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Will Jamison and The Black Swan Mine Chapter 14 The Words Of A Gypsy

Story ID:2205
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Fiction
Location:Medlin Iowa USA
Year:1895
Person:Will Jamison
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Chapter 14
The Words Of A Gypsy

Will’s feet picked up speed as soon as he spied the wagons and horses clustered close to a grove of trees. He whispered, “Hurry Emily, but be quiet so we can surprise her.”

Despite their attempt, the woman seated on a three-legged stool raised her head and scanned the area around her. A wide smile crossed her face, and she slapped her knee. "So! I thought you would never come." She sat next to a campfire whose flames licked at the bottom of a worn kettle.

"Did you miss us?" Emily asked as she and Will ran toward the campfire.
"We didn't know you were back until yesterday," Will said. "You slip into town, and it's days before anyone knows you're back." He wanted to hug this dark-skinned woman, wanted to ask if she would help him find a way to go back to school, but he would wait for the right moment.

The woman smiled. "Well now, am I supposed to put up a sign on the square? Should it say 'Zena and the other gypsies have come to camp by the lake outside Medlin'? Maybe it should say 'The gypsy camp is open once again!' "

Will and Emily laughed.

"You look so fine, Zena," Emily said. "I like your red blouse and all your bracelets
and earrings and... "

Will interrupted. "Did you find a good spot to spend the winter?"

Zena nodded her head, which made her earrings swing back and forth. "It was a good place, not too cold, not too much trouble with the sheriff, so, yes, a good winter." She studied Will before she spoke again. "And you, Will Jamison, how about you? Not so good, I think."

"How did you know?" Will asked her. Thoughts tumbled through Will’s mind. Could it be true that gypsies could see things other people couldn’t? Could Zena whisk him magically out of the mine? If only…

"Wait!" Zena moved to the back of her wagon. The soft tinkling of her jewelry broke the quiet of the afternoon. She pulled out two stools and brought them to the fire. She placed them side by side and gestured for Will and Emily to sit.

Will and Emily perched on the faded, chipped stools. Will glanced at the other gypsy wagons all placed close together but some distance from Zena's. "Why are you camped over here alone?" he asked.

"Ah," she said, “a little difference of opinion. They let me travel with them, but I must put my wagon off by itself, and it suits me fine. The problem is theirs, not mine." Zena stirred the fire with a long stick. She raised her head so quickly that the gold hoops in her ears danced. "But enough of that. Tell me Will, what is it? Your eyes show that something is not right with you."

Will sighed. "My Gran turned my life upside-down a few weeks ago. I'm working in the Black Swan Mine, there's no more school for me, Mike's father is dead and now Mike is gone from Medlin forever." He picked up a stone and rubbed its smooth surface again and again. The lump in his throat kept further words locked in his throat.
"Tell her, Will." Emily said. "Tell Zena all that has happened."

"Shush," Zena said softly. "He will tell the story, and you and I will listen."
At her words, Will tossed the stone aside and gazed across the crackling fire at Zena. He told of the day he had rushed home to tell Gran about winning the essay contest, and he’d learned he had to leave school. He told her about Leo taunting him, about the accident that killed Big Mike and about Miss Duncan’s efforts to help him. Emily tried to add bits and pieces to his story, but Zena held her finger to her lips and shook her head.

Will continued. "You know what? I've never even told my dad about winning the contest. Not that it would do any good. He can't make Gran change her mind any easier than the rest of us. Even Freddie tried to talk to Gran, but she won’t change her mind. Ever!”

The gypsy woman shifted her weight on the stool. She peered into the kettle, sniffed and stirred the contents. "Look at this. I listened to you and burned the stew again!" She laughed loudly, but her face soon turned serious. "So, what are you going to do, Will?"

"Ask her, Will, ask her," Emily burst out.

Zena rose, put her hands on her hips and waited.

"Well, Emily and I were wondering--we kind of hoped--well, could you look into your crystal ball and tell me what to do? Can you work some kind of magic to help me?"

When Zena did not answer, he rose and began to pace. "I've tried, you know. I've asked Gran. My teacher talked to her, too. I thought I could keep up with my schoolwork nights, but it isn't working. Nothing's worked. Please, Zena." He stopped and waited, almost afraid to hope.

The gypsy woman smoothed her full skirt, then folded her arms. "There is no crystal ball. The future is in you, Will. You're not so very big like some boys your age, but, inside you're strong, and you're smarter than most, too. You'll find a way. Or maybe the way will find you!"

Was that the help Zena had to give him? Words? His hopes fled faster than the smoke from the campfire. He opened his mouth, but there was nothing more he could say.

Zena put her hands on Will’s shoulders and locked eyes with him. “Listen to me, Will Jamison. I cannot help you with this. Crystal balls don’t hold the kind of answer you need. Keep a sharp look wherever you go, listen carefully to whatever you hear, and you’ll find an answer. That I can promise you.”

Zena turned away from Will. "Now Emily--your leg--does it hurt much?"

Emily's eyes opened wide at the question, and her face turned pink, but she answered right away. "Sometimes it hurts me. Nobody ever talks about my leg, Zena. Why do you?" Emily's lower lip trembled slightly.

Will moved closer to her. He didn’t want Emily to cry. What was Zena trying to do?

"Those people are foolish. It won't go away because they ignore it. I ask you because I want you to know I care," Zena said. "You two are my friends, and I have few of those. Wait here a moment."

She climbed into the wagon patting the dapple-gray horse on the nose when she passed him. When she returned, she handed Emily a paper packet. "Mix a bit of this in your tea when your leg hurts. It will help. Your mama might not know what a good healer I am, so don't let her know." She cocked her head to the side and grinned at Emily. "She wouldn't believe my healing powers if you told her." She pulled a sapphire blue ribbon from her pocket. "This is to make your beautiful hair even more beautiful."

Emily limped over to Zena and hugged her. “Thank you for caring about me.” She rubbed her fingers across the satin ribbon over and over again.

Zena turned to Will. "Here is something for you, my friend." She dug deep in the pocket of her skirt again and produced a picture post card. "I picked this up in Chicago. You might like it."

Despite his disappointment in Zena’s words, Will reached for the card and turned it over. The picture showed buildings from the World's Fair of 1892, three years earlier. One corner was bent, but he hardly noticed. He studied the picture intently. No one from Medlin had gone to the fair, but word of its wonders had reached the small town. Will gazed into Zena's dark eyes. "Thanks, thanks for the post card and for listening.”

Zena pulled a flowered shawl from a basket next to the campfire and twirled it in the air until it settled on her shoulders. She pulled it closer. “Think about my words, Will. You won’t need a crystal ball.” She stepped back and clapped her hands together. “Look, the sun will soon be gone, and the air has turned chilly. Go home now.”

* * * *

Will and Emily headed back to town turning to wave once more when Zena called out, "Come back to visit me soon." She watched until Will and Emily could no longer be seen. She placed a trembling hand over her mouth and wiped away a single tear with the other. If Will had not found a way to get out of the mine by the time the gypsy clan was ready to move on, she would stay in Medlin. He needed a friend.