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Title: Out Of Season
Author: Fred M White
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
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Language: English
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FRED M. WHITE

OUT OF SEASON
A "GIPSY" STORY

ILLUSTRATED BY CHARLES CROMBIE

Published in The Windsor Magazine, Vol. XLIII, Dec 1915-May 1916, pp 442-450


GIPSY accepted the situation with a philosophy none the less sincere because of its embroidery of quaint expletives, in which the little man was a past master. And once the adjectival storm had died away, he began to cast about him, like the artist that he was, for the grain of gold which past experience had told him inevitably lurked in the most barren soil. To begin with, he was up there alone at the headwater of the Gwylt, and there he was likely to remain, so far as he could see, over the Christmas holidays. The spot was a very lonely one—at least three miles from the Settlement—and the task assigned to Gipsy was a responsible one. Not that he was feeling particularly flattered, for he would have much preferred to have spent his Christmas down there with the rest of the boys, had not the powers that be ordered it otherwise.

Consequently, he was there alone at the head of the valley, his habitation a solitary hut, beyond which was a small excavation, in which a certain amount of dynamite was stored.

The Gwylt at this point had a small tributary stream called the Winny, which diverted itself just here and joined the main stream some two miles below, forming in the interval a large irregular island, and it was part of the business of the engineers who were building the great reservoirs to bring the Winny back into its original course, so as to feed the first of the chain of lakes, and through this certain blasting operations were necessary. So Gipsy had been sent up there with the necessary drills and explosives, with the object of removing a small shelf of rock and thus forming a natural waterfall by which the Winny could flow once more into the main stream. It was technical work in a way, and somewhat slow, but Gipsy was quite competent to undertake it, and when he had a task of this sort on hand, he preferred to take it alone—there was less danger, to begin with. But Gipsy would have been better pleased if the sectional engineer had chosen any other time than Christmas week.

But, at any rate, here he was in this lonely spot, with no house in sight, except a certain old stone residence which Gipsy knew to be the home of Richard Carmichael, perhaps the greatest novelist of this or any other time. Gipsy knew this, of course. More than once he had encountered the genius on his rambles—an old man with a flowing white beard and moustache, a splendid figure of humanity, with a head like a lion and an eye like an eagle. For five-and-twenty years past the famous novelist had lived there, quite apart from the world, with a niece and an only son—himself a literary man—and a small girl, a grand-daughter, with whom Gipsy had already scraped acquaintance.

So far Gipsy could see nothing in the way of likely material for one of his unwritten dramas. All he could see was a lonely valley, the sides of which were heather-clad and dotted here and there with mountain ash and cranberry bushes. Above them, again, rose the high wooded hills, and at Gipsy's feet flowed the waters of the Gwylt, a shallow enough stream at this point, but ending in one pool where there was always a salmon or two to be found—a fact that no one knew better than the little man himself.

It was a crisp winter morning, bright and sunny, with a hoar-frost sparkling on the grass and heather. And Gipsy was all alone there, and likely to be for the next few days. He had just fired one of his charges, and already he had finished a drill for his next cartridge. For a moment he stood there, drinking in the sweetness of the morning and admiring the glory of the landscape, for all these things were not lost upon Gipsy, who had a natural eye for all that was beautiful.

But, all the same, he was a gregarious little man, and pined for the society of his fellow-men and women. The landscape was all very well in its way, but it lacked the human factor, which, to the eye of a dramatist, is a fatal defect. Gipsy sighed as he surveyed this solitude, and knocked the ashes out after a pipe of the peculiarly poisonous tobacco he affected.

"I wonder if Lady Gwendoline will come along this mornin'," he murmured. "It wouldn't be like 'er to miss a day like this."

In Gipsy's case time not being the essence of the contract, and the eye of authority being afar off, he sat down on a stone and lighted a fresh pipe, his eye wandering longingly and lovingly along the river to the deep, silent pool where instinct told him more than one fresh-run salmon lay. From Gipsy's point of view, the formation of a reservoir at this part almost amounted to blasphemy. For once the big dam was complete, and the valley transformed into a lake, there would be no more salmon in the headwaters of the Gwylt, for it would be impossible for the fish to get up to the spawning-beds. Another year, and the Gwylt as a salmon river would cease to exist. What harm could there be, therefore, in making the best of a Heaven-sent opportunity like this? It was close time, of course, and illegal to take salmon, either with a rod or with a net, till the first day of February; but there were high authorities who argued that the season was a month too long at the end and a month too late at the beginning—an argument in which Gipsy, as an expert, cordially coincided. He knew perfectly well that there were clean, fresh-run fish in the dark, shining pool under the shadow of the rowan trees, and that they were as good now as they would be on the first of February; and Gipsy, the born poacher, had made up his mind that one of these fish should find its way to a certain distinguished friend of his, a dramatist of repute, whom he had run against on a never-to-be-forgotten occasion. But all this would keep—there would be plenty of time in the course of the afternoon—and, the pipe of vitriolic tobacco being finished, Gipsy went back to his work again.

