Ann Arbor's Sybil
[The followlng very neatly wrltten nlry nrst appeared In the St. Louis tilobe-Uemocrat, but is out from the columns of the Emmiteburg (M1.) Chronlcle. There Is Just euough trutu about It to glve lt splce. Vis .IiiUiisiiii, who a qulet, sensible, hard-worklng colored woman, wlll probably be surprïsed to flnd herself the heroïne of so thrllllng a tale, and the people of Ann Arbor, hundreds of whora never saw even the outslde of her house In thelr llves, wlll be also surprlsed to flnd tliat they are so under her influence. Mrs. Johnson la quite lammis as a fortune teller, that's true, but her custora comes almost eotlrely frora people who come here from abroad, as dld the writer of the followlng story.]- Kd. Couiusr. A correspondent of Mie St. Louis GlobeDcmocrnt writes from Ann Arljor : "Cup-and Saucer Hollow" lies bctween Cup-and-Siucer Uil Is. It isadeep hollow, thpugh nol targe In dimensionsotherwise, On the nortli i-lde Cup Hill forms an abrupt bluft'. Opposite, its companion mound is steep enough, as all will say who try. to climb it, and it breuk a.v.iy n little depresslona and guilles feeble iinitations of the liollow itself. Thls peaceful, qulet spnt is heinmed in on three des by instit utions of learning, by homes ot' men advanecd in all the sclenppb, In culture and in enliglitenment. They guard Cup-and-Saucer IIollow all about, and it would seem their intluence must be telt on Cup-and-Saucer Hollow rsilonts and vlsitors if anywhere outside of university walls. Yet In tlii? j)lace superstltion is nrmed mul fostered to tlie exclusión of all else. In it is the Minne at. which huif Ann Arbor residents worship, aud the oracle which the other half consult. Fortune9 are told bare, and student, resident!', visitors, all look up Cup-and-Saucer Hollow as a place to visit - sotne out of curiosity, more from fuperstitious belief. There is but one house in the hollow. It is a long, low building of frame, standing almost against the bluff of Cup Hill and whitewashed glistening white. So maiked a spot is it In the otherwise anbroken depression that casual visitors do uot notice liow bent is the ridge pole and roof, telling silently of very many years ot' ge. There is a little yard vergrown witli rank flower bushes and shrubs, enHo-ed by a broken, unpalnted fence. Witlun two blocks of the univereiry one may turn abrtiptly from the wlde street uto a footpath and follow it along the side hill, down Cup-and-Saucer IIollow and up to the very door of the whitewashed house. It is a well-worn path, not a stray blade of gr.iss venturing there for the many feet that pass to and fro. And one may elroll alonjr it and be seen by few from any direction. Wliere there are damp places In wet weather boards have been placed &CT0M, and one may go down to the little house dry shod. The houie is that of Mrs. William Johnson, "fortune teller,' though no sign embellishes it, nor is one needod. Everybody who ever vlsited Ann Arbor knows of her. There is a Mr. William Johnson, a worthless sort of fellow and a hackilriver, who is not often found at home, nor is lic wanted there much. Mrs. Johnson has two daiighters aud several graudchlldren, who make their home with lier. She is a colored woman, but not black. lier skin is a muddy chocolate as to color, yet not so muddy but that a good slzed collection of freckles is visible. She 1b of medium height nnd of great avoirdupois. Her hair grows long, but it Is deeidedly crinkly and there is so much gray in it that it looks substantlally mist-llke. A loo?e calicó wrapper is her favorite dres. Her face is not striking enough to scarce deserve description. It is round and full, the eves brown and mail. She speaks wlth scarcely a trace f tlie negro dialect but more with a Yankee twung. She uses good iMgMSe - and why shouldu't sbe, having had for years as her callera university studonU, if nol the professors and the culture of Ann Arbor, as well as the contrary f It is a fact that thlsold colored woman, living almost within the shadow of the University of Michigan, has po lirmly founded and rooted superstltloii In the hearts of the people here that she is a power a'uinst all the tciichings of the iustitution. Her utleianees reeelve the gravett attentlon, and herpredlctlons tlnd almost universal belief. She issougbt by old and younr, cultured and uncultured, student and visitor. She preseuts the unheard of precedent of an ignorunt woman setting herself up against all the light of science, and holding a following as great almost as the universlty ltself Ann Arbor people, when they ndmit at all that they vbit the fortune teller, say that they do so out of mere curiosity, a pleasant adventure, a whiling away of the time. Believe in her they say they do not. Yet it is a fact that they do, and ingtead of joiDg once to satlsfy curiosity, they go many times as they believe that the future is to be revealed. Mrs. Johnson lias practiced her nrt - her succe&B certalnly entitles her profession to that title In many eyes - for long j-ears, .and it would be strange If the widestguesser should not strike correctly some future happenings when telling from five to lifty fortunes every day. Mrs. Johnson has been very shrewd, or tricky, or both. She has, lt must be admitted, picked out events in past Uves of inany, whether uy mere accident, or shrewd inquiry, or qulck readingof counteuance, is known only to herself, but she has done it correctly on more tban one occasion or a score of thetn. Bhe has done thls for almost total strangers to the place, whose names she did not know, and of whose lives she must have been in absolute Ignorance. Thls phenomenal good luck on Mrs. Johnson's part would natu