The Zincali - An Account of the Gypsies of Spain
by George Borrow
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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.

That same night the two men of whom I have already particularly spoken came to see me. They sat down by the brasero in the middle of the apartment, and began to smoke small paper cigars. We continued for a considerable time in silence surveying each other. 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. There was one peculiarity about him which must not be forgotten: his right arm was withered, and hung down from his shoulder a thin sapless stick, which contrasted strangely with the huge brawn of the left. A figure so perfectly wild and uncouth I had scarcely ever before seen. He had now flung aside his cloak, and sat before me gaunt in his rags and nakedness. 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 set 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.'

So that now, say the Chai, 'Our horses drink the water of the Guadiana' - (Apilyela gras Chai la panee Lucalee).


'The region of Chal was our dear native soil, Where in fulness of pleasure we lived without toil; Till dispersed through all lands, 'twas our fortune to be - Our steeds, Guadiana, must now drink of thee.

'Once kings came from far to kneel down at our gate, And princes rejoic'd on our meanest to wait; But now who so mean but would scorn our degree - Our steeds, Guadiana, must now drink of thee.

'For the Undebel saw, from his throne in the cloud, That our deeds they were foolish, our hearts they were proud; And in anger he bade us his presence to flee - Our steeds, Guadiana, must now drink of thee.

'Our horses should drink of no river but one; It sparkles through Chal, 'neath the smile of the sun, But they taste of all streams save that only, and see - Apilyela gras Chai la panee Lucalee.'


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, conducting 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 ejecting 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.

They have occasionally however another excellent reason for not exposing the animal in the public mercado - having obtained him by dishonest means. The stealing, concealing, and receiving animals when stolen, are inveterate Gypsy habits, and are perhaps the last from which the Gitano will be reclaimed, or will only cease when the race has become extinct. In the prisons of Madrid, either in that of the Saladero or De la Corte, there are never less than a dozen Gitanos immured for stolen horses or mules being found in their possession, which themselves or their connections have spirited away from the neighbouring villages, or sometimes from a considerable distance. I say spirited away, for so well do the thieves take their measures, and watch their opportunity, that they are seldom or never taken in the fact.

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.

From Madrid let us proceed to Andalusia, casting a cursory glance on the Gitanos of that country. I found them very numerous at Granada, which in the Gitano language is termed Meligrana. Their general condition in this place is truly miserable, far exceeding in wretchedness the state of the tribes of Estremadura. It is right to state that Granada itself is the poorest city in Spain; the greatest part of the population, which exceeds sixty thousand, living in beggary and nakedness, and the Gitanos share in the general distress.

Many of them reside in caves scooped in the sides of the ravines which lead to the higher regions of the Alpujarras, on a skirt of which stands Granada. A common occupation of the Gitanos of Granada is working in iron, and it is not unfrequent to find these caves tenanted by Gypsy smiths and their families, who ply the hammer and forge in the bowels of the earth. To one standing at the mouth of the cave, especially at night, they afford a picturesque spectacle. Gathered round the forge, their bronzed and naked bodies, illuminated by the flame, appear like figures of demons; while the cave, with its flinty sides and uneven roof, blackened by the charcoal vapours which hover about it in festoons, seems to offer no inadequate representation of fabled purgatory. Working in iron was an occupation strictly forbidden to the Gitanos by the ancient laws, on what account does not exactly appear; though, perhaps, the trade of the smith was considered as too much akin to that of the chalan to be permitted to them. The Gypsy smith of Granada is still a chalan, even as his brother in England is a jockey and tinker alternately.

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. Pindamonas was a Gitano of considerable wealth, and was considered as the most respectable of the race at Granada, amongst whom he possessed considerable influence. Between this man and Pepe Conde there existed a jealousy, especially on the part of the latter, who, being a man of proud untamable spirit, could not well brook a superior amongst his own people. It chanced one day that Pindamonas and other Gitanos, amongst whom was Pepe Conde, were in a coffee-house. After they had all partaken of some refreshment, they called for the reckoning, the amount of which Pindamonas insisted on discharging. It will be necessary here to observe, that on such occasions in Spain it is considered as a species of privilege to be allowed to pay, which is an honour generally claimed by the principal man of the party. Pepe Conde did not fail to take umbrage at the attempt of Pindamonas, which he considered as an undue assumption of superiority, and put in his own claim; but Pindamonas insisted, and at last flung down the money on the table, whereupon Pepe Conde instantly unclasped one of those terrible Manchegan knives which are generally carried by the contrabandistas, and with a frightful gash opened the abdomen of Pindamonas, who presently expired.

