May 1925–November 1938
A Dark Prediction
Gabrielle slipped down into the tub until she was completely submerged in the warm, soapy water. She lifted her legs toward the ceiling and pointed her toes while singing, "Tea for two and two for tea, just me for you and you for me ..."
Gabby didn't have the best voice in the world, but it was strong, and she knew all the lyrics to every popular song coming over the radio. This particular one had been the smash hit of 1924 both in America and in England, and now a year later it was still a favorite. Gabby loved to sing, and one of the keen regrets of her life was that she did not have a good enough voice to sing on the stage or in films. As she relaxed in the soapy water, soaking up the heat and looking up at her polished toes pointed at the ceiling, she thought of the time when her mother had gently broken the news that she would never be a professional singer. She had been twelve years old, and it had broken her heart for at least a week.
Sitting up abruptly and splashing the water to rinse off the soap, Gabby pulled the plug and stepped out onto the bath mat. Grabbing a fluffy white towel, she rubbed herself vigorously, then tossed the towel over a rack. Quickly, she slipped into a chenille robe that had once been a deep royal blue but now was faded to an anemic lavender. Leaving the bathroom, she scurried down the short hall and went into her bedroom and peered out the window.
"Good! It's not going to rain anymore." The first week of June had been particularly wet for southern England, and she had been afraid that a downpour such as they'd had the previous evening would spoil her date with Greg. But the skies were clear, and there was no sign of anything but fine weather. From where she stood, she could catch a glimpse of the English Channel. She was intensely sensitive to natural beauty, and for some time she drank in the sight of the rough waves, the occasional boat going by, and the branches blowing in the breeze.
Turning, she moved to the rosewood table that had belonged to her grandmother. She selected a record from a tall stack and wound up the gramophone. Each year her mother made a trip to America, her home, and she always returned with all the latest records. Gabby sang along as she decided what to wear. "It had to be you, it had to be you. I wandered around and finally found the somebody who could make me be true...."
She looked through her underwear drawer, tossing a flattening brassiere to the side with a snort of disgust. "Silliest thing I ever heard of! Women ought to look like women," she muttered. The last few years had produced some strange garments in women's dress. Women were now supposedly freed from their "bondage," but for some reason this meant they had to look like men. They had cut their hair short and disguised their feminine shapes as much as possible. Gabby pulled out the camiknickers she had bought only the week before, the latest fashion in underwear. The one-piece garment combined a camisole top with attached knickers. Gabby stared at herself in the full-length mirror. "It looks stupid, but it's what everybody is wearing," she murmured.
She put on a white pleated skirt and a soft green loose-fitting jumper with a low neckline. She draped an emerald green scarf around her neck, pulled on her beige stockings, and slipped into a pair of dark green low-heeled shoes. Moving closer to the mirror, she studied her face critically. As usual, she was not overly impressed, but she did have nice eyes--large, almond-shaped, and a warm brown that appeared almost golden at times. Her mother used to tell her, "The eyes are the windows of the soul; people can see right through to your soul, Gabby." She surveyed her straight nose and broad forehead and shook her head with disgust. But she brightened up at how her hair looked. She liked her abundant curls and the rich chocolate color with a trace of auburn that glowed in the sun. Her friends were always complaining about their thin or straight hair, but she had no complaints with hers.
She stepped back from the mirror and admired her trim figure with satisfaction but sighed, wishing she were shorter than five-seven. She had always admired diminutive women like her best friend, Helen Stempson, who was only five feet tall. More than once her mother had told her to straighten up and be what God made her to be.
Gabby picked up her cloche hat and pulled it down over her hair. She personally thought cloche hats looked stupid, but everyone wore them, and this one had seemed to her the best of a bad lot. After examining her complete outfit from every angle in the mirror, she put her hat back on the bed and sat down at her desk.
She removed a small red leather book from the back of the bottom drawer and opened it to the marker. Grabbing a pen, she wrote:
Gabby hesitated for a moment, chewing on her lower lip, before beginning again. Unconsciously her tongue appeared at the corner of her mouth, a childhood habit she had never shaken.
So, this is my first grown-up date. I have a new outfit, and Daddy and Mum say I can stay out until eleven. They wanted me to come back by ten, but I argued them out of it.
