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HOME > Classical Novels > The Little Minister > Chapter Thirteen. SECOND COMING OF THE EGYPTIAN WOMAN.
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 The gypsy had been passing the house, perhaps on her way to Thrums for gossip, and it was only curiosity, born suddenly of Gavin’s cry, that made her enter. On finding herself in unexpected company she retained hold of the door, and to the amazed minister she seemed for a moment to have stepped into the mud house from his garden. Her eyes danced, however, as they recognised him, and then he hardened. “This is no place for you,” he was saying fiercely, when Nanny, too distraught to think, fell crying at the Egyptian’s feet.  
“They are taking me to the poorhouse,” she sobbed1; “dinna let them, dinna let them.”
The Egyptian’s arms clasped her, and the Egyptian kissed a sallow cheek that had once been as fair as yours, madam, who may read this story. No one had caressed2 Nanny for many years, but do you think she was too poor and old to care for these young arms around her neck? There are those who say that women cannot love each other, but it is not true. Woman is not undeveloped man, but something better, and Gavin and the doctor knew it as they saw Nanny clinging to her protector. When the gypsy turned with flashing eyes to the two men she might have been a mother guarding her child.
“How dare you!” she cried, stamping her foot; and they quaked like malefactors.
“You don’t see——” Gavin began, but her indignation stopped him.
“You coward!” she said.
Even the doctor had been impressed, so that he now addressed the gypsy respectfully.
“This is all very well,” he said, “but a woman’s sympathy——”
“A woman!—ah, if I could be a man for only five minutes!”
She clenched3 her little fists, and again turned to Nanny.
“You poor dear,” she said tenderly, “I won’t let them take you away.”
She looked triumphantly4 at both minister and doctor, as one who had foiled them in their cruel designs.
“Go!” she said, pointing grandly to the door.
“Is this the Egyptian of the riots,” the doctor said in a low voice to Gavin, “or is she a queen? Hoots5, man, don’t look so shamefaced. We are not criminals. Say something.”
Then to the Egyptian Gavin said firmly—
“You mean well, but you are doing this poor woman a cruelty in holding out hopes to her that cannot be realised. Sympathy is not meal and bedclothes, and these are what she needs.”
“And you who live in luxury,” retorted the girl, “would send her to the poorhouse for them. I thought better of you!”
“Tuts!” said the doctor, losing patience, “Mr. Dishart gives more than any other man in Thrums to the poor, and he is not to be preached to by a gypsy. We are waiting for you, Nanny.”
“Ay, I’m coming,” said Nanny, leaving the Egyptian. “I’ll hae to gang, lassie. Dinna greet for me.”
But the Egyptian said, “No, you are not going. It is these men who are going. Go, sirs, and leave us.”
“And you will provide for Nanny?” asked the doctor contemptuously.
“And where is the siller to come from?”
“That is my affair, and Nanny’s. Begone, both of you. She shall never want again. See how the very mention of your going brings back life to her face.”
“I won’t begone,” the doctor said roughly, “till I see the colour of your siller.”
“Oh, the money,” said the Egyptian scornfully. She put her hand into her pocket confidently, as if used to well-filled purses, but could only draw out two silver pieces.
“I had forgotten,” she said aloud, though speaking to herself.
“I thought so,” said the cynical6 doctor. “Come, Nanny.”
“You presume to doubt me!” the Egyptian said, blocking his way to the door.
“How could I presume to believe you?” he answered. “You are a beggar by profession, and yet talk as if——pooh, nonsense.”
“I would live on terrible little,” Nanny whispered, “and Sanders will be out again in August month.”
“Seven shillings a week,” rapped out the doctor.
“Is that all?” the Egyptian asked. “She shall have it.”
“At once. No, it is not possible to-night, but to-morrow I will bring five pounds; no, I will send it; no, you must come for it.”
“And where, O daughter of Dives, do you reside?” the doctor asked.
No doubt the Egyptian could have found a ready answer had her pity for Nanny been less sincere; as it was, she hesitated, wanting to propitiate7 the doctor, while holding her secret fast.
“I only asked,” McQueen said, eyeing her curiously8, “because when I make an appointment I like to know where it is to be held. But I suppose you are suddenly 120 to rise out of the ground as you have done to-day, and did six weeks ago.”
“Whether I rise out of the ground or not,” the gypsy said, keeping her temper with an effort, “there will be a five-pound note in my hand. You will meet me to-morrow about this hour at—say the Kaims of Cushie?”
“No,” said the doctor after a moment’s pause; “I won’t. Even if I went to the Kaims I should not find you there. Why can you not come to me?”
“Why do you carry a woman’s hair,” replied the Egyptian, “in that locket on your chain?”
Whether she was speaking of what she knew, or this was only a chance shot, I cannot tell, but the doctor stepped back from her hastily, and could not help looking down at the locket.
“Yes,” said the Egyptian calmly, “it is still shut; but why do you sometimes open it at nights?”
“Lassie,” the old doctor cried, “are you a witch?”
“Perhaps,” she said; “but I ask for no answer to my questions. If you have your secrets, why may I not have mine? Now will you meet me at the Kaims?”
“No; I distrust you more than ever. Even if you came, it would be to play with me as you have done already. How can a vagrant9 have five pounds in her pocket when she does not have five shillings on her back?”
“You are a cruel, hard man,” the Egyptian said, beginning to lose hope. “But, see,” she cried, brightening, “look at this ring. Do you know its value?”
She held up her finger, but the stone would not live in the dull light.
“I see it is gold,” the doctor said cautiously, and she smiled at the ignorance that made him look only at the frame.
“Certainly, it is gold,” said Gavin, equally stupid.
“Mercy on us!” Nanny cried; “I believe it’s what they call a diamond.”
“How did you come by it?” the doctor asked suspiciously.
“I thought we had agreed not to ask each other questions,” the Egyptian answered drily. “But, see, I will give it to you to hold in hostage. If I am not at the Kaims to get it back you can keep it.”
The doctor took the ring in his hand and examined it curiously.
“There is a quirk10 in this,” he said at last, “that I don’t like. Take back your ring, lassie. Mr. Dishart, give Nanny your arm, and I’ll carry her box to the machine.”
Now all this time Gavin had been in the dire11 distress12 of a man
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