After this exploit, Pepe Conde fled, and was not seen for some time. The cave, however, in which he had been in the habit of 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; To flee's thy only chance; With bayonets fixed, thy blood to spill, See soldiers four advance.'

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.

Once at Madrid I received a letter from the sister's son of Pindamonas, dated from the prison of the Saladero. In this letter the writer, who it appears was in durance for stealing a pair of mules, craved my charitable assistance and advice; and possibly in the hope of securing my favour, forwarded some uncouth lines commemorative of the death of his relation, and commencing thus:-

'The death of Pindamonas fill'd all the world with pain; At the coffee-house's portal, by Pepe he was slain.'

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)

In the vilest lanes of this suburb, amidst dilapidated walls and ruined convents, exists the grand colony of Spanish Gitanos. Here they may be seen wielding the hammer; here they may be seen trimming the fetlocks of horses, or shearing the backs of mules and borricos with their cachas; and from hence they emerge to ply the same trade in the town, or to officiate as terceros, or to buy, sell, or exchange animals in the mercado, and the women to tell the bahi through the streets, even as in other parts of Spain, generally attended by one or two tawny bantlings in their arms or by their sides; whilst others, with baskets and chafing-pans, proceed to the delightful banks of the Len Baro, (45) by the Golden Tower, where, squatting on the ground and kindling their charcoal, they roast the chestnuts which, when well prepared, are the favourite bonne bouche of the Sevillians; whilst not a few, in league with the contrabandistas, go from door to door offering for sale prohibited goods brought from the English at Gibraltar. Such is Gitano life at Seville; such it is in the capital of Andalusia.

It is the common belief of the Gitanos of other provinces that in Andalusia the language, customs, habits, and practices peculiar to their race are best preserved. This opinion, which probably originated from the fact of their being found in greater numbers in this province than in any other, may hold good in some instances, but certainly not in all. In various parts of Spain I have found the Gitanos retaining their primitive language and customs better than in Seville, where they most abound: indeed, it is not plain that their number has operated at all favourably in this respect. 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 DE 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 language, 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.

Nothing is more deserving of remark in Spanish grooming than the care exhibited in clipping and trimming various parts of the horse, where the growth of hair is considered as prejudicial to the perfect health and cleanliness of the animal, particular attention being always paid to the pastern, that part of the foot which lies between the fetlock and the hoof, to guard against the arestin - that cutaneous disorder which is the dread of the Spanish groom, on which account the services of a skilful esquilador are continually in requisition.

The esquilador, when proceeding to the exercise of his vocation, generally carries under his arm a small box containing the instruments necessary, and which consist principally of various pairs of scissors, and the ACIAL, two short sticks tied together with whipcord at the end, by means of which the lower lip of the horse, should he prove restive, is twisted, and the animal reduced to speedy subjection. In the girdle of the esquilador are stuck the large scissors called in Spanish TIJERAS, and in the Gypsy tongue CACHAS, with which he principally works. He operates upon the backs, ears, and tails of mules and borricos, which are invariably sheared quite bare, that if the animals are galled, either by their harness or the loads which they carry, the wounds may be less liable to fester, and be more easy to cure. Whilst engaged with horses, he confines himself to the feet and ears. The esquiladores in the two Castiles, and in those provinces where the Gitanos do not abound, are for the most part Aragonese; but in the others, and especially in Andalusia, they are of the Gypsy race. The Gitanos are in general very expert in the use of the cachas, which they handle in a manner practised nowhere but in Spain; and with this instrument the poorer class principally obtain their bread.