"Gabby, are you ready?"
Greg Farnsworth isn't the most handsome boy I know, but he's not hideous either. At least he's tall and got rid of his pimples this year. I wonder if he'll try to kiss me when he brings me home--and I wonder if I'll let him.
Gabby quickly slammed her journal shut and shoved it into the drawer. "Come in, Mum."
Her mother poked her head into the room.
Gabby stood up and struck a pose. "Do you like my outfit?" she asked eagerly. "Do you think Greg will like it?"
"I think he'll love it." Josephine Winslow, at the age of thirty-two, looked like she was in her twenties. She was a tall woman with green eyes and reddish hair and a strong, attractive square face. She had married Lance Winslow after the death of Gabby's mother and for a time had wondered if she could fill the role of mother as well as wife. Despite her doubts, everything had turned out successfully. Although there were times when Gabby mentioned her birth mother, Noelle Winslow, she and Josephine had grown very close. Josephine had met Gabby's father during the Great War, when she was a journalist from New York and he was a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps.
Now Josephine kept up her career and did a great deal of traveling, though England had become her first love. She had only distant relatives in the States and found her greatest pleasure was in being at their home in Hastings on the southeastern coast of England.
"If he doesn't like it, he would have to be blind and a moron," Jo said with a smile. "Turn around and let me see." Gabby turned, arms extended. "I can't believe this is the gawky, long-legged creature that kept bringing frogs into the house just a year ago, it seems."
"Oh, Mum, it's been longer than that!" Gabby protested.
"Well, as long as you don't start collecting snakes, I suppose I can bear it." Jo shook her head as she looked at the walls, which were completely covered with specimens, including butterflies in glass-covered frames, birds' eggs in frames with small sections--each bearing a tiny egg with a label underneath it--and flowers that had been dried and mounted. "We won't ever have to worry about decorating a house. You've got enough specimens to fill Windsor Castle."
Gabby giggled. "I guess I have, haven't I? Look at what I did this morning. Come over here."
Jo went over to the table, which was cluttered with books and a microscope. At Gabby's insistence she looked down into the scope. "I can never see anything in here," she protested.
"Yes, you can. Just look and concentrate."
Jo Winslow obediently peered into the lens. "I see it, but I don't know what it is."
"It's a butterfly wing. Isn't it beautiful?"
Jo straightened up. "Yes, it is. But I think I'd rather see the whole butterfly than just a microscopic section of it." She walked to the window and looked out at the sea for a moment. Then she turned and said, "I want us to have a mother and daughter talk."
"Oh, Mum, please not now!"
"No kissing," Jo said firmly.
Gabby tightened her lips. She was an obedient girl and had given her stepmother and father little trouble. As a matter of fact, she was so caught up with her science studies and collections that she had given little thought to boys until this year. She had been a rather gawky adolescent just a short time ago, but a single year had wrought as much difference in her as one saw in a caterpillar and a butterfly. The angular, bony edges had been replaced with graceful curves. Her skin had cleared up and now possessed a pleasing silkiness about it. She had inherited her French mother's figure along with her father's strength and bone structure, which combined to make her an attractive young woman.
"No kissing," Jo repeated.
"Just one, Mum? Please!"
Suddenly Jo laughed. "I was only teasing, Gabby. You're fifteen years old, and you have a smart head on your shoulders. You have more sense than I do, actually. I'd hate for you to know what a flibbertigibbet I was when I was your age."
"What's a flibbertigibbet? Is that an American word?"
"Yes, it's American for fool--which I was when I was fifteen. I was quite boy crazy."
Gabby came over and put her arm around her stepmother's waist. "I can't believe that. You're the smartest woman I know."
"Well, I'm not fifteen any longer. Let's go downstairs and let your father see how beautiful you are."
Gabby grabbed her cloche hat and asked, "What was your first date like, Mum?"
"It wasn't nearly as exciting as my first date with your father. Now, come along."
They walked down the stairs and turned left into the living area, a beautiful room with a low ceiling supported with exposed beams. The ceiling was so low that Lance Winslow often sported a red spot in the middle of his forehead when he forgot to duck. The house had been built in the 1600s, and it had been the delight of both Lance and Jo to work lovingly on it until it was filled with antiques and reflected a warm aura of hospitality.
