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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

A Gipsy informed me that almost all our thimble riggers


While

walking one day, with a friend, around the harbour of Grangemouth, I observed a man, who appeared above seventy years of age, carrying a small wooden box on his shoulder, a leathern apron tied around his waist, with a whitish coloured bull-dog following him. He was enquiring of the crews of the vessels in the port, whether they had any pots, kettles, or pans to repair. Just as my friend and I came up to him, on the quay, I said to him, in a familiar manner, as if I knew exactly what he was, "_Baurie jucal_," words which signify, in the Gipsy language, a "good dog." Being completely taken by surprise, the old man turned quickly round, and, looking down at his dog, said, without thinking what he was about, "Yes, the dog is not bad." But the words had scarcely escaped his lips ere he affected not to comprehend my question, after he had distinctly answered it. He looked exceedingly foolish, and afforded my friend a hearty laugh, at his attempt at recovering himself. He became agitated and angry, and called out, "What do you mean? I don't understand you--yes, the dog is _hairy_." I said not another word, nor took any further notice of him, but passed on, in case of provoking him to mischief. He stood stock-still upon the spot, and, keeping his eyes fixed upon me, as long as I was in sight, appeared to be considering with himself what I could be, or whether he might not have seen me before. He looked so surprised and alarmed, that he could scarcely trust himself in the place, since
he found, to a certainty, that his grand secret was known. I saw him a short while afterwards, at a little distance, with his glasses on, sitting on the ground, in the manner of the East, with his hammers and files, tin and copper, about him, repairing cooking utensils belonging to a vessel in the basin; with his trusty _jucal_, sitting close at his back, like a sentinel, to defend him. The truth is, I was not very fond of having anything further to do with this member of the tribe, in case he had resented my interference with him and his speech. This old man wore a long great-coat, and externally looked exactly like a blacksmith. No one of ordinary observation could have perceived him to be a Gipsy; as there were no striking peculiarities of expression about his countenance, which indicated him as being one of that race. I was surprised at my own discovery.

A Gipsy informed me that almost all our thimble-riggers, or "thimble-men," as they are sometimes called, are a superior class of Gipsies, and converse in the Gipsy language. In the summer of 1836, an opportunity presented itself to me to verify the truth of this information. On a by-road, between Edinburgh and Newhaven, I fell in with a band of these thimble-riggers, employed at their nefarious occupation. The band consisted of six individuals, all personating different characters of the community. Some had the appearance of mercantile clerks, and others represented young farmers, or dealers in cattle, of inferior appearance. The man in charge of the board and thimbles looked like a journeyman blacksmith or plumber. They all pretended to be strangers to each other. Some were betting and playing, and others looking on, and acting as decoys. None


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