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Isopel Berners - The History of certain doings in a Staffordshire Dingle, July, 1825
by George Borrow
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"Meklis," {244c} said Mrs. Chikno, "pray drop all that, sister; I believe I have kept as good company as yourself; and with respect to that offer with which you frequently fatigue those who keeps company with you, I believe, after all, it was something in the roving and uncertificated line."

"In whatever line it was," said Mrs. Petulengro, "the offer was a good one. The young duke—for he was not only a lord, but a duke too—offered to keep me a fine carriage, and to make me his second wife; for it is true that he had another who was old and stout, though mighty rich, and highly good-natured; so much so, indeed, that the young lord assured me that she would have no manner of objection to the arrangement; more especially if I would consent to live in the same house with her, being fond of young and cheerful society. So you see . . ."

"Yes, yes," said Mrs. Chikno, "I see, what I before thought, that it was altogether in the uncertificated line."

"Meklis," said Mrs. Petulengro, "I use your own word, madam, which is Romany; for my own part, I am not fond of using Romany words, unless I can hope to pass them off for French, which I cannot in the present company. I heartily wish that there was no such language, and do my best to keep it away from my children, lest the frequent use of it should altogether confirm them in low and vulgar habits. I have four children, madam, but . . ."

"I suppose by talking of your four children you wish to check me for having none," said Mrs. Chikno, bursting into tears; "if I have no children, sister, it is no fault of mine, it is—but why do I call you sister," said she angrily, "you are no sister of mine, you are a grasni, a regular mare—a pretty sister, indeed, ashamed of your own language. I remember well that by your high-flying notions you drove your own mother . . ."

"We will drop it," said Mrs. Petulengro; "I do not wish to raise my voice, and to make myself ridiculous. Young gentleman," said she, "pray present my compliments to Miss Isopel Berners, and inform her that I am very sorry that I cannot accept her polite invitation. I am just arrived, and have some slight domestic matters to see to, amongst others, to wash my children's faces; but that in the course of the forenoon, when I have attended to what I have to do, and have dressed myself, I hope to do myself the honour of paying her a regular visit; you will tell her that with my compliments. With respect to my husband he can answer for himself, as I, not being of a jealous disposition, never interferes with his matters."

"And tell Miss Berners," said Mr. Petulengro, "that I shall be happy to wait upon her in company with my wife as soon as we are regularly settled; at present I have much on my hands, having not only to pitch my own tent, but this here jealous woman's, whose husband is absent on my business."

Thereupon I returned to the dingle, and without saying anything about Mrs. Chikno's observations, communicated to Isopel the messages of Mr. and Mrs. Petulengro; Isopel made no other reply than by replacing in her coffer two additional cups and saucers, which, in expectation of company, she had placed upon the board. The kettle was by this time boiling. We sat down, and as we breakfasted, I gave Isopel Berners another lesson in the Armenian language.



CHAPTER XXII.—THE PROMISED VISIT—ROMAN FASHION—WIZARD AND WITCH—CATCHING AT WORDS—THE TWO FEMALES—DRESSING OF HAIR—THE NEW ROADS—BELLE'S ALTERED APPEARANCE—HERSELF AGAIN.

About mid-day Mr. and Mrs. Petulengro {247} came to the dingle to pay the promised visit. Belle, at the time of their arrival, was in her tent, but I was at the fireplace, engaged in hammering part of the outer-tire, or defence, which had come off from one of the wheels of my vehicle. On perceiving them I forthwith went to receive them. Mr. Petulengro was dressed in Roman fashion, with a somewhat smartly-cut sporting-coat, the buttons of which were half-crowns—and a waistcoat, scarlet and black, the buttons of which were spaded half-guineas; his breeches were of a stuff half velveteen, half corduroy, the cords exceedingly broad. He had leggings of buff cloth, furred at the bottom: and upon his feet were highlows. Under his left arm was a long black whalebone riding-whip, with a red lash, and an immense silver knob. Upon his head was a hat with a high peak, somewhat of the kind which the Spaniards call calane, so much in favour with the bravos of Seville and Madrid. Now when I have added that Mr. Petulengro had on a very fine white holland shirt, I think I have described his array. Mrs. Petulengro—I beg pardon for not having spoken of her first—was also arrayed very much in the Roman fashion. Her hair, which was exceedingly black and lustrous, fell in braids on either side of her head. In her ears were rings, with long drops of gold. Round her neck was a string of what seemed very much like very large pearls, somewhat tarnished, however, and apparently of considerable antiquity. "Here we are, brother," said Mr. Petulengro, "here we are, come to see you—wizard and witch, witch and wizard:—

"'There's a chovahanee, and a chovahano, {249a} The nav se len is Petulengro.'"

"Hold your tongue, sir," said Mrs. Petulengro; "you make me ashamed of you with your vulgar ditties. We are come a-visiting now, and everything low should be left behind."

"True," said Mr. Petulengro; "why bring what's low to the dingle, which is low enough already?"

"What, are you a catcher at words?" said I. "I thought that catching at words had been confined to the pothouse farmers and village witty bodies."

"All fools," said Mrs. Petulengro, "catch at words, and very naturally, as by so doing they hope to prevent the possibility of rational conversation. Catching at words confined to pothouse farmers and village witty bodies! No, nor to Jasper Petulengro. Listen for an hour or two to the discourse of a set they call newspaper editors, and if you don't go out and eat grass, as a dog does when he is sick, I am no female woman. The young lord whose hand I refused when I took up with wise Jasper once brought two of them to my mother's tan, {249b} when hankering after my company; they did nothing but carp at each other's words, and a pretty hand they made of it. Ill-favoured dogs they were, and their attempt at what they called wit almost as unfortunate as their countenances."

"Well," said I, "madam, we will drop all catchings and carpings for the present. Pray take your seat on this stool, whilst I go and announce to Miss Isopel Berners your arrival."

Thereupon I went to Belle's habitation, and informed her that Mr. and Mrs. Petulengro had paid us a visit of ceremony, and were awaiting her at the fireplace. "Pray go and tell them that I am busy," said Belle, who was engaged with her needle. "I do not feel disposed to take part in any such nonsense." "I shall do no such thing," said I, "and I insist upon your coming forthwith, and showing proper courtesy to your visitors. If you do not their feelings will be hurt, and you are aware that I cannot bear that people's feelings should be outraged. Come this moment, or . . ." "Or what?" said Belle, half smiling. "I was about to say something in Armenian," said I. "Well," said Belle, laying down her work, "I will come." "Stay," said I, "your hair is hanging about your ears, and your dress is in disorder; you had better stay a minute or two to prepare yourself to appear before your visitors, who have come in their very best attire." "No," said Belle, "I will make no alteration in my appearance; you told me to come this moment, and you shall be obeyed."

So Belle and I advanced towards our guests. As we drew nigh Mr. Petulengro took off his hat and made a profound obeisance to Belle, whilst Mrs. Petulengro rose from the stool and made a profound curtsey. Belle, who had flung her hair back over her shoulders, returned their salutations by bending her head, and after slightly glancing at Mr. Petulengro, fixed her large blue eyes full upon his wife. Both these females were very handsome—but how unlike! Belle fair, with blue eyes and flaxen hair; Mrs. Petulengro with olive complexion, eyes black, and hair dark—as dark as could be. Belle, in demeanour calm and proud; the gypsy graceful, but full of movement and agitation. And then how different were those two in stature! The head of the Romany rawnie scarcely ascended to the breast of Isopel Berners. I could see that Mrs. Petulengro gazed on Belle with unmixed admiration: so did her husband. "Well," said the latter, "one thing I will say, which is, that there is only one on earth worthy to stand up in front of this she, and that is the beauty of the world, as far as man flesh is concerned, Tawno Chikno; what a pity he did not come down!"

"Tawno Chikno," said Mrs. Petulengro, flaring up; "a pretty fellow he to stand up in front of this gentlewoman, a pity he didn't come, quotha? not at all, the fellow is a sneak, afraid of his wife. He stand up against this rawnie! why the look she has given me would knock the fellow down."

"It is easier to knock him down with a look than with a fist," said Mr. Petulengro; "that is, if the look comes from a woman: not that I am disposed to doubt that this female gentlewoman is able to knock him down either one way or the other. I have heard of her often enough, and have seen her once or twice, though not so near as now. Well, ma'am, my wife and I are come to pay our respects to you; we are both glad to find that you have left off keeping company with Flaming Bosville, and have taken up with my pal; he is not very handsome, but a better . . . ."

"I take up with your pal, as you call him; you had better mind what you say," said Isopel Berners; "I take up with nobody."

"I merely mean taking up your quarters with him," said Mr. Petulengro; "and I was only about to say a better fellow-lodger you cannot have, or a more instructive, especially if you have a desire to be inoculated with tongues, as he calls them. I wonder whether you and he have had any tongue-work already."

"Have you and your wife anything particular to say? If you have nothing but this kind of conversation I must leave you, as I am going to make a journey this afternoon, and should be getting ready."