"Well, so this is the man-killer!" Lance Winslow came out of his chair and moved over to get a better look at his daughter. He was a tall man with an athletic figure, and at the age of thirty-eight, he still had most of the fast reactions he had had as a fighter pilot in the war. He was wearing a pair of baggy gray trousers and a dark blue shirt that brought out the color of his eyes. "Why, you look good enough to go to a horse race."
"Daddy," she protested, "I look better than that!"
"Yes, you do. In fact, you look so good I'm going to have to have a serious talk with Greg. I'm going to tell him to have you back by ten o'clock. If he objects, I'll tell him I've got a forty-five and a shovel and that no one will miss him very much."
"Daddy, you can't say that!"
Lance laughed at her horrified expression, then came and put his arms around her. He gave her a hug and said, "No, I don't suppose I will. But you look beautiful." When he released her, a frown crossed his face. "It's going to be hard to go away and leave you."
"Well, I've tried hard enough to go with you before, but you wouldn't let me."
Jo spoke up. "It's going to be a long, hard trip. I want us all to go to the States next year when we have plenty of time. This trip we have to make now is going to be nothing but tiresome travel and work."
Lance worked for an aircraft firm and was often sent on assignments to other countries for months at a time. Jo worked as a journalist wherever she hung her hat, but she was also writing a book about the new jazz music in America and wanted to do some research.
"I wouldn't care. You'd see," Gabby said. She dreaded these times when her parents had to leave her alone. They usually tried to space their trips out so that one or the other of them would be home, but this time there was no possibility of that.
"But, dear, you love to go to Holland and visit with your aunt Liza. You know you do," Jo coaxed.
"But it's not the same as being with you."
"It will only be for two months. You had a wonderful time with your friend Betje when you were there last year. Why, you told us you had the best time of your life. And before you know it, we'll be back."
Gabby quickly covered her disappointment. "I know, Mum," she said. "I'll miss you, but don't worry about me. Betje and I will have a good time, and I always like staying with Uncle Dalton and Aunt Liza."
Liza was the only sister of Gabby's father. She had married Dalton Burke, who had become a scientist of some reputation and taught at the university in Amsterdam. They had a beautiful house, which was very old, and Gabby did love spending time with them. She had been there three times, beginning when she was very young, and now knew quite a few people. Though it had been hard at first, she had learned to speak Dutch passably well, thanks to her friend Betje.
"Oh, I'll be fine, Mum. Don't you worry about me. And, Dad, you go over and tell 'em how it's done. Don't let those Yanks give you any trouble!"
Lance's face registered his relief. He had been worried about leaving Gabby for two months, but Jo had convinced him there would be little fun for her on this grinding trip. "I'll tell you what," he said. "Your mum and I will work as hard as we can and try to get back early. We'll pick you up and go to Paris for a holiday. How would that be?"
Gabby squealed and threw her arms around her father's neck. She squeezed him hard before releasing him. "That'll be super! We'll have the most fun ever. Why, Mum and I could go to all the stores and see the latest fashions. Maybe we can find ourselves some new outfits."
"We'll see about that," her father said, winking at her. "We'll stop off and see your grandfather on the way. He gets lonely now. We don't get to see him very often, but he thinks the world of you." Noelle Winslow's father was getting on in years and did delight in his half-English granddaughter.
"That will be wonderful," Jo said. "You know, if you ever become a doctor, he'll take all the credit for it."
"Ever since I was a little girl, he's been telling me I ought to be a doctor," Gabby said. "But a better one than he is, he always says."
"I doubt if anybody is much better than your grandfather. But I know he misses your grandmother and gets lonely, so it would be nice to make that stop and spend some time with him."
At that moment a muffled roar filled the room, and Lance said, "If that's your young man, it sounds like he's driving a lorry, and a big one, instead of a car."
"He's got his license and everything, Daddy," Gabby said. "And he's a very careful driver."
They waited for the knock on the door; then Jo opened it. "Hello, Greg. Come in."
Greg Farnsworth was a tall, lanky young man of seventeen. He was not filled out yet and was not handsome, but there was a homely charm about him. He was almost as tall as Lance and had to stoop carefully under the dark exposed beams.
"Hello, Mrs. Winslow. Good evening, sir."
