Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Wilson's Border Tales
Paying of Debts

As there are many ways of contracting debts, so there are many ways of liquidating them. Good honest people know only of the true legitimate mode of "coming down with the dust," and getting a receipt upon a proper stamp. Simple-hearted beings! how little do they know of the ways of the world or the subtleties of man! The scheme of the cessio, whereby, as by a well-filled sponge, thousands of pounds may be liquidated in a day, or the exquisite device of the negative oath, by which a debt may be paid in a few minutes—both beautiful expedients—are equally unknown to them; but there are other modes of discharging debts not so well known or so much resorted to as those we have now mentioned—and one of these we will now lay before our readers with the assurance that the facts are absolutely true.

In the town of —, (if the cap does not fit, do not put it on,) a poor woman, whose maiden name was Finlayson, and who had a daughter married to an industrious tradesman, named Gibb, died of a putrescent fever. Her son-in-law had been for some time out of employment, and all his earnings had been consumed during that unproductive period. He had no money, and his mother-in-law had left not a farthing. Who then was to bury her? The parish would not interfere, because the deceased’s brother, an undertaker in the same town, and a very rich man, was the very person apparently pointed out, by nature and circumstances, to do the last offices to his dead sister. But the brother was not bound by law to bury his sister, and natural affection had no influence with him, as well from an original hardness of heart, as from the citadel of the passions having been laid hold of and occupied by the love of filthy lucre. He would not undertake the funeral of his sister. It is a fact—we pledge ourselves for it—he would not furnish a coffin to her, except upon one condition, and that was that the poor industrious daughter’s husband should become bound to pay her uncle the price of the "dead-kist" for his own sister. Much time was occupied in the negotiation, and poor Gibb was subjected to the heart-rending condition of seeing his wife’s mother lying beyond "nature’s time," a corpse in his house, while he was wrangling with her miserable wretch of a brother about the conditions on which he would furnish the coffin. It was at last arranged. Gibb granted his obligation—the coffin came—the old woman was put into her "fir-fecket" and buried, and the £3, 15s., as the price of the box, became a debt. Thus, poor Gibb must pay or go to jail. In the first place, he collected from all quarters three thousand six hundred pieces of the current coin of Great Britain, called farthings. These he carefully tied up in a leather-bag, and, taking with him two trusty sooth-fast witnesses, away he went, like a bold and independent man, to pay his debt. He chose a very particular time for his visit, the hour of lifting of a very rich burgher, whose funeral, conducted by the creditor, was to take place that day.

"I’m come to pay my debt, Mr Finlayson," said Gibbs stepping forward to the undertaker, who was dressing himself for the funeral.

"I’m glad o’ that, John," replied the other, "as weel for yer ain sake as mine, for nae man can haud up his head in society, if he’s awin a single farthing."

"An’ far less if he is awing three thousand six hundred," said John, with a chuckle and a shake of the bag.

"Feth, an’ ye’re a perfect Cocker, John," rejoined the undertaker. "I daresay that is just the number in £3, 15s.; but come away, man—ye see I’ve ae stocking on and anither aff. It wants twenty minutes o’ the hour, and Bailie Adamson mauna lie a minute after the liftin time."

"Your sister lay a week after nature’s time," responded Gibb. "I am here to pay my debt, and have nae concern wi’ the funeral o’ Bailie Adamson, wha wouldna hae paid a single farthing for me, let alane three thousand six hundred, if he had been leevin and I had been starvin."

"Weel, weel," cried Finlayson, impatiently, "come awa, come awa. Here’s a stamp, and I’ll write the receipt. We’ll sune knock it aff. Ane’s fingers are nimbler at writing receipts than signing bills."

And he set about getting pen and ink in a great hurry, with one leg still bare, and the stocking on the other half rolled down. The receipt was written and lay unsigned on the table, till the money was counted.

"Noo, noo, John—down wi’ the dust, lad, as quick as ye like," said the old hunks.

