Since Lauren is always writing death stories, this is my attempt to put
her to shame. (bwhahahaha!!) Beat this, cousin QoD! :)
Author's note: I am not usually the type to write sad and depressing
death stories, but this *had* to be written. This isn't exactly P/T,
but it is. A note - Thomas Kincaid and Bess Hardwick are not Tom and
B'Elanna--they are their own characters. (Yes, there are similarities,
but also vast differences.) I seem to have this habit of casting Robbie
into all these different roles and this is one of them. :) You may
also recognize several other Voyager characters "recast" in this story
as well. Some of them may seem ridiculous, but humor me, please. Can
you guess who's who? :)
Disclaimer: Voyager belongs to Paramount. (Even though there's really
nothing of that sort in this. I guess means that they own nothing! :)
"The Highwayman"--copyright by Alfred Noyes. Yes, I have borrowed
several lines from the poem for dialogue and/or description. The song
version belongs to Loreena McKennitt. I claim the story.
Thanks: To Alfred Noyes, of course, for his poem. To Becky Anderson
and Norrie Grace, for their wonderful "Love of Ages Past" series--which
somewhat inspired me to attempt this. And to Meg, PJ, Ronda, Julie,
Wendee and Marleena for beta-reading.
Dedication: To Mechele Mede--for listening to me go on and on about
this story--and for patiently listening to the song over and over and
A gusty wind blew across the moor, loudly rustling the leaves on the
larger trees and bending the smaller ones. The moon cast ghostly
shadows when it made brief appearances in the cloudy night sky. In
fact, the road itself looked like a ribbon of moonlight over the moor.
Except for the wind, it was silent. However, that silence was soon
broken by the sound of hoofbeats. Soon, a figure on horseback could be
seen, heading toward the dark shape that was the roadside inn.
Within minutes, the horse and its rider had reached the inn. The
hoofbeats sounded incredibly loud in the dark, silent yard. The rider
removed his hat at the same instant that the moon came out of hiding,
revealing him completely.
His claret velvet coat hid all of his clothing to the waist, except for
the bunch of lace beneath his chin. His breeches were made of doeskin,
soft and supple, without the slightest wrinkle. His thigh-high boots
were also doeskin. At his waist were a pair of pistols and a rapier.
Not many men could wear an outfit such as this, but this was a man who
His hair was gold mixed with light brown, cut short. His eyes were the
clear blue of a summer day, set in a strikingly handsome face. His
horse