All The Days of My Life

All The Days of My Life by Hilary Bailey

Book: All The Days of My Life by Hilary Bailey Read Free Book Online
Authors: Hilary Bailey
andthen, as if dealing with a dishonest tradesman over a bill, said, “So she marries three times, do you mean to say? And she’ll be rich? And what’s all this about no true marriage? And how, pray, will she end?”
    â€œAs we all do,” said the gypsy from her seat on the caravan steps. “In six feet of earth, no more, no less.”
    Mrs Gates breathed out impatiently and then reconciled herself to getting no more information from the old woman. She fumbled in her worn black handbag and took out her purse. She handed the old woman two coins – half crowns. Mary was startled. It was a lot of money. But the gypsy woman waved the money away, reluctant even to touch it. “No – not for this. No crowned heads,” she said.
    â€œNo – what do you mean?” asked Mrs Gates, looking at the money in her palm. Then she understood. The coins bore the heads of George VI and Edward VII. “Well – what sort of money do you want, then?” she asked. It was required to cross the gypsy’s palm with silver or bad luck would follow. So the gypsies said.
    â€œNothing – nothing,” said the woman. “Put your money away.”
    Now the fair was stilling. The gypsies were packing up the stalls. Mary, glancing behind her, watched two of them lifting a big, white, black-spotted wooden horse off the roundabout. They began to carry it towards the little group – the old gypsy woman, the middle-aged housekeeper, the little, golden-haired girl.
    â€œYou cannot tell us any more, gypsy?” asked Mrs Gates in an unusually humble tone.
    â€œThe ending will not be unhappy,” said the woman. “Does that satisfy you? And she will not fail you, old woman – does that please you?”
    â€œI suppose it will have to,” said Mrs Gates. She said formally, “Thank you, gypsy. Visit me when next you are passing through.”
    She took Mary’s hand and began to lead her away.
    â€œShe will be there at your ending – will you like that?” the gypsy called out from behind. Mrs Gates swung round in alarm. “Not soon,” said the woman, with a malicious smile, revealing teeth stained and broken like an old dog’s, and one shiny gold tooth in front.
    â€œWhat do you mean?” asked Mrs Gates. Mary felt the grip tighten on her hand.
    Impatiently, the gypsy said, “Not soon. You will both die peacefully, in your beds, in old age. Can you ask more than that? Go home.”
    A small child with a brown face, curly black hair and, Mary noticed,small gold rings in her ears, ran up to the woman, clasped at her skirts and began to chatter in what sounded like a foreign language. The woman bent down to talk to her, then straightened up and stood there looking at them. Behind her the sun was descending behind a landscape of hills and rolling fields.
    â€œCome and kiss me, child,” she said to Mary. Mary looked at Mrs Gates, who gave her a secret push in the side. She ran forward obediently and put her face up to the old woman, who bent down and brushed her cheek with dry lips. Looking into Mary’s eyes she said, “Aha.” Mary ran back to Mrs Gates. “Goodbye,” she shouted. The woman and the gypsy child watched their backs as they walked off, through the bustle of the closing down of the fair, the small knots of youngsters standing about and giggling, and to the edge of the hill. On the way down, sliding on the dry earth and stones of the steep path, Mrs Gates was silent. Once in the lane leading past Twining’s farm and so to the track across the fields to Allaun Towers, she began to talk. “Well, well,” she said, “to think of all that. And she never took any money for it, either. She told you your fortune for nothing.”
    â€œWhat’s a fortune?” Mary asked.
    â€œWhat’s going to happen to you,” Mrs Gates told her.
    â€œIs it magic?” Mary asked.

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