‘Good!’ said I, ’you will make an apt scholar; but mind that I did not say hake, but haik; the words are, however, very much alike; and, as you observe, upon your hake you may hang my haik. We will now proceed to the numerals.’
‘What are numerals?’ said Belle.
’Numbers. I will say the Haikan numbers up to ten. There—have you heard them?’
‘Well, try and repeat them.’
‘I only remember number one,’ said Belle, ‘and that because it is me.’
’ I will repeat them again,’ said I, ’and pay greater attention. Now, try again.’
‘Me, jergo, earache.’
’I neither said jergo nor earache. I said yergou and yerek. Belle, I am afraid I shall have some difficulty with you as a scholar.’
Belle made no answer. Her eyes were turned in the direction of the winding path which led from the bottom of the hollow, where we were seated, to the plain above. ‘Gorgio shunella,’ she said at length, in a low voice.
‘Pure Rommany,’ said I; ‘where?’ I added, in a whisper.
‘Dovey odoi,’ said Belle, nodding with her head towards the path.
‘I will soon see who it is,’ said I; and starting up, I rushed towards the pathway, intending to lay violent hands on any one I might find lurking in its windings. Before, however, I had reached its commencement, a man, somewhat above the middle height, advanced from it into the dingle, in whom I recognised the man in black whom I had seen in the public-house.
Buona sera—Rather apprehensive—The steep bank—Lovely virgin—Hospitality—Tory minister—Custom of the country—Sneering smile—Wandering Zigan—Gypsies’ cloaks—Certain faculty—Acute answer—Various ways—Addio—Best Hollands.
The man in black and myself stood opposite to each other for a minute or two in silence; I will not say that we confronted each other that time, for the man in black, after a furtive glance, did not look me in the face, but kept his eyes fixed apparently on the leaves of a bunch of ground-nuts which were growing at my feet. At length, looking around the dingle, he exclaimed, ‘Buona sera, I hope I don’t intrude.’
‘You have as much right here,’ said I, ’as I or my companion; but you had no right to stand listening to our conversation.’
‘I was not listening,’ said the man, ’I was hesitating whether to advance or retire; and if I heard some of your conversation, the fault was not mine.’
’I do not see why you should have hesitated if your intentions were good,’ said I.
’I think the kind of place in which I found myself might excuse some hesitation,’ said the man in black, looking around; ’moreover, from what I had seen of your demeanour at the public-house, I was rather apprehensive that the reception I might experience at your hands might be more rough than agreeable.’