He rammed his charge home, filling up the hole with fragments of rock, after which he set his time-fuse going, and retired leisurely in the direction of the hut. He was all alone there; his danger signals were properly set, so that there was no chance of any mishap. A moment later the charge of dynamite exploded, a sullen roar went booming and echoing down the valley. Gipsy strolled leisurely out to see the amount of damage that had been done, and there, just on the edge of the stream, he found something that quickened his pulses and set the blood beating in his head like the roar of muffled drums.

A man lay there on the flat of his back, white-faced and unconscious. There was a nasty wound on the side of his forehead, from which the blood was oozing steadily. Just for a moment it seemed to Gipsy that the man was dead; then he opened his eyes for a moment, and his lips quivered.


It seemed to Gipsy that the man was dead.

He was quite a young man—apparently not more than twenty-five—good-looking in a rugged sort of way, with close-cropped curly hair and a fair moustache. For some little time he lay there absolutely motionless, until Gipsy forced a few drops of crude whisky between his pallid lips, and then he opened his eyes again.


He lay there absolutely motionless.

"Was it an earthquake?" the stranger asked.

He struggled to his feet and then collapsed from sheer weakness. Apparently there were no bones broken, and nothing very serious the matter besides the shock and the nasty wound over the stranger's left eye. But Gipsy was familiar with this sort of thing, and he needed no one to tell him that the stranger was sorely in need of attention. By slow degrees he managed to get the wounded man as far as the hut and laid him on the bedstead there.

"Now, you just lie there quietly," he said, "whilst I go up to the house and get assistance. There's no help for it. When I tell that old writin' cove wot's 'appened—"

"What's that?" the stranger demanded. "Are you speaking of Mr. Carmichael? But of course you are, seeing that there is no other house within three miles. Now, listen to me, my friend. I am feeling very queer, and as if I didn't care what happened to me; but, all the same, I can't go up there. Never mind why, but I have the strongest reasons why Mr. Carmichael should not know that I am here—in fact, he mustn't know, or anybody else, for that matter. Are you alone here?"

"Yus," Gipsy replied. "There ain't likely to be anybody 'ere this week. I got a bit of a blastin' job on, an' you was unlucky enough to run into it. D'you mean to say as 'ow you want to stay 'ere? D'you mean as 'ow your identity is to be kep' a dark secret, just the same as if you was 'idin' from justice? Is that the gime?"

A queer smile trembled on the stranger's lips. He did not know it, but he was appealing to Gipsy on his most vulnerable side. Already the little man was scenting a fascinating mystery, already he saw himself hiding this handsome stranger from the bloodhounds of the law. Here, suddenly, the literary desert was blossoming like a rose.

Here, without warning, was drama full-blooded and strong of wing. This, of course, must be the persecuted hero, the falsely-accused son of the old squire, who had escaped from gaol, after he had been convicted for the forgery which was really the work of his wicked and designing cousin. No doubt the heroine and the rest of the characters in this thrilling drama would come along presently. This was Gipsy's way of constructing a drama, and in this particular instance the little man was building a great deal better than he knew. It was nothing to him that the man lying there in the bed did not look in the least like an escaped convict, though, indeed, the shabby Norfolk suit he wore and his threadbare flannel shirt might easily have been looted on the way and exchanged for convict garb. But Gipsy was too grateful to be critical.

"Now, listen to me," the man in the bed said. "You are more or less responsible for my accident, and the least you can do is to give me shelter for a day or two. I shall be all right by the end of the week. And I am used to roughing it; the plainest food will be good enough for me. And no one is to know that I am here—least of all the people at the house yonder. I am quite prepared to pay for all that I have, and to give you a sovereign for yourself; but I rely upon your secrecy. Promise me that you will respect my wishes."

