Through the Eyes of the Ostler (The Highwayman)
Posted June 7th, 2018 by SarahJ
June 7th, 2018
This short story is a story that I wrote for a school project a while ago, based on "The Highwayman" poem by Alfred Noyes. The biggest thing that I don't really like about this is the fact that the ending seemed a bit rushed, but my teacher didn't want it to be too long and the due date was fast approaching, so I quickly finished it up. Also, the dialogue sounds like they are robots!
I joined KP a long time ago, but was only active for a short period of time. (It actually wasn't that long ago, I don't actually remember exactly when off the top of my head). Anyways, the point is that I will be much more active now and will try to bring some of my own creativity and spark to KP. To the authors who are still posting their stories and ideas to KP, you inspire me! I'm so happy to be here!
Chapter I Timothy Emory Clark. When seen amongst other words and phrases, my name was often overlooked. Either that or I was known as the villain in the well-known story of The Highwayman. A needle in a haystack, some might say. Despite the ignorance of many readers, some understand the importance of hearing every side of the story, even if it means knowing the truth. I struggled to stay awake, the steady rhythm of horse’s hoofs on a dirt road and the mellow whisper of Father’s whistling acting as a lullaby in my ears on that warm summer’s evening. My horse strolled alongside the wagon that Father managed from a wooden seat in front of the many goods and provisions that we had acquired. If we succeeded in our journey to the distant town of Arkaley, our wares and supplies would provide us with food to last us many months to come. I dreamt about gaining enough wealth to propose to my lifelong love, Elise. My mind snapped back to reality once I heard my horse, Lu, whinny with alarm when my overworked head collided with her broad neck. I shot up from my hunched position and sighed, my dark and sunken eyes proving that I had not slept for a long time. “Don’t fall asleep, son. I’m sure that Lu is just as tired as you are. In fact, she’s the one who has been traveling for you!” He smiled and it seemed that no matter how sunken they were, his eyes were always glimmering with true contentment. He was the only one who had ever seen promise in me. I replied with a half-smile. Unlike Mother, who believed that the ability to understand the ways of horses was a worthless talent, Father believed that I was a skilled young man who had much to live for. I loved him for that. “You and that beautiful lass called Elise will make a happy family, I’m sure. As soon as we finish this trip, both of you will live out a prosperous life together,” He started out onto the ribbon of road ahead, grinning proudly with his chin raised to the skies. Although we were hardly middle class, Father always believed that our lives were worth a million mountains of gold. “I will make you proud, Father, just you wait. After we get our riches, I will prove to you and Mother that I am truly worth something.” I beamed with motivation and Father grinned alongside me. “I never once doubted you.” For a moment, the warm air seemed still. I could feel a slight breeze on my neck and Lu’s soft hair beneath my fingertips. The joy that my Father felt radiated onto me no matter how exhausted I was. We rode on the dirt road in the barren moor, undisturbed. The shot of a musket shattered the silence. My stomach dropped like a rock and my heart pounded like the beat of horse’s hooves galloping on cobblestone as Lu and the horse tied to the wagon kicked their hooves into the air with panic. Their stiff ears twitched as they snorted and squealed with horror. There was only one thing that the sound of muskets and galloping horse hooves meant, an attack! I looked to my right, and emerging from the forest not far from the path were 3 men with velvet coats and feathered hats. Highwaymen. With muskets by their side, they were approaching with rapid speed. Before I knew what was happening, I spurred with terror into Lu’s side and she began to sprint back on the path we came from. “Timothy!” I heard Father’s voice crack with alarm from behind me. I spun my head around. POW! My spinning mind slowed for a moment and I knew what had happened. I saw Father’s figure slide off the wooden seat and collapse onto the dirt road, a limp hand at his side. He laid in his own blood as the highwaymen turned to the carriage of goods without another thought. I turned away. I gripped Lu’s reins and hunched over with hysteria. My scream filled the summer sky and the birdsong that once expressed bliss was now a song of lament. I shook on top of Lu’s saddle and my knuckles were white from gripping her reins. She trotted slowly and I could not erase the musket shot from my ears. My dirty hair hung in front of my eyes that