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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

There being several horses in the smithy


Within

these forty-five years, Mr. McRitchie, already alluded to, happened to be in a smithy, in the neighbourhood of Carlisle, getting the shoes of his riding-horse roughened on a frosty day, to enable him to proceed on his journey, when a gentleman called for a like purpose. The animal on which he was mounted was a handsome blood-horse, which was saddled and bridled in a superior manner. He was himself dressed in superfine clothes, with a riding-whip in his hand; was booted and spurred, with saddle-bags behind him; and had, altogether, man and horse, the equipment and appearance of a smart English mercantile traveller, riding in the way of his business. There being several horses in the smithy, he, in a haughty and consequential manner, enquired of the smith, very particularly, whose turn it was first: indicating a strong desire to be first served, although he was the last that had entered the smithy. This bold assurance made my acquaintance take a steady look at the intrusive stranger, whom he surveyed from head to foot. And what was his astonishment when he found the mighty gentleman to be no other than Sandie Brown, the Tinkler's son, from the neighbourhood of Crieff; whom he had often seen strolling through the country in a troop of Gipsies, and frequently in his father's house, at the North Queensferry. He could scarcely believe his eyes, so to prevent any disagreeable mistake, politely asked the "gentleman" if his name was not Brown; observing that he thought he had seen him
somewhere before. The surprised Tinkler hesitated considerably at the unexpected question, and, after having put some queries on his part, answered that "he would not deny himself--his name was really Brown." He had, in all likelihood, been travelling under a borrowed name, a practice very common with the Gipsies. When he found himself detected, yet seeing no danger to be apprehended from the accidental meeting, he very shrewdly showed great marks of kindness to his acquaintance. Being now quite free from embarrassment, he, in a short time, began to display, as is the Gipsy custom, extraordinary feats of bodily strength, by twisting with his hands strong pieces of iron; taking bets regarding his power in these practices, with those who would wager with him. Before parting with my friend, Brown very kindly insisted upon treating him with a bottle of any kind of liquor he would choose to drink. At some sequestered station of his tribe, on his way home, the equestrian Tinkler would unmask himself--dispose of his horse, pack up his fine clothes, and assume his ragged coat, leathern apron, and budget--before he would venture among the people of the country, who were acquainted with his real character. Here we see a haughty, overbearing, highway robber, clothed in excellent apparel, and mounted on a good steed, metamorphose himself, in an instant, into a poor, wandering, beggarly, and pitiful Gipsy.

This Alexander Brown, and his brother-in-law, Wilson, carried on conjointly a considerable trade in horse-stealing between Scotland and England. The horses which were stolen in the South were brought to Scotland, and sold there; those stolen in Scotland were, on the other hand, disposed of in the South by English Gipsies. The crime of horse-stealing has brought a great many of these wanderers to an untimely end on the gallows. Brown was at last hanged at Edinburgh, to expiate the many crimes he had, from time to time, committed. It is said that his brother-in-law, Wilson, was hanged along with him on the same day, having been also guilty of a number of crimes. Brown was taken in a wood in Rannach, having been surprised and overpowered by a party of Highlanders, raised for the purpose of apprehending him, and dispersing his band, who lay in the wood in which he was captured. He thought to evade them by clapping close to the ground, like a wild animal. Upon being seized, a furious scuffle ensued; and during the violent tossing and struggling which took place, while they were securing this sturdy wanderer, he took hold of the bare thigh of one of the Highlanders, and bit it most cruelly. Martha, the mother of Brown, and the mother-in-law of Wilson, was apprehended in the act of stealing a pair of sheets while attending their execution.


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