The Gypsies
by Charles G. Leland
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These were very nice people. The old dame took a great liking to L., and showed it in pleasant manners. The couple were both English, and liked to talk with me of the old country and the many mutual friends whom we had left behind. On another visit, L. brought a scarlet silk handkerchief, which she had bound round her head and tied under her chin in a very gypsy manner. It excited, as I anticipated, great admiration from the old dame.

"Ah kenna tute dikks rinkeni—now you look nice. That's the way a Romany lady ought to wear it! Don't she look just as Alfi used to look?" she cried to her husband. "Just such eyes and hair!"

Here L. took off the diklo, or handkerchief, and passed it round the gypsy woman's head, and tied it under her chin, saying,—

"I am sure it becomes you much more than it does me. Now you look nice:—

"'Red and yellow for Romany, And blue and pink for the Gorgiee.'"

We rose to depart, the old dame offered back to L. her handkerchief, and, on being told to keep it, was greatly pleased. I saw that the way in which it was given had won her heart.

"Did you hear what the old woman said while she was telling your fortune?" asked L., after we had left the tent.

"Now, I think of it, I remember that she or you had hold of my hand, while I was talking with the old man, and he was making merry with my whisky. I was turned away, and around so that I never noticed what you two were saying."

"She penned your dukkerin, and it was wonderful. She said that she must tell it."

And here L. told me what the old dye had insisted on reading in my hand. It was simply very remarkable, and embraced an apparent knowledge of the past, which would make any credulous person believe in her happy predictions of the future.

"Ah, well," I said, "I suppose the dukk told it to her. She may be an eye-reader. A hint dropped here and there, unconsciously, the expression of the face, and a life's practice will make anybody a witch. And if there ever was a witch's eye, she has it."

"I would like to have her picture," said L., "in that lullo diklo [red handkerchief]. She looked like all the sorceresses of Thessaly and Egypt in one, and, as Bulwer says of the Witch of Vesuvius, was all the more terrible for having been beautiful."

Some time after this we went, with Britannia Lee a-gypsying, not figuratively, but literally, over the river into New Jersey. And our first greeting, as we touched the ground, was of good omen, and from a great man, for it was Walt Whitman. It is not often that even a poet meets with three sincerer admirers than the venerable bard encountered on this occasion; so, of course, we stopped and talked, and L. had the pleasure of being the first to communicate to Bon Gualtier certain pleasant things which had recently been printed of him by a distinguished English author, which is always an agreeable task. Blessed upon the mountains, or at the Camden ferryboat, or anywhere, are the feet of anybody who bringeth glad tidings.

"Well, are you going to see gypsies?"

"We are. We three gypsies be. By the abattoir. Au revoir."

And on we went to the place where I had first found gypsies in America. All was at first so still that it seemed if no one could be camped in the spot.

"Se kekno adoi." (There's nobody there.)

"Dordi!" cried Britannia, "Dikkava me o tuv te tan te wardo. [I see a smoke, a tent, a wagon.] I declare, it is my puro pal, my old friend, W."

And we drew near the tent and greeted its owner, who was equally astonished and delighted at seeing such distinguished Romany tani ranis, or gypsy young ladies, and brought forth his wife and three really beautiful children to do the honors. W. was a good specimen of an American-born gypsy, strong, healthy, clean, and temperate, none the worse for wear in out-of-dooring, through tropical summers and terrible winters. Like all American Romanys, he was more straightforward than most of his race in Europe. All Romanys are polite, but many of the European kind are most uncomfortably and unconsciously naive. Strange that the most innocent people should be those who most offend morality. I knew a lady once—Heaven grant that I may never meet with such another!—who had been perfectly educated in entire purity of soul. And I never knew any devergondee who could so shock, shame, and pain decent people as this Agnes did in her sweet ignorance.

"I shall never forget the first day you came to my camp," said W. to Britannia. "Ah, you astonished me then. You might have knocked me down with a feather. And I didn't know what to say. You came in a carriage with two other ladies. And you jumped out first, and walked up to me, and cried, 'Sa'shan!' That stunned me, but I answered, 'Sa'shan.' Then I didn't speak Romanes to you, for I didn't know but what you kept it a secret from the other two ladies, and I didn't wish to betray you. And when you began to talk it as deep as any old Romany I ever heard, and pronounced it so rich and beautiful, I thought I'd never heard the like. I thought you must be a witch."

"Awer me shom chovihani" (but I am a witch), cried the lady. "Mukka men ja adre o tan." (Let us go into the tent.) So we entered, and sat round the fire, and asked news of all the wanderers of the roads, and the young ladies, having filled their pockets with sweets, produced them for the children, and we were as much at home as we had ever been in any salon; for it was a familiar scene to us all, though it would, perhaps, have been a strange one to the reader, had he by chance, walking that lonely way in the twilight, looked into the tent and asked his way, and there found two young ladies—bien mises—with their escort, all very much at their ease, and talking Romany as if they had never known any other tongue from the cradle.

"What is the charm of all this?" It is that if one has a soul, and does not live entirely reflected from the little thoughts and little ways of a thousand other little people, it is well to have at all times in his heart some strong hold of nature. No matter how much we may be lost in society, dinners, balls, business, we should never forget that there is an eternal sky with stars over it all, a vast, mysterious earth with terrible secrets beneath us, seas, mountains, rivers, and forests away and around; and that it is from these and what is theirs, and not from gas-lit, stifling follies, that all strength and true beauty must come. To this life, odd as he is, the gypsy belongs, and to be sometimes at home with him by wood and wold takes us for a time from "the world." If I express myself vaguely and imperfectly, it is only to those who know not the charm of nature, its ineffable soothing sympathy,—its life, its love. Gypsies, like children, feel this enchantment as the older grown do not. To them it is a song without words; would they be happier if the world brought them to know it as words without song, without music or melody? I never read a right old English ballad of sumere when the leaves are grene or the not-broune maid, with its rustling as of sprays quivering to the song of the wode-wale, without thinking or feeling deeply how those who wrote them would have been bound to the Romany. It is ridiculous to say that gypsies are not "educated" to nature and art, when, in fact, they live it. I sometimes suspect that aesthetic culture takes more true love of nature out of the soul than it inspires. One would not say anything of a wild bird or deer being deficient in a sense of that beauty of which it is a part. There are infinite grades, kinds, or varieties of feeling of nature, and every man is perfectly satisfied that his is the true one. For my own part, I am not sure that a rabbit, in the dewy grass, does not feel the beauty of nature quite as much as Mr. Ruskin, and much more than I do.

No poet has so far set forth the charm of gypsy life better than Lenau has done, in his highly-colored, quickly-expressive ballad of "Die drei Zigeuner," of which I here give a translation into English and another into Anglo-American Romany.


I saw three gypsy men, one day, Camped in a field together, As my wagon went its weary way, All over the sand and heather.

And one of the three whom I saw there Had his fiddle just before him, And played for himself a stormy air, While the evening-red shone o'er him.

And the second puffed his pipe again Serenely and undaunted, As if he at least of earthly men Had all the luck that he wanted.

In sleep and comfort the last was laid, In a tree his cymbal {238} lying, Over its strings the breezes played, O'er his heart a dream went flying.

Ragged enough were all the three, Their garments in holes and tatters; But they seemed to defy right sturdily The world and all worldly matters.

Thrice to the soul they seemed to say, When earthly trouble tries it, How to fiddle, sleep it, and smoke it away, And so in three ways despise it.

And ever anon I look around, As my wagon onward presses, At the gypsy faces darkly browned, And the long black flying tresses.


Dikdom me trin geeria Sar yeckno a tacho Rom, Sa miro wardo ghias adur Apre a wafedo drom.

O yeckto sos boshengero, Yuv kellde pes-kokero, O kamlo-dud te perele Sos lullo apre lo.

O duito sar a swagele Dikde 'pre lestes tuv, Ne kamde kumi, penava me 'Dre sar o miduvels puv.

O trinto sovade kushto-bak Lest 'zimbel adre rukk se, O bavol kelld' pre i tavia, O sutto 'pre leskro zi.

Te sar i lengheri rudaben Shan katterdi-chingerdo Awer me penav' i Romani chals Ne kesserden chi pa lo.

Trin dromia lende sikkerden kan Sar dikela wafedo, Ta bosher, tuver te sove-a-le Aja sa bachtalo.

Dikdom palal, sa ghiom adur Talla yeckno Romani chal 'Pre lengheri kali-brauni mui, Te lengheri kali bal.


It was a fine spring noon, and the corner of Fourth and Library streets in Philadelphia was like a rock in the turn of a rapid river, so great was the crowd of busy business men which flowed past. Just out of the current a man paused, put down a parcel which he carried, turned it into a table, placed on it several vials, produced a bundle of hand-bills, and began, in the language of his tribe, to cant—that is, cantare, to sing—the virtues of a medicine which was certainly patent in being spread out by him to extremest thinness. In an instant there were a hundred people round him. He seemed to be well known and waited for. I saw at a glance what he was. The dark eye and brown face indicated a touch of the diddikai, or one with a little gypsy blood in his veins, while his fluent patter and unabashed boldness showed a long familiarity with race-grounds and the road, or with the Cheap-Jack and Dutch auction business, and other pursuits requiring unlimited eloquence and impudence. How many a man of learning, nay of genius, might have paused and envied that vagabond the gifts which were worth so little to their possessor! But what was remarkable about him was that instead of endeavoring to conceal any gypsy indications, they were manifestly exaggerated. He wore a broad-brimmed hat and ear-rings and a red embroidered waistcoat of the most forcible old Romany pattern, which was soon explained by his words.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," he said. "I am always sorry to detain a select and genteel audience. But I was detained myself by a very interesting incident. I was invited to lunch with a wealthy German gentleman; a very wealthy German, I say, one of the pillars of your city and front door-step of your council, and who would be the steeple of your exchange, if it had one. And on arriving at his house he remarked, 'Toctor, by tam you koom yust in goot dime, for mine frau und die cook ish bote fall sick mit some-ding in a hoory, und I kess she'll die pooty quick-sudden.' Unfortunately I had with me, gentlemen, but a single dose of my world-famous Gypsy's Elixir and Romany Pharmacopheionepenthe. (That is the name, gentlemen, but as I detest quackery I term it simply the Gypsy's Elixir.) When the German gentleman learned that in all probability but one life could be saved he said, 'Veil, denn, doctor, subbose you gifes dat dose to de cook. For mine frau ish so goot dat it's all right mit her. She's reaty to tie. But de boor gook ish a sinner, ash I knows, und not reaty for de next world. And dere ish no vomans in town dat can gook mine sauer-kraut ash she do.' Fortunately, gentlemen, I found in an unknown corner of a forgotten pocket an unsuspected bottle of the Gypsy's Elixir, and both interesting lives were saved with such promptitude, punctuality, neatness and dispatch that the cook proceeded immediately to conclude the preparation of our meal—(thank you sir,—one dollar, if you please, sir. You say I only charged half a dollar yesterday! That was for a smaller bottle, sir. Same size, as this, was it? Ah, yes, I gave you a large bottle by mistake,—so you owe me fifty cents. Never mind, don't give it back. I'll take the half dollar.")

