|George Borrow (1803-1881)|
|The Zincali or an account of te gypsies of Spain (Part II)|
ABOUT twelve in the afternoon of the 6th of January 1836, I crossed the bridge of the Guadiana, a boundary river between Portugal and Spain, and entered Badajoz, a strong town in the latter kingdom, containing about eight thousand inhabitants, supposed to have been founded by the Romans. I instantly returned thanks to God for having preserved me in a journey of five days through the wilds of the Alemtejo, the province of Portugal the most infested by robbers and desperate characters, which I had traversed with no other human companion than a lad, almost an idiot, who was to convey back the mules which had brought me from Aldea Gallega. I intended to make but a short stay, and as a diligence would set out for Madrid the day next but one to my arrival, I purposed departing therein for the capital of Spain.
I was standing at the door of the inn where I had taken up my temporary abode; the weather was gloomy, and rain seemed to be at hand; I was thinking on the state of the country I had just entered, which was involved in bloody anarchy and confusion, and where the ministers of a religion falsely styled Catholic and Christian were blowing the trump of war, instead of preaching the love-engendering words of the blessed Gospel.
Suddenly two men, wrapped in long cloaks, came down the narrow and almost deserted street; they were about to pass, and the face of the nearest was turned full towards me; I knew to whom the countenance which he displayed must belong, and I touched him on the arm. The man stopped, and likewise his companion; I said a certain word, to which, after an exclamation of surprise, he responded in the manner I expected. The men were Gitanos or Gypsies, members of that singular family or race which has diffused itself over the face of the civilised globe, and which, in all lands, has preserved more or less its original customs and its own peculiar language.
We instantly commenced discoursing in the Spanish dialect of this language, with which I was tolerably well acquainted. I asked my two newly-made acquaintances whether there were many of their race in Badajoz and the vicinity: they informed me that there were eight or ten families in the town, and that there were others at Merida, a town about six leagues distant. I inquired by what means they lived, and they replied that they and their brethren principally gained a livelihood by trafficking in mules and asses, but that all those in Badajoz were very poor, with the exception of one man, who was exceedingly BALBALO, or rich, as he was in possession of many mules and other cattle. They removed their cloaks for a moment, and I found that their under-garments were rags.
They left me in haste, and went about the
town informing the rest that a stranger had arrived who spoke Rommany as well as
themselves, who had the face of a Gitano, and seemed to be of the 'errate,' or blood. In
less than half an hour the street before the inn was filled with the men, women, and
children of Egypt. I went out amongst them, and my heart sank within me as I surveyed
them: so much vileness, dirt, and misery I had never seen amongst a similar number of
human beings; but worst of all was the evil expression of their countenances, which spoke
plainly that they were conversant with every species of crime, and it was not long before
I found that their countenances did not belie them. After they had asked me an infinity of
questions, and felt my hands, face, and clothes, they retired to their own homes.
Of the two Gitanos one was an elderly man,
tall and bony, with lean, skinny, and whimsical features, though perfectly those of a
Gypsy; he spoke little, and his expressions were generally singular and grotesque. His
companion, who was the man whom I had first noticed in the street, differed from him in
many respects; he could be scarcely thirty, and his figure, which was about the middle
height, was of Herculean proportions; shaggy black hair, like that of a wild beast,
covered the greatest part of his immense head; his face was frightfully seamed with the
small-pox, and his eyes, which glared like those of ferrets, peered from beneath bushy
eyebrows; he wore immense moustaches, and his wide mouth was garnished with teeth
exceedingly large and white.
In spite of his appearance, however, he seemed to be much the most sensible of the two; and the conversation which ensued was carried on chiefly between him and myself. This man, whom I shall call the first Gypsy, was the first to break silence; and he thus addressed me, speaking in Spanish, broken with words of the Gypsy tongue:-
FIRST GYPSY. - 'Arromali (in truth), I little thought when I saw the errano standing by the door of the posada that I was about to meet a brother - one too who, though well dressed, was not ashamed to speak to a poor Gitano; but tell me, I beg you, brother, from whence you come; I have heard that you have just arrived from Laloro, but I am sure you are no Portuguese; the Portuguese are very different from you; I know it, for I have been in Laloro; I rather take you to be one of the Corahai, for I have heard say that there is much of our blood there. You are a Corahano, are you not?'
MYSELF. - 'I am no Moor, though I have been in the country. I was born in an island in the West Sea, called England, which I suppose you have heard spoken of.'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'Yes, yes, I have a right to know something of the English. I was born in this foros, and remember the day when the English hundunares clambered over the walls, and took the town from the Gabine: well do I remember that day, though I was but a child; the streets ran red with blood and wine! Are there Gitanos then amongst the English?'
MYSELF. - 'There are numbers, and so there are amongst most nations of the world.'
SECOND GYPSY. - 'Vaya! And do the English Calore gain their bread in the same way as those of Spain? Do they shear and trim? Do they buy and change beasts, and (lowering his voice) do they now and then chore a gras?' (42)
MYSELF. - 'They do most of these things: the men frequent fairs and markets with horses, many of which they steal; and the women tell fortunes and perform all kinds of tricks, by which they gain more money than their husbands.'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'They would not be callees if they did not: I have known a Gitana gain twenty ounces of gold, by means of the hokkano baro, in a few hours, whilst the silly Gypsy, her husband, would be toiling with his shears for a fortnight, trimming the horses of the Busne, and yet not be a dollar richer at the end of the time.'
MYSELF. - 'You seem wretchedly poor. Are you married?'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'I am, and to the best-looking and cleverest callee in Badajoz; nevertheless we have never thriven since the day of our marriage, and a curse seems to rest upon us both. Perhaps I have only to thank myself; I was once rich, and had never less than six borricos to sell or exchange, but the day before my marriage I sold all I possessed, in order to have a grand fiesta. For three days we were merry enough; I entertained every one who chose to come in, and flung away my money by handfuls, so that when the affair was over I had not a cuarto in the world; and the very people who had feasted at my expense refused me a dollar to begin again, so we were soon reduced to the greatest misery. True it is, that I now and then shear a mule, and my wife tells the bahi (fortune) to the servant-girls, but these things stand us in little stead: the people are now very much on the alert, and my wife, with all her knowledge, has been unable to perform any grand trick which would et us up at once. She wished to come to see you, brother, this night, but was ashamed, as she has no more clothes than myself.
Last summer our distress was so great that we crossed the frontier into Portugal: my wife sung, and I played the guitar, for though I have but one arm, and that a left one, I have never felt the want of the other. At Estremoz I was cast into prison as a thief and vagabond, and there I might have remained till I starved with hunger. My wife, however, soon got me out: she went to the lady of the corregidor, to whom she told a most wonderful bahi, promising treasures and titles, and I wot not what; so I was set at liberty, and returned to Spain as quick as I could.'
MYSELF. - 'Is it not the custom of the Gypsies of Spain to relieve each other in distress? - it is the rule in other countries.'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'El krallis ha nicobado la liri de los Cales - (The king has destroyed the law of the Gypsies); we are no longer the people we were once, when we lived amongst the sierras and deserts, and kept aloof from the Busne; we have lived amongst the Busne till we are become almost like them, and we are no longer united, ready to assist each other at all times and seasons, and very frequently the Gitano is the worst enemy of his brother.'
MYSELF. - 'The Gitanos, then, no longer wander about, but have fixed residences in the towns and villages?'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'In the summer time a few of us assemble together, and live about amongst the plains and hills, and by doing so we frequently contrive to pick up a horse or a mule for nothing, and sometimes we knock down a Busne, and strip him, but it is seldom we venture so far. We are much looked after by the Busne, who hold us in great dread, and abhor us. Sometimes, when wandering about, we are attacked by the labourers, and then we defend ourselves as well as we can. There is no better weapon in the hands of a Gitano than his "cachas," or shears, with which he trims the mules. I once snipped off the nose of a Busne, and opened the greater part of his cheek in an affray up the country near Trujillo.'
MYSELF. - 'Have you travelled much about Spain?'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'Very little; I have never been out of this province of Estremadura, except last year, as I told you, into Portugal. When we wander we do not go far, and it is very rare that we are visited by our brethren of other parts. I have never been in Andalusia, but I have heard say that the Gitanos are many in Andalusia, and are more wealthy than those here, and that they follow better the Gypsy law.'
MYSELF. - 'What do you mean by the Gypsy law?'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'Wherefore do you ask, brother? You know what is meant by the law of the Cales better even than ourselves.'
MYSELF. - 'I know what it is in England and in Hungary, but I can only give a guess as to what it is in Spain.'
BOTH GYPSIES. - 'What do you consider it to be in Spain?'
MYSELF. - 'Cheating and choring the Busne on all occasions, and being true to the errate in life and in death.'
At these words both the Gitanos sprang simultaneously from their seats, and exclaimed with a boisterous shout - 'Chachipe.'
This meeting with the Gitanos was the occasion of my remaining at Badajoz a much longer time than I originally intended. I wished to become better acquainted with their condition and manners, and above all to speak to them of Christ and His Word; for I was convinced, that should I travel to the end of the universe, I should meet with no people more in need of a little Christian exhortation, and I accordingly continued at Badajoz for nearly three weeks.
During this time I was almost constantly amongst them, and as I spoke their language, and was considered by them as one of themselves, I had better opportunity of arriving at a fair conclusion respecting their character than any other person could have had, whether Spanish or foreigner, without such an advantage.
I found that their ways and pursuits were in almost every respect similar to those of their brethren in other countries. By cheating and swindling they gained their daily bread; the men principally by the arts of the jockey, - by buying, selling, and exchanging animals, at which they are wonderfully expert; and the women by telling fortunes, selling goods smuggled from Portugal, and dealing in love-draughts and diablerie. The most innocent occupation which I observed amongst them was trimming and shearing horses and mules, which in their language is called 'monrabar,' and in Spanish 'esquilar'; and even whilst exercising this art, they not unfrequently have recourse to foul play, doing the animal some covert injury, in hope that the proprietor will dispose of it to themselves at an inconsiderable price, in which event they soon restore it to health; for knowing how to inflict the harm, they know likewise how to remove it.