I shut as tight as I could, squeezing out the last of my tears. What have I done? I asked myself. I could have saved him. I should have saved him. He could have jumped on top of Lu and they could have taken me instead! How can Mother love me now, knowing that her son is a coward? I repeated the same questions in my head, over and over. I knew that I would have to face the worst once I returned to my hometown. I looked up, but my head was as heavy as lead. The dim lights of civilization flickered in the distance, and I could see the silhouettes of buildings that made up a small village. Berkton. The village where I grew up with Father by my side. I shivered. As I approached the entryway to the village, I saw Mother, standing rigidly with her arms crossed. Her brow was wrinkled with anger and worry, and her dark hair was pulled back into a tight braid. I slid off Lu and my legs plummeted to the ground. My unused joints sent harrowing pain up through my legs. I stood in the moonlight, facing Mother. “Why on earth are you here, and where is Henry?” She demanded, but I could see a worried look in her green eyes. “I didn’t… I should’ve…” I stammered but I knew I had to get to the point. “Father is dead! He was killed by the highwaymen and… I ran away.” I mumbled and realized that some of the townsfolk had gathered around the scene. I held my breath and gazed upon the shocked look on my mother’s face. “Get out. You are a disgrace to your father and I never want to see your face again!” She shouted. I could see tears shining on her cheeks in the dim moonlight. The townsfolk stayed silent, for they knew not to interfere. In the moonlight, I saw my love, Elise. The darkness created shadows against her elegant features. I walked towards her and put my hand on her cheek. “Elise, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.” I mumbled, my voice shaking with grief. I peered into her kind eyes and I was met with disappointment and a quivering frown. She took my hand off of her cheek and muffled a cry with her palm. It was at that moment I realized, I had no place there, nor anywhere nearby where anyone knew my name. I petted Lu who sighed with uneven ears as I climbed onto her back. Without another word, I spurred down a new road, one that I hadn’t ridden before. It was the time I found my place, and I knew that it was not there. Chapter II By the time the hazy sun had risen over the misty horizon, I could not tell which way I had come from. I slid off of Lu’s saddle and stroked her sandy coat with affection, letting her munch on a carrot that I had packed for her in the saddle pouch. I leaned against her and slung my arms over her back, resting my head against her warm body. The foggy moor created a mist that dampened my ankles, and the cool mist in the air made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I looked around with drowsy eyes. The pear colored grass was sprinkled with droplets of dew that glistened in the early morning sun. The sky was peach-tinted and the orange sun created a rosy glow on the horizon. Stones and remnants of buildings were scattered around the meadow, and olive shaded hills rolled as far as the eye could see. To my left, I could see the boundaries of a serene forest, and crickets chirped their good morning to the world. Lu whinnied and I stroked her once again, crawling onto her back with the little strength that I had left. When we continued traveling, we approached a crossroads and turned right to meet a lonely, quiet inn, with a stable at a distance from the building. I could hear horses neighing. My head perked up and I spurred gently into Lu’s side so that I could get a closer look. I leaped off of her back, almost tripping on the footholds as I walked briskly toward the building. The old inn-door lured me inside, for maybe I could finally rest and get some food before I continued my journey. The door squeaked as I opened it, and in my view, I could see a dim fireplace and wooden tables with stools, most empty, but some taken. The few who conversed in the muffled tavern ceased their discussions for a moment, then continued where they left off. “That man looks like a mess,” I heard someone whisper. “He’s practically skin and bone.” I averted my gaze to the floor and made my way to the wooden serving counter. I looked in my pockets and saw that I had a few coins, enough to buy me a drink and some food. A large, middle-aged man greeted me with a warm smile as he wiped off a cup with a small rag. “I would like some cheese, bread, and water please,” I mumbled. My voice cracked from lack of water. I shifted in my seat and scratched the back of my neck as the bartender nodded and quickly fulfilled my request. I saw him glimpse at my bony structure and drooping eyes. I wolfed down the cheese and bread and swallowed the water in one gulp, satisfying my aching stomach. “I don’t