All of this had been spoken with the utmost volubility. As I listened I almost fancied myself again in England, and at a country fair. Taking in his audience at a glance, I saw his eye rest on me ere it flitted, and he resumed,—

"We gypsies are, as you know, a remarkable race, and possessed of certain rare secrets, which have all been formulated, concentrated, dictated, and plenipotentiarated into this idealized Elixir. If I were a mountebank or a charlatan I would claim that it cures a hundred diseases. Charlatan is a French word for a quack. I speak French, gentlemen; I speak nine languages, and can tell you the Hebrew for an old umbrella. The Gypsy's Elixir cures colds, gout, all nervous affections, with such cutaneous disorders as are diseases of the skin, debility, sterility, hostility, and all the illities that flesh is heir to except what it can't, such as small-pox and cholera. It has cured cholera, but it don't claim to do it. Others claim to cure, but can't. I am not a charlatan, but an Ann-Eliza. That is the difference between me and a lady, as the pig said when he astonished his missus by blushing at her remarks to the postman. (Better have another bottle, sir. Haven't you the change? Never mind, you can owe me fifty cents. I know a gentleman when I see one.) I was recently Down East in Maine, where they are so patriotic, they all put the stars and stripes into their beds for sheets, have the Fourth of July three hundred and sixty-five times in the year, and eat the Declaration of Independence for breakfast. And they wouldn't buy a bottle of my Gypsy's Elixir till they heard it was good for the Constitution, whereupon they immediately purchased my entire stock. Don't lose time in securing this invaluable blessing to those who feel occasional pains in the lungs. This is not taradiddle. I am engaged to lecture this afternoon before the Medical Association of Germantown, as on Wednesday before the University of Baltimore; for though I sell medicine here in the streets, it is only, upon my word of honor, that the poor may benefit, and the lowly as well as the learned know how to prize the philanthropic and eccentric gypsy."

He run on with his patter for some time in this vein, and sold several vials of his panacea, and then in due time ceased, and went into a bar-room, which I also entered. I found him in what looked like prospective trouble, for a policeman was insisting on purchasing his medicine, and on having one of his hand-bills. He was remonstrating, when I quietly said to him in Romany, "Don't trouble yourself; you were not making any disturbance." He took no apparent notice of what I said beyond an almost imperceptible wink, but soon left the room, and when I had followed him into the street, and we were out of ear-shot, he suddenly turned on me and said,—

"Well, you are a swell, for a Romany. How do you do it up to such a high peg?"

"Do what?"

"Do the whole lay,—look so gorgeous?"

"Why, I'm no better dressed than you are,—not so well, if you come to that vongree" (waistcoat).

"'T isn't that,—'t isn't the clothes. It's the air and the style. Anybody'd believe you'd had no end of an education. I could make ten dollars a patter if I could do it as natural as you do. Perhaps you'd like to come in on halves with me as a bonnet. No? Well, I suppose you have a better line. You've been lucky. I tell you, you astonished me when you rakkered, though I spotted you in the crowd for one who was off the color of the common Gorgios,—or, as the Yahudi say, the Goyim. No, I carn't rakker, or none to speak of, and noways as deep as you, though I was born in a tent on Battersea Common and grew up a fly fakir. What's the drab made of that I sell in these bottles? Why, the old fake, of course,—you needn't say you don't know that. Italic good English. Yes, I know I do. A fakir is bothered out of his life and chaffed out of half his business when he drops his h's. A man can do anything when he must, and I must talk fluently and correctly to succeed in such a business. Would I like a drop of something? You paid for the last, now you must take a drop with me. Do I know of any Romany's in town? Lots of them. There is a ken in Lombard Street with a regular fly mort,—but on second thoughts we won't go there,—and—oh, I say—a very nice place in —- Street. The landlord is a Yahud; his wife can rakker you, I'm sure. She's a good lot, too."

And while on the way I will explain that my acquaintance was not to be regarded as a real gypsy. He was one of that large nomadic class with a tinge of gypsy blood who have grown up as waifs and strays, and who, having some innate cleverness, do the best they can to live without breaking the law—much. They deserve pity, for they have never been cared for; they owe nothing to society for kindness, and yet they are held even more strictly to account by the law than if they had been regularly Sunday-schooled from babyhood. This man when he spoke of Romanys did not mean real gypsies; he used the word as it occurs in Ainsworth's song of

"Nix my dolly, pals fake away. And here I am both tight and free, A regular rollicking Romany."

For he meant Bohemian in its widest and wildest sense, and to him all that was apart from the world was his world, whether it was Rom or Yahudi, and whether it conversed in Romany or Schmussen, or any other tongue unknown to the Gentiles. He had indeed no home, and had never known one.

It was not difficult to perceive that the place to which he led me was devoted in the off hours to some other business besides the selling of liquor. It was neat and quiet, in fact rather sleepy; but its card, which was handed to me, stated in a large capital head-line that it was OPEN ALL NIGHT, and that there was pool at all hours. I conjectured that a little game might also be performed there at all hours, and that, like the fountain of Jupiter Ammon, it became livelier as it grew later, and that it certainly would not be on the full boil before midnight.

"Scheiker fur mich, der Isch will jain soreff shaskenen" (Beer for me and brandy for him), I said to the landlord, who at once shook my hand and saluted me with Sholem! Even so did Ben Daoud of Jerusalem, not long ago. Ben knew me not, and I was buying a pocket-book of him at his open-air stand in Market Street, and talking German, while he was endeavoring to convince me that I ought to give five cents more for it than I had given for a similar case the day before, on the ground that it was of a different color, or under color that the leather had a different ground, I forget which. In talking I let fall the word kesef (silver). In an instant Ben had taken my hand, and said Sholem aleichum, and "Can you talk Spanish?"—which was to show that he was superfine Sephardi, and not common Ashkenaz.

"Yes," resumed the crocus-fakir; "a man must be able to talk English very fluently, pronounce it correctly, and, above all things, keep his temper, if he would do anything that requires chanting or pattering. How did I learn it? A man can learn to do anything when it's business and his living depends on it. The people who crowd around me in the streets cannot pronounce English decently; not one in a thousand here can say laugh, except as a sheep says it. Suppose that you are a Cheap Jack selling things from a van. About once in an hour some tipsy fellow tries to chaff you. He hears your tongue going, and that sets his off. He hears the people laugh at your jokes, and he wants them to laugh at his. When you say you're selling to raise money for a burned-out widow, he asks if she isn't your wife. Then you answer him, 'No, but the kind-hearted old woman who found you on the door-step and brought you up to the begging business.' If you say you are selling goods under cost, it's very likely some yokel will cry out, 'Stolen, hey?' And you patter as quick as lightning, 'Very likely; I thought your wife sold 'em to me too cheap for the good of somebody's clothes-line.' If you show yourself his superior in language awd wit, the people will buy better; they always prefer a gentleman to a cad. Bless me! why, a swell in a dress-coat and kid gloves, with good patter and hatter, can sell a hundred rat-traps while a dusty cad in a flash kingsman would sell one. As for the replies, most of them are old ones. As the men who interrupt you are nearly all of the same kind, and have heads of very much the same make, with an equal number of corners, it follows that they all say nearly the same things. Why, I've heard two duffers cry out the same thing at once to me. So you soon have answers cut and dried for them. We call 'em cocks, because they're just like half-penny ballads, all ready printed, while the pitcher always has the one you want ready at his finger-ends. It is the same in all canting. I knew a man once who got his living by singing of evenings in the gaffs to the piano, and making up verses on the gentlemen and ladies as they came in; and very nice verses he made, too,—always as smooth as butter. How do you do it? I asked him one day. 'Well, you wouldn't believe it,' said he; 'but they're mostly cocks. The best ones I buy for a tanner [sixpence] apiece. If a tall gentleman with a big beard comes in, I strike a deep chord and sing,—

"'This tall and handsome party, With such a lot of hair, Who seems so grand and hearty, Must be a militaire; We like to see a swell come Who looks so distingue, So let us bid him welcome, And hope he'll find us gay.'

"The last half can be used for anybody. That's the way the improvisatory business is managed for visitors. Why, it's the same with fortune-telling. You have noticed that. Well, if the Gorgios had, it would have been all up with the fake long ago. The old woman has the same sort of girls come to her with the same old stories, over and over again, and she has a hundred dodges and gets a hundred straight tips where nobody else would see anything; and of course she has the same replies all ready. There is nothing like being glib. And there's really a great deal of the same in the regular doctor business, as I know, coming close on to it and calling myself one. Why, I've been called into a regular consultation in Chicago, where I had an office,—'pon my honor I was, and no great honor neither. It was all patter, and I pattered 'em dumb."

I began to think that the fakir could talk forever and ever faster. If he excelled in his business, he evidently practiced at all times to do so. I intimated as much, and he at once proceeded fluently to illustrate this point also.

"You hear men say every day that if they only had an education they would do great things. What it would all come to with most of them is that they would talk so as to shut other men up and astonish 'em. They have not an idea above that. I never had any schooling but the roads and race-grounds, but I can talk the hat off a lawyer, and that's all I can do. Any man of them could talk well if he tried; but none of them will try, and as they go through life, telling you how clever they'd have been if somebody else had only done something for them, instead of doing something for themselves. So you must be going. Well, I hope I shall see you again. Just come up when you're going by and say that your wife was raised from the dead by my Elixir, and that it's the best medicine you ever had. And if you want to see some regular tent gypsies, there's a camp of them now just four miles from here; real old style Romanys. Go out on the road four miles, and you'll find them just off the side,—anybody will show you the place. Sarishan!"

I was sorry to read in the newspaper, a few days after, that the fakir had been really arrested and imprisoned for selling a quack medicine. For in this land of liberty it makes an enormous difference whether you sell by advertisement in the newspapers or on the sidewalk, which shows that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor, even in a republic.


