The Gypsies
by Charles G. Leland
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I always regarded my young friend Abdullah as a natural child of the devil and a serpent-souled young sinner, and he never disappointed me in my opinion of him. I never in my life felt any antipathy to serpents, and he evidently regarded me as a sapengro, or snake-master. The first day I met him he put into my hands a cobra which had the fangs extracted, and then handled an asp which still had its poison teeth. On his asking me if I was afraid of it, and my telling him "No," he gave it to me, and after I had petted it, he always manifested an understanding,—I cannot say sympathy. I should have liked to see that boy's sister, if he ever had one, and was not hatched out from some egg found in the desert by an Egyptian incubus or incubator. She must have been a charming young lady, and his mother must have been a beauty, especially when in court-dress,—with her broom et praeterea nihil. But neither, alas, could be ever seen by me, for it is written in the "Gittin" that there are three hundred species of male demons, but what the female herself is like is known to no one.

Abdullah first made his appearance before me at Shepherd's Hotel, and despite his amazing natural impudence, which appeared to such splendid advantage in the street that I always thought he must be a lineal descendant of the brazen serpent himself, he evinced a certain timidity which was to me inexplicable, until I recalled that the big snake of Irish legends had shown the same modesty when Saint Patrick wanted him to enter the chest which he had prepared for his prison. "Sure, it's a nate little house I've made for yees," said the saint, "wid an iligant parlor." "I don't like the look av it at all, at all," says the sarpent, as he squinted at it suspiciously, "and I'm loath to inter it."

Abdullah looked at the parlor as if he too were loath to "inter" it; but he was in charge of one in whom his race instinctively trust, so I led him in. His apparel was simple: it consisted of a coarse shirt, very short, with a belt around the waist, and an old tarbouch on his head. Between the shirt and his bare skin, as in a bag, was about a half peck of cobras, asps, vipers, and similar squirming property; while between his cap and his hair were generally stowed one or two enormous living scorpions, and any small serpents that he could not trust to dwell with the larger ones. When I asked Abdullah where he contrived to get such vast scorpions and such lively serpents, he replied, "Out in the desert." I arranged, in fact, to go out with him some day a-snaking and scorp'ing, and have ever since regretted that I did not avail myself of the opportunity. He showed off his snakes to the ladies, and concluded by offering to eat the largest one alive before our eyes for a dollar, which price he speedily reduced to a half. There was a young New England lady present who was very anxious to witness this performance; but as I informed Abdullah that if he attempted anything of the kind I would kick him out-of-doors, snakes and all, he ceased to offer to show himself a cannibal. Perhaps he had learned what Rabbi Simon ben Yochai taught, that it is a good deed to smash the heads of the best of serpents, even as it is a duty to kill the best of Goyim. And if by Goyim he meant Philistines, I agree with him.

I often met Abdullah after that, and helped him to several very good exhibitions. Two or three things I learned from him. One was that the cobra, when wide awake, yet not too violently excited, lifts its head and maintains a curious swaying motion, which, when accompanied by music, may readily be mistaken for dancing acquired from a teacher. The Hindu sappa-wallahs make people believe that this "dancing" is really the result of tuition, and that it is influenced by music. Later, I found that the common people in Egypt continue to believe that the snakes which Abdullah and his tribe exhibit are as dangerous and deadly as can be, and that they are managed by magic. Whether they believe, as it was held of old by the Rabbis, that serpents are to be tamed by sorcery only on the Sabbath, I never learned.

Abdullah was crafty enough for a whole generation of snakes, but in the wisdom attributed to serpents he was woefully wanting. He would run by my side in the street as I rode, expecting that I would pause to accept a large wiggling scorpion as a gift, or purchase a viper, I suppose for a riding-whip or a necktie. One day when I was in a jam of about a hundred donkey-boys, trying to outride the roaring mob, and all of a fever with heat and dust, Abdullah spied me, and, joining the mob, kept running by my side, crying in maddening monotony, "Snake, sah! Scorpion, sah! Very fine snake to-day, sah!"—just as if his serpents were edible delicacies, which were for that day particularly fresh and nice.

There are three kinds of gypsies in Egypt,—the Rhagarin, the Helebis, and the Nauar. They have secret jargons among themselves; but as I ascertained subsequently from specimens given by Captain Newboldt {302a} and Seetzen, as quoted by Pott, {302b} their language is made up of Arabic "back-slang," Turkish and Greek, with a very little Romany,—so little that it is not wonderful that I could not converse with them in it. The Syrian gypsies, or Nuri, who are seen with bears and monkeys in Cairo, are strangers in the land. With them a conversation is not difficult. It is remarkable that while English, German, and Turkish or Syrian gypsy look so different and difficult as printed in books, it is on the whole an easy matter to get on with them in conversation. The roots being the same, a little management soon supplies the rest.

Abdullah was a Helebi. The last time I saw him I was sitting on the balcony of Shepherd's Hotel, in the early evening, with an American, who had never seen a snake-charmer. I called the boy, and inadvertently gave him his pay in advance, telling him to show all his stock in trade. But the temptation to swindle was too great, and seizing the coin he rushed back into the darkness. From that hour I beheld him no more. I think I can see that last gleam of his demon eyes as he turned and fled. I met in after-days with other snake-boys, but for an eye which indicated an unadulterated child of the devil, and for general blackguardly behavior to match, I never found anybody like my young friend Abdullah.

The last snake-masters whom I came across were two sailors at the Oriental Seamen's Home in London. And strangely enough, on the day of my visit they had obtained in London, of all places, a very large and profitable job; for they had been employed to draw the teeth of all the poisonous serpents in the Zoological Garden. Whether these practitioners ever applied for or received positions as members of the Dental College I do not know, any more than if they were entitled to practice as surgeons without licenses. Like all the Hindu sappa-wallahs, or snake-men, they are what in Europe would be called gypsies.


The following list gives the names of the principal gypsy families in England, with their characteristics. It was prepared for me by an old, well-known Romany, of full blood. Those which have (A) appended to them are known to have representatives in America. For myself, I believe that gypsies bearing all these names are to be found in both countries. I would also state that the personal characteristics attributed to certain families are by no means very strictly applicable, neither do any of them confine themselves rigidly to any particular part of England. I have met, for instance, with Bosvilles, Lees, Coopers, Smiths, Bucklands, etc., in every part of England as well as Wales. I am aware that the list is imperfect in all respects.


BAILEY (A). Half-bloods. Also called rich. Roam in Sussex.

BARTON. Lower Wiltshire.

BLACK. Hampshire.

BOSVILLE (A). Generally spread, but are specially to be found in Devonshire. I have found several fine specimens of real Romanys among the American Bosvilles. In Romany, Chumomishto, that is, Buss (or Kiss) well.

BROADWAY (A). Somerset.

BUCKLAND. In Gloucestershire, but abounding over England. Sometimes called Chokamengro, that is Tailor.

BURTON (A). Wiltshire.

CHAPMAN (A). Half-blood, and are commonly spoken of as a rich clan. Travel all over England.


CLARKE. Half-blood. Portsmouth.

COOPER (A). Chiefly found in Berkshire and Windsor. In Romany, Vardo mescro.


DICKENS. Half-blood.

DIGHTON. Blackheath.

DRAPER. Hertfordshire.


FULLER. Hardly half-blood, but talk Romany.

GRAY. Essex. In Romany, Gry, or horse.

HARE (A). Chiefly in Hampshire.

HAZARD. Half-blood. Windsor.

HERNE. Oxfordshire and London. "Of this name there are," says Borrow (Romano Lavo-Lil), "two gypsy renderings: (1.) Rosar-mescro or Ratzie-mescro, that is, duck-fellow; the duck being substituted for the heron, for which there is no word in Romany, this being done because there is a resemblance in the sound of Heron and Herne. (2.) Balor-engre, or Hairy People, the translator having confounded Herne with Haaren, Old English for hairs."

HICKS. Half-blood. Berkshire.

HUGHES. Wiltshire.

INGRAHAM (A). Wales and Birmingham, or in the Kalo tem or Black Country.

JAMES. Half-blood.

JENKINS. Wiltshire.

JONES. Half-blood. Headquarters at Battersea, near London.

LEE (A). The same in most respects as the Smiths, but are even more widely extended. I have met with several of the most decided type of pure-blooded, old-fashioned gypsies among Lees in America. They are sometimes among themselves called purum, a lee-k, from the fancied resemblance of the words.

LEWIS. Hampshire.

LOCKE. Somerset and Gloucestershire.

LOVEL. Known in Romany as Kamlo, or Kamescro, that is, lover. London, but are found everywhere.

LOVERIDGE. Travel in Oxfordshire; are in London at Shepherd's Bush.

MARSHALL. As much Scotch as English, especially in Dumfriesshire and Galloway, in which latter region, in Saint Cuthbert's church-yard, lies buried the "old man" of the race, who died at the age of one hundred and seven. In Romany Makkado-tan-engree, that is, Fellows of the Marshes. Also known as Bungoror, cork-fellows and Chikkenemengree, china or earthenware (lit. dirt or clay) men, from their cutting corks, and peddling pottery, or mending china.

MATTHEWS. Half-blood. Surrey.


PETULENGRO, or SMITH. The Romany name Petulengro means Master of the Horseshoe; that is, Smith. The gypsy who made this list declared that he had been acquainted with Jasper Petulengro, of Borrow's Lavengro, and that he died near Norwich about sixty years ago. The Smiths are general as travelers, but are chiefly to be found in the East of England.

PIKE. Berkshire.

PINFOLD, or PENFOLD. Half and quarter blood. Widely extended, but most at home in London.

ROLLIN (ROLAND?). Half-blood. Chiefly about London.

SCAMP. Chiefly in Kent. A small clan. Mr. Borrow derives this name from the Sanskrit Ksump, to go. I trust that it has not a more recent and purely English derivation.