Religion they have none; they never attend mass, nor did I ever hear them employ the names of God, Christ, and the Virgin, but in execration and blasphemy. From what I could learn, it appeared that their fathers had entertained some belief in metempsychosis; but they themselves laughed at the idea, and were of opinion that the soul perished when the body ceased to breathe; and the argument which they used was rational enough, so far as it impugned metempsychosis: 'We have been wicked and miserable enough in this life,' they said; 'why should we live again?'
I translated certain portions of Scripture into their dialect, which I frequently read to them; especially the parable of Lazarus and the Prodigal Son, and told them that the latter had been as wicked as themselves, and both had suffered as much or more; but that the sufferings of the former, who always looked forward to a blessed resurrection, were recompensed by admission, in the life to come, to the society of Abraham and the Prophets, and that the latter, when he repented of his sins, was forgiven, and received into as much favour as the just son.
They listened with admiration; but, alas! not of the truths, the eternal truths, I was telling them, but to find that their broken jargon could be written and read. The only words denoting anything like assent to my doctrine which I ever obtained, were the following from the mouth of a woman: 'Brother, you tell us strange things, though perhaps you do not lie; a month since I would sooner have believed these tales, than that this day I should see one who could write Rommany.'
Two or three days after my arrival, I was again visited by the Gypsy of the withered arm, who I found was generally termed Paco, which is the diminutive of Francisco; he was accompanied by his wife, a rather good-looking young woman with sharp intelligent features, and who appeared in every respect to be what her husband had represented her on the former visit. She was very poorly clad, and notwithstanding the extreme sharpness of the weather, carried no mantle to protect herself from its inclemency, - her raven black hair depended behind as far down as her hips. Another Gypsy came with them, but not the old fellow whom I had before seen. This was a man about forty-five, dressed in a zamarra of sheep-skin, with a high-crowned Andalusian hat; his complexion was dark as pepper, and his eyes were full of sullen fire. In his appearance he exhibited a goodly compound of Gypsy and bandit.
PACO. - 'Laches chibeses te dinele Undebel (May God grant you good days, brother). This is my wife, and this is my wife's father.'
MYSELF. - 'I am glad to see them. What are their names?'
PACO. - 'Maria and Antonio; their other name is Lopez.'
MYSELF. - 'Have they no Gypsy names?'
PACO. - 'They have no other names than these.'
MYSELF. - 'Then in this respect the Gitanos of Spain are unlike those of my country. Every family there has two names; one by which they are known to the Busne, and another which they use amongst themselves.'
ANTONIO. - 'Give me your hand, brother! I should have come to see you before, but I have been to Olivenzas in search of a horse.
What I have heard of you has filled me with much desire to know you, and I now see that you can tell me many things which I am ignorant of. I am Zincalo by the four sides - I love our blood, and I hate that of the Busne. Had I my will I would wash my face every day in the blood of the Busne, for the Busne are made only to be robbed and to be slaughtered; but I love the Calore, and I love to hear of things of the Calore, especially from those of foreign lands; for the Calore of foreign lands know more than we of Spain, and more resemble our fathers of old.'
MYSELF. - 'Have you ever met before with Calore who were not Spaniards?'
ANTONIO. - 'I will tell you, brother. I served as a soldier in the war of the independence against the French. War, it is true, is not the proper occupation of a Gitano, but those were strange times, and all those who could bear arms were compelled to go forth to fight: so I went with the English armies, and we chased the Gabine unto the frontier of France; and it happened once that we joined in desperate battle, and there was a confusion, and the two parties became intermingled and fought sword to sword and bayonet to bayonet, and a French soldier singled me out, and we fought for a long time, cutting, goring, and cursing each other, till at last we flung down our arms and grappled; long we wrestled, body to body, but I found that I was the weaker, and I fell. The French soldier's knee was on my breast, and his grasp was on my throat, and he seized his bayonet, and he raised it to thrust me through the jaws; and his cap had fallen off, and I lifted up my eyes wildly to his face, and our eyes met, and I gave a loud shriek, and cried Zincalo, Zincalo! and I felt him shudder, and he relaxed his grasp and started up, and he smote his forehead and wept, and then he came to me and knelt down by my side, for I was almost dead, and he took my hand and called me Brother and Zincalo, and he produced his flask and poured wine into my mouth, and I revived, and he raised me up, and led me from the concourse, and we sat down on a knoll, and the two parties were fighting all around, and he said, "Let the dogs fight, and tear each others' throats till they are all destroyed, what matters it to the Zincali? they are not of our blood, and shall that be shed for them?" So we sat for hours on the knoll and discoursed on matters pertaining to our people; and I could have listened for years, for he told me secrets which made my ears tingle, and I soon found that I knew nothing, though I had before considered myself quite Zincalo; but as for him, he knew the whole cuenta; the Bengui Lango (43) himself could have told him nothing but what he knew. So we sat till the sun went down and the battle was over, and he proposed that we should both flee to his own country and live there with the Zincali; but my heart failed me; so we embraced, and he departed to the Gabine, whilst I returned to our own battalions.'
MYSELF. - 'Do you know from what country he came?'
ANTONIO. - 'He told me that he was a Mayoro.'
MYSELF. - 'You mean a Magyar or Hungarian.'
ANTONIO. - 'Just so; and I have repented ever since that I did not follow him.'
MYSELF. - 'Why so?'
ANTONIO. - 'I will tell you: the king has destroyed the law of the Cales, and has put disunion amongst us. There was a time when the house of every Zincalo, however rich, was open to his brother, though he came to him naked; and it was then the custom to boast of the "errate." It is no longer so now: those who are rich keep aloof from the rest, will not speak in Calo, and will have no dealings but with the Busne. Is there not a false brother in this foros, the only rich man among us, the swine, the balichow? he is married to a Busnee and he would fain appear as a Busno! Tell me one thing, has he been to see you? The white blood, I know he has not; he was afraid to see you, for he knew that by Gypsy law he was bound to take you to his house and feast you, whilst you remained, like a prince, like a crallis of the Cales, as I believe you are, even though he sold the last gras from the stall. Who have come to see you, brother? Have they not been such as Paco and his wife, wretches without a house, or, at best, one filled with cold and poverty; so that you have had to stay at a mesuna, at a posada of the Busne; and, moreover, what have the Cales given you since you have been residing here? Nothing, I trow, better than this rubbish, which is all I can offer you, this Meligrana de los Bengues.'
Here he produced a pomegranate from the pocket of his zamarra, and flung it on the table with such force that the fruit burst, and the red grains were scattered on the floor.
The Gitanos of Estremadura call themselves in general Chai or Chabos, and say that their original country was Chal or Egypt. I frequently asked them what reason they could assign for calling themselves Egyptians, and whether they could remember the names of any places in their supposed fatherland; but I soon found that, like their brethren in other parts of the world, they were unable to give any rational account of themselves, and preserved no recollection of the places where their forefathers had wandered; their language, however, to a considerable extent, solved the riddle, the bulk of which being Hindui, pointed out India as the birthplace of their race, whilst the number of Persian, Sclavonian, and modern Greek words with which it is checkered, spoke plainly as to the countries through which these singular people had wandered before they arrived in Spain.
They said that they believed themselves to be Egyptians, because their fathers before them believed so, who must know much better than themselves. They were fond of talking of Egypt and its former greatness, though it was evident that they knew nothing farther of the country and its history than what they derived from spurious biblical legends current amongst the Spaniards; only from such materials could they have composed the following account of the manner of their expulsion from their native land.
'There was a great king in Egypt, and his name was Pharaoh. He had numerous armies, with which he made war on all countries, and conquered them all. And when he had conquered the entire world, he became sad and sorrowful; for as he delighted in war, he no longer knew on what to employ himself. At last he bethought him on making war on God; so he sent a defiance to God, daring him to descend from the sky with his angels, and contend with Pharaoh and his armies; but God said, I will not measure my strength with that of a man. But God was incensed against Pharaoh, and resolved to punish him; and he opened a hole in the side of an enormous mountain, and he raised a raging wind, and drove before it Pharaoh and his armies to that hole, and the abyss received them, and the mountain closed upon them; but whosoever goes to that mountain on the night of St. John can hear Pharaoh and his armies singing and yelling therein.
And it came to pass, that when Pharaoh and
his armies had disappeared, all the kings and the nations which had become subject to
Egypt revolted against Egypt, which, having lost her king and her armies, was left utterly
without defence; and they made war against her, and prevailed against her, and took her
people and drove them forth, dispersing them over all the world.'
'THE STEEDS OF THE EGYPTIANS DRINK THE WATERS OF THE GUADIANA
'The region of Chal was our dear native soil,
'Once kings came from far to kneel down at
'For the Undebel saw, from his throne in the
'Our horses should drink of no river but one;
IN Madrid the Gitanos chiefly reside in the neighbourhood of the 'mercado,' or the place where horses and other animals are sold, - in two narrow and dirty lanes, called the Calle de la Comadre and the Callejon de Lavapies. It is said that at the beginning of last century Madrid abounded with these people, who, by their lawless behaviour and dissolute lives, gave occasion to great scandal; if such were the case, their numbers must have considerably diminished since that period, as it would be difficult at any time to collect fifty throughout Madrid. These Gitanos seem, for the most part, to be either Valencians or of Valencian origin, as they in general either speak or understand the dialect of Valencia; and whilst speaking their own peculiar jargon, the Rommany, are in the habit of making use of many Valencian words and terms.
