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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

If the ancestress of a Gipsy should


myself," said one of them, "but just come and see my wife!" But people may say that the ancestors of the Falls were thieves. And were not all the Borderers, in their way, the worst kind of thieves? They might not have stolen from their nearest relatives; but, with that exception, did they not steal from each other? Now, Gipsies never, or hardly ever, steal from each other. Were not all the Elliots and Armstrongs thieves of the first water? Were not the Scotts and the Kers thieves, long after the Gipsies entered Scotland? When the servants of Scott of Harden drove out his last cow, and said, "There goes Harden's cow," did not the old cow-stealer say, "It will soon be Harden's _kye_"--meaning, that he would set out on a cow-stealing expedition? In fact, he lived upon spoil. Was it not his lady's custom, on the last bullock being killed, to place on the table a dish, which, on being uncovered, was found to contain a pair of clean spurs--a hint, to her husband and his followers, that they must shift for their next meal? The descendants of these Scotts, and the Scottish public generally, look, with the utmost complacency and pride, upon the history of such families; yet would be very apt to make a great ado, if the ancestress of a Gipsy should, in such a predicament, have hung out a cock's tail at the mouth of her tent, as a hint to her "laddies" to look after poultry. Common sense tells us, that, for one excuse to be offered for such conduct, on the part of the _landed-gentry_ of the country, a hundred can be found for the ancestor of a Gipsy--an unfortunate wanderer on the face of the earth, who was hunted about, like a wolf of the forest.[279]

[279] On his return with his gallant prey, he passed a very large hay-stack. It occurred to the provident laird that this would be extremely convenient to fodder his new stock of cattle; but, as no means of transporting it were obvious, he was fain to take leave of it, with the apostrophe, now become proverbial, "_By my saul, had ye but four feet, ye should not stand lang there._" In short, as Froissart says of a similar class of feudal robbers. "Nothing came amiss to them that was not _too heavy_ or _too hot_." Sir Walter Scott speaks, in the most jocular manner, of an ancestress who had a _curious hand at pickling the beef which her husband stole_; and that there was not a stain upon his escutcheon, barring Border theft and high treason.--_Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott._

We should never forget that a "hawk's a hawk," whether it is a falcon or a mosquito hawk, which is the smallest of all hawks.

And what shall we say of our Highland thieves? Highlanders may be more touchy on this point, for their ancestors were the last of the British race to give up that kind of life. Talk of the laws passed against the Gipsies! Various of our Scottish monarchs issued decrees against "the wicked thieves and limmers of the clans and surnames, inhabiting the Highlands and Isles," accusing "the chieftains principal of the branches worthy to be esteemed the very authors, fosterers, and maintainers,


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