"You must excuse my husband, madam," said Mrs. Petulengro; "he is not overburdened with understanding, and has said but one word of sense since he has been here, which was that we came to pay our respects to you. We have dressed ourselves in our best Roman way, in order to do honour to you; perhaps you do not like it; if so, I am sorry. I have no French clothes, madam; if I had any, madam, I would have come in them in order to do you more honour."

"I like to see you much better as you are," said Belle; "people should keep to their own fashions, and yours is very pretty."

"I am glad you are pleased to think it so, madam; it has been admired in the great city, it created what they call a sensation, and some of the great ladies, the court ladies, imitated it, else I should not appear in it so often as I am accustomed; for I am not very fond of what is Roman, having an imagination that what is Roman is ungenteel; in fact, I once heard the wife of a rich citizen say that gypsies were vulgar creatures. I should have taken her saying very much to heart, but for her improper pronunciation; she could not pronounce her words, madam, which we gypsies, as they call us, usually can, so I thought she was no very high purchase. You are very beautiful, madam, though you are not dressed as I could wish to see you, and your hair is hanging down in sad confusion; allow me to assist you in arranging your hair, madam; I will dress it for you in our fashion; I would fain see how your hair would look in our poor gypsy fashion; pray allow me, madam?" and she took Belle by the hand.

"I really can do no such thing," said Belle, withdrawing her hand; "I thank you for coming to see me, but . . ."

"Do allow me to officiate upon your hair, madam," said Mrs. Petulengro; "I should esteem your allowing me a great mark of condescension. You are very beautiful, madam, and I think you doubly so, because you are so fair; I have a great esteem for persons with fair complexions and hair; I have a less regard for people with dark hair and complexions, madam."

"Then why did you turn off the lord, and take up with me?" said Mr. Petulengro; "that same lord was fair enough all about him."

"People do when they are young and silly what they sometimes repent of when they are of riper years and understandings. I sometimes think that had I not been something of a simpleton, I might at this time be a great court lady. Now, madam," said she, again taking Belle by the hand, "do oblige me by allowing me to plait your hair a little?"

"I have really a good mind to be angry with you," said Belle, giving Mrs. Petulengro a peculiar glance.

"Do allow her to arrange your hair," said I, "she means no harm, and wishes to do you honour; do oblige her and me too, for I should like to see how your hair would look dressed in her fashion."

"You hear what the young rye says?" said Mrs. Petulengro. "I am sure you will oblige the young rye, if not myself. Many people would be willing to oblige the young rye, if he would but ask them; but he is not in the habit of asking favours. He has a nose of his own, which he keeps tolerably exalted; he does not think small-beer of himself, madam; and all the time I have been with him, I never heard him ask a favour before; therefore, madam, I am sure you will oblige him. My sister Ursula would be very willing to oblige him in many things, but he will not ask for anything, except for such a favour as a word, which is a poor favour after all. I don't mean for her word; perhaps he will some day ask you for your word. If so . . ."

"Why here you are, after railing at me for catching at words, catching at a word yourself," said Mr. Petulengro.

"Hold your tongue, sir," said Mrs. Petulengro. "Don't interrupt me in my discourse; if I caught at a word now, I am not in the habit of doing so. I am no conceited body; no newspaper Neddy; no pothouse witty person. I was about to say, madam, that if the young rye asks you at any time for your word, you will do as you deem convenient; but I am sure you will oblige him by allowing me to braid your hair."

"I shall not do it to oblige him," said Belle; "the young rye, as you call him, is nothing to me."

"Well, then, to oblige me," said Mrs. Petulengro; "do allow me to become your poor tire-woman."

"It is great nonsense," said Belle, reddening; "however, as you came to see me, and ask the matter as a particular favour to yourself . . ."

"Thank you, madam," said Mrs. Petulengro, leading Belle to the stool; "please to sit down here. Thank you; your hair is very beautiful, madam," she continued as she proceeded to braid Belle's hair; "so is your countenance. Should you ever go to the great city, among the grand folks, you would make a sensation, madam. I have made one myself, who am dark; the chi she is kauley, which last word signifies black, which I am not, though rather dark. There's no colour like white, madam; it's so lasting, so genteel. Gentility will carry the day, madam, even with the young rye. He will ask words of the black lass, but beg the word of the fair."

In the meantime Mr. Petulengro and myself entered into conversation. "Any news stirring, Mr. Petulengro?" said I. "Have you heard anything of the great religious movements?"

"Plenty," said Mr. Petulengro; "all the religious people, more especially the Evangelicals—those that go about distributing tracts—are very angry about the fight between Gentleman Cooper and White-headed Bob, which they say ought not to have been permitted to take place; and then they are trying all they can to prevent the fight between the lion and the dogs, {256} which they say is a disgrace to a Christian country. Now, I can't say that I have any quarrel with the religious party and the Evangelicals; they are always civil to me and mine, and frequently give us tracts, as they call them, which neither I nor mine can read; but I cannot say that I approve of any movements, religious or not, which have in aim to put down all life and manly sport in this here country."

"Anything else?" said I.

"People are becoming vastly sharp," said Mr. Petulengro; "and I am told that all the old-fashioned, good-tempered constables are going to be set aside, and a paid body of men to be established, {257} who are not to permit a tramper or vagabond on the roads of England;—and talking of roads puts me in mind of a strange story I heard two nights ago, whilst drinking some beer at a public-house, in company with my cousin Sylvester. I had asked Tawno to go, but his wife would not let him. Just opposite me, smoking their pipes, were a couple of men, something like engineers, and they were talking of a wonderful invention which was to make a wonderful alteration in England; inasmuch as it would set aside all the old roads, which in a little time would be ploughed up, and sowed with corn, and cause all England to be laid down with iron roads, on which people would go thundering along in vehicles, pushed forward by fire and smoke. Now, brother, when I heard this, I did not feel very comfortable; for I thought to myself, what a queer place such a road would be to pitch one's tent upon, and how impossible it would be for one's cattle to find a bite of grass upon it; and I thought likewise of the danger to which one's family would be exposed of being run over and severely scorched by these same flying, fiery vehicles; so I made bold to say that I hoped such an invention would never be countenanced, because it was likely to do a great deal of harm. Whereupon, one of the men, giving me a glance, said, without taking the pipe out of his mouth, that for his part he sincerely hoped that it would take effect; and if it did no other good than stopping the rambles of gypsies, and other like scamps, it ought to be encouraged. Well, brother, feeling myself insulted, I put my hand into my pocket, in order to pull out money, intending to challenge him to fight for a five-shilling stake, but merely found sixpence, having left all my other money at the tent; which sixpence was just sufficient to pay for the beer which Sylvester and myself were drinking, of whom I couldn't hope to borrow anything—'poor as Sylvester' being a by-word amongst us. So, not being able to back myself, I held my peace, and let the Gorgio have it all his own way, who, after turning up his nose at me, went on discoursing about the said invention, saying what a fund of profit it would be to those who knew how to make use of it, and should have the laying down of the new roads, and the shoeing of England with iron. And after he had said this, and much more of the same kind, which I cannot remember, he and his companion got up and walked away; and presently I and Sylvester got up and walked to our camp; and there I lay down in my tent by the side of my wife, where I had an ugly dream of having camped upon an iron road; my tent being overturned by a flying vehicle; my wife's leg injured; and all my affairs put into great confusion."

"Now, madam," said Mrs. Petulengro, "I have braided your hair in our fashion: you look very beautiful, madam; more beautiful, if possible, than before." Belle now rose, and came forward with her tire-woman. Mr. Petulengro was loud in his applause, but I said nothing, for I did not think Belle was improved in appearance by having submitted to the ministry of Mrs. Petulengro's hand. Nature never intended Belle to appear as a gypsy; she had made her too proud and serious. A more proper part for her was that of a heroine, a queenly heroine,—that of Theresa of Hungary, for example; or, better still, that of Brynhilda the Valkyrie, the beloved of Sigurd, the serpent-killer, who incurred the curse of Odin, because, in the tumult of spears, she sided with the young king, and doomed the old warrior to die, to whom Odin had promised victory.