SMALL (A). Found in West England, chiefly in Somerset and Devonshire.

STANLEY (A). One of the most extended clans, but said to be chiefly found in Devonshire. They sometimes call themselves in joke Beshalay, that is, Sit-Down, from the word stan, suggesting standing up in connection with lay. Also Bangor, or Baromescre, that is, Stone (stan) people. Thus "Stony-lea" was probably their first name. Also called Kashtengrees, Woodmen, from the New Forest.

TAYLOR. A clan described as diddikai, or half-bloods. Chiefly in London. This clan should be the only one known as Chokamengro.


WALKER. Half-blood. Travel about Surrey.

WELLS (A). Half-blood. Somerset.

WHARTON. WORTON. I have only met the Whartons in America.

WHEELER. Pure and half-blood. Battersea.


"Adre o Lavines tem o Romanies see WOODS, ROBERTS, WILLIAMS, and JONES. In Wales the gypsies are Woods, Roberts, Williams, and Jones." {307a}


Of these gypsies the BAILIES are fair.

The BIRDS are in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The BLACKS are dark, stout, and strong.

The BOSVILLES are rather short, fair, stout, and heavy.

The BROADWAYS are fair, of medium height and good figures.

The BUCKLANDS are thin, dark, and tallish.

The BUNCES travel in the South of England.

The BURTONS are short, dark, and very active.

The CHAPMANS are fair.

The CLARKES are fair and well-sized men.

The COOPERS are short, dark, and very active.

The DIGHTONS are very dark and stout.

The DRAPERS are very tall and large and dark.

The FAAS are at Kirk Yetholm, in Scotland.

The GRAYS are very large and fair.

The GREENES are small and dark.

The GREGORIES range from Surrey to Suffolk.

The HARES are large, stout, and dark.

The HAZARDS are tall and fair.

The HERNES (Herons) are very large and dark.

The HICKS are very large, strong, and fair.

The HUGHES are short, stubby, and dark.

The INGRAHAMS are fair and all of medium height.

The JENKINS are dark, not large, and active.

The JONES are fair and of middling height.

The LANES are fair and of medium height.

The LEES are dark, tall, and stout.

The LEWIS are dark and of medium height.

The LIGHTS are half-bloods, and travel in Middlesex.

The LOCKES are shortish, dark, and large.

The LOVELLS are dark and large.

The MACES are about Norwich.

The MATTHEWS are thick, short, and stout, fair, and good fighters.

The MILLERS are at Battersea.

NORTH. Are to be found at Shepherd's Bush.

The OLIVERS are in Kent.

The PIKES are light and very tall.

The PINFOLDS are light, rather tall, not heavy. (Are really a Norfolk family. F. Groome.)

The ROLANDS are rather large and dark.

The SCAMPS are very dark and stout.

The SHAWS travel in Middlesex.

The SMALLS are tall, stout, and fair.

The SMITHS are dark, rather tall, slender, and active.

The STANLEYS are tall, dark, and handsome.

The TAYLORS are short, stout, and dark.

The TURNERS are also in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The WALKERS are stout and fair.

The WELLS are very light and tall.

The WHEELERS are thin and fair.

The WHITES are short and light.

The YOUNGS are very dark. They travel in the northern counties, and belong both to Scotland and England.

* * * * *

The following is a collection of the more remarkable "fore" or Christian names of Romanys:—


Opi Boswell.

Wanselo, or Anselo. I was once of the opinion that this name was originally Lancelot, but as Mr. Borrow has found Wentzlow, i.e., Wenceslas, in England, the latter is probably the original. I have found it changed to Onslow, as the name painted on a Romany van in Aberystwith, but it was pronounced Anselo.



Jineral, i.e., General Cooper.

Horferus and Horfer. Either Arthur or Orpheus. His name was then changed to Wacker-doll, and finally settled into Wacker.

Plato or Platos Buckland.

Wine-Vinegar Cooper. The original name of the child bearing this extraordinary name was Owen. He died soon after birth, and was in consequence always spoken of as Wine-Vinegar,—Wine for the joy which his parents had at his birth, and Vinegar to signify their grief at his loss.

Gilderoy Buckland. Silvanus Boswell.

Lancelot Cooper. Sylvester, Vester, Wester, Westarus and 'Starus.

Oscar Buckland.

Dimiti Buckland. Liberty.

Piramus Boswell. Goliath.

Reconcile. Octavius.

Justerinus. Render Smith.


Shek-esu. I am assured on good authority that a gypsy had a child baptized by this name.

Artaros. Sacki.

Culvato (Claude). Spysell.

Divervus. Spico.

Lasho, i.e., Louis.

Vesuvius. I do not know whether any child was actually called by this burning cognomen, but I remember that a gypsy, hearing two gentlemen talking about Mount Vesuvius, was greatly impressed by the name, and consulted with them as to the propriety of giving it to his little boy.

Wisdom. Loverin.

Inverto. Mantis.

Studaveres Lovel. Happy Boswell.


Selinda, Slinda, Linda, Slindi. Delilah.

Mia. Prudence.

Mizelia, Mizelli, Mizela. Providence.

Lina. Eve.

Pendivella. Athaliah.

Jewranum, i.e., Geranium. Gentilla, Gentie.

Virginia. Synfie. Probably Cynthia.

Suby, Azuba. Sybie. Probably from Sibyl.


Richenda. Canairis.

Kiomi. Fenella.

Liberina. Floure, Flower, Flora.

Malindi. Kisaiya.

Otchame. Orlenda.

Renee. Reyora, Regina.

Sinaminta. Syeira. Probably Cyra.

Y-yra or Yeira. Truffeni.

Delira, Deleera. Ocean Solis.

Marili Stanley. Penelli. Possibly from Fenella.


Glani. Segel Buckland.

Zuba. Morella Knightly.

Sybarini Cooper. Eza.

Esmeralda Locke. Lenda.

Penti. Collia.

Reservi. This extraordinary name was derived from a reservoir, by which some gypsies were camped, and where a child was born.

Lementina. Casello (Celia).

Rodi. Catseye.

Alabina. Trainette.

Dosia. Perpinia.

Lavi. Dora.

Silvina. Starlina.

Richenda. Bazena.

Marbelenni. Bena.

Ashena. Ewri.

Vashti. Koket.

Youregh. Lusho.



"Miro koko, pen mandy a rinkeno gudlo?"

Avali miri chavi. Me 'tvel pen tute dui te shyan trin, vonka tute 'atches sar pukeno. Shun amengi. Yeckorus adre o Lavines tem sos a boro chovihan, navdo Merlinos. Gusvero mush sos Merlinos, buti seeri covva yuv asti kair. Jindas yuv ta pur yeck jivnipen adre o waver, saster adre o rupp, te o rupp adre sonakai. Fino covva sos adovo te sos miro. Te longoduro fon leste jivdes a bori chovihani, Trinali sos lakis nav. Boridiri chovihani sos Trinali, buti manushe seerdas yoi, buti ryor purdas yoi adre mylia te balor, te ne kesserdas yeck haura pa sar lender dush.

Yeck divvus Merlinos lias lester chovihaneskro ran te jas aduro ta latcher i chovihani te pessur laki drovan pa sar lakis wafropen. Te pa adovo tacho divvus i rani Trinali shundas sa Merlinos boro ruslo sorelo chovihan se, te pendas, "Sossi ajafra mush? Me dukkerava leste or yuv tevel mer mande, s'up mi o beng! me shom te seer leste. Mukkamen dikk savo lela kumi shunaben, te savo se o jinescrodiro?" Te adoi o Merlinos jas apre o dromus, sarodivvus akonyo, sarja adre o kamescro dud, te Trinali jas adre o wesh sarja adre o ratinus, o tam, o kalopen, o shure, denne yoi sos chovihani. Kennasig, yan latcherde yeckawaver, awer Merlinos ne jindas yoi sos Trinali, te Trinali ne jindas adovo manush se Merlinos. Te yuv sos buti kamelo ke laki, te yoi apopli; kennasig yandui ankairde ta kam yeckawaver butidiro. Vonka yeck jinella adovo te o waver jinella lis, kek boro chirus tvel i dui sosti jinavit. Merlinos te Trinali pende "me kamava tute," sig ketenes, te chumerde yeckawaver, te beshde alay rikkerend adre o simno pelashta te rakkerde kushto bak.

Te adenna Merlinos pukkerdas laki, yuv jas ta dusher a buti wafodi chovihani, te Trinali pendas lesko o simno covva, sa yoi sos ruzno ta kair o simno keti a boro chovihano. Te i dui ankairede ta manger yeckawaver ta mukk o covva ja, te yoi te yuv shomas atrash o nasherin lende pireno te pireni. Awer Merlinos pendas, "Mandy sovahalldom pa o kam ta pur laki pa sar lakis jivaben adre o waves truppo." Te yoi ruvvedas te pendas, "Sovahalldas me pa o chone ta pur adovo chovihano adre a wavero, sim's tute." Denna Merlinos putcherdas, "Sasi lesters nav?" Yoi pendas, "Merlinos." Yuv rakkeredas palall, "Me shom leste, sasi tiro nav?" Yoi shelledas avri, "Trinali!"

Kenna vanka chovihanis sovahallan chumeny apre o kam te i choni, yan sosti keravit or mer. Te denna Merlinos pendas, "Jinesa tu sa ta kair akovo pennis sar kushto te tacho?" "Kekker miro kamlo pireno," pendas i chori chovihani sa yoi ruvdas." "Denna me shom kumi jinescro, ne tute," pendas Merlinos. "Shukar te kushto covva se akovo, miri romni. Me bevel pur tute adre mande, te mande adre tute. Te vonka mendui shom romadi mendui tevel yeck."

Sa yeck mush ta divvus kenna penella yoi siggerdas leste, te awavero pens yuv siggerdas laki. Ne jinava me miri kameli. Ne dikkdas tu kekker a dui sherescro haura? Avail! Wusser lis uppar, te vanka lis pellalay pukk amengy savo rikk se alay. Welsher pendas man adovo. Welsheri pennena sarja tachopen.


