Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Short Story by Bram Stoker

A Gipsy Prophecy


Bram Stoker

"I really think," said the Doctor, "that, at any rate, one of us

should go and try whether or not the thing is an imposture."

"Good!" said Considine. "After dinner we will take our cigars

and stroll over to the camp."

Accordingly, when the dinner was over, and the La Tour finished,

Joshua Considine and his friend, Dr. Burleigh, went over to the

east side of the moor, where the gipsy encampment lay. As they were

leaving, Mary Considine, who had walked as far as the end of the

garden where it opened into the laneway, called after her husband:

"Mind, Joshua, you are to give them a fair chance, but don't give

them any clue to a fortune-and don't you get flirting with any of the

gipsy maidens-and take care to keep Gerald out of harm."

For answer Considine held up his hand, as if taking a stage oath,

and whistled the air of the old song, "The Gipsy Countess." Gerald

joined in the strain, and then, breaking into merry laughter, the

two men passed along the laneway to the common, turning now and then

to wave their hands to Mary, who leaned over the gate, in the

twilight, looking after them.

It was a lovely evening in the summer; the very air was full

of rest and quiet happiness, as though an outward type of the

peacefulness and joy which made a heaven of the home of the young

married folk. Considine's life had not been an eventful one. The

only disturbing element which he had ever known was in his wooing

of Mary Winston, and the long-continued objection of her ambitious

parents, who expected a brilliant match for their only daughter.

When Mr. and Mrs. Winston had discovered the attachment of the young

barrister, they had tried to keep the young people apart by sending

their daughter away for a long round of visits, having made her

promise not to correspond with her lover during her absence. Love,

however, had stood the test. Neither absence nor neglect seemed

to cool the passion of the young man, and jealousy seemed a thing

unknown to his sanguine nature; so, after a long period of waiting,

the parents had given in, and the young folk were married.

They had been living in the cottage a few months, and were just

beginning to feel at home. Gerald Burleigh, Joshua's old college

chum, and himself a sometime victim of Mary's beauty, had arrived a

week before, to stay with them for as long a time as he could tear

himself away from his work in London.

When her husband had quite disappeared Mary went into the house,

and, sitting down at the piano, gave an hour to Mendelssohn.

It was but a short walk across the common, and before the cigars

required renewing the two men had reached the gipsy camp. The place

was as picturesque as gipsy camps-when in villages and when business

is good-usually are. There were some few persons round the fire,

investing their money in prophecy, and a large number of others,

poorer or more parsimonious, who stayed just outside the bounds but

near enough to see all that went on.

As the two gentlemen approached, the villagers, who knew Joshua,

made way a little, and a pretty, keen-eyed gipsy girl tripped up and

asked to tell their fortunes. Joshua held out his hand, but the girl,

without seeming to see it, stared at his face in a very odd manner.

Gerald nudged him:

"You must cross her hand with silver," he said. "It is one of the

most important parts of the mystery." Joshua took from his pocket a

half-crown and held it out to her, but, without looking at it, she


"You must cross the gipsy's hand with gold."

Gerald laughed. "You are at a premium as a subject," he said.

Joshua was of the kind of man-the universal kind-who can tolerate

being stared at by a pretty girl; so, with some little deliberation,

he answered:

"All right; here you are, my pretty girl; but you must give me a

real good fortune for it," and he handed her a half sovereign, which

she took, saying:

"It is not for me to give good fortune or bad, but only to read

what the Stars have said." She took his right hand and turned it palm

upward; but the instant her eyes met it she dropped it as though it

had been red hot, and, with a startled look, glided swiftly away.

Lifting the curtain of the large tent, which occupied the centre of

the camp, she disappeared within.

"Sold again!" said the cynical Gerald. Joshua stood a little

amazed, and not altogether satisfied. They both watched the large

tent. In a few moments there emerged from the opening not the young

girl, but a stately looking woman of middle age and commanding


The instant she appeared the whole camp seemed to stand still. The

clamour of tongues, the laughter and noise of the work were, for a

second or two, arrested, and every man or woman who sat, or crouched,

or lay, stood up and faced the imperial looking gipsy.

