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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Yet they seem to prefer thimbling


On this occasion, there were no less than fourteen of these fellows present, some of them stationed here, some there, while they kept artfully moving around and about the hill, so as not to appear connected, but frequently approached the board, to contribute to and watch their luck. They personated various characters. One of them played the country lout, whose dress, gait, gape, and stare were inimitable. On the slightest symptom of danger manifesting itself, they would, by the movement of a hat, scatter, and vanish in an instant.

Among the people generally, a mystery attaches to these and other thimble-men. No one seems to know any thing about them--who they are or where they come from--and yet they are seen flitting everywhere through the country; but hardly ever two days together in one dress. But the mystery is solved by their being Gipsies. They are dangerous fellows to meddle with; yet they seem to prefer thimbling, chain-dropping, card-playing, pocket-picking, in fairs and thoroughfares, and pigeon-plucking in every form, to robbery on the high-way, after the manner of their ancestors.

Thimble-rigging, according to Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson, was practised in ancient Egypt. He calls it "thimble-rig, or the game of cups, under which a ball was put, while the opposite party guessed under which of four it was concealed."--ED.

The

Gipsies in Scotland consider themselves to be of the same stock as those in England and Ireland, for they are all acquainted with the same speech. They afford assistance to one another, whenever they happen to meet. The following facts will at least show that the Scottish and Irish Gipsies are one and the same people.

In the county of Fife, I once fell in with an Irish family, to appearance in great poverty and distress, resting themselves on the side of the public road. A shelty and an ass were grazing hard by. The ass they used in carrying a woman, who, they said, was a hundred and one years of age. She was shrunk and withered to a skeleton, or rather, I should say, to a bundle of bones; and her chin almost rested on her knees, and her body was nearly doubled by age. On interrogating the head of the family, I found that his name was Hugh White, and that he was an Irishman, and a son of the old woman who was with him. I put some Gipsy words to him, to ascertain whether or not he was one of the tribe. He pretended not to understand what I said; but his daughter, of about six years of age, replied, "But I understand what he says." I then called out sharply to him, "_Jaw vree_"--("Go away," or "get out of the way.") "As soon as I can," was his answer. On leaving him, I again called, "_Beenship-davies_"--("Good-day.") "Good-day, sir; God bless you," was his immediate reply.

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