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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.

‘You are one of them,’ said I, ‘whom people call—­’

‘Just so,’ said Jasper; ‘but never mind what people call us.’

’And that tall handsome man on the hill, whom you whispered?  I suppose he’s one of ye.  What is his name?’

‘Tawno Chikno,’ said Jasper, ’which means the small one; we call him such because he is the biggest man of all our nation.  You say he is handsome, that is not the word, brother; he’s the beauty of the world.  Women run wild at the sight of Tawno.  An earl’s daughter, near London—­a fine young lady with diamonds round her neck—­fell in love with Tawno.  I have seen that lass on a heath, as this may be, kneel down to Tawno, clasp his feet, begging to be his wife—­or anything else—­if she might go with him.  But Tawno would have nothing to do with her:  “I have a wife of my own,” said he, “a lawful rommany wife, whom I love better than the whole world, jealous though she sometimes be."’

‘And is she very beautiful?’ said I.

’Why, you know, brother, beauty is frequently a matter of taste; however, as you ask my opinion, I should say not quite so beautiful as himself.’

{picture:’There ‘ere woman is Tawno Chikno’s wife!’:  page115.jpg}

We had now arrived at a small valley between two hills, or downs, the sides of which were covered with furze; in the midst of this valley were various carts and low tents forming a rude kind of encampment; several dark children were playing about, who took no manner of notice of us.  As we passed one of the tents, however, a canvas screen was lifted up, and a woman supported upon a crutch hobbled out.  She was about the middle age, and, besides being lame, was bitterly ugly; she was very slovenly dressed, and on her swarthy features ill nature was most visibly stamped.  She did not deign me a look, but, addressing Jasper in a tongue which I did not understand, appeared to put some eager questions to him.

‘He’s coming,’ said Jasper, and passed on.  ‘Poor fellow,’ said he to me, ‘he has scarcely been gone an hour, and she’s jealous already.  Well,’ he continued, ’what do you think of her? you have seen her now, and can judge for yourself—­that ‘ere woman is Tawno Chikno’s wife!’

CHAPTER XVII

The tent—­Pleasant discourse—­I am Pharaoh—­Shifting for one’s self —­Horse-shoes—­This is wonderful—­Bless your wisdom—­A pretty manoeuvre—­Ill day to the Romans—­My name is Herne—­Singular people—­An original speech—­Word-master—­Speaking Romanly.

We went to the farthest of the tents, which stood at a slight distance from the rest, and which exactly resembled the one which I have described on a former occasion; we went in and sat down one on each side of a small fire, which was smouldering on the ground, there was no one else in the tent but a tall tawny woman of middle age, who was busily knitting.  ‘Brother,’ said Jasper, ’I wish to hold some pleasant discourse with you.’

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