In one of their couplets allusion is made to this occupation in the following manner:-

'I'll rise to-morrow bread to earn, For hunger's worn me grim; Of all I meet I'll ask in turn, If they've no beasts to trim.'

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 writing.

'Cordova, 20th day of January, 1837. 'SENOR DON JORGE,

'After saluting you and hoping that you are well, I proceed to tell you that the two pair of scissors arrived at this town of Cordova with him whom you sent them by; but, unfortunately, they were given to another Gypsy, whom you neither knew nor spoke to nor saw in your life; for it chanced that he who brought them was a friend of mine, and he told me that he had brought two pair of scissors which an Englishman had given him for the Gypsies; whereupon I, understanding it was yourself, instantly said to him, "Those scissors are for me"; he told me, however, that he had already given them to another, and he is a Gypsy who was not even in Cordova during the time you were. Nevertheless, Don Jorge, I am very grateful for your thus remembering me, although I did not receive your present, and in order that you may know who I am, my name is Antonio Salazar, a man pitted with the small-pox, and the very first who spoke to you in Cordova in the posada where you were; and you told me to come and see you next day at eleven, and I went, and we conversed together alone. Therefore I should wish you to do me the favour to send me scissors for trimming beasts, - good scissors, mind you, - such would be a very great favour, and I should be ever grateful, for here in Cordova there are none, or if there be, they are good for nothing. Senor Don Jorge, you remember I told you that I was an esquilador by trade, and only by that I got bread for my babes. Senor Don Jorge, if you do send me the scissors for trimming, pray write and direct to the alley De la Londiga, No. 28, to Antonio Salazar, in Cordova. This is what I have to tell you, and do you ever command your trusty servant, who kisses your hand and is eager to serve you.



'That I may clip and trim the beasts, a pair of cachas grant, If not, I fear my luckless babes will perish all of want.'


'If thou a pair of cachas grant, that I my babes may feed, I'll pray to the Almighty God, that thee he ever speed.'

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 can; No washing e'er whitens the black Zigan: The tree that's bitter by birth and race, If in paradise garden to grow you place, And water it free with nectar and wine, From streams in paradise meads that shine, At the end its nature it still declares, For bitter is all the fruit it bears. If the egg of the raven of noxious breed You place 'neath the paradise bird, and feed The splendid fowl upon its nest, With immortal figs, the food of the blest, And give it to drink from Silisbel, (46) Whilst life in the egg breathes Gabriel, A raven, a raven, the egg shall bear, And the fostering bird shall waste its care.' -


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. All we can say on the subject, with certainty, is, that since the repeal of the tyrannical laws, wandering has considerably decreased among the Gitanos.

Since the law has ceased to brand them, they have come nearer to the common standard of humanity, and their general condition has been ameliorated. At present, only the very poorest, the parias of the race, are to be found wandering about the heaths and mountains, and this only in the summer time, and their principal motive, according to their own confession, is to avoid the expense of house rent; the rest remain at home, following their avocations, unless some immediate prospect of gain, lawful or unlawful, calls them forth; and such is frequently the case. They attend most fairs, women and men, and on the way frequently bivouac in the fields, but this practice must not be confounded with systematic wandering.

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.

These wealthy Gitanos, when they are not ashamed of their blood or descent, and are not addicted to proud fancies, or 'barbales,' as they are called, possess great influence with the rest of their brethren, almost as much as the rabbins amongst the Jews; their bidding is considered law, and the other Gitanos are at their devotion. On the contrary, when they prefer the society of the Busne to that of their own race, and refuse to assist their less fortunate brethren in poverty or in prison, they are regarded with unbounded contempt and abhorrence, as in the case of the rich Gypsy of Badajoz, and are not unfrequently doomed to destruction: such characters are mentioned in their couplets:-

'The Gypsy fiend of Manga mead, Who never gave a straw, He would destroy, for very greed, The good Egyptian law.

'The false Juanito day and night Had best with caution go; The Gypsy carles of Yeira height Have sworn to lay him low.'

