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Miss Greeby nodded. "Right. All we wish kept quiet would be in the papers if Garvington gets hold of our secrets. He's a loose-tongued little glutton. Well, good-bye, old chap, and do look after yourself. Good people are scarce."

Lambert gripped her large hand. "I'm awfully obliged to you, Clara."

"Wait until I do something before you say that, old son," she laughed and strode towards the door. "By the way, oughtn't I to send the doctor in?"

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"No. Confound the doctor! I'm all right. You'll see me on my legs in a few days."

"Then we can work together at the case. Keep your flag flying, old chap, for I'm at the helm to steer the bark." And with this nautical farewell she went off with a manly stride, whistling a gay tune.

Left alone, the invalid looked into the fire, and wondered if he had been right to trust her. After some thought, he concluded that it was the best thing he could have done, since, in his present helpless state, he needed some one to act as his deputy. And there was no doubt that Miss Greeby had entirely overcome the passion she had once entertained for him.

"I hope Agnes will think so also," thought Lambert, when he began a letter to the lady. "She was always rather doubtful of Clara."

As Miss Greeby had informed Lambert, she intended to remain at the Garvington Arms until the mystery of Pine's death was solved. But her interview with him necessitated a rearrangement of plans, since the incriminating letter appeared to be such an important piece of evidence. To obtain it, Miss Greeby had decided to return to London forthwith, in order to compel its surrender. Silver would undoubtedly show fight, but his mistress was grimly satisfied that she would be able to manage him, and quite counted upon gaining her end by bullying him into compliance. When in possession of the letter she decided to submit it to Agnes and hear what that lady had to say about it as a dexterous piece of forgery. Then, on what was said would depend her next move in the complicated game. Meanwhile, since she was on the spot and desired to gather all possible evidence connected with Chaldea's apparent knowledge of the crime, Miss Greeby went straight from Lambert's cottage to the gypsy camp.

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Here she found the community of vagrants in the throes of an election, or rather their excitement was connected with the deposition of Gentilla Stanley from the Bohemian throne, and the elevation of Chaldea. Miss Greeby mixed with the throng, dispensed a few judicious shillings and speedily became aware of what was going on. It appeared that Chaldea, being pretty and unscrupulous, and having gained, by cunning, a wonderful influence amongst the younger members of the tribe, was insisting that she should be elected its head. The older men and women, believing wisely that it was better to have an experienced ruler than a pretty figurehead, stood by Mother Cockleshell, therefore the camp was divided into two parties. Tongues were used freely, and occasionally fists came into play, while the gypsies gathered round the tent of the old woman and listened to the duet between her and the younger aspirant to this throne of Brentford. Miss Greeby, with crossed legs and leaning on her bludgeon, listened to the voluble speech of Mother Cockleshell, which was occasionally interrupted by Chaldea. The oration was delivered in Romany, and Miss Greeby only understood such scraps of it as was hastily translated to her by a wild-eyed girl to whom she had given a shilling. Gentilla, less like a sober pew-opener, and more resembling the Hecate of some witch-gathering, screamed objurgations at the pitch of her crocked voice, and waved her skinny arms to emphasize her words, in a most dramatic fashion.

"Oh, ye Romans," she screeched vehemently, "are ye not fools to be gulled by a babe with her mother's milk—and curses that it fed her—scarcely dry on her living lips? Who am I who speak, asses of the common? Gentilla Stanley, whose father was Pharaoh before her, and who can call up the ghosts of dead Egyptian kings, with a tent for a palace, and a cudgel for a sceptre, and the wisdom of our people at the service of all."

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"Things have changed," cried out Chaldea with a mocking laugh. "For old wisdom is dead leaves, and I am the tree which puts forth the green of new truths to make the Gorgios take off their hats to the Romans."

"Oh, spawn of the old devil, but you lie. Truth is truth and changes not. Can you read the hand? can you cheat the Gentile? do you know the law of the Poknees, and can you diddle them as has money? Says you, 'I can!' And in that you lie, like your mother before you. Bless your wisdom"—Mother Cockleshell made an ironical curtsey. "Age must bow before a brat."

"Beauty draws money to the Romans, and wheedles the Gorgios to part with red gold. Wrinkles you have, mother, and weak wits to—"

"Weak wits, you drab? My weakest wits are your strongest. 'Wrinkles,' says you in your cunning way, and flaunts your brazen smoothness. I spit on you for a fool." The old woman suited her action to the word. "Every wrinkle is the mark of lessons learned, and them is wisdom which the Romans take from my mouth."

"Hear the witchly hag," cried Chaldea in her turn. "She and her musty wisdom that puts the Romans under the feet of the Gentiles. Are not three of our brothers in choky? have we not been turned off common and out of field? Isn't the fire low and the pot empty, and every purse without gold? Bad luck she has brought us," snarled the girl, pointing an accusing finger. "And bad luck we Romans will have till she is turned from the camp."

"Like a dog you would send me away," shrieked Mother Cockleshell, glancing round and seeing that Chaldea's supporters outnumbered her own. "But I'm dangerous, and go I shall as a queen should, at my own free will. I cast a shoe amongst you,"—she flung one of her own, hastily snatched off her foot—"and curses gather round it. Under its heels shall you lie, ye Romans, till time again and time once more be accomplished. I go on my own," she turned and walked to the door of her tent. "Alone I go to cheat the Gentiles and win my food. Take your new queen, and with her sorrow and starvation, prison, and the kicks of the Gorgios. So it is, as I have said, and so it shall be."

She vanished into the tent, and the older members of the tribe, shaking their heads over the ill-omen of her concluding words, withdrew sorrowfully to their various habitations, in order to discuss the situation. But the young men and women bowed down before Chaldea and forthwith elected her their ruler, fawning on her, kissing her hands and invoking blessings on her pretty face, that face which they hoped and believed would bring prosperity to them. And there was no doubt that of late, under Mother Cockleshell's leadership, the tribe had been unfortunate in many ways. It was for this reason that Chaldea had raised the standard of rebellion, and for this reason also she gained her triumph. To celebrate her coronation she gave Kara, who hovered constantly at her elbow, a couple of sovereigns, and told him to buy food and drink. In a high state of enjoyment the gypsies dispersed in order to prepare for the forthcoming festivity, and Chaldea, weary but victorious, stood alone by the steps of the caravan, which was her perambulating home. Seizing her opportunity, Miss Greeby approached.

"My congratulations to your majesty," she said ironically. "I'm sorry not to be able to stay for your coronation, which I presume takes place to-night. But I have to go back to London to see a friend of yours."

"I have no friends, my Gentile lady," retorted Chaldea, with a fiery spark in each eye. "And what do you here amongst the gentle Romany?"