"My uncle, tell me a pretty story!"

Yes, my child. I will tell you two, and perhaps three, if you keep very quiet. Listen to me. Once in Wales there was a great wizard named Merlin. Many magic things he could do. He knew how to change one living being into another, iron into silver, and silver into gold. A fine thing that would be if it were mine. And afar from him lived a great witch. Trinali was her name. A great witch was Trinali. Many men did she enchant, many gentlemen did she change into asses and pigs, and never cared a copper for all their sufferings.

One day Merlin took his magic rod, and went afar to find the witch, and pay her severely for all her wickedness. And on that very [true] day the lady Trinali heard how Merlin was [is] a great, powerful wizard, and said, "What sort of a man is this? I will punish him or he shall kill me, deuce help me! I will bewitch him. Let us see who has the most cleverness and who is the most knowing." And then Merlin went on the road all day alone, always in sunshine; and Trinali went in the forest, always in the shade, the darkness, the gloom, for she was a black witch. Soon they found one another, but Merlin did not know [that] she was Trinali, and Trinal, did not know that man was [is to be] Merlin. And he was very pleasant to her, and she to him again. Very soon the two began to love one another very much. When one knows that and the other knows it, both will soon know it. Merlin and Trinali said "I love thee" both together, and kissed one another, and sat down wrapped in the same cloak, and conversed happily.

Then Merlin told her he was going to punish a very wicked witch; and Trinali told him the same thing, how she was bold [daring] to do the same thing to a great wizard. And the two began to beg one another to let the thing go, and she and he were afraid of losing lover and sweetheart. But Merlin said, "I swore by the sun to change her for her whole life into another form" [body]; and she wept and said, "I swore by the moon to change that wizard into another [person] even as you did." Then Merlin inquired, "What is his name?" She said, "Merlin." He replied, "I am he; what is your name?" She cried aloud, "Trinali."

Now when witches swear anything on the sun or the moon, they must do it or die. Then Merlin said, "Do you know how to make this business all nice and right?" "Not at all, my dear love," said the poor witch, as she wept. "Then I am cleverer than you," said Merlin. "An easy and nice thing it is, my bride. For I will change you into me, and myself into you. And when we are married we two will be one."

So one man says nowadays that she conquered him, and another that he conquered her. I do not know [which it was], my dear. Did you ever see a two-headed halfpenny? Yes? Throw it up, and when it falls down ask me which side is under. A Welsher told me that story. Welshers always tell the truth.


Yeckorus sims buti kedivvus, sos rakli, te yoi sos kushti partanengri, te yoi astis kair a rinkeno plachta, yeck sar divvus. Te covakai chi kamdas rye butidiro, awer yeck divvus lakis pireno sos stardo adre staruben. Te vonka yoi shundas lis, yoi hushtiedas apre te jas keti krallis te mangerdas leste choruknes ta mukk lakis pireno ja piro. Te krallis patserdas laki tevel yoi kairdas leste a rinkeno plachta, yeck sar divvus pa kurikus, hafta plachta pa hafta divvus, yuv tvel ferdel leste, te de leste tachaben ta ja 'vri. I tani rani siggerdas ta keravit, te pa shov divvus yoi taderedas adrom, kushti zi, pa lis te sarkon chirus adre o shab yoi bitcherdas plachta keta krallis. Awer avella yeck divvus yoi sos kinlo, te pendes yoi nei kamdas kair butsi 'dovo divvus si sos brishnu te yoi nestis shiri a sappa dre o kamlo dud. Adenn' o krallis pendas te yoi nestis kair butsi hafta divvus lava lakis pireno, o rye sosti hatch staramescro te yoi ne mukkdas kamaben adosta pa leste. Te i rakli sos sa hunnalo te tukno dre lakis zi yoi merdas o ruvvin te lias puraben adre o puv-suver. Te keti divvus kenna yoi pandella apre lakris tavia, vonka kam peshella, te i cuttor pani tu dikess' apre lende shan o panni fon lakis yakka yoi ruvdas pa lakris pireno.

Te tu vel hatch kaulo yeck lilieskro divvus tu astis nasher sar o kairoben fon o chollo kurikus, miri chavi. Tu peness' tu kamess' to shun waveri gudli. Sar tacho. Me tevel puker tute rinkno gudlo apre kali foki. Repper tute sarkon me penava sa me repper das lis fon miro babus.


Once there was a girl, as there are many to-day, and she was a good needle-worker, and could make a beautiful cloak in one day. And that [there] girl loved a gentleman very much; but one day her sweetheart was shut up in prison, and when she heard it she hastened and went to the king, and begged him humbly to let her love go free. And the king promised her if she would make him a fine cloak,—one every day for a week, seven cloaks for seven days,—he would forgive him, and give him leave to go free. The young lady hastened to do it, and for six days she worked hard [lit. pulled away] cheerfully at it, and always in the evening she sent a cloak to the king. But it came [happened] one day that she was tired, and said [that] she did not wish to work because it was rainy, and she could not dry or bleach the cloth [?] in the sunlight. Then the king said that if she could not work seven days to get her lover the gentleman must remain imprisoned, for she did not love him as she should [did not let love enough on him]. And the maid was so angry and vexed in her heart [or soul] that she died of grief, and was changed into a spider. And to this day she spreads out her threads when the sun shines, and the dew-drops which you see on them are the tears which she has wept for her lover.

If you remain idle one summer day you may lose a whole week's work, my dear. You say that you would like to hear more stories! All right. I will tell you a nice story about lazy people. {317b} Remember all I tell you, as I remembered it from my grandfather.


Yeckorus pa ankairoben, kon i manushia nanei lavia, o boro Duvel jas pirian. Sa si asar? Shun miri chavi, me givellis tute:—

Buti beshia kedivrus kenna Adre o tem ankairoben, O boro Duvel jas 'vri aja, Ta dikk i mushia miraben.

Sa yuv pirridas, dikkdas trin mushia pash o dromescro rikk, hatchin keti chomano mush te vel de lendis navia, te len putcherde o boro Duvel ta navver lende. Dordi, o yeckto mush sos pano, te o boro Duvel pukkerdas kavodoi, "Gorgio." Te yuv sikkerdas leste kokero keti dovo, te suderdas leste buti kameli sa jewries, te rinkeni rudaben, te jas gorgeous. Te o wavescro geero sos kalo sa skunya, te o boro Duvel pendas, "Nigger!" te yuv nikkeredas adrom, sa sujery te muzhili, te yuv se nikkerin sarja keti kenna, adre o kamescro dud, te yuv's kalo-kalo ta kair butsi, nanei tu serbers leste keti lis, te tazzers lis. Te o trinto mush sos brauuo, te yuv beshdas pukeno, tuvin leste's swagler, keti o boro Duvel rakkerdas, "Rom!" te adenna o mush hatchedas apre, te pendas buti kamelo, "Parraco Rya tiro kushtaben; me te vel mishto piav tiro sastopen!" Te jas romeli a roamin langs i lescro romni, te kekker dukkerdas lester kokerus, ne kesserdas pa chichi fon adennadoi keti kenna, te jas adral o sweti, te kekker hatchedas pukenus, te nanei hudder ta keravit ket' o boro Duvel penell' o lav. Tacho adovo se sa tiri yakka, miri kamli.


Once in the creation, when men had no names, the Lord went walking. How was that? Listen, my child, I will sing it to you:—

Many a year has passed away Since the world was first begun, That the great Lord went out one day To see how men's lives went on.

As he walked along he saw three men by the roadside, waiting till some man would give them names; and they asked the Lord to name them. See! the first man was white, and the Lord called him Gorgio. Then he adapted himself to that name, and adorned himself with jewelry and fine clothes, and went gorgeous. And the other man was black and the Lord called him Nigger, and he lounged away [nikker, to lounge, loiter; an attempted pun], so idle and foul; and he is always lounging till now in the sunshine, and he is too lazy [kalo-kalo, black-black, or lazy-lazy, that is, too black or too lazy] to work unless you compel and punish him. And the third man was brown, and he sat quiet, smoking his pipe, till the Lord said, Rom! [gypsy, or "roam"]; and then that man arose and said, very politely, "Thank you, Lord, for your kindness. I'd be glad to drink your health." And he went, Romany fashion, a-roaming {319b} with his romni [wife], and never troubled himself about anything from that time till to-day, and went through the world, and never rested and never wished to until the Lord speaks the word. That is all as true as your eyes, my dear!


"Pen mandy a waver gudlo trustal o ankairoben!"

Ne shomas adoi, awer shundom buti apa lis fon miro babus. Foki pende mengy sa o chollo-tem {320} sos kerdo fon o kam, awer i Romany chalia savo keren sar chingernes, pen o kam sos kerdo fon o boro tem. Wafedo gry se adovo te nestis ja sigan te anpali o kushto drom. Yeckorus 'dre o puro chirus, te kenna, sos a bori pureni chovihani te kerdas sirini covvas, te jivdas sar akonyo adre o heb adre o ratti. Yeck divvus yoi latchedas yag-bar adre o puv, te tilldas es apre te pukkeredas lestes nav pale, "Yag-bar." Te pash a bittus yoi latchedas a bitto kushto-saster, te haderdas lis apre te putchedas lestis nav, te lis rakkerdas apopli, "Saster." Chivdasi dui 'dre lakis putsi, te pendas Yag-bar, "Tu sosti rummer o rye, Saster!" Te yan kerdavit, awer yeck divvus i dui ankairede ta chinger, te Saster des lestis juva Yag-bar a tatto-yek adre o yakk, te kairedas i chingari ta mukker avri, te hotcher i puri juva's putsi. Sa yoi wusserdas hotcherni putsi adre o hev, te pendas lis ta kessur adrom keti avenna o mush sari juva kun kekker chingerd chichi. I chingari shan staria, te dovo yag se o kam, te lis nanei jillo avri keti kenna, te lis tevel hotcher anduro buti beshia pa sar jinova me keti chingerben. Tacho si? Ne shomas adoi.


