouted’ would better convey the vivacity of her ugly flash of features. It was an error in me to think her heartless. She talked of her aunt Kiomi affectionately, for a gipsy girl, whose modulated tones are all addressed to the soft public. Eveleen spoke with the pride of bated breath of the ferocious unforgivingness of their men. Perhaps if she had known that I traced the good repute of the tribes for purity to the sweeter instincts of the women, she would have eulogized her sex to amuse me. Gipsy girls, like other people, are fond of showing off; but it would have been a victory of education to have helped her to feel the distinction of the feminine sense of shame half as awfully and warmly as she did the inscrutable iron despotism of the males. She hinted that the mistake of which I had been the victim would be rectified.
‘Tell your men I’ll hunt them down like rats if I hear of it,’ said I.
While we were conversing my father arrived. Eveleen, not knowing him, would have had me accept the friendly covering of a mat.
’Here ‘s a big one! he’s a clergyman,’ she muttered to herself, and ran to him and set up a gipsy whine, fronting me up to the last step while she advanced; she only yielded ground to my outcry.
My father bent over me. Kiomi had prepared him for what he saw. I quieted his alarm by talking currently and easily. Julia Bulsted had despatched a messenger to inform him of my mysterious disappearance; but he, as his way was, revelling in large conjectures, had half imagined me seized by a gust of passion, and bound for Germany. ‘Without my luggage?’ I laughed.