Belle looked at me for a moment in silence; then turning to Mrs. Petulengro, she said, "You have had your will with me; are you satisfied?" "Quite so, madam," said Mrs. Petulengro, "and I hope you will be so too, as soon as you have looked in the glass." "I have looked in one already," said Belle, "and the glass does not flatter." "You mean the face of the young rye," said Mrs. Petulengro; "never mind him, madam; the young rye, though he knows a thing or two, is not a university, nor a person of universal wisdom. I assure you that you never looked so well before; and I hope that, from this moment, you will wear your hair in this way." "And who is to braid it in this way?" said Belle, smiling. "I, madam," said Mrs. Petulengro, "I will braid it for you every morning, if you will but be persuaded to join us. Do so, madam, and I think, if you did, the young rye would do so too." "The young rye is nothing to me, nor I to him," said Belle; "we have stayed some time together; but our paths will soon be apart. Now, farewell, for I am about to take a journey." "And you will go out with your hair as I have braided it," said Mrs. Petulengro; "if you do, everybody will be in love with you." "No," said Belle, "hitherto I have allowed you to do what you please, but henceforth I shall have my own way. Come, come," said she, observing that the gypsy was about to speak, "we have had enough of nonsense; whenever I leave this hollow, it will be wearing my hair in my own fashion." "Come, wife," said Mr. Petulengro, "we will no longer intrude upon the rye and rawnie, there is such a thing as being troublesome." Thereupon Mr. Petulengro and his wife took their leave, with many salutations. "Then you are going?" said I, when Belle and I were left alone. "Yes," said Belle, "I am going on a journey; my affairs compel me." "But you will return again?" said I. "Yes," said Belle, "I shall return once more." "Once more," said I; "what do you mean by once more? The Petulengros will soon be gone, and will you abandon me in this place?" "You were alone here," said Belle, "before I came, and, I suppose, found it agreeable, or you would not have stayed in it." "Yes," said I, "that was before I knew you; but having lived with you here, I should be very loth to live here without you." "Indeed," said Belle, "I did not know that I was of so much consequence to you. Well, the day is wearing away—I must go and harness Traveller to the cart." "I will do that," said I, "or anything else you may wish me. Go and prepare yourself; I will see after Traveller and the cart." Belle departed to her tent, and I set about performing the task I had undertaken. In about half-an-hour Belle again made her appearance—she was dressed neatly and plainly. Her hair was no longer in the Roman fashion, in which Pakomovna had plaited it, but was secured by a comb; she held a bonnet in her hand. "Is there anything else I can do for you?" I demanded. "There are two or three bundles by my tent, which you can put into the cart," said Belle. I put the bundles into the cart, and then led Traveller and the cart up the winding path, to the mouth of the dingle, near which was Mr. Petulengro's encampment. Belle followed. At the top, I delivered the reins into her hands; we looked at each other steadfastly for some time. Belle then departed and I returned to the dingle, where, seating myself on my stone, I remained for upwards of an hour in thought.



CHAPTER XXIII.—THE FESTIVAL—THE GYPSY SONG—PIRAMUS OF ROME—THE SCOTCHMAN—GYPSY NAMES.

On the following day there was much feasting amongst the Romany chals of Mr. Petulengro's party. Throughout the forenoon the Romany chies did scarcely anything but cook flesh, and the flesh which they cooked was swine's flesh. About two o'clock, the chals and chies dividing themselves into various parties, sat down and partook of the fare, which was partly roasted, partly sodden. I dined that day with Mr. Petulengro and his wife and family, Ursula, Mr. and Mrs. Chikno, and Sylvester and his two children. Sylvester, it will be as well to say, was a widower, and had consequently no one to cook his victuals for him, supposing he had any, which was not always the case, Sylvester's affairs being seldom in a prosperous state. He was noted for his bad success in trafficking, notwithstanding the many hints which he received from Jasper, under whose protection he had placed himself, even as Tawno Chikno had done, who himself, as the reader has heard on a former occasion, was anything but a wealthy subject, though he was at all times better off than Sylvester, the Lazarus of the Romany tribe.

All our party ate with a good appetite, except myself, who, feeling rather melancholy that day, had little desire to eat. I did not, like the others, partake of the pork, but got my dinner entirely off the body of a squirrel which had been shot the day before by a chal of the name of Piramus, who, besides being a good shot, was celebrated for his skill in playing on the fiddle. During the dinner a horn filled with ale passed frequently around, I drank of it more than once, and felt inspirited by the draughts. The repast concluded, Sylvester and his children departed to their tent, and Mr. Petulengro, Tawno, and myself getting up, went and lay down under a shady hedge, where Mr. Petulengro, lighting his pipe, began to smoke, and where Tawno presently fell asleep. I was about to fall asleep also, when I heard the sound of music and song. Piramus was playing on the fiddle, whilst Mrs. Chikno, who had a voice of her own, was singing in tones sharp enough, but of great power, a gypsy song:—

POISONING THE PORKER. BY MRS. CHIKNO.

To mande shoon ye Romany chals Who besh in the pus about the yag, I'll pen how we drab the baulo, I'll pen how we drab the baulo.

We jaws to the drab-engro ker, Trin horsworth there of drab we lels, And when to the swety back we wels We pens we'll drab the baulo, We'll have a drab at a baulo.

And then we kairs the drab opre, And then we jaws to the farming ker To mang a beti habben, A beti poggado habben.

A rinkeno baulo there we dick, And then we pens in Romano jib; Wust lis odoi opre ye chick, And the baulo he will lel lis, The baulo he will lel lis.

Coliko, coliko saulo we Apopli to the farming ker Will wel and mang him mullo, Will wel and mang his truppo.

And so we kairs, and so we kairs; The baulo in the rarde mers; We mang him on the saulo, And rig to the tan the baulo.

And then we toves the wendror well Till sore the wendror iuziou se, Till kekkeno drab's adrey lis Till drab there's kek adrey lis.

And then his truppo well we hatch, Kin levinor at the kitchema, And have a kosko habben, A kosko Romano habben.

The boshom engro kils, he kils, The tawnie juva gils, she gils A puro Romano gillie, Now shoon the Romano gillie.

Which song I had translated in the following manner, in my younger days, for a lady's album.

Listen to me ye Roman lads, who are seated in the straw about the fire, and I will tell how we poison the porker, I will tell how we poison the porker.

We go to the house of the poison monger (i.e. the apothecary), where we buy three pennies' worth of bane, and when we return to our people we say, we will poison the porker; we will try and poison the porker.

We then make up the poison, and then we take our way to the house of the farmer, as if to beg a bit of victuals, a little broken victuals.

We see a jolly porker, and then we say in Roman language, "Fling the bane yonder amongst the dirt, and the porker soon will find it, the porker soon will find it."

Early on the morrow, we will return to the farmhouse, and beg the dead porker, the body of the dead porker.

And so we do, even so we do; the porker dieth during the night; on the morrow we beg the porker, and carry to the tent the porker.

And then we wash the inside well, till all the inside is perfectly clean, till there's no bane within it, not a poison grain within it.

And then we roast the body well, send for ale to the ale-house, and have a merry banquet, a merry Roman banquet.

The fellow with the fiddle plays, he plays; the little lassie sings, she sings an ancient Roman ditty; now hear the Roman ditty.

SONG OF THE BROKEN CHASTITY. {265} BY URSULA.

Penn'd the Romany chi ke laki dye "Miry dearie dye mi shom cambri!" "And savo kair'd tute cambri, Miry dearie chi, miry Romany chi?" "O miry dye a boro rye, A bovalo rye, a gorgiko rye, Sos kistur pre a pellengo grye, 'Twas yov sos kerdo man cambri." "Tu tawnie vassavie lubbeny, Tu chal from miry tan abri; Had a Romany chal kair'd tute cambri, Then I had penn'd ke tute chie, But tu shan a vassavie lubbeny With gorgikie rat to be cambri."

"There's some kernel in those songs, brother," said Mr Petulengro, when the songs and music were over.

"Yes," said I, "they are certainly very remarkable songs. I say, Jasper, I hope you have not been drabbing baulor {266} lately."

"And suppose we have, brother, what then?"

"Why, it is a very dangerous practice, to say nothing of the wickedness of it."

"Necessity has no law, brother."

"That is true," said I, "I have always said so, but you are not necessitous, and should not drab baulor."

"And who told you we had been drabbing baulor?"

"Why, you have had a banquet of pork, and after the banquet Mrs. Chikno sang a song about drabbing baulor, so I naturally thought you might have lately been engaged in such a thing"

"Brother, you occasionally utter a word or two of common sense. It was natural for you to suppose, after seeing that dinner of pork, and hearing that song, that we had been drabbing baulor; I will now tell you that we have not been doing so. What have you to say to that?"

"That I am very glad of it."

"Had you tasted that pork, brother, you would have found that it was sweet and tasty, which balluva that is drabbed can hardly be expected to be. We have no reason to drab baulor at present, we have money and credit; but necessity has no law. Our forefathers occasionally drabbed baulor, some of our people may still do such a thing, but only from compulsion."

"I see," said I; "and at your merry meetings you sing songs upon the compulsatory deeds of your people, alias their villainous actions; and, after all, what would the stirring poetry of any nation be, but for its compulsatory deeds? Look at the poetry of Scotland, the heroic part, founded almost entirely on the villainous deeds of the Scotch nation; cow- stealing, for example, which is very little better than drabbing baulor; whilst the softer part is mostly about the slips of its females among the broom, so that no upholder of Scotch poetry could censure Ursula's song as indelicate, even if he understood it. What do you think, Jasper?"

