36. 23.ii - Thomas's Narration of the Story of Black Bess
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees. The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas. The road was a ribbon of moonlight o'er the purple moor, and a highwayman came riding - riding, riding - a highwayman came riding, up to an old inn-door.
His name was Donald Gallagher. He wore a French cocked-hat upon his head, and a bunch of white lace was tied to his throat. He wore a coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin. And they fitted with ne'er a wrinkle. His boots went up to the thigh and they were polished to a gleam.
Such was the garb of gentlemen.
As he rode, effects on his person shone with a bejewelled twinkle - the pistols in his holsters, the rapier hilt at his side, the coins in his purse twinkling under the starry sky.
Over the cobbles, Donald clattered and clashed into the dark inn-yard. And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred - shut up for the night to guard against crooks like himself. But he paused a moment and then whistled a tune to the window
And who should be waiting there?
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter, Bess, plaiting a dark-red love-knot into her long black hair. She smiled at him, listening to him whistle by her window - like a bird at dawn.
But dark in the dark old inn-yard, a stable-wicket creaked - where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked, his eyes hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay - but he loved the landlord’s daughter. The landlord’s red-lipped daughter. So dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say:
“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize tonight. but I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light. Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day: Then look for me by moonlight. Watch for me by moonlight. I’ll come to thee by moonlight - though hell should bar the way.”
Donald then rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand, but Bess loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand as a black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast; and he kissed its waves in the moonlight. Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, wheeled his mount around, and galloped away to the west.