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QUAINT #13 Hagar of the Pawnshop, The Gypsy Detective by Fergus Hume

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Hagar Stanley was created by Fergus Hume and appeared in Hagar of the Pawnshop, The Gypsy Detective (1898). Hume (1859-1932) was born in England but grew up in New Zealand and moved to Australia to practice law. In 1886 he published The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, which became the best-selling detective novel of the 19th century. But Hume did not retain the rights to Hansom Cab and did not become rich by it, and his later attempts to duplicate the success of Hansom Cab were not successful.

Hagar Stanley is a Romany (Gypsy). She is the niece of the miserly pawn shop owner Jacob Dix. While young Jacob had taken a Romany wife and brought her to London. They had a son, Jimmy, but his wife could not stand the air of London and died, and Jimmy grew up to be a brutal man and a scoundrel who left his father and took up with the Romany. Hagar was of the same Romany tribe as Dix’s wife, and was happy in the New Forest, but then Goliath appeared:

“He is half a Gorgio and half Romany—a red-haired villain, who chose to fall in love with me. I hated him. I hate him still!”—the woman’s bosom rose and fell in short, hurried pantings—“and he would have forced me to be his wife. Pharaoh—our king, you know—would have forced me also to be this man’s rani, so I had no one to protect me, and I was miserable. Then I recalled what the chal had told me about you who wed with one of us; so I fled hither for your protection, and to be your servant.”

Dix is an awful person to be around, but he values her servitude and keeps her at his shop. In a short time Hagar became as clever as Jacob himself, and he was never afraid to trust her with the task of making bargains, or with the care of the shop. She acquired a knowledge of pictures, gems, silverware, china—in fact, all the information about such things necessary to an expert. Without knowing it, the untaught gypsy girl became a connoisseur.
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