"I think, brother, as I before said, that occasionally you utter a word of common sense. You were talking of the Scotch, brother; what do you think of a Scotchman finding fault with Romany?"

"A Scotchman finding fault with Romany, Jasper! Oh dear, but you joke, the thing could never be."

"Yes, and at Piramus's fiddle; what do you think of a Scotchman turning up his nose at Piramus's fiddle?"

"A Scotchman turning up his nose at Piramus's fiddle! nonsense, Jasper."

"Do you know what I most dislike, brother?"

"I do not, unless it be the constable, Jasper."

"It is not the constable, it's a beggar on horseback, brother."

"What do you mean by a beggar on horseback?"

"Why, a scamp, brother, raised above his proper place, who takes every opportunity of giving himself fine airs. About a week ago, my people and myself camped on a green by a plantation in the neighbourhood of a great house. In the evening we were making merry, the girls were dancing, while Piramus was playing on the fiddle a tune of his own composing, to which he has given his own name, Piramus of Rome, and which is much celebrated amongst our people, and from which I have been told that one of the grand gorgio composers, who once heard it, has taken several hints. So, as we were making merry, a great many grand people, lords and ladies, I believe, came from the great house and looked on, as the girls danced to the tune of Piramus of Rome, and seemed much pleased; and when the girls had left off dancing, and Piramus playing, the ladies wanted to have their fortunes told; so I bade Mikailia Chikno, who can tell a fortune when she pleases better than any one else, tell them a fortune, and she, being in a good mind, told them a fortune which pleased them very much. So, after they had heard their fortunes, one of them asked if any of our women could sing; and I told them several could, more particularly Leviathan—you know Leviathan, she is not here now, but some miles distant, she is our best singer, Ursula coming next. So the lady said she should like to hear Leviathan sing, whereupon Leviathan sang the Gudlo pesham, {269a} and Piramus played the tune of the same name, which, as you know, means the honeycomb, the song and the tune being well entitled to the name, being wonderfully sweet. Well, everybody present seemed mighty well pleased with the song and music, with the exception of one person, a carroty-haired Scotch body; how he came there I don't know, but there he was; and, coming forward, he began in Scotch as broad as a barn-door to find fault with the music and the song, saying that he had never heard viler stuff than either. Well, brother, out of consideration for the civil gentry with whom the fellow had come, I held my peace for a long time, and in order to get the subject changed, I said to Mikailia in Romany, you have told the ladies their fortunes, now tell the gentlemen theirs, quick quick,—pen lende dukkerin. {269b} Well, brother, the Scotchman, I suppose, thinking I was speaking ill of him, fell into a greater passion than before, and catching hold of the word dukkerin—'Dukkerin,' said he, 'what's dukkerin?' 'Dukkerin,' said I, 'is fortune, a man or woman's destiny; don't you like the word?' 'Word! d'ye ca' that a word? a bonnie word,' said he. 'Perhaps you'll tell us what it is in Scotch,' said I, 'in order that we may improve our language by a Scotch word; a pal of mine has told me that we have taken a great many words from foreign lingos.' 'Why, then, if that be the case, fellow, I will tell you; it is e'en "spaeing,"' said he, very seriously. 'Well, then,' said I, 'I'll keep my own word, which is much the prettiest—spaeing! spaeing! why, I should be ashamed to make use of the word, it sounds so much like a certain other word;' and then I made a face as if I were unwell. 'Perhaps it's Scotch also for that?' 'What do you mean by speaking in that guise to a gentleman?' said he, 'you insolent vagabond, without a name or a country.' 'There you are mistaken,' said I, 'my country is Egypt, but we 'Gyptians, like you Scotch, are rather fond of travelling; and as for name—my name is Jasper Petulengro, perhaps you have a better; what is it?' 'Sandy Macraw.' At that, brother, the gentlemen burst into a roar of laughter, and all the ladies tittered."

"You were rather severe on the Scotchman, Jasper."

"Not at all, brother, and suppose I were, he began first; I am the civilest man in the world, and never interfere with anybody who lets me and mine alone. He finds fault with Romany, forsooth! why, L—-d A'mighty, what's Scotch? He doesn't like our songs; what are his own? I understand them as little as he mine; I have heard one or two of them, and pretty rubbish they seemed. But the best of the joke is the fellow's finding fault with Piramus's fiddle—a chap from the land of bagpipes finding fault with Piramus's fiddle! Why, I'll back that fiddle against all the bagpipes in Scotland, and Piramus against all the bagpipers; for though Piramus weighs but ten stone, he shall flog a Scotchman of twenty."

"Scotchmen are never so fat as that," said I, "unless, indeed, they have been a long time pensioners of England. I say, Jasper, what remarkable names your people have!"

"And what pretty names, brother; there's my own, for example, Jasper; then there's Ambrose and Sylvester; then there's Culvato, which signifies Claude; then there's Piramus, that's a nice name, brother."

"Then there's your wife's name, Pakomovna; then there's Ursula and Morella."

"Then, brother, there's Ercilla."

"Ercilla! the name of the great poet of Spain, how wonderful; then Leviathan."

"The name of a ship, brother; Leviathan was named after a ship, so don't make a wonder out of her. But there's Sanpriel and Synfye."

"Ay, and Clementina and Lavinia, Camillia and Lydia, Curlanda and Orlanda; wherever did they get those names?"

"Where did my wife get her necklace, brother?"

"She knows best, Jasper. I hope . . ."

"Come, no hoping! She got it from her grandmother, who died at the age of a hundred and three, and sleeps in Coggeshall churchyard. She got it from her mother, who also died very old, and could give no other account of it than that it had been in the family time out of mind."

"Whence could they have got it?"

"Why, perhaps where they got their names, brother. A gentleman, who had travelled much, once told me that he had seen the sister of it about the neck of an Indian queen."

"Some of your names, Jasper, appear to be church names; your own, for example, and Ambrose, and Sylvester; perhaps you got them from the Papists, in the times of Popery; but where did you get such a name as Piramus, a name of Grecian romance? Then some of them appear to be Slavonian; for example, Mikailia and Pakomovna. I don't know much of Slavonian; but . . ."

"What is Slavonian, brother?"

"The family name of certain nations, the principal of which is the Russian, and from which the word slave is originally derived. You have heard of the Russians, Jasper?"

"Yes, brother; and seen some. I saw their crallis at the time of the peace; he was not a bad-looking man for a Russian."

"By-the-bye, Jasper, I'm half inclined to think that crallis {272} is a Slavish word. I saw something like it in a lil called 'Voltaire's Life of Charles XII.' How you should have come by such names and words is to me incomprehensible."

"You seem posed, brother."

"I really know very little about you, Jasper."

"Very little indeed, brother. We know very little about ourselves; and you know nothing, save what we have told you; and we have now and then told you things about us which are not exactly true, simply to make a fool of you, brother. You will say that was wrong; perhaps it was. Well, Sunday will be here in a day or two, when we will go to church, where possibly we shall hear a sermon on the disastrous consequences of lying."



CHAPTER XXIV.—THE CHURCH—THE ARISTOCRATICAL PEW—DAYS OF YORE—THE CLERGYMAN—"IN WHAT WOULD A MAN BE PROFITED?"

When two days had passed, Sunday came; I breakfasted by myself in the solitary dingle; and then, having set things a little to rights, I ascended to Mr. Petulengro's encampment. I could hear church-bells ringing around in the distance, appearing to say, "Come to church, come to church," as clearly as it was possible for church-bells to say. I found Mr. Petulengro seated by the door of his tent, smoking his pipe, in rather an ungenteel undress. "Well, Jasper," said I, "are you ready to go to church? for if you are, I am ready to accompany you." "I am not ready, brother," said Mr. Petulengro, "nor is my wife; the church, too, to which we shall go is three miles off; so it is of no use to think of going there this morning, as the service would be three-quarters over before we got there; if, however, you are disposed to go in the afternoon, we are your people." Thereupon I returned to my dingle, where I passed several hours in conning the Welsh Bible, which the preacher, Peter Williams, {274} had given me.

