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times afraid that I discover the seeds of a civil war in these our divisions; and therefore cannot but bewail, as in their first principles, the miseries and calamities of our children.
No. 25. Sir Roger and the Gypsies
Virg. Æn. vii. 748.
As I was yesterday riding out in the fields with my friend Sir Roger, we saw at a little distance from us a troop of gypsies. Upon the first discovery of them, my friend was in some doubt whether he
should not exert the justice of the peace upon such io a band of lawless vagrants; but not having his clerk
with him, who is a necessary counselor on these occasions, and fearing that his poultry might fare the worse for it, he let the thought drop; but at the
same time gave me a particular account of the 15 mischiefs they do in the country, in stealing people's
goods and spoiling their servants. "If a stray piece of linen hangs upon an hedge,” says Sir Roger, “they are sure to have it; if the hog loses his way
in the fields, it is ten to one but he becomes their 20 prey: our geese cannot live in peace for them; if a
man prosecutes them with severity, his hen-roost is sure to pay for it. They generally straggle into
these parts about this time of the year; and set the heads of our servant-maids so agog for husbands, that we do not expect to have any business done as it should be, whilst they are in the country. I have an honest dairy-maid who crosses their hands with 5 a piece of silver every summer, and never fails being promised the handsomest young fellow in the parish for her pains. Your friend the butler has been fool enough to be seduced by them; and though he is sure to lose a knife, a fork, or a spoon every time 10 his fortune is told him, generally shuts himself up in the pantry with an old gypsy for above half an hour once in a twelve-month. Sweethearts are the things they live upon, which they bestow very plentifully upon all those that apply themselves to 15 them. You see now and then some handsome young jades among them: the sluts 2 have very often white teeth and black eyes."
Sir Roger observing that I listened with great attention to his account of a people who were so 20 entirely new to me, told me, that, if I would, they should tell us our fortunes. As I was very well pleased with the knight's proposal, we rid up and communicated our hands to them. A Cassandra 3 of the crew, after having examined my lines very 25 diligently, told me, that I loved a pretty maid in a corner, that I was a good woman's man, with some other particulars which I do not think proper to relate. My friend Sir Roger alighted from his horse,
and exposing his palm to two or three that stood by him, they crumpled it into all shapes, and diligently scanned every wrinkle that could be made
in it; when one of them, who was older and more 5 sun-burnt than the rest, told him, that he had a
widow in his line of life. Upon which the knight cried, "Go, go, you are an idle baggage"; and at the same time smiled upon me. The gypsy finding
he was not displeased in his heart, told him after a 10 farther inquiry into his hand, that his true-love was
constant, and that she should dream of him tonight. My old friend cried Pish! and bid her go on. The gypsy told him that he was a bachelor, but
would not be so long; and that he was dearer to 15 somebody than he thought. The knight still repeated, “She was an idle baggage,” and bid her go
“Ah, master,” says the gypsy, “that roguish leer of yours makes a pretty woman's heart ache;
you have not that simper about the mouth for 20 nothing.” — The uncouth gibberish with which all
this was uttered, like the darkness of an oracle, made us the more attentive to it. To be short, the knight left the money with her that he had crossed
her hand with, and got up again on his horse. 25 As we were riding away, Sir Roger told me, that
he knew several sensible people who believed these gypsies now and then foretold very strange things; and for half an hour together appeared more jocund than ordinary. In the height of his good-humor,
meeting a common beggar upon the road, who was no conjurer, as he went to relieve him he found his pocket was picked; that being a kind of palmistry at which this race of vermin are very dextrous.
I might here entertain my reader with historical 5 remarks on this idle profligate people, who infest all the countries of Europe, and live in the midst of governments in a kind of commonwealth by themselves. But instead of entering into observations of this nature, I shall fill the remaining part of my 10 paper with a story which is still fresh in Holland, and was printed in one of our monthly accounts about twenty years ago.
“As the trekschuyt, or hackney-boat, which carries passengers from Leyden to Amsterdam, was putting off, a boy running along 15 the side of the canal desired to be taken in: which the master of the boat refused, because the lad had not quite money enough to pay the usual fare. An eminent merchant being pleased with the looks of the boy, and secretly touched with compassion 20 towards him, paid the money for him, and ordered him to be taken on board. Upon talking with him afterwards, he found that he could speak readily in three or four languages, and learned upon farther examination that he had been stolen away when he 25 was a child by a gypsy, and had rambled ever since with a gang of those strollers up and down several parts of Europe. It happened that the merchant, whose heart seems to have inclined towards the boy
by a secret kind of instinct, had himself lost a child some years before. The parents, after a long search for him, gave him for drowned in one of the canals
with which that country abounds; and the mother 5 was so afflicted at the loss of a fine boy, who was her
only son, that she died for grief of it. Upon laying together all particulars, and examining the several moles and marks by which the mother used to
describe the child when he was first missing, the boy 10 proved to be the son of the merchant, whose heart
had so unaccountably melted at the sight of him. The lad was very well pleased to find a father who was so rich, and likely to leave him a good estate:
the father on the other hand was not a little delighted 15 to see a son return to him, whom he had given for
lost, with such a strength of constitution, sharpness of understanding, and skill in languages.” Here the printed story leaves off; but if I may give credit
to reports, our linguist having received such extraor20 dinary rudiments towards a good education, was
afterwards trained up in everything that becomes a gentleman; wearing off by little and little all the vicious habits and practices that he had been used
to in the course of his peregrinations. Nay, it is 25 said, that he has since been employed in foreign
courts upon national business, with great reputation to himself and honor to those who sent him, and that he has visited several countries as a public minister, in which he formerly wandered as a gypsy.