"Tell me another story about the creation!"

I was not there at the time, but I heard a great deal about it from my grandfather. All he did there was to turn the wheel. People tell me that the world was made from the sun, but gypsies, who do everything all contrary, say that the sun was made from the earth. A bad horse is that which will not travel either way on a road. Once in the old time, as [there may be] now, was a great old witch, who made enchantments, and lived all alone in the sky in the night. One day she found a flint in a field, and picked her up, and the stone told her that her name was Flint. And after a bit she found a small piece of steel, and picked him up, and asked his name, and he replied, "Steel" [iron]. She put the two in her pocket, and said to Flint, "You must marry Master Steel." So they did, but one day the two began to quarrel, and Steel gave his wife Flint a hot one [a severe blow] in the eye, and made sparks fly, and set fire to the old woman's pocket. So she threw the burning pocket up into the sky, and told it to stay there until a man and his wife who had never quarreled should come there. The sparks [from Flint's eye] are the stars, and the fire is the sun, and it has not gone out as yet, and it will burn on many a year, for all I know to the contrary. Is it true? I was not there.


"Pen mandy a waver gudlo apa o chone?"

Avail miri deari. Adre o puro chirus butidosta manushia jivvede kushti-bakeno 'dre o chone, sar chichi ta kair awer ta rikker ap o yag so kerela o dud. Awer, amen i foki jivdas buti wafodo muleno manush, kon dusherdas te lias witchaben atut sar i waveri deari manushia, te yuv kairedas lis sa's ta shikker lende sar adrom, te chivdas len avri o chone. Te kenna o sig o i foki shan jillo, yuv pendas: "Kenna akovi dinneli juckalis shan jillo, me te vel jiv mashni te kushto, sar akonyus." Awer pash o bitto, o yag ankairdas ta hatch alay, te akovo geero latchdas se yuv ne kamdas ta hatch adre o ratti te merav shillino, yuv sosti ja sarja pa kosht. Te kanna i waveri foki shanas adoi, yan ne kerden o rikkaben te wadderin i kashta adre o divvusko chirus, awer kenna asti lel lis sar apre sustis pikkia, sar i ratti, te sar o divvus. Sa i foki akai apre o chollo-tem dikena adovo manush keti divvus kenna, sar pordo o koshter te bittered, te muserd te gumeri, te guberin keti leskro noko kokero, te kunerin akonyus pash lestis yag. Te i chori mushia te yuv badderedas adrom, yul [yan] jassed sar atut te trustal o hev akai, te adoi, te hatchede up buti pa lender kokeros; te adovi shan i starya, te chirkia, te bitti dudapen tu dikessa sarakai.

"Se adovo sar tacho?" Akovi se kumi te me jinova. Awer kanna sa tu penessa me astis dikk o manush dre o chone savo rikkela kasht apre lestes dumo, yuv sosti keravit ta chiv adre o yag, te yuv ne tevel dukker lestes kokero ta kair adovo te yuv sus rumado or lias palyor, sa lis se kammaben adosta o mush chingerd lestis palya te nassered lende sar anduro. Tacho.


"Tell me another story about the moon."

Yes, my dear. In the old time many men lived happily in the moon, with nothing to do but keep up the fire which makes the light. But among the folk lived a very wicked, obstinate man, who troubled and hated all the other nice [dear] people, and he managed it so as to drive them all away, and put them out of the moon. And when the mass of the folk were gone, he said, "Now those stupid dogs have gone, I will live comfortably and well, all alone." But after a bit the fire began to burn down, and that man found that if he did not want to be in the darkness [night] and die of cold he must go all the time for wood. And when the other people were there, they never did any carrying or splitting wood in the day-time, but now he had to take it all on his shoulders, all night and all day. So the people here on our earth see that man to this day all burdened [full] of wood, and bitter and grumbling to himself, and lurking alone by his fire. And the poor people whom he had driven away went all across and around heaven, here and there, and set up in business for themselves, and they are the stars and planets and lesser lights which you see all about.


Taken down accurately from an old gypsy. Common dialect, or "half-and-half" language.

"Rya, tute kams mandy to pukker tute the tachopen—awo? Se's a boro or a kusi covva, mandy'll rakker tacho, s'up mi-duvel, apre mi meriben, bengis adre man'nys see if mandy pens a bitto huckaben! An' sa se adduvvel? Did mandy ever chore a kani adre mi jiv? and what do the Romany chals kair o' the poris, 'cause kekker ever dikked chichi pash of a Romany tan? Kek rya,—mandy never chored a kani an' adre sixty beshes kenna 'at mandy's been apre the drumyors, an' sar dovo chirus mandy never dikked or shuned or jinned of a Romany chal's chorin yeck. What's adduvel tute pens?—that Petulengro kaliko divvus penned tute yuv rikkered a yagengeree to muller kanis! Avail rya—tacho se aja—the mush penned adre his kokero see weshni kanis. But kek kairescro kanis. Romanis kekker chores lendy."


"Master, you want me to tell you all the truth,—yes? If it's a big or a little thing, I'll tell the truth, so help me God, upon my life! The devil be in my soul if I tell the least lie! And what is it? Did I ever in all my life steal a chicken? and what do the gypsies do with the feathers, because nobody ever saw any near a gypsy tent? Never, sir,—I never stole a chicken; and in all the sixty years that I've been on the roads, in all that time I never saw or heard or knew of a gypsy's stealing one. What's that you say?—that Petulengro told you yesterday that he carried a gun to kill chickens! Ah yes, sir,—that is true, too. The man meant in his heart wood chickens [that is, pheasants]. But not domestic chickens. Gypsies never steal them." {324}


"Miri diri bibi, me kamava butidiro tevel chovihani. Kamava ta dukker geeris te ta jin kunjerni cola. Tu sosti sikker mengi sarakovi."

"Oh miri kamli! vonka tu vissa te vel chovihani, te i Gorgie jinena lis, tu lesa buti tugnus. Sar i chavi tevel shellavri, te kair a gudli te wusser baria kanna dikena tute, te shyan i bori foki merena tute. Awer kushti se ta jin garini covva, kushti se vonka chori churkni juva te sar i sweti chungen' apre, jinela sa ta kair lende wafodopen ta pessur sar lenghis dush. Te man tevel sikker tute chomany chovihaneskes. Shun! Vonka tu kamesa pen o dukkerin, lesa tu sar tiro man {325} ta latcher ajafera a manush te manushi lis se. De lende o yack, chiv lis drovan opa lakis yakka tevel se rakli. Vonka se pash trasherdo yoi tevel pen buti talla jinaben. Kanna tu sos kedo lis sorkon cherus tu astis risser buti dinneli chaia sa tav trustal tiro angushtri. Kenna-sig tiri yakka dikena pensa sappa, te vonka tu shan hoini tu tevel dikk pens' o puro beng. O pashno covva miri deari se ta jin sa ta plasser, te kamer, te masher foki. Vanka rakli lela chumeni kek-siglo adre lakis mui, tu sastis pen laki adovo sikerela buti bak. Kanna lela lulli te safrani balia, pen laki adovo se tatcho sigaben yoi sasti lel buti sonakei. Kanna lakis koria wena ketenes, dovo sikerela yoi tevel ketni buti barveli rya. Pen sarja vonka tu dikesa o latch apre lakis cham, talla lakis kor, te vaniso, adovos sigaben yoi tevel a bori rani. Ma kessur tu ki lo se, 'pre o truppo te pre o bull, pen laki sarja o latch adoi se sigaben o boridirines. Hammer laki apre. Te dikessa tu yoi lela bitti wastia te bitti piria, pen laki trustal a rye ko se divius pa rinkeni piria, te sa o rinkeno wast anela kumi bacht te rinkno mui. Hammerin te kamerin te masherin te shorin shan o pash o dukkerin. Se kek rakli te kekno mush adre mi duvel's chollo-tem savo ne se boino te hunkari pa chomani, te si tu astis latcher sa se tu susti lel lender wongur. Stastis, latcher sar o rakkerben apre foki.

"Awer miri bibi, adovos sar hokkanipen. Me kamava buti ta sikker tachni chovihanipen. Pen mandy si nanei tachi chovahanis, te sa yol dikena."

"O tachi chovihani miri chavi, lela yakka pensa chiriclo, o kunsus se rikkeredo apre pensa bongo chiv. Buti Yahudi, te nebollongeri lena jafri yakka. Te cho'hani balia shan rikkerdi pa lakis ankairoben te surri, te adenna risserdi. Vonka Gorgikani cho'hani lena shelni yakka, adulli shan i trasheni.

"Me penava tuki chomani sirines. Vonka tu latchesa o pori te o sasterni krafni, te anpali tu latchesa cuttor fon papiros, tu sastis chin apre lis sar o pori savo tu kamesa, te ha lis te tu lesa lis. Awer tu sasti chin sar tiro noko ratt. Si tu latchessa pash o lon-doeyav o boro matcheskro-bar, te o puro curro, chiv lis keti kan, shunesa godli. Tevel tastis kana pordo chone peshela, besh sar nangi adre lakis dud hefta ratti, te shundes adre lis, sarrati o gudli te vel tachodiro, te anpale tu shunesa i feris rakerena sig adosta. Vonka tu keresa hev sar o bar adre o mulleskri-tan, jasa tu adoi yeck ratti pash a waver te kenna-sig tu shunesa sa i mulia rakerena. Sorkon-chirus penena ki lovo se garrido. Sastis lel o bar te risser lis apre o mulleskri-tan, talla hev si kedo.