Gibb obeyed. The bag was thrown with a loud noise upon the table. The undertaker started at the extraordinary sound.

"What’s this, man?" said he.

"My debt," calmly replied John, proceeding at the same time gravely to open the bag, and pour the three thousand four hundred farthings upon the table, to the great surprise of the creditor, who could not at first comprehend the nature of the transaction.

"There’s ane," said John, taking up a farthing, and laying it carefully on the farthest corner of the table, as if he intended to cover the entire board in the progress of his laborious enumeration.

"There’s twa," he was proceeding, when the creditor, on recovering himself, stopped him.

"What’s this o’t?" said he, getting angry, as the truth became more apparent—"what do you mean, sir?"

"To pay my debt, in the current coin o’ the realm," was the answer.

"It’s no a lawfu tender," cried the undertaker. "Besides, I hae nae time to stand and see ye count that bagfu’ o’ bodles. I canna wait. Tak them awa, and bring me the usual respectable circulating medium o’ the country, and ye’ll get yer receipt."

"I hereby offer ye, in presence o’ these witnesses, payment o’ my debt, in the king’s coin," rejoined the determined debtor. "I am ready to proceed with my enumeration.— There’s three."

"I canna submit to this now," cried the undertaker, in an impatient tone. "The hour o’ Bailie Adamson’s funeral is at hand. They’re waiting for me. Come back in the afternoon, and we’ll no cast out about the kind o’ coin. I’ll gie ye a discount for respectable looking cash."

"I want nae discount," rejoined John.

"But I canna even speak about it at present, man," replied the other. "See, there’s a message frae the widow. Come, come—tak awa the bag, and come again in the afternoon."

And he breathlessly proceeded in his operation of dressing; muttering deep curses as he drew on the reluctant clothes, and stamping about the floor in a state of great excitement. John remained immoveable, with the fourth farthing between his finger and thumb.

"Do you refuse payment o’ yer debt, sir?" said he, with a provoking gravity.

"Curse your farthings!" cried the undertaker, now getting to the height of fury, as he looked for articles of dress he had, in his confusion and anger, mislaid, and went raging through the room like one demented.

"Mrs. Adamson has sent for ye, Mr. Finlayson," said the servant, now entering.

"Will ye no tak payment o’ yer debt, sir?" rejoined Gibb, in a softer tone.

"May the big-horned Mahoun tak you and your debt thegither!" vociferated the now completely roused undertaker. "I’ll hae nane o’t. Awa wi’ ye!" And, twisting his cravat round his throat, he hurried out of the house.

The witnesses heard the declaration. John gathered up his coins and proceeded home. In a week after, he was cited before the bailies for payment of the debt. He appeared with his witnesses. The nature of the debt was set forth, and, indeed, the bailie had heard of the infamous transaction previously, and was predisposed to favour the defender.

"Are you due the pursuer the price of this coffin?" said the judge, to Gibb.

"In order to get my mother-in-law buried," replied Gibb, "I did become bound to pay to her brother, the pursuer, the price of the coffin. I offered him payment, and I an ready to prove that he refused it."

"Is this true, Mr. Finlayson?" asked the judge.

"Partly, and partly no," replied the creditor. "He insulted me by offering me a bagfu o’ farthings—no a legal tender for sic a sum."

"And you refused the king’s coin?" rejoined the judge. "What say the witnesses?"

The witnesses were examined, and swore that Finlayson not only refused the farthings, but the debt itself.

"I am bound to receive the evidence of these men," said the judge, addressing the pursuer. "It is indeed partly corroborated by your own statement. I say nothing of the extraordinary nature of the debt itself—that lies between you and your conscience; but you have refused the king’s coin in payment of your claim; and this would be enough, although it was unsupported by the fact that (perhaps in anger—I care not) you refused the debt altogether. No man is bound to offer payment of a debt twice, and I therefore discharge the defender, and declare that this coffin debt no longer exists."

A clap of hands from the people in the court followed this sentence, and John Gibb was congratulated by many on the result of his ingenuity.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus