All night they danced. The campfire would wear down, and the dancers, suddenly unable to see each other would throw on more logs. The violinist would take a break only to re-tune his instrument.
This went on until my eyes were burning with the urge to sleep. I wish they would stop, and yet I urged them to continue. They would hit lovely moments of intensity with their crescendos. It was entrancing.
But I had work to attend to in the morning. It was now well past midnight. They sounded as strong-willed as ever to continue. The only thing that revealed tiredness was the voice of the singer. She was beginning to grow hoarse. Her throat was drying.
There was a break, and my heart leaped. Was that the last song? I heard murmurs from the gypsies. But I wanted them to continue. I wanted to join them, and insult them. They were on my land, after all, and I had every right to command them away.
Their music was what kept me from rising out of bed. I could easily rouse some of the servants to help me shoo them off.
The woman singer started another song with only her voice. The note was high and wavering. The dryness in her throat seemed to aid the music in a way I could not comprehend. It stirred something in me that had not been touched in some time.
I sat up, looking out the window. Across the small pond there was the campfire. Silhouettes danced in circles around their campfire. The flames were at least person-height, and they looked to be dancing close to the heat.
Their bodies must be soaked in sweat by now. It must be so uncomfortable for them, and yet they continued.
I wanted sleep. I wanted music. The two needs turned into anger. Why did they continue? Could they not rouse themselves in the morning? On the day of rest? Any other time than this.
As my thoughts fought each other, I witnessed a series of torches come to the camp from the east.
It was my neighbor. I had never had any good dealings with him. He was a rich man, like me, but there seemed to be no feelings left in him but disgust and indignation. He was old, bitter, with no wife or children to keep his dark nature in check.
I rose from my bed. This neighbor of mine, Lord Hesh, would surely kill these gypsies before reasoning with them.
My shoes, riding pants, and a night jacket. I looked like a man about the loony bin if I had seen it.
My wife was not disturbed by my movements. Having heard the beginnings of the gypsy music, she simply plugged her ears with a bit of wax. She had urged me to do the same, but I was allured too much.
I swept down the stairs, grabbing a torch from one of the sconces. Out the front door, I began walking around the pond, keeping to the pebbled path.
The uncut grass beyond was more difficult. I waded through it towards the camp.
“Who goes there?” Lord Hesh yelled to the field.
His voice had the unusual air of fear.
A brash man, who does he think would come from MY house? A commoner? A brazen servant perhaps, but that would be highly unlikely.
“Your neighbor, Lord Darcy,” I called back. I spit grass from my mouth.
“You should not be out at this time of night,” Lord Hesh called.
I pushed through the grass, nearing the campfire.
“I could say the same for you, Lord Hesh,” I responded.
When I stepped out to see them, it was a bitter scene. The gypsies were silent, holding each other.
Lord Hesh, dressed for a romp in the woods, had six men with him, all dressed the same, each with a pistol aimed towards the scared people.
“Lord Hesh, what is the meaning of this?” I said.
“Lord Darcy, I sought to eliminate these squatters from your land. They have been invading our ears for the last several hours, keeping us from our rest,” he said.
“This is my land. You are trespassing, sir. I am within my rights to let them stay here for the night. They will leave at first light,” I turned to the gypsies, “Am I correct in my assumption?”
I nodded towards them, hoping they would know what to do.
They nodded, repeating my motion. I think they understood.
“They have been told they are not welcome in these woods. And yet they are here, playing their music in sight of our very homes. Are you not insulted?” Lord Hesh said.
“I am, but…” I struggled to find a way to end this situation without violence or a blow against my reputation.
To side with the gypsies would give my enemies reason to doubt my judgement. To side with Lord Hesh would mean bloodshed.
“Then we are in agreement. These vermin must be punished!” Lord Hesh sounded excited.
“Lord Hesh!” I bellowed, “You would spill blood on my land!? I wish this situation to be without violence! Tell your men to lower their pistols.”
The gypsies looked at me, and I think they understood enough of what I meant with my words. But my neighbor was bloodthirsty, and ignoring the sanctity of these woods. I moved in between his men and the campers.
“Lord Darcy, are you aligning yourself with the vermin?” he said with venom.
“These woods are mine. I will not plant trees on blood-soaked earth. You and your men have overstayed your welcome,” I said.
I raised my hands, and then lowered them slowly.
“Lower your weapons, please.”
He would be a fool to ignore my words, and a crazy one at that.
His men, seeing the gravity of the situation, did as I asked. The lord; however, held his pistol up. A surprising feat for a man nearing seventy years old.
I stared back at him. His hand readjusted its grip, he chewed his lip.
“I hope you know what this means for your reputation,” Lord Hesh said.
“I could say the same of you. Your men lowered their weapons, why do you continue to threaten these people, and myself?”
“Stand aside, Lord Darcy. This is a matter of principal. They are usurpers, below commoners, even.”
“I will not. I must persist that you lower your weapon and return to your home. I have resolved this situation without violence. We can both rest easy,” I told him.
His face contorted and soured. His eyes changed in a way I had not seen in any man. For a moment I was unsure if Lord Hesh would refrain from hurting me to get to them. He seemed resolute that this was about their stature in society. Not about the noise at all.
“Lord Hesh!” I interrupted his thoughts.
His shoulders raised and fell. His body seemed to shudder. His pistol arm finally fell to his side.
“Glad to see everything is in order. I bid you good rest,” Lord Hesh smiled, nodded and turned.
His men followed him back towards his manor. I watched him go, their torches disappearing into the woods.
“Thank you,” one of the women said.
Her voice was hoarse, and her accent was thick. I nodded back to her.
My heartbeat was fast, and I felt sick to my stomach.
“Sunrise,” I pointed skyward, “Be gone.” I made a shooing motion.
“Yes. We will leave,” One of the men said.
“He would have killed us,” the woman said.
“I…I think so,” I said.
“You are a good man,” she said.
“Get some rest. I have to go,” I told them.
I turned from the gypsies, and waded my way through the tall grass. I found the pebbled path around the pond, and back into my manor.
My eyes hurt, my ears rang, my blood moved with the speed of my heartbeat. My arms were shaking, and I had to use both hands to place my torch back into the sconce.
I swallowed as I took off my ridiculous attire in my bedroom. There was going to be no sleep. My body vibrated.
Sitting on my bad, looking out the window towards the dying campfire, I wept.