The HighwaymanTheirjourney to London was not a long one, but in the night, it was a treacherousone. A rolling fog covered the land, one couldnt see twenty feet ahead, butin the still, quiet night, sound carried for a mile. They began their trekin the early evening, the sun had yet to dip below the horizon. The passengersneeded in London, could not wait for the next morning. The stage driver wasthe best to be found, his fee large, but his experience was priceless. Hewas accompanied by another man with a large rifle. The Rifleman had keen eyesand 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. Theirhooves hit the dirt road, broadcasting a message for nearly a mile of the nearingprey. The sound alerting all the nearby predators to keep a good watch, tobe ready, for the prize will soon be in their grasp.
The fog, like a blanketspreading it self out on the land, concealed all stars, the only light wasfrom a lantern suspended above the stage driver. The passengers nervous, expectingto hear shots fired. The jumped at every bump in the road that the wheelsstruck. Clutching their baggage close, they prayed that the night would passquickly. The Highwayman, alerted to the approaching stage, was hidden bythe road, and concealed by the fog, he was not yet able to discern the lightfrom the quickly approaching lantern. Clutching his pistol, his only weapon,he planned to take all the that he desired from the stage. His family wasat 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 Englishnoble. Feeding and grooming their horses, only he knows the stable well enoughto “barrow ” a horse. Not every night, but often enough for his family tolive better than most. Passing through a small wooded area, the stage continuedat its rapid pace, the horses sweating, pulling the large stage coach and itsfive passengers. The Rifleman, ever intent, tenses, telling the driver topush 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 bumpin the road, wishing the ride over, holding fast to the coach, expecting anyminute for the stage to roll on its side. They were waiting for the Highwaymanto strike. Behind a wall of fog that hides him from the stage, not makinga sound, he waits. He is waiting for the right moment to ride forth. He knowsthat quickly he will see the light and the stage that brings it. And thenthey will be able to see him.
His rifle is ready in his arms, ready to riseto his shoulder, take aim, and fire. The lantern throws ghostly shadows asthe coach rushes by the surrounding trees. The experienced eyes of the Rifleman,watching everything as it flies by, waits for that movement, that shape, thatdoes not belong. He listens to the sound of air rushing past, the sound ofthe horses, listening to their hooves as they strike ground and gulp for airin 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 anticipationbuilding, his heart beating, over powering the sound of the stage, smotheringthe 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.
TheRifleman waits, scanning the forest as it streaks past, his nerves buildinga 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 surprisedat the speed of the coach, the cargo must be must be important. The passengerspray that they complete the trip, curse the driver for the speed. Not knowingof the dangers out side, clutching to each other, they sit on the floor ofthe coach. Scared, they wait for the hellish ride to end.
Kicking his horse,he bursts from his hiding place, flying toward the coach, his pistol raised,ready to fire. He banks from left to right as he intercepts the stage. TheRifleman raises his weapon, looks down the long barrel at the approaching Highwayman.
Tracking left to right and aiming at the Highwayman, he glances at his pistol,then he centers his rifle on the Highwayman, and hesitates, knowing that hehas only one shot. Though the pistol at his side reassures him, because shouldhe miss, he is not out of the game.
The Highwayman takes aim with his pistol.
He looks down the barrel at the Rifleman, his weapon pointing back at him.
He rides straight, aims, and fires.
The bench explodes next to the Riflemanas a bullet drives it self in to the stage, closely missing him. He continuesaiming at the bandit, looks him in the eye, breathes out, holds his breath,and fires.
The Highwayman does not feel the bullet enter his chest, so muchas the force knocking him off his horse. He crashes to the ground, his horseriding away in to the night. He lays there dying, breathing in his last breaths,says a silent good bye to his family, and the air escapes from his lungs, neverto return.
The passengers huddling on the floor of the stage. The gun shotsscaring them so much, they fear the worst. They begin saying goodbye to eachother and to their loved ones, as death is imminent. The stage continues.
Thestage breaks through the forest on to the plains. The fog lifting, they cansee the light of the soon to rise sun, though day is still hours a way. Londonis not far, they have completed their journey. The driver slows the horsesto a gallop. The Rifleman sinks back in the bench, spent. The game is over.
The passengers begin cheering that they have not been killed, and that theyhave reached London unhurt. Relieved and exhausted, they collapse on theirbenches.