"The Queen, of course," murmured Gerald. "We are in luck to-night."

The gipsy Queen threw a searching glance around the camp, and then,

without hesitating an instant, came straight over and stood before


"Hold out your hand," she said in a commanding tone.

Again Gerald spoke, sotto voce: "I have not been spoken to in that

way since I was at school."

"Your hand must be crossed with gold."

"A hundred per cent at this game," whispered Gerald, as Joshua

laid another half sovereign on his upturned palm.

The gipsy looked at the hand with knitted brows; then suddenly

looking up into his face, said:

"Have you a strong will-have you a true heart that can be brave

for one you love?"

"I hope so; but I am afraid I have not vanity enough to say 'yes.'"

"Then I will answer for you; for I read resolution in your

face-resolution desperate and determined if need be. You have a

wife you love?"

"Yes," emphatically.

"Then leave her at once-never see her face again. Go from her now,

while love is fresh and your heart is free from wicked intent. Go

quick-go far, and never see her face again!"

Joshua drew away his hand quickly, and said, "Thank you!" stiffly

but sarcastically, as he began to move away.

"I say!" said Gerald, "you're not going like that, old man; no use

in being indignant with the Stars or their prophet-and, moreover, your

sovereign-what of it? At least, hear the matter out."

"Silence, ribald!" commanded the Queen, "you know not what you do.

Let him go-and go ignorant, if he will not be warned."

Joshua immediately turned back. "At all events, we will see this

thing out," he said. "Now, madam, you have given me advice, but I

paid for a fortune."

"Be warned!" said the gipsy. "The Stars have been silent for long;

let the mystery still wrap them round."

"My dear madam, I do not get within touch of a mystery every day,

and I prefer for my money knowledge rather than ignorance. I can get

the latter commodity for nothing when I want any of it."

Gerald echoed the sentiment. "As for me I have a large and

unsaleable stock on hand."

The gipsy Queen eyed the two men sternly, and then said, "As you

wish. You have chosen for yourself, and have met warning with scorn,

and appeal with levity. On your own heads be the doom!"

"Amen!" said Gerald.

With an imperious gesture the Queen took Joshua's hand again,

and began to tell his fortune.

"I see here the flowing of blood; it will flow before long; it is

running in my sight. It flows through the broken circle of a severed


"Go on!" said Joshua, smiling. Gerald was silent.

"Must I speak plainer?"

"Certainly; we commonplace mortals want something definite. The

Stars are a long way off, and their words get somewhat dulled in the


The gipsy shuddered, and then spoke impressively. "This is the

hand of a murderer-the murderer of his wife!" She dropped the hand

and turned away.

Joshua laughed. "Do you know," said he, "I think if I were you I

should prophesy some jurisprudence into my system. For instance, you

say 'this hand is the hand of a murderer.' Well, whatever it may be

in the future-or potentially-it is at present not one. You ought

to give your prophecy in such terms as 'the hand which will be a

murderer's,' or, rather, 'the hand of one who will be the murderer

of his wife.' The Stars are really not good on technical questions."

The gipsy made no reply of any kind, but, with drooping head and

despondent mien, walked slowly to her tent, and, lifting the curtain,


Without speaking the two men turned homewards, and walked across

the moor. Presently, after some little hesitation, Gerald spoke.

"Of course, old man, this is all a joke; a ghastly one, but still

a joke. But would it not be well to keep it to ourselves?"

"How do you mean?"

"Well, not to tell your wife. It might alarm her."

"Alarm her! My dear Gerald, what are you thinking of? Why, she

would not be alarmed or afraid of me if all the gipsies that ever

didn't come from Bohemia agreed that I was to murder her, or even

to have a hard thought of her, whilst so long as she was saying

'Jack Robinson.' "

Gerald remonstrated. "Old fellow, women are superstitious-far

more than we men are; and, also, they are blessed-or cursed-with a

nervous system to which we are strangers. I see too much of it in

my work not to realize it. Take my advice and do not let her know,

or you will frighten her."

Joshua's lips unconsciously hardened as he answered: "My dear

fellow, I would not have a secret from my wife. Why, it would be

the beginning of a new order of things between us. We have no

secrets from each other. If we ever have, then you may begin to

look out for something odd between us."