The Weather had put on his very worst clothes, and was never so hard at work for the agricultural interests, or so little inclined to see visitors, as on the Sunday afternoon when I started gypsying. The rain and the wind were fighting one with another, and both with the mud, even as the Jews in Jerusalem fought with themselves, and both with the Romans,—which was the time when the Shaket, or butcher, killed the ox who drank the water which quenched the fire which the reader has often heard all about, yet not knowing, perhaps, that the house which Jack built was the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. It was with such reflections that I beguiled time on a long walk, for which I was not unfitly equipped in corduroy trousers, with a long Ulster and a most disreputable cap befitting a stable-boy. The rig, however, kept out the wet, and I was too recently from England to care much that it was raining. I had seen the sun on color about thirty times altogether during the past year, and so had not as yet learned to miss him. It is on record that when the Shah was in England a lady said to him, "Can it be possible, your highness, that there are in your dominions people who worship the sun?" "Yes," replied the monarch, musingly; "and so would you, if you could only see him."

The houses became fewer as I went on, till at last I reached the place near which I knew the gypsies must be camped. As is their custom in England, they had so established themselves as not to be seen from the road. The instinct which they display in thus getting near people, and yet keeping out of their sight, even as rats do, is remarkable. I thought I knew the town of Brighton, in England, thoroughly, and had explored all its nooks, and wondered that I had never found any gypsies there. One day I went out with a Romany acquaintance, who, in a short time, took me to half a dozen tenting-places, round corners in mysterious by-ways. It often happens that the spots which they select to hatch the tan, or pitch the tent, are picturesque bits, such as artists love, and all gypsies are fully appreciative of beauty in this respect. It is not a week, as I write, since I heard an old horse-dealing veteran of the roads apologize to me with real feeling for the want of a view near his tent, just as any other man might have excused the absence of pictures from his walls. The most beautiful spot for miles around Williamsport, in Pennsylvania, a river dell, which any artist would give a day to visit, is the favorite camping-ground of the Romany. Woods and water, rocks and loneliness, make it lovely by day, and when, at eventide, the fire of the wanderers lights up the scene, it also lights up in the soul many a memory of tents in the wilderness, of pictures in the Louvre, of Arabs and of Wouvermanns and belated walks by the Thames, and of Salvator Rosa. Ask me why I haunt gypsydom. It has put me into a thousand sympathies with nature and art, which I had never known without it. The Romany, like the red Indian, and all who dwell by wood and wold as outlawes wont to do, are the best human links to bind us to their home-scenery, and lead us into its inner life. What constitutes the antithetic charm of those wonderful lines,

"Afar in the desert, I love to ride, With the silent bush-boy alone by my side,"

but the presence of the savage who belongs to the scene, and whose being binds the poet to it, and blends him with it as the flux causes the fire to melt the gold?

I left the road, turned the corner, and saw before me the low, round tents, with smoke rising from the tops, dark at first and spreading into light gray, like scalp-locks and feathers upon Indian heads. Near them were the gayly-painted vans, in which I at once observed a difference from the more substantial-looking old-country vardo. The whole scene was so English that I felt a flutter at the heart: it was a bit from over the sea; it seemed as if hedge-rows should have been round, and an old Gothic steeple looking over the trees. I thought of the last gypsy camp I had seen near Henley-on-Thames, and wished Plato Buckland were with me to share the fun which one was always sure to have on such an occasion in his eccentric company. But now Plato was, like his father in the song,

"Duro pardel the boro pani," Far away over the broad-rolling sea,

and I must introduce myself. There was not a sign of life about, save in a sorrowful hen, who looked as if she felt bitterly what it was to be a Pariah among poultry and a down-pin, and who cluttered as if she might have had a history of being borne from her bower in the dark midnight by desperate African reivers, of a wild moonlit flitting and crossing black roaring torrents, drawn all the while by the neck, as a Turcoman pulls a Persian prisoner on an "alaman," with a rope, into captivity, and finally of being sold unto the Egyptians. I drew near a tent: all was silent, as it always is in a tan when the foot-fall of the stranger is heard; but I knew that it was packed with inhabitants.

I called in Romany my greeting, and bade somebody come out. And there appeared a powerfully built, dark-browed, good-looking man of thirty, who was as gypsy as Plato himself. He greeted me very civilly, but with some surprise, and asked me what he could do for me.

"Ask me in out of the rain, pal," I replied. "You don't suppose I've come four miles to see you and stop out here, do you?"

This was, indeed, reasonable, and I was invited to enter, which I did, and found myself in a scene which would have charmed Callot or Goya. There was no door or window to the black tent; what light there was came through a few rifts and rents and mingled with the dull gleam of a smoldering fire, producing a perfect Rembrandt blending of rosy-red with dreamy half-darkness. It was a real witch-aura, and the denizens were worthy of it. As my eyes gradually grew to the gloom, I saw that on one side four brown old Romany sorceresses were "beshing apre ye pus" (sitting on the straw), as the song has it, with deeper masses of darkness behind them, in which other forms were barely visible. Their black eyes all flashed up together at me, like those of a row of eagles in a cage; and I saw in a second that, with men and all I was in a party who were anything but milksops; in fact, with as regularly determined a lot of hard old Romanys as ever battered a policeman. I confess that a feeling like a thrill of joy came over me—a memory of old days and by-gone scenes over the sea—when I saw this, and knew they were not diddikais, or half-breed mumpers. On the other side, several young people, among them three or four good-looking girls, were eating their four-o'clock meal from a canvas spread on the ground. There were perhaps twenty persons in the place, including the children who swarmed about.

Even in a gypsy tent something depends on the style of a self-introduction by a perfect stranger. Stepping forward, I divested myself of my Ulster, and handed it to a nice damsel, giving her special injunction to fold it up and lay it by. My mise en scene appeared to meet with approbation, and I stood forth and remarked,—

"Here I am, glad to see you; and if you want to see a regular Romany rye [gypsy gentleman], just over from England, now's your chance. Sarishan!"

And I received, as I expected, a cordial welcome. I was invited to sit down and eat, but excused myself as having just come from habben, or food, and settled myself to a cigar. But while everybody was polite, I felt that under it all there was a reserve, a chill. I was altogether too heavy a mystery. I knew my friends, and they did not know me. Something, however, now took place which went far to promote conviviality. The tent-flap was lifted, and there entered an elderly woman, who, as a gypsy, might have been the other four in one, she was so quadruply dark, so fourfold uncanny, so too-too witch-like in her eyes. The others had so far been reserved as to speaking Romany; she, glancing at me keenly, began at once to talk it very fluently, without a word of English, with the intention of testing me; but as I understood her perfectly, and replied with a burning gush of the same language, being, indeed, glad to have at last "got into my plate," we were friends in a minute. I did not know then that I was talking with a celebrity whose name has even been groomily recorded in an English book; but I found at once that she was truly "a character." She had manifestly been sent for to test the stranger, and I knew this, and made myself agreeable, and was evidently found tacho, or all right. It being a rule, in fact, with few exceptions, that when you really like people, in a friendly way, and are glad to be among them, they never fail to find it out, and the jury always comes to a favorable verdict.

And so we sat and talked on in the monotone in which Romany is generally spoken, like an Indian song, while, like an Indian drum, the rain pattered an accompaniment on the tightly drawn tent. Those who live in cities, and who are always realizing self, and thinking how they think, and are while awake given up to introverting vanity, never live in song. To do this one must be a child, an Indian, a dweller in fields and green forests, a brother of the rain and road-puddles and rolling streams, and a friend of the rustling leaves and the summer orchestra of frogs and crickets and rippling grass. Those who hear this music and think to it never think about it; those who live only in books never sing to it in soul. As there are dreams which will not be remembered or known to reason, so this music shrinks from it. It is wonderful how beauty perishes like a shade-grown flower before the sunlight of analysis. It is dying out all the world over in women, under the influence of cleverness and "style;" it is perishing in poetry and art before criticism; it is wearing away from manliness, through priggishness; it is being crushed out of true gentleness of heart and nobility of soul by the pessimist puppyism of miching Mallockos. But nature is eternal and will return. When man has run one of his phases of culture fairly to the end, and when the fruit is followed by a rattling rococo husk, then comes a winter sleep, from which he awakens to grow again as a child-flower. We are at the very worst of such a time; but there is a morning redness far away, which shows that the darkness is ending, the winter past, the rain is over and gone. Arise, and come away!

"Sossi kair'd tute to av'akai pardel o boro pani?" (And what made you come here across the broad water?) said the good old dame confidentially and kindly, in the same low monotone. "Si lesti chorin a gry?" (Was it stealing a horse?)

Dum, dum, dum, patter, patter, dum! played the rain.

"Avali I dikked your romus kaliko" (I saw your husband yesterday), remarked some one aside to a girl.

Dum, dum, dum, patter, patter, dum!

"No, mother deari, it was not a horse, for I am on a better, higher lay."

Dum, dum, dum, patter, patter, dum!

"He is a first-rate dog, but mine's as good."

Dum, dum, dum, patter, dum!

"Tacho! There's money to be made by a gentleman like you by telling fortunes."

Dum, dum, dum, patter, dum!

"Yes, a five-hundred-dollar hit sometimes. But dye, I work upon a better lay."

Dum, dum, dum, patter, dum!

"Perhaps you are a boro drabengro" (a great physician).

Dum, dum, dum, patter, dum!

"It was away among the rocks that he fell into the reeds, half in the water, and kept still till they went by."

"If any one is ill among you, I may be of use."

Dum, dum, dum, patter, dum!

"And what a wind! It blows as if the good Lord were singing! Kushti chirus se atch a-kerri." (This is a pleasant day to be at home.)

Dum, dum, dum, patter, dum!

"I thought you were a doctor, for you were going about in the town with the one who sells medicine. I heard of it."

Dum, dum, dum, patter, dum!

"Do not hurry away! Come again and see us. I think the Coopers are all out in Ohio."

Dum, dum, dum, patter, dum!

The cold wind and slight rain seemed refreshing and even welcome, as I went out into the cold air. The captain showed me his stock of fourteen horses and mules, and we interchanged views as to the best method of managing certain maladies in such stock. I had been most kindly entertained; indeed, with the home kindliness which good people in the country show to some hitherto unseen and unknown relative who descends to them from the great world of the city. Not but that my friends did not know cities and men as well as Ulysses, but even Ulysses sometimes met with a marvel. In after days I became quite familiar with the several families who made the camp, and visited them in sunshine. But they always occur to me in memory as in a deep Rembrandt picture, a wonderful picture, and their voices as in vocal chiaroscuro; singing to the wind without and the rain on the tent,—

Dum, dum, dum, patter, dum!


This chapter was written by my niece through marriage, Miss Elizabeth Robins. It is a part of an article which was published in "The Century," and it sets forth certain wanderings in seeking old houses in the city of Philadelphia.