The manner of life of the Gitanos of Madrid differs in no
material respect from that of their brethren in other places. The men, every market-day,
are to be seen on the skirts of the mercado, generally with some miserable animal - for
example, a foundered mule or galled borrico, by means of which they seldom fail to gain a
dollar or two, either by sale or exchange. It must not, however, be supposed that they
content themselves with such paltry earnings. Provided they have any valuable animal,
which is not unfrequently the case, they invariably keep such at home snug in the stall,
onducting thither the chapman, should they find any, and concluding the bargain with the
greatest secrecy. Their general reason for this conduct is an unwillingness to exhibit
anything calculated to excite the jealousy of the chalans, or jockeys of Spanish blood,
who on the slightest umbrage are in the habit of jecting them from the fair by force of
palos or cudgels, in which violence the chalans are to a certain extent countenanced by
law; for though by the edict of Carlos the Third the Gitanos were in other respects placed
upon an equality with the rest of the Spaniards, they were still forbidden to obtain their
livelihood by the traffic of markets and fairs.
The Madrilenian Gypsy women are indefatigable
in the pursuit of prey, prowling about the town and the suburbs from morning till night,
entering houses of all descriptions, from the highest to the lowest; telling fortunes, or
attempting to play off various kinds of Gypsy tricks, from which they derive much greater
profit, and of which we shall presently have occasion to make particular mention.
Whilst speaking of the Gitanos of Granada, we
cannot pass by in silence a tragedy which occurred in this town amongst them, some fifteen
years ago, and the details of which are known to every Gitano in Spain, from Catalonia to
Estremadura. We allude to the murder of Pindamonas by Pepe Conde. Both these individuals
were Gitanos; the latter was a celebrated contrabandista, of whom many remarkable tales
are told. On one occasion, having committed some enormous crime, he fled over to Barbary
and turned Moor, and was employed by the Moorish emperor in his wars, in company with the
other renegade Spaniards, whose grand depot or presidio is the town of Agurey in the
kingdom of Fez. After the lapse of some years, when his crime was nearly forgotten, he
returned to Granada, where he followed his old occupations of contrabandista and chalan.
residing was watched, as a belief was entertained that sooner or later he would return to it, in the hope of being able to remove some of the property contained in it. This belief was well founded. Early one morning he was observed to enter it, and a band of soldiers was instantly despatched to seize him. This circumstance is alluded to in a Gypsy stanza:-
'Fly, Pepe Conde, seek the hill;
And before the soldiers could arrive at the
cave, Pepe Conde had discovered their approach and fled, endeavouring to make his escape
amongst the rocks and barrancos of the Alpujarras. The soldiers instantly pursued, and the
chase continued a considerable time. The fugitive was repeatedly summoned to surrender
himself, but refusing, the soldiers at last fired, and four balls entered the heart of the
Gypsy contrabandista and murderer.
'The death of Pindamonas fill'd all the world
The faubourg of Triana, in Seville, has from
time immemorial been noted as a favourite residence of the Gitanos; and here, at the
present day, they are to be found in greater number than in any other town in Spain. This
faubourg is indeed chiefly inhabited by desperate characters, as, besides the Gitanos, the
principal part of the robber population of Seville is here congregated. Perhaps there is
no part even of Naples where crime so much abounds, and the law is so little respected, as
at Triana, the character of whose inmates was so graphically delineated two centuries and
a half back by Cervantes, in one of the most amusing of his tales. (44)
At Cordova, a town at the distance of twenty leagues from Seville, which scarcely contains a dozen Gitano families, I found them living in much more brotherly amity, and cherishing in a greater degree the observances of their forefathers.I shall long remember these Cordovese Gitanos, by whom I was very well received, but always on the supposition that I was one of their own race. They said that they never admitted strangers to their houses save at their marriage festivals, when they flung their doors open to all, and save occasionally people of influence and distinction, who wished to hear their songs and converse with their women; but they assured me, at the same time, that these they invariably deceived, and merely made use of as instruments to serve their own purposes. As for myself, I was admitted without scruple to their private meetings, and was made a participator of their most secret thoughts. During our intercourse some remarkable scenes occurred. One night more than twenty of us, men and women, were assembled in a long low room on the ground floor, in a dark alley or court in the old gloomy town of Cordova. After the Gitanos had discussed several jockey plans, and settled some private bargains amongst themselves, we all gathered round a huge brasero of flaming charcoal, and began conversing SOBRE LAS COSAS E EGYPTO, when I proposed that, as we had no better means of amusing ourselves, we should endeavour to turn into the Calo language some pieces of devotion, that we might see whether this anguage, the gradual decay of which I had frequently heard them lament, was capable of expressing any other matters than those which related to horses, mules, and Gypsy traffic. It was in this cautious manner that I first endeavoured to divert the attention of these singular people to matters of eternal importance. My suggestion was received with acclamations, and we forthwith proceeded to the translation of the Apostles' creed. I first recited in Spanish, in the usual manner and without pausing, this noble confession, and then repeated it again, sentence by sentence, the Gitanos translating as I proceeded. They exhibited the greatest eagerness and interest in their unwonted occupation, and frequently broke into loud disputes as to the best rendering - many being offered at the same time. In the meanwhile, I wrote down from their dictation; and at the conclusion I read aloud the translation, the result of the united wisdom of the assembly, whereupon they all raised a shout of exultation, and appeared not a little proud of the composition.
The Cordovese Gitanos are celebrated
esquiladors. Connected with them and the exercise of the ARTE DE ESQUILAR, in Gypsy
monrabar, I have a curious anecdote to relate. In the first place, however, it may not be
amiss to say something about the art itself, of all relating to which it is possible that
the reader may be quite ignorant.
In one of their couplets allusion is made to this occupation in the following manner:-
'I'll rise to-morrow bread to earn,
Sometimes, whilst shearing the foot of a
horse, exceedingly small scissors are necessary for the purpose of removing fine solitary
hairs; for a Spanish groom will tell you that a horse's foot behind ought to be kept as
clean and smooth as the hand of a senora: such scissors can only be procured at Madrid. My
sending two pair of this kind to a Cordovese Gypsy, from whom I had experienced much
attention whilst in that city, was the occasion of my receiving a singular epistle from
another whom I scarcely knew, and which I shall insert as being an original Gypsy
composition, and in some points not a little characteristic of the people of whom I am now
'SENOR DON JORGE,
'That I may clip and trim the beasts, a pair
of cachas grant,
'If thou a pair of cachas grant, that I my
babes may feed,
It is by no means my intention to describe the exact state and condition of the Gitanos in every town and province where they are to be found; perhaps, indeed, it will be considered that I have already been more circumstantial and particular than the case required. The other districts which they inhabit are principally those of Catalonia, Murcia, and Valencia; and they are likewise to be met with in the Basque provinces, where they are called Egipcioac, or Egyptians. What I next purpose to occupy myself with are some general observations on the habits, and the physical and moral state of the Gitanos throughout Spain, and of the position which they hold in society.
ALREADY, from the two preceding chapters, it will have been perceived that the condition of the Gitanos in Spain has been subjected of late to considerable modification. The words of the Gypsy of Badajoz are indeed, in some respects, true; they are no longer the people that they were; the roads and 'despoblados' have ceased to be infested by them, and the traveller is no longer exposed to much danger on their account; they at present confine themselves, for the most part, to towns and villages, and if they occasionally wander abroad, it is no longer in armed bands, formidable for their numbers, and carrying terror and devastation in all directions, bivouacking near solitary villages, and devouring the substance of the unfortunate inhabitants, or occasionally threatening even large towns, as in the singular case of Logrono, mentioned by Francisco de Cordova. As the reader will probably wish to know the cause of this change in the lives and habits of these people, we shall, as briefly as possible, afford as much information on the subject as the amount of our knowledge will permit.
One fact has always struck us with particular force in the history of these people, namely, that Gitanismo - which means Gypsy villainy of every description - flourished and knew nothing of decay so long as the laws recommended and enjoined measures the most harsh and severe for the suppression of the Gypsy sect; the palmy days of Gitanismo were those in which the caste was proscribed, and its members, in the event of renouncing their Gypsy habits, had nothing farther to expect than the occupation of tilling the earth, a dull hopeless toil; then it was that the Gitanos paid tribute to the inferior ministers of justice, and were engaged in illicit connection with those of higher station, and by such means baffled the law, whose vengeance rarely fell upon their heads; and then it was that they bid it open defiance, retiring to the deserts and mountains, and living in wild independence by rapine and shedding of blood; for as the law then stood they would lose all by resigning their Gitanismo, whereas by clinging to it they lived either in the independence so dear to them, or beneath the protection of their confederates. It would appear that in proportion as the law was harsh and severe, so was the Gitano bold and secure.
The fiercest of these laws was the one of Philip the Fifth, passed in the year 1745, which commands that the refractory Gitanos be hunted down with fire and sword; that it was quite inefficient is satisfactorily proved by its being twice reiterated, once in the year '46, and again in '49, which would scarcely have been deemed necessary had it quelled the Gitanos. This law, with some unimportant modifications, continued in force till the year '83, when the famous edict of Carlos Tercero superseded it. Will any feel disposed to doubt that the preceding laws had served to foster what they were intended to suppress, when we state the remarkable fact, that since the enactment of that law, as humane as the others were unjust, WE HAVE HEARD NOTHING MORE OF THE GITANOS FROM OFFICIAL QUARTERS; THEY HAVE CEASED TO PLAY A DISTINCT PART IN THE HISTORY OF SPAIN; AND THE LAW NO LONGER SPEAKS OF THEM AS A DISTINCT PEOPLE? The caste of the Gitano still exists, but it is neither so extensive nor so formidable as a century ago, when the law in denouncing Gitanismo proposed to the Gitanos the alternatives of death for persisting in their profession, or slavery for abandoning it.
