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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Grellmann on the Hungarian Gipsies


practised music; and the violin and bag-pipes were the instruments they commonly used. This musical talent of the Gipsies delighted the country-people; it operated like a charm upon their feelings, and contributed much to procure the wanderers a night's quarters. Many of the families of the farmers looked forward to the expected visits of the merry Gipsies with pleasure, and regretted their departure. Some of the old women sold salves and drugs, while some of the males had pretensions to a little surgery. One of them, of the name of Campbell, well known by the title of Dr. Duds, traversed the south of Scotland, accompanied by a number of women. He prescribed, and sold medicines to the inhabitants; and several odd stories are told of the very unusual, but successful, cures performed by him.

As in arranging for, and taking up, their quarters, the principal female Gipsy almost always negotiates the transactions which the horde have with the farmer's family, during their abode on his premises. Indeed, the females are the most active, if not the principal, members of the tribe, in vending their articles of merchandise. The time at which, on such occasions, they present these for sale, is the day after their arrival on the farm, and immediately after the breakfast of the farmer's family is over. When there are more families than one in the band, but all of one horde, the chief female of the whole gets the first chance of selling her wares; but every

head female of the respective families bargains for her own merchandise, for the behoof of her own family. When the farmer's family is in want of any of their articles, an extraordinary higgling and chaffering takes place in making the bargain. Besides money, the Gipsy woman insists upon having what she calls her "boontith"--that is, a present in victuals, as she is fond of bartering her articles for provisions. If the mistress of the house agrees, and goes to her larder or milk-house for the purpose of giving her this boontith, the Gipsy is sure to follow close at her heels. Admitted into the larder, the voracious Tinkler will have part of everything she sees--flesh, meal, butter, cheese, &c., &c. Her fiery and penetrating eye darts, with rapidity, from one object to another. She makes use of every argument she can think of to induce the farmer's wife to comply with her unreasonable demands. "I'm wi' bairn, mistress," she will say; "I'm greenin'; God bless ye, gie me a wee bit flesh to taste my mouth, if it should no' be the book o' a robin-red-breast."[148] If the farmer's wife still disregards her importunities, the Gipsy will, in the end, snatch up a piece of flesh, and put it into her lap, in a twinkling; for out of the larder she will not go, without something or other. The farmer's wife, ever on the alert, now takes hold of the _sorner_, to wrest the flesh from her clutches, when a serious personal struggle ensues. She will frequently be under the necessity of calling for the assistance of her servants, to thrust the intruder out of the apartment; but the cautious Gipsy takes care not to let matters go too far: she yields the contest, and, laughing heartily at the good-wife losing her temper, immediately assumes her ordinary polite manner. And notwithstanding all that has taken place, both parties generally part on good terms.

[148] After recovery from child-birth, the Gipsy woman recommences her course of begging or stealing, with her child in her arms; and then she is more rapacious than at other times, taking whatever she can lay her hands upon. For she calculates upon escaping without a beating, by holding up her child to receive the blows aimed at her; which she knows will have the effect of making the aggrieved person desist, till she finds an opportunity of getting out of the way.--_Grellmann on the Hungarian Gipsies._--ED.

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