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Yet show some pity.
Good masters, harm me not:
I have stolen nought, nor would not, though
I had found
Gold strewed on the floor.
Sir, I desire you, do me right and justice,
No judge indifferent.
The young creature brought before Mr. Gandy was the same I had observed in the church with the gipsy woman at the christening. But now that she came before the magistrate under circumstances of so peculiar and painful a nature, she seemed to have undergone the most striking change in countenance and demeanour. She looked more thoughtful, more commanding, more resolved; even some years older than she did a few weeks before; as if the deep feelings of her mind, during so short an interval, had outstepped the course of time and done the work of years, as much with her person as her character. She appeared the same in little else than that her fine countenance retained the expression of artlessness and innocence.
On entering, she curtsied to the justice, and, as he directed her, took a seat, whilst the elder gipsy woman, and a lad of her own tribe who came with her, stood near the door. The complainant had not yet arrived. As the girl thus sat, all eyes were turned upon her. Her uncommon beauty, her youth, her fantastic attire (for she wore the dress in which she had appeared in the church), her quiet air and demeanour, so strangely in opposition to the charge on which she had been apprehended, all excited a feeling of the deepest interest and curiosity in the mind of every one present.
The worthy magistrate, though he could be very distant and very peremptory when he deemed the respect due to his person or his office required it, was, nevertheless, so far forgetful of his dignity as to be a dear lover of gossiping; and, rather than not indulge that propensity, he would gossip with the very prisoners brought before him, ere the moment of examination arrived. But once let him take upon him the magistrate, and all was then conducted in accordance with the dignity of the law.
Yet, as if he deemed some excuse necessary for the earnest desire he [felt to gratify his curiosity in a colloquy with the prisoner, he said to me in a low voice aside, "I think, Captain Courtenay, I'll speak to the wench before the accuser arrives. It might be doing some good with such a young thing as that, to learn who she is, to see if there's any hope of good in her, or if the devil has her all to himself, beyond hope of remedy. You know, Captain Courtenay, that although, as a magistrate, I must hear nothing before the cause comes on in a regular way, yet, as a minister, it is my duty to look after a lost soul as I would a lost sheep, and try to bring it back to the fold."
I could, of course, do no less than assent to this remark. And so, taking my seat near him, and feeling a lively interest in the circumstances of the scene, I listened with deep attention to all which passed between the magistrate and the prisoner, the former making his observations now and then to me in a low tone aside, like a running comment to the text, as he went on. The worthy man commenced by putting questions, much in the same way as he had been accustomed to do when catechising the children in the church, whilst the girl sat quietly before him, and in the calmest manner, with a low, deep, but musical voice, answered to all he said, her sweetness and gentleness impressing every one present in her favour.
"And what is your name, my lass," said Mr. Gandy,
"That's a strange name; it is from the old story-book, the 'Doings of the Fairy Elves.' Have you any other name?"
"They call me Cinderella Small, among our people."
"Small," said Mrs. Gandy; "is that your surname, or one given you as a soubriquet, or a name that is not a proper one?"
"What sort of name is that?" inquired the gipsy, looking up as if she did not understand the question.
"Don't you know what is meant by a surname, and not a proper name, child?" said Mrs. Gandy. "Bless me! you must be very ignorant."
"Where have you been taught?" said the justice.
"Nowhere, sir," replied Cinderella.
"Nowhere! what! have you no locality, then; no instruction? Where is your home?" ',' Wherever Robin is," "Who is Robin?"
The girl wept as she replied " My brother!" "And where is he?"
She wept yet more bitterly as she said "In prison." "In prison! Some young thief, I will warrant. Who are your father and mother?" "I have none." "But who were they?" "I do not know."
"This is strange indeed. Do you gipsy people grow up among your fellows, and never hear so much as who might be the mother who bore you? Do you know who was Robin's father and mother? Can you answer that question?" "I cannot tell."
"Do you know how it is that Robin is your brother, then; or what makes him so?"
"Oh yes! we have always been together ever since we could remember anything, and were carried about on the same woman's back. We would go out together to pick sticks for our people's fires. And when we had no food we would sit down and cry together; or, when cold and hungry, and our tears got us nothing but blows, we would creep close together under the same heap of straw, and cry ourselves to sleep. Robin is my brother." She wept bitterly as she added, "I shall never see him more."
All present were moved by the simple, ingenuous, and affectionate manner in which the poor girl referred to her brother. Even Mr. Gandy was touched and wiped his eyes and hemmed thrice before he thus continued his questioning :—
"It seems to me very extraordinary that you should feel so much natural affection for one you call your brother, and I have no doubt believe to be such, and yet that you should know nothing whatever of your parents. Did you never hear anything of your history?"
"Not before we lived with Radigund," answered Cinderella. "She taught us to make baskets."
"Who is Radigund?"
"There she is," said Cinderella, pointing to the gipsy woman who stood near, with the godson of our good parish clerk in her arms. Radigund curtsied civilly, and said, "She hoped no offence; she had not always belonged to this gipsy company. She had come from a better set of people; one originally from Norway, who were tale-telling and ballad-singing gipsies."
"Ay, and dealt in palmistry and magical arts, I will warrant me," said Mr. Gandy.
She would not say but that they did so in a " white" way
(meaning by that expression, in a harmless way); but she persisted she was of the Norway race, and not a true gipsy.*
"I thought so," said Mr. Gandy; "wicked arts are they, nevertheless; and, however white, still devilish; quod avertat Deus, say I. But go on; you taught these children, it seems, something like a trade."
"I taught them to make wicker-baskets and birdcages, and to chop them for victuals or old garments, as a better way to live than by begging, for such young things as they. No offence, I hope."
'' None whatever," said Mr. Gandy; "to tqach young people to work is right and honest. Begging is always united to thieving with your people, good woman; though you seem to be a shade less abandoned, a shade more decent, than most of your fellows."
Badigund curtsied, and thanked his worship for his good opinion of her. She said, on being further questioned, that she had joined the tribe when Bobin and Cinderella were about three or four years old, she believed; that she did not know who they were, nor could learn who had been their parents, because, just before she joined the company, at one assize in Sussex, no less than thirteen gipsies belonging to it had been hanged at once, under the law made in Queen Elizabeth's time, for no other crime than their being gipsies, who had stayed more than a month in the kingdom, and in one place, after landing on the coast. All that remained of the company after this execution were not more than three or four persons. They were at hide-and-seek for fear of their lives. They had two children among them; and, when Badigund joined them, she found these little ones, poor sick things, almost dying for want of food and common care. She was told they were brother and sister; that the boy's name was Bobin; the girl's they did not * The race of wanderers of whom Radigand speaks were a far better set of vagabonds than the common gipsies. They were, indeed, a remnant of the ancient scalds, or poets.