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 day before the execution, the Gitanos, perceiving that the fate of their brother was sealed, one and all quitted Cordova, shutting up their houses and carrying with them their horses, their mules, their borricos, their wives and families, and the greatest part of their household furniture. No one knew whither they directed their course, nor were they seen in Cordova for some months, when they again suddenly made their appearance; a few, however, never returned. So great was the horror of the Gitanos at what had occurred, that they were in the habit of saying that the place was cursed for evermore; and when I knew them, there were many amongst them who, on no account, would enter the Plaza which had witnessed the disgraceful end of their unfortunate brother.

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.

'O, what a handsome face! what a royal person!' exclaimed the whole family as I returned, in Spanish, but in the whining, canting tones peculiar to the Gypsies, when they are bent on victimising. 'A more ugly Busno it has never been our chance to see,' said the same voices in the next breath, speaking in the jargon of the tribe. 'Won't your Moorish Royalty please to eat something?' said the tall hag. 'We have nothing in the house; but I will run out and buy a fowl, which I hope may prove a royal peacock to nourish and strengthen you.' 'I hope it may turn to drow in your entrails,' she muttered to the rest in Gypsy. She then ran down, and in a minute returned with an old hen, which, on my arrival, I had observed below in the stable. 'See this beautiful fowl,' said she, 'I have been running over all Tarifa to procure it for your kingship; trouble enough I have had to obtain it, and dear enough it has cost me. I will now cut its throat.' 'Before you kill it,' said I, 'I should wish to know what you paid for it, that there may be no dispute about it in the account.' 'Two dollars I paid for it, most valorous and handsome sir; two dollars it cost me, out of my own quisobi - out of my own little purse.' I saw it was high time to put an end to these zalamerias, and therefore exclaimed in Gitano, 'You mean two brujis (reals), O mother of all the witches, and that is twelve cuartos more than it is worth.' 'Ay Dios mio, whom have we here?' exclaimed the females. 'One,' I replied, 'who knows you well and all your ways. Speak! am I to have the hen for two reals? if not, I shall leave the house this moment.' 'O yes, to be sure, brother, and for nothing if you wish it,' said the tall woman, in natural and quite altered tones; 'but why did you enter the house speaking in Corahai like a Bengui? We thought you a Busno, but we now see that you are of our religion; pray sit down and tell us where you have been.' . .

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. He has also two sons who are grown-up men; one is a chumajarri (shoemaker), and the other serves a tanner.'

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.'

How far the person in question, who sat all the while smoking his pipe, with the most unperturbed tranquillity, deserved the character bestowed upon him by his sister, will presently appear. It is not my intention to describe here all the strange things I both saw and heard in this Gypsy inn. Several Gypsies arrived from the country during the six days that I spent within its walls; one of them, a man, from Moron, was received with particular cordiality, he having a son, whom he was thinking of betrothing to one of the Gypsy daughters. Some females of quality likewise visited the house to gossip, like true Andalusians. It was singular to observe the behaviour of the Gypsies to these people, especially that of the remarkable woman, some of whose conversation I have given above. She whined, she canted, she blessed, she talked of beauty of colour, of eyes, of eyebrows, and pestanas (eyelids), and of hearts which were aching for such and such a lady. Amongst others, came a very fine woman, the widow of a colonel lately slain in battle; she brought with her a beautiful innocent little girl, her daughter, between three and four years of age. The Gypsy appeared to adore her; she sobbed, she shed tears, she kissed the child, she blessed it, she fondled it. I had my eye upon her countenance, and it brought to my recollection that of a she-wolf, which I had once seen in Russia, playing with her whelp beneath a birch-tree. 'You seem to love that child very much, O my mother,' said I to her, as the lady was departing.