"Hello, Greg." Lance came over and shook his hand. "How are your parents?"
"They're just fine. Gabby tells me you're leaving soon."
"That's right. We'll be going to the States tomorrow."
"I wish I could go. If you go to California, do you think you'll see any movie stars?"
"I don't think we'll do much stargazing." Jo smiled. "It'll be mostly work, and plenty of it."
Greg turned his attention to Gabby and smiled in admiration. "You look great, Gabby."
"Why, thank you, Greg."
"A new outfit?"
"Yes. You really like it?"
"It's the cat's pajamas, as they say in the States. Are you ready?"
"I'm all ready."
Gabby got her hat, and as the two went out the door, Lance called out, "We'll be waiting up for you. Be home before eleven."
Jo waved at the young people and closed the door, then turned to her husband. "I believe you're more nervous than she is about her first date."
Lance came over and put his arms around her. "You women don't understand what it's like to be a father trying to keep a fifteen-year-old girl in line."
Jo leaned against him. "Tell me about it. Is it really all that hard?"
"Almost as hard as keeping a beautiful woman like you in line. Come on. Let's go finish packing."
"Greg, slow down. You're driving too fast."
"Fast! Why, this isn't fast at all." He was proud of his bright red roadster. The car was so small he had no trouble reaching around and putting his arm around her. "You're out with the best driver in England. Relax and enjoy yourself."
Gabby did not resist and leaned against him. The roar of the small engine made it necessary for them to shout against the wind, and as he sped along the narrow, winding road, they encountered little traffic. She liked the touch of his arm around her, and she was feeling very excited. He had taken her to dinner at a very nice restaurant in downtown Hastings, and then they had gone to see The Gold Rush, starring Charlie Chaplin. They had both laughed themselves weak over the comedian's antics, and afterward they had gotten ice cream before heading home.
They shouted at each other over the noise of the engine and the racing wind. When they were less than a quarter of a mile from the street where the Winslows lived, Greg made such a sharp turn that Gabby had to grasp wildly at the frame of the car. "Where are you going?"
"Why, I couldn't take you home from your first date without a trip to Lovers' Grove."
Gabby instantly grew alert. Lovers' Grove was a large, heavily wooded park. During the daylight hours nannies pushed babies in their perambulators along the shady walkways, and at times Gabby had gone there herself looking for specimens for her collections. At night, however, the park was known as a place where young men took unsuspecting young women for their own selfish purposes. "I'm not going to Lovers' Grove with you," she protested. "Take me home."
Greg merely laughed and slowed the car as he followed the serpentine road that led deep into the grove of large trees. "Why, you're not a little girl," he said. "It's not going to kill you."
But then the headlights picked up some movement, and he muttered, "Blast, somebody's here!" They got closer. "Looks like a bunch of gypsies."
Gabby was intrigued by the sight. They were all sitting around a blazing fire, singing a song with a haunting melody. Three wagons were grouped behind the small gathering, and horses grazed on the tall grass nearby. "Come on, Greg. Let's go visit them."
"Not on your life!" He shook his head firmly. "They're thieves and even worse. I'm getting out of here."
But Gabby opened the door and stepped out, ignoring his protests. "Oh, come on, you're a grown man, aren't you?" she mocked him. "Don't tell me you're afraid!"
He glared at her and shut off the engine. "This is your idea, not mine," he complained as he opened his door and got out.
As Gabby approached the small band of gypsies, the music fell silent and a tall man came toward her.
"Good evening. Welcome to our home," he said in a strongly accented voice, bowing deeply.
Gabby could see by the light of the fire that he was wearing a brilliant yellow shirt with a red kerchief around his neck. Gold earrings hung from his earlobes, and his white teeth flashed against his dark skin.
"We didn't mean to interrupt, but we saw your fire and heard your singing. It was very beautiful."
"We are pleased to have you. I am Duke Zanko. You like music? You will hear plenty of music. And if you want your fortune told, my wife can do that. And we have some beautiful jewelry for a beautiful young lady."
As Gabby and Greg moved closer to the fire, Gabby felt a surge of excitement. She had seen bands of gypsies before in her travels with her parents and had always been curious about their mysterious ways. She looked around the gathering and noted at least a dozen adults and considerably more children. Several of the women held small babies, and their eyes seemed to flash as the two visitors came closer.
