“Monsieur knows the Gipsies” (here he shook his head), “and monsieur speaks argot very well.” (A shrug.) “Perhaps he knows more than he credits himself with. Perhaps” (and here his wink was diabolical)— “perhaps monsieur knows the entire tongue!”
Spa is full not only of gamblers, but of numbers of well-dressed Parisian sharpers who certainly know “the entire tongue.” I hastened to pay my tinker, and went my way homewards. Ross Browne was accused in Syria of having “burgled” onions, and the pursuit of philology has twice subjected me to be suspected by tinkers as a flourishing member of the “dangerous classes.”
But to return to my rat-catcher. As I quoted a verse of German Gipsy song, he manifested an interest in it, and put me several questions with regard to the race in other lands.
“I wish I was a rich gentleman. I would like to travel like you, sir, and have nothing to do but go about from land to land, looking after our Rummany people as you do, and learnin’ everything Rummany. Is it true, sir, we come from Egypt?”
“No. I think not. There are Gipsies in Egypt, but there is less Rommany in their jib (language) than in any other Gipsy tribe in the world. The Gipsies came from India.”
“And don’t you think, sir, that we’re of the children of the lost Ten Tribes?”
“I am quite sure that you never had a drop of blood in common with them. Tell me, do you know any Gipsy gilis—any songs?”
“Only a bit of a one, sir; most of it isn’t fit to sing, but it begins—”
And here he sang:
“Jal ’dree the ker my
And you shall be my rom.”
And chanting this, after thanking me, he departed, gratified with his gratuity, rejoiced at his reception, and most undoubtedly benefited by the beer with which I had encouraged his palaver—a word, by the way, which is not inappropriate, since it contains in itself the very word of words, the lav, which means a word, and is most antiquely and excellently Gipsy. Pehlevi is old Persian, and to pen lavi is Rommany all the world over “to speak words.”
CHAPTER IV. GIPSY RESPECT FOR THE DEAD.
Gipsies and Comteists identical as to “Religion”—Singular Manner of Mourning for the Dead, as practised by Gipsies—Illustrations from Life—Gipsy Job and the Cigars—Oaths by the Dead—Universal Gipsy Custom of never Mentioning the Names of the Dead—Burying valuable Objects with the Dead—Gipsies, Comteists, Hegelians, and Jews—The Rev. James Crabbe.
Comte, the author of the Positivist philosophy, never felt the need of a religion until he had fallen in love; and at the present day his “faith” appears to consist in a worship of the great and wise and good among the dead. I have already spoken of many Gipsies reminding me, by their entirely unconscious ungodliness, of thorough Hegelians. I may now add, that, like the Positivists, they seem to correct their irreligion through the influence of love; and by a strange custom, which is, in spirit and fact, nothing less than adoring the departed and offering to the dead a singular sacrifice.