There are fierce and discontented spirits amongst them, who regret such times, and say that Gypsy law is now no more, that the Gypsy no longer assists his brother, and that union has ceased among them. If this be true, can better proof be adduced of the beneficial working of the later law? A blessing has been conferred on society, and in a manner highly creditable to the spirit of modern times; reform has been accomplished, not by persecution, not by the gibbet and the rack, but by justice and tolerance. The traveller has flung aside his cloak, not compelled by the angry buffeting of the north wind, but because the mild, benignant weather makes such a defence no longer necessary. The law no longer compels the Gitanos to stand back to back, on the principal of mutual defence, and to cling to Gitanismo to escape from servitude and thraldom.
Taking everything into consideration, and viewing the subject in all its bearings with an impartial glance, we are compelled to come to the conclusion that the law of Carlos Tercero, the provisions of which were distinguished by justice and clemency, has been the principal if not the only cause of the decline of Gitanismo in Spain. Some importance ought to be attached to the opinion of the Gitanos themselves on this point. 'El Crallis ha nicobado la liri de los Cales,' is a proverbial saying among them. By Crallis, or King, they mean Carlos Tercero, so that the saying, the proverbial saying, may be thus translated: THE LAW OF CARLOS TERCERO HAS SUPERSEDED GYPSY LAW.
By the law the schools are open to them, and there is no art or science which they may not pursue, if they are willing. Have they availed themselves of the rights which the law has conferred upon them?
Up to the present period but little - they still continue jockeys and blacksmiths; but some of these Gypsy chalans, these bronzed smiths, these wild-looking esquiladors, can read or write in the proportion of one man in three or four; what more can be expected?
Would you have the Gypsy bantling, born in filth and misery, 'midst mules and borricos, amidst the mud of a choza or the sand of a barranco, grasp with its swarthy hands the crayon and easel, the compass, or the microscope, or the tube which renders more distinct the heavenly orbs, and essay to become a Murillo, or a Feijoo, or a Lorenzo de Hervas, as soon as the legal disabilities are removed which doomed him to be a thievish jockey or a sullen husbandman?
Much will have been accomplished, if, after the lapse of a hundred years, one hundred human beings shall have been evolved from the Gypsy stock, who shall prove sober, honest, and useful members of society, - that stock so degraded, so inveterate in wickedness and evil customs, and so hardened by brutalising laws. Should so many beings, should so many souls be rescued from temporal misery and eternal woe; should only the half of that number, should only the tenth, nay, should only one poor wretched sheep be saved, there will be joy in heaven, for much will have been accomplished on earth, and those lines will have been in part falsified which filled the stout heart of Mahmoud with dismay:-
'For the root that's unclean, hope if you
If the egg of the raven of noxious breed
Whilst life in the egg breathes Gabriel,
The principal evidence which the Gitanos have hitherto given that a partial reformation has been effected in their habits, is the relinquishment, in a great degree, of that wandering life of which the ancient laws were continually complaining, and which was the cause of infinite evils, and tended not a little to make the roads insecure.
Doubtless there are those who will find some
difficulty in believing that the mild and conciliatory clauses of the law in question
could have much effect in weaning the Gitanos from this inveterate habit, and will be more
disposed to think that this relinquishment was effected by energetic measures resorted to
by the government, to compel them to remain in their places of location. It does not
appear, however, that such measures were ever resorted to. Energy, indeed, in the removal
of a nuisance, is scarcely to be expected from Spaniards under any circumstances.
Gitanismo, therefore, has not been extinguished, only modified; but that modification has been effected within the memory of man, whilst previously near four centuries elapsed, during which no reform had been produced amongst them by the various measures devised, all of which were distinguished by an absence not only of true policy, but of common-sense; it is therefore to be hoped, that if the Gitanos are abandoned to themselves, by which we mean no arbitrary laws are again enacted for their extinction, the sect will eventually cease to be, and its members become confounded with the residue of the population; for certainly no Christian nor merely philanthropic heart can desire the continuance of any sect or association of people whose fundamental principle seems to be to hate all the rest of mankind, and to live by deceiving them; and such is the practice of the Gitanos.
During the last five years, owing to the civil wars, the ties which unite society have been considerably relaxed; the law has been trampled under foot, and the greatest part of Spain overrun with robbers and miscreants, who, under pretence of carrying on partisan warfare, and not unfrequently under no pretence at all, have committed the most frightful excesses, plundering and murdering the defenceless. Such a state of things would have afforded the Gitanos a favourable opportunity to resume their former kind of life, and to levy contributions as formerly, wandering about in bands. Certain it is, however, that they have not sought to repeat their ancient excesses, taking advantage of the troubles of the country; they have gone on, with a few exceptions, quietly pursuing that part of their system to which they still cling, their jockeyism, which, though based on fraud and robbery, is far preferable to wandering brigandage, which necessarily involves the frequent shedding of blood. Can better proof be adduced, that Gitanismo owes its decline, in Spain, not to force, not to persecution, not to any want of opportunity of exercising it, but to some other cause? - and we repeat that we consider the principal if not the only cause of the decline of Gitanismo to be the conferring on the Gitanos the rights and privileges of other subjects.
We have said that the Gitanos have not much availed themselves of the permission, which the law grants them, of embarking in various spheres of life. They remain jockeys, but they have ceased to be wanderers; and the grand object of the law is accomplished. The law forbids them to be jockeys, or to follow the trade of trimming and shearing animals, without some other visible mode of subsistence. This provision, except in a few isolated instances, they evade; and the law seeks not, and perhaps wisely, to disturb them, content with having achieved so much. The chief evils of Gitanismo which still remain consist in the systematic frauds of the Gypsy jockeys and the tricks of the women. It is incurring considerable risk to purchase a horse or a mule, even from the most respectable Gitano, without a previous knowledge of the animal and his former possessor, the chances being that it is either diseased or stolen from a distance. Of the practices of the females, something will be said in particular in a future chapter.
The Gitanos in general are very poor, a pair of large cachas and various scissors of a smaller description constituting their whole capital; occasionally a good hit is made, as they call it, but the money does not last long, being quickly squandered in feasting and revelry. He who has habitually in his house a couple of donkeys is considered a thriving Gitano; there are some, however, who are wealthy in the strict sense of the word, and carry on a very extensive trade in horses and mules. These, occasionally, visit the most distant fairs, traversing the greatest part of Spain.
There is a celebrated cattle-fair held at Leon on St. John's or Midsummer Day, and on one of these occasions, being present, I observed a small family of Gitanos, consisting of a man of about fifty, a female of the same age, and a handsome young Gypsy, who was their son; they were richly dressed after the Gypsy fashion, the men wearing zamarras with massy clasps and knobs of silver, and the woman a species of riding-dress with much gold embroidery, and having immense gold rings attached to her ears. They came from Murcia, a distance of one hundred leagues and upwards. Some merchants, to whom I was recommended, informed me that they had credit on their house to the amount of twenty thousand dollars.
They experienced rough treatment in the fair,
and on a very singular account: immediately on their appearing on the ground, the horses
in the fair, which, perhaps, amounted to three thousand, were seized with a sudden and
universal panic; it was one of those strange incidents for which it is difficult to assign
a rational cause; but a panic there was amongst the brutes, and a mighty one; the horses
neighed, screamed, and plunged, endeavouring to escape in all directions; some appeared
absolutely possessed, stamping and tearing, their manes and tails stiffly erect, like the
bristles of the wild boar - many a rider lost his seat. When the panic had ceased, and it
did cease almost as suddenly as it had arisen, the Gitanos were forthwith accused as the
authors of it; it was said that they intended to steal the best horses during the
confusion, and the keepers of the ground, assisted by a rabble of chalans, who had their
private reasons for hating the Gitanos, drove them off the field with sticks and cudgels.
So much for having a bad name.
'The Gypsy fiend of Manga mead,
'The false Juanito day and night
However some of the Gitanos may complain that there is no longer union to be found amongst them, there is still much of that fellow-feeling which springs from a consciousness of proceeding from one common origin, or, as they love to term it, 'blood.' At present their system exhibits less of a commonwealth than when they roamed in bands amongst the wilds, and principally subsisted by foraging, each individual contributing to the common stock, according to his success. The interests of individuals are now more distinct, and that close connection is of course dissolved which existed when they wandered about, and their dangers, gains, and losses were felt in common; and it can never be too often repeated that they are no longer a proscribed race, with no rights nor safety save what they gained by a close and intimate union. Nevertheless, the Gitano, though he naturally prefers his own interest to that of his brother, and envies him his gain when he does not expect to share in it, is at all times ready to side with him against the Busno, because the latter is not a Gitano, but of a different blood, and for no other reason. When one Gitano confides his plans to another, he is in no fear that they will be betrayed to the Busno, for whom there is no sympathy, and when a plan is to be executed which requires co-operation, they seek not the fellowship of the Busne, but of each other, and if successful, share the gain like brothers.
As a proof of the fraternal feeling which is
not unfrequently displayed amongst the Gitanos, I shall relate a circumstance which
occurred at Cordova a year or two before I first visited it. One of the poorest of the
Gitanos murdered a Spaniard with the fatal Manchegan knife; for this crime he was seized,
tried, and found guilty. Blood-shedding in Spain is not looked upon with much abhorrence,
and the life of the culprit is seldom taken, provided he can offer a bribe sufficient to
induce the notary public to report favourably upon his case; but in this instance money
was of no avail; the murdered individual left behind him powerful friends and connections,
who were determined that justice should take its course. It was in vain that the Gitanos
exerted all their influence with the authorities in behalf of their comrade, and such
influence was not slight; it was in vain that they offered extravagant sums that the
punishment of death might be commuted to perpetual slavery in the dreary presidio of
Ceuta; I was credibly informed that one of the richest Gitanos, by name Fruto, offered for
his own share of the ransom the sum of five thousand crowns, whilst there was not an
individual but contributed according to his means - nought availed, and the Gypsy was
executed in the Plaza.