All along the lower part of Race Street, saith the lady, are wholesale stores and warehouses of every description. Some carts belonging to one of them had just been unloaded. The stevedores who do this—all negroes—were resting while they waited for the next load. They were great powerful men, selected for their strength, and were of many hues, from cafe au lait, or coffee much milked, up to the browned or black-scorched berry itself, while the very athletae were coal-black. They wore blue overalls, and on their heads they had thrown old coffee-bags, which, resting on their foreheads, passed behind their ears and hung loosely down their backs. It was in fact the haik or bag-cloak of the East, and it made a wonderfully effective Arab costume. One of them was half leaning, half sitting, on a pile of bags; his Herculean arms were folded, and he had unconsciously assumed an air of dignity and defiance. He might have passed for an African chief. When we see such men in Egypt or other sunny countries outre mer, we become artistically eloquent; but it rarely occurs to sketchers and word-painters to do much business in the home-market.

The mixture of races in our cities is rapidly increasing, and we hardly notice it. Yet it is coming to pass that a large part of our population is German and Irish, and that our streets within ten years have become fuller of Italian fruit dealers and organ-grinders, so that Cives sum Romanus (I am a Roman citizen), when abroad, now means either "I possess a monkey" or "I sell pea-nuts." Jews from Jerusalem peddle pocket-books on our sidewalks, Chinamen are monoplizing our washing and ironing, while among laboring classes are thousands of Scandinavians, Bohemians, and other Slaves. The prim provincial element which predominated in my younger years is yielding before this influx of foreigners, and Quaker monotony and stern conservatism are vanishing, while Philadelphia becomes year by year more cosmopolite.

As we left the handsome negroes and continued our walk on Water Street an Italian passed us. He was indeed very dirty and dilapidated; his clothes were of the poorest, and he carried a rag-picker's bag over his shoulder; but his face, as he turned it towards us, was really beautiful.

"Siete Italiano?" (Are you an Italian?) asked my uncle.

"Si, signore" (Yes, sir), he answered, showing all his white teeth, and opening his big brown eyes very wide.

"E come lei piace questo paese?" (And how do you like this country?)

"Not at all. It is too cold," was his frank answer, and laughing good-humoredly he continued his search through the gutters. He would have made a good model for an artist, for he had what we do not always see in Italians, the real southern beauty of face and expression. Two or three weeks after this encounter, we were astonished at meeting on Chestnut Street a little man, decently dressed, who at once manifested the most extraordinary and extravagant symptoms of delighted recognition. Never saw I mortal so grin-full, so bowing. As we went on and crossed the street, and looked back, he was waving his hat in the air with one hand, while he made gestures of delight with the other. It was the little Italian rag-picker.

Then along and afar, till we met a woman, decently enough dressed, with jet-black eyes and hair, and looking not unlike a gypsy. "A Romany!" I cried with delight. Her red shawl made me think of gypsies, and when I caught her eye I saw the indescrible flash of the kalorat, or black blood. It is very curious that Hindus, Persians, and gypsies have in common an expression of the eye which distinguishes them from all other Oriental races, and chief in this expression is the Romany. Captain Newbold, who first investigated the gypsies of Egypt, declares that, however disguised, he could always detect them by their glance, which is unlike that of any other human being, though something resembling it is often seen in the ruder type of the rural American. I believe myself that there is something in the gypsy eye which is inexplicable, and which enables its possessor to see farther through that strange mill-stone, the human soul, than I can explain. Any one who has ever seen an old fortune-teller of "the people" keeping some simple-minded maiden by the hand, while she holds her by her glittering eye, like the Ancient Mariner, with a basilisk stare, will agree with me. As Scheele de Vere writes, "It must not be forgotten that the human eye has, beyond question, often a power which far transcends the ordinary purposes of sight, and approaches the boundaries of magic."

But one glance, and my companion whispered, "Answer me in Romany when I speak, and don't seem to notice her." And then, in loud tone, he remarked, while looking across the street,—

"Adovo's a kushto puro rinkeno ker adoi." (That is a nice old pretty house there.)

"Avali, rya" (Yes, sir), I replied.

There was a perceptible movement by the woman in the red shawl to keep within ear-shot of us. Mine uncle resumed,—

"Boro kushto covva se ta rakker a jib te kek Gorgio iinella." (It's nice to talk a language that no Gentile knows.)

The red shawl was on the trail. "Je crois que ca mord," remarked my uncle. We allowed our artist guide to pass on, when, as I expected, I felt a twitch at my outer garment. I turned, and the witch eyes, distended with awe and amazement, were glaring into mine, while she said, in a hurried whisper,—

"Wasn't it Romanes?"

"Avah," I replied, "mendui rakker sarja adovo jib. Butikumi ryeskro lis se denna Gorgines." (Yes, we always talk that language. Much more genteel it is than English.)

"Te adovo wavero rye?" (And that other gentleman?) with a glance of suspicion at our artist friend.

"Sar tacho" (He's all right), remarked mine uncle, which I greatly fear meant, when correctly translated in a Christian sense, "He's all wrong." But there is a natural sympathy and intelligence between Bohemians of every grade, all the world over, and I never knew a gypsy who did not understand an artist. One glance satisfied her that he was quite worthy of our society.

"And where are you tannin kenna?" (tenting now), I inquired.

"We are not tenting at this time of year; we're kairin," i.e., houseing, or home-ing. It is a good verb, and might be introduced into English.

"And where is your house?"

"There, right by Mammy Sauerkraut's Row. Come in and sit down."

I need not give the Romany which was spoken, but will simply translate. The house was like all the others. We passed through a close, dark passage, in which lay canvas and poles, a kettle and a sarshta, or the iron which is stuck into the ground, and by which a kettle hangs. The old-fashioned tripod, popularly supposed to be used by gypsies, in all probability never existed, since the Roms of India to-day use the sarshta, as mine uncle tells me he learned from a ci-devant Indian gypsy Dacoit, or wandering thief, who was one of his intimates in London.

We entered an inner room, and I was at once struck by its general indescribable unlikeness to ordinary rooms. Architects declare that the type of the tent is to be distinctly found in all Chinese and Arab or Turkish architecture; it is also as marked in a gypsy's house—when he gets one. This room, which was evidently the common home of a large family, suggested, in its arrangement of furniture and the manner in which its occupants sat around the tent and the wagon. There was a bed, it is true but there was a roll of sail-cloth, which evidently did duty for sleeping on at night, but which now, rolled up, acted the part described by Goldsmith:—

"A thing contrived a double part to play, A bed by night, a sofa during day."

There was one chair and a saddle, a stove and a chest of drawers. I observed an engraving hanging up which I have several times seen in gypsy tents. It represents a very dark Italian youth. It is a favorite also with Roman Catholics, because the boy has a consecrated medal. The gypsies, however, believe that the boy stole the medal. The Catholics think the picture is that of a Roman boy, because the inscription says so; and the gypsies call it a Romany, so that all are satisfied. There were some eight or nine children in the room, and among them more than one whose resemblance to the dark-skinned saint might have given color enough to the theory that he was

"One whose blood Had rolled through gypsies ever since the flood."

There was also a girl, of the pantherine type, and one damsel of about ten, who had light hair and fair complexion, but whose air was gypsy and whose youthful countenance suggested not the golden, but the brazenest, age of life. Scarcely was I seated in the only chair, when this little maiden, after keenly scrutinizing my appearance, and apparently taking in the situation, came up to me and said,—

"Yer come here to have yer fortune told. I'll tell it to yer for five cents."

"Can tute pen dukkerin aja?" (Can you tell fortunes already?) I inquired. And if that damsel had been lifted at that instant by the hair into the infinite glory of the seventh sphere, her countenance could not have manifested more amazement. She stood bouche beante, stock still staring, open-mouthed wide. I believe one might have put a brandy ball into it, or a "bull's eye," without her jaws closing on the dainty. It was a stare of twenty-four carats, and fourth proof.

"This here rye" remarked mine uncle, affably, in middle English, "is a hartist. He puts 'is heart into all he does; that's why. He ain't Romanes, but he may be trusted. He's come here, that wot he has, to draw this 'ere Mammy Sauerkraut's Row, because it's interestin'. He ain't a tax-gatherer. We don't approve o' payin' taxes, none of hus. We practices heconomy, and dislike the po-lice. Who was Mammy Sauerkraut?"

"I know!" cried the youthful would-be fortune-teller. "She was a witch."

"Tool yer chib!" (Hold your tongue!) cried the parent. "Don't bother the lady with stories about chovihanis" (witches).

"But that's just what I want to hear!" I cried. "Go on, my little dear, about Mammy Sauerkraut, and you will get your five cents yet, if you only give me enough of it."

"Well, then, Mammy Sauerkraut was a witch, and a little black girl who lives next door told me so. And Mammy Sauerkraut used to change herself into a pig of nights, and that's why they called her Sauerkraut. This was because they had pig ketchers going about in those times, and once they ketched a pig that belonged to her, and to be revenged on them she used to look like a pig, and they would follow her clear out of town way up the river, and she'd run, and they'd run after her, till by and by fire would begin to fly out of her bristles, and she jumped into the river and sizzed."

This I thought worthy of the five cents. Then my uncle began to put questions in Romany.

"Where is Anselo W.? He that was staruben for a gry?" (imprisoned for a horse).

"Staruben apopli." (Imprisoned again.)

"I am sorry for it, sister Nell. He used to play the fiddle well. I wot he was a canty chiel', and dearly lo'ed the whusky, oh!"

"Yes, he was too fond of that. How well he could play!"

"Yes," said my uncle, "he could. And I have sung to his fiddling when the tatto-pani [hot water, i.e., spirits] boiled within us, and made us gay, oh, my golden sister! That's the way we Hungarian gypsy gentlemen always call the ladies of our people. I sang in Romany."

"I'd like to hear you sing now," remarked a dark, handsome young man, who had just made a mysterious appearance out of the surrounding shadows.

"It's a kamaben gilli" (a love-song), said the rye; "and it is beautiful, deep old Romanes,—enough to make you cry."

There was the long sound of a violin, clear as the note of a horn. I had not observed that the dark young man had found one to his hand, and, as he accompanied, my uncle sang; and I give the lyric as he afterwards gave it to me, both in Romany and English. As he frankly admitted, it was his own composition.


Tu shan miri pireni Me kamava tute, Kamlidiri, rinkeni, Kames mande buti?

Sa o miro kushto gry Taders miri wardi,— Sa o boro buno rye Rikkers lesto stardi.