Gipsy was asking nothing better. Here was a situation exactly after his own heart. If there was one thing needed to make his happiness complete, it was a little candour on the stranger's part. But that, no doubt, would come presently. Apart from all this, Gipsy was a kind-hearted and hospitable little soul, and he would have gone out of his way to help the stranger even had there been no possibility hanging to the situation. With something like tenderness he bathed his visitor's head and tied up the wound. He gave him bread and bacon, toasted on the little wood fire in front of the hut, and beer out of his big stone bottle. He produced the deadly tobacco, but this the stranger refused, saying that he had plenty of cigarettes, which he produced from his pocket. But so far he vouchsafed no further information about himself. He appeared to be quite satisfied now that he was safe in the hut, and that no curious person was likely to intrude upon his privacy.

"No, thanks," he said. "There is nothing further you can do for me. Don't let me keep you from your work. And if you want any money, let me know, and I'll give it you."

But so far there was no lack of provisions, and neither was there likely to be for a day or two. Gipsy went back to his work with a heart full of gratitude towards the kindly Fate that had thrown this adventure in his way. Already in his mind he was building up the drama, already he was beginning to feel his way to the great situation which was to bring the hero and heroine together, and conclude the great melodrama with a fitting and appropriate climax. But Gipsy was not blind to the fact that all this largely depended upon the persecuted hero himself. For persecuted heroes are invariably proud, and are almost grotesquely morbid on the subject of suffering their wrongs in silence. Almost invariably the villain is the weak and wicked brother of the heroine, and for her sake the secret of his perfidy must be locked in the breast of the hero, so that the girl of his heart shall not know to what depths her own flesh and blood has descended. This, then, was a problem that Gipsy had to solve, and, until the heroine herself came upon the scene, the plot would have to lag.

Gipsy had charged and fired three shots whilst he was thinking this over, but so far he could not see his way out. He decided to abandon work for the rest of the afternoon, although it was yet barely three o'clock, and seek inspiration along the river in the direction of the salmon pool.

He had hardly reached the spot in question before he was assailed by name, and a small child came down the steep path between the clump of rowan trees. She was a little girl, dressed in some rough homespuns, her long hair was hanging over her shoulders in red confusion, and her slim legs were cased above the knee in big fishing-boots. Her dark eyes were full of audacity and sparkling with mischief. She hailed Gipsy with the familiarity of an old acquaintance, though this was only the third time they had met. But then Gladys Carmichael was no respecter of conventions—indeed, it is improbable that she had ever heard the word. The grand-daughter of the great novelist was entirely superior to that sort of thing, and, incidentally, she was the only creature on earth who was not afraid of that terrible old man. For the rest, she was utterly spoilt without being in the least spoiled, she was a law unto herself, so far absolutely uneducated, and what Richard Carmichael called the "apotheosis of the natural."

In her unconventional way she had made frieNds with Gipsy, and already the two were the firmest comrades. All children gravitated naturally to the little man, the same as all dogs. They knew by instinct that they had a friend in him, and never had that instinct played them false.

"Hello, old man!" the girl said. "I suppose there's nobody about? It's all right, isn't it?"

Gipsy's mouth broadened into a huge grin.

"It's all O.K., Lady Gwendoline," he said. There was no reason why he should call her Lady Gwendoline, except that the child had constituted herself the heroine of a drama, which, however, was quite another story. "It's all serene. Now, if you'll come with me, we'll catch that salmon wot you've set your 'eart upon. But you ain't goin' to do no good with that there rod o' yourn; it ain't big enough.".

"Say not so, Ali Baba," the child replied. "Say not so, or my heart will break! Know you that this rod was given me by the gallant sportsman to whom I was engaged in the days of my youth—I mean the sailor who went down on the bridge of his ship, singing 'God Save the King,' with all his crew accompanying him on their mouth-organs. Or was it the soldier who won the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Waterloo? Upon my soul, it's so long since then that I've almost forgotten!"

Gipsy shook with inward laughter, for in this child he had found a comrade after his own heart.

"I don't want to 'urt the feelin's o' them dead-an'-gone 'eroes?" he said—"them brave boys for whom you cry yerself to sleep on your piller every night. I ain't sayin' as they weren't 'eroes, but they didn't know nothin' about salmon-fishin'. That 'ere rod might do for dace."

"I've just caught three with it now," the child said.

"No use for our gime," Gipsy cried. "You 'ang on 'ere while I goes as far as the 'ut."