"Still," said Gerald, "at the risk of unwelcome interference, I

say again be warned in time."

"The gipsy's very words," said Joshua. "You and she seem quite

of one accord. Tell me, old man, is this a put-up thing? You told

me of the gipsy camp-did you arrange it all with Her Majesty?" This

was said with an air of bantering earnestness. Gerald assured him

that he only heard of the camp that morning; but he made fun of

every answer of his friend, and, in the process of this raillery,

the time passed, and they entered the cottage.

Mary was sitting by the piano but not playing. The dim twilight

had waked some very tender feelings in her breast, and her eyes were

full of gentle tears. When the men came in she stole over to her

husband's side and kissed him. Joshua struck a tragic attitude.

"Mary," he said in a deep voice, "before you approach me, listen

to the words of Fate. The Stars have spoken and the doom is sealed."

"What is it, dear? Tell me the fortune, but do not frighten me."

"Not at all, my dear; but there is a truth which it is well that

you should know. Nay, it is necessary so that all your arrangements

can be made beforehand, and everything be decently done and in order."

"Go on, dear; I am listening."

"Mary Considine, your effigy may yet be seen at Madame Tussaud's.

The juris-imprudent stars have announced their fell tidings that this

hand is red with blood-your blood. Mary! Mary! my God!" He sprang

forward, but too late to catch her as she fell fainting on the floor.

"I told you," said Gerald. "You don't know them as well as I do."

After a little while Mary recovered from her swoon, but only to

fall into strong hysterics, in which she laughed and wept and raved

and cried, "Keep him from me-from me, Joshua, my husband," and many

other words of entreaty and of fear.

Joshua Considine was in a state of mind bordering on agony, and

when at last Mary became calm he knelt by her and kissed her feet

and hands and hair and called her all the sweet names and said all

the tender things his lips could frame. All that night he sat by

her bedside and held her hand. Far through the night and up to the

early morning she kept waking from sleep and crying out as if in

fear, till she was comforted by the consciousness that her husband

was watching beside her.

Breakfast was late the next morning, but during it Joshua

received a telegram which required him to drive over to Withering,

nearly twenty miles. He was loth to go; but Mary would not hear

of his remaining, and so before noon he drove off in his dog-cart


When he was gone Mary retired to her room. She did not appear at

lunch, but when afternoon tea was served on the lawn, under the great

weeping willow, she came to join her guest. She was looking quite

recovered from her illness of the evening before. After some casual

remarks, she said to Gerald: "Of course it was very silly about last

night, but I could not help feeling frightened. Indeed I would feel

so still if I let myself think of it. But, after all, these people

may only imagine things, and I have got a test that can hardly fail

to show that the prediction is false-if indeed it be false," she

added sadly.

"What is your plan?" asked Gerald.

"I shall go myself to the gipsy camp, and have my fortune told

by the Queen."

"Capital. May I go with you?"

"Oh, no! That would spoil it. She might know you and guess at me,

and suit her utterance accordingly. I shall go alone this afternoon."

When the afternoon was gone Mary Considine took her way to the

gipsy encampment. Gerald went with her as far as the near edge of

the common, and returned alone.

Half-an-hour had hardly elapsed when Mary entered the drawing-room,

where he lay on a sofa reading. She was ghastly pale and was in a

state of extreme excitement. Hardly had she passed over the threshold

when she collapsed and sank moaning on the carpet. Gerald rushed to

aid her, but by a great effort she controlled herself and motioned

him to be silent. He waited, and his ready attention to her wish

seemed to be her best help, for, in a few minutes, she had somewhat

recovered, and was able to tell him what had passed.

"When I got to the camp," she said, "there did not seem to be a

soul about. I went into the centre and stood there. Suddenly a tall

woman stood beside me. 'Something told me I was wanted!' she said.

I held out my hand and laid a piece of silver on it. She took from

her neck a small golden trinket and laid it there also; and then,

seizing the two, threw them into the stream that ran by. Then she

took my hand in hers and spoke: 'Naught but blood in this guilty

place,' and turned away. I caught hold of her and asked her to tell

me more. After some hesitation, she said: 'Alas! alas! I see you

lying at your husband's feet, and his hands are red with blood.'"