Sa o bokro dre o char Hawala adovo,— Sa i choramengeri Lels o ryas luvoo,—

Sa o sasto levinor Kairs amandy matto,— Sa o yag adre o tan Kairs o geero tatto,—

Sa i puri Romni chai Pens o kushto dukkrin,— Sa i Gorgi dinneli, Patsers lakis pukkrin,—

Tute taders tiro rom, Sims o gry, o wardi, Tute chores o zi adrom Rikkers sa i stardi.

Tute haws te chores m'ri all, Tutes dukkered buti Tu shan miro jivaben Me t'vel paller tute.

Paller tute sarasa Pardel puv te pani, Trinali—o krallisa! Miri chovihani!


Now thou art my darling girl, And I love thee dearly; Oh, beloved and my fair, Lov'st thou me sincerely?

As my good old trusty horse Draws his load or bears it; As a gallant cavalier Cocks his hat and wears it;

As a sheep devours the grass When the day is sunny; As a thief who has the chance Takes away our money;

As strong ale when taken down Makes the strongest tipsy; As a fire within a tent Warms a shivering gypsy;

As a gypsy grandmother Tells a fortune neatly; As the Gentile trusts in her, And is done completely,—

So you draw me here and there, Where you like you take me; Or you sport me like a hat,— What you will you make me.

So you steal and gnaw my heart For to that I'm fated! And by you, my gypsy Kate, I'm intoxicated.

And I own you are a witch, I am beaten hollow; Where thou goest in this world I am bound to follow,—

Follow thee, where'er it be, Over land and water, Trinali, my gypsy queen! Witch and witch's daughter!

"Well, that is deep Romanes," said the woman, admiringly. "It's beautiful."

"I should think it was," remarked the violinist. "Why, I didn't understand more than one half of it. But what I caught I understood." Which, I reflected, as he uttered it, is perhaps exactly the case with far more than half the readers of all poetry. They run on in a semi-sensuous mental condition, soothed by cadence and lulled by rhyme, reading as they run for want of thought. Are there not poets of the present day who mean that you shall read them thus, and who cast their gold ornaments hollow, as jewelers do, lest they should be too heavy?

"My children," said Meister Karl, "I could go on all day with Romany songs; and I can count up to a hundred in the black language. I know three words for a mouse, three for a monkey, and three for the shadow which falleth at noonday. And I know how to pen dukkerin, lel dudikabin te chiv o manzin apre latti." {270}

"Well, the man who knows that is up to drab [medicine], and hasn't much more to learn," said the young man. "When a rye's a Rom he's anywhere at home."

"So kushto bak!" (Good luck!) I said, rising to go. "We will come again!"

"Yes, we will come again," said Meister Karl. "Look for me with the roses at the races, and tell me the horse to bet on. You'll find my patteran [a mark or sign to show which way a gypsy has traveled] at the next church-door, or may be on the public-house step. Child of the old Egyptians, mother of all the witches, sister of the stars, daughter of darkness, farewell!"

This bewildering speech was received with admiring awe, and we departed. I should have liked to hear the comments on us which passed that evening among the gypsy denizens of Mammy Sauerkraut's Row.


All the gypsies in the country are not upon the roads. Many of them live in houses, and that very respectably, nay, even aristocratically. Yea, and it may be, O reader, that thou hast met them and knowest them not, any more than thou knowest many other deep secrets of the hearts and lives of those who live around thee. Dark are the ways of the Romany, strange his paths, even when reclaimed from the tent and the van. It is, however, intelligible enough that the Rom converted to the true faith of broadcloth garments by Poole, or dresses by Worth, as well as to the holy gospel of daily baths and savon au violet, should say as little as possible of his origin. For the majority of the world being snobs, they continually insist that all blood unlike their own is base, and the child of the kalorat, knowing this, sayeth naught, and ever carefully keeps the lid of silence on the pot of his birth. And as no being that ever was, is, or will be ever enjoyed holding a secret, playing a part, or otherwise entering into the deepest mystery of life—which is to make a joke of it—so thoroughly as a gypsy, it follows that the being respectable has to him a raciness and drollery and pungency and point which passeth faith. It has often occurred to me, and the older I grow the more I find it true, that the real pleasure which bank presidents, moral politicians, not a few clergymen, and most other highly representative good men take in having a high character is the exquisite secret consciousness of its being utterly undeserved. They love acting. Let no man say that the love of the drama is founded on the artificial or sham. I have heard the Reverend Histriomastix war and batter this on the pulpit; but the utterance per se was an actual, living lie. He was acting while he preached. Love or hunger is not more an innate passion than acting. The child in the nursery, the savage by the Nyanza or in Alaska, the multitude of great cities, all love to bemask and seem what they are not. Crush out carnivals and masked balls and theatres, and lo, you! the disguising and acting and masking show themselves in the whole community. Mawworm and Aminidab Sleek then play a role in every household, and every child becomes a wretched little Roscius. Verily I say unto you, the fewer actors the more acting; the fewer theatres the more stages, and the worse. Lay it to heart, study it deeply, you who believe that the stage is an open door to hell, for the chances are ninety and nine to one that if this be true you will end by consciously or unconsciously keeping a private little gate thereunto. Beloved, put this in thy pipe and fumigate it, that acting in some form is a human instinct which cannot be extinguished, which never has been and never will be; and this being so, is it not better, with Dr. Bellows, to try to put it into proper form than to crush it? Truly it has been proved that with this, as with a certain other unquenchable penchant of humanity, when you suppress a score of professionals you create a thousand zealous amateurs. There was never in this world a stage on which mere acting was more skillfully carried out than in all England under Cromwell, or in Philadelphia under the Quakers. Eccentric dresses, artificial forms of language, separate and "peculiar" expressions of character unlike those of "the world," were all only giving a form to that craving for being odd and queer which forms the soul of masking and acting. Of course people who act all the time object to the stage. Le diable ne veut pas de miroir.

The gypsy of society not always, but yet frequently, retains a keen interest in his wild ancestry. He keeps up the language; it is a delightful secret; he loves now and then to take a look at "the old thing." Closely allied to the converted sinners are the aficionados, or the ladies and gentlemen born with unconquerable Bohemian tastes, which may be accounted for by their having been themselves gypsies in preexistent lives. No one can explain how or why it is that the aficion comes upon them. It is in them. I know a very learned man in England, a gentleman of high position, one whose name is familiar to my readers. He could never explain or understand why from early childhood he had felt himself drawn towards the wanderers. When he was only ten years old he saved up all his little store of pence wherewith to pay a tinker to give him lessons in Romany, in which tongue he is now a Past Grand. I know ladies in England and in America, both of the blood and otherwise, who would give up a ball of the highest flight in society, to sit an hour in a gypsy tent, and on whom a whispered word of Romany acts like wild-fire. Great as my experience has been I can really no more explain the intensity of this yearning, this rapport, than I can fly. My own fancy for gypsydom is faint and feeble compared to what I have found in many others. It is in them like the love for opium, for music, for love itself, or for acting. I confess that there is to me a nameless charm in the strangely, softly flowing language, which gives a sweeter sound to every foreign word which it adopts, just as the melody of a forest stream is said to make more musical the songs of the birds who dwell beside it. Thus Wentzel becomes Wenselo and Anselo; Arthur, Artaros; London, Lundra; Sylvester, Westaros. Such a phrase as "Dordi! dovelo adoi?" (See! what is that there?) could not be surpassed for mere beauty of sound.

It is apropos of living double lives, and playing parts, and the charm of stealing away unseen, like naughty children, to romp with the tabooed offspring of outlawed neighbors, that I write this, to introduce a letter from a lady, who has kindly permitted me to publish it. It tells its own story of two existences, two souls in one. I give it as it was written, first in Romany, and then in English:—

Febmunti 1st.

MIRO KAMLO PAL,—Tu tevel mishto ta shun te latcherdum me akovo kurikus tacho Romany tan akai adre o gav. Buti kamaben lis sas ta dikk mori foki apopli; buti kushti ta shun moro jib. Mi-duvel atch apa mande, si ne shomas pash naflo o Gorginess, vonk' akovo vias. O waver divvus sa me viom fon a swell saleskro haben, dikdom me dui Romani chia beshin alay apre a longo skamin adre —- Square. Kalor yakkor, kalor balyor, lullo diklas apre i sherria, te lender trushnia aglal lender piria. Mi-duvel, shomas pash divio sar kamaben ta dikav lender! Avo! kairdum o wardomengro hatch i graia te sheldom avri, "Come here!" Yon penden te me sos a rani ta dukker te vian sig adosta. Awer me saldom te pendom adre Romanis: "Sarishan miri dearis! Tute don't jin mandy's a Romany!" Yon nastis patser lende kania nera yakkor. "Mi-duvel! Sa se tiro nav? putchde yeck. "Miro nav se Britannia Lee." Kenna-sig yon diktas te me sos tachi, te penden amengi lender navia shanas M. te D. Lis sos duro pa lende ta jin sa a Romani rani astis jiv amen Gorgios, te dikk sa Gorgious, awer te vel kushti Romani aja, te tevel buoino lakis kaloratt. Buti rakkerdem apre mori foki, buti nevvi, buti savo sos rumado, te beeno, te puredo, savo sos vino fon o puro tem, te butikumi aja kekkeno sos rakkerben sa gudli. M. pende amengi, "Mandy don't jin how tute can jiv among dem Gorgies." Pukerdom anpali: "Mandy dont jiv, mandy mers kairin amen lender." Yon mangades mande ta well ta dikk a len, adre lendes ker apre o chumba kai atchena pa o wen. Pende M., "Av miri pen ta ha a bitti sar mendi. Tute jins the chais are only kerri aratti te Kurrkus."

Sunday sala miri pen te me ghion adoi te latchedon o ker. O tan sos bitto, awer sa i Romanis pende, dikde boro adosta paller jivin adre o wardo. M. sos adoi te lakis roms dye, a kushti puri chai. A. sar shtor chavia. M. kerde haben sa mendui viom adoi. I puri dye sos mishto ta dikk mande, yoi kamde ta jin sar trustal mande. Rakkerdem buti aja, te yoi pende te yoi ne kekker latchde a Romani rani denna mande. Pendom me ke laki shan adre society kumi Romani rania, awer i galderli Gorgios ne jinena lis.

Yoi pende sa miri pen dikde simlo Lusha Cooper, te siggerde lakis kaloratt butider denna me. "Tute don't favor the Coopers, miri dearie! Tute pens tiri dye rummerd a mush navvered Smith. Was adovo the Smith as lelled kellin te kurin booths pasher Lundra Bridge? Sos tute beeno adre Anglaterra?" Pukkerdom me ke puri dye sar jinav me trustal miri kokeri te simensi. Tu jinsa shan kek Gorgies sa longi-bavoli apre genealogies, sa i puri Romani dyia. Vonka foki nastis chin lende adre lilia, rikkerena lende aduro adre lendros sherria. Que la main droit perd recueille la gauche.

