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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

And said the Tinklers had no such language


[203] These sixteen farms embraced about 25,000 acres of mountainous land, maintained 13,000 sheep, 100 goats, 250 cattle, 50 horses, 20 draught-oxen, and 60 dogs; 29 shepherds, 26 other servants, and 15 cotters, making, with their families, 228 souls, supported by my ancestor's property, as that of a Scotch gentleman-farmer. On the farms mentioned, which lay in Mid-Lothian, Tweed-dale, and Selkirkshire, the Gipsies were allowed to remain as long as they pleased; and no loss was ever sustained by the indulgence.

Several persons in the tent, (it being one of the public booths in the market,) who were not Gipsies, were equally surprised, when they observed an understanding immediately take place between me and the Tinklers, by means of a few words, the meaning of which they could not comprehend. A farmer, from the south of Scotland, who was present in the tent, and had that morning given the Tinklers a lamb to eat, met me, some days after, on the banks of the Yarrow. He shook his head, and observed, with a smile, "Yon was queer-looking wark wi' the Tinklers."

As I was anxious to penetrate to his secret speech, I resolved to keep the appointment with the Gipsy, whatever might be the result of our meeting, and I therefore proceeded to the town which he mentioned, eleven days after I had seen him at the fair. On enquiring of the landlord of the principal inn, at which I put up my horse, where the house

of ----, the Tinkler, was situated in the town, he appeared surprised, and eyed me all over. He told me the street, but said he would not accompany me to the house, thinking that I wished him to go with me. It was evident that the landlord, whom I never saw before, considered himself in bad company, in spite of my black clothes, black neck-cloth, and ruffles aforesaid, and was determined not to be seen on the street, either with me or the Tinkler. I told him I by no means wished him to accompany me, but only to tell me in what part of the town the Tinkler's house was to be found.

On entering the house, I found the old chief sitting, without his coat, with an old night-cap on his head, a leathern apron around his waist, and all covered with dust or soot, employed in making spoons from horn. After conversing with him for a short time, I reminded him of the ancient language with which he was acquainted. He assumed a grave countenance, and said the Tinklers had no such language, adding, at the same time, that I should not trouble myself about such matters. He stoutly denied all knowledge of the Tinkler language, and said no such tongue existed in Scotland, except a few cant words. I persisted in asserting that they were actually in possession of a secret language, and again tried him with a few of my words; but to no purpose. All my efforts produced no effect upon his obstinacy. At this stage of my interview, I durst not mention the word Gipsy, as they are exceedingly alarmed at being known as Gipsies. I now signified that he had forfeited his promise, given me at the fair, and rose to leave him. At this remark, I heard a man burst out a-laughing, behind a partition that ran across the apartment in which we were sitting. The old man likewise started to his feet, and, with both his sooty hands, took hold of the breast of my coat, on either side, and, in this attitude, examined me closely, scanning me all over from head to foot. After satisfying himself, he said, "Now, give me a hold of your hand--farewell--I will know you when I see you again." I bade him good-day, and left the house.[204]


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