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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Those are Gipsies who stroll about


I

have found the above kind of Gipsies, in America, to be generally pretty well off; they all seem to flourish, and have plenty of money about them. The fortune-telling, horse-dealing, and peddling branches of them have a fine field for following their respective businesses. America, indeed, is a "great country" for the Gipsies; for it contains "no end" of chickens, to say nothing of ducks, geese, and turkeys, many of which are carried off by _varmint_, anyhow. There, they will find, for some time, many opportunities of gathering rich harvests, among what has been termed the shrewdest, but, in some things, the most gullible, of mortals, as an instance may illustrate. A Gipsy woman, known as such, drags, into the meshes of her necromancy, 'cute Jonathan; who, with an infinite reliance on his own smartness, to "try the skill of the critter," by her directions, ties up, in gold and paper, something like a thousand dollars, and, after she has passed her hands over it, and muttered a few cabalistic words, deposits it in his strong box. She sets a day, on which she calls, handles the "dimes," while muttering some more expressions, rather accidentally drops them, then returns them to the box, and sets another day when she will call, and add much to his wealth. She does not appear, however, on the day mentioned. Our simpleton gets first anxious, then excited, then suspicious, then examines his "pile," and finds it transformed into a lot of copper and old paper! For, in dropping the parcel,
Meg does it adroitly about the folds of her dress, quickly substitutes another, exactly alike, and makes off with the fruits of her labour. Then come the hue and cry, telegraphing, and dispatching of warrants everywhere. But why need he trouble himself? So, after a harder day's work than, perhaps, he ever underwent in his life, he returns home: but knowing the sympathy he will find there, he puts on his best face, and, to have the first word of it, (for he is not to be laughed at,) wipes his forehead, twitches his mouth, winks his eyes, and remarks: "Waal, I reckon I've been most darnedly sold, anyhow!" Such occurrences are very common among almost all classes of rural Americans. Sometimes it is to discover treasure on the individual's lands, or in the neighbourhood; sometimes a mine, and sometimes an Indian, a trapper, a pirate, or a revolutionary deposit. When the Gipsy escapes with her spoil, she frequently makes for her home, but where that is, no one knows. On being molested, while there, she produces friends, in fair standing, who _prove_ an alibi; and, with the further assistance of a well-feed lawyer, defies all the requisitions, made by the governors of neighbouring States, for her delivery. At other times, she will _divide_ with the inferior authorities, or surrender the whole of the plunder; for, to go to jail she will not, if she can help it.[286]

[286] If the real characters of those "lady fortune-tellers," who flourish so much in the large cities, and publicly profess to reveal all matters in "love and law, health and wealth, losses and crosses," were to be ascertained, many of them would, in all probability, be found to belong to a superior class of Gipsies. And this may much more be said of the more humble ones, who trust to the gossipping of a class--and that a respectable class of females, for the advertising of their calling. For a certainty, those are Gipsies who stroll about, telling fortunes for dimes, clothes, or old bottles. The advertising members form a very small part of the fraternity. The extent to which such business is patronized, by Americans, of both sexes, and of almost all positions in society is such, that it is doubtful if the English reader would credit it, if it were put on record.


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