"Me penava tuki apopli chomani cho'haunes. Le vini o sar covva te suverena apre o pani, pa lenia, pa doeyav. Te asar i paneskri mullos kon jivena adre o pani rakkerena keti puveskri chovihanis. Si manush dikela pano panna, te partan te diklo apre o pani te lela lis, adovo sikela astis lel a pireni, o yuzhior te o kushtidir o partan se, o kushtidir i rakli. Si latchesa ran apre o pani, dovo sikela sastis kur tiro wafedo geero. Chokka or curro apre o pani penela tu tevel sig atch kamelo sar tiri pireni, te pireno. Te safrani ruzhia pa pani dukerena sonaki, te pauni, rupp, te loli, kammaben."

"Kana latchesa klisin, dovo se buti bacht. Vonka haderesa lis apre, pen o manusheskro te rakleskri nav, te yan wena kamlo o tute. Butidir bacht si lullo dori te tav. Rikker lis, sikela kushti kamaben. Man nasher lis avri tiro zi miri chavi."

"Nanei, bibi, kekker."


"My dear aunt, I wish very much to be a witch. I would like to enchant people and to know secret things. You can teach me all that."

"Oh, my darling! if you come to be a witch, and the Gentiles know it, you will have much trouble. All the children will cry aloud, and make a noise and throw stones at you when they see you, and perhaps the grown-up people will kill you. But it is nice to know secret things; pleasant for a poor old humble woman whom all the world spits upon to know how to do them evil and pay them for their cruelty. And I will teach you something of witchcraft. Listen! When thou wilt tell a fortune, put all thy heart into finding out what kind of a man or woman thou hast to deal with. Look [keenly], fix thy glance sharply, especially if it be a girl. When she is half-frightened, she will tell you much without knowing it. When thou shalt have often done this thou wilt be able to twist many a silly girl like twine around thy fingers. Soon thy eyes will look like a snake's, and when thou art angry thou wilt look like the old devil. Half the business, my dear, is to know how to please and flatter and allure people. When a girl has anything unusual in her face, you must tell her that it signifies extraordinary luck. If she have red or yellow hair, tell her that is a true sign that she will have much gold. When her eyebrows meet, that shows she will be united to many rich gentlemen. Tell her always, when you see a mole on her cheek or her forehead or anything, that is a sign she will become a great lady. Never mind where it is, on her body,—tell her always that a mole or fleck is a sign of greatness. Praise her up. And if you see that she has small hands or feet, tell her about a gentleman who is wild about pretty feet, and how a pretty hand brings more luck than a pretty face. Praising and petting and alluring and crying-up are half of fortune-telling. There is no girl and no man in all the Lord's earth who is not proud and vain about something, and if you can find it out you can get their money. If you can, pick up all the gossip about people."

"But, my aunt, that is all humbug. I wish much to learn real witchcraft. Tell me if there are no real witches, and how they look."

"A real witch, my child, has eyes like a bird, the corner turned up like the point of a curved pointed knife. Many Jews and un-Christians have such eyes. And witches' hairs are drawn out from the beginning [roots] and straight, and then curled [at the ends]. When Gentile witches have green eyes they are the most [to be] dreaded.

"I will tell you something magical. When you find a pen or an iron nail, and then a piece of paper, you should write on it with the pen all thou wishest, and eat it, and thou wilt get thy wish. But thou must write all in thy own blood. If thou findest by the sea a great shell or an old pitcher [cup, etc.], put it to your ear: you will hear a noise. If you can, when the full moon shines sit quite naked in her light and listen to it; every night the noise will become more distinct, and then thou wilt hear the fairies talking plainly enough. When you make a hole with a stone in a tomb go there night after night, and erelong thou wilt hear what the dead are saying. Often they tell where money is buried. You must take a stone and turn it around in the tomb till a hole is there.

"I will tell you something more witchly. Observe [take care] of everything that swims on water, on rivers or the sea. For so the water-spirits who live in the water speak to the earth's witches. If a man sees cloth on the water and gets it, that shows he will get a sweetheart; the cleaner and nicer the cloth, the better the maid. If you find a staff [stick or rod] on the water, that shows you will beat your enemy. A shoe or cup floating on the water means that you will soon be loved by your sweetheart. And yellow flowers [floating] on the water foretell gold, and white, silver, and red, love.

"When you find a key, that is much luck. When you pick [lift it] up, utter a male or female name, and the person will become your own. Very lucky is a red string or ribbon. Keep it. It foretells happy love. Do not let this run away from thy soul, my child."

"No, aunt, never."


This chapter contains in abridged form the substance of papers on the origin of the gypsies and their language, read before the London Philological Society; also of another paper read before the Oriental Congress at Florence in 1878; and a resume of these published in the London Saturday Review.

It has been repeated until the remark has become accepted as a sort of truism, that the gypsies are a mysterious race, and that nothing is known of their origin. And a few years ago this was true; but within those years so much has been discovered that at present there is really no more mystery attached to the beginning of these nomads than is peculiar to many other peoples. What these discoveries or grounds of belief are I shall proceed to give briefly, my limits not permitting the detailed citation of authorities. First, then, there appears to be every reason for believing with Captain Richard Burton that the Jats of Northwestern India furnished so large a proportion of the emigrants or exiles who, from the tenth century, went out of India westward, that there is very little risk in assuming it as an hypothesis, at least, that they formed the Hauptstamm of the gypsies of Europe. What other elements entered into these, with whom we are all familiar, will be considered presently. These gypsies came from India, where caste is established and callings are hereditary even among out-castes. It is not assuming too much to suppose that, as they evinced a marked aptitude for certain pursuits and an inveterate attachment to certain habits, their ancestors had in these respects resembled them for ages. These pursuits and habits were that

They were tinkers, smiths, and farriers.

They dealt in horses, and were naturally familiar with them.

They were without religion.

They were unscrupulous thieves.

Their women were fortune-tellers, especially by chiromancy.

They ate without scruple animals which had died a natural death, being especially fond of the pig, which, when it has thus been "butchered by God," is still regarded even by prosperous gypsies in England as a delicacy.

They flayed animals, carried corpses, and showed such aptness for these and similar detested callings that in several European countries they long monopolized them.

They made and sold mats, baskets, and small articles of wood.

They have shown great skill as dancers, musicians, singers, acrobats; and it is a rule almost without exception that there is hardly a traveling company of such performers or a theatre, in Europe or America, in which there is not at least one person with some Romany blood.

Their hair remains black to advanced age, and they retain it longer than do Europeans or ordinary Orientals.

They speak an Aryan tongue, which agrees in the main with that of the Jats, but which contains words gathered from other Indian sources. This is a consideration of the utmost importance, as by it alone can we determine what was the agglomeration of tribes in India which formed the Western gypsy.

Admitting these as the peculiar pursuits of the race, the next step should be to consider what are the principal nomadic tribes of gypsies in India and Persia, and how far their occupations agree with those of the Romany of Europe. That the Jats probably supplied the main stock has been admitted. This was a bold race of Northwestern India, which at one time had such power as to obtain important victories over the caliphs. They were broken and dispersed in the eleventh century by Mahmoud, many thousands of them wandering to the West. They were without religion, "of the horse, horsey," and notorious thieves. In this they agree with the European gypsy. But they are not habitual eaters of mullo balor, or "dead pork;" they do not devour everything like dogs. We cannot ascertain that the Jat is specially a musician, a dancer, a mat and basket maker, a rope-dancer, a bear-leader, or a peddler. We do not know whether they are peculiar in India among the Indians for keeping their hair unchanged to old age, as do pure-blood English gypsies. All of these things are, however, markedly characteristic of certain different kinds of wanderers, or gypsies, in India. From this we conclude, hypothetically, that the Jat warriors were supplemented by other tribes,—chief among these may have been the Dom,—and that the Jat element has at present disappeared, and been supplanted by the lower type.

The Doms are a race of gypsies found from Central India to the far northern frontier, where a portion of their early ancestry appears as the Domarr, and are supposed to be pre-Aryan. In "The People of India," edited by J. Forbes Watson and J. W. Kaye (India Museum, 1868), we are told that the appearance and modes of life of the Doms indicate a marked difference from those of the people who surround them (in Behar). The Hindus admit their claim to antiquity. Their designation in the Shastras is Sopuckh, meaning dog-eater. They are wanderers; they make baskets and mats, and are inveterate drinkers of spirits, spending all their earnings on it. They have almost a monopoly as to burning corpses and handling all dead bodies. They eat all animals which have died a natural death, and are particularly fond of pork of this description. "Notwithstanding profligate habits, many of them attain the age of eighty or ninety; and it is not till sixty or sixty-five that their hair begins to get white." The Domarr are a mountain race, nomads, shepherds, and robbers. Travelers speak of them as "gypsies." A specimen which we have of their language would, with the exception of one word, which is probably an error of the transcriber, be intelligible to any English gypsy, and be called pure Romany. Finally, the ordinary Dom calls himself a Dom, his wife a Domni, and the being a Dom, or the collective gypsydom, Domnipana. D in Hindustani is found as r in English gypsy speech,—e.g., doi, a wooden spoon, is known in Europe as roi. Now in common Romany we have, even in London,—

Rom . . . A gypsy.

Romni . . . A gypsy wife.

Romnipen . . . Gypsydom.

Of this word rom I shall have more to say. It may be observed that there are in the Indian Dom certain distinctly-marked and degrading features, characteristic of the European gypsy, which are out of keeping with the habits of warriors, and of a daring Aryan race which withstood the caliphs. Grubbing in filth as if by instinct, handling corpses, making baskets, eating carrion, being given to drunkenness, does not agree with anything we can learn of the Jats. Yet the European gypsies are all this, and at the same time "horsey" like the Jats. Is it not extremely probable that during the "out-wandering" the Dom communicated his name and habits to his fellow-emigrants?