rally make the same siraners look on her predictlons for the future with a Uirking curiosity ns to the outcomc, If not with an absolute belief in their verillcation. Thtii, :ij;iín, Mrs. Johnson has been lucky In her iirophesylng. Of all the dcaths she has predicted somc have come true, of all the marriages doubtless many more. She has hit accldents correctly on occasions, has told of separations and reunited affectlons, aud k:'1'1I"ÍÍ constantly of affairs of this everyday world has Int thls and that with more or less exactnefes. Otie thing about Mrs. Johnson, which carries weieht with many, is her uuqualilied belief in the correctness of her own utteraiK.rs. She is superstitious down to the veiy uiarrow in her bone?, and when the carils ay a thing Bhe wlll not take it back. Telling a fortune only the othor tlay to one who visiteu her tor the purpohe of this ehapter, she struck squarely and correctly updn b block from the moaaic of the past. She could not have told from liis look?, even had hc changed cou ii ten ai: cc the slightest, that she was right, for lie was turned away nt the time. He looked around and askcd : "Nou-, ureii't you mistaken u that polnt? Dtd not the person have üght hair? " " Well," she sald, with nauch earnestnest, "t scems to inc just as I told you. I may be mistaken. I ain't ahvaysright. But Mire, the person had dark huir. Thït'i all I eau teil you." " Well, you re mistaken," was the excutable lie, cousidering the lies expeeted. "Now, as to the third person. You're mistaken about that." "Well.sir, I may be, but that's just what the cards teil. I can't cb&nge tlii'in. And I ain't always right." This hlttlng the trnth occaalonally has brought to Mrs. Jolinson a clientage that oxtenils across the continent, and there are few university studenU scattered broadcast who do not remember her uhrill, sharp-spoken voice as she leaned over her carda and told their fortunes for good or 111, And how maiiy of them belitved her. How many have consulted her on matters of college lifc, of business of love affáln. How innny have paid their last vlsit in Aun Albor to Mrs. Johnson, the fortune teller. Throwing scienoe to the wind, or how mMny !n whom therc is, as with us all, a seed of 8Upertition, bas Mra. Jolinson' sybilitic utlerances not had effect. It has been noted long ago that there is a prevalent lack of courage, especially among persons of superior culture and Intelligenoe, as to iinparling their own psychologica) experienoea. As to Mrs. Johnson, most men aro nf rnid to repeal what she hns told them over a pack of well-tliumed oards, for they migi:t be euspeeted or laughed at. Studente consult lier during a four years' course, go out in the World, and wliatever inflitence Mrs. Jolinson had is lost, though she is not lorrotten. And dm ing tlie recent semi-eentennial celebratlon of the foundlug of tlie unlyerslty many gray-haired men went dowil tlie beaten path, away from the halls of leuning, into CupandSauoer liollciw and to Mrs. Johnson, quite satistud in their own niinds of her ability to read the future, yct not daring to lisp a word. And if niet by acquaiutances there was a confused explanation of something about "curiosity," "younger days," "absurd, you know," and the likc. Ï5ut it is tipon residents of Ann Arbor where Mrs. Johnson iias her real giip. They Inclode Iusines9 and professional men, thair wives and children, and all the better element of society. A good paitof Ann Arbor people are run by Mrs. Johnson, of poor, half-barren. Cup and-Saneer Hollow. They go to her iu all the trials and illa of llfe. It seeim preposterous that such a state of afliiis can exist in a university town, but need not stay here long to lind it out. There are some exceptions, it is true, but the mass of the people go to Mrs. Johnson's luaithstone believing. Her mctliod of fortune-telling isa very simple one. She has no dark room, no mirrors, no awe-inspiring snrroundings. Slie doesn't pretend to conjure up auything, nor to go into a state of trance. She never learned the c.ird, she says. Fortune-telling came to her as a gift, and one's fortune is long or short, according to the length of the pane. Mrs. Johnson doesn't hesitate, in the dull slimmer íeason, to teil a short fortune for live cents. Uut put half a dollar Into her big hand and she will teil just as long a fortune as you want. Her "proporties" consist of a pack of cards. These she shulll.s and the scarcher into futurity cuts and cuts again. This is gone over many times with a wUh for cach cut and a reading of the wish. As she talks of the past or future no matter if a theusund times removed from tho trut lt, the oíd .fortune teller is intert'Sting. Slie believes what slie eays, shc has a pretly good coinmand of language, and guts off pat expressions In describing individuals which are quite taking. With all the studcuts gono Ann Arbor gives her support, and she claims to never teil less than half a dozen fortunes in a day. Oi her powers she Is not at all van, rather deprecating any praise, yet no doubt secretly delighted to liear it. It you have serious business hanging tire in Ann Arbor; if you have a swcetlieart there; if you contémplate making any move known to and haring any bearing on any Ann Arbor resident, ten chances to one Mrs. Johnson has been consulted on the matter. Thus far has superstition galned its hold from Mrs. Johnsou's fortune-tellitig. And all the tune, reniember, this is a unlvertlty town, the seat of the pride of Michigan, the home of the greatest advaucement and bighest science, yet a place where enliylitenment and superstition seem to go hand in hand down the deep worn path iuto Caiipand-Siucer Hollow.
Ann Arbor Courier