Whatever may be the
opinion of the reader, he cannot assert that we
are no conjurers—We suit our wares to our customers, and our
profits are considerable.
We had been three days in the camp when the gathering was broken up, each gang taking their own way. What the meeting was about I could not exactly discover; one occasion of it was to make arrangements relative to the different counties in which the subdivisions were to sojourn during the next year, so that they might know where to communicate with each other, and, at the same time, not interfere by being too near; but there were many other points discussed, of which, as a stranger, I was kept in ignorance. Melchior answered all my questions with apparent candour, but his habitual deceit was such, that whether he told the truth or not was impossible to be ascertained by his countenance.
When the gathering dispersed we packed up, and located ourselves about two miles from the common, on the borders of a forest of oak and ash. Our food was chiefly game, for we had some excellent poachers among us; and as for fish, it appeared to be at their command; there was not a pond nor a pit but they could tell in a moment if it were tenanted, and if tenanted, in half an hour every fish would be floating on the top of the water, by the throwing in of some intoxicating sort of berry; other articles of food occasionally were found in the caldron; indeed, it was impossible to fare better than we did, or at less expense.
Our tents were generally pitched not far from a pool of water, and to avoid any unpleasant search, which sometimes would take place, everything liable to detection was sunk under the water until it was required for cooking; once in the pot, it was considered as safe. But with the foraging, Timothy and I had nothing to do; we participated in the eating, without asking any questions as to how it was procured.
My time was chiefly spent in company with Melchior, who initiated me into all the mysteries of cups and balls—juggling of every description—feats with cards, and made me acquainted with all his apparatus for prepared tricks. For hours and hours was I employed by his directions in what is called “making the pass” with a pack of cards, as almost all tricks on cards depend upon your dexterity in this manoeuvre. In about a month I was considered as a very fair adept; in the meantime, Timothy had to undergo his career of gymnastics, and was to be seen all day tumbling and retumbling, until he could tumble on his feet again. Light and active, he soon became a very dexterous performer, and could throw a somerset either backwards or forwards, walk on his hands, eat fire, pull out ribbons, and do fifty other tricks to amuse a gaping audience. Jumbo also was worked hard, to bring down his fat, and never was allowed his dinner until he had given satisfaction