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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Are all our Scottish Gipsies


[248] There is something singularly inconsistent in the mind of the Gipsies. They pride themselves, to an extraordinary degree, in their race and language; at the same time, they are extremely sensitive to the prejudice that exists against them. "We feel," say they, "that every other creature despises us, and would crush us out of existence, if it could be done. No doubt, there are things which many of the Gipsies do not hold to be a shame, that others do; but, on the other hand, they hold some things to be a shame which others do not. They have many good points. They are kind to their own people, and will feed and clothe them, if it is in their power; and they will not molest others who treat them civilly. They are somewhat like the wild American Indians: they even go so far as to despise their own people who will willingly conform to the ways of the people among whom they live, even to putting their heads under a roof. But, alas! a hard necessity renders it unavoidable; a necessity of two kinds--that of making a living under the circumstances in which they find themselves placed, and the impossibility of enforcing their laws among themselves. Let them do what they may, live as they may, believe what they may, they are looked upon as everything that is bad. Yet they are a people, an ancient and mysterious people, that have been scattered by the will of Providence over the whole earth."

It is to escape

this dreadful prejudice that all Gipsies, excepting those who avowedly live and profess themselves Gipsies, will hide their race, if they can, and particularly so, in the case of those who fairly leave the tent, conform to the ordinary ways of society, and engage in any of its various callings. While being convoyed by the son of an English Gipsy, whose family I had been visiting, at their house, where I had heard them freely speak of themselves as Gipsies, and converse in Gipsy, I said, in quite a pleasant tone, "Ah, my little man, and you are a young Gipsy?--Eh, what's the matter?" "I don't wish to be known to the people as a Gipsy." His father, on another occasion, said, "We are not ashamed to say to a friend that we are Gipsies; but my children don't like people to be crying after them, 'Look at the Gipsies!'" And yet this family, like all Gipsies, were strongly attached to their race and language. It was pitiful to think that there was so much reason for them to make such a complaint. On one occasion, I was asked, "If you would not deem it presumptuous, might we ask you to take a bite with us?" "Eat with you? Why not?" I replied. "What will your people think, if they knew that you had been eating with us? You will lose caste." This was said in a serious manner, but slightly tinged with irony. Bless me, I thought, are all our Scottish Gipsies, of high and low degree, afraid that the ordinary natives would not even eat with them, if they knew them to be Gipsies?--ED.

This interview took place in presence of several persons, who were surprised at the gratitude and manner of the determined Gipsy. It is proper to mention that he is considered a very honest man, and is a protection to the property of the country-people, wherever he is quartered. He sells earthen-ware, through the country, and has, sometimes, several horses in his possession, more for pleasure than profit, some of which the farmers graze for nothing, as he is a great favourite with those who are intimately acquainted with him. He is about fifty years of age, about six feet in height, is spare made, has small black eyes, and a swarthy complexion. He is styled King of the Gipsies, but the country-people call him "Terrible," for a by-name. It was said his mother was a witch, and many of the simple, ignorant people, in the country, actually believed she was one. That her son believed she possessed supernatural power, will appear from the following fact: As some one was lamenting the hard case of the farmer remaining in prison, the Gipsy gravely said, "Had my mother been able to go to the jail, to see the honest man, she possessed the power to set him free."


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