“The Highwayman Outwitted”


A highwayman stops a merchant's daughter. When she dismounts, her horse runs home with her money. He abuses her and strips her, then has her hold his horse as he bundles up his gains. She jumps on the horse and rides home, still naked but with his money

Supplemental text

Highwayman Outwitted, The [Laws L2]
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

The Maid of Rygate

As printed by W. H. Logan, The Pedlar's Pack of Ballads and Songs,
pp. 134-136. Immediate source not listed.

Near Rygate there lived a farmer,
  Whose daughter to market would go,
Not fearing that any would harm her,
  For often she rode to and from.

It fell one time among many,
  A great store of corn she sold,
She having received the penny
  In shillings, and guineas, and gold.

She rode a little way farther,
  But, dreading some danger to find,
She sewed it up in her saddle,
  Which was with leather well lined.

She riding a little way farther,
  She met a thief on the highway,
A robber apparelled, well mounted,
  Who soon did oblige her to stay.

Three blows then he presently gave her,
  Load pistols he held to her breast,
Your money this moment deliver,
  Or else you shall die I protest.

This maiden was sorely affrighted,
  And so was poor Doby the steed,
When down off his back she alighted
  He quickly ran home with great speed.

Then this damsel he stripped nearly naked,
  And he gave her some sorrowful blows,
Says, "girl you must patiently take it;
  I'll have both your money and clothes."

The thief up his bundle was making,
  His horse he obliged her to hold;
The poor girl stood trembling and shaking,
  As though she would perish with cold.

The thief up is bundle was making
  And being rejoiced at his prize,
Says, "Yourself I shall shorly be taking,
  As part of my baggage likewise."

The girl while she held fast the bridle,
  Was beginning to grow more afraid.
Says she, "it's in vain to be idle,
  I'll show you the trick of a maid."

Then up on the saddle she mounted,
  Just as if she had been a young man,
As while on his money she counted,
  "Pray follow me, Sir, if you can."

The rogue in a passion he flew,
  He cursed her, he swears, and he blows,
At length his words were, "halloo!
  Stay girl! and I'll give you your clothes."

She says, "That's not so much matter,
  You may keep them, kind sir, if you please;"
He runs, but he could not get at her,
  His boots they so hampered his knees.

She rode over hedges and ditches,
  The way home she knew very well,
She left him a parcel of farthings,
  The sum of five shillings to tell.

This maiden was sorely benighted
  From seven till twelve of the clock,
Her father was sorely affrighted
  To see her come stripped to her smock.

"O daughter, the matter come tell me,
  And how you have tarried so long?"
She says, "some hard fortune befel me,
  But I have received no wrong."

They ended their sorrow with joy,
  When in his portmanteau was found,
In a bundle a great sum of money,
  In all about eight hundred pound.

O! was this not rare of a maiden,
  Who was in great danger of life?
With riches she's now overtaken,
  No doubt she will make a good wife.


It's just possible that this has a real-life origin, though I doubt it: David Brandon, in _Stand and Deliver! A History of Highway Robbery_, pp. 29-31, reports that one Isaac Atkinson held up a young woman, who -- apparently thinking he wanted something harder to recover than her money -- threw a bag of coins in the ditch. Atkinson, instead of either pursuing his seduction or doing anything to control the girl, simply jumped off his horse to pick up the coins.

The girl then flew away on her horse, and by chance his horse followed. She was able to report where she had left him, and he was taken and hanged.

Brandon, however, cites no sources; I almost wonder if his tale wasn't based on this, or perhaps on something like "The Crafty Farmer" and/or "Lovely Joan." - RBW

Cross references


  • Bodleian, 2806 c.18(142), "The Highwayman Outwitted by the Farmer's Daughter," J. Pitts (London), 1802-1819; also Harding B 11(92), Firth c.17(17), "The Lincolnshire Farmer's Daughter"


  • Wiggy Smith, "There Was a Rich Farmer at Sheffield" (on Voice11)


  1. Laws L2, "The Highwayman Outwitted"
  2. Logan, pp. 133-136, "The Maid of Rygate" (1 text)
  3. Greenleaf/Mansfield 21, "The Highway Robber" (1 text)
  4. Peacock, pp. 226-228, "The Rich Merchant's Daughter" (1 text, 2 tunes)
  5. MacSeegTrav 89, "The Highwayman Outwitted" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. DT 682, HIOUTWIT
  7. ST LL02 (Full)
  8. Roud #2638
  9. BI, LL02


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1820 (broadside, Bodleian 2806 c.18(142))
Keywords: outlaw escape clothes
Found in: Canada(Newf) Britain(England)