The library looked tranquil enough as I entered it, and the Sibyl-- if Sibyl she
were--was seated snugly enough in an easy-chair at the chimney-corner. She
had on a red cloak and a black bonnet: or rather, a broad-brimmed gipsy hat, tied
down with a striped handkerchief under her chin. An extinguished candle stood
on the table; she was bending over the fire, and seemed reading in a little black
book, like a prayer-book, by the light of the blaze: she muttered the words to
herself, as most old women do, while she read; she did not desist immediately on
my entrance: it appeared she wished to finish a paragraph.
I stood on the rug and warmed my hands, which were rather cold with sitting at a
distance from the drawing-room fire. I felt now as composed as ever I did in my
life: there was nothing indeed in the gipsy's appearance to trouble one's calm.
She shut her book and slowly looked up; her hat-brim partially shaded her face,
yet I could see, as she raised it, that it was a strange one. It looked all brown and
black: elf-locks bristled out from beneath a white band which passed under her
chin, and came half over her cheeks, or rather jaws: her eye confronted me at
once, with a bold and direct gaze.
"Well, and you want your fortune told?" she said, in a voice as decided as her
glance, as harsh as her features.
"I don't care about it, mother; you may please yourself: but I ought to warn you, I
have no faith."
"It's like your impudence to say so: I expected it of you; I heard it in your step as
you crossed the threshold."
"Did you? You've a quick ear."
"I have; and a quick eye and a quick brain."
"You need them all in your trade."
"I do; especially when I've customers like you to deal with. Why don't you
"I'm not cold."
"Why don't you turn pale?"
"I am not sick."
"Why don't you consult my art?"
"I'm not silly."
The old crone "nichered" a laugh under her bonnet and bandage; she then drew
out a short black pipe, and lighting it began to smoke. Having indulged a while in
this sedative, she raised her bent body, took the pipe from her lips, and while
gazing steadily at the fire, said very deliberately--"You are cold; you are sick; and
you are silly."
"Prove it," I rejoined.
"I will, in few words. You are cold, because you are alone: no contact strikes the
fire from you that is in you. You are sick; because the best of feelings, the highest
and the sweetest given to man, keeps far away from you. You are silly, because,
suffer as you may, you will not beckon it to approach, nor will you stir one step to
meet it where it waits you."