The marked musical talent characteristic of the Slavonian and other European gypsies appears to link them with the Luri of Persia. These are distinctly gypsies; that is to say, they are wanderers, thieves, fortune-tellers, and minstrels. The Shah-Nameh of Firdusi tells us that about the year 420 A.D. Shankal, the Maharajah of India, sent to Behram Gour, a ruler of the Sassanian dynasty in Persia, ten thousand minstrels, male and female, called Luri. Though lands were allotted to them, with corn and cattle, they became from the beginning irreclaimable vagabonds. Of their descendants, as they now exist, Sir Henry Pottinger says:—

"They bear a marked affinity to the gypsies of Europe. {335} They speak a dialect peculiar to themselves, have a king to each troupe, and are notorious for kidnapping and pilfering. Their principal pastimes are drinking, dancing, and music. . . . They are invariably attended by half a dozen of bears and monkeys that are broke in to perform all manner of grotesque tricks. In each company there are always two or three members who profess . . . modes of divining, which procure them a ready admission into every society."

This account, especially with the mention of trained bears and monkeys, identifies them with the Ricinari, or bear-leading gypsies of Syria (also called Nuri), Turkey, and Roumania. A party of these lately came to England. We have seen these Syrian Ricinari in Egypt. They are unquestionably gypsies, and it is probable that many of them accompanied the early migration of Jats and Doms.

The Nats or Nuts are Indian wanderers, who, as Dr. J. Forbes Watson declares, in "The People of India," "correspond to the European gypsy tribes," and were in their origin probably identical with the Luri. They are musicians, dancers, conjurers, acrobats, fortune-tellers, blacksmiths, robbers, and dwellers in tents. They eat everything, except garlic. There are also in India the Banjari, who are spoken of by travelers as "gypsies." They are traveling merchants or peddlers. Among all these wanderers there is a current slang of the roads, as in England. This slang extends even into Persia. Each tribe has its own, but the name for the generally spoken lingua franca is Rom.

It has never been pointed out, however, by any writer, that there is in Northern and Central India a distinct tribe, which is regarded, even by the Nats and Doms and Jats themselves, as peculiarly and distinctly gypsy. There are, however, such wanderers, and the manner in which I became aware of their existence was, to say the least, remarkable. I was going one day along the Marylebone Road when I met a very dark man, poorly clad, whom I took for a gypsy; and no wonder, as his eyes had the very expression of the purest blood of the oldest families. To him I said,—

"Rakessa tu Romanes?" (Can you talk gypsy?)

"I know what you mean," he answered in English. "You ask me if I can talk gypsy. I know what those people are. But I'm a Mahometan Hindu from Calcutta. I get my living by making curry powder. Here is my card." Saying this he handed me a piece of paper, with his name written on it: John Nano.

"When I say to you, 'Rakessa tu Romanes?' what does it mean?"

"It means, 'Can you talk Rom?' But rakessa is not a Hindu word. It's Panjabi."

I met John Nano several times afterwards and visited him in his lodgings, and had him carefully examined and cross-questioned and pumped by Professor Palmer of Cambridge, who is proficient in Eastern tongues. He conversed with John in Hindustani, and the result of our examination was that John declared he had in his youth lived a very loose life, and belonged to a tribe of wanderers who were to all the other wanderers on the roads in India what regular gypsies are to the English Gorgio hawkers and tramps. These people were, he declared, "the real gypsies of India, and just like the gypsies here. People in India called them Trablus, which means Syrians, but they were full-blood Hindus, and not Syrians." And here I may observe that this word Trablus which is thus applied to Syria, is derived from Tripoli. John was very sure that his gypsies were Indian. They had a peculiar language, consisting of words which were not generally intelligible. "Could he remember any of these words?" Yes. One of them was manro, which meant bread. Now manro is all over Europe the gypsy word for bread. John Nano, who spoke several tongues, said that he did not know it in any Indian dialect except in that of his gypsies. These gypsies called themselves and their language Rom. Rom meant in India a real gypsy. And Rom was the general slang of the road, and it came from the Roms or Trablus. Once he had written all his autobiography in a book. This is generally done by intelligent Mahometans. This manuscript had unfortunately been burned by his English wife, who told us that she had done so "because she was tired of seeing a book lying about which she could not read."

Reader, think of losing such a life! The autobiography of an Indian gypsy,—an abyss of adventure and darksome mysteries, illuminated, it may be, with vivid flashes of Dacoitee, while in the distance rumbled the thunder of Thuggism! Lost, lost, irreparably lost forever! And in this book John had embodied a vocabulary of the real Indian Romany dialect. Nothing was wanting to complete our woe. John thought at first that he had lent it to a friend who had never returned it. But his wife remembered burning it. Of one thing John was positive: Rom was as distinctively gypsy talk in India as in England, and the Trablus are the true Romanys of India.

What here suggests itself is, how these Indian gypsies came to be called Syrian. The gypsies which roam over Syria are evidently of Indian origin; their language and physiognomy both declare it plainly. I offer as an hypothesis that bands of gypsies who have roamed from India to Syria have, after returning, been called Trablus, or Syrians, just as I have known Germans, after returning from the father-land to America, to be called Americans. One thing, however, is at least certain. The Rom are the very gypsies of gypsies in India. They are thieves, fortune-tellers, and vagrants. But whether they have or had any connection with the migration to the West we cannot establish. Their language and their name would seem to indicate it; but then it must be borne in mind that the word rom, like dom, is one of wide dissemination, dum being a Syrian gypsy word for the race. And the very great majority of even English gypsy words are Hindi, with an admixture of Persian, and do not belong to a slang of any kind. As in India, churi is a knife, nak the nose, balia hairs, and so on, with others which would be among the first to be furnished with slang equivalents. And yet these very gypsies are Rom, and the wife is a Romni, and they use words which are not Hindu in common with European gypsies. It is therefore not improbable that in these Trablus, so called through popular ignorance, as they are called Tartars in Egypt and Germany, we have a portion at least of the real stock. It is to be desired that some resident in India would investigate the Trablus. It will probably be found that they are Hindus who have roamed from India to Syria and back again, here and there, until they are regarded as foreigners in both countries.

Next to the word rom itself, the most interesting in Romany is zingan, or tchenkan, which is used in twenty or thirty different forms by the people of every country, except England, to indicate the gypsy. An incredible amount of far-fetched erudition has been wasted in pursuing this philological ignis fatuus. That there are leather-working and saddle-working gypsies in Persia who call themselves Zingan is a fair basis for an origin of the word; but then there are Tchangar gypsies of Jat affinity in the Punjab. Wonderful it is that in this war of words no philologist has paid any attention to what the gypsies themselves say about it. What they do say is sufficiently interesting, as it is told in the form of a legend which is intrinsically curious and probably ancient. It is given as follows in "The People of Turkey," by a Consul's Daughter and Wife, edited by Mr. Stanley Lane Poole, London, 1878: "Although the gypsies are not persecuted in Turkey, the antipathy and disdain felt for them evinces itself in many ways, and appears to be founded upon a strange legend current in the country. This legend says that when the gypsy nation were driven out of their country (India), and arrived at Mekran, they constructed a wonderful machine to which a wheel was attached." From the context of this imperfectly told story, it would appear as if the gypsies could not travel farther until this wheel should revolve:—

"Nobody appeared to be able to turn it, till in the midst of their vain efforts some evil spirit presented himself under the disguise of a sage, and informed the chief, whose name was Chen, that the wheel would be made to turn only when he had married his sister Guin. The chief accepted the advice, the wheel turned round, and the name of the tribe after this incident became that of the combined names of the brother and sister, Chenguin, the appellation of all the gypsies of Turkey at the present day."

The legend goes on to state that in consequence of this unnatural marriage the gypsies were cursed and condemned by a Mahometan saint to wander forever on the face of the earth. The real meaning of the myth—for myth it is—is very apparent. Chen is a Romany word, generally pronounced chone, meaning the moon; {341a} while guin is almost universally given as gan or kan. That is to say, Chen-gan or -kan, or Zin-kan, is much commoner than Chen-guin. Now kan is a common gypsy word for the sun. George Borrow gives it as such, and I myself have heard Romanys call the sun kan, though kam is commoner, and is usually assumed to be right. Chen-kan means, therefore, moon-sun. And it may be remarked in this connection, that the neighboring Roumanian gypsies, who are nearly allied to the Turkish, have a wild legend stating that the sun was a youth who, having fallen in love with his own sister, was condemned as the sun to wander forever in pursuit of her, after she was turned into the moon. A similar legend exists in Greenland {341b} and in the island of Borneo, and it was known to the old Irish. It is in fact a spontaneous myth, or one of the kind which grow up from causes common to all races. It would be natural, to any imaginative savage, to regard the sun and moon as brother and sister. The next step would be to think of the one as regularly pursuing the other over the heavens, and to this chase an erotic cause would naturally be assigned. And as the pursuit is interminable, the pursuer never attaining his aim, it would be in time regarded as a penance. Hence it comes that in the most distant and different lands we have the same old story of the brother and the sister, just as the Wild Hunter pursues his bride.

It was very natural that the gypsies, observing that the sun and moon were always apparently wandering, should have identified their own nomadic life with that of these luminaries. That they have a tendency to assimilate the idea of a wanderer and pilgrim to that of the Romany, or to Romanipen, is shown by the assertion once made to me by an English gypsy that his people regarded Christ as one of themselves, because he was always poor, and went wandering about on a donkey, and was persecuted by the Gorgios. It may be very rationally objected by those to whom the term "solar myth" is as a red rag, that the story, to prove anything, must first be proved itself. This will probably not be far to seek. Everything about it indicates an Indian origin, and if it can be found among any of the wanderers in India, it may well be accepted as the possible origin of the greatly disputed word zingan. It is quite as plausible as Dr. Miklosich's very far-fetched derivation from the Acingani,—[Greek text],—an unclean, heretical Christian sect, who dwelt in Phrygia and Lycaonia from the seventh till the eleventh century. The mention of Mekran indicates clearly that the moon story came from India before the Romany could have obtained any Greek name. And if gypsies call themselves or are called Jen-gan, or Chenkan, or Zingan, in the East, especially if they were so called by Persian poets, it is extremely unlikely that they ever received such a name from the Gorgios of Europe. It is really extraordinary that all the philologists who have toiled to derive the word zingan from a Greek or Western source have never reflected that if it was applied to the race at an early time in India or Persia all their speculations must fall to the ground.