At last I gave over reading, took a slight refreshment, and was about to emerge from the dingle, when I heard the voice of Mr. Petulengro calling me. I went up again to the encampment, where I found Mr. Petulengro, his wife, and Tawno Chikno, ready to proceed to church. Mr. and Mrs. Petulengro were dressed in Roman fashion, though not in the full-blown manner in which they had paid their visit to Isopel and myself. Tawno had on a clean white slop, with a nearly new black beaver, with very broad rims, and the nap exceedingly long. As for myself, I was dressed in much the same manner as that in which I departed from London, having on, in honour of the day, a shirt perfectly clean, having washed one on purpose for the occasion, with my own hands, the day before, in the pond of tepid water in which the newts and efts were in the habit of taking their pleasure. We proceeded for upwards of a mile, by footpaths through meadows and corn-fields; we crossed various stiles; at last, passing over one, we found ourselves in a road, wending along which for a considerable distance, we at last came in sight of a church, the bells of which had been tolling distinctly in our ears for some time; before, however, we reached the churchyard the bells had ceased their melody. It was surrounded by lofty beech-trees of brilliant green foliage. We entered the gate, Mrs. Petulengro leading the way, and proceeded to a small door near the east end of the church. As we advanced, the sound of singing within the church rose upon our ears. Arrived at the small door, Mrs. Petulengro opened it and entered, followed by Tawno Chikno. I myself went last of all, following Mr. Petulengro, who, before I entered, turned round and, with a significant nod, advised me to take care how I behaved. The part of the church {275} which we had entered was the chancel; on one side stood a number of venerable old men—probably the neighbouring poor—and on the other a number of poor girls belonging to the village school, dressed in white gowns and straw bonnets, whom two elegant but simply dressed young women were superintending. Every voice seemed to be united in singing a certain anthem, which, notwithstanding it was written neither by Tate nor Brady, contains some of the sublimest words which were ever put together, not the worst of which are those which burst on our ears as we entered.

"Every eye shall now behold Him, Robed in dreadful majesty; Those who set at nought and sold Him, Pierced and nailed Him to the tree, Deeply wailing, Shall the true Messiah see."

Still following Mrs. Petulengro, we proceeded down the chancel and along the aisle; notwithstanding the singing, I could distinctly hear as we passed many a voice whispering, "Here come the gypsies! here come the gypsies!" I felt rather embarrassed, with a somewhat awkward doubt as to where we were to sit; none of the occupiers of the pews, who appeared to consist almost entirely of farmers, with their wives, sons, and daughters, opened a door to admit us. Mrs. Petulengro, however, appeared to feel not the least embarrassment, but tripped along the aisle with the greatest nonchalance. We passed under the pulpit, in which stood the clergyman in his white surplice, and reached the middle of the church, where we were confronted by the sexton, dressed in a long blue coat, and holding in his hand a wand. This functionary motioned towards the lower end of the church, where were certain benches, partly occupied by poor people and boys. Mrs. Petulengro, however, with a toss of her head, directed her course to a magnificent pew, which was unoccupied, which she opened and entered, followed closely by Tawno Chikno, Mr. Petulengro, and myself. The sexton did not appear by any means to approve of the arrangement, and as I stood next the door laid his finger on my arm, as if to intimate that myself and companions must quit our aristocratical location. I said nothing, but directed my eyes to the clergyman, who uttered a short and expressive cough; the sexton looked at him for a moment, and then, bowing his head, closed the door—in a moment more the music ceased. I took up a prayer-book, on which was engraved an earl's coronet. The clergyman uttered, "I will arise, and go to my father." England's sublime liturgy had commenced.

Oh, what feelings came over me on finding myself again in an edifice devoted to the religion of my country! I had not been in such a place I cannot tell how long—certainly not for years; and now I had found my way there again, it appeared as if I had fallen asleep in the pew of the old church of pretty D[ereham]. I had occasionally done so when a child, and had suddenly woke up. Yes, surely I had been asleep and had woken up; but, no! alas, no! I had not been asleep—at least not in the old church—if I had been asleep I had been walking in my sleep, struggling, striving, learning, and unlearning in my sleep. Years had rolled away whilst I had been asleep—ripe fruit had fallen, green fruit had come on whilst I had been asleep—how circumstances had altered, and above all myself, whilst I had been asleep. No, I had not been asleep in the old church! I was in a pew it is true, but not the pew of black leather, in which I sometimes fell asleep in days of yore, but in a strange pew; and then my companions, they were no longer those of days of yore. I was no longer with my respectable father and mother, and my dear brother, but with the gypsy cral {277} and his wife, and the gigantic Tawno, the Antinous of the dusky people. And what was I myself? No longer an innocent child, but a moody man, bearing in my face, as I knew well, the marks of my strivings and strugglings, of what I had learned and unlearned; nevertheless, the general aspect of things brought to my mind what I had felt and seen of yore. There was difference enough it is true, but still there was a similarity—at least I thought so,—the church, the clergyman, and the clerk differing in many respects from those of pretty D . . ., put me strangely in mind of them; and then the words!—by-the-bye, was it not the magic of the words which brought the dear enchanting past so powerfully before the mind of Lavengro? for the words were the same sonorous words of high import which had first made an impression on his childish ear in the old church of pretty Dereham.

The liturgy was now over, during the reading of which my companions behaved in a most unexceptional manner, sitting down and rising up when other people sat down and rose, and holding in their hands prayer-books which they found in the pew, into which they stared intently, though I observed that, with the exception of Mrs. Petulengro, who knew how to read a little, they held the books by the top, and not the bottom, as is the usual way. The clergyman now ascended the pulpit, arrayed in his black gown. The congregation composed themselves to attention, as did also my companions, who fixed their eyes upon the clergyman with a certain strange immovable stare, which I believe to be peculiar to their race. The clergyman gave out his text, and began to preach. He was a tall, gentlemanly man, seemingly between fifty and sixty, with greyish hair; his features were very handsome, but with a somewhat melancholy cast: the tones of his voice were rich and noble, but also with somewhat of melancholy in them. The text which he gave out was the following one: "In what would a man be profited, provided he gained the whole world, and lost his own soul?"

And on this text the clergyman preached long and well: he did not read his sermon, but spoke it extempore; his doing so rather surprised and offended me at first; I was not used to such a style of preaching in a church devoted to the religion of my country. I compared it within my mind with the style of preaching used by the high-church rector in the old church of pretty D . . ., and I thought to myself it was very different, and being very different I did not like it, and I thought to myself how scandalised the people of D . . . would have been had they heard it, and I figured to myself how indignant the high-church clerk would have been had any clergyman got up in the church of D . . . and preached in such a manner. Did it not savour strongly of dissent, methodism, and similar low stuff? Surely it did; why, the Methodist I had heard preach on the heath above the old city, preached in the same manner—at least he preached extempore; ay, and something like the present clergyman, for the Methodist spoke very zealously and with great feeling, and so did the present clergyman; so I, of course, felt rather offended with the clergyman for speaking with zeal and feeling. However, long before the sermon was over I forgot the offence which I had taken, and listened to the sermon with much admiration, for the eloquence and powerful reasoning with which it abounded.

Oh, how eloquent he was, when he talked on the inestimable value of a man's soul, which he said endured for ever, whilst his body, as every one knew, lasted at most for a very contemptible period of time; and how forcibly he reasoned on the folly of a man, who, for the sake of gaining the whole world—a thing, he said, which provided he gained he could only possess for a part of the time, during which his perishable body existed—should lose his soul, that is, cause that precious deathless portion of him to suffer indescribable misery time without end.

There was one part of his sermon which struck me in a very particular manner: he said, "That there were some people who gained something in return for their souls; if they did not get the whole world, they got a part of it—lands, wealth, honour, or renown; mere trifles, he allowed, in comparison with the value of a man's soul, which is destined either to enjoy delight, or suffer tribulation time without end; but which, in the eyes of the worldly, had a certain value, and which afforded a certain pleasure and satisfaction. But there were also others who lost their souls, and got nothing for them—neither lands, wealth, renown, nor consideration, who were poor outcasts, and despised by everybody. My friends," he added, "if the man is a fool who barters his soul for the whole world, what a fool he must be who barters his soul for nothing!"

The eyes of the clergyman, as he uttered these words, wandered around the whole congregation; and when he had concluded them, the eyes of the whole congregation were turned upon my companions and myself.



CHAPTER XXV.—RETURN FROM CHURCH—THE CUCKOO AND GYPSY—SPIRITUAL DISCOURSE.

The service over, my companions and myself returned towards the encampment by the way we came. Some of the humble part of the congregation laughed and joked at us as we passed. Mr. Petulengro and his wife, however, returned their laughs and jokes with interest. As for Tawno and myself, we said nothing: Tawno, like most handsome fellows, having very little to say for himself at any time; and myself, though not handsome, not being particularly skilful at repartee. Some boys followed us for a considerable time, making all kinds of observations about gypsies; but as we walked at a great pace, we gradually left them behind, and at last lost sight of them. Mrs. Petulengro and Tawno Chikno walked together, even as they had come; whilst Mr. Petulengro and myself followed at a little distance.

"That was a very fine preacher we heard," said I to Mr. Petulengro, after we had crossed the stile into the fields.

"Very fine, indeed, brother," said Mr. Petulengro; "he is talked of, far and wide, for his sermons; folks say that there is scarcely another like him in the whole of England."

"He looks rather melancholy, Jasper."

"He lost his wife several years ago, who, they say, was one of the most beautiful women ever seen. They say that it was grief for her loss that made him come out mighty strong as a preacher; for, though he was a clergyman, he was never heard of in the pulpit before he lost his wife; since then the whole country has rung with the preaching of the clergyman of M . . ., as they call him. Those two nice young gentlewomen, whom you saw with the female childer, are his daughters."

"You seem to know all about him, Jasper. Did you ever hear him preach before?"

