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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

So the Gipsy will become excited


To

people unacquainted with the peculiarities of the Gipsies, it may appear that this picture is overdrawn. But Sir Walter Scott, who is universally allowed to be a true depicter of Scottish life, in every form, says, in reference to the original of Meg Merrilies, in Guy Mannering: "I remember to have seen one of her grand-daughters; that is, as Dr. Johnson had a shadowy recollection of Queen Anne--a stately lady in black, adorned with diamonds; so my memory is haunted by a solemn remembrance of a woman, of more than female height, dressed in a long, red cloak, who commenced acquaintance by giving me an apple, but whom, nevertheless, I looked on with as much awe as the future Doctor could look upon the Queen." And he approvingly quotes another writer, as to her daughter, as follows: "Every week, she paid my father a visit for her _awmons_, when I was a little boy, and I looked on her with no common degree of awe and terror." The same feeling, somewhat modified, I have heard expressed by Germans, Spaniards, and Italians. In England, the people do not like to trouble the Gipsies, owing to their being so "spiteful," as they express it. The feeling in question cannot well be realized by people reared in towns, who have, perhaps, never seen Gipsies, or heard much about them; but it is different with youths brought up in the country. When the Gipsies, in their peregrinations, will make their appearance at a farmer's house, especially if it is in the pastoral districts, and the farmer be
a man of information and reflection, he will often treat them kindly, from the interest with which their singular history inspires him; and others, not unkindly, from other motives. The farmer's sons, who are young and hasty, probably but recently returned from a town, where they have been jeered at for their cowardice in being afraid to meddle with the Gipsies, will show a disposition to use them roughly, on the cry arising in the house, that "the Tinklers are coming." But the old father, cautious with the teachings of years gone by, will become alarmed at such symptoms, and, before the Gipsies have approached the premises, will urge his children to treat them kindly. "Be canny now, bairns--be canny; for any sake dinna anger them; gie them a' they want, and something more." With this, a good fat sheep will sometimes be killed, and the band regaled with _kail_, and its accompaniments; or, if they are very _nice gabbit_, it will be served up to them in a roasted form. Thereafter, they will retire to the barn, and start in the morning on something better than an empty stomach.

And yet it is singular that, if the Gipsies are met in the streets of a town, or any considerably frequented place, people will, in passing them, edge off a little to the side, and look at them with a degree of interest, which, on ordinary occasions, the Gipsies will but little notice. But if a person of respectable appearance will scrutinize them in an ominous way, they will observe it instantly; and, as a swell-mobsman, on being stared at by a detective, on the mere suspicion of his being such, generally turns the first cross street, and, in turning, anxiously looks after his enemy, who, after calculating the distance, has also turned to watch his movements, so the Gipsy will become excited, soon turning round to watch the movements of the object of his dread; a fear that will be heightened if any of his band has been spoken to. And such is the masonic secrecy with which they keep their language, that should they at the time have rested on the road-side, and the stranger assume the most impressive tone, and say: "_Sallah, jaw drom_"--(curse you, take the road), the effects upon them are at first bewildering, and followed by a feeling of some dire calamity that is about to befall them. When any of the poorest kind can be prevailed upon to express a candid sentiment, and be asked how they really do get on, they will reply, "It's only day and way we want, ye ken--what a farmer body ne'er can miss; foreby selling a spoon, and tinkering a kettle now and then."


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