Chapter Two
Sunday, 9th September 1832

On our first Sunday in Pitchford, the camp was quiet and drowsy, so I stole away for a walk with Cobweb by my side. It was a golden day, and the harvest sun flickered in the trees, warm and inviting. I walked down to the brook and then found my path to the big house, through the woods.
I was about to turn back to the camp, when something moved and caught my eye. In the clearing I could see that a gardener had brushed the fallen leaves into a large pile, perhaps to burn, or maybe just to make the gardens look tidier. Suddenly a force whirled at the leaves at full speed. They whisked into the air, up and up, falling carelessly to the floor. In the middle of the gust was a girl, or perhaps a young lady. With great abandon she leapt and ran at the leaves kicking them high and picking them up so that they showered her like rain. The girl laughed out loud, a laugh that was light, free and musical. Her laugh was as natural as the trees, the leaves and the sun streaming through the lime trees. Her skirts spun, billowing about. She moved with the grace and charm of a young horse, not yet ready to be tamed. The smell of freshly fallen leaves and rich soil filled the air. I sat down, hidden by the trees, spellbound.
The girl was a free spirit, a sprite or, maybe a witch. Cobweb nuzzled my hand and watched with me, I remained quiet, not daring to breathe.
The girl stood to look at what she had done, and shook her hair. It came loose and fell, long, smooth and burnished over her shoulders and down her back. In an instant, she threw her cape and bonnet to the ground. For a few seconds she disappeared, and then came back with a broom. I could hear her singing as she brushed the leaves back into a pile, adding more and more from around the clearing.
I thought she had done a very good job of the brushing, and that she would make a very good wife for a Gaje man.
Finally the work was done, and she stood for a while looking at the big pile of leaves. I thought that then she would surely leave. Then a wonderful thing happened. The girl ran to the end of the clearing, but then turned and ran back with the force of a charging bull, throwing herself on top of the mountain of leaves.
The girl lay atop the pile laughing, her arms and legs swimming in the leaves. Her hair floated around her and mingled with the Autumn sun. The leaves and her hair were a mass of liquid amber, chestnut, magenta and maple. The gold overhead played between the trees casting shadows of claret copper and wine.
I was captivated, and could not move. In the distance, I heard someone call. The girl lay for a moment, and then rose to her feet with a sigh. Once more she brushed the leaves, singing to herself, cheerfully. As she walked to the edge of the clearing, I felt a longing I had never felt before. I wanted to collect her in my arms, like she had collected the leaves. I wanted to sweep her up, and never let her go .I wanted to rein her in and tame her like a young horse, and keep her for my own. I sensed another movement and a big black and white dog bounced into the newly formed pile of leaves gleefully spreading them all over the clearing.
I heard the girl call out, “Darcy?” and the dog bounded off to after her.
I sat smiling, not able to leave, wishing, aching for her to return. My body sang with joy, my heart enchanted.

My life had begun.

I was in love.

Cast in a spell on a golden Autumn day.

I sighed, and felt tears stinging my eyes, and a pain weighing down my heart.

This could not be so.

For the girl was a lady, a Gaje.

And I am Noah Harper.

A gypsy.