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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

288 Mixed Gipsies tell no lies


things considered, in what other position could the Gipsy race, in Scotland especially, be, at the present day, than that described? How can we imagine a race of people to act otherwise than hide themselves, if they could, from the odium that attaches to the name of Gipsy? And what estimate should we place on that charity which would lead a person to denounce a Gipsy, should he deny himself to be a Gipsy?[288] As a race, what can they offer to society at large to receive them within its circle? They can offer little, as a race; but, if we consider them as individuals, we will find many of them whose eduction, character, and position in life, would warrant their admission into any ordinary society, and some of them into any society. Notwithstanding all that, none will answer up to the name of Gipsy. It necessarily follows, that the race must remain shrouded in its present mystery, unless some one, not of the race, should become acquainted with its history, and speak for it. In Scotland, the prejudice towards the name of Gipsy might be safely allowed to drop, were it only for this reason: that the race has got so much mixed up with the native blood, and even with good families of the country, as to be, in plain language, a jumble--a pretty kettle of fish, indeed. One's uncle, in seeking for a wife, might have stumbled over an Egyptian woman, and, either known or unknown to himself, had his children brought up bitter Gipsies; so that one's cousins may be Gipsies, for anything one
knows. A man may have a colony of Gipsies in his own house, and know nothing about it! The Gipsies _died_ out? Oh, no. They commenced in Scotland by wringing the necks of one's _chickens_, and now they sometimes . . . . . . ! But what is Gipsydom, after all, but a "working in among other people?"

[288] Mixed Gipsies tell no lies, when they say that they are not Gipsies; for, physiologically speaking, they are not Gipsies, but only partly Gipsies, as regards blood. In every other way they are Gipsies, that is, _chabos_, _calos_, or _chals_.

In seeking for Gipsies among Scotch people, I know where to begin, but it puzzles me where to leave off. I would pay no regard to colour of hair or eyes, character, employment, position, or, indeed, any outward thing. The reader may say: "It must be a difficult matter to detect such mixed and educated Gipsies as those spoken of." It is not only difficult, but outwardly impossible. Such Gipsies cannot even tell each other, from their personal appearance; but they have signs, which they can use, if the others choose to respond to them. If I go into a company which I have reason to believe is a Gipsy one, and it know nothing of me, so far as my pursuit is concerned, I will bring the subject of the Gipsies up, in a very roundabout way, and mark the effect which the conversation makes, or the turn it takes. What I know of the subject, and of the ignorance of mankind generally in regard to it, enables me to say, in almost every instance, who they are, let them make any remark they like, look as they like, pretend what they like, wriggle about as they like, or keep dead silent. As I gradually glide into the subject, and expatiate upon the "greatness of the society," one remarks, "I know it;" upon the "respectability of some of its members," and another emphatically exclaims, "That's a fact;" and upon "its universality," and another bawls out, "That's so." Indeed, by finding the Gipsies, under such circumstances, completely off their guard, (for they do not doubt their secret being confined to themselves,) I can generally draw forth, in one way or other, as much moral certainty, barring their direct admission, as to their being Gipsies, as a dog, by putting his nose into a hole, can tell whether a rat is there, or not.

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