"This is my wife, Marissa," Duke Zanko said, gesturing at a young woman with dark eyes and large gold earrings dangling from her ears. He shrugged his shoulders sadly and said, "I have not had much luck with wives. I've worn out two. I got this one young so I could bring her up myself--and teach her to do nothing but please me."
Marissa laughed, displaying her very white teeth.
"Perhaps you came to visit our camp because of the full moon," Duke said, looking up through the branches. "Gypsy men and women always fall in love when there's a full moon, a gypsy moon." He winked at Greg. "Maybe it'll work the same for you!"
Greg laughed and Gabby was glad the darkness would cover the red she felt creeping up her face.
Marissa stood up and came closer to Gabby as the rest of the group started talking among themselves and lining up to get a bowlful of something cooking in a large iron pot over the fire. "I married him because he is old and rich," Marissa told Gabby. "When he dies I will take all his money and find me a strong young man."
Duke laughed. "You will not find another man like me. Someday you'll appreciate what you have in me."
Marissa grinned and took hold of Gabby's arm. "Come. You will eat with us," she invited.
"Oh, we couldn't do that," Gabby protested, although her mouth was watering as she inhaled the delicious aroma coming from the cooking pot.
"Yes, you will be our guests. Please ..." Before Gabby could say more, a young woman came over and handed both of them bowls filled with stew.
"Why, thank you," Gabby said as she and Greg sat down and joined them. They found the stew delicious, and as the rest of the group ate, Duke pulled out his fiddle and began to play. Two other men joined him as they finished eating, one of them on a zither and another on a stringed instrument that neither Greg nor Gabby had seen before.
Several young women began to dance, and they were soon joined by young men. Their shadows cast by the flickering fire flitted across the ground, and the air was filled with laughter and music.
A rather short but well built young man came over to Gabby with his hand extended. His hair was as black as a raven, and his eyes seemed almost as dark. "Come, you dance with me. My name is Pavko."
"Oh, I can't dance!"
"Go on," Greg urged. "You want to be a gypsy? Here's your chance. Maybe that gypsy moon will bring you happiness."
Gabby allowed Pavko to pull her up to her feet. She felt self-conscious at first, but soon she found herself relaxing as she learned the simple steps of the dance. All the people watching were clapping their hands, and the music filled the night air. Finally, she pulled away and said, "Thank you. I'm afraid I'm not as good a dancer as you are."
Pavko laughed. "You are a wonderful dancer for a gaji."
"What is a gaji?"
"That is what we call girls who are not gypsies."
Gabby sat back down beside Greg, and the two visitors listened as the lilting music danced on the warm summer air deep in the grove of tall, ancient trees. During a break in the music, Marissa took Gabby's hand in her own and said, "I will tell your fortune."
"I don't believe in fortune-telling," Gabby said with an apologetic smile. "I believe people make their own fortunes." Nevertheless, she did not resist when Marissa started examining the palm of her hand.
"You are going on a long journey. You will meet a man with blond hair."
Gabby was amused with the familiar prediction.
"Be very careful of him," Marissa continued. "He will not be good for you. Later you will meet a dark-haired man, and he is the man you want."
Gabby saw Greg smiling, and she returned it. Gabby pulled some coins out of her purse and thanked the woman.
"We'd better get going," Greg said. "Your dad will skin me alive if I don't get you home on time."
"I'm afraid so." Gabby started to get to her feet when she noticed a very old woman moving slowly toward her. The small woman wore a scarf over her head and large gold earrings.
"This is Madame Jana," Duke told her. Intersecting lines formed a network about the woman's face, and her lips were drawn tightly together. Though her eyes were practically closed, there was a dark glitter that showed she was alert.
"Good evening, Madame Jana," Gabby said. "How are you?"
The elderly woman did not answer, nor did she move. Gabrielle tried not to squirm under her unsettling gaze. Finally, Zanko said, "She is a Christian. Some say she is a prophet. Very wise."
Gabby was surprised at his words. She had assumed the whole group believed in fortune-telling and mysterious ways. A silence settled on the group as Madame Jana rested her hand lightly on Gabby's forehead. Gabby froze, not knowing what the woman would do. The old woman closed her eyes and began to pray for Gabby in a language Gabby could not understand. When she was done, she opened her eyes and seemed to look into the depths of Gabby.
