Chapter 17

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.’

‘As much as you please,’ said I, ‘provided you can find anything pleasant to talk about.’

‘Never fear,’ said Jasper; ‘and first of all we will talk of yourself. Where have you been all this long time?’

‘Here and there,’ said I, ‘and far and near, going about with the soldiers; but there is no soldiering now, so we have sat down, father and family, in the town there.’

‘And do you still hunt snakes?’ said Jasper.

‘No,’ said I, ‘I have given up that long ago; I do better now: read books and learn languages.’

‘Well, I am sorry you have given up your snake-hunting, many’s the strange talk I have had with our people about your snake and yourself, and how you frightened my father and mother in the lane.’

‘And where are your father and mother?’

‘Where I shall never see them, brother; at least, I hope so.’

‘Not dead?’

‘No, not dead; they are bitchadey pawdel.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Sent across - banished.’

‘Ah! I understand; I am sorry for them. And so you are here alone?’

‘Not quite alone, brother.’

‘No, not alone; but with the rest - Tawno Chikno takes care of you.’

‘Takes care of me, brother!’

‘Yes, stands to you in the place of a father - keeps you out of harm’s way.’

‘What do you take me for, brother?’

‘For about three years older than myself.’

‘Perhaps; but you are of the Gorgios, and I am a Rommany Chal. Tawno Chikno take care of Jasper Petulengro!’

‘Is that your name?’

‘Don’t you like it?’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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