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From Land's End, by Wilbur Daniel Steele. Copyright, 1908,
Lost Dog Network2023-12-01 17:05:18【television】9People have been watching
What care we, though we be so small? The tent shall stand when the palace shall fall;
which is quite true. The Gypsy tent must make way for the palace, but after a millennium or two, the Gypsy tent is pitched on the ruins of the palace.
Of the open spaces above mentioned, the most considerable is one called Latimer's Green. It lies on the north-western side of the district, and is not far from that place of old renown called the Shepherd's Bush, where in the good ancient times highwaymen used to lurk for the purpose of pouncing upon the travellers of the Oxford Road. It may contain about five or six acres, and, though nominally under the control of trustees, is in reality little more than a "no man's ground," where anybody may feed a horse, light a fire, and boil a kettle. It is a great resort of vagrant people, less of Gypsies than those who call themselves travellers, and are denominated by the Gypsies Chorodies, and who live for the most part in miserable caravans, though there is generally a Gypsy tent or two to be seen there, belonging to some Deighton or Shaw, or perhaps Petulengro, from the Lil-engro Tan, as the Romany call Cambridgeshire. Amidst these Chorody caravans and Gypsy tents may frequently be seen the ker-vardo, the house on wheels, of one who, whenever he takes up his quarters here, is considered the cock of the walk, the king of the place. He is a little under forty years of age, and somewhat under five feet ten inches in height. His face is wonderfully like that of a mastiff of the largest size, particularly in its jowls; his neck is short and very thick, and must be nearly as strong as that of a bull; his chest is so broad that one does not like to say how broad it is; and the voice which every now and then proceeds from it has much the sound of that of the mighty dog just mentioned; his arms are long and exceedingly muscular, and his fists huge and bony. He wears a low- crowned, broad-brimmed hat, a coarse blue coat with short skirts, leggings, and high-lows. Such is the kral o' the tan, the rex loci, the cock of the green. But what is he besides? Is he Gypsy, Chorody, or Hindity mush? I say, you had better not call him by any one of those names, for if you did he would perhaps hit you, and then, oh dear! That is Mr. G. A., a travelling horse-dealer, who lives in a caravan, and finds it frequently convenient to take up his abode for weeks together on Latimer's Green. He is a thorough-bred Englishman, though he is married to a daughter of one of the old, sacred Gypsy families, a certain Lurina Ratziemescri, duck or heron female, who is a very handsome woman, and who has two brothers, dark, stealthy-looking young fellows, who serve with almost slavish obedience their sister's lord and husband, listening uncomplainingly to his abuse of Gypsies, whom, though he lives amongst them and is married to one by whom he has several children, he holds in supreme contempt, never speaking of them but as a lying, thievish, cowardly set, any three of whom he could beat with one hand; as perhaps he could, for he is a desperate pugilist, and has three times fought in "the ring" with good men, whom, though not a scientific fighter, he beat with ease by dint of terrible blows, causing them to roar out. He is very well to do in the world; his caravan, a rather stately affair, is splendidly furnished within; and it is a pleasure to see his wife, at Hampton Court races, dressed in Gypsy fashion, decked with real gems and jewels and rich gold chains, and waited upon by her dark brothers dressed like dandy pages. How is all this expense supported? Why, by horsedealing. Mr. G. is, then, up to all kinds of horsedealers' tricks, no doubt. Aye, aye, he is up to them, but he doesn't practise them. He says it's of no use, and that honesty is the best policy, and he'll stick to it; and so he does, and finds the profit of it. His traffic in horses, though confined entirely to small people, such as market-gardeners, travellers, show-folks, and the like, is very great; every small person who wishes to buy a horse, or to sell a horse, or to swop a horse, goes to Mr. G., and has never reason to complain, for all acknowledge that he has done the fair thing by them; though all agree that there is no overreaching him, which indeed very few people try to do, deterred by the dread of his manual prowess, of which a Gypsy once gave to the writer the following striking illustration: --"He will jal oprey to a gry that's wafodu, prawla, and coure leste tuley with the courepen of his wast." (He will go up to a vicious horse, brother, and knock him down with a blow of his fist.)
The arches of the railroad which bounds this region on the west and north serve as a resort for Gypsies, who erect within them their tents, which are thus sheltered in summer from the scorching rays of the sun, and in winter from the drenching rain. In what close proximity we sometimes find emblems of what is most rude and simple, and what is most artificial and ingenious! For example, below the arch is the Gypsy donkey-cart, whilst above it is thundering the chariot of fire which can run across a county in half an hour. The principal frequenters of these arches are Bosvils and Lees; the former are chiefly tinkers, and the latter esconyemengres, or skewer- makers. The reason for this difference is that the Bosvils are chiefly immigrants from the country, where there is not much demand for skewers, whereas the Lees are natives of the metropolis or the neighbourhood, where the demand for skewers has from time immemorial been enormously great. It was in the shelter of one of these arches that the celebrated Ryley Bosvil, the Gypsy king of Yorkshire, breathed his last a few years ago.
Before quitting the subject of Metropolitan Gypsies there is another place to which it will be necessary to devote a few words, though it is less entitled to the appelation of Gypsyry than rookery. It is situated in the East of London, a region far more interesting to the ethnologist and the philologist than the West, for there he will find people of all kinds of strange races,--the wildest Irish; Greeks, both Orthodox and Papistical; Jews, not only Ashkenazim and Sephardim, but even Karaite; the worst, and consequently the most interesting, description of Germans, the sugar-bakers; lots of Malays; plenty of Chinamen; two or three dozen Hottentots, and about the same number of Gypsies, reckoning men, women, and children. Of the latter, and their place of abode, we have now only to do, leaving the other strange, odd people to be disposed of on some other occasion.
