THE ZINCALI - PART II CHAPTER I
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 STEEDS OF THE EGYPTIANS DRINK THE WATERS OF THE GUADIANA
'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.'
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