Drawing her close, he whispered, “Dear wife, Can you not be content with my love? Fear grows only itself, not a child.”
That very night, the old woman awoke to the jingle of a gypsy wagon rolling through the wide meadow between the forest and the village. Surely it was the fortune teller she’d seen in the market. Silently she slipped out of bed and crept down the steep stairs. She pushed aside a basket set upon the hearth and lifted a loose stone. Underneath was a small pouch of golden coins. Clasping the coins close to her heart, she hurried through the dark wood until at last she came into the lavender light of a full moon spread across the open field.
Running beside the wagon, she held up the pouch and pleaded with the toothless woman, “Tell me. Will I ever have a babe of my own?”
The fortune teller drew her horses to a halt and opened the old woman’s palm. “Yes, I see a daughter, and her name is Lavuta.”
“The name is strange,” said the old woman,” Are you sure? My hope has drifted away like a dream in the morning light.”
“I am sure,” said the fortune teller, exchanging the clinking pouch for a wrinkled sack of seeds. “Plant these in your garden by the door, and in the spring a daughter, will be yours.” She shook the reins and vanished in the distance like a falling star.
The old woman hurried home clutching the sack of seeds. At the edge of the wood, an owl swooped from the top of an old oak. Startled, she raised her arms above her head and the seeds scattered. She fell to her knees in tears, for there was no way to reclaim them.
When she opened the cottage door, her husband was kneeling beside the loosed stone. “What have you done with our bit of gold?”
The old woman confessed.
“Foolish woman,” he pounded his fist, “sorcery plays only tricks, and now our small treasure is gone for naught.”
But in the spring a babe was born, a daughter with jet black curls.
“What name shall we give this child?” asked the old man.
“Lavuta,” the old woman said for fear another name would break the spell which had brought this long awaited gift despite her fumble.
“Why this strange name?” her husband tilted his head.
The old woman lied, “It has such a melodious sound.”
“Very well, Lavuta,” said her husband, “for she will be the song of our hearts.”
As Lavuta grew, she picked up her little skirts and danced for her parents in front of the winter fire.
“Oh, child, how you warm our hearts,” her mother said.
In the spring she waltzed about a broom made of sticks as she helped her mother sweep the cottage.
“Someday soon you will make your own happy home,” said the old woman.
Summers she wandered the woodlands and sang as she picked bouquets for her family.
“You have the voice of a lark,” said her father, “and your maiden beauty rivals the flowers you’ve put in our hands.”
On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, Lavuta awoke to the sound of her own name. She rose from her bed and followed the call out the door, through the black tunnels of the forest and into the meadow where moonlight spilled its silver upon the dewy grass. At the center of the field, under the sky’s twinkling canopy, were a dozen gypsy wagons round a blazing fire. The silhouettes of men and women whirled before the flames. They clapped and shouted, “Lavuta, Lavuta.” Irresistibly she drew near. At the center of the circle, in front of the fire, was a handsome young man with a shock of wild dark hair. He cradled a small wooden instrument beneath his chin and sawed upon it like her papa sawed a log. Music soared towards the heavens with the sparks, music Lavuta seemed to know by heart. In a moment she understood. Her name was their word for this instrument shaped like a voluptuous lady. And out of its long throat, the young man caressed the very melody of her soul.
The old woman awoke from a nightmare in which she heard Lavuta’s name. Seeing only the curves of her daughter’s body carved in the feather bed, her fears gathered like a great storm cloud ready to burst. She scurried, gasping for breath, down the path to the meadow.
There were the circled wagons, and at the center, Lavuta. Her daughter’s cheeks flushed as she danced in front of the fire. Her eyes flashed as she circled the fiddler. Her voice harmonized with his violin like a lark calling its mate. The old woman pushed through the throng and begged, “Please, please, don’t enchant my daughter.”
A large man in a leather vest, the bulibasha, stepped forward and silenced his people. “Old woman, it is we who have been enchanted. For this we give your daughter a gift.” He summoned the wise woman of the clan, the phuri dae, from the far side of the flames. The toothless crone laid a necklace made of golden coins around Lavuta’s neck.
“We must go,” her mother yanked Lavuta’s hand. They spoke not a word as Lavuta fingered the necklace and looked back at the young fiddler. At the edge of the meadow, the old woman turned to her daughter and whispered,” We cannot accept this gift. I fear its source is sorcery and will only play us tricks.” She tore the chain from her daughter’s throat and watched its coins scatter under the big oak.
Lavuta dropped to her knees and sobbed. “Is it magic to fall in love?”
The old woman pulled her daughter to her feet, “It is magic that brought you to me, and magic I fear will take you away.” They walked home as if struck dumb by a curse.
The old man and the old woman had grown too deaf to hear the departing bells of the gypsy wagons, but with the morning light, they saw Lavuta’s bed was empty. Hand in hand, they trudged through the forest stopping at its edge. Before them new grass waved in the wind. In the dappled sunlight under the old oak, was a blanket of brilliant pink flowers.
The old man fell to his knees and plucked just one blossom. “Is this where you spilled the fortune teller’s seed long ago?”
“Yes,” replied his wife.
Something sparkled amidst the blooms, and she stooped to reclaim what she knew must be the scattered coins of the necklace.
“Foolish woman those coins are the price you paid for this.”
The old woman gasped at the petals in his palm, shaped like a miniature heart bleeding a single tear of blood.