One last word of John Nano, who was so called from two similar Indian words, meaning "the pet of his grandfather." I have in my possession a strange Hindu knife, with an enormously broad blade, perhaps five or six inches broad towards the end, with a long handle richly mounted in the purest bronze with a little silver. I never could ascertain till 1 knew him what it had been used for. Even the old ex-king of Oude, when he examined it, went wrong on it. Not so John Nano.

"I know well enough what that knife is. I have seen it before,—years ago. It is very old, and it was long in use; it was the knife used by the public executioner in Bhotan. It is Bhotani."

By the knife hangs the ivory-handled court-dagger which belonged to Francis II. of France, the first husband of Mary Queen of Scots. I wonder which could tell the strangest story of the past!

"It has cut off many a head," said John Nano, "and I have seen it before!"

I do not think that I have gone too far in attaching importance to the gypsy legend of the origin of the word chen-kan or zingan. It is their own, and therefore entitled to preference over the theories of mere scholars; it is Indian and ancient, and there is much to confirm it. When I read the substance of this chapter before the Philological Society of London, Prince Lucien Bonaparte,—who is beyond question a great philologist, and one distinguished for vast research,—who was in the chair, seemed, in his comments on my paper, to consider this sun and moon legend as frivolous. And it is true enough that German symbolizers have given us the sun myth to such an extent that the mere mention of it in philology causes a recoil. Then, again, there is the law of humanity that the pioneer, the gatherer of raw material, who is seldom collector and critic together, is always assailed. Columbus always gets the chains and Amerigo Vespucci the glory. But the legend itself is undeniably of the gypsies and Indian.

It is remarkable that there are certain catch-words, or test-words, among old gypsies with which they try new acquaintances. One of these is kekkavi, a kettle; another, chinamangri, a bill-hook, or chopper (also a letter), for which there is also another word. But I have found several very deep mothers in sorcery who have given me the word for sun, kam, as a precious secret, but little known. Now the word really is very well known, but the mystery attached to it, as to chone or shule, the moon, would seem to indicate that at one time these words had a peculiar significance. Once the darkest-colored English gypsy I ever met, wishing to sound the depth of my Romany, asked me for the words for sun and moon, making more account of my knowledge of them than of many more far less known.

As it will interest the reader, I will here give the ballad of the sun and the moon, which exists both in Romany and Roumani, or Roumanian, in the translation which I take from "A Winter in the City of Pleasure" (that is Bucharest), by Florence K. Berger,—a most agreeable book, and one containing two Chapters on the Tzigane, or gypsies.


Brother, one day the Sun resolved to marry. During nine years, drawn by nine fiery horses, he had rolled by heaven and earth as fast as the wind or a flying arrow.

But it was in vain that he fatigued his horses. Nowhere could he find a love worthy of him. Nowhere in the universe was one who equaled in beauty his sister Helen, the beautiful Helen with silver tresses.

The Sun went to meet her, and thus addressed her: "My dear little sister Helen, Helen of the silver tresses, let us be betrothed, for we are made for one another.

"We are alike not only in our hair and our features, but also in our beauty. I have locks of gold, and thou hast locks of silver. My face is shining and splendid, and thine is soft and radiant."

"O my brother, light of the world, thou who art pure of all stain, one has never seen a brother and sister married together, because it would be a shameful sin."

At this rebuke the Sun hid himself, and mounted up higher to the throne of God, bent before Him, and spoke:—

"Lord our Father, the time has arrived for me to wed. But, alas! I cannot find a love in the world worthy of me except the beautiful Helen, Helen of the silver hair!"

God heard him, and, taking him by the hand, led him into hell to affright his heart, and then into paradise to enchant his soul.

Then He spake to him, and while He was speaking the Sun began to shine brightly and the clouds passed over:—

"Radiant Sun! Thou who art free from all stain, thou hast been through hell and hast entered paradise. Choose between the two."

The Sun replied, recklessly, "I choose hell, if I may have, for a life, Helen, Helen of the shining silver hair."

The Sun descended from the high heaven to his sister Helen, and ordered preparation for his wedding. He put on her forehead the waving gold chaplet of the bride, he put on her head a royal crown, he put on her body a transparent robe all embroidered with fine pearls, and they all went into the church together.

But woe to him, and woe to her! During the service the lights were extinguished, the bells cracked while ringing, the seats turned themselves upside down, the tower shook to its base, the priests lost their voices, and the sacred robes were torn off their backs.

The bride was convulsed with fear. For suddenly, woe to her! an invisible hand grasped her up, and, having borne her on high, threw her into the sea, where she was at once changed into a beautiful silver fish.

The Sun grew pale and rose into the heaven. Then descending to the west, he plunged into the sea to search for his sister Helen, Helen of the shining silver hair.

However, the Lord God (sanctified in heaven and upon the earth) took the fish in his hand, cast it forth into the sky, and changed it anew into the moon.

Then He spoke. And while God was speaking the entire universe trembled, the peaks of the mountains bowed down, and men shivered with fear.

"Thou, Helen of the long silver tresses, and thou resplendent Sun, who are both free from all stain, I condemn you for eternity to follow each other with your eyes through space, without being ever able to meet or to reach each other upon the road of heaven. Pursue one another for all time in traveling around the skies and lighting up the world."

* * * * *

Fallen from a high estate by sin, wicked, and therefore wandering: it was with such a story of being penitent pilgrims, doomed for a certain space to walk the earth, that the gypsies entered Europe from India, into Islam and into Christendom, each time modifying the story to suit the religion of the country which they invaded. Now I think that this sun and moon legend is far from being frivolous, and that it conforms wonderfully well with the famous story which they told to the Emperor Sigismund and the Pope and all Europe, that they were destined to wander because they had sinned. When they first entered Europe, the gypsies were full of these legends; they told them to everybody; but they had previously told them to themselves in the form of the Indian sun and moon story. This was the root whence other stories grew. As the tale of the Wandering Jew typifies the Hebrew, so does this of the sun and moon the Romany.


There is a meaningless rhyme, very common among children. It is repeated while counting off those who are taking part in a game, and allotting to each a place. It is as follows:—

"Ekkeri akkery u-kery an Fillisi', follasy, Nicolas John Queebee-quabee—Irishman. Stingle 'em—stangle 'em—buck!"

With a very little alteration in sounds, and not more than children make of these verses in different places, this may be read as follows:—

"'Ekkeri, akai-ri, you kair—an. Filissin follasy. Nakelas ja'n. Kivi, kavi. Irishman. Stini—stani—buck!"

This is nonsense, of course, but it is Romany, or gypsy, and may be translated:—

"First—here—you begin. Castle—gloves. You don't play. Go on! Kivi—kettle. How are you? Stini—buck—buck."

The common version of the rhyme begins with:—

"One 'eri—two-ery, ekkeri—an."

But one-ry is the exact translation of ekkeri; ek or yek being one. And it is remarkable that in

"Hickory dickory dock, The rat ran up the clock; The clock struck one, And down he run, Hickory dickory dock."

We have hickory or ekkeri again, followed by a significant one. It may be observed that while, the first verses abound in Romany words, I can find no trace of any in other child-rhymes of the kind. It is also clear that if we take from the fourth line the ingle 'em, angle 'em, evidently added for mere jingle, there remains stan or stani, "a buck," followed by the very same word in English.

With the mournful examples of Mr. Bellenden Kerr's efforts to show that all our old proverbs and tavern signs are Dutch, and Sir William Betham's Etruscan-Irish, I should be justly regarded as one of the too frequent seekers for mystery in moonshine if I declared that I positively believed this to be Romany. Yet it is possible that it contains gypsy words, especially "fillissi,' follasy," which mean exactly chateau and gloves, and I think it not improbable that it was once a sham charm used by some Romany fortune-teller to bewilder Gorgios. Let the reader imagine the burnt-sienna wild-cat eyed old sorceress performing before a credulous farm-wife and her children the great ceremony of hakk'ni panki, which Mr. Borrow calls hokkani boro, but for which there is a far deeper name,—that of the great secret,—which even my best friends among the Romany tried to conceal from me. This feat is performed by inducing some woman of largely magnified faith to believe that there is hidden in her house a magic treasure, which can only be made to come to hand by depositing in the cellar another treasure, to which it will come by natural affinity and attraction. "For gold, as you sees, my deari, draws gold, and so if you ties up all your money in a pocket-handkercher and leaves it, you'll find it doubled. An' wasn't there the Squire's lady, and didn't she draw two hundred old gold guineas out of the ground where they'd laid in a old grave,—and only one guinea she gave me for all my trouble; an' I hope you'll do better by the poor old gypsy, my deari —- —-."

The gold and all the spoons are tied up,—for, as the enchantress observes, there may be silver too,—and she solemnly repeats over it magical rhymes, while the children, standing around in awe, listen to every word. It is a good subject for a picture. Sometimes the windows are closed, and candles give the only light. The next day the gypsy comes and sees how the charm is working. Could any one look under her cloak he might find another bundle precisely resembling the one containing the treasure. She looks at the precious deposit, repeats her rhyme again, and departs, after carefully charging the housewife that the bundle must not be touched or spoken of for three weeks. "Every word you tell about it, my-deari will be a guinea gone away." Sometimes she exacts an oath on the Bible that nothing shall be said.

Back to the farmer's wife never again. After three weeks another Extraordinary instance of gross credulity appears in the country paper, and is perhaps repeated in a colossal London daily, with a reference to the absence of the school-master. There is wailing and shame in the house,—perhaps great suffering, for it may be that the savings of years have beer swept away. The charm has worked.