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. I looked at him, and scarcely recognised his face. It was no longer dull, black, and heavy, but was lighted up with an expression so extremely villainous that I felt uneasy. His eyes were scanning the recent comers, especially the beast of burden, which was a beautiful female donkey. He was almost instantly at their side, assisting to remove its housings, and the alforjas, or bags. His tongue had become unloosed, as if by sorcery; and far from being unable to speak, he proved that, when it suited his purpose, he could discourse with wonderful volubility. The donkey was soon tied to the manger, and a large measure of barley emptied before it, the greatest part of which the Gypsy boy presently removed, his father having purposely omitted to mix the barley with the straw, with which the Spanish mangers are always kept filled. The guests were hurried upstairs as soon as possible. I remained below, and subsequently strolled about the town and on the beach. It was about nine o'clock when I returned to the inn to retire to rest; strange things had evidently been going on during my absence. As I passed through the large room on my way to my apartment, lo, the table was set out with much wine, fruits, and viands. There sat the man from the country, three parts intoxicated; the Gypsy, already provided with another pipe, sat on his knee, with his right arm most affectionately round his neck; on one side sat the chumajarri drinking and smoking, on the other the tanner. Behold, poor humanity, thought I to myself, in the hands of devils; in this manner are human souls ensnared to destruction by the fiends of the pit. The females had already taken possession of the woman at the other end of the table, embracing her, and displaying every mark of friendship and affection. I passed on, but ere I reached my apartment I heard the words mule and donkey. 'Adios,' said I, for I but too well knew what was on the carpet.

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.

'We were bargaining with the Busno, evil overtake him, and he has exchanged us the ass, for the mule and the reckoning,' said the hag, in whose countenance triumph was blended with anxiety.

'Was he drunk when he saw the mule?' I demanded.

'He did not see her at all, O my son, but we told him we had a beautiful mule, worth any money, which we were anxious to dispose of, as a donkey suited our purpose better. We are afraid that when he sees her he will repent his bargain, and if he calls off within four-and-twenty hours, the exchange is null, and the justicia will cause us to restore the ass; we have, however, already removed her to our huerta out of the town, where we have hid her below the ground. Dios sabe (God knows) how it will turn out.'

When the man and woman saw the lame, foundered, one-eyed creature, for which and the reckoning they had exchanged their own beautiful borrico, they stood confounded. It was about ten in the morning, and they had not altogether recovered from the fumes of the wine of the preceding night; at last the man, with a frightful oath, exclaimed to the innkeeper, 'Restore my donkey, you Gypsy villain!'

'It cannot be, brother,' replied the latter, 'your donkey is by this time three leagues from here: I sold her this morning to a man I do not know, and I am afraid I shall have a hard bargain with her, for he only gave two dollars, as she was unsound. O, you have taken me in, I am a poor fool as they call me here, and you understand much, very much, baribu.' (47)

'Her value was thirty-five dollars, thou demon,' said the countryman, 'and the justicia will make you pay that.'

'Come, come, brother,' said the Gypsy, 'all this is mere conversation; you have a capital bargain, to-day the mercado is held, and you shall sell the mule; I will go with you myself. O, you understand baribu; sister, bring the bottle of anise; the senor and the senora must drink a copita.' After much persuasion, and many oaths, the man and woman were weak enough to comply; when they had drunk several glasses, they departed for the market, the Gypsy leading the mule. In about two hours they returned with the wretched beast, but not exactly as they went; a numerous crowd followed, laughing and hooting. The man was now frantic, and the woman yet more so. They forced their way upstairs to collect their baggage, which they soon effected, and were about to leave the house, vowing revenge. Now ensued a truly terrific scene, there were no more blandishments; the Gypsy men and women were in arms, uttering the most frightful execrations; as the woman came downstairs, the females assailed her like lunatics; the cripple poked at her with a stick, the tall hag clawed at her hair, whilst the father Gypsy walked close beside the man, his hand on his clasp-knife, looking like nothing in this world: the man, however, on reaching the door, turned to him and said: 'Gypsy demon, my borrico by three o'clock - or you know the rest, the justicia.'

The Gypsies remained filled with rage and disappointment; the hag vented her spite on her brother. ''Tis your fault,' said she; 'fool! you have no tongue; you a Chabo, you can't speak'; whereas, within a few hours, he had perhaps talked more than an auctioneer during a three days' sale: but he reserved his words for fitting occasions, and now sat as usual, sullen and silent, smoking his pipe.