"Does tute jin any of the —-'s?" pende M. "Tute dikks sim ta —-'s juva." "Ne kekker, yois too pauno,' pens A. "It's chomani adre the look of her," pende M.

Dikkpali miro pal. Tu jinsa te —- sos i chi savo dudikabinde manush, navdo —- buti wongur. Vanka yoi sos lino apre, o Beshomengro pende ta ker laki chiv apre a shuba sims Gorgios te adenne lelled laki adre a tan sar desh te dui gorgi chaia. —- astissa pen i chai savo chorde lestis lovvo. Vanka yoi vias adre o tan, yoi ghias sig keti laki, te pende: "Jinava me laki talla lakis longi vangusti, te rinkeni mui. Yoi sos stardi dui beshya, awer o Gorgio kekker las leski vongur pali."

Savo-chirus mendi rakkerden o wuder pirido, te trin manushia vian adre. . . . Pali lenders sarishans, M. shelde avri: "Av ta misali, rikker yer skammins longo tute! Mrs. Lee, why didn't tute bring yer rom?" "Adenna me shom kek rumadi." "Mi-duvel, Britannia!" pende —- "M. pende amengy te tu sos rumado." "M. didn't dukker tacho vonka yoi dukkerd adovo. Yois a dinneli," pendom me. Te adenne sar mendi saden atut M. Haben sos kushto, loim a kani, ballovas te puvengros, te kushto curro levina. Liom mendi kushto paiass dre moro puro Romany dromus. Rinkenodiro sos, kerde mande pash ta ruv, shomas sa kushto-bakno ta atch yecker apopli men mori foki. Sos "Britannia!" akai, te "Britannia!" doi, te sar sa adre o puro cheirus, vonka chavi shomas. Ne patserava me ta Dante chinde:—

"Nessun maggior dolore Che ricordarsi dei tempi felici."

Talla me shomas kushto-bakno ta pen apre o puro chirus. Sar lende piden miro kamaben Romaneskaes, sar gudlo; talla H. Yov pende nastis ker lis, pa yuv kenna lias tabuti. Kushto dikin Romnichal yuv. Tu tevel jin lesti sarakai pa Romani, yuv se sa kalo. Te avec l'air indefinnissable du vrai Bohemien. Yuv patserde me ta piav miro sastopen wavescro chirus. Kana shomas pa misali, geero vias keti ian; dukkeriben kamde yov. Hunali sos i puri dye te pendes amergi, "Beng lel o puro jukel for wellin vanka mendi shom hain, te kenna tu shan akai, miri Britannia Yov ne tevel lel kek kushto bak. Mandy'll pen leste a wafedo dukkerin." Adoi A. putcherde mengy, "Does tute dukker or sa does tute ker." "Miri pen, mandy'll pen tute tacho. Mandy dukkers te dudikabins te kers buti covvas. Shom a tachi Romani chovihani." "Tacho! tacho!" saden butider. Miri pen te me rikkerdem a boro matto-morricley pa i chavis. Yon beshden alay apre o purj, hais lis. Rinkeno picture sas, pendom dikkav mande te miri penia te pralia kenna shomas bitti. Latcherdom me a tani kali chavi of panj besh chorin levina avri miro curro. Dikde, sar lakis bori kali yakka te kali balia simno tikno Bacchante, sa yoi prasterde adrom.

Pendom parako pa moro kushto-bakeno chirus—"kushto bak" te "kushto divvus." Mendi diom moro tachopen ta well apopli, te kan viom kerri. Patserava dikk tute akai talla o prasterin o ye graia. Kushto bak te kushto ratti.

Sarja tiro pen,



February 1st.

MY DEAR FRIEND,—You will be glad to learn that I, within the week, found a real Romany family (place) here in this town. Charming it was to find our folk again; pleasant it was to listen to our tongue. The Lord be on me! but I was half sick of Gentiles and their ways till this occurred. The other day, as I was returning from a highly aristocratic breakfast, where we had winter strawberries with the creme de la creme, I saw two gypsy women sitting on a bench in —- Square. Black eyes, black hair, red kerchiefs on their heads, their baskets on the ground before their feet. Dear Lord! but I was half wild with delight at seeing them. Aye, I made the coachman stop the horses, and cried aloud, "Come here!" They thought I was a lady to fortune-tell, and came quickly. But I laughed, and said in Romany, "How are you, my dears? You don't know that I am a gypsy." They could not trust their very ears or eyes! At length one said, "My God! what is your name?" "My name's Britannia Lee," and, at a glance, they saw that I was to be trusted, and a Romany. Their names, they said, were M. and D. It was hard (far) for them to understand how a Romany lady could live among Gentiles, and look so Gorgious, and yet be a true gypsy withal, and proud of her dark blood. Much they talked about our people; much news I heard,—much as to who was married and born and buried, who was come from the old country, and much more. Oh, never was such news so sweet to me! M. said, "I don't know how you can live among the Gentiles." I answered, "I don't live; I die, living in their houses with them." They begged me then to come and see them in their home, upon the hill, where they are wintering. M. said, "Come, my sister, and eat a little with us. You know that the women are only at home at night and on Sunday."

Sunday morning, sister and I went there, and found the house. It was a little place, but, as they said, after the life in wagons it seemed large. M. was there, and her husband's mother, a nice old woman; also A., with four children. M. was cooking as we entered. The old mother was glad to see us; she wished to know all about us. All talked, indeed, and that quite rapidly, and she said that I was the first Romany lady {279} she had ever seen. I said to her that in society are many gypsy ladies to be found, but that the wretched Gentiles do not know it.

She said that my sister looked like Lusha Cooper, and showed her dark blood more than I do. "You don't favor the Coopers, my dearie. You say your mother married a Smith. Was that the Smith who kept a dancing and boxing place near London Bridge? Were you born in England?" I told the old mother all I knew about myself and my relations. You know that no Gorgios are so long-winded on genealogies as old mothers in Rom. When people don't write them down in their family Bibles, they carry them, extended, in their heads. Que la main droit perd recueille la gauche.

"Do you know any of the —-'s?" said M. "You look like —-'s wife." "No; she's too pale," said A. "It's something in the look of her," said M.

Reflect, my brother. You know that —- was the woman who "cleaned out" a man named —- of a very large sum {280} by "dukkeripen" and "dudikabin." "When she was arrested, the justice made her dress like any Gorgio, and placed her among twelve Gentile women. The man who had been robbed was to point out who among them had stolen his money. When she came into the room, he went at once to her, and said, 'I know her by her long skinny fingers and handsome face.' She was imprisoned for two years, but the Gorgio never recovered his money."

What time we reasoned thus, the door undid, and three men entered. After their greetings, M. cried, "Come to table; bring your chairs with you!" "Mrs. Lee, why didn't you bring your husband?" "Because I am not married." "Lord! Britannia! Why, M. told me that you were." "Ah, M. didn't fortune right when she fortuned that. She's a fool," quoth I. And then we all laughed like children. The food was good: chickens and ham and fried potatoes, with a glass of sound ale. We were gay as flies in summer, in the real old Romany way. 'T was "Britannia" here, "Britannia" there, as in the merry days when we were young. Little do I believe in Dante's words,—

"Nessun maggior dolore, Che ricordarsi dei tempi felici."

"There is no greater grief Than to remember by-gone happy days."

For it is always happiness to me to think of good old times when I was glad. All drank my health, Romaneskaes, together, with a shout,—all save H., who said he had already had too much. Good-looking gypsy, that! You'd know him anywhere for Romany, he is so dark,—avec l'air indefinissable du vrai Bohemien. He promised to drink my health another time.

As we sat, a gentleman came in below, wishing to have his fortune told. I remember to have read that the Pythoness of Delphian oracle prepared herself for dukkerin, or presaging, by taking a few drops of cherry-laurel water. (I have had it prescribed for my eyes as R aq. laur. cerasi. fiat lotio,—possibly to enable me to see into the future.) Perhaps it was the cherry-brandy beloved of British matrons and Brighton school-girls, taken at Mutton's. Mais revenons a nos moutons. The old mother had taken, not cherry-laurel water, nor even cherry-brandy, but joly good ale, and olde, which, far from fitting her to reveal the darksome lore of futurity, had rendered her loath to leave the festive board of the present. Wrathful was the sybil, furious as the Vala when waked by Odin, angry as Thor when he missed his hammer, to miss her merriment. "May the devil take the old dog for coming when we are eating, and when thou art here, my Britannia! Little good fortune will he hear this day. Evil shall be the best I'll promise him." Thus spake the sorceress, and out she went to keep her word. Truly it was a splendid picture this of "The Enraged Witch," as painted by Hexenmeister von Teufel, of Hollenstadt,—her viper eyes flashing infernal light and most unchristian fire, shaking les noirs serpents de ses cheveux, as she went forth. I know how, in an instant, her face was beautiful with welcome, smiling like a Neapolitan at a cent; but the poor believer caught it hot, all the same, and had a sleepless night over his future fate. I wonder if the Pythoness of old, when summoned from a petit souper, or a holy prophet called out of bed of a cold night, to decide by royal command on the fate of Israel, ever "took it out" on the untimely king by promising him a lively, unhappy time of it. Truly it is fine to be behind the scenes and see how they work the oracle. For the gentleman who came to consult my witch was a man of might in the secrets of state, and one whom I have met in high society. And, oh! if he had known who it was that was up-stairs, laughing at him for a fool!

While she was forth, A. asked me, "Do you tell fortunes, or what?" "My sister," I replied, "I'll tell thee the truth. I do tell fortunes. I keep a house for the purchase of stolen goods. I am largely engaged in making counterfeit money and all kinds of forgery. I am interested in burglary. I lie, swear, cheat, and steal, and get drunk on Sunday. And I do many other things. I am a real Romany witch." This little confession of faith brought down the house. "Bravo! bravo!" they cried, laughing.

Sister and I had brought a great tipsy-cake for the children, and they were all sitting under a table, eating it. It was a pretty picture. I thought I saw in it myself and all my sisters and brothers as we were once. Just such little gypsies and duckling Romanys! And now! And then! What a comedy some lives are,—yea, such lives as mine! And now it is you who are behind the scenes; anon, I shall change with you. Va Pierre, vient Pierette. Then I surprised a little brown maiden imp of five summers stealing my beer, and as she was caught in the act, and tore away shrieking with laughter, she looked, with her great black eyes and flowing jetty curling locks, like a perfect little Bacchante.