Gerald did not feel at all at ease, and tried to laugh it off.

"Surely," he said, "this woman has a craze about murder."

"Do not laugh," said Mary, "I cannot bear it," and then, as if

with a sudden impulse, she left the room.

Not long after Joshua returned, bright and cheery, and as hungry

as a hunter after his long drive. His presence cheered his wife, who

seemed much brighter, but she did not mention the episode of the

visit to the gipsy camp, so Gerald did not mention it either. As if

by tacit consent the subject was not alluded to during the evening.

But there was a strange, settled look on Mary's face, which Gerald

could not but observe.

In the morning Joshua came down to breakfast later than usual.

Mary had been up and about the house from an early hour; but as the

time drew on she seemed to get a little nervous, and now and again

threw around an anxious look.

Gerald could not help noticing that none of those at breakfast

could get on satisfactorily with their food. It was not altogether

that the chops were tough, but that the knives were all so blunt.

Being a guest, he, of course, made no sign; but presently saw Joshua

draw his thumb across the edge of his knife in an unconscious sort

of way. At the action Mary turned pale and almost fainted.

After breakfast they all went out on the lawn. Mary was making up

a bouquet, and said to her husband, "Get me a few of the tea-roses,


Joshua pulled down a cluster from the front of the house. The

stem bent, but was too tough to break. He put his hand in his pocket

to get his knife; but in vain. "Lend me your knife, Gerald," he said.

But Gerald had not got one, so he went into the breakfast-room and

took one from the table. He came out feeling its edge and grumbling.

"What on earth has happened to all the knives-the edges seem all

ground off?" Mary turned away hurriedly and entered the house.

Joshua tried to sever the stalk with the blunt knife as country

cooks sever the necks of fowl-as schoolboys cut twine. With a little

effort he finished the task. The cluster of roses grew thick, so he

determined to gather a great bunch.

He could not find a single sharp knife in the sideboard where

the cutlery was kept, so he called Mary, and when she came, told her

the state of things. She looked so agitated and so miserable that he

could not help knowing the truth, and, as if astounded and hurt,

asked her:

"Do you mean to say that you have done it?"

She broke in, "Oh, Joshua, I was so afraid."

He paused, and a set, white look came over his face. "Mary!"

said he, "is this all the trust you have in me? I would not have

believed it."

"Oh, Joshua! Joshua!" she cried entreatingly, "forgive me," and

wept bitterly.

Joshua thought a moment and then said: "I see how it is. We

shall better end this or we shall all go mad."

He ran into the drawing-room.

"Where are you going?" almost screamed Mary.

Gerald saw what he meant-that he would not be tied to blunt

instruments by the force of a superstition, and was not surprised

when he saw him come out through the French window, bearing in his

hand a large Ghourka knife, which usually lay on the centre table,

and which his brother had sent him from Northern India. It was one

of those great hunting-knives which worked such havoc, at close

quarters with the enemies of the loyal Ghourkas during the mutiny,

of great weight but so evenly balanced in the hand as to seem light,

and with an edge like a razor. With one of these knives a Ghourka

can cut a sheep in two.

When Mary saw him come out of the room with the weapon in his

hand she screamed in an agony of fright, and the hysterics of last

night were promptly renewed.

Joshua ran toward her, and, seeing her falling, threw down the

knife and tried to catch her.

However, he was just a second too late, and the two men cried out

in horror simultaneously as they saw her fall upon the naked blade.

When Gerald rushed over he found that in falling her left hand

had struck the blade, which lay partly upwards on the grass. Some of

the small veins were cut through, and the blood gushed freely from

the wound. As he was tying it up he pointed out to Joshua that the

wedding ring was severed by the steel.

They carried her fainting to the house. When, after a while, she

came out, with her arm in a sling, she was peaceful in her mind and

happy. She said to her husband:

"The gipsy was wonderfully near the truth; too near for the real

thing ever to occur now, dear."

Joshua bent over and kissed the wounded hand.



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