believe I have seen you around these parts before, sir, “ He spoke quietly but with a warm tone. “I don’t believe you have,” I said as I looked up at him, puzzled. “You are quite a peculiar young man, aren’t you? I’m guessing that from the breed of your horse out there, you are from Berkton, or around that area. I do my fair share of trading, and I would recognize that horse breed anywhere,” He smiled. “What can I do for you here?” I peered out the window and studied Lu’s sandy white-spotted coat and brown eyes. Berkton was my hometown, a name I had almost forgotten. “It would be nice to have a place to stay, but I don’t have any money left,” I sighed as I finished looking through my empty pockets. “Listen, I saw the way you are with horses. That beauty out there is as tame as can be! I will tell you that if you become the ostler out in the stables, I will let you have a place to sleep for as long as you need. After all, I am the landlord,” He suggested. I raised my eyebrows in surprise as I beamed, ignoring my severe exhaustion. “Thank you, sir! You will not be disappointed,” I grinned. As soon as I finished my sentence, I felt my heart jabbed with regret. I could never return to Berkton ever again. Elise, my love, was disappointed in me. She, like Mother, never wanted to see my face again. I couldn’t blame her. I truly was a coward. My face sank back into a solemn frown as I was taken to my room. At least I could say that my sorrow did not keep me from falling into an immediate slumber as soon as I collapsed on the straw bed. After a dreamless night of sleep, I woke up and started a productive day. I fed and watered the horses and brushed their coats, which were matted and dirty. They seemed thankful when they neighed and whinnied with delight. It brought my darkened soul some happiness. Lu now had her own pen, and she took a long rest just as I had. Most of the horses in the barn were not expensive breeds, but it did not surprise me, considering the condition of the inn and what customers it would occupy. I stayed in the barn for a while, sitting on the dirt next to Lu’s pen. I felt my new cotton shirt and brown trousers that I had gotten from the gracious landlord, and my hair that I had cut short with some shears I found in the shed next to the barn. I felt like a new person, knowing I could actually live a much better life without a cruel mother and the love that rejected me. No, you no longer love her. She is in the past, I told myself. Sunlight seeped through cracks in the ceiling and flowed through both entrances on either side of the wooden barn, uncovering the dust that floated through the air from horses kicking up dirt. The stale stench of horse manure was a familiar smell, although it was not pleasant. I stood up and began to pet Lu, who was blowing air and digging at the dirt with her hooves.
“Not much to do around here, Lu? It’s very pleasant, though, I must admit,” I cooed with soft eyes. I chuckled when Lu whinnied with delight. “Beautiful horse you have there, stable boy,” An elegant voice admired from my right side. I almost jumped out of my skin from the sudden human voice. I flew around to face the source of the sound, hitting my head on the side of the pen in the process. A gorgeous woman with long, flowing black hair, a small and refined nose, and shimmering red lips stood in front of me. “Hello! Yes, she is a beautiful gir-horse! This is Lu and she is a horse,” I gripped the gate to Lu’s pen to keep from slapping myself in the forehead. Lu is a horse, what a surprise, I scolded myself. I could feel my cheeks burning with embarrassment. To my surprise, the lady laughed, her warm echo filling the barn. “You have quite the way with words, I must say. My name is Bess,” She chortled and took a deep breath. “Tim. My name is Tim,” I sighed with relief that I finally managed a sensible sentence. “ I have not seen you here before, why have you come? This place is nothing special,” She inquired, tilting her head with hands held behind her back. She leaned forward slightly with curiosity. I pondered my answer for a solid moment. “You could say that I have arrived here for a fresh start.” Her eyes sparkled with interest and she smiled slightly. “How I wish I could do the same, stable boy. Often times I feel out of place, and my longing to seek adventure just grows with every passing day. Father never understands how I feel, though. It’s always, ‘Stay in your room’ or ‘You have to start thinking the family business instead of yourself’. I’m sick of it!” She scratched the back of her neck and averted her eyes to the ceiling. “I apologize for telling you so much useless nonsense,” She sighed and looked at me. “You would never know how much I understand that,” I spoke crisply and clearly in the falling light. The sound of horses and crickets chirped smoothly and unconcerned as Bess and I gazed