He Highwayman

The Highwayman

Their
journey to London was not a long one, but in the night, it was a treacherous
one. A rolling fog covered the land, one couldn’t see twenty feet ahead, but
in the still, quiet night, sound carried for a mile. They began their trek
in the early evening, the sun had yet to dip below the horizon. The passengers
needed in London, could not wait for the next morning. The stage driver was
the best to be found, his fee large, but his experience was priceless. He
was accompanied by another man with a large rifle. The Rifleman had keen eyes
and his ears were at attention, listening over the horses for oncoming riders;
for the Highwaymen who prayed on the stages.
Long after the sun had set,
not a sound had been heard over the consistent clip-clop of the horses. Their
hooves hit the dirt road, broadcasting a message for nearly a mile of the nearing
prey. The sound alerting all the nearby predators to keep a good watch, to
be ready, for the prize will soon be in their grasp.
The fog, like a blanket
spreading it self out on the land, concealed all stars, the only light was
from a lantern suspended above the stage driver. The passengers nervous, expecting
to hear shots fired. The jumped at every bump in the road that the wheels
struck. Clutching their baggage close, they prayed that the night would pass
quickly.
The Highwayman, alerted to the approaching stage, was hidden by
the road, and concealed by the fog, he was not yet able to discern the light
from the quickly approaching lantern. Clutching his pistol, his only weapon,
he planned to take all the that he desired from the stage. His family was
at home, sitting by the fire. His late night occupation provided their home,
food and clothing. During the day he works in a stable for the nearby English
noble. Feeding and grooming their horses, only he knows the stable well enough
to "barrow " a horse. Not every night, but often enough for his family to
live better than most.
Passing through a small wooded area, the stage continued
at its rapid pace, the horses sweating, pulling the large stage coach and its
five passengers. The Rifleman, ever intent, tenses, telling the driver to
push the animals even harder. The two horses, running as fast as they can,
try to comply, but they gain no speed. The passengers, jumping at every bump
in the road, wishing the ride over, holding fast to the coach, expecting any
minute for the stage to roll on its side. They were waiting for the Highwayman
to strike.
Behind a wall of fog that hides him from the stage, not making
a sound, he waits. He is waiting for the right moment to ride forth. He knows
that quickly he will see the light and the stage that brings it. And then
they will be able to see him.
His rifle is ready in his arms, ready to rise
to his shoulder, take aim, and fire. The lantern throws ghostly shadows as
the coach rushes by the surrounding trees. The experienced eyes of the Rifleman,
watching everything as it flies by, waits for that movement, that shape, that
does not belong. He listens to the sound of air rushing past, the sound of
the horses, listening to their hooves as they strike ground and gulp for air
in the night. He listens for the sound that does not meld with the others,
the of beat of a third horse.
He can see the light now, his anticipation
building, his heart beating, over powering the sound of the stage, smothering
the sounds of the horses pulling it. His pistol ready, in his shaking hand.
His other hand holds the reigns, his feet ready to propel the horse onward,
to overtake the stage. Waiting for the right moment, waiting to strike.
The
Rifleman waits, scanning the forest as it streaks past, his nerves building
a lump in his throat.
The Highwayman can now see the stage in its entirety.
The Rifleman ready, will see him. Now is the time to strike. He is surprised
at the speed of the coach, the cargo must be must be important.
The passengers
pray that they complete the trip, curse the driver for the speed. Not knowing
of the dangers out side, clutching to each other, they sit on the floor of
the coach. Scared, they wait for the hellish ride to end.
Kicking his horse,
he bursts from his hiding