The position which the Gitanos hold in society in Spain is the lowest, as might be expected; they are considered at best as thievish chalans, and the women as half sorceresses, and in every respect thieves; there is not a wretch, however vile, the outcast of the prison and the presidio, who calls himself Spaniard, but would feel insulted by being termed Gitano, and would thank God that he is not; and yet, strange to say, there are numbers, and those of the higher classes, who seek their company, and endeavour to imitate their manners and way of speaking. The connections which they form with the Spaniards are not many; occasionally some wealthy Gitano marries a Spanish female, but to find a Gitana united to a Spaniard is a thing of the rarest occurrence, if it ever takes place. It is, of course, by intermarriage alone that the two races will ever commingle, and before that event is brought about, much modification must take place amongst the Gitanos, in their manners, in their habits, in their affections, and their dislikes, and, perhaps, even in their physical peculiarities; much must be forgotten on both sides, and everything is forgotten in the course of time.
The number of the Gitano population of Spain
at the present day may be estimated at about forty thousand. At the commencement of the
present century it was said to amount to sixty thousand. There can be no doubt that the
sect is by no means so numerous as it was at former periods; witness those barrios in
various towns still denominated Gitanerias, but from whence the Gitanos have disappeared
even like the Moors from the Morerias. Whether this diminution in number has been the
result of a partial change of habits, of pestilence or sickness, of war or famine, or of
all these causes combined, we have no means of determining, and shall abstain from
offering conjectures on the subject.
IN the autumn of the year 1839, I landed at Tarifa, from the coast of Barbary. I arrived in a small felouk laden with hides for Cadiz, to which place I was myself going. We stopped at Tarifa in order to perform quarantine, which, however, turned out a mere farce, as we were all permitted to come on shore; the master of the felouk having bribed the port captain with a few fowls. We formed a motley group. A rich Moor and his son, a child, with their Jewish servant Yusouf, and myself with my own man Hayim Ben Attar, a Jew. After passing through the gate, the Moors and their domestics were conducted by the master to the house of one of his acquaintance, where he intended they should lodge; whilst a sailor was despatched with myself and Hayim to the only inn which the place afforded. I stopped in the street to speak to a person whom I had known at Seville. Before we had concluded our discourse, Hayim, who had walked forward, returned, saying that the quarters were good, and that we were in high luck, for that he knew the people of the inn were Jews. 'Jews,' said I, 'here in Tarifa, and keeping an inn, I should be glad to see them.' So I left my acquaintance, and hastened to the house. We first entered a stable, of which the ground floor of the building consisted, and ascending a flight of stairs entered a very large room, and from thence passed into a kitchen, in which were several people. One of these was a stout, athletic, burly fellow of about fifty, dressed in a buff jerkin, and dark cloth pantaloons. His hair was black as a coal and exceedingly bushy, his face much marked from some disorder, and his skin as dark as that of a toad. A very tall woman stood by the dresser, much resembling him in feature, with the same hair and complexion, but with more intelligence in her eyes than the man, who looked heavy and dogged. A dark woman, whom I subsequently discovered to be lame, sat in a corner, and two or three swarthy girls, from fifteen to eighteen years of age, were flitting about the room. I also observed a wicked-looking boy, who might have been called handsome, had not one of his eyes been injured. 'Jews,' said I, in Moorish, to Hayim, as I glanced at these people and about the room; 'these are not Jews, but children of the Dar-bushi-fal.'
'List to the Corahai,' said the tall woman, in broken Gypsy
slang, 'hear how they jabber (hunelad como chamulian), truly we will make them pay for the
noise they raise in the house.' Then coming up to me, she demanded with a shout, fearing
otherwise that I should not understand, whether I would not wish to see the room where I
was to sleep. I nodded: whereupon she led me out upon a back terrace, and opening the door
of a small room, of which there were three, asked me if it would suit. 'Perfectly,' said
I, and returned with her to the kitchen.
MYSELF. - 'Now, my good people, since I have answered your questions, it is but right that you should answer some of mine; pray who are you? and how happens it that you are keeping this inn?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'Verily, brother, we can scarcely tell you who we are. All we know of ourselves is, that we keep this inn, to our trouble and sorrow, and that our parents kept it before us; we were all born in this house, where I suppose we shall die.'
MYSELF. - 'Who is the master of the house, and whose are these children?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'The master of the house is the
fool, my brother, who stands before you without saying a word; to him belong these
children, and the cripple in the chair is his wife, and my cousin.
MYSELF. - 'Is it not contrary to the law of the Cales to follow such trades?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'We know of no law, and little of the Cales themselves. Ours is the only Calo family in Tarifa, and we never left it in our lives, except occasionally to go on the smuggling lay to Gibraltar. True it is that the Cales, when they visit Tarifa, put up at our house, sometimes to our cost. There was one Rafael, son of the rich Fruto of Cordova, here last summer, to buy up horses, and he departed a baria and a half in our debt; however, I do not grudge it him, for he is a handsome and clever Chabo - a fellow of many capacities. There was more than one Busno had cause to rue his coming to Tarifa.'
MYSELF. - 'Do you live on good terms with the Busne of Tarifa?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'Brother, we live on the best terms with the Busne of Tarifa; especially with the errays. The first people in Tarifa come to this house, to have their baji told by the cripple in the chair and by myself. I know not how it is, but we are more considered by the grandees than the poor, who hate and loathe us. When my first and only infant died, for I have been married, the child of one of the principal people was put to me to nurse, but I hated it for its white blood, as you may well believe. It never throve, for I did it a private mischief, and though it grew up and is now a youth, it is - mad.'
MYSELF. - 'With whom will your brother's children marry? You say there are no Gypsies here.'
GYPSY HAG. - 'Ay de mi, hermano! It is that which grieves me. I would rather see them sold to the Moors than married to the Busne. When Rafael was here he wished to persuade the chumajarri to accompany him to Cordova, and promised to provide for him, and to find him a wife among the Callees of that town; but the faint heart would not, though I myself begged him to comply. As for the curtidor (tanner), he goes every night to the house of a Busnee; and once, when I reproached him with it, he threatened to marry her. I intend to take my knife, and to wait behind the door in the dark, and when she comes out to gash her over the eyes. I trow he will have little desire to wed with her then.'
MYSELF. - 'Do many Busne from the country put up at this house?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'Not so many as formerly,
brother; the labourers from the Campo say that we are all thieves; and that it is
impossible for any one but a Calo to enter this house without having the shirt stripped
from his back. They go to the houses of their acquaintance in the town, for they fear to
enter these doors. I scarcely know why, for my brother is the veriest fool in Tarifa. Were
it not for his face, I should say that he is no Chabo, for he cannot speak, and permits
every chance to slip through his fingers. Many a good mule and borrico have gone out of
the stable below, which he might have secured, had he but tongue enough to have cozened
the owners. But he is a fool, as I said before; he cannot speak, and is no Chabo.'
GYPSY HAG. - 'No lo camelo, hijo! I do not love it, O my son, I do not love it; I love it so much, that I wish it may break its leg as it goes downstairs, and its mother also.'
On the evening of the fourth day, I was
seated on the stone bench at the stable door, taking the fresco; the Gypsy innkeeper sat
beside me, smoking his pipe, and silent as usual; presently a man and woman with a
borrico, or donkey, entered the portal. I took little or no notice of a circumstance so
slight, but I was presently aroused by hearing the Gypsy's pipe drop upon the ground.
In the back stable the Gypsy kept a mule, a
most extraordinary animal, which was employed in bringing water to the house, a task which
it effected with no slight difficulty; it was reported to be eighteen years of age; one of
its eyes had been removed by some accident, it was foundered, and also lame, the result of
a broken leg. This animal was the laughing-stock of all Tarifa; the Gypsy grudged it the
very straw on while alone he fed it, and had repeatedly offered it for sale at a dollar,
which he could never obtain. During the night there was much merriment going on, and I
could frequently distinguish the voice of the Gypsy raised to a boisterous pitch. In the
morning the Gypsy hag entered my apartment, bearing the breakfast of myself and Hayim.
'What were you about last night?' said I.
It was at Madrid one fine afternoon in the
beginning of March 1838, that, as I was sitting behind my table in a cabinete, as it is
called, of the third floor of No. 16, in the Calle de Santiago, having just taken my meal,
my hostess entered and informed me that a military officer wished to speak to me, adding,
in an undertone, that he looked a STRANGE GUEST. I was acquainted with no military officer
in the Spanish service; but as at that time I expected daily to be arrested for having
distributed the Bible, I thought that very possibly this officer might have been sent to
perform that piece of duty. I instantly ordered him to be admitted, whereupon a thin
active figure, somewhat above the middle height, dressed in a blue uniform, with a long
sword hanging at his side, tripped into the room. Depositing his regimental hat on the
ground, he drew a chair to the table, and seating himself, placed his elbows on the board,
and supporting his face with his hands, confronted me, gazing steadfastly upon me, without
uttering a word.
STRANGER. - 'My name is Chaleco of Valdepenas; in the time of the French I served as bragante, fighting for Ferdinand VII. I am now a captain on half-pay in the service of Donna Isabel; as for my business here, it is to speak with you. Do you know this book?'
MYSELF. - 'This book is Saint Luke's Gospel in the Gypsy language; how can this book concern you?'
STRANGER. - 'No one more. It is in the language of my people.'
MYSELF. - 'You do not pretend to say that you are a Calo?'
STRANGER. - 'I do! I am Zincalo, by the mother's side. My father, it is true, was one of the Busne; but I glory in being a Calo, and care not to acknowledge other blood.'
MYSELF. - 'How became you possessed of that book?'
STRANGER. - 'I was this morning in the Prado, where I met two women of our people, and amongst other things they told me that they had a gabicote in our language. I did not believe them at first, but they pulled it out, and I found their words true. They then spoke to me of yourself, and told me where you live, so I took the book from them and am come to see you.'
