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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

I likewise claim Isopel Berners


[314] See pages 111 and 121.

[315] _Petul_, according to Mr. Borrow, means a horse-shoe; and _Petulengro_, a lord of the horse-shoe. It is evidently a very high catch-word among the English Gipsies.

[316] Various of the characters mentioned in Mr. Borrow's "Lavengro," and "Romany Rye," are, beyond doubt, Gipsies. Old Fulcher is termed, in a derisive manner, by Ursula, "a _gorgio_ and basket-maker." She is one of the Hernes; a family which _gorgio_ and basket-maker Gipsies describe as "an ignorant, conceited set, who think nothing of other Gipsies, owing to the quality and quantity of their own blood." This is the manner in which the more original and pure and the other kind of English Gipsies frequently talk of each other. The latter will deny that they are Gipsies, at least hide it from the world; and, like the same kind of Scottish Gipsies, speak of the others, exclusively, as Gipsies. I am acquainted with a fair-haired English Gipsy, whose wife, now dead, was a half-breed. "But I am not a Gipsy," said he to me, very abruptly, before I had said anything that could have induced him to think that I took him for one. He spoke Gipsy, like the others. I soon caught him tripping; for, in speaking of the size of Gipsy families, he slipped his foot, and said: "For example, there is our family; there were (so many) of us." There is another Gipsy, a neighbour, who passes his

wife off to the public as an Irish woman, while she is a fair-haired Irish Gipsy. Both, in short, played upon the word Gipsy; for, as regards fullness of blood, they really were not Gipsies.

The dialogue between the Romany Rye and the Horncastle jockey clearly shows the Gipsy in the latter, when his attention is directed to the figure of the Hungarian. The Romany Rye makes indirect reference to the Gipsies, and the jockey abruptly asks: "Who be they? Come, don't be ashamed. I have occasionally kept queerish company myself." "Romany _chals_! Whew! I begin to smell a rat." The remainder of the dialogue, and the _spree_ which follows, are perfectly Gipsy throughout, on the part of the jockey; but, like so many of his race, he is evidently ashamed to own himself up to be "one of them." He says, in a way as if he were a stranger to the language: "And what a singular language they have got!" "Do you know anything of it?" said the Romany Rye. "Only a very few words; they were always chary in teaching me any." He said he was brought up with the _gorgio_ and basket-maker Fulcher, who followed the caravan. He is described as dressed in a coat of green, (a favourite Gipsy colour,) and as having curly brown or black hair; and he says of Mary Fulcher, whom he married: "She had a fair complexion, and nice red hair, both of which I liked, being a bit of a black myself." How much this is in keeping with the Gipsies, who so frequently speak of each other, in a jocular way, as "brown and black rascals!"

I likewise claim Isopel Berners, in Lavengro, to be a _thumping_ Gipsy lass, who travelled the country with her donkey-cart, taking her own part, and _wapping_ this one, and _wapping_ that one. It signifies not what her appearance was. I have frequently taken tea, at her house, with a young, blue-eyed, English Gipsy widow, perfectly English in her appearance, who spoke Gipsy freely enough. It did not signify what Isopel said of herself, or her relations. How did she come to speak Gipsy? Do Gipsies _teach_ their language to _strangers_, and, more especially, to strange women? Assuredly not. Suppose that Isopel was not a Gipsy, but had married a Gipsy, then I could understand how she might have known Gipsy, and yet not have been a Gipsy, except by initiation. But it is utterly improbable that she, a strange woman, should have been taught a word of it.


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