"Never, brother; but he has frequently been to our tent, and his daughters too, and given us tracts; for he is one of the people they call Evangelicals, who give folks tracts which they cannot read."

"You should learn to read, Jasper."

"We have no time, brother."

"Are you not frequently idle?"

"Never, brother; when we are not engaged in our traffic, we are engaged in taking our relaxation: so we have no time to learn."

"You really should make an effort. If you were disposed to learn to read, I would endeavour to assist you. You would be all the better for knowing how to read."

"In what way, brother?"

"Why, you could read the Scriptures, and, by so doing, learn your duty towards your fellow-creatures."

"We know that already, brother; the constables and justices have contrived to knock that tolerably into our heads."

"Yet you frequently break the laws."

"So, I believe, do now and then those who know how to read, brother."

"Very true, Jasper; but you really ought to learn to read, as, by so doing, you might learn your duty towards yourselves: and your chief duty is to take care of your own souls; did not the preacher say, 'In what is a man profited, provided he gain the whole world'?"

"We have not much of the world, brother."

"Very little indeed, Jasper. Did you not observe how the eyes of the whole congregation were turned towards our pew when the preacher said, 'There are some people who lose their souls, and get nothing in exchange; who are outcast, despised, and miserable?' Now, was not what he said quite applicable to the gypsies?"

"We are not miserable, brother."

"Well, then, you ought to be, Jasper. Have you an inch of ground of your own? Are you of the least use? Are you not spoken ill of by everybody? What's a gypsy?"

"What's the bird noising yonder, brother?"

"The bird! Oh, that's the cuckoo tolling; but what has the cuckoo to do with the matter?"

"We'll see, brother; what's the cuckoo?"

"What is it? you know as much about it as myself, Jasper."

"Isn't it a kind of roguish, chaffing bird, brother?"

"I believe it is, Jasper."

"Nobody knows whence it comes, brother?"

"I believe not, Jasper."

"Very poor, brother, not a nest of its own?"

"So they say, Jasper."

"With every person's bad word, brother?"

"Yes, Jasper, every person is mocking it."

"Tolerably merry, brother?"

"Yes, tolerably merry, Jasper."

"Of no use at all, brother?"

"None whatever, Jasper."

"You would be glad to get rid of the cuckoos, brother?"

"Why, not exactly, Jasper; the cuckoo is a pleasant, funny bird, and its presence and voice give a great charm to the green trees and fields; no, I can't say I wish exactly to get rid of the cuckoo."

"Well, brother, what's a Romany chal?"

"You must answer that question yourself, Jasper."

"A roguish, chaffing fellow, a'n't he, brother?"

"Ay, ay, Jasper."

"Of no use at all, brother?"

"Just so, Jasper; I see . . ."

"Something very much like a cuckoo, brother?"

"I see what you are after, Jasper."

"You would like to get rid of us, wouldn't you?"

"Why, no, not exactly."

"We are no ornament to the green lanes in spring and summer time, are we, brother? and the voices of our chies, with their cukkerin and dukkerin, don't help to make them pleasant?"

"I see what you are at, Jasper."

"You would wish to turn the cuckoos into barn-door fowls, wouldn't you?"

"Can't say I should, Jasper, whatever some people might wish."

"And the chals and chies into radical weavers and factory wenches, hey, brother?"

"Can't say that I should, Jasper. You are certainly a picturesque people, and in many respects an ornament both to town and country; painting and lil writing too are under great obligations to you. What pretty pictures are made out of your campings and groupings, and what pretty books have been written in which gypsies, or at least creatures intended to represent gypsies, have been the principal figures! I think if we were without you, we should begin to miss you."

"Just as you would the cuckoos, if they were all converted into barn-door fowls. I tell you what, brother, frequently as I have sat under a hedge in spring or summer time, and heard the cuckoo, I have thought that we chals and cuckoos are alike in many respects, but especially in character. Everybody speaks ill of us both, and everybody is glad to see both of us again."

"Yes, Jasper, but there is some difference between men and cuckoos; men have souls, Jasper!"

"And why not cuckoos, brother?"

"You should not talk so, Jasper; what you say is little short of blasphemy. How should a bird have a soul?"

"And how should a man?"

"Oh, we know very well that a man has a soul."

"How do you know it?"

"We know very well."

"Would you take your oath of it, brother—your bodily oath?"

"Why, I think I might, Jasper!"

"Did you ever see the soul, brother?"

"No, I never saw it."

"Then how could you swear to it? A pretty figure you would make in a court of justice, to swear to a thing which you never saw. Hold up your head, fellow. When and where did you see it? Now upon your oath, fellow, do you mean to say that this Roman stole the donkey's foal? Oh, there's no one for cross-questioning like Counsellor P . . . Our people when they are in a hobble always like to employ him, though he is somewhat dear. Now, brother, how can you get over the 'upon your oath, fellow, will you say that you have a soul?'"

"Well, we will take no oath on the subject; but you yourself believe in the soul. I have heard you say that you believe in dukkerin; now what is dukkerin {286} but the soul science?"

"When did I say that I believed in it?"

"Why, after that fight, when you pointed to the bloody mark in the cloud, whilst he you wot of was galloping in the barouche to the old town, amidst the rain-cataracts, the thunder, and flame of heaven."

"I have some kind of remembrance of it, brother."

"Then, again, I heard you say that the dook of Abershaw rode every night on horseback down the wooded hill."

"I say, brother, what a wonderful memory you have!"

"I wish I had not, Jasper, but I can't help it; it is my misfortune."

"Misfortune! well, perhaps it is; at any rate it is very ungenteel to have such a memory. I have heard my wife say that to show you have a long memory looks very vulgar; and that you can't give a greater proof of gentility than by forgetting a thing as soon as possible—more especially a promise, or an acquaintance when he happens to be shabby. Well, brother, I don't deny that I may have said that I believe in dukkerin, and in Abershaw's dook, which you say is his soul; but what I believe one moment, or say I believe, don't be certain that I shall believe the next, or say I do."

"Indeed, Jasper, I heard you say on a previous occasion, on quoting a piece of song, that when a man dies he is cast into the earth, and there's an end of him."

"I did, did I? Lor', what a memory you have, brother! But you are not sure that I hold that opinion now."

"Certainly not, Jasper. Indeed, after such a sermon as we have been hearing, I should be very shocked if you held such an opinion."

"However, brother, don't be sure I do not, however shocking such an opinion may be to you."

"What an incomprehensible people you are, Jasper."

"We are rather so, brother; indeed, we have posed wiser heads than yours before now."

"You seem to care for so little, and yet you rove about a distinct race."

"I say, brother!"

"Yes, Jasper."

"What do you think of our women?"

"They have certainly very singular names, Jasper."

"Names! Lavengro! But, brother, if you had been as fond of things as of names, you would never have been a pal of ours."

"What do you mean, Jasper?"

"A'n't they rum animals?"

"They have tongues of their own, Jasper."

"Did you ever feel their teeth and nails, brother?"

"Never, Jasper, save Mrs. Herne's. {288} I have always been very civil to them, so . . ."

"They let you alone. I say, brother, some part of the secret is in them."

"They seem rather flighty, Jasper."

"Ay, ay, brother!"

"Rather fond of loose discourse!"

"Rather so, brother."

"Can you always trust them, Jasper?"

"We never watch them, brother."

"Can they always trust you?"

"Not quite so well as we can them. However, we get on very well together, except Mikailia and her husband; but Mikailia is a cripple, and is married to the beauty of the world, so she may be expected to be jealous—though he would not part with her for a duchess, no more than I would part with my rawnie, nor any other chal with his."

"Ay, but would not the chi part with the chal for a duke, Jasper?"

"My Pakomovna gave up the duke for me, brother."

"But she occasionally talks of him, Jasper."

"Yes, brother, but Pakomovna was born on a common not far from the sign of the gammon."

"Gammon of bacon, I suppose."

"Yes, brother; but gammon likewise means . . ."

"I know it does, Jasper; it means fun, ridicule, jest; it is an ancient Norse word, and is found in the Edda."

"Lor', brother! how learned in lils you are!"

"Many words of Norse are to be found in our vulgar sayings, Jasper; for example—in that particularly vulgar saying of ours, 'Your mother is up,' {289} there's a noble Norse word; mother, there, meaning not the female who bore us, but rage and choler, as I discovered by reading the Sagas, Jasper."

"Lor', brother! how book-learned you be."

"Indifferently so, Jasper. Then you think you might trust your wife with the duke?"

"I think I could, brother, or even with yourself."

"Myself, Jasper! Oh, I never troubled my head about your wife; but I suppose there have been love affairs between gorgios {290} and Romany chies. Why, novels are stuffed with such matters; and then even one of your own songs says so—the song which Ursula was singing the other afternoon."

"That is somewhat of an old song, brother, and is sung by the chies as a warning at our solemn festivals."

"Well! but there's your sister-in-law, Ursula, herself, Jasper."