Inside the door of the hut the stranger was standing, holding on to the door-post and gazing down the valley with eager and hungry eyes. They seemed to blaze like stars in that dead-white face of his, as if he could see something invisible to his companion. Gipsy stared at him with amazement.

"'Ere, you jest get back on that bed o' yourn," he said. "Wot's the matter?"

"Who was that you were talking to?" the other man asked. "What is that child doing here?"

"Don't you worry abaht that—she ain't likely to come in 'ere. Fond o' children, perhaps, mate?"

"The only things in the world that matter—the salt of the earth! I was wondering—"

The speaker broke off abruptly and, without another word, went back to his bed again. But all this was not lost upon the little man. Here was the real thing, hot to his hand and burning to the touch of the born dramatist. A less practised craftsman would have betrayed himself and ruined the whole situation, but Gipsy avoided a crudity like that. He began to see his way—the path began to lie clear before him. He was back again by the riverside a few minutes later, with a light salmon-rod in his hand and the deadliest bait in the world. It mattered nothing to Gipsy just now that he was poaching. The thing that mattered was that Gladys Carmichael should catch a salmon and take it home proudly for her Christmas dinner. The child opened her eyes wide as she saw the prawn dexterously fixed to the cruel-looking hook.

"This is really poaching!" she cried gleefully.

"Wot do you think?" Gipsy responded. "Besides, I thought that was jest wot we was after."

"I shall love it," the child said. "Wouldn't it be splendid if the keepers came and took us both off to gaol?"

Gipsy shuddered. This was the only thing that the little man was afraid of. But he argued that it mattered nothing now, because within a year or so the spawning-beds would be spoilt, and the headwaters of the Gwylt closed to the salmon for all time. So he fixed his prawn—most illicit and deadly of bait—and showed the child how to make her cast. A quarter of an hour later, and a fresh-run fish of about nine pounds lay gasping on the gravel before the delighted eyes of the child. It was some little time before she came down to the level of the commonplace again and began to take an interest in mundane things. She sat on a stone with her hands clasped round her knees, regarding her prize with delighted eyes.

"This ought to make a jolly Christmas for you," Gipsy said.

"We don't have any now," the child sighed. "There ain't no high-toned fixings to our Yuletide procession in these days— no, sir. And you can just gamble on that."

"Eh, what?" the astonished Gipsy grunted. "Where did you get all that from? Real Yankee talk that is."

Gladys proceeded to explain. A day or two before, a choice selection of Boston literary pilgrims had come from America to worship at the shrine of The Master, and Gladys had been duly presented to the deputation. She absorbed phrase and accent as one drop of water absorbs another, and the Western metaphor had strangely appealed to her. She was a constant source of surprise and delight to Gipsy. In some respects she was woefully ignorant and simple, but from her illustrious grandfather she had imbibed certain scraps of high philosophy and a fund of quotations, which she used on every available occasion without in the least appreciating their meanings.

"I got that from the Boston pilgrims," she said. "The day after they came I was American all the time. But I was telling you all about our Christmases. We don't get any more since Uncle Basil went away."

"An' 'oo might 'e be, lidy?" Gipsy asked.

"The only son of The Master," the child said. "My dead mother's only brother. Before he went away, our Christmas was the real thing. It's all different now. But, if you like, I will tell you the story of The Great Tragedy."

"Go on," Gipsy said. "I like stories."

"Well, it was like this. There was Uncle Basil and Aunt Lily, who really isn't an aunt, you know, but she's a dear, and I love her. And so did Uncle Basil. Uncle Basil is going to be a dramatist some day, though the only play he has written so far was a failure. It is a beautiful play, but the people in London didn't like it, and they took it off. Now, The Master, he is a funny man, and after Uncle Basil came down from Oxford, he was told that he would have no more money, till his father died, unless he earned it himself. That's one of The Master's little idi-idi-idiosyncrasies."

"Wot's that?" Gipsy asked. "Sounds a powerful word."

"Well, it's what you call a fad. But Uncle Basil wasn't kicking, because he's clever, too, so he just sat down and, wrote that play. And he asked The Master to lend him a thousand pounds to produce it, and The Master, he said 'Rats!' He took an awful lot of words to say 'Rats,' but that's what it came to. And then, somehow, the thousand pounds of his money that The Master had got from his bank, to pay to a builder here, disappeared from the safe, and The Master said that Uncle Basil had stolen it to produce his play. Otherwise he wanted to know who was paying the people in London. And Uncle Basil refused to say. And so he was kicked out of the house like a prodigal son, and from that day to this, which is two years ago, we have never had a word from him. Auntie Lil thinks that he went to Australia after the failure of the play, and that he will come back some clay, when he has made his fortune."