MYSELF. - 'Are you able to understand this book?'
STRANGER. - 'Perfectly, though it is written in very crabbed language: (48) but I learnt to read Calo when very young. My mother was a good Calli, and early taught me both to speak and read it. She too had a gabicote, but not printed like this, and it treated of a different matter.'
MYSELF. - 'How came your mother, being a good Calli, to marry one of a different blood?'
STRANGER. - 'It was no fault of hers; there was no remedy. In her infancy she lost her parents, who were executed; and she was abandoned by all, till my father, taking compassion on her, brought her up and educated her: at last he made her his wife, though three times her age. She, however, remembered her blood and hated my father, and taught me to hate him likewise, and avoid him. When a boy, I used to stroll about the plains, that I might not see my father; and my father would follow me and beg me to look upon him, and would ask me what I wanted; and I would reply, Father, the only thing I want is to see you dead.'
MYSELF. - 'That was strange language from a child to its parent.'
STRANGER. - 'It was - but you know the couplet, (49) which says, "I do not wish to be a lord - I am by birth a Gypsy - I do not wish to be a gentleman - I am content with being a Calo!"'
MYSELF. - 'I am anxious to hear more of your history - pray proceed.'
STRANGER. - 'When I was about twelve years
old my father became distracted, and died. I then continued with my mother for some years;
she loved me much, and procured a teacher to instruct me in Latin. At last she died, and
then there was a pleyto (law-suit).
GYPSY SOLDIER. - 'I am - shot through the
lungs - brother! Let me but take breath, and I will show you the hole - the agujero.'
The Basques, next to the Pasiegos, (52) are
the best cudgel-players in Spain, and in the world. Francisco held in his hand part of a
broomstick, which he had broken in the stable, whence he had just ascended. With the
swiftness of lightning he foiled the stroke of Chaleco, and, in another moment, with a
dexterous blow, struck the sword out of his hand, sending it ringing against the wall.
THE Gitanos, in their habits and manner of life, are much less cleanly than the Spaniards. The hovels in which they reside exhibit none of the neatness which is observable in the habitations of even the poorest of the other race. The floors are unswept, and abound with filth and mud, and in their persons they are scarcely less vile. Inattention to cleanliness is a characteristic of the Gypsies, in all parts of the world.
The Bishop of Forli, as far back as 1422, gives evidence upon this point, and insinuates that they carried the plague with them; as he observes that it raged with peculiar violence the year of their appearance at Forli. (54)
At the present day they are almost equally
disgusting, in this respect, in Hungary, England, and Spain. Amongst the richer Gitanos,
habits of greater cleanliness of course exist than amongst the poorer. An air of
sluttishness, however, pervades their dwellings, which, to an experienced eye, would
sufficiently attest that the inmates were Gitanos, in the event of their absence.What can
be said of the Gypsy dress, of which such frequent mention is made in the Spanish laws,
and which is prohibited together with the Gypsy language and manner of life? Of whatever
it might consist in former days, it is so little to be distinguished from the dress of
some classes amongst the Spaniards, that it is almost impossible to describe the
difference. They generally wear a high-peaked, narrow-brimmed hat, a zamarra of sheep-skin
in winter, and, during summer, a jacket of brown cloth; and beneath this they are fond of
exhibiting a red plush waistcoat, something after the fashion of the English jockeys, with
numerous buttons and clasps.
True it is that the original dress of the Gitanos, male and female, whatever it was, may have had some share in forming the Andalusian fashion, owing to the great number of these wanderers who found their way to that province at an early period. The Andalusians are a mixed breed of various nations, Romans, Vandals, Moors; perhaps there is a slight sprinkling of Gypsy blood in their veins, and of Gypsy fashion in their garb.
The Gitanos are, for the most part, of the middle size, and the proportions of their frames convey a powerful idea of strength and activity united; a deformed or weakly object is rarely found amongst them in persons of either sex; such probably perish in their infancy, unable to support the hardships and privations to which the race is still subjected from its great poverty, and these same privations have given and still give a coarseness and harshness to their features, which are all strongly marked and expressive. Their complexion is by no means uniform, save that it is invariably darker than the general olive hue of the Spaniards; not unfrequently countenances as dark as those of mulattos present themselves, and in some few instances of almost negro blackness.
Like most people of savage ancestry, their
teeth are white and strong; their mouths are not badly formed, but it is in the eye more
than in any other feature that they differ from other human beings.
'A Gypsy stripling's glossy eye
The following passages are extracted from a Spanish work, (55) and cannot be out of place here, as they relate to those matters to which we have devoted this chapter.
'The Gitanos have an olive complexion and
very marked physiognomy; their cheeks are prominent, their lips thick, their eyes vivid
and black; their hair is long, black, and coarse, and their teeth very white. The general
expression of their physiognomy is a compound of pride, slavishness, and cunning. They
are, for the most part, of good stature, well formed, and support with facility fatigue
and every kind of hardship. When they discuss any matter, or speak among themselves,
whether in Catalan, in Castilian, or in Germania, which is their own peculiar jargon, they
always make use of much gesticulation, which contributes to give to their conversation and
to the vivacity of their physiognomy a certain expression, still more penetrating and
'When she turns her hand to any species of labour, her hurried action, the disorder of her hair, which is scarcely subjected by a little comb, and her propensity to irritation, show how little she loves toil, and her disgust for any continued occupation.
'In her disputes, the air of menace and high passion, the flow of words, and the facility with which she provokes and despises danger, indicate manners half barbarous, and ignorance of other means of defence. Finally, both in males and females, their physical constitution, colour, agility, and flexibility, reveal to us a caste sprung from a burning clime, and devoted to all those exercises which contribute to evolve bodily vigour, and certain mental faculties.
'The dress of the Gitano varies with the country which he inhabits. Both in Rousillon and Catalonia his habiliments generally consist of jacket, waistcoat, pantaloons, and a red faja, which covers part of his waistcoat; on his feet he wears hempen sandals, with much ribbon tied round the leg as high as the calf; he has, moreover, either woollen or cotton stockings; round his neck he wears a handkerchief, carelessly tied; and in the winter he uses a blanket or mantle, with sleeves, cast over the shoulder; his head is covered with the indispensable red cap, which appears to be the favourite ornament of many nations in the vicinity of the Mediterranean and Caspian Sea.
'The neck and the elbows of the jacket are adorned with pieces of blue and yellow cloth embroidered with silk, as well as the seams of the pantaloons; he wears, moreover, on the jacket or the waistcoat, various rows of silver buttons, small and round, sustained by rings or chains of the same metal. The old people, and those who by fortune, or some other cause, exercise, in appearance, a kind of authority over the rest, are almost always dressed in black or dark-blue velvet. Some of those who affect elegance amongst them keep for holidays a complete dress of sky-blue velvet, with embroidery at the neck, pocket-holes, arm-pits, and in all the seams; in a word, with the exception of the turban, this was the fashion of dress of the ancient Moors of Granada, the only difference being occasioned by time and misery.
'The dress of the Gitanas is very varied: the
young girls, or those who are in tolerably easy circumstances, generally wear a black
bodice laced up with a string, and adjusted to their figures, and contrasting with the
scarlet-coloured saya, which only covers a part of the leg; their shoes are cut very low,
and are adorned with little buckles of silver; the breast, and the upper part of the
bodice, are covered either with a white handkerchief, or one of some vivid colour; and on
the head is worn another handkerchief, tied beneath the chin, one of the ends of which
falls on the shoulder, in the manner of a hood. When the cold or the heat permit, the
Gitana removes the hood, without untying the knots, and exhibits her long and shining
tresses restrained by a comb. The old women, and the very poor, dress in the same manner,
save that their habiliments are more coarse and the colours less in harmony.
WHILST their husbands are engaged in their jockey vocation, or in wielding the cachas, the Callees, or Gypsy females, are seldom idle, but are endeavouring, by various means, to make all the gain they can. The richest amongst them are generally contrabandistas, and in the large towns go from house to house with prohibited goods, especially silk and cotton, and occasionally with tobacco. They likewise purchase cast-off female wearing-apparel, which, when vamped up and embellished, they sometimes contrive to sell as new, with no inconsiderable profit.
of this description are of the most respectable class; the rest, provided they do not sell
roasted chestnuts, or esteras, which are a species of mat, seek a livelihood by different
tricks and practices, more or less fraudulent; for example -LA BAHI, or fortune-telling,
which is called in Spanish, BUENA VENTURA. - This way of extracting money from the
credulity of dupes is, of all those practised by the Gypsies, the readiest and most easy;
promises are the only capital requisite, and the whole art of fortune-telling consists in
properly adapting these promises to the age and condition of the parties who seek for
information. The Gitanas are clever enough in the accomplishment of this, and in most
cases afford perfect satisfaction. Their practice chiefly lies amongst females, the
portion of the human race most given to curiosity and credulity. To the young maidens they
promise lovers, handsome invariably, and sometimes rich; to wives children, and perhaps
another husband; for their eyes are so penetrating, that occasionally they will develop
your most secret thoughts and wishes; to the old, riches - and nothing but riches; for
they have sufficient knowledge of the human heart to be aware that avarice is the last
passion that becomes extinct within it. These riches are to proceed either from the
discovery of hidden treasures or from across the water; from the Americas, to which the
Spaniards still look with hope, as there is no individual in Spain, however poor, but has
some connection in those realms of silver and gold, at whose death he considers it
probable that he may succeed to a brilliant 'herencia.' The Gitanas, in the exercise of
this practice, find dupes almost as readily amongst the superior classes, as the veriest
dregs of the population. It is their boast, that the best houses are open to them; and
perhaps in the space of one hour, they will spae the bahi to a duchess, or countess, in
one of the hundred palaces of Madrid, and to half a dozen of the lavanderas engaged in
purifying the linen of the capital, beneath the willows which droop on the banks of the
murmuring Manzanares. One great advantage which the Gypsies possess over all other people
is an utter absence of MAUVAISE HONTE; their speech is as fluent, and their eyes as
unabashed, in the presence of royalty, as before those from whom they have nothing to hope
or fear; the result being, that most minds quail before them. There were two Gitanas at
Madrid, one Pepita by name, and the other La Chicharona; the first was a spare, shrewd,
witch-like female, about fifty, and was the mother-in-law of La Chicharona, who was
remarkable for her stoutness. These women subsisted entirely by fortune-telling and
swindling. It chanced that the son of Pepita, and husband of Chicharona, having spirited
away a horse, was sent to the presidio of Malaga for ten years of hard labour. This
misfortune caused inexpressible affliction to his wife and mother, who determined to make
every effort to procure his liberation. The readiest way which occurred to them was to
procure an interview with the Queen Regent Christina, who they doubted not would forthwith
pardon the culprit, provided they had an opportunity of assailing her with their Gypsy
discourse; for, to use their own words, 'they well knew what to say.' I at that time lived
close by the palace, in the street of Santiago, and daily, for the space of a month, saw
them bending their steps in that direction.
