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szdaily -> Speak Shenzhen -> 
‘The Highwayman’ — a ghost story
    2021-04-06  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

James Baquet

Every culture has ghost stories, and many of them cluster around the theme of love. The English poet Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman” is an excellent example of the genre.

On a dark, windy night, when “The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, the highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door. He is described as a typical gallant rogue, with a cocked-hat, a lace shirt, a red velvet coat, brown doe-skin breeches, and thigh-high boots. He carried twin pistols and a rapier.

He gave a whistle to alert the beautiful daughter of the locked inn’s landlord, Bess, of his arrival. Unbeknownst to them both, however, “Tim the ostler listened” by the stable. His “eyes were hollows of madness,” for he, too, loved Bess.

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart,” the highwayman asked, then promised, “I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light.” If, however, the authorities gave chase to him, then “I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.” Unable to reach her hand, he kissed her cascading hair and “galloped away to the West.”

But he did not return at dawn, or noon, or even after sundown. Instead, a troop of red-coated soldiers came to the inn. They bound and gagged Bess and placed her in front of a candle in the window of her room, with the barrel of a musket “beneath her breast!”

Straining at her bonds in the darkness, she got one finger onto the musket’s trigger. As she stood as bait for her love’s arrest, she heard the horse’s hoofs approaching, and “then her finger moved in the moonlight, her musket shattered the moonlight,” and she “warned him —with her death.”

He fled, not knowing it was she who had made the sacrifice. When next day heard, he returned, “shrieking a curse to the sky, with the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!” Naturally, “they shot him down, like a dog on the highway,” where he lay in his own blood.

They say, though, on windy winter nights when the moon appears like a galleon, “a highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.” Then, “he whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there, but... Bess, the landlord’s daughter, plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.”

Vocabulary:

Which word above means:

1. beautiful

2. pants

3. uttering a loud, sharp cry

4. braiding

5. an old-fashioned rifle

6. hold-up man

7. old-fashioned sailing ship

8. one who takes care of horses

9. mischievous person, rascal

10. a type of sword

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