Charlotta is my nav, I am a puro Purrun; My romado was Jack, The couring Vardomescro. He muk'd me for a lubbeny, Who chor'd a rawnie's kissi; He penn'd 'twas he who lell'd it, And so was bitched pawdel.
Old Charlotte I am called, Of Lee I am a daughter; I married Fighting Jack, The famous Gypsy Cooper. He left me for a harlot, Who pick'd a lady's pocket; He bore the blame to save her, And so was sent to Bot'ny.
Just within the bounds of the plain, and close by the road, may occasionally be seen a small caravan of rather a neat appearance. It comes and goes suddenly, and is seldom seen there for more than three days at a time. It belongs to a Gypsy female who, like Mrs. Cooper, is a remarkable person, but is widely different from Mrs. Cooper in many respects. Mrs. Cooper certainly does not represent the beau ideal of a Gypsy female, this does--a dark, mysterious, beautiful, terrible creature! She is considerably above the middle height, powerfully but gracefully made, and about thirty-seven years of age. Her face is oval, and of a dark olive. The nose is Grecian, the cheek-bones rather high; the eyes somewhat sunk, but of a lustrous black; the mouth small, and the teeth exactly like ivory. Upon the whole the face is exceedingly beautiful, but the expression is evil-- evil to a degree. Who she is no one exactly knows, nor what is her name, nor whether she is single woman, wife, or widow. Some say she is a foreign Gypsy, others from Scotland, but she is neither--her accent is genuine English. What strikes one as most singular is the power she possesses of appearing in various characters--all Romany ones it is true, but so different as seemingly to require three distinct females of the race to represent them: sometimes she is the staid, quiet, respectable Gypsy; sometimes the forward and impudent; at others the awful and sublime. Occasionally you may see her walking the streets dressed in a black silk gown, with a black silk bonnet on her head; over her left arm is flung a small carpet, a sample of the merchandise which is in her caravan, which is close at hand, driven by a brown boy; her address to her customers is highly polite; the tones of her voice are musical, though somewhat deep. At Fairlop, on the first Friday of July, in the evening, she may be found near the Bald-faced Hind, dressed in a red cloak and a large beaver; her appearance is bold and reckless--she is dukkering low tradesmen and servant girls behind the trees at sixpence a head, or is bandying with the voice of a raven slang and obscenity with country boors, or with the blackguard butcher-boys who throng in from Whitechapel and Shoreditch to the Gypsy Fair. At Goodwood, a few weeks after, you may see her in a beautiful half-riding dress, her hair fantastically plaited and adorned with pearls, standing beside the carriage of a Countess, telling the fortune of her ladyship with the voice and look of a pythoness. She is a thing of incongruities; an incomprehensible being! nobody can make her out; the writer himself has tried to make her out but could not, though he has spoken to her in his deepest Romany. It is true there is a certain old Gypsy, a friend of his, who thinks he has made her out. "Brother," said he one day, "why you should be always going after that woman I can't conceive, unless indeed you have lost your wits. If you go after her for her Romany you will find yourself in the wrong box: she may have a crumb or two of Romany, but for every crumb that she has I am quite sure you have a quartern loaf. Then as for her beauty, of which it is true she has plenty, and for which half a dozen Gorgios that I knows of are running mad, it's of no use going after her for that, for her beauty she keeps for her own use and that of her master the Devil; not but that she will sell it--she's sold it a dozen times to my certain knowledge--but what's the use of buying a thing, when the fool who buys it never gets it, never has the 'joyment of it, brother? She is kek tatcho, and that's what I like least in her; there's no trusting her, neither Gorgio nor Romano can trust her: she sells her truppos to a Rye-gorgio for five bars, and when she has got them, and the Gorgio, as he has a right to do, begins to kelna lasa, she laughs and asks him if he knows whom he has to deal with; then if he lels bonnek of lati, as he is quite justified in doing, she whips out a churi, and swears if he doesn't leave off she will stick it in his gorlo. Oh! she's an evil mare, a wafodu grasni, though a handsome one, and I never looks at her, brother, without saying to myself the old words:
"Rinkeno mui and wafodu zee Kitzi's the cheeros we dicks cattane." A beautiful face and a black wicked mind Often, full often together we find.