"'Ere, 'old on a minute," Gipsy said thoughtfully. "You are gettin' it all wrong. O' course, the old 'un acted in the right way. Wot I mean to say is, 'e's the sort o' father, the 'ot-'eaded old cove wot's always down on the 'ero, an' finds 'is mistake out afterwards. But you ain't goin' to tell me as the 'eroine—by which I means your Aunt Lil—actually believed as 'er young man collared the dollars."

"Of course she didn't," the child cried indignantly. "She loved him to distraction—I think that's the right word—and she has mourned him ever since."

"An' 'oo did tike them dollars?" Gipsy asked.

"I was just coming to that," the child said. "You see, Aunt Lily had a brother George, who was The Master's private secretary, and it was he who stole the money. We only found that out a few months ago, just before Uncle George died, but it's my belief that Uncle Basil knew it all along."

"O' course 'e did," Gipsy cried. "An' 'e didn't say nothin', so as to spare the 'eroine's feelin's. I suppose you don't 'appen to know who found the money to produce that play."

"Yes, I do," Gladys said. "I know all about it. They think I am ignorant of everything, but you can't keep anything from me when I make up my mind to find it out. It was the lady who played the leading part in my uncle's drama who found the money. She told The Master so in London one day, when he was up there, and when he came back he wasn't half sorry for himself. And he's been advertising for Uncle Basil ever since. Perhaps he will come back some day."

Here it all was ready to Gipsy's hand. Once again he held the key of the situation, once more Fate was playing a leading part for him. But Gipsy was too consummate an artist to spoil the picture by that raw haste which the greatest of all playwrights tells us is half-sister to delay.

"This 'ere 'eroine—wot I mean to say your Aunt Lily—an' is she beautiful?" Gipsy asked half wistfully.

"You bet!" the child said. "'Idalian Aphrodite, beautiful, fresh as the foam new bathed in Parthian wells.' She is all my fancy painted her, she is charming, she's divine. And don't you forget it, old man!"

"Where did you get all that from? " Gipsy cried admiringly. "What a thing it is to be a scholard! But never mind that for a moment. Now, I suppose, as Aunt Lily is fond o' you, I suppose she'll do most anything you ask 'er?"

Miss Carmichael winked knowingly.

"Well, I should smile," she said. "I guess I can twist her round my little finger any time I want to."

"That's good," Gipsy said. "Now, what you've got to do is this. The day after to-morrow's Christmas Eve. You bring the lidy down 'ere an' tell 'er all about me an' my 'ut. Tell 'er— No, you needn't do that. You bring the lidy 'ere an' leave me to do the rest. Abaht 'arf-past three the day after to-morrow. An' I give you my word for it as I shan't be wastin' 'er time. An' now you trot off to the 'ouse an' take that fish with you. Unless I am mistaken, we're approaching the crisis of the drama. An don't you go askin' too many questions, an don't you be gettin' to know too much."

"Mum's the word," Gladys said, and vanished.

Gipsy sat there smoking the pungent tobacco, and watched her till the little trim figure vanished between the rowan trees. He had much food for thought as he reclined there in the winter sunshine, and, on the whole, this was by no means the most unhappy moment of his life. For before his delighted eyes this wonderful new drama was shaping itself. Here was absolutely everything to his hand. Had he evolved the whole thing out of his inner consciousness, the scheme had been no more perfect. For here was the hero, the misjudged and maligned hero, driven from the home of his fathers and falsely accused of a crime which another had committed, and that other no less than the same flesh and blood as the lovely heroine. Gipsy had seen the man who was known to countless thousands as The Master, and no finer specimen of the harsh parent could be imagined. In Gipsy's mind's eye he could see that leonine, head bent in silent grief, he could see the stern lips which had never smiled again. Many a time and oft had Gipsy revelled in this kind of thing from the gallery of some transpontine theatre, many a time had he reconstructed the mimicry of emotion for his own delectation.

And here he was once more the veritable god in the car, pulling the strings of Fate whilst his puppets danced to the tune that he played. He was particularly proud, too, of the child, who, in his opinion, was something quite new in connection with the legitimate drama.

