Yes, said I, I am very much in want of employ.
I think I can find you some.
What kind? said I.
Why, said the man, I think you would do to be my bonnet.
Bonnet! said I, what is that?
Dont you know? However, no wonder, as you had never heard of the thimble and pea game, but I will tell you. We of the game are very much exposed; folks when they have lost their money, as those who play with us mostly do, sometimes uses rough language, calls us cheats, and sometimes knocks our hats over our eyes; and whats more, with a kick under our table, cause the top deals to fly off; this is the third table I have used this day, the other two being broken by uncivil customers: so we of the game generally like to have gentlemen go about with us to take our part, and encourage us, though pretending to know nothing about us; for example, when the customer says, "Im cheated," the bonnet must say, "No, you aint, it is all right"; or, when my hat is knocked over my eyes, the bonnet must square, and say, "I never saw the man before in all my life, but I wont see him ill-used"; and so, when they kicks at the table, the bonnet must say, "I wont see the table ill-used, such a nice table, too; besides, I want to play myself"; and then I would say to the bonnet, "Thank you, my lord, them that finds, wins"; and then the bonnet plays, and I lets the bonnet win.
In a word, said I, the bonnet means the man who covers you, even as the real bonnet covers the head.
I just so, said the man; I see you are awake, and would soon make a first-rate bonnet.
Bonnet, said I, musingly; bonnet; it is metaphorical.
Is it? said the man.
Yes, said I, like the cant words -
Bonnet is cant, said the man; we of the thimble, as well as all cly-fakers and the like, understand cant, as, of course, must every bonnet; so, if you are employed by me, you had better learn it as soon as you can, that we may discourse together without being understood by every one. Besides covering his principal, a bonnet must have his eyes about him, for the trade of the pea, though a strictly honest one, is not altogether lawful; so it is the duty of the bonnet, if he sees the constable coming, to say, The gorgios welling.
That is not cant, said I, that is the language of the Rommany Chals.
Do you know those people? said the man.
Perfectly, said I, and their language too.
I wish I did, said the man; I would give ten pounds and more to know the language of the Rommany Chals. Theres some of it in the language of the pea and thimble; how it came there I dont know, but so it is. I wish I knew it, but it is difficult. Youll make a capital bonnet; shall we close?
What would the wages be? I demanded.
Why, to a first-rate bonnet, as I think you would prove, I could afford to give from forty to fifty shillings a week.
Is it possible? said I.