I meet the silent woman and Silas Wright, Jr.
Amos Grimshaw was there in our dooryard the day that the old ragged woman came along and told our fortunes—she that was called Rovin’ Kate, and was said to have the gift of “second sight,” whatever that may be. It was a bright autumn day and the leaves lay deep in the edge of the woodlands. She spoke never a word but stood pointing at her palm and then at Amos and at me.
I was afraid of the old woman—she looked so wild and ragged. I have never seen a human being whose look and manner suggested a greater capacity for doing harm. Yet there was a kindly smile on her tanned face when she looked at me. Young as I was, the truth came home to me, somehow, that she was a dead but undeparted spirit and belonged to another world. I remember the tufts of gray hair above her blue eyes; the mole on the side of her aquiline nose; her pointed chin and small mouth. She carried a cane in her bony right hand and the notion came to me that she was looking for bad boys who deserved a cudgeling.
Aunt Deel nodded and said:
“Ayes, Kate—tell their fortunes if ye’ve anything to say—ayes!”
She brought two sheets of paper and the old woman sat down upon the grass and began to write with a little stub of a pencil. I have now those fateful sheets of paper covered by the scrawls of old Kate. I remember how she shook her head and sighed and sat beating her forehead with the knuckles of her bony hands after she had looked at the palm of Amos. Swiftly the point of her pencil ran over and up and down the sheet like the movements of a frightened serpent. In the silence how loudly the pencil seemed to hiss in its swift lines and loops.
My aunt exclaimed “Mercy!” as she looked at the sheet; for while I knew not, then, the strange device upon the paper, I knew, by and by, that it was a gibbet. Beneath it were the words: “Money thirst shall burn like a fire in him.”
She rose and smiled as she looked into my face. I saw a kind, gentle glow in her eyes that reassured me. She clapped her hands with joy. She examined my palm and grew serious and stood looking thoughtfully at the setting sun.
I see, now, her dark figure standing against the sunlight as it stood that day with Amos in its shadow. What a singular eloquence in her pose and gestures and in her silence! I remember how it bound our tongues—that silence of hers! She covered her eyes with her left hand as she turned away from us. Slowly her right hand rose above her head with its index finger extended and slowly came down to her side. It rose again with two fingers showing and descended as before. She repeated this gesture until her four bony fingers had been spread in the air above her. How it thrilled me! Something jumped to life in my soul at the call of her moving hand. I passed a new gate of my imagination, I fancy, and if I have a way of my own in telling things it began that moment.