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Tombland Fair Remembered...

Tombland Fair Remembered...

By PeterHunter

Tombland Fair remembered…
Peter Hunter

I stumbled - the moon's intermittent light playing hide and seek behind the low scudding clouds - pale illumination one minute - then dark the next, making my navigation across the monotone Norfolk countryside irritating and frustrating.
Where I expected the cottage to be I neither could not see any light nor hear any sound - but bearing in mind the late hour it was perhaps not so surprising…
The woods had that sinister mysterious atmosphere so typical of night - stumbling, bumping into unseen twigs and bushes - the occasional screech of a hunting owl - the screaming invitation of a vixen in season answered by the short returned bark of a dog fox…
… by the river there were other sounds…
an occasional quack from a mallard followed by the neighing horse-like call of a dabchick. Other sounds too - the sharp cries of coots, moorhens and now and then the harsh drawn out prehistoric 'crarrk' of an over-flying heron…
… and the steady breeze played its gentle soundtrack using the leaves and branches as its instruments. The dark was overflowing with primitive superstition - a time surely for witches and demons if a man's imagination is susceptible to such myths…
… another few yards and suddenly I was alerted by the continuous eager barking of a dog. Surprisingly it was not a bark of alarm or aggression, but seemed to contain a hint of acknowledgment…
… my instincts told me it was Woody - recognising me with that sixth sense that dogs, and many other animals possessed…
… including some humans.
In one of the fleeting periods of revealing moonlight, I could identify the little cottage fifty yards ahead - nearly hidden by the dense clump of elm trees. On an instinct I changed course slightly right - heading to the spot where the old vardo would be.
The little nose nuzzling me was wet and cold - the tongue that licked my hand - warm, wet and affectionate; 'Hello Woody… where's your master?' A thin light flickered through the window of the gypsy wagon; '… Leveret?' I ventured…
… at the same time climbing the few steps and knocking gently on the flimsy wooden door of the vardo.
'I knew you'd soon be here… that's why I stayed up waiting for you…'
The gypsy lit an oil lamp and extinguished the single candle. 'Why here
and not in your cottage?' I asked.
'My habit - when I need to think - contemplate old times - remember when my world was better.'
As he gave his answer I noticed on the tiny table - a slim pack of cards and a glass ball both on a cloth decorated with mysterious symbols.
'… I was thinking of my mother…'
'She told fortunes… didn't she?'
'Right…' said Leveret 'she used this very vardo… it's over a hundred years old you know… her pony would pull it to Norwich each Whitsun - to the great fair at Tombland…' his infirm old voice tapered down into a whisper.
'You're psychic too… Leveret?'
' We all are - it goes back hundreds of years - further than I can remember. We have nothing written - I can't read or write, as you know…'
… but I can remember.'
Using his still sharp memory Leveret Smith told of things that happened when he was very, very young…
'… night had already veiled the city - but the tall spire of the cathedral still dominated …
… the brooding grey bulk of the castle standing guard on the other side.
Tombland Fair at Whitsuntide - people from all over the county came by horseback, like us but also many by foot - poor and rich.
I remember my mother, sitting on the steps of the vardo, this very wagon, wearing her most colourful clothes.
The lights sparkled their reflection from her deeply black hair, centre parted into a plaited knot. She wore a wide very colourful shawl and all she was worth in gold rings and bangles - just how you gorgio's would expect an old gypsy woman to look…
… and she told unwritten stories - legends of long ago…
Even at her age she was still good looking - twenty thousand years knowledge - all told from one generations another.
… her dark haunting eagle eyes…'
I was memorised by Leveret's fascinating story…
… never had I heard him say so much or for so long.
'a fortune-teller - she read the palms of anyone who paid her - and often those too poor to pay… but she was kind… often hiding the truth when it would upset someone…
… and suggesting things that might help them deal with what she could see…
… was to come…
But at other times, when her mind was empty and clear, other images appeared, many of them not happy. Visions so vivid they disturbed her.
Many deeply sinister…
… then she was careful - selective in what she told…'
I was thinking - admiring the untrained psychology of the old gypsy as her son continued…
'In such situations, she would send the person away happy but would take no money. Many who visited her were the gullible and simple minded - plus a small portion of Norwich society educated well enough to know better…
… she told and she saw until the night would become lonely, the alcohol wore down and legend and superstition would reappear…'
old Leveret seemed lost…
… memories, perhaps dreams.
'She read the cards for me once… and the future she saw was not good... not just for them…
…. but for the world…'
We both sat in silence for a few minutes then the conversation changed and for most of the night we spoke of things of mutual interest; John Bellingham, what he was doing to the valley - birds, animals -the woods and the fields…
… all the things that made Norfolk still a very special place.
Dawn was threatening its awakening - the breeze had dropped and the dawn chorus was gearing up…
… I made to leave…
… this atmospheric gypsy van, its fascinating owner - woody - and all it still represented as the twentieth century started to pack its luggage…
'Leveret…' I asked, '…would you read the cards for me?'
Almost reluctantly… he picked up the slim pack of the twenty-two grubby cards lightly in his left hand.
As if he was reading my mind he explained; 'These cards are very, very old - generations of my family have owned them always passing them down - hopefully with wisdom and knowledge…
… it's as if they contain the very spirits of my ancestors…'
'Please… do not hide anything… please do not feel you have to be kind…'
Quietly he shuffled the pack of Tarot cards… then offered them towards me to cut…
… and it was Death the old bearded man with his long scythe - ruin and destruction - Death, Death, Death…
… but my own death or someone else's?
… looking directly into the old man's eyes I pleaded; 'Me…? Leveret - is it me?'
He shook his head… in a negative gesture…
'Not you Trakka - but someone you know - and very soon…'
Leaving the old gypsy - I stumbled…
… into the unfolding morning - a slate grey dawn - the brilliant fortissimo feast of birdsong and the unravelling of the day…
… failed - unusually to inspire me…
… instead I could think only of Bobbi…
… fearfully…
was she the one the cards pointed to…?

End

© Peter Hunter 2012

Read more about Trakka and John Bellingham in Peter Hunter's thrillers Time Of The Spider and Call Me Trakka both on Kindle...
... also Leveret Smith in Death Of An Eroticist


entsBih

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About The Author
PeterHunter
PeterHunter
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Audience:
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Posted:
27 May, 2012
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