"Ursula, herself, brother?"

"You were talking of my having her, Jasper."

"Well, brother, why didn't you have her?"

"Would she have had me?"

"Of course, brother. You are so much of a Roman, and speak Romany so remarkably well."

"Poor thing! she looks very innocent!"

"Remarkably so, brother! However, though not born on the same common with my wife, she knows a thing or two of Roman matters."

"I should like to ask her a question or two, Jasper, in connection with that song."

"You can do no better, brother. Here we are at the camp. After tea, take Ursula under a hedge, and ask her a question or two in connection with that song."



CHAPTER XXVI.—SUNDAY EVENING—URSULA—ACTION AT LAW—MERIDIANA MARRIED ALREADY.

I took tea that evening with Mr. and Mrs. Petulengro and Ursula, {291} outside of their tent. Tawno was not present, being engaged with his wife in his own tabernacle; Sylvester was there, however, lolling listlessly upon the ground. As I looked upon this man, I thought him one of the most disagreeable fellows I had ever seen. His features were ugly, and, moreover, as dark as pepper; and, besides being dark, his skin was dirty. As for his dress, it was torn and sordid. His chest was broad, and his arms seemed powerful; but, upon the whole, he looked a very caitiff. "I am sorry that man has lost his wife," thought I; "for I am sure he will never get another." What surprises me is, that he ever found a woman disposed to unite her lot with his!

After tea I got up and strolled about the field. My thoughts were upon Isopel Berners. I wondered where she was, and how long she would stay away. At length becoming tired and listless, I determined to return to the dingle, and resume the reading of the Bible at the place where I had left off. "What better could I do," methought, "on a Sunday evening?" I was then near the wood which surrounded the dingle, but at that side which was farthest from the encampment, which stood near the entrance. Suddenly, on turning round the southern corner of the copse, which surrounded the dingle, I perceived Ursula seated under a thorn-bush. I thought I never saw her look prettier than then, dressed as she was, in her Sunday's best.

"Good evening, Ursula," said I; "I little thought to have the pleasure of seeing you here."

"Nor would you, brother," said Ursula, "had not Jasper told me that you had been talking about me, and wanted to speak to me under a hedge; so hearing that, I watched your motions, and came here and sat down."

"I was thinking of going to my quarters in the dingle, to read the Bible, Ursula, but . . ."

"Oh, pray then, go to your quarters, brother, and read the Miduveleskoe lil; {293} you can speak to me under a hedge some other time."

"I think I will sit down with you, Ursula; for, after all, reading godly books in dingles at eve is rather sombre work. Yes, I think I will sit down with you;" and I sat down by her side.

"Well, brother, now you have sat down with me under the hedge, what have you to say to me?"

"Why, I hardly know, Ursula."

"Not know, brother; a pretty fellow you to ask young women to come and sit with you under hedges, and, when they come, not know what to say to them."

"Oh! ah! I remember; do you know, Ursula, that I take a great interest in you?"

"Thank ye, brother; kind of you, at any rate."

"You must be exposed to a great many temptations, Ursula."

"A great many indeed, brother. It is hard to see fine things, such as shawls, gold watches, and chains in the shops, behind the big glasses, and to know that they are not intended for one. Many's the time I have been tempted to make a dash at them; but I bethought myself that by so doing I should cut my hands, besides being almost certain of being grabbed and sent across the gull's bath to the foreign country."

"Then you think gold and fine things temptations, Ursula?"

"Of course, brother, very great temptations; don't you think them so?"

"Can't say I do, Ursula."

"Then more fool you, brother; but have the kindness to tell me what you would call a temptation?"

"Why, for example, the hope of honour and renown, Ursula."

"The hope of honour and renown! very good, brother: but I tell you one thing, that unless you have money in your pocket, and good broadcloth on your back, you are not likely to obtain much honour and—what do you call it? amongst the gorgios, to say nothing of the Romany chals."

"I should have thought, Ursula, that the Romany chals, roaming about the world as they do, free and independent, were above being led by such trifles."

"Then you know nothing of the gypsies, brother; no people on earth are fonder of those trifles, as you call them, than the Romany chals, or more disposed to respect those who have them."

"Then money and fine clothes would induce you to do anything, Ursula?"

"Ay, ay, brother, anything."

"To chore, {295a} Ursula?"

"Like enough, brother; gypsies have been transported before now for choring."

"To hokkawar?" {295b}

"Ay, ay; I was telling dukkerin only yesterday, brother."

"In fact, to break the law in everything?"

"Who knows, brother, who knows? as I said before, gold and fine clothes are great temptations."

"Well, Ursula, I am sorry for it, I should never have thought you so depraved."

"Indeed, brother."

"To think that I am seated by one who is willing to—to . . ."

"Go on, brother."

"To play the thief."

"Go on, brother."

"The liar."

"Go on, brother."

"The—the . . ."

"Go on, brother."

"The—the lubbeny." {295c}

"The what, brother?" said Ursula, starting from her seat.

"Why, the lubbeny; don't you . . ."

"I tell you what, brother," said Ursula, looking somewhat pale, and speaking very low, "if I had only something in my hand, I would do you a mischief."

"Why, what is the matter, Ursula?" said I; "how have I offended you?"

"How have you offended me? Why, didn't you insinivate just now that I was ready to play the—the . . ."

"Go on, Ursula."

"The—the . . . I'll not say it; but I only wish I had something in my hand."

"If I have offended, Ursula, I am very sorry for it; any offence I may have given you was from want of understanding you. Come, pray be seated, I have much to question you about—to talk to you about."

"Seated, not I! It was only just now that you gave me to understand that you was ashamed to be seated by me, a thief, a liar."

"Well, did you not almost give me to understand that you were both, Ursula?"

"I don't much care being called a thief and a liar," said Ursula; "a person may be a liar and a thief, and yet a very honest woman, but . . ."

"Well, Ursula."

"I tell you what, brother, if you ever sinivate again that I could be the third thing, so help me duvel! {296} I'll do you a mischief. By my God I will!"

"Well, Ursula, I assure you that I shall sinivate, as you call it, nothing of the kind about you. I have no doubt, from what you have said, that you are a very paragon of virtue—a perfect Lucretia; but . . ."

"My name is Ursula, brother, and not Lucretia: Lucretia is not of our family, but one of the Bucklands; she travels about Oxfordshire; yet I am as good as she any day."

"Lucretia! how odd! Where could she have got that name? Well, I make no doubt, Ursula, that you are quite as good as she, and she of her namesake of ancient Rome; but there is a mystery in this same virtue, Ursula, which I cannot fathom! how a thief and a liar should be able, or indeed willing, to preserve her virtue is what I don't understand. You confess that you are very fond of gold. Now, how is it that you don't barter your virtue for gold sometimes? I am a philosopher, Ursula, and like to know everything. You must be every now and then exposed to great temptation, Ursula: for you are of a beauty calculated to captivate all hearts. Come, sit down and tell me how you are enabled to resist such temptation as gold and fine clothes?"

"Well, brother," said Ursula, "as you say you mean no harm, I will sit down beside you, and enter into discourse with you; but I will uphold that you are the coolest hand that I ever came nigh, and say the coolest things."

And thereupon Ursula sat down by my side.

"Well, Ursula, we will, if you please, discourse on the subject of your temptations. I suppose that you travel very much about, and show yourself in all kinds of places?"

"In all kinds, brother; I travels, as you say, very much, attends fairs and races, and enters booths and public-houses, where I tells fortunes, and sometimes dances and sings."

"And do not people often address you in a very free manner?"

"Frequently, brother; and I give them tolerably free answers."

"Do people ever offer to make you presents? I mean presents of value, such as . . ."

"Silk handkerchiefs, shawls, and trinkets; very frequently, brother."

"And what do you do, Ursula?"

"I take what people offers me, brother, and stows it away as soon as I can."

"Well, but don't people expect something for their presents? I don't mean dukkerin, dancing, and the like; but such a moderate and innocent thing as a choomer, {298} Ursula?"

"Innocent thing, do you call it, brother?"

"The world calls it so, Ursula. Well, do the people who give you the fine things never expect a choomer in return?"

"Very frequently, brother."

"And do you ever grant it?"

"Never, brother."

"How do you avoid it?"

"I gets away as soon as possible, brother. If they follows me, I tries to baffle them, by means of jests and laughter; and if they persist, I uses bad and terrible language, of which I have plenty in store."

"But if your terrible language has no effect?"

"Then I screams for the constable, and if he comes not, I uses my teeth and nails."

"And are they always sufficient?"

"I have only had to use them twice, brother; but then I found them sufficient."

"But suppose the person who followed you was highly agreeable, Ursula? A handsome young officer of local militia, for example, all dressed in Lincoln green, would you still refuse him the choomer?"

"We makes no difference, brother! the daughters of the gypsy-father makes no difference; and, what's more, sees none."

"Well, Ursula, the world will hardly give you credit for such indifference."