Some more particular account than what has been already given of the habitations of these Wandsworth Gypsies, and likewise of their way of life, will perhaps not be unacceptable here.
To begin with the tents. They are oblong in shape and of very simple construction, whether small or great. Sticks or rods, called in the Gypsy language ranior, between four and five feet in length, and croming or bending towards the top, are stuck in the ground at about twenty inches from each other, a rod or two being omitted in that part where the entrance is intended to be. The cromes or bends serve as supporters of a roof, and those of the side rods which stand over against one another are generally tied together by strings. These rods are covered over with coarse brown cloths, pinned or skewered together; those at the bottom being fastened to the ground by pegs. Around the tent is generally a slight embankment, about two or three inches high, or a little trench about the same depth, to prevent water from running into the tent in time of rain. Such is the tent, which would be exactly like the Indian wigwam but for the cloth which forms the covering: the Indians in lieu of cloth using bark, which they carry about with them in all their migrations, though they leave the sticks standing in the ground.
The furniture is scanty. Like the Arabs, the Gypsies have neither chairs nor tables, but sit cross-legged, a posture which is perfectly easy to them, though insufferable to a Gorgio, unless he happens to be a tailor. When they eat, the ground serves them for a board, though they occasionally spread a cloth upon it. Singularly enough, though they have neither chairs nor tables, they have words for both. Of pots, pans, plates, and trenchers, they have a tolerable quantity. Each grown-up person has a churi, or knife, with which to cut food. Eating-forks they have none, and for an eating-fork they have no word, the term pasengri signifying a straw- or pitch-fork. Spoons are used by them generally of horn, and are called royis. They have but two culinary articles, the kekkauvi and pirry, kettle and boiler, which are generally of copper, to which, however, may perhaps be added the kekkauviskey saster, or kettle-iron, by which the kettle and boiler are hung over the fire. As a fireplace they have a large iron pan on three legs, with holes or eyes in the sides, in order that the heat of the fire may be cast around. Instead of coals they use coke, which emits no flame and little smoke, and casts a considerable heat. Every tent has a pail or two, and perhaps a small cask or barrel, the proper name for which is bedra, though it is generally called pani-mengri, or thing for water. At the farther end of the tent is a mattress, with a green cloth, or perhaps a sheet spread upon it, forming a kind of couch, on which visitors are generally asked to sit down:- Av adrey, Romany Rye, av adrey ta besh aley pawdle odoy! Come in, Gypsy gentleman (said a polite Gypsy one day to the writer); come in and sit down over yonder! They have a box or two in which they stow away their breakable articles and whatever things they set any particular value upon. Some of them have small feather-beds, and they are generally tolerably well provided with blankets.
The caravans are not numerous, and have only been used of late years by any of the English Gypsy race. The caravan called by the Gypsies keir vardo, or waggon-house, is on four wheels, and is drawn by a horse or perhaps a couple of donkeys. It is about twelve feet long by six broad and six high. At the farther end are a couple of transverse berths, one above the other, like those in the cabin of a ship; and a little way from these is a curtain hanging by rings from an iron rod running across, which, when drawn, forms a partition. On either side is a small glazed window. The most remarkable object is a stove just inside the door, on the left hand, with a metal chimney which goes through the roof. This stove, the Gypsy term for which is bo, casts, when lighted, a great heat, and in some cases is made in a very handsome fashion. Some caravans have mirrors against the sides, and exhibit other indications of an aiming at luxury, though in general they are dirty, squalid places, quite as much as or perhaps more than the tents, which seem to be the proper and congenial homes of the Gypsies.