It was under the Eiffel Tower where we found the little gypsy. Anne and I, visiting a few years after the war had torn the city to shreds,
witnessed the city's slow revival. Beginning to dust itself off, it was as beguiling as a beautiful woman in a stunning gown who'd tumbled
into a muddy ditch. We checked into a reasonably priced hotel, intact enough to communicate the charm of its former glory and
conveniently located in the quartier latin. We were first timers to the glorious city and even now my heart hammers excitedly
remembering the thrill of it.
The next day, before the sun had begun to stretch itself over the Seine I donned a beret bought just for the occasion, tied a jaunty scarf
around my neck and fidgeted while Anne slipped on her red dress impatient to join the Parisians strolling the streets. Exiting the old hotel
we stopped for a moment to breathe in the coolness of the new morning. A woman leaning heavily on the ornate iron balcony in the
building across was emphatically exchanging gossip with her neighbor. Anne and I looked at each other and grinned, 'Ah we are here at
last!" our eyes and grins said. We sank our hungry mouths into creamy cafe au laits at the cafe next door. glistening croissants,
mouthfuls of buttery air, paralyzed us with pleasure. Today we would see as much as we could possibly stuff into our waking hours and
then some. First to the Ile de la Cite to visit the Notre Dame. As substantial as a parisian matron the Dame soared with the grace of a
ballerina in the pearly morning. Subdued by her still grandness, we gawked as every tourist has a solemn right to do, the immensity of
the place induced a satisfying sense of smallness.
Satiated with the sacred, we floated like angels, our feet barely touching the cobbled streets, looking for a likely bistro. After a
scandalous lunch we headed to the Tour Eiffel. The grand icon surpassed our expectations. It was at once vast and perfectly designed, a
perfectly composed poem of compressed strength. One by one, we placed ourselves under each of its four legs. Looking up, we craned
our heads back as far as our anatomy and large lunch would allow. Nearby an old woman who looked as if she'd been discarded from a
gypsy caravan in a grade b movie attempted to entice passersby. Unnoticed by us the knowing ones circumvented the ragged sight
avoiding her pitch or at minimum escaping with their wallets and jewelry intact. Her stricken appearance and one eye clouded with what
was likely a severe cataract failed to invite sympathy or interest. Her fingers were like some bones furiously dug up by a hungry animal.
Being newcomers, a creature like this laid bare our open curiosity so we did not instantly retract our gazes when she turned in our
With horror we realized we had caught her attention, she began then to walk rather more rapidly than one would've guess given the
pronounced limp she'd demonstrated just minutes before. In a blink of an eye she planted herself and her swirling rags directly in front
of us. Just then a renegade breeze pushed my beret into the air, with a snatch like a cobra's strike the gypsy captured it in a broken
nailed claw. She looked us over then, examined us the way a hungry hyena might some fresh kill. She assembled her cracked mouth into
her best recollection of a smile, although she more resembled a wolf and we, for our part, felt peculiarly like little red riding hood. I
believe I could count the number of her teeth, each sharpened to a point, on one of my hands. "Monsieur it good I save zees! I save you,
yess?" I smiled and nodded politely reaching for the limp beret, 'Thank you' I said. But she pulled it away just out of reach, 'Wait, see
here, see I have heere, but what it is hah? what it is?' Her unfortunate grammar combined with the accent of some strange tongue
twisted each word into something almost unrecognizable. What was clear was that she meant us to look into the small box she was
stabbing in our direction. I took a deep sigh, and Anne, who'd backed away from the rancid possum stench of the woman gave me a
resigned look and came nearer again, we bent to look.
People continued to circle as far from her, and now us, as they could without leaving the city proper. "see, see, special, no? so special-
noone have, only me, I give you, you buys OK soldier?" she said. Where she had the impression I was military was a mystery but since
most french people's only contact with Americans had been with soldiers during the war I was not surprised at her assertion. What was
truly riveting was the object in the box. Resting in it was a head, or more properly, a face. No larger than the palm of a baby's hand. At
first I dismissed it as a red herring put there to divert our attention while the old lady's cohort rifled through our pockets. It looked like
the lost part of what was now a headless doll lying in a ditch somewhere, but what happened next erased all thought of that. for at that
moment its eyes blinked! Anne gasped. Stunned, I shook my head and looked again, oh yes the thing was now looking back at me,
watching me with its peculiar violet eyes. Unbelievable, I thought. I looked under the box, searching for the old gypsy's hands, was it a
puppet? but no, one hand held the box and in the other, my hapless beret, it was no trick. I remembered then to breathe, looked up at the
hag, "how much?" I ventured.
"Oh but monsieur dees special, one only one, noone else has, only me, is 50 francs!"
"50 francs! Why that's outright robbery!", I cried. I made a move to snatch my hat back from her, " and if you do not release my hat
immediately madam I shall call the gendarme!" But neither Anne nor I could stop our gazes from straying to the little face in the box, for
just then it actually yawned. Could this really be? Our antagonist could see we were caught, caught like a hare in a poacher's trap, and so
"bon bon bon!" she said rapidly, leaning closer, stabbing us with the box again,'7 franc yes 7 franc, for you, give pretty lady, you take, you
take!" Anne and I looked at each other, our faces a confusion of wonder and disbelief. I reached for my wallet.
That was nearly half a century ago. Our little gypsy, as we came to call it, is still with us. Shortly after arriving home to New York from
France, first by train then steamer we unpacked our treasure. Lifting her from her dingy box, a small wrinkled slip of paper came loose.
What was written on it was in a language we did not recognize. Many inquiries later we identified the language as a now defunct dialect
from a region in north Bohemia. The old scholar we were eventually introduced to generously agreed to translate it for us. We did not
explain the circumstances of how it came into our possession only that we'd happened on it while on holiday in France, he assumed it
was part of a toy, a childish piece of poetry lost during the vast wartime movement of people fleeing for their lives. The poem also
contained what he decided was the true name for this toy, a word he could not trace or translate. wWe thought this must be the actual
name of little gypsy. We share the translated text with you now. Believe us when we say every word will come true.
The little gypsy's Spell
From dawn till dusk the ___________ doth doze
But at first moonlight will answer the question I pose.
I possess it so by the gods have been blessed
With all of life's goodness: love, wealth, relief from distress.
Directions for Use:
On a windless night take your ______________
And stand in the moonlight
Repeat the spell three times
Then clearly state your question
Quiet yourself then, and listen.
The reply may strike you immediately, like a thunderbolt or, only if you are patient and listen well, will
float to you in time. Do not fear, the answer always comes.
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