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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 669 pages of information about Lavengro; the Scholar, the Gypsy, the Priest.

‘Suppose he should come to Norman Cross!’

‘What should he do at Norman Cross, child?’

’Why, you were talking about the vipers in your bag breaking their hearts, and so on, and their king coming to help them.  Now, suppose the French king should hear of his people being in trouble at Norman Cross, and—­’

‘He can’t come, child,’ said the old man, rubbing his hands, ’the water lies between.  The French don’t like the water; neither vipers nor Frenchmen take kindly to the water, child.’

{picture:’There we two were, I looking up at the viper, and the viper looking down upon me, flickering at me with its tongue.’:  page36.jpg}

When the old man left the country, which he did a few days after the conversation which I have just related, he left me the reptile which he had tamed and rendered quite harmless by removing the fangs.  I was in the habit of feeding it with milk, and frequently carried it abroad with me in my walks.

CHAPTER V

The tent—­Man and woman—­Dark and swarthy—­Manner of speaking—­Bad money—­Transfixed—­Faltering tone—­Little basket—­High opinion—­Plenty of good—­Keeping guard—­Tilted cart—­Rubricals—­Jasper—­The right sort—­The horseman of the lane—­John Newton—­The alarm—­Gentle brothers.

One day it happened that, being on my rambles, I entered a green lane which I had never seen before; at first it was rather narrow, but as I advanced it became considerably wider; in the middle was a driftway with deep ruts, but right and left was a space carpeted with a sward of trefoil and clover; there was no lack of trees, chiefly ancient oaks, which, flinging out their arms from either side, nearly formed a canopy, and afforded a pleasing shelter from the rays of the sun, which was burning fiercely above.  Suddenly a group of objects attracted my attention.  Beneath one of the largest of the trees, upon the grass, was a kind of low tent or booth, from the top of which a thin smoke was curling; beside it stood a couple of light carts, whilst two or three lean horses or ponies were cropping the herbage which was growing nigh.  Wondering to whom this odd tent could belong, I advanced till I was close before it, when I found that it consisted of two tilts, like those of waggons, placed upon the ground and fronting each other, connected behind by a sail or large piece of canvas which was but partially drawn across the top; upon the ground, in the intervening space, was a fire, over which, supported by a kind of iron crowbar, hung a caldron; my advance had been so noiseless as not to alarm the inmates, who consisted of a man and woman, who sat apart, one on each side of the fire; they were both busily employed—­the man was carding plaited straw, whilst the woman seemed to be rubbing something with a white powder, some of which lay on a plate beside her; suddenly the man looked up, and, perceiving me, uttered a strange kind of cry, and the next moment both the woman and himself were on their feet and rushing out upon me.

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