it would have been better if she could have met some one who would tell her the way without wanting
to know anything about her private business. At last, however, the green fields came to an end and
Maggie found herself looking through the bars of a gate into a lane with a wide margin of grass on each
side of it. She had never seen such a wide lane before, and without her knowing why, it gave her the
impression that the common could not be far off; perhaps, it was because she saw a donkey with a log
to his foot feeding on the grassy margin, for she had seen a donkey with that pitiable encumbrance on
Dunlow Common when she had been across it in her father's gig. She crept through the bars of the
gate and walked on with new spirit, though not without haunting images of Apollyon, and a highway-
man with a pistol, and a blinking dwarf in yellow with a mouth from ear to ear, and other miscellaneous
dangers. For poor little Maggie had at once the timidity of an active imagination, and the daring that
comes from overmastering impulse. She had rushed into the adventure of seeking her unknown kindred,
the gypsies, and now she was in this strange lane she hardly dared look on one side of her, lest she
should see the diabolical blacksmith in his leathern apron grinning at her with arms akimbo. It was not
without a leaping of the heart that she caught sight of a small pair of bare legs sticking up, feet uppermost,
by the side of a hillock; they seemed something hideously preternatural - a diabolical kind of fungus; for
she was too much agitated at the first glance to see the ragged clothes and the dark shaggy head attached
to them. It was a boy asleep, and Maggie trotted along faster and more lightly lest she should wake
him: it did not occur to her that he was one of her friends the gypsies, who in all probability would have
very genial manners. But the fact was so, for at the next bend in the lane, Maggie actually saw the little
semicircular black tent with the blue smoke rising before it which was to be her refuge from all the blighting
obloquy that had pursued her in civilised life. She even saw a tall female figure by the column of smoke -
doubtless the gypsy-mother, who provided the tea and other groceries: it was astonishing to herself
that she did not feel more delighted. But it was startling to find the gypsies in a lane, after all, and not
on a common: indeed, it was rather disappointing; for a mysterious illimitable common where there were
sand-pits to hide in, and one was out of everybody's reach, had always made part of Maggie's picture of
gypsy life. She went on, however, and thought with some comfort that gypsies most likely knew nothing
about idiots, so there was no danger of their falling into the mistake of setting her down at the first glance
as an idiot. It was plain she had attracted attention, for the tall figure, who proved to be a young woman
with a baby in her arm, walked slowly to meet her. Maggie looked up in the new face rather tremblingly
as it approached, and was reassured by the thought that her aunt Pullet and the rest were right when
they called her a gypsy, for this face with the bright dark eyes and the long hair was really something
like what she used to see in the glass before she cut her hair off.
`My little lady, where are you going to?' the gypsy said, in a tone of coaxing deference.
It was delightful, and just what Maggie expected: the gypsies saw at once that she was a little lady, and were prepared to treat her accordingly.
`Not any farther,' said Maggie, feeling as if she were saying what she had rehearsed in a dream. `I'm come to stay with you, please.'
`That's pritty; come then - why, what a nice little lady you are, to be sure,' said the gypsy, taking her by the hand. Maggie thought her very agreeable, but wished she had not been so dirty.
There was quite a group round the fire when they reached it. An old gypsy-woman was seated on the ground nursing her knees, and occasionally poking a skewer into the round kettle that sent forth an odorous steam: two small shockheaded children were lying prone and resting on their elbows something like small sphinxes: and a placid donkey was bending his head over a tall girl who, lying on her back, was scratching his nose and indulging him with a bite of excellent stolen hay. The slanting sunlight fell kindly upon them, and the scene was really very pretty and comfortable, Maggie thought, only she hoped they would soon set out the tea-cups. Everything would be quite charming when she had taught the gypsies to use a washing-basin and to feel an interest in books. It was a little confusing, though, that the young woman began to speak to the old one in a language which Maggie did not understand, while
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