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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

As I did not really think she was a Gipsy


I spoke in a sharp manner to some of the old women, on the high-road, by way of testing them, they would quicken their paces, look over their shoulders, and call out, in much bitterness of spirit, "You are no gentleman, sir, otherwise you would not insult us in that way." On one occasion, I observed a woman with her son, who appeared about twelve years of age, lingering near a house at which they had no business, and I desired her, rather sharply, to leave the place, telling her that I was afraid her chauvie was a _chor_--(that her son was a thief). I used these two words merely to see what effect they would have upon her, as I did not really think she was a Gipsy. She instantly flew into a dreadful passion, telling me that I had been among thieves and robbers myself, otherwise I could not speak to her in such words as these. She threatened to go to Edinburgh, to inform the police that I was the head and captain of a band of thieves,[193] and that she would have me immediately apprehended as such. Four sailors who were present with me were astonished at the sudden wrath and insolence of the woman, as they could not perceive any provocation she had received from me--being ignorant of the meaning of the words _chauvie_ and _chor_, which I applied to her boy.

[193] This woman evidently mistook our author for a Gipsy _gent_, such as he is described at page 169.--ED.

One day I fell in by chance, on a lonely part

of the old public road, on the hills within half a mile of the village of North Queensferry, with a woman of about twenty-seven years of age, and the mother, as she said, of seven children. She had light hair, blue eyes, and a fair complexion. The youngest of her children appeared to be about nine months old, and the eldest about ten years. The mother was dressed in a brown cloak, and the group had altogether a very squalid appearance. In the most lamentable tone of voice, she informed me that her husband had set off with another woman, and left her and her seven children to starve; and that he had been lately employed at a paper-mill in Mid-Lothian. She sometimes appeared almost to choke with grief, but, nevertheless, I observed no tears in her eyes. She often repeated, in a sort of hypocritical and canting manner, "The Lord has been very kind to me, and will still protect me and my helpless babes. Last night we all slept in the open fields, and gathered peas and beans from the stubble for our suppers." She certainly seemed to be in very indigent circumstances; but that her husband had abandoned her, I did not credit. However, I gave her a few half-pence, for which she thanked me very civilly. From her extravagant behaviour, and a peculiar wildness in her looks, it occurred to me that she belonged to the lowest caste of Gipsies, although her appearance did not indicate it; that her grief was, for the most part, feigned, and that the story of her husband having abandoned her was got up merely to excite pity, for the purpose of procuring a little money for the subsistence of her band. I now put a number of questions to her, relative to many individuals whom I knew were Gipsies of a superior class, taking care not to call them by that name, in case of alarming her. I spoke to her as if I had been quite intimate with all the persons I was enquiring about. She gave me satisfactory answers to almost every question, and seemed well acquainted with every individual I named. She now appeared quite calm and collected, and answered me very gravely. But she said that some of the men I mentioned were rogues, and that their wives played many clever tricks. On mentioning the tricks of the wives, I noticed a smile come over her countenance. I observed to her that they were not faultless, but that they were often blamed for crimes of which they were not guilty. Upon perceiving that I took their

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