Tim wallowed in guilt as he lay on his pallet in the stables. It had been almost a full month since the horrible events surrounding Bess and the highwayman's deaths, and still he found he could not sleep.
He hadn't meant for the affair to end as it had. Sweet Lord, he'd loved the girl! He'd only been trying to protect her.
But his arguments didn't seem adequate, so he hadn't even tried to offer them to her father.
Not that it mattered much. From the night of her death, Bess' Papa was a changed man… forgetful and overly nervous. And no wonder, Tim thought grimly to himself as he rolled onto his side.
He had tossed the coins he'd received from the army captain into the dung heap, and, yet, he could still feel them and the way they had weighed heavy against him on his ride back from Uxbridge.
Tim had an inkling of what Judas must have felt after he betrayed Christ.
And what had become of him? Hung himself, hadn't he?
The moon broke through the clouds and left a trail of light across his bed. It was a full, cold and brilliant moon again. Not unlike the one the month before. He could hear the wind moaning outside. Tim shivered to think of it, and pulled his covers closer.
But, then, off in the distance… he heard a sound that truly chilled him to the bone.
No. It couldn't be. He was just imagining it.
But then, he heard it again. Tlot-tlot. Tlot-tlot.
The hoof beats pounding on the road came to the inn gate and went no farther. And then, Tim heard the clatter of horse on cobblestone.
Fearing what he might see, he nonetheless raised his head to look out his window across the inn-yard.
A shadowy rider was tapping his whip against the inn shutters with an air of nonchalance. And, then… "No, Sweet Lord, no," Tim thought… the shutters of Bess' old room flew open and she stood there, looking down at her lover.
The ghostly rider reached up for his bride, and she smiled. Before Tim's very own eyes, she climbed out the window, down to where Rob the Robber was waiting, and clasp her arms around his waist as she sat behind him.
Off they rode together… to the north… before the moon went behind the clouds again, and their apparitions vanished with it.