The man and woman made their appearance at three o'clock, but they came - intoxicated; the Gypsy's eyes glistened - blandishment was again had recourse to. 'Come and sit down with the cavalier here,' whined the family; 'he is a friend of ours, and will soon arrange matters to your satisfaction.' I arose, and went into the street; the hag followed me. 'Will you not assist us, brother, or are you no Chabo?' she muttered.

'I will have nothing to do with your matters,' said I.

'I know who will,' said the hag, and hurried down the street.

The man and woman, with much noise, demanded their donkey; the innkeeper made no answer, and proceeded to fill up several glasses with the ANISADO. In about a quarter of an hour, the Gypsy hag returned with a young man, well dressed, and with a genteel air, but with something wild and singular in his eyes. He seated himself by the table, smiled, took a glass of liquor, drank part of it, smiled again, and handed it to the countryman. The latter seeing himself treated in this friendly manner by a caballero, was evidently much flattered, took off his hat to the newcomer, and drank, as did the woman also. The glass was filled, and refilled, till they became yet more intoxicated. I did not hear the young man say a word: he appeared a passive automaton. The Gypsies, however, spoke for him, and were profuse of compliments. It was now proposed that the caballero should settle the dispute; a long and noisy conversation ensued, the young man looking vacantly on: the strange people had no money, and had already run up another bill at a wine-house to which they had retired. At last it was proposed, as if by the young man, that the Gypsy should purchase his own mule for two dollars, and forgive the strangers the reckoning of the preceding night. To this they agreed, being apparently stultified with the liquor, and the money being paid to them in the presence of witnesses, they thanked the friendly mediator, and reeled away.

Before they left the town that night, they had contrived to spend the entire two dollars, and the woman, who first recovered her senses, was bitterly lamenting that they had permitted themselves to be despoiled so cheaply of a PRENDA TAN PRECIOSA, as was the donkey. Upon the whole, however, I did not much pity them. The woman was certainly not the man's wife. The labourer had probably left his village with some strolling harlot, bringing with him the animal which had previously served to support himself and family.

I believe that the Gypsy read, at the first glance, their history, and arranged matters accordingly. The donkey was soon once more in the stable, and that night there was much rejoicing in the Gypsy inn.

Who was the singular mediator? He was neither more nor less than the foster child of the Gypsy hag, the unfortunate being whom she had privately injured in his infancy. After having thus served them as an instrument in their villainy, he was told to go home. . . .


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. I looked no less wistfully at him, and was of the same opinion as my hostess, as to the strangeness of my guest. He was about fifty, with thin flaxen hair covering the sides of his head, which at the top was entirely bald. His eyes were small, and, like ferrets', red and fiery. His complexion like a brick, a dull red, checkered with spots of purple. 'May I inquire your name and business, sir?' I at length demanded.

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). I took to the sierra and became a highwayman; but the wars broke out. My cousin Jara, of Valdepenas, raised a troop of brigantes. (50) I enlisted with him and distinguished myself very much; there is scarcely a man or woman in Spain but has heard of Jara and Chaleco. I am now captain in the service of Donna Isabel - I am covered with wounds - I am - ugh! ugh! ugh - !'

He had commenced coughing, and in a manner which perfectly astounded me. I had heard hooping coughs, consumptive coughs, coughs caused by colds, and other accidents, but a cough so horrible and unnatural as that of the Gypsy soldier, I had never witnessed in the course of my travels. In a moment he was bent double, his frame writhed and laboured, the veins of his forehead were frightfully swollen, and his complexion became black as the blackest blood; he screamed, he snorted, he barked, and appeared to be on the point of suffocation - yet more explosive became the cough; and the people of the house, frightened, came running into the apartment. I cries, 'The man is perishing, run instantly for a surgeon!' He heard me, and with a quick movement raised his left hand as if to countermand the order; another struggle, then one mighty throe, which seemed to search his deepest intestines; and he remained motionless, his head on his knee. The cough had left him, and within a minute or two he again looked up.

'That is a dreadful cough, friend,' said I, when he was somewhat recovered. 'How did you get it?'

GYPSY SOLDIER. - 'I am - shot through the lungs - brother! Let me but take breath, and I will show you the hole - the agujero.'

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