No one remembered when she arrived in town. They could remember when she was not there and when she was there, but not when she came.
To say she was disheveled was giving her a piece. Her green mutton sleeved dress was threadbare with several open seams. The once bright red paisley shawl stained with random spots set off her face along with her bird's nest black matted hair. She could have been a fright, but most folks just looked upon her with a tisk tisk on their lips.
Then there was the stone. In a black velvet bag, she kept a smooth round granite river coble which she produced when it was time to tell someone's future. Extracting the stone from its pocket, she would balance it in her left hand while she pushing the bag around forming it into a kind of nest. After gently placing the rock among the folds she would put both hands on it and closed her eyes.
Having no place of her own, she walked a circuit of the town during the day. At night she took her place at a tiny table in the far corner of the Peachtree Saloon. When she grew tired she would roll her eyes, hang her head and fall asleep. The saloon staff had orders from Savanna Sal to leave her alone and just button up the shop around her. In the morning she wondered a few streets away from the town center where the banker's wife Lilian Teasdale lived. Lilian liked to sit on her porch and have tea with biscuits. Once she invited our dirty friend up on the porch and since then there was a cup of tea and a pastry waiting for her every morning. Even if Mrs. Teasdale was away the housekeeper made sure the breakfast was provided.
She found a soft spot at the livery for a few more hours sleep then visited saloons and stores up and down the main street offering fortunes for drinks and gratuities. By the evening she enthroned herself back at the Peachtree where for a few cents she would read her rock for you.
The townsfolk looked askance at a fortuneteller in their midst until Mrs. Teasdale started getting her own future read which made it chic among the other ladies of note. Once the best people of the town approved, it became fine for anyone to spend a few minutes with the Seeress. Ladies asked about love and men. Men asked about money, unless it was a young man who also wanted to know about love.
One night at the Peachtree, Muley Sam was panhandling the patrons trying to gather enough money for a small grub stake so he could make another foray into the hills looking for the gold vein that would make him rich. Finding himself at the Seeress' table he sat down.
"Madam," it was cute of him to be so formal. "I don't got enough to pay you, but when I strike it rich I'll pay you ten times over. Please point me in the right direction."
Recognizing a kindred spirit, she had Sam put his hand on top of the stone as she held it from both sides, she closed her eyes and looked deep into her mind. "Oh Sam, you have already found your gold mine, you just don't know it. Go where you have gone before, but do not look at the ground. Look up towards the sky. It is above from where your treasure will come." With that she removed her hands from the stone and leaned back in her chair. She never went back on her fortunes and never explained them.
By then a crowd had gathered around the table. Sam looked up and pled to the men, "There you see! I'm going to find it this time. She said so." Holding up his hat he continued, "Now who of you will take a chance on me? You want to be rich don't you?" With a few more contributed so Sam came away with enough for a few weeks of prospecting.
In a dark corner of the saloon skulked a trio of ne'er-do-wells. Joe Lynch, Pet Pough and Lark Morley. Collectively they had failed at most jobs one can do in town. Presently they were reduced to shoveling stalls, slopping hogs and cleaning chamber pots. In their depravity they were envious of just about anyone else, but especially the Seeress. They saw her as a fraud and could not understand why she was so well thought of even though she seemed just as downtrodden as they. Just as the poor will prey on the poor instead of the rich, these villains hatched a mean plan to humiliate the woman and make a buck in the process.
Near the end of one night a few days after Muley Sam's reading, the Seeress nodded off in the chair with the stone sitting in its nest on the table in front of her. The trio then put their plan into action. Joe stepped up to the table as the other two men stood in front of him shielding his actions. Silently, with a quick snatch he removed the stone and hid it under his hat. The three walked out of the bar without anyone paying attention. It was not until well past midnight when the Seeress awoke from her nap that the theft was discovered.
She found the key to the back door and bolted out into the street calling out that she was destroyed. There were not many out at that hour, but she made such a ruckus the sheriff, Billy Blowbag, was awakened, and even Mrs. Teasdale came out on her porch in her nightgown.