But the little sharp-eared children remember it and sing it, and the more meaningless it is in their ears the more mysterious does it sound. And they never talk about the bundle, which when opened was found to contain only sticks, stones, and rags, without repeating it. So it goes from mouth to mouth, until, all mutilated, it passes current for even worse nonsense than it was at first. It may be observed, however,—and the remark will be fully substantiated by any one who knows the language,—that there is a Romany turn to even the roughest corners of these rhymes. Kivi, stingli, stangli, are all gypsyish. But, as I have already intimated, this does not appear in any other nonsense verses of the kind. There is nothing of it in

"Intery, mintery, cutery corn"—

or in anything else in Mother Goose. It is alone in its sounds and sense,—or nonsense. But there is not a wanderer of the roads who on hearing it would not explain, "Rya, there's a great deal of Romanes in that ere."

I should also say that the word na-kelas or ne-kelas, which I here translate differently, was once explained to me at some length by a gypsy as signifying "not speaking," or "keeping quiet."

Now the mystery of mysteries of which I have spoken in the Romany tongue is this. The hokkani boro, or great trick, consists of three parts. Firstly, the telling of a fortune, and this is to pen dukkerin or pen durkerin. The second part is the conveying away of the property, which is to lel dudikabin, or to take lightning, possibly connected with the very old English slang term of bien lightment. There is evidently a great confusion of words here. And the third is to "chiv o manzin apre lati," or to put the oath upon her, which explains itself. When all the deceived are under oath not to utter a word about the trick, the gypsy mother has "a safe thing of it."

The hokkani boro, or great trick, was brought by the gypsies from the East. It has been practiced by them all over the world, it is still played every day somewhere. This chapter was written long ago in England. I am now in Philadelphia, and here I read in the "Press" of this city that a Mrs. Brown, whom I sadly and reluctantly believe is the wife of an acquaintance of mine, who walks before the world in other names, was arrested for the same old game of fortune-telling and persuading a simple dame that there was treasure in the house, and all the rest of the grand deception. And Mrs. Brown, good old Mrs. Brown, went to prison, where she will linger until a bribed alderman, or a purchased pardon, or some one of the numerous devices by which justice is evaded in Pennsylvania, delivers her.

Yet it is not a good country, on the whole, for hokkani boro, since the people here, especially in the rural districts, have a rough-and-ready way of inflicting justice which interferes sadly with the profits of aldermen and other politicians. Some years ago, in Tennessee, a gypsy woman robbed a farmer by the great trick of all he was worth. Now it is no slander to say that the rural folk of Tennessee greatly resemble Indians in certain respects, and when I saw thousands of them, during the war, mustered out in Nashville, I often thought, as I studied their dark brown faces, high cheek bones, and long straight black hair, that the American is indeed reverting to the aboriginal type. The Tennessee farmer and his neighbors, at any rate, reverted very strongly indeed to the original type when robbed by the gypsies, for they turned out all together, hunted them down, and, having secured the sorceress, burned her alive at the stake. And thus in a single crime and its punishment we have curiously combined a world-old Oriental offense, an European Middle-Age penalty for witchcraft, and the fierce torture of the red Indians.


"So good a proficient in one quarter of an hour that I can drink with any tinker in his own language during my life."—King Henry the Fourth.

One summer day, in the year 1876, I was returning from a long walk in the beautiful country which lies around Bath, when, on the road near the town, I met with a man who had evidently grown up from childhood into middle age as a beggar and a tramp. I have learned by long experience that there is not a so-called "traveler" of England or of the world, be he beggar, tinker, gypsy, or hawker, from whom something cannot be learned, if one only knows how to use the test-glasses and proper reagents. Most inquirers are chiefly interested in the morals—or immorals—of these nomads. My own researches as regards them are chiefly philological. Therefore, after I had invested twopence in his prospective beer, I addressed him in Romany. Of course he knew a little of it; was there ever an old "traveler" who did not?

"But we are givin' Romanes up very fast,—all of us is," he remarked. "It is a gettin' to be too blown. Everybody knows some Romanes now. But there is a jib that ain't blown," he remarked reflectively. "Back slang an' cantin' an' rhymin' is grown vulgar, and Italian always was the lowest of the lot; thieves kennick is genteel alongside of organ-grinder's lingo, you know. Do you know anythin' of Italian, sir?"

"I can rakker it pretty flick" (talk it tolerably), was my reply.

"Well I should never a penned [thought] sitch a swell gent as you had been down so low in the slums. Now Romanes is genteel. I heard there's actilly a book about Romanes to learn it out of. But as for this other jib, its wery hard to talk. It is most all Old Irish, and they calls it Shelter."

This was all that I could learn at that time. It did not impress me much, as I supposed that the man merely meant Old Irish. A year went by, and I found myself at Aberystwith, the beautiful sea-town in Wales, with my friend Professor Palmer—a palmer who has truly been a pilgrim outre-mer, even by Galilee's wave, and dwelt as an Arab in the desert. One afternoon we were walking together on that end of the beach which is the antithesis of the old Norman castle; that is, at the other extremity of the town, and by the rocks. And here there was a little crowd, chiefly of young ladies, knitting and novel-reading in the sun, or watching children playing on the sand. All at once there was an alarm, and the whole party fled like partridges, skurrying along and hiding under the lee of the rocks. For a great rock right over our heads was about to be blasted. So the professor and I went on and away, but as we went we observed an eccentric and most miserable figure crouching in a hollow like a little cave to avoid the anticipated falling stones.

"Dikk o dovo mush adoi a gavverin lester kokero!" (Look at that man there, hiding himself!) said the professor in Romanes. He wished to call attention to the grotesque figure without hurting the poor fellow's feelings.

"Yuv's atrash o' ye baryia" (He is afraid of the stones), I replied.

The man looked up. "I know what you're saying, gentlemen. That's Romany."

"Jump up, then, and come along with us."

He followed. We walked from rock to rock, and over the sand by the sea, to a secluded nook under a cliff. Then, seated around a stone table, we began our conversation, while the ocean, like an importunate beggar, surfed and foamed away, filling up the intervals with its mighty roaring language, which poets only understand or translate:—

"Thus far, and then no more:" Such language speaks the sounding sea To the waves upon the shore.

Our new acquaintance was ragged and disreputable. Yet he held in his hand a shilling copy of "Helen's Babies," in which were pressed some fern leaves.

"What do you do for a living?" I asked.

"Shelkin gallopas just now," he replied.

"And what is that?"

"Selling ferns. Don't you understand? That's what we call it in Minklers Thari. That's tinkers' language. I thought as you knew Romanes you might understand it. The right name for it is Shelter or Shelta."

Out came our note-books and pencils. So this was the Shelter of which I had heard. He was promptly asked to explain what sort of a language it was.

"Well, gentlemen, you must know that I have no great gift for languages. I never could learn even French properly. I can conjugate the verb etre,—that is all. I'm an ignorant fellow, and very low. I've been kicked out of the lowest slums in Whitechapel because I was too much of a blackguard for 'em. But I know rhyming slang. Do you know Lord John Russell?"

"Well, I know a little of rhyming, but not that."

"Why, it rhymes to bustle."

"I see. Bustle is to pick pockets."

"Yes, or anything like it, such as ringing the changes."

Here the professor was "in his plate." He knows perfectly how to ring the changes. It is effected by going into a shop, asking for change for a sovereign, purchasing some trifling article, then, by ostensibly changing your mind as to having the change, so bewilder the shopman as to cheat him out of ten shillings. It is easily done by one who understands it. The professor does not practice this art for the lucre of gain, but he understands it in detail. And of this he gave such proofs to the tramp that the latter was astonished.

"A tinker would like to have a wife who knows as much of that as you do," he remarked. "No woman is fit to be a tinker's wife who can't make ten shillings a day by glantherin. Glantherin or glad'herin is the correct word in Shelter for ringing the changes. As for the language, I believe it's mostly Gaelic, but it's mixed up with Romanes and canting or thieves' slang. Once it was the common language of all the old tinkers. But of late years the old tinkers' families are mostly broken up, and the language is perishing."

Then he proceeded to give us the words in Shelta, or Minklers Thari. They were as follows:—

Shelkin gallopas Selling ferns. Soobli, Soobri Brother, friend—a man. Bewr Woman. Gothlin or goch'thlin Child. Young bewr Girl. Durra, or derra Bread. Pani Water (Romany). Stiff A warrant (common cant). Yack A watch (cant, i.e. bull's eye, Yack, an eye in Romany). Mush-faker Umbrella mender. Mithani (mithni) Policeman. Ghesterman (ghesti) Magistrate. Needi-mizzler A tramp. Dinnessy Cat. Stall Go, travel. Biyeghin Stealing. Biyeg To steal. Biyeg th'eenik To steal the thing. Crack A stick. Monkery Country. Prat Stop, stay, lodge. Ned askan Lodging. Glantherin (glad'herin) Money, swindling.

This word has a very peculiar pronunciation.

Sauni or sonni See. Strepuck (reepuck) A harlot. Strepuck lusk, Luthrum's gothlin Son of a harlot. Kurrb yer pee Punch your head or face. Pee Face. Borers and jumpers Tinkers' tools. Borers Gimlets. Jumpers Cranks. Ogles Eyes (common slang). Nyock Head. Nyock A penny. Odd Two. Midgic A shilling. Nyo(d)ghee A pound. Sai, sy Sixpence. Charrshom, Cherrshom, Tusheroon A crown. Tre-nyock Threepence. Tripo-rauniel A pot of beer. Thari, Bug Talk.

Can you thari Shelter? Can you bug Shelta? Can you talk tinkers' language?

Shelter, shelta Tinker's slang. Larkin Girl.

Curious as perhaps indicating an affinity between the Hindustani larki, a girl, and the gypsy rakli.

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