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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Stewart will give our speech to nobody


[204] I am convinced the Gipsies have a method of communicating with one another by their hands and fingers, and it is likely this man tried me, in that way, both at the fair and in his own house. I know a man who has seen the Gipsies communicating their thoughts to each other in this way.

"Bargains among the Indians are conducted in the most profound silence, and by merely touching each other's hands. If the seller takes the whole hand, it implies a thousand rupees or pagodas; five fingers import five hundred; one finger, one hundred; half a finger, fifty; a single joint only ten. In this manner, they will often, in a crowded room, conclude the most important transactions, without the company suspecting that anything whatever was doing."--_Historical Account of Travels in Asia, by Hugh Murray._

"_Method of the English selling their cargoes, at Jedda, to the Turks_: Two Indian brokers come into the room to settle the price, one on the part of the Indian captain, the other on that of the buyer or Turk. They are neither Mahommedans nor Christians, but have credit with both. They sit down on the carpet, and take an Indian shawl, which they carry on their shoulders like a napkin, and spread it over their hands. They talk, in the meantime, indifferent conversation, of the arrival of ships from India, or of the news of the day, as if they were employed in no serious business

whatever. After about twenty minutes spent in handling each other's fingers, below the shawl, the bargain is concluded, say for nine ships, without one word ever having been spoken on the subject, or pen or ink used in any shape whatever."--_Bruce's Travels._

I had now no hope of obtaining any information from this man, regarding his peculiar language. I had scarcely, however, proceeded a hundred yards down the street, from the house, when I was overtaken by a young female, who requested me to return, to speak with her father. I immediately complied. On reaching the door, with the girl, I met one of the old man's sons, who said that he had overheard what passed between his father and me, in the house. He assured me that his father _was ashamed to give me his language_; but that, if I would promise not to publish their names, or place of residence, he would himself give me some of their speech, if his father still persevered in his refusal. I accordingly agreed not to make public the names, and place of residence, of the family. I again entered the little factory of horn spoons. Matters were now, to all appearance, quite changed. The old man was very cheerful, and seemed full of mirth. "Come away," said he; "what is this you are asking after? I would advise you to go to Mr. Stewart, at Hawick, and he will tell you everything about our language." "Father," said the son, who had resumed his place behind the partition before mentioned, "you know that Mr. Stewart will give our speech to nobody." The old chief again hesitated and considered, but, being urged by his son and myself, he, at last, said, "Come away, then; I will tell you whatever you think proper to ask me. I gave you my oath, at the fair, to do so. Get out your paper, pen and ink, and begin." He gave me no other oath, at the fair, than his word, and taking me by the hand, that he would converse with me regarding the speech of the Tinklers. But, I believe, joining hands is considered an oath in some countries of the Eastern world. I was fully convinced, however, that he was _ashamed to give me his speech_, and that it was with the greatest reluctance he spoke one word on the subject. The following are the words and sentences which I collected from him:[205]


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