into each other’s eyes. The moment was over too soon when the landlord called for Bess to return home for the night. I never had felt such warmth and hope that I had in that moment, hope that gave me a skip in my step and a spark in my eyes. Little did I know that such a small spark could create a raging inferno. Chapter III After I saw Bess enter the inn door, I quickly followed her, saying goodbye to Lu. I snuck towards the inn with light steps but launched behind the tack shed near the stables when I saw Bess peer outside a window on the side of the inn, far enough from the tavern that the customers could not hear her beautiful voice. She sang a pleasant melody while plaiting her long black hair with a dark red ribbon My pounding heart slowed as I gazed upon her from a distance, her black hair shining in the last of the sunlight. Once I heard horse hooves emerging from the distant forest, my heart began its pounding rhythm once again and I slid over so that I could just barely see Bess’s window. My heart felt like it was about to escape from my chest as it pounded without relent. The sound of horse hooves emerging from a forest was far too familiar...POW! My mind snapped back to reality after remembering the horrific scene I had witnessed only weeks ago. The highwayman trotted proudly through the woods and softened his steps once he reached the cobblestone surrounding the inn. A grin was spread across his face, And his dark shoulder-length hair bounced up and down from beneath his French-cocked hat. A short beard and mustache decorated his chin, and below a bunch of lace gave him an even more chivalrous look. His pistol butts and rapier hilt were embellished with jewels that glistened in the sunlight descending below the strawberry horizon. Once his horse slowed to a walk, the man leaped off the saddle and took confident strides until he was below the window of the raven-like beauty, Bess. Before he even spoke with his velvety voice and chivalrous ways, my cheeks burned with jealousy and anger. My brow furrowed and I clenched my hands into fists by my side. How could a lady such as Bess fall for such scum as a highwayman? They chatted and laughed with affection. “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,” He placed a kiss on her cascade of black hair, blew a final kiss as he leapt onto his horse, and galloped away from where he came. This man speaks in rhymes! I thought in disbelief. Never in my life have I seen such a flirtatious man. I could see Bess wave fondly with a dreamy smile painted on her lips. She held her hands to her heart, took a deep breath, and walked out of sight into the darkened window. I couldn’t let this happen. After all that I had been through, I couldn’t let a scurrilous thief take my only means of affection and bliss. I ran back to the stables and quickly untethered Lu. I hurdled myself onto her back and we sprinted into the darkness, my mind clouded with evil intentions. Once we arrived at the nearest town, I searched around to find redcoats sitting around a fire next to their living quarters, which was a distance from the other buildings in the town. The fire blazed with vibrant oranges and reds, spitting sparks and breathing smoke into the air. The fire reflected into my eyes as the redcoats ceased their guffaw and looked up at me. “What do you want, man?” One of the men spat, rising from his seat on the ground. The other men scowled from the disturbance I had started. “Spit it out!” I almost felt guilty in that moment, just a sliver of disgrace, but pushed it aside. By that point, I was too blinded by jealousy and rage to think through my decision carefully. I told them of the highwayman, and when he scheduled to arrive back to the inn. The redcoats looked at each other with amusement. “So you want us to kill him? I suppose that can be arranged.” Chapter IV My stomach twisted and turned with anxiety as soon as the words left their lips and they galloped off on their swift steeds, their red coats reminding me of crimson blood in the dark night. Lu shifted nervously with perked ears, wondering what was going on. “What have I done, Lu?” I asked myself, “At least Bess will know that thieves get what they deserve,” I sighed. I sat by the fire for the rest of the night, not wanting to return to the inn to witness another death. When the hazy morning sun crept over the horizon, I wiped my sleepy eyes. I had fallen asleep next to the fire that became ash and dust. Lu stood nearby with her head bowed, and her eyes closed. She was still asleep. I got up with weak knees and stroked her broad neck until she awoke. She whinnied calmly. Little did she know was that soon after the sun fell that night, a man would die. Not an innocent man, but still a man. A human, with a heart, and a purpose on this earth, to be with his one true love. Guilt stabbed me in the chest and my