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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The English Gipsies felt amazed


A

word upon the universality of the Gipsies. English Gipsies, on arriving in America, feel quite taken aback, on coming across a tent or wigwam of Indians. "Didn't you feel," said I to some of them, "very like a dog when he comes across another dog, a stranger to him?" And, with a laugh, they said, "Exactly so." After looking awhile at the Indians, they will approach them, and "cast their sign, and salute them in Gipsy;" and if no response is made, they will pass on. They then come to learn who the Indians are. The same curiosity is excited among the Gipsies on meeting with the American farmer, on the banks of the Mississippi or Missouri; who, in travelling to market, in the summer, will, to save expenses, unyoke his horses, at mid-day or evening, at the edge of the forest, light his fire, and prepare his meal. What with the "kettle and tented wagon," the tall, lank, bony, and swarthy appearance of the farmer, the Gipsy will approach him, as he did the Indian; and pass on, when no response is made to his sign and salutation. Under such circumstances, the Gipsy would cast his sign, and give his salutation, whether on the banks of the Mississippi or the Ganges. Nay, a very respectable Scottish Gipsy boasted to me, that, by his signs alone, he could push his way to the wall of China, and even through China itself. And there are doubtless Gipsies in China. Mr. Borrow says, that when he visited the tribe at Moscow, they supposed him to be one of their brothers, who, they said, were wandering
about in Turkey, _China_, and other parts. It is very likely that Russian Gipsies have visited China, by the route taken by Russian traders, and met with Gipsies there.[290] But it tickles the Gipsy most, when it is insinuated, that if Sir John Franklin had been fortunate in his expedition, he would have found a Gipsy tinkering a kettle at the North Pole.

[290] Bell, in an account of his journey to Pekin, [1721.] says that upwards of sixty Gipsies had arrived at Tobolsky, on their way to China, but were stopped by the Vice-Governor, for want of passports. They had roamed, during the summer season, from Poland, in small parties, subsisting by selling trinkets, and telling fortunes.

The particulars of a meeting between English and American Gipsies are interesting. Some English Gipsies were endeavouring to sell some horses, in Annapolis, in the State of Maryland, to what had the appearance of being respectable American farmers; who, however, spoke to each other in the Gipsy language, dropping a word now and then, such as "this is a good one," and so on. The English Gipsies felt amazed, and at last said: "What is that you are saying? Why, you are Gipsies!" Upon this, the Americans wheeled about, and left the spot as fast as they could. Had the English Gipsies taken after the Gipsy in their appearance, they would not have caused such a consternation to their American brethren, who showed much of "the blood" in their countenances; but as, from their blood being much mixed, they did not look like Gipsies, they gave the others a terrible fright, on their being found out. The English Gipsies said they felt disgusted at the others not owning themselves up. But I told them they ought rather to have felt proud of the Americans speaking Gipsy, as it was the prejudice of the world that led them to hide their nationality. On making enquiry in the neighbourhood, they found that these American Gipsies had been settled there since, at least, the time of their grandfather, and that they bore an English name.


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