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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

'Then Will Baillie was the man


the parish of Kirkmichael, about eight miles from Dumfries, lived a widow who occupied a small farm. As she had a number of young children, and no man to assist her, she fell behind in paying her rent, and at last got a summons of removal. She had a kiln that stood at a considerable distance from the other houses, which was much frequented by Baillie's people, when they came that way; and she gave them, at all times, peaceable possession, as she had no person to contend with them, or put them away, and she herself did not wish to differ with them. They, on the other hand, never molested anything she had. One evening, a number of them arrived rather late, and went into the kiln, as usual; after which, one came into the house, to ask a few peats, to make a fire. She gave the peats, saying she believed they would soon have to shift their quarters, as she herself was warned to flit, and she did not know if the next tenant would allow them such quiet possession, and she did not know what would become of herself and her helpless family. Nothing more was said, but, after having put her children to bed, as she was sitting by the fire, in a disconsolate manner, she heard a gentle tap at the door. On opening it, a genteel, well-dressed man entered, who told her he just wished to speak with her for a few minutes, and, sitting down, said he had heard she was warned to remove, and asked how much she was behind. She told him exactly. On which, rising hastily, he slipt a purse into her hand,
and went out before she could say a single word.

"The widow, however, kept the farm, paid off all old debts, and brought up her family decently; but still, it grieved her that she did not know who was her benefactor. She never told any person till about ten years afterwards, when she told a friend who came to see her, when she was rather poorly in health. After hearing the story, he asked her what sort of a man he was who gave her the money. She said their interview was so short, and it was so long past, that she could recollect little of him, but only remembered well that he had the scar of a cut across his nose. On which, her friend immediately exclaimed, 'Then Will Baillie was the man.'

"Before the year 1740, the roads were bad through all the country. Carts were not then in use, and all the merchants' goods were conveyed in packs, on horseback. Among others, the farmers on the water of Ae, in Dumfries-shire, were almost all pack-carriers. As there was little improvement of land then, they had little to do at home, and so they made their rents mostly by carrying. Among others, there was an uncle of my father, whose name was Robert McVitie, who used to be a great carrier. This man, once, in returning from Edinburgh, stopt at Broughton, and in coming out of the stable, he met a man, who asked him if he knew him. Robert, after looking at him for a little, said: 'I think you are Mr. Baillie.' He said, I am, and asked if Robert could lend him two guineas, and it should be faithfully repaid. As there were few people who wished to differ with Baillie, Robert told him he was welcome to two guineas, or more if he wanted it. He said that would just do; on which Robert gave them to him, and he put them into his pocket. Baillie then asked, if ever he was molested by any person, when he was travelling late with his packs. He said he never was, although he was sometimes a little afraid. Baillie then gave him a kind of brass token, about the size of a half-crown, with some marks upon it, which he desired him to carry in his purse, and it might be of use to him some time, as he was to show it, if any person offered to rob him. Baillie then mounted his horse and rode off.

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