In the morning a folded piece of paper was found nailed to the saloon's front door. How it got there no one knew. It read:
We have the rock. If she wants it back it will cost $5000. Put the money in a strong box on the stage to Carson City. Leave it among the willows by Windy Gulch and drive away. We will return it in the box.
The stage made two runs a week and would be pulling out in two days. Spurred on by his wife, the town banker Thomas Teasdale took the lead in fund-raising. The saloons and stores all put jars up for contributions. A few adhoc raffles were organized as well.
Interestingly, no one thought to ask if the Seeress know who took her stone. If they had she would have told them that her gift of second sight only works for others and not for herself.
Amidst the hubbub she kept her rounds during these dark days, but refused all fortunes for she did not have her crystal ball. She was a vision of pity seated alone in her corner of the saloon. On the night before the stage was to leave she got up and in a circuitous route made her way to where the trio were seated. Looking down at them with her piercing eyes she said quietly, "I think you should settle for 1200, the town can do that."
They said not a word, but wore looks of wonder, fear and query. She went ahead and answered the question they were thinking. "I wouldn't be much of a seeress if I didn't know what happened to my stone or maybe I just wasn't as asleep as you thought."
Later when she met with the recovery committee and they told her they were having trouble getting the full five thousand, she closed her eyes and looked deeply into her mind. "They will take $1200 if you offer it. Just leave a note that I said it was enough."
No one questioned her vision and the next day they placed the sum in the strongbox and sent it off on the stage. Many of them sat in vigil in from of the Sheriff's office, pensive about the outcome. It was rare to have such an exciting event in our small town.
The driver dropped the box among the willows and on his return he picked it up. Noticing it had moved from where he left it, he could not help himself and lifted the lid. Sure enough, there was the fabled rock none the worse for wear.
Joy filled the town and the Seeress was very busy telling fortunes to any and all who came to see her. She accepted food and drink from her patrons but refused any money, saying they had contributed more than enough getting her beloved back for her.
Late that night she appeared at the door of the rented room over the general store that the trio shared. They opened the door and in the dim light of their oil lamp they saw her. Not with her usual gentile countenance, but with the look of pure hated. Stepping boldly into the room she addressed them right off. "So, you made some money at my expense and I want some of it."
"We earned it fair and square. You got your rock back." Joe was trying to be brave as a little water dribbled down his leg.
"I'll split it with you," she replied as a slight lessening of tension swept over the men. "I'll take a thousand."
"That only leaves us two hundred," Joe squawked.
"Yes it does and what's more you will be free to spend it. The way this town feels right now if I tell them that I had a vision and knew who took my stone there isn't a jury in this territory who'd let you get away with it. The banker will damn sure want his money back. He put up $500 of his own money. So it will be a thousand."
Being the consummate charlatan, she went on as nothing had happened, telling her fortunes and making her rounds for the next few weeks. She did notice that the novelty of having a town seer was starting to wear off.
During this whole affair Muley Sam was about his prospecting until one day in a box canyon he was picking through rocks, splitting a few with his hammer when the memory of his fortune came back to him. Taking her advice, he looked up and to his amazement there on the underside of an outcropping fifteen feet or so above was what looked like a wide vein of white quartz, perhaps containing some gold.
It took him another day to make a ladder to reach it, but when he did it took only a few swings of his hammer and he knocked off a fist size chunk of rock laden with gold. Waiting until he was back on the ground before he started jumping up and down, he quickly packed his mule, marked the location of his find and headed back to town for a positive assay and the start of his new life.
A gold strike, any gold strike is big news. There was a crowd outside the assay office all waiting for the report. The agent opened his door and read the report from the door way as the sidewalk was impassable. "It's gold all right," he announced. "Should bring about $2000 a ton."
The townsfolk lifted Muley Sam on their shoulders and paraded him around the town until they got to the Peachtree Saloon. Going inside they went up to the Seeress' table, but she was not there. As a matter of fact, she was not anywhere. Everyone searched over the next few days, but to no effect. She was gone.
No one remembered when she arrived in town. They could remember when she was not there and when she was there, but not when she came. Over time no one remembered when she left the town. They could remember when she was there and when she was not there, but not when she left.