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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The Gipsies were much disconcerted


[142] It appears, from Vidocq's memoirs, that the Gipsies on the continent changed their apparel, so as they could not again be recognized: "At break of day everybody was on foot, and the general toilet was made. But for their (the Gipsies') prominent features, their raven-black tresses, and oily and tanned skins, I should scarcely have recognized my companions of the preceding evening. The men, clad in rich jockey Holland vests, with leathern sashes like those worn by the men of Poirsy, and the women, covered with ornaments of gold and silver, assumed the costume of Zealand peasants; even the children, whom I had seen covered with rags, were neatly clothed, and had an entirely different appearance. All soon left the house, and took different directions, that they might not reach the market place together, where the country-people were assembled in crowds."--Vidocq had lodged all night in a ruinous house, with a band of Gipsies.

My father, when a young lad, noticed a large band of Gipsies taking up their quarters one night in an old out-house on a farm occupied by his father. The band had never been observed on the farm before, and seemed all to be strangers, with, altogether, a very ragged and miserable appearance. Next morning, a little after breakfast, as the band began to pack up their baggage, and load their asses, preparatory to proceeding on their journey, the youth, out of curiosity, went forward to see the horde decamp. Among other articles of luggage, he observed a large and heavy sack put upon one of the asses; and, as the Gipsies were fastening it upon the back of the animal, the mouth of it burst open, and the greater part of its contents fell upon the ground. He was not a little surprised when he beheld a great many excellent cocked hats, suits of fine green clothes, great-coats, &c.; with several handsome saddles and bridles, tumble out of the bag. At this unexpected accident, the Gipsies were much disconcerted. By some strange expressions and odd man[oe]uvres, they endeavoured to drive the boy from their presence, and otherwise engage his attention, to prevent him observing the singular furniture contained in the unlucky sack. By thus carrying along with them these superior articles, so unlike their ordinary wretched habiliments, the ingenious Gipsies had it always in their power to disguise themselves, whenever circumstances called for it. The following anecdote will, in some measure, illustrate the "gallant guise" in which these wanderers, at one time, rode through Scotland:

About the year 1768, early in the morning of the day of a fair, held annually at Peebles, in the month of May, two gentlemen were observed riding along the only road that led to my grandfather's farm. One of the servant girls was immediately told to put the parlour in order, to receive the strangers, as, from their respectable appearance, at a distance, it was supposed they were friends, coming to breakfast, before going to the market; a custom common enough in the country. This preparation, however, proved unnecessary, as the strangers rode rapidly past the dwelling-house, and alighted at the door of an old smearing-house, nearly roofless, situated near some alder trees, about three hundred yards further up a small mountain stream. In passing, they were observed to be neatly dressed in long green coats, cocked hats, riding-boots and spurs, armed with broad-swords, and mounted on handsome grey ponies, saddled and bridled; everything, in short, in style, and of the best quality. The people about the farm were extremely curious to know who these handsomely-attired gentlemen could be, who, without taking the least notice of any one, dismounted at the wretched hovel of a sheep-smearing house, where nothing but a band of Tinklers were quartered. Their curiosity, however, was soon satisfied, and not a little mirth was excited, on it being ascertained that the gallant horsemen were none other than James and William Baillie, sons of old Matthew Baillie, who, with part of his tribe, were, at the moment, in the old house, making horn spoons. But greater was their surprise, when several of the female Gipsies set out, immediately afterwards, for the fair, attired in very superior dresses, with the air of ladies in the middle ranks of society.[143]


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