Though some of the Gitanas contrive to
subsist by fortune-telling alone, the generality of them merely make use of it as an
instrument towards the accomplishment of greater things. The immediate gains are scanty; a
few cuartos being the utmost which they receive from the majority of their customers. But
the bahi is an excellent passport into houses, and when they spy a convenient opportunity,
they seldom fail to avail themselves of it. It is necessary to watch them strictly, as
articles frequently disappear in a mysterious manner whilst Gitanas are telling fortunes.
The bahi, moreover, is occasionally the prelude to a device which we shall now attempt to
describe, and which is called HOKKANO BARO, or the great trick, of which we have already
said something in the former part of this work. It consists in persuading some credulous
person to deposit whatever money and valuables the party can muster in a particular spot,
under the promise that the deposit will increase many manifold. Some of our readers will
have difficulty in believing that any people can be found sufficiently credulous to allow
themselves to be duped by a trick of this description, the grossness of the intended fraud
seeming too palpable. Experience, however, proves the contrary. The deception is
frequently practised at the present day, and not only in Spain but in England -
enlightened England - and in France likewise; an instance being given in the memoirs of
Vidocq, the late celebrated head of the secret police of Paris, though, in that instance,
the perpetrator of the fraud was not a Gypsy. The most subtle method of accomplishing the
hokkano baro is the following:-
There are other ways of accomplishing the
hokkano baro. The most simple, and indeed the one most generally used by the Gitanas, is
to persuade some simple individual to hide a sum of money in the earth, which they
afterwards carry away. A case of this description occurred within my own knowledge, at
Madrid, towards the latter part of the year 1837.
When I next saw Aurora, she informed me that she was once more on excellent terms with the widow, whom she had persuaded that the loss of the money was caused by her own imprudence, in looking for it before the appointed time; the spirit of the earth having removed it in anger. She added that her dupe was quite disposed to make another venture, by which she hoped to retrieve her former loss.
USTILAR PASTESAS. - Under this head may be placed various kinds of theft committed by the Gitanos. The meaning of the words is stealing with the hands; but they are more generally applied to the filching of money by dexterity of hand, when giving or receiving change. For example: a Gitana will enter a shop, and purchase some insignificant article, tendering in payment a baria or golden ounce. The change being put down before her on the counter, she counts the money, and complains that she has received a dollar and several pesetas less than her due. It seems impossible that there can be any fraud on her part, as she has not even taken the pieces in her hand, but merely placed her fingers upon them; pushing them on one side. She now asks the merchant what he means by attempting to deceive the poor woman. The merchant, supposing that he has made a mistake, takes up the money, counts it, and finds in effect that the just sum is not there. He again hands out the change, but there is now a greater deficiency than before, and the merchant is convinced that he is dealing with a witch. The Gitana now pushes the money to him, uplifts her voice, and talks of the justicia. Should the merchant become frightened, and, emptying a bag of dollars, tell her to pay herself, as has sometimes been the case, she will have a fine opportunity to exercise her powers, and whilst taking the change will contrive to convey secretly into her sleeves five or six dollars at least; after which she will depart with much vociferation, declaring that she will never again enter the shop of so cheating a picaro.
Of all the Gitanas at Madrid, Aurora the fat
was, by their own confession, the most dexterous at this species of robbery; she having
been known in many instances, whilst receiving change for an ounce, to steal the whole
value, which amounts to sixteen dollars.
Shoplifting, and other kinds of private larceny, are connected with stealing a pastesas, for in all dexterity of hand is required. Many of the Gitanas of Madrid are provided with large pockets, or rather sacks, beneath their gowns, in which they stow away their plunder. Some of these pockets are capacious enough to hold, at one time, a dozen yards of cloth, a Dutch cheese and a bottle of wine. Nothing that she can eat, drink, or sell, comes amiss to a veritable Gitana; and sometimes the contents of her pocket would afford materials for an inventory far more lengthy and curious than the one enumerating the effects found on the person of the man-mountain at Lilliput.
CHIVING DRAO. - In former times the Spanish
Gypsies of both sexes were in the habit of casting a venomous preparation into the mangers
of the cattle for the purpose of causing sickness. At present this practice has ceased, or
nearly so; the Gitanos, however, talk of it as universal amongst their ancestors. They
were in the habit of visiting the stalls and stables secretly, and poisoning the provender
of the animals, who almost immediately became sick. After a few days the Gitanos would go
to the labourers and offer to cure the sick cattle for a certain sum, and if their
proposal was accepted would in effect perform the cure.
'By Gypsy drow the Porker died,
By drao also they could avenge themselves on
their enemies by destroying their cattle, without incurring a shadow of suspicion. Revenge
for injuries, real or imaginary, is sweet to all unconverted minds; to no one more than
the Gypsy, who, in all parts of the world, is, perhaps, the most revengeful of human
LA BAR LACHI, OR THE LOADSTONE. - If the
Gitanos in general be addicted to any one superstition, it is certainly with respect to
this stone, to which they attribute all kinds of miraculous powers.
They believe that he who is in possession of it has nothing to fear from steel or lead, from fire or water, and that death itself has no power over him. The Gypsy contrabandistas are particularly anxious to procure this stone, which they carry upon their persons in their expeditions; they say, that in the event of being pursued by the jaracanallis, or revenue officers, whirlwinds of dust will arise, and conceal them from the view of their enemies; the horse-stealers say much the same thing, and assert that they are uniformly successful, when they bear about them the precious stone. But it is said to be able to effect much more. Extraordinary things are related of its power in exciting the amorous passions, and, on this account, it is in great request amongst the Gypsy hags; all these women are procuresses, and find persons of both sexes weak and wicked enough to make use of their pretended knowledge in the composition of love-draughts and decoctions.In the case of the loadstone, however, there is no pretence, the Gitanas believing all they say respecting it, and still more; this is proved by the eagerness with which they seek to obtain the stone in its natural state, which is somewhat difficult to accomplish.
In the museum of natural curiosities at Madrid there is a large piece of loadstone originally extracted from the American mines. There is scarcely a Gitana in Madrid who is not acquainted with this circumstance, and who does not long to obtain the stone, or a part of it; its being placed in a royal museum serving to augment, in their opinion, its real value. Several attempts have been made to steal it, all of which, however, have been unsuccessful. The Gypsies seem not to be the only people who envy royalty the possession of this stone. Pepita, the old Gitana of whose talent at telling fortunes such honourable mention has already been made, informed me that a priest, who was muy enamorado (in love), proposed to her to steal the loadstone, offering her all his sacerdotal garments in the event of success: whether the singular reward that was promised had but slight temptations for her, or whether she feared that her dexterity was not equal to the accomplishment of the task, we know not, but she appears to have declined attempting it. According to the Gypsy account, the person in love, if he wish to excite a corresponding passion in another quarter by means of the loadstone, must swallow, IN AGUARDIENTE, a small portion of the stone pulverised, at the time of going to rest, repeating to himself the following magic rhyme:-
'To the Mountain of Olives one morning I
LA RAIZ DEL BUEN BARON, OR THE ROOT OF THE
GOOD BARON. - On this subject we cannot be very explicit. It is customary with the Gitanas
to sell, under this title, various roots and herbs, to unfortunate females who are
desirous of producing a certain result; these roots are boiled in white wine, and the
abominable decoction is taken fasting. I was once shown the root of the good baron, which,
in this instance, appeared to be parsley root. By the good baron is meant his Satanic
majesty, on whom the root is very appropriately fathered.
IT is impossible to dismiss the subject of the Spanish Gypsies without offering some remarks on their marriage festivals. There is nothing which they retain connected with their primitive rites and principles, more characteristic perhaps of the sect of the Rommany, of the sect of the HUSBANDS AND WIVES, than what relates to the marriage ceremony, which gives the female a protector, and the man a helpmate, a sharer of his joys and sorrows. The Gypsies are almost entirely ignorant of the grand points of morality; they have never had sufficient sense to perceive that to lie, to steal, and to shed human blood violently, are crimes which are sure, eventually, to yield bitter fruits to those who perpetrate them; but on one point, and that one of no little importance as far as temporal happiness is concerned, they are in general wiser than those who have had far better opportunities than such unfortunate outcasts, of regulating their steps, and distinguishing good from evil. They know that chastity is a jewel of high price, and that conjugal fidelity is capable of occasionally flinging a sunshine even over the dreary hours of a life passed in the contempt of almost all laws, whether human or divine.