Then we said, "Thank you for the happy time!" "Good luck!" and "Good day!" giving our promises to come again. So we went home all well. I hope to see you at the races here. Good luck and good-night also to you.

Always your friend,


I have somewhat abbreviated the Romany text of this letter, and Miss Lee herself has somewhat polished and enlarged the translation, which is strictly fit and proper, she being a very different person in English from what she is in gypsy, as are most of her kind. This letter may be, to many, a strange lesson, a quaint essay, a social problem, a fable, an epigram, or a frolic,—just as they choose to take it. To me it is a poem. Thou, my friend, canst easily understand why all that is wild and strange, out-of-doors, far away by night, is worthy of being Tennysoned or Whitmanned. If there be given unto thee stupendous blasted trees, looking in the moonlight like the pillars of a vast and ghostly temple; the fall of cataracts down awful rocks; the wind wailing in wondrous language or whistling Indian melody all night on heath, rocks, and hills, over ancient graves and through lonely caves, bearing with it the hoot of the night-owl; while over all the stars look down in eternal mystery, like eyes reading the great riddle of the night which thou knowest not,—this is to thee like Ariel's song. To me and to us there are men and women who are in life as the wild river and the night-owl, as the blasted tree and the wind over ancient graves. No man is educated until he has arrived at that state of thought when a picture is quite the same as a book, an old gray-beard jug as a manuscript, men, women, and children as libraries. It was but yester morn that I read a cuneiform inscription printed by doves' feet in the snow, finding a meaning where in by-gone years I should have seen only a quaint resemblance. For in this by the ornithomanteia known of old to the Chaldean sages I saw that it was neither from arrow-heads or wedges which gave the letters to the old Assyrians. When thou art at this point, then Nature is equal in all her types, and the city, as the forest, full of endless beauty and piquancy,—in saecula saeculorum.

I had written the foregoing, and had enveloped and directed it to be mailed, when I met in a lady-book entitled "Magyarland" with the following passages:—

"The gypsy girl in this family was a pretty young woman, with masses of raven hair and a clear skin, but, notwithstanding her neat dress and civilized surroundings, we recognized her immediately. It is, in truth, not until one sees the Romany translated to an entirely new form of existence, and under circumstances inconsistent with their ordinary lives, that one realizes how completely different they are from the rest of mankind in form and feature. Instead of disguising, the garb of civilization only enhances the type, and renders it the more apparent. No matter what dress they may assume, no matter what may be their calling, no matter whether they are dwellers in tents or houses, it is impossible for gypsies to disguise their origin. Taken from their customary surroundings, they become at once an anomaly and an anachronism, and present such an instance of the absurdity of attempting to invert the order of nature that we feel more than ever how utterly different they are from the human race; that there is a key to their strange life which we do not possess,—a secret free masonry that renders them more isolated than the veriest savages dwelling in the African wilds,—and a hidden mystery hanging over them and their origin that we shall never comprehend. They are indeed a people so entirely separate and distinct that, in whatever clime or quarter of the globe they may be met with, they are instantly recognized; for with them forty centuries of association with civilized races have not succeeded in obliterating one single sign."

* * * * *

"Alas!" cried the princess; "I can never, never find the door of the enchanted cavern, nor enter the golden cavern, nor solve its wonderful mystery. It has been closed for thousands of years, and it will remain closed forever."

"What flowers are those which thou holdest?" asked the hermit.

"Only primroses or Mary's-keys, {285} and tulips," replied the princess.

"Touch the rock with them," said the hermit, "and the door will open."

* * * * *

The lady writer of "Magyarland" held in her hand all the while, and knew it not, a beautiful primrose, which might have opened for her the mysterious Romany cavern. On a Danube steamboat she saw a little blind boy sitting all day all alone: only a little Slavonian peasant boy, "an odd, quaint little specimen of humanity, with loose brown garments, cut precisely like those of a grown-up man, and his bits of feet in little raw-hide moccasins." However, with a tender, gentle heart she began to pet the little waif. And the captain told her what the boy was. "He is a guslar, or minstrel, as they call them in Croatia. The Yougo-Slavs dedicate all male children who are born blind, from infancy, to the Muses. As soon as they are old enough to handle anything, a small mandolin is given them, which they are taught to play; after which they are taken every day into the woods, where they are left till evening to commune in their little hearts with nature. In due time they become poets, or at any rate rhapsodists, singing of the things they never saw, and when grown up are sent forth to earn their livelihood, like the troubadours of old, by singing from place to place, and asking alms by the wayside.

"It is not difficult for a Slav to become a poet; he takes in poetic sentiment as a river does water from its source. The first sounds he is conscious of are the words of his mother singing to him as she rocks his cradle. Then, as she watches the dawning of intelligence in his infant face, her mother language is that of poetry, which she improvises at the moment, and though he never saw the flowers nor the snow-capped mountains, nor the flowing streams and rivers, he describes them out of his inner consciousness, and the influence which the varied sounds of nature have upon his mind."

Rock and river and greenwood tree, sweet-spiced spring flower, rustling grass, and bird-singing nature and freedom,—this is the secret of the poets' song and of the Romany, and there is no other mystery in either. He who sleeps on graves rises mad or a poet; all who lie on the earth, which is the grave and cradle of nature, and who live al fresco, understand gypsies as well as my lady Britannia Lee. Nay, when some natures take to the Romany they become like the Norman knights of the Pale, who were more Paddyfied than the Paddies themselves. These become leaders among the gypsies, who recognize the fact that one renegade is more zealous than ten Turks. As for the "mystery" of the history of the gypsies, it is time, sweet friends, that 't were ended. When we know that there is to-day, in India, a sect and set of Vauriens, who are there considered Gipsissimae, and who call themselves, with their wives and language and being, Rom, Romni, and Romnipana, even as they do in England; and when we know, moreover, that their faces proclaim them to be Indian, and that they have been a wandering caste since the dawn of Hindu history, we have, I trow, little more to seek. As for the rest, you may read it in the great book of Out-of Doors, capitulo nullo folio nigro, or wherever you choose to open it, written as distinctly, plainly, and sweetly as the imprint of a school-boy's knife and fork on a mince-pie, or in the uprolled rapture of the eyes of Britannia when she inhaleth the perfume of a fresh bunch of Florentine violets. Ite missa est.


Noon in Cairo.

A silent old court-yard, half sun and half shadow in which quaintly graceful, strangely curving columns seem to have taken from long companionship with trees something of their inner life, while the palms, their neighbors, from long in-door existence, look as if they had in turn acquired household or animal instincts, if not human sympathies. And as the younger the race the more it seeks for poets and orators to express in thought what it only feels, so these dumb pillars and plants found their poet and orator in the fountain which sang or spoke for them strangely and sweetly all night and day, uttering for them not only their waking thoughts, but their dreams. It gave a voice, too, to the ancient Persian tiles and the Cufic inscriptions which had seen the caliphs, and it told endless stories of Zobeide and Mesrour and Haroun al Raschid.

Beyond the door which, when opened, gave this sight was a dark ancient archway twenty yards long, which opened on the glaring, dusty street, where camels with their drivers and screaming sais, or carriage-runners and donkey-boys and crying venders, kept up the wonted Oriental din. But just within the archway, in its duskiest corner, there sat all day a living picture, a dark and handsome woman, apparently thirty years old, who was unveiled. She had before her a cloth and a few shells; sometimes an Egyptian of the lower class stopped, and there would be a grave consultation, and the shells would be thrown, and then further solemn conference and a payment of money and a departure. And it was world-old Egyptian, or Chaldean, as to custom, for the woman was a Rhagarin, or gypsy, and she was one of the diviners who sit by the wayside, casting shells for auspices, even as shells and arrows were cast of old, to be cursed by Israel.

It is not remarkable that among the myriad manteias of olden days there should have been one by shells. The sound of the sea as heard in the nautilus or conch, when

"It remembers its august abode And murmurs as the ocean murmurs there,"

is very strange to children, and I can remember how in childhood I listened with perfect faith to the distant roaring, and marveled at the mystery of the ocean song being thus forever kept alive, inland. Shells seem so much like work of human hands, and are often so marked as with letters, that it is not strange that faith soon found the supernatural in them. The magic shell of all others is the cowrie. Why the Roman ladies called it porcella, or little pig, because it has a pig's back, is the objective explanation of its name, and how from its gloss that name, or porcellana, was transferred to porcelain, is in books. But there is another side to the shell, and another or esoteric meaning to "piggy," which was also known to the dames du temps jadis, to Archipiada and Thais, qui fut la belle Romaine,—and this inner meaning makes of it a type of birth or creation. Now all that symbolizes fertility, birth, pleasure, warmth, light, and love is opposed to barrenness, cold, death, and evil; whence it follows that the very sight of a shell, and especially of a cowrie, frightens away the devils as well as a horse-shoe, which by the way has also its cryptic meaning. Hence it was selected to cast for luck, a world-old custom, which still lingers in the game of props; and for the same reason it is hung on donkeys, the devil being still scared away by the sight of a cowrie, even as he was scared away of old by its prototype, as told by Rabelais.

As the sibyls sat in caves, so the sorceress sat in the dark archway, immovable when not sought, mysterious as are all her kind, and something to wonder at. It was after passing her, and feeling by quick intuition what she was, that the court-yard became a fairy-land, and the fountain its poet, and the palm-trees Tamar maids. There are people who believe there is no mystery, that an analysis of the gypsy sorceress would have shown an ignorant outcast; but while nature gives chiaro-oscuro and beauty, and while God is the Unknown, I believe that the more light there is cast by science the more stupendous will be the new abysses of darkness revealed. These natures must be taken with the life in them, not dead,—and their life is mystery. The Hungarian gypsy lives in an intense mystery, yes, in true magic in his singing. You may say that he cannot, like Orpheus, move rocks or tame beasts with his music. If he could he could do no more than astonish and move us, and he does that now, and the why is as deep a mystery as that would be.

So far is it from being only a degrading superstition in those who believe that mortals like themselves can predict the future, that it seems, on the contrary ennobling. It is precisely because man feels a mystery within himself that he admits it may be higher in others; if spirits whisper to him in dreams and airy passages of trembling light, or in the music never heard but ever felt below, what may not be revealed to others? You may tell me if you will that prophecies are all rubbish and magic a lie, and it may be so,—nay, is so, but the awful mystery of the Unknown without a name and the yearning to penetrate it is, and is all the more, because I have found all prophecies and jugglings and thaumaturgy fail to bridge over the abyss. It is since I have read with love and faith the evolutionists and physiologists of the most advanced type that the Unknown has become to me most wonderful, and that I have seen the light which never shone on sea or land as I never saw it before. And therefore to me the gypsy and all the races who live in freedom and near to nature are more poetic than ever. For which reason, after the laws of acoustics have fully explained to me why the nautilus sounds like a far off-ocean dirge, the unutterable longing to know more seizes upon me,

"Till my heart is full of longing For the secret of the sea, And the heart of the great ocean Sends a thrilling pulse through me."

