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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

And I yet recollect your words were Chee


besides themselves were present,

except myself, a young lad, and a respectable-looking elderly female. I stood and looked at the band for a little; but as nobody was playing but themselves, the man with the thimbles, to lead me on, urged me to bet with him, and try my fortune at his board. I said I did not intend to play, and was only looking at them. I took a steady look at the faces of each of the six villains; but, whenever their eyes caught mine, they looked away, or down to the ground, verifying the saying that a rogue cannot look you in the face. The man at the board again urged me to play, and, with much vapouring and insolence, took out a handful of notes, and said he had many hundreds a year; that I was a poor, shabby fellow, and had no money on me, and, therefore, could not bet with him. I desired him to let me alone, otherwise I would let them see I was not to be insulted, and that I knew more about them than they were aware of. "Who the devil are you, sir, to speak to us in that manner," was the answer I received. I again replied, that, if they continued their insolence, I would show them who I was. This only provoked them the more, and encreased their violent behaviour. High words then arose, and the female alluded to, thinking I was in danger, kindly entreated me to leave them. I now thought it time to try what effect my Gipsy words would produce upon them. In an authoritative tone of voice, I called out to them, "_Chee, chee!_" which, in the Scottish Gipsy language, signifies "Hold your tongue,"
"be silent," or "silence."[213] The surprised thimble-men were instantly silent. They spoke not a word, but looked at one another. Only, one of them whispered to his companions, "He is not to be meddled with." They immediately took up their board, thimbles and all, and left the place, apparently in considerable alarm, some taking one direction and some another. The female in question was also surprised at seeing their insolent conduct repressed, in a moment, by a single expression. "But, sir," said she, "what was that you said to them, for they seem afraid?" I was myself afraid to say another word to them, and took care they did not see me go to my dwelling-house.[214]

[213] A lady, who had been seventeen years in India, told me that "_Chee_, _chee_" was, in Hindostanee, an expression of reproof, corresponding exactly with our "Fie, shame!" "Oh fie, shame!"

[214] About four years after this occurrence, I was invited to dine at the house of a friend, with whose wife I was not acquainted. On being introduced to her, I was rather surprised at the repeated hard looks which she took at me. At last she said, "I think I have seen you before. Were you never engaged with a band of thimble-men, near Newhaven?" I said I was, some years ago. "Do you recollect," continued she, "of a female taking you by the arm, and urging you to leave them?" I said, "Perfectly." "Well, then, I am the female; and I yet recollect your words were _Chee, chee_." She mentioned the circumstance to her husband at the time; but he always said to her that I must have been only one of the blackguards themselves, deceiving her. He would not listen to her when she described me as not at all like a thimble-rigger, but always answered her, "I tell ye, woman, the man you spoke to was nothing but one of these villains."


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