He sat there till the light began to fade and the sun slid down behind the shoulder of the hills. So far the first three acts were all right, but the last and the greatest was yet to come. Gipsy had pretty well shaped it in his mind as he walked back to the hut and closed the door against the winter night. He lighted the lamp presently and made up the fire. Then he proceeded in his clever way to cook the supper for himself and his guest, by which time they were quite on friendly terms.

When Gipsy liked, he had a plausible way with him, to say nothing of a certain innate sympathy, and before he slept that night his guest had confirmed practically everything that the child had said, though it hardly needed this to tell Gipsy that he was entertaining Basil Carmichaei under his humble roof. And he knew, too, that the young man was quite innocent of recent events, and that he had come down there, not with any intention of seeking reconciliation with his family, but merely to have a look at his old home for the last time before it was submerged beneath the waters of the Gwylt. He had spoken without heat or bitterness; it was only when he alluded to the child that the yearning look came into his eyes and his voice grew less steady. Gipsy closed the discussion presently and put out the light. He was afraid lest he might say too much.

"Well, good night, mate," he said. "An' don't you worry. Somethin' tells me as it'll all come right in the end."

It was about half-past three the following afternoon that a tall and gracious lady, with a wistful expression and a pair of glorious grey eyes, made the acquaintance of Gladys's latest friend. She had to be told, of course, the story of the friendship, and how the salmon had been caught, and after that Gipsy expressed a hope that the lady would so far honour him as to have tea in his hut, a suggestion which was received in the most gracious and friendly spirit.

Now, Gipsy had been lying awake half the night, wondering how he was going to lead up to this perfect climax; and when the time came, all he could do was to usher Miss Carmichael into the hut, with a curt intimation to his guest that here was a lady who wanted to see him. It was not a bit like what Gipsy had expected; he knew that he was making a hash of it, and that a perfect situation had suddenly become trite and commonplace.

"'Ere's a lidy as wants to see yer," he said.

Basil Carmichael had risen from his bed, conscious only of the slim figure that stood before him. Gipsy heard the broken cry that came from the girl's lips, then he made a grab for the hand of the child by his side, and dragged her, loudly protesting, from the hut. Indeed, in subsequent calmer moments, Gipsy judged, from the sore state of his shins, that he had been the victim of a bad case of assault and lattery.

"Liter on, Lady Gwendoline," he said. "I don't know no Latin an' Greek, like you, but I know somethin' o' the drama, an' you an' me, though we are 'umble instruments, ain't wanted in this scene. But we'll come in presently."

It was half an hour or more before Gipsy deemed it expedient to knock gently on the door of the hut. And then for some time afterwards he found himself dazzlingly in the limelight. It was easy to see that the atmosphere had cleared, and that the whole story had been told. But to the suggestion that Gipsy should accompany the rest of the party up to the house, and personally receive the thanks of The Master, the little man turned a deaf ear. His own natural delicacy told him that he would be distinctly out of place up there.

"But I'd like to come up to-morrow," he said. "It's a bit lonely for a bloke to be all alone on Christmas Day. An' if I might come up after dinner an' drink a glass of sherry wine to the 'ealth o' all the lidies an' gentlemen, why, if I might make so bold—"

The girl with the grey eyes held out her hand to Gipsy, who took it as if it were something rare and precious.

"You will come and dine with us," she said. "We shouldn't be happy without you. And you must not be afraid of Mr. Carmichael. He is really one of the kindest and best of men, and the humour of the situation will appeal to him. Come up about half-past six or a quarter to seven."

"And I'll be at the gate to meet you!" Gladys cried.

She was as good as her word. And it was Gladys who conceived the great idea of rigging out Gipsy in an old dress-suit of the butler's. And it was Gipsy who sat in the drawing-room most of the evening, with a huge cigar in his mouth, telling Gladys stories of flood and field, whilst the others listened, and The Master, himself strangely and wonderfully younger, conceived the idea of a new character for a book he was contemplating. And, had Gipsy but known it, he was on the way to immortality.

It was nearly midnight before the little man turned his back upon the most glorious day of his life, and made his way back to his lonely hut again.

"I never lived before," he told himself. "I'll tell you what it is, my boy, that is the real thing—so real that I ain't goin' to say nothin' abaht it. I can stand a joke as well as most men, but there's some things as don't bear laughing at—things wot's in a way sacred, if I got 'old o' the right word, an' this is one o' them. But there's one matter as puzzles me. When them two young people gets married, shall I 'ave to send them a wedding present, or will they 'ave to give me one?"

And, with this problem uppermost in his mind, Gipsy turned over between his blankets and went to sleep.


THE END

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