That gypsy fortune-teller, sitting in the shadow, is, moreover, interesting as a living manifestation of a dead past. As in one of her own shells when petrified we should have the ancient form without its color, all the old elements being displaced by new ones, so we have the old magic shape, though every atom in it is different; the same, yet not the same Life in the future, and the divination thereof, was a stupendous, ever-present reality to the ancient Egyptian, and the sole inspiration of humanity when it produced few but tremendous results. It is when we see it in such living forms that it is most interesting. As in Western wilds we can tell exactly by the outline of the forests where the borders of ancient inland seas once ran, so in the great greenwood of history we can trace by the richness or absence of foliage and flower the vanished landmarks of poetry, or perceive where the enchantment whose charm has now flown like the snow of the foregone year once reigned in beauty. So a line of lilies has shown me where the sea-foam once fell, and pine-trees sang of masts preceding them.

"I sometimes think that never blows so red The rose as where some buried Caesar bled; That every hyacinth the garden wears Dropt in her lap from some once lovely head." {292}

The memory of that court-yard reminds me that I possess two Persian tiles, each with a story. There is a house in Cairo which is said to be more or less contemporary with the prophet, and it is inhabited by an old white-bearded emir, more or less a descendant of the prophet. This old gentleman once gave as a precious souvenir to an American lady two of the beautiful old tiles from his house, whereof I had one. In the eyes of a Muslim there is a degree of sanctity attached to this tile, as one on which the eyes of the prophet may have rested,—or at least the eyes of those who were nearer to him than we are. Long after I returned from Cairo I wrote and published a fairy-book called Johnnykin, {292} in which occurred the following lines:—

Trust not the Ghoul, love, Heed not his smile; Out of the Mosque, love, He stole the tile.

One day my friend the Palmer from over the sea came to me with a present. It was a beautiful Persian tile.

"Where did you get it?" I asked.

"I stole it out of a mosque in Syria."

"Did you ever read my Johnnykin?"

"Of course not."

"I know you never did." Here I repeated the verse. "But you remember what the Persian poet says:—

"'And never since the vine-clad earth was young Was some great crime committed on the earth, But that some poet prophesied the deed.'"

"True, and also what the great Tsigane poet sang:—

"'O manush te lela sossi choredo, Wafodiro se te choramengro.'

"He who takes the stolen ring, Is worse than he who stole the thing."

"And it would have been better for you, while you were dukkerin or prophesying, to have prophesied about something more valuable than a tile."

And so it came to pass that the two Persian tiles, one given by a descendant of the Prophet, and the other the subject of a prophecy, rest in my cabinet side by side.

In Egypt, as in Austria, or Syria, or Persia, or India, the gypsies are the popular musicians. I had long sought for the derivation of the word banjo, and one day I found that the Oriental gypsies called a gourd by that name. Walking one day with the Palmer in Cambridge, we saw in a window a very fine Hindu lute, or in fact a real banjo made of a gourd. We inquired, and found that it belonged to a mutual friend, Mr. Charles Brookfield, one of the best fellows living, and who, on being forthwith "requisitioned" by the unanimous voice of all who sympathized with me in my need, sent me the instrument. "He did not think it right," he said, "to keep it, when Philology wanted it. If it had been any other party,—but he always had a particular respect and awe of her." I do not assert that this discovery settles the origin of the word banjo, but the coincidence is, to say the least, remarkable.

I saw many gypsies in Egypt, but learned little from them. What I found I stated in a work called the "Egyptian Sketch Book." It was to this effect: My first information was derived from the late Khedive Ismael, who during an interview with me said, "There are in Egypt many people known as Rhagarin, or Ghagarin, who are probably the same as the gypsies of Europe. They are wanderers, who live in tents, and are regarded with contempt even by the peasantry. Their women tell fortunes, tattoo, and sell small wares; the men work in iron. They are all adroit thieves, and noted as such. The men may sometimes be seen going round the country with monkeys. In fact, they appear to be in all respects the same people as the gypsies of Europe."

I habitually employed, while in Cairo, the same donkey-driver, an intelligent and well-behaved man named Mahomet, who spoke English fairly. On asking him if he could show me any Rhagarin, he replied that there was a fair or market held every Saturday at Boulac, where I would be sure to meet with women of the tribe. The men, he said, seldom ventured into the city, because they were subject to much insult and ill-treatment from the common people.

On the day appointed I rode to Boulac. The market was very interesting. I saw no European or Frangi there, except my companion, Baron de Cosson, who afterwards traveled far into the White Nile country, and who had with his brother Edward many remarkable adventures in Abyssinia, which were well recorded by the latter in a book. All around were thousands of blue-skirted and red-tarbouched or white-turbaned Egyptians, buying or selling, or else amusing themselves, but with an excess of outcry and hallo which indicates their grown child character. There were dealers in donkeys and horses roaring aloud, "He is for ten napoleons! Had I asked twenty you would have gladly given me fifteen!" "O true believers, here is a Syrian steed which will give renown to the purchaser!" Strolling loosely about were dealers in sugar-cane and pea-nuts, which are called gooba in Africa as in America, pipe peddlers and venders of rosaries, jugglers and minstrels. At last we came to a middle-aged woman seated on the ground behind a basket containing beads, glass armlets, and such trinkets. She was dressed like any Arab-woman of the lower class, but was not veiled, and on her chin blue lines were tattooed. Her features and expression were, however, gypsy, and not Egyptian. And as she sat there quietly I wondered how a woman could feel in her heart who was looked down upon with infinite scorn by an Egyptian, who might justly be looked down on in his turn with sublime contempt by an average American Methodist colored whitewasher who "took de 'Ledger.'" Yet there was in the woman the quiet expression which associates itself with respectability, and it is worth remarking that whenever a race is greatly looked down on by another from the stand-point of mere color, as in America, or mere religion, as in Mahometan lands, it always contains proportionally a larger number of decent people than are to be found among those who immediately oppress it. An average Chinese is as a human being far superior to a hoodlum, and a man of color to the white man who cannot speak of him or to him except as a "naygur" or a "nigger." It is when a man realizes that he is superior in nothing else save race, color, religion, family, inherited fortune, and their contingent advantages that he develops most readily into the prig and snob.

I spoke to the woman in Romany, using such words as would have been intelligible to any of her race in any other country; but she did not understand me, and declared that she could speak nothing but Arabic. At my request Mahomet explained to her that I had come from a distant country in Orobba, or Europe, where there were many Rhagarin, who said that their fathers came from Egypt, and that I wished to know if any in the old country could speak the old language. She replied that the Rhagarin of Montesinos could still speak it; but that her people in Egypt had lost the tongue. Mahomet, in translating, here remarked that Montesinos meant Mount Sinai or Syria. I then asked her if the Rhagarin had no peculiar name for themselves, and she answered, "Yes; we call ourselves Tataren."

This at least was satisfactory. All over Southern Germany and in Norway the gypsies are called Tartaren, and though the word means Tartars, and is misapplied, it indicates the race. The woman seemed to be much gratified at the interest I manifested in her people. I gave her a double piaster, and asked for its value in blue glass armlets. She gave me four, and as I turned to depart called me back, and with a good-natured smile handed me four more as a present. This generosity was very gypsy-like, and very unlike the habitual meanness of the ordinary Egyptian.

After this Mahomet took me to a number of Rhagarin. They all resembled the one whom I had seen, and all were sellers of small articles and fortune-tellers. They all differed slightly from common Egyptians in appearance, and were more unlike them in not being importunate for money, nor disagreeable in their manners. But though they were as certainly gypsies as old Charlotte Cooper herself, none of them could speak Romany. I used to amuse myself by imagining what some of my English gypsy friends would have done if turned loose in Cairo among their cousins. How naturally old Charlotte would have waylaid and "dukkered" and amazed the English ladies in the Muskee, and how easily that reprobate old amiable cosmopolite, the Windsor Frog, would have mingled with the motley mob of donkey-boys and tourists before Shepherd's Hotel, and appointed himself an attache to their excursions to the Pyramids, and drunk their pale ale or anything else to their healths, and then at the end of the day have claimed a wage for his politeness! And how well the climate would have agreed with them, and how they would have agreed that it was of all lands the best for tannin, or tenting out, in the world!

The gypsiest-looking gypsy in Cairo, with whom I became somewhat familiar, was a boy of sixteen, a snake-charmer; a dark and even handsome youth, but with eyes of such wild wickedness that no one who had ever seen him excited could hope that he would ever become as other human beings. I believe that he had come, as do all of his calling, from a snake-catching line of ancestors, and that he had taken in from them, as did Elsie Venner, the serpent nature. They had gone snaking, generation after generation, from the days of the serpent worship of old, it may be back to the old Serpent himself; and this tawny, sinuous, active thing of evil, this boy, without the least sense of sympathy for any pain, who devoured a cobra alive with as much indifference as he had just shown in petting it, was the result. He was a human snake. I had long before reading the wonderfully original work of Doctor Holmes reflected deeply on the moral and immoral influences which serpent worship of old, in Syria and other lands, must have had upon its followers. But Elsie Venner sets forth the serpent nature as benumbed or suspended by cold New England winters and New England religions, moral and social influences; the Ophites of old and the Cairene gypsy showed the boy as warmed to life in lands whose winters are as burning summers. Elsie Venner is not sensual, and sensuality is the leading trait of the human-serpent nature. Herein lies an error, just as a sculptor would err who should present Lady Godiva as fully draped, or Sappho merely as a sweet singer of Lesbos, or Antinous only as a fine young man. He who would harrow hell and rake out the devil, and then exhibit to us an ordinary sinner, or an opera bouffe "Mefistofele," as the result, reminds one of the seven Suabians who went to hunt a monster,—"a Ungeheuer,"—and returned with a hare. Elsie Venner is not a hare; she is a wonderful creation; but she is a winter-snake. I confess that I have no patience, however, with those who pretend to show us summer-snakes, and would fain dabble with vice; who are amateurs in the diabolical, and drawing-room dilettanti in damnation. Such, as I have said before, are the aesthetic adorers of Villon, whom the old roue himself would have most despised, and the admirers of "Faustine," whom Faustina would have picked up between her thumb and finger, and eyed with serene contempt before throwing them out of the window. A future age will have for these would-be wickeds, who are only monks half turned inside out, more laughter than we now indulge in at Chloe and Strephon.

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