There is a wandering
people known in every land—a people surrounded by mystery, whose
origin has never been clearly established, a people that even in our
days are nomads, moving, always moving from place to place. Wherever
they stray, the gipsies are looked upon with mistrust and suspicion;
they are known to be thieves; their dark faces and flashing teeth at
once attract and repel. There is a nameless charm about them, and
yet aliens they are wherever they go. Every man's hand is against
them; nowhere are they welcome, ever must they move on and on
homeless, despised, and restless, wanderers indeed on the face of
They stop where they
can, sometimes where they must—for many places are prohibited, and
no one desires to have the thieving rascals too near their home.
Old hags have I seen
crouching beneath their tents, bending over steaming pots, stirring
mysterious messes with pieces of broken sticks. No old witch out of
Andersen's fairy-tales or the "Arabian Nights" could be compared to
these weird old beings draped in faded rags that once had been
bright, but that now were as sordid and ancient as the old creatures
they only half clothed.
Occasionally a torn shirt barely covers them, or their arms have been thrust into coats much too large, the sleeves dangling limply over their hands, giving them the appearance of small scarecrows come to life. Never more enchanting are they than when gambolling about as God made them, for all attire a string of bright beads round their necks!
little waifs will run for miles beside one's carriage or horse,
begging for coins with extended palms, whining over and over again
the same complaint.
Beneath the gaudy scarves which they
tie on their heads plaits of hair hang down on both sides of their
faces—plaits that are decorated with every sort of coin, with little
splinters of coloured glass or metal, or strange-shaped charms or
holy medals that jingle as they move about. Round their necks hang
long strings of gaudy beads that shine and glisten on their