Not far from Shoreditch Church, and at a short distance from the street called Church Street, on the left hand, is a locality called Friars' Mount, but generally for shortness called The Mount. It derives its name from a friary built upon a small hillock in the time of Popery, where a set of fellows lived in laziness and luxury on the offerings of foolish and superstitious people, who resorted thither to kiss and worship an ugly wooden image of the Virgin, said to be a first-rate stick at performing miraculous cures. The neighbourhood, of course, soon became a resort for vagabonds of every description, for wherever friars are found rogues and thieves are sure to abound; and about Friars' Mount, highwaymen, coiners, and Gypsies dwelt in safety under the protection of the ministers of the miraculous image. The friary has long since disappeared, the Mount has been levelled, and the locality built over. The vice and villainy, however, which the friary called forth still cling to the district. It is one of the vilest dens of London, a grand resort for housebreakers, garotters, passers of bad money, and other disreputable people, though not for Gypsies; for however favourite a place it may have been for the Romany in the old time, it no longer finds much favour in their sight, from its not affording open spaces where they can pitch their tents. One very small street, however, is certainly entitled to the name of a Gypsy street, in which a few Gypsy families have always found it convenient to reside, and who are in the habit of receiving and lodging their brethren passing through London to and from Essex and other counties east of the metropolis. There is something peculiar in the aspect of this street, not observable in that of any of the others, which one who visits it, should he have been in Triana of Seville, would at once recognise as having seen in the aspect of the lanes and courts of that grand location of the Gypsies of the Andalusian capital.
The Gypsies of the Mount live much in the same manner as their brethren in the other Gypsyries of London. They chin the cost, make skewers, baskets, and let out donkeys for hire. The chief difference consists in their living in squalid houses, whilst the others inhabit dirty tents and caravans. The last Gypsy of any note who resided in this quarter was Joseph Lee; here he lived for a great many years, and here he died, having attained the age of ninety. During his latter years he was generally called Old Joe Lee, from his great age. His wife or partner, who was also exceedingly old, only survived him a few days. They were buried in the same grave, with much Gypsy pomp, in the neighbouring churchyard. They were both of pure Gypsy blood, and were generally known as the Gypsy king and queen of Shoreditch. They left a numerous family of children and grandchildren, some of whom are still to be found at the Mount. This old Joe Lee in his day was a celebrated horse and donkey witch--that is, he professed secrets which enabled him to make any wretched animal of either species exhibit for a little time the spirit and speed of "a flying drummedary." He was illustriously related, and was very proud on that account, especially in being the brother's son of old James, the cauring mush, whose exploits in the filching line will be remembered as long as the venerable tribe of Purrum, or Lee, continues in existence.
Ryley Bosvil was a native of Yorkshire, a country where, as the Gypsies say, "there's a deadly sight of Bosvils." He was above the middle height, exceedingly strong and active, and one of the best riders in Yorkshire, which is saying a great deal. He was a thorough Gypsy, versed in all the arts of the old race, had two wives, never went to church, and considered that when a man died he was cast into the earth, and there was an end of him. He frequently used to say that if any of his people became Gorgios he would kill them. He had a sister of the name of Clara, a nice, delicate, interesting girl, about fourteen years younger than himself, who travelled about with an aunt; this girl was noticed by a respectable Christian family, who, taking a great interest in her, persuaded her to come and live with them. She was instructed by them in the rudiments of the Christian religion, appeared delighted with her new friends, and promised never to leave them. After the lapse of about six weeks there was a knock at the door; a dark man stood before it who said he wanted Clara. Clara went out trembling, had some discourse with the man in an unknown tongue, and shortly returned in tears, and said that she must go. "What for?" said her friends. "Did you not promise to stay with us?" "I did so," said the girl, weeping more bitterly; "but that man is my brother, who says I must go with him, and what he says must be." So with her brother she departed, and her Christian friends never saw her again. What became of her? Was she made away with? Many thought she was, but she was not. Ryley put her into a light cart, drawn by "a flying pony," and hurried her across England, even to distant Norfolk, where he left her, after threatening her, with three Gypsy women who were devoted to him. With these women the writer found her one night encamped in a dark wood, and had much discourse with her, both on Christian and Egyptian matters. She was very melancholy, bitterly regretted having been compelled to quit her Christian friends, and said that she wished she had never been a Gypsy. The writer, after exhorting her to keep a firm grip of her Christianity, departed, and did not see her again for nearly a quarter of a century, when he met her on Epsom Downs, on the Derby day when the terrible horse Gladiateur beat all the English steeds. She was then very much changed, very much changed indeed, appearing as a full-blown Egyptian matron, with two very handsome daughters flaringly dressed in genuine Gypsy fashion, to whom she was giving motherly counsels as to the best means to hok and dukker the gentlefolks. All her Christianity she appeared to have flung to the dogs, for when the writer spoke to her on that very important subject, she made no answer save by an indescribable Gypsy look. On other matters she was communicative enough, telling the writer, amongst other things, that since he saw her she had been twice married, and both times very well, for that her first husband, by whom she had the two daughters whom the writer "kept staring at," was a man every inch of him, and her second, who was then on the Downs grinding knives with a machine he had, though he had not much manhood, being nearly eighty years old, had something much better, namely a mint of money, which she hoped shortly to have in her own possession.
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