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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

When the chief Gipsies continued encamped


These

bands did not repeat their visits above twice a year, but in many instances the principal families remained for three or four weeks at a time. From their manner and conduct generally, they seemed to think that they had a right to receive, from the family on whose grounds they halted, food gratis for twenty-four hours; for, at the end of that period, they almost always provided victuals for themselves, however long they might remain on the farm. The servants of my grandfather, when these large bands arrived, frequently put on the kitchen fire the large family _kail-pot_, of the capacity of thirty-two Scotch pints, or about sixteen gallons, to cook victuals for these wanderers.

The first announcement of the approach of a Gipsy band was the chief female, with, perhaps, a child on her back, and another walking at her feet. The chieftain himself, with his asses and baggage, which he seldom quits, is, perhaps, a mile and a half in the rear, baiting his beasts of burden, near the side of the road, waiting the return and report of his quarter-mistress. This chief female requests permission for her _gude-man_ and _weary bairns_ to take up their quarters for the night, in an old out-house. Knowing perfectly the disposition of the individual from whom she asks lodgings, she is seldom refused. A farmer's wife, whom I knew, on granting this indulgence to a female in advance of her band, added, by way of caution, "but ye must not steal anything from me, then."

"We'll no' play ony tricks on you, mistress; but others will pay for that," was the Gipsy's reply.

Instead, however, of the chief couple and a child or two, the out-house, before nightfall, or next morning, will perhaps contain from twenty to thirty individuals of all ages and sexes. The different members of the horde are observed to arrive at head-quarters as single individuals, in twos, and in threes; some of the females with baskets on their arms, some of the males with fishing-rods in their hands, trout creels on their backs, and large dogs at their heels. The same rule is observed when the camp breaks up. The old chief and two or three of his family generally take the van. The other members of the band linger about the old house in which they have been quartered, for several days after the chiefs are gone; they, however, move off, in small parties of twos or as single individuals, on different days, till the whole horde gradually disappear. Above three grown-up Gipsies are seldom seen travelling together. In this manner have the Gipsies traversed the kingdom, concealing their numbers from public observation, and only appearing in large bands on the grounds of those individuals of the community who were not disposed to molest them. On such occasions, when the chief Gipsies continued encamped, they would be visited by small parties of their friends, arriving and departing almost daily.

Excepting that of sometimes allowing their asses to go, under night, into the barn-yard, as if it were by accident, to draw the stacks of corn, it is but fair and just to state, that I am not aware of a single Gipsy ever having injured the property of any of my relatives in Tweed-dale, although their opportunities were many and tempting. My ancestor's extensive business required him, almost daily, to travel, on horseback, over the greater part of the south of Scotland; and he was often under the necessity of exposing himself, by riding at night, yet he never received the slightest molestation, to his knowledge, from the Gipsies. They were as inoffensive and harmless as lambs to him, and to every one connected with his family. Whenever they beheld him, every head was uncovered, while they would exclaim, "There is Mr. Simson; God bless him, honest man!" And woe would have been to that man who would have dared to treat him badly, had these determined wanderers been present.


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