eyes swelled up, holding back pitiful tears. Do I really love Bess, or am I just trying to make something of my pitiful life? It became harder and harder to keep the tears from rolling down my cheeks. I solemnly climbed onto Lu’s back and I spurred weakly into her side. Her pace was at a slow trot, similar to my heart, slowly, painfully, beating as her hooves padded on the dirt road. My matted and dirty hair hung over my eyes and the damp summer air made my clothes cling to my chest. The grass was terribly green, the trees were terribly tall, and the moor stretched on forever. Clouds hung in the sky like suffocating puffs of smoke that poisoned my lungs, that made my eyes water. I cried. I wept on the weary back of my horse, knowing that anything that I did would not change who I was. A selfish, lonely, coward. I thought that I could improve myself by punishing others, but I was wrong. Horribly wrong. I would never change, and that was that. My throat burned with thirst as I approached the inn in the darkness, and all was quiet. No horses neighed in the stables, and no chatter was heard from the windows of the tavern. The customers must have left, I thought. The silence sent a shiver up my spine. My heart lifted for a moment. The redcoats had not come to the inn! Bess could be happy, and I do not have to feel guilty anymore! I almost laughed with satisfaction until I looked into Bess’s window. She was tied with a rope to the post of her bed, with the muzzle of a musket beneath her chest. My stomach dropped as I was stricken with horror. I leaped off of Lu and kicked down the door of the inn, yelling with rage as redcoats that were stationed behind the window leaped up to hold me back. “We did not agree to this! Let Bess go! You terrible scoundrels!” “Get out, we have loaded muskets in here!” I fought but my bony structure was no match for the large soldiers. Before I realized what was going on, I saw the butt of a musket thrust at my head and all went black. POW! No. I woke up whether I wanted to or not, and I ran to look in Bess’s window. As I ran, I saw a familiar figure with a French-cocked hat spurred his horse to the west. I looked up. The beautiful, adventurous, and kind lady that I had fallen in love with was bent over the musket muzzle, drenched in her own crimson blood. The black hair that shimmered in the sunlight was now a shadow in the darkness. I didn’t know much about love, but I knew that that was a true sacrifice. A sacrifice for the man she loved, the man I wanted dead. I knew that I could not grieve, for there was much to be done. I took note of which direction the highwayman had run, and I followed as fast as I could. I ran and ran with Lu until she could run no longer, and after an eternity I saw the highwayman enter an unfamiliar town. Arkaley. I thought that I had heard that name somewhere before, but my past was a smudge on the canvas of life. The many buildings of the town were darkened in front of the rosy glow of the horizon. I found the highwayman, feeding and watering his horse near an old stable in the town. No people could be seen anywhere. “Hello, sir,” I spoke clearly. “Hello to you as well.” “My name is Tim, and I am the ostler at the old inn quite a distance from here. I have seen you there before.” “You are? Could you tell me what-” “The loud musket shot that you heard, well, Bess is dead. She sacrificed herself for you,” I explained calmly. “I was the one who told them that you would be at the Inn at midnight.” Instead of holding my breath, I breathed deeply, like I was living my last moments on Earth. “I understand.” A glazed look covered his eyes and he looked as if he was gazing far into the distance. “Thank you for telling me this. It takes courage to admit your faults, I know that very well.” I was shocked and stood in front of the once cheerful man, who was then a man with a clear decision of what he had to do. “What is your name?” He asked. I replied even though I had already told him. “Timothy Emory Clark.” “Martin James Vandyke.” Without another word, we climbed onto our horses and galloped in the early morning sun, both silently set on what we were about to do. We galloped proudly towards the inn, my eyes unclouded by jealousy or hate. Once the bullet pierced my chest I fell to the ground and lay in my own blood, just as Father and Martin had alongside me. As my soul left my body and floated up to the sky, I was finally at peace. Timothy Emory Clark. A man who was known as the villain in the well-known story of The Highwayman, and I can’t say that I deny that. I was a man who dedicated his life to finding happiness in riches, love, and a place to belong. I did not know until my final moments that the only way to find peace was to find contentment in myself. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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