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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Relative to this Gipsy jeweller


Some

of the itinerant venders of inferior sorts of jewelry, part of which they also manufacture, and carry about in boxes on their shoulders, are of the tribe; and some of them even carry these articles in small, handsome, light-made carts. I had frequently observed, in my neighbourhood, a very smart-looking and well-dressed man, who, with his wife and family, and a servant to take care of his children, travelled the country, in a neat, light cart, selling jewelry. All the family were well dressed. I was curious to know the origin of this man, and, upon enquiring of one of the tribe, but of a different clan, I found that he was a Gipsy, of the name of Robertson, descended from the old _horners_ who traversed the kingdom, about half a century ago. He still retained the speech, peculiar dance, and manner of handling the cudgel, the practices and roguish tricks of his ancestors. I believe he also practised chain-dropping. To show the line of life which some of the descendants of the old style of Gipsies are now pursuing, in Scotland, I will give the following anecdote, which I witnessed, relative to this Gipsy jeweller.

I happened to be conversing, about twenty years ago, with four or five individuals, on a public quay in Fifeshire, when a smart, well-dressed sailor, apparently of the rank of a mate, obtruded himself on our company. He said he was "a sailor, and had spent all his money in a frolic, as many thoughtless sailors had done;" and, pulling

out a watch, he continued, "he would give his gold watch for a mere trifle, to supply his immediate wants." One of the company at once thought he was an impostor, and told him his watch was not gold at all, and worth very little money. "Not worth much money!" he exclaimed; "why, I paid not less than ten francs for it, in France, the other day!" At this assertion, all present burst out a laughing at the impostor's ignorance in exposing his own trick. "Why, friend," said a ship-master, who was one of the company, "a franc is only worth tenpence; so you have paid just eight and fourpence for this valuable watch of yours. Do not attempt to cheat us in this manner." At finding himself so completely exposed, the villain became furious, and stepping close up to the ship-master, with abusive language, _chucked_ him under the chin, to provoke him to fight. I at once perceived that the feigned sailor was a professional boxer and cudgelist, and entreated the ship-master not to touch him, notwithstanding his insolence. The "sailor," now disappointed on all hands, brandished his bludgeon, and retreated backwards, dancing in the Gipsy manner, and twirling his weapon before him, till he got his back to a wall. Here he set all at defiance, with a design that some one should strike at him, that he might avenge the affront he had received. But he was allowed to go away without interruption. This man was, in short, Robertson, the Gipsy travelling jeweller, disguised as a sailor, and a well-known prize-fighter.

Almost all those cheats called thimble-riggers, who infest thoroughfares, highways and byways, are also Gipsies, of a superior class. I have tried them by the language, and found they understood it, as has been seen in my account of the Gipsy language.


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