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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

To question this female Tinkler


years since, a female, of the name of Ruthven, was in the habit of calling at a farm occupied by one of my brothers. My mother, being interested about the Gipsies, began, on one occasion, to question this female Tinkler, relative to her tribe, and, among other things, asked if she was a Gipsy. "Yes," replied Ruthven, "I am a Gipsy, and a desperate, murdering race we are. I will let you hear me speak our language, but what the better will you be of that?" She accordingly uttered a few sentences, and then said, "Now, are you any the wiser of what you have heard? But that infant," pointing to her child of about five years of age, "understands every word I speak." "I know," continued the Tinkler, "that the public are trying to find out the secrets of the Gipsies, but it is in vain." This woman further stated that her tribe would be exceedingly displeased, were it known that any of their fraternity taught their language to "strangers."[195] She also mentioned that the Gipsies believe that the laws which were enacted for their extirpation were yet in full force against them. I may mention, however, that she could put confidence in the family in whose house she made these confessions.

[195] The Gipsies are always afraid to say what they would do in such cases. Perhaps they don't know, but have only a general impression that the individual would "catch it;" or there may be some old law on the subject. What Ruthven said of her's being a desperate

race is true enough, and murderous too, among themselves as distinguished from the inhabitants generally. Her remark was evidently part of that _frightening_ policy which keeps the natives from molesting the tribe. See page 44.--ED.

On another occasion, a female, with three or four children, the eldest of whom was not above ten years of age, came up to me while speaking to an innkeeper, on a public pier on the banks of the Forth. She stated to us that her property had been burned to the ground, and her family reduced to beggary, and solicited charity of us both. After receiving a few half-pence from the innkeeper, she continued her importunities with an unusual impertinence, and hung upon me for a contribution. Her barefaced conduct displeased me. I thought I would put her to the test, and try if she was not a Gipsy. Deepening the tone of my voice, I called out to her, in an angry manner, "_Sallah, jaw drom_"--("Curse you, take the road.") The woman instantly wheeled about, uttered not another word, but set off, with precipitation; and so alarmed were her children, that they took hold of her clothes, to hasten and pull her out of my presence; calling to her, at the same time, "Mother, mother, come away." Mine host, the innkeeper, was amazed at the effectual manner in which I silenced and dismissed the importunate and troublesome beggars. He was anxious that I should teach him the unknown words that had so terrified the poor Gipsies; with the design, it appeared to me, of frightening others, should they molest him with their begging. Had I not proved this family by the language, it was impossible for any one to perceive that the group were Gipsies.

In prosecuting my enquiries into the existence of the Gipsy language, I paid a visit to Lochgellie, once the residence of four or five families of Gipsies, as already mentioned, and procured an interview with young Andrew Steedman, a member of the tribe. At first, he appeared much alarmed, and seemed to think I had a design to do him harm. His fears, however, were in a short while calmed; and, after much reluctance, he gave me the following words and expressions, with the corresponding English significations. Like a true Gipsy, the first expression which he uttered, as if it came the readiest to him, was, "_Choar a chauvie_"--("rob that person") which he pronounced with a smile on his countenance.

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