The Lining of the Patch-Work Screen, by Jane Barker

The History of The Lady Gypsie.

In my younger days, said she, I liv'd in the West of England; for there I was born; in which Parts there happen'd this odd Project of a young Lady, the only Child of her Parents, who were Owners of a considerable Estate. As she grew in Stature, she improv'd in Beauty, which caus'd her Father to keep a strict hand over her; nevertheless she was not so ignorant of the World, but that she desir'd to know more: She saw and convers'd with many young Ladies of her Neighbourhood, who talked of the bright Diversions of the Town; this Play, that Ball, this Treat, that Musick meeting, this Walk, that Assemblée, the Diversions of the Park, Plays, Exchange, Spring garden, &c.These Discourses, set her on fire, to see such much talked of Places; and that she might thereby be able to entertain Company suitable to her Sex and Quality: Whereas she was now but a silent Auditor to others, whose Capacities, perhaps, were less susceptible than hers; only having been in those Places, and amongst such Company as had filled, nay, even overflowed them with Vanity, which discharged its Superplus amongst the young Country−Ladies, whose lot had lain at home.

This Constraint and Home−breeding began to be very tiresome to the young Lady; but no Persuasions could prevail with her Parents to relieve this her Country restraint, telling her, she must not think of going to London till she was married. How far she wish'd to be married for the sake of going to London, or for the sake of Marriage its self, is unknown; but perhaps neither: For she was no sooner arived to marriageable Years, but she was sought after by many; her young beautiful Person, with her Father's large Inheritance annexed to it, rendering her extreamly desirable. Amongst these, her Father pitched upon one whose Riches and Prudence recommended him to his approbation; but by no means to our young Lady's liking. He was perfectly Country bred like her self; He knew nothing of Publick Affairs, but what he learnt of the News papers: His chief Entertainment was of Dogs and Horses; whether Roan or Ball performed their Heats best in order to win the Plate at the next Horse−race. Beside, he was a Widower, though not old; nor had his Lady left him any Child. Nevertheless, she thought her Youth and Beauty deserved an Husband wholly new, and not a Man at second hand. In short, one reason or another presented themselves to her Fancy, that she grew obstinate to her Parents Proposal; they on the other hand, pressed as positively. This her Refusal made them fancy she had some other Object of her Affection; which Fancy so prevail'd with them, that they threatned to confine her to her Chamber, thereby to discover or prevent any such Intrigue. This was a grievous Surprize, and Fright; but instead of bending her thereby, Despair, or at least, Fear, not only made her grow Stubborn, and absolutely refused marrying this her home bred Lover, but also dread the positive Temper of her Parents.

As she was one day walking in the outward Court, ruminating on divers impending Occurrences, she saw some Gypsies enter the Gates, who presently approaching, addressed her with their gibble−gabble Cant after their accustomed manner; but she took one of them aside, as if to hear her Fortune; and ask'd her, if they would receive a distressed Person into their Clan; to which they readily accorded. She then asked them which way they were strolling? They said, towards London, to gather up some Rents for some Nurse−Children they had taken. This their going towards London pleased our young Lady extreamly, it being the Place she longed to see; so she promised to come to them that Night, where they lodged.

So said, so done; and (like an unthinking Wretch as she was) left her Father's House that Night, and so went to this Band of Strollers, carrying with her only what her Pockets would contain, as, Money, Rings, a Watch, &c.She travell'd with them several Days, her Person being disguised both in Habit and Complexion, (for that they took care to do the moment she came to them.) After a few Days Travel, she saw and felt her Folly, undergoing the Fatigue of Wind and Wet, Heat and Cold, bad Food, bad Lodging, and all things disagreeable to her Constitution and Education: She knew not what to do with herself; she durst not return to her Parents, nor inform any body of her Condition; her Money, and all that was valuable, they had gotten from her: So, what to do, she knew not. She had no prospect but of Misery and Disgrace: She pass'd her Nights in silent Tears, and her Days in Sighs and secret Lamentations: The wicked way in which these vile Wretches liv'd, cheating, stealing, lying, and all sorts of Roguery, was abominable to her vertuous Mind. Amongst these, there was one who seemed of a better mien than the rest, and was ready upon all occasions to befriend her in any thing within his power. He was something in Years, and not so well able to undergo the Fatigue as the others; nor could he ever compass the Art of cheating, canting and stealing, as the rest did: He was weary of these his wicked Companions; but knew not how to live without them: So one Day, he and she being tired with marching, and coming near a Village, set themselves down on a Bank by the Highway, whilst the Gang strolled about the Hedges and Out−places, to try what they could pilfer.

Sitting here, the old Man began to tell her how he came to be linked into this Band of Vagabonds; of which, he said he was very weary, but knew not how to extricate himself, they having gotten from him all the Money his evil Life had before procured; and he being now advanced in Years, was not able otherwise to get a Livelihood, but as they provided for him according to their Contract when they received his Money; to which Contract they were very just, added he, and in some degree kind, being considerate of my Years, and other Occurrences, as you will understand by my Story, which I will faithfully relate to you.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51