There is a word in the Gypsy language to which those who speak it attach ideas of peculiar reverence, far superior to that connected with the name of the Supreme Being, the creator of themselves and the universe. This word is LACHA, which with them is the corporeal chastity of the females; we say corporeal chastity, for no other do they hold in the slightest esteem; it is lawful amongst them, nay praiseworthy, to be obscene in look, gesture, and discourse, to be accessories to vice, and to stand by and laugh at the worst abominations of the Busne, provided their LACHA YE TRUPOS, or corporeal chastity, remains unblemished. The Gypsy child, from her earliest years, is told by her strange mother, that a good Calli need only dread one thing in this world, and that is the loss of Lacha, in comparison with which that of life is of little consequence, as in such an event she will be provided for, but what provision is there for a Gypsy who has lost her Lacha? 'Bear this in mind, my child,' she will say, 'and now eat this bread, and go forth and see what you can steal.'
A Gypsy girl is generally betrothed at the age of fourteen to the youth whom her parents deem a suitable match, and who is generally a few years older than herself. Marriage is invariably preceded by betrothment; and the couple must then wait two years before their union can take place, according to the law of the Cales. During this period it is expected that they treat each other as common acquaintance; they are permitted to converse, and even occasionally to exchange slight presents. One thing, however, is strictly forbidden, and if in this instance they prove contumacious, the betrothment is instantly broken and the pair are never united, and thenceforward bear an evil reputation amongst their sect. This one thing is, going into the campo in each other's company, or having any rendezvous beyond the gate of the city, town, or village, in which they dwell. Upon this point we can perhaps do no better than quote one of their own stanzas:-
'Thy sire and mother wrath and hate
With all the other Gypsies, however, and with
the Busne or Gentiles, the betrothed female is allowed the freest intercourse, going
whither she will, and returning at all times and seasons. With respect to the Busne,
indeed, the parents are invariably less cautious than with their own race, as they
conceive it next to an impossibility that their child should lose her Lacha by any
intercourse with THE WHITE BLOOD; and true it is that experience has proved that their
confidence in this respect is not altogether idle. The Gitanas have in general a decided
aversion to the white men; some few instances, however, to the contrary are said to have
There is a great deal of what is wild and
barbarous attached to these festivals. I shall never forget a particular one at which I
was present. After much feasting, drinking, and yelling, in the Gypsy house, the bridal
train sallied forth - a frantic spectacle.
In a corner of the apartment capered the while Sebastianillo, a convict Gypsy from Melilla, strumming the guitar most furiously, and producing demoniacal sounds which had some resemblance to Malbrun (Malbrouk), and, as he strummed, repeating at intervals the Gypsy modification of the song:-
'Chala Malbrun chinguerar,
The festival endures three days, at the end
of which the greatest part of the property of the bridegroom, even if he were previously
in easy circumstances, has been wasted in this strange kind of riot and dissipation. Paco,
the Gypsy of Badajoz, attributed his ruin to the extravagance of his marriage festival;
and many other Gitanos have confessed the same thing of themselves. They said that
throughout the three days they appeared to be under the influence of infatuation, having
no other wish or thought but to make away with their substance; some have gone so far as
to cast money by handfuls into the street. Throughout the three days all the doors are
kept open, and all corners, whether Gypsies or Busne, welcomed with a hospitality which
knows no bounds.
The Jews, like the Gypsies, not unfrequently
ruin themselves by the riot and waste of their marriage festivals. Throughout the entire
fortnight, the houses, both of bride and bridegroom, are flung open to all corners; -
feasting and song occupy the day - feasting and song occupy the hours of the night, and
this continued revel is only broken by the ceremonies of which we have endeavoured to
convey a faint idea. In these festivals the sages or ULEMMA take a distinguished part,
doing their utmost to ruin the contracted parties, by the wonderful despatch which they
make of the fowls and viands, sweetmeats, AND STRONG WATERS provided for the occasion.
WHILST in Spain I devoted as much time as I could spare from my grand object, which was to circulate the Gospel through that benighted country, to attempt to enlighten the minds of the Gitanos on the subject of religion. I cannot say that I experienced much success in my endeavours; indeed, I never expected much, being fully acquainted with the stony nature of the ground on which I was employed; perhaps some of the seed that I scattered may eventually spring up and yield excellent fruit. Of one thing I am certain: if I did the Gitanos no good, I did them no harm.
It has been said that there is a secret monitor, or conscience, within every heart, which immediately upbraids the individual on the commission of a crime; this may be true, but certainly the monitor within the Gitano breast is a very feeble one, for little attention is ever paid to its reproofs. With regard to conscience, be it permitted to observe, that it varies much according to climate, country, and religion; perhaps nowhere is it so terrible and strong as in England; I need not say why. Amongst the English, I have seen many individuals stricken low, and broken-hearted, by the force of conscience; but never amongst the Spaniards or Italians; and I never yet could observe that the crimes which the Gitanos were daily and hourly committing occasioned them the slightest uneasiness.
One important discovery I made among them: it was, that no
individual, however wicked and hardened, is utterly GODLESS. Call it superstition, if you
will, still a certain fear and reverence of something sacred and supreme would hang about
them. I have heard Gitanos stiffly deny the existence of a Deity, and express the utmost
contempt for everything holy; yet they subsequently never failed to contradict themselves,
by permitting some expression to escape which belied their assertions, and of this I shall
presently give a remarkable instance.
Pepa and Chicharona were invariably my most constant visitors. One day in winter they arrived as usual; the One-eyed and the Scorpion following behind.
MYSELF. - 'I am glad to see you, Pepa: what have you been doing this morning?'
PEPA. - 'I have been telling baji, and Chicharona has been stealing a pastesas; we have had but little success, and have come to warm ourselves at the brasero. As for the One-eyed, she is a very sluggard (holgazana), she will neither tell fortunes nor steal.'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'Hold your peace, mother of the Bengues; I will steal, when I see occasion, but it shall not be a pastesas, and I will hokkawar (deceive), but it shall not be by telling fortunes. If I deceive, it shall be by horses, by jockeying. (58) If I steal, it shall be on the road - I'll rob. You know already what I am capable of, yet knowing that, you would have me tell fortunes like yourself, or steal like Chicharona. Me dinela conche (it fills me with fury) to be asked to tell fortunes, and the next Busnee that talks to me of bajis, I will knock all her teeth out.'
THE SCORPION. - 'My sister is right; I, too, would sooner be a salteadora (highwaywoman), or a chalana (she-jockey), than steal with the hands, or tell bajis.'
MYSELF. - 'You do not mean to say, O Tuerta, that you are a jockey, and that you rob on the highway.'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'I am a chalana, brother, and
many a time I have robbed upon the road, as all our people know. I dress myself as a man,
and go forth with some of them. I have robbed alone, in the pass of the Guadarama, with my
horse and escopeta. I alone once robbed a cuadrilla of twenty Gallegos, who were returning
to their own country, after cutting the harvests of Castile; I stripped them of their
earnings, and could have stripped them of their very clothes had I wished, for they were
down on their knees like cowards. I love a brave man, be he Busne or Gypsy. When I was not
much older than the Scorpion, I went with several others to rob the cortijo of an old man;
it was more than twenty leagues from here.
THE SCORPION. - 'Ojala, that I had been in that cortijo, to see such sport!'
MYSELF. - 'Do you fear God, O Tuerta?'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'Brother, I fear nothing.'
MYSELF. - 'Do you believe in God, O Tuerta?'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'Brother, I do not; I hate all connected with that name; the whole is folly; me dinela conche. If I go to church, it is but to spit at the images. I spat at the bulto of Maria this morning; and I love the Corojai, and the Londone, (59) because they are not baptized.'
MYSELF. - 'You, of course, never say a prayer.'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'No, no; there are three or four old words, taught me by some old people, which I sometimes say to myself; I believe they have both force and virtue.'
MYSELF. - 'I would fain hear; pray tell me them.'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'Brother, they are words not to be repeated.'
MYSELF. - 'Why not?'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'They are holy words, brother.'
MYSELF. - 'Holy! You say there is no God; if there be none, there can be nothing holy; pray tell me the words, O Tuerta.'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'Brother, I dare not.'
MYSELF. - 'Then you do fear something.'
THE ONE-EYED.- 'Not I -
'SABOCA ENRECAR MARIA ERERIA, (60)
and now I wish I had not said them.'
MYSELF. - 'You are distracted, O Tuerta: the words say simply, 'Dwell within us, blessed Maria.' You have spitten on her bulto this morning in the church, and now you are afraid to repeat four words, amongst which is her name.'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'I did not understand them;
but I wish I had not said them.'
I repeat that there is no individual, however
hardened, who is utterly GODLESS.
These chapters I frequently read over to them, explaining the subject in the best manner I was able. They said it was lacho, and jucal, and misto, all of which words express approval of the quality of a thing. Were they improved, were their hearts softened by these Scripture lectures? I know not. Pepa committed a rather daring theft shortly afterwards, which compelled her to conceal herself for a fortnight; it is quite possible, however, that she may remember the contents of those chapters on her death-bed; if so, will the attempt have been a futile one?
I completed the translation, supplying
deficiencies from my own version begun at Badajoz in 1836. This translation I printed at
Madrid in 1838; it was the first book which ever appeared in Rommany, and was called
'Embeo e Majaro Lucas,' or Gospel of Luke the Saint. I likewise published, simultaneously,
the same Gospel in Basque, which, however, I had no opportunity of circulating.
I have counted seventeen Gitanas assembled at one time in my apartment in the Calle de Santiago in Madrid; for the first quarter of an hour we generally discoursed upon indifferent matters, I then by degrees drew their attention to religion and the state of souls.
I finally became so bold that I ventured to
speak against their inveterate practices, thieving and lying, telling fortunes, and
stealing a pastesas; this was touching upon delicate ground, and I experienced much
opposition and much feminine clamour. I persevered, however, and they finally assented to
all I said, not that I believe that my words made much impression upon their hearts. In a
few months matters were so far advanced that they would sing a hymn; I wrote one expressly
for them in Rommany, in which their own wild couplets were, to a certain extent, imitated.