"What cares we for the world, brother! we are not of the world."

"But your fathers, brothers, and uncles give you credit I suppose, Ursula."

"Ay, ay, brother, our fathers, brothers, and cokos {299a} gives us all manner of credit; for example, I am telling lies and dukkerin in a public- house where my batu {299b} or coko—perhaps both—are playing on the fiddle; well, my batu and my coko beholds me amongst the public-house crew, talking nonsense and hearing nonsense; but they are under no apprehension; and presently they sees the good-looking officer of militia, in his greens and Lincolns, get up and give me a wink, and I go out with him abroad, into the dark night perhaps; well, my batu and coko goes on fiddling, just as if I were six miles off asleep in the tent, and not out in the dark street with the local officer, with his Lincolns and his greens."

"They know they can trust you, Ursula?"

"Ay, ay, brother; and, what's more, I knows I can trust myself."

"So you would merely go out to make a fool of him, Ursula?"

"Merely go out to make a fool of him, brother, I assure you."

"But such proceedings really have an odd look, Ursula."

"Amongst gorgios, very so, brother."

"Well, it must be rather unpleasant to lose one's character even amongst gorgios, Ursula; and suppose the officer, out of revenge for being tricked and duped by you, were to say of you the thing that is not, were to meet you on the race-course the next day, and boast of receiving favours which he never had, amidst a knot of jeering militia-men, how would you proceed, Ursula? would you not be abashed?"

"By no means, brother; I should bring my action of law against him."

"Your action at law, Ursula?"

"Yes, brother; I should give a whistle, whereupon all one's cokos and batus, and all my near and distant relations, would leave their fiddling, dukkerin, and horse-dealing, and come flocking about me. 'What's the matter, Ursula?' says my coko. 'Nothing at all,' I replies, 'save and except that gorgio, in his greens and his Lincolns, says that I have played the . . . with him.' 'Oho, he does, Ursula,' says my coko; 'try your action of law against him, my lamb,' and he puts something privily into my hands; whereupon I goes close up to the grinning gorgio, and staring him in the face, with my head pushed forward, I cries out: 'You say I did what was wrong with you last night when I was out with you abroad?' 'Yes,' says the local officer, 'I says you did,' looking down all the time. 'You are a liar,' says I, and forthwith I breaks his head with the stick which I holds behind me, and which my coko has conveyed privily into my hand."

"And this is your action at law, Ursula?"

"Yes, brother, this is my action at club-law."

"And would your breaking the fellow's head quite clear you of all suspicion in the eyes of your batus, cokos, {301} and what not?"

"They would never suspect me at all, brother, because they would know that I would never condescend to be over intimate with a gorgio; the breaking the head would be merely intended to justify Ursula in the eyes of the gorgios."

"And would it clear you in their eyes?"

"Would it not, brother? When they saw the blood running down from the fellow's cracked poll on his greens and Lincolns, they would be quite satisfied; why, the fellow would not be able to show his face at fair or merry-making for a year and three quarters."

"Did you ever try it, Ursula?"

"Can't say I ever did, brother, but it would do."

"And how did you ever learn such a method of proceeding?"

"Why, 'tis advised by gypsy liri, {302a} brother. It's part of our way of settling difficulties amongst ourselves; for example, if a young Roman were to say the thing which is not respecting Ursula and himself, Ursula would call a great meeting of the people, who would all sit down in a ring, the young fellow amongst them; a coko would then put a stick in Ursula's hand, who would then get up and go to the young fellow, and say, 'Did I play the . . . with you?' and were he to say 'Yes,' she would crack his head before the eyes of all."

"Well," said I, "Ursula, I was bred an apprentice to gorgio law, and of course ought to stand up for it, whenever I conscientiously can, but I must say the gypsy manner of bringing an action for defamation is much less tedious, and far more satisfactory, than the gorgiko one. I wish you now to clear up a certain point which is rather mysterious to me. You say that for a Romany chi to do what is unseemly with a gorgio is quite out of the question, yet only the other day I heard you singing a song in which a Romany chi confesses herself to be cambri {302b} by a grand gorgious gentleman."

"A sad let down," said Ursula.

"Well," said I, "sad or not, there's the song that speaks of the thing, which you give me to understand is not?"

"Well, if the thing ever was," said Ursula, "it was a long time ago, and perhaps, after all, not true."

"Then why do you sing the song?"

"I tell you, brother: we sings the song now and then to be a warning to ourselves to have as little to do as possible in the way of acquaintance with the gorgios; and a warning it is. You see how the young woman in the song was driven out of her tent by her mother, with all kinds of disgrace and bad language; but you don't know that she was afterwards buried alive by her cokos and pals, in an uninhabited place. The song doesn't say it, but the story says it; for there is a story about it, though, as I said before, it was a long time ago, and perhaps, after all, wasn't true."

"But if such a thing were to happen at present, would the cokos and pals bury the girl alive?"

"I can't say what they would do," said Ursula, "I suppose they are not so strict as they were long ago; at any rate she would be driven from the tan, {303} and avoided by all her family and relations as a gorgio's acquaintance, so that, perhaps, at last, she would be glad if they would bury her alive."

"Well, I can conceive that there would be an objection on the part of the cokos and batus that a Romany chi should form an improper acquaintance with a gorgio, but I should think that the batus and cokos could hardly object to the chi's entering into the honourable estate of wedlock with a gorgio."

Ursula was silent.

"Marriage is an honourable estate, Ursula."

"Well, brother, suppose it be?"

"I don't see why a Romany chi should object to enter into the honourable estate of wedlock with a gorgio."

"You don't, brother; don't you?"

"No," said I, "and, moreover, I am aware, notwithstanding your evasion, Ursula, that marriages and connections now and then occur between gorgios and Romany chies; the result of which is the mixed breed, called half-and- half, which is at present travelling about England, and to which the Flaming Tinman belongs, otherwise called Anselo Herne."

"As for the half-and-halfs," said Ursula, "they are a bad set; and there is not a worse blackguard in England than Anselo Herne."

"All what you say may be very true, Ursula, but you admit that there are half-and-halfs."

"The more's the pity, brother."

"Pity or not, you admit the fact; but how do you account for it?"

"How do I account for it? why, I will tell you, by the break up of a Roman family, brother,—the father of a small family dies, and perhaps the mother; and the poor children are left behind; sometimes they are gathered up by their relations, and sometimes, if they have none, by charitable Romans, who bring them up in the observance of gypsy law; but sometimes they are not so lucky, and falls into the company of gorgios, trampers, and basket-makers, who live in caravans, with whom they take up, and so . . . I hate to talk of the matter, brother; but so comes this race of the half-and-halfs."

"Then you mean to say, Ursula, that no Romany chi, unless compelled by hard necessity, would have anything to do with a gorgio."

"We are not over fond of gorgios, brother, and we hates basket-makers and folks that live in caravans."

"Well," said I, "suppose a gorgio, who is not a basket-maker, a fine handsome gorgious gentleman, who lives in a fine house . . ."

"We are not fond of houses, brother. I never slept in a house in my life."

"But would not plenty of money induce you?"

"I hate houses, brother, and those who live in them."

"Well, suppose such a person were willing to resign his fine house, and, for love of you, to adopt gypsy law, speak Romany, and live in a tan, {305} would you have nothing to say to him?"

"Bringing plenty of money with him, brother?"

"Well, bringing plenty of money with him, Ursula."

"Well, brother, suppose you produce your man; where is he?"

"I was merely supposing such a person, Ursula."

"Then you don't know of such a person, brother?"

"Why, no, Ursula; why do you ask?"

"Because, brother, I was almost beginning to think that you meant yourself."

"Myself, Ursula! I have no fine house to resign; nor have I money. Moreover, Ursula, though I have a great regard for you, and though I consider you very handsome, quite as handsome, indeed, as Meridiana in . . ."

"Meridiana! where did you meet with her?" said Ursula, with a toss of her head.

"Why, in old Pulci's . . ."

"At old Fulcher's! that's not true brother. Meridiana is a Borzlam, and travels with her own people, and not with old Fulcher, {306} who is a gorgio and a basket-maker."

"I was not speaking of old Fulcher, but Pulci, a great Italian writer, who lived many hundred years ago, and who, in his poem called the 'Morgante Maggiore,' speaks of Meridiana, the daughter of . . ."

"Old Carus Borzlam," said Ursula; "but if the fellow you mention lived so many hundred years ago, how, in the name of wonder, could he know anything of Meridiana?"

"The wonder, Ursula, is, how your people could ever have got hold of that name, and similar ones. The Meridiana of Pulci was not the daughter of old Carus Borzlam, but of Caradoro, a great pagan king of the East, who, being besieged in his capital by Manfredonio, another mighty pagan king, who wished to obtain possession of his daughter, who had refused him, was relieved in his distress by certain paladins of Charlemagne, with one of whom, Oliver, his daughter Meridiana fell in love."

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