"You are a believer, child. I feel the spirit of Christ in you."
Gabby's uneasiness turned to surprise. "Yes, I do believe in Jesus."
The woman dropped her hand to Gabby's shoulder. "You will need great courage, daughter," she said quietly. "A dark time lies before you, but Jesus will never forsake you. When you think all is lost, He will bring you the strength you will need. He will make a way for you through the danger that awaits you."
With trembling hands she took a gold chain from around her neck and handed it to Gabby. "This is very old," she said, "and the Lord tells me to give it to you. It is not magic. It is to remind you that you are not alone--that somewhere an old woman is praying for you when you feel that all is lost. Go with Jesus and do not fear." As she turned and moved away, the group resumed their quiet chatter.
"She is a strange one," Duke said as the woman disappeared into the darkness. "But I tell you, she is a praying woman. She never gives up! Do not let her words fall to the ground."
Gabby had laughed at Marissa's fortune-telling, but she was truly frightened by this woman's prediction and told Greg she was ready to go. They said good-night to Duke and his wife and went back to the car.
"Well, that was definitely strange," he said as they left the area. "What did you make of the old woman?"
"I don't know, Greg," she said as she touched the gold chain the woman had given her.
"We're lucky they didn't rob us blind. They're all thieves, you know."
She did not answer as Greg drove out of the park and headed for the Winslows' house. When he stopped in front of her house, she opened the door and said, "You don't have to come in, Greg. Good night."
"Hey, wait a minute--"
"Good night, Greg."
Somehow the old woman's words and her prayer had shaken Gabby. She had thought she might like a good-night kiss on her first real date, but now she was preoccupied with other disturbing thoughts. She entered the house and found her parents drinking coffee in the kitchen.
"Well, that wasn't very late after all," her father said with a smile.
"Did you have a good time, dear?" her mother asked.
"Oh yes, it was very nice." Gabby had an impulse to tell them about the group of people at Lovers' Grove, but for some reason she did not. She had not had a chance to look carefully at the gift that Madame Jana had given her, but somehow she knew she would not forget this night or the necklace for a long time.
"You'd better go to bed, dear," Jo said. "We have to leave early to get you to the wharf to board the ship for Amsterdam."
"Yes, I know. Good night, Mum. Good night, Dad."
She kissed her parents, went upstairs, and took the necklace out of her purse. At the end of the gold chain hung an old coin, nearly an inch in diameter. It was worn thin, but she could still make out the figure of a woman wearing a long robe and some words in a foreign language under the figure. She held it in her hand and thought about the old woman's strange prayer. Gabby quickly pulled her diary out of her desk and began to write down the woman's words of warning and of encouragement as closely as she could remember. She could not understand why she was so moved by the woman, but after she had gotten ready for bed, she got down on her knees and prayed for courage. For some reason she could not fathom, she found herself praying for Madame Jana.
Glancing out the window, she saw the huge silver disk and thought of Greg's words. "That's a gypsy moon." For a long time she stared at the argent globe before finally dropping off into a deep sleep.
"It won't be long, dear," Jo said. "We'll be back before you know it." They were standing on the wharf, and the blast of the boat's loud whistle had already given the first warning for its imminent departure. She kissed Gabby, then stood back and watched as Lance put his arms around her. He held her tightly before finally releasing her.
"Don't forget about that trip to Paris when we get back," he said.
"I won't, Daddy." Gabby felt a strange reluctance to walk up the gangplank and board the ship. It was not unusual, for she always hated saying good-bye to her parents. Still, this time something seemed to hold her back. She had a sudden desire to cry out, "Take me with you. Let me go with you!" but she knew that was impossible. She turned and walked up the gangplank and found a place along the rail and waited as the last passengers boarded. As the ship slowly pulled out, she looked down at her parents and waved. They waved back, and she could hear her father calling out, "Don't forget Paris when we get back!"
She called back but knew they could not hear her, for right then the ship's whistle gave another loud blast. Then it slowly turned as the tugboat pulled it out away from the dock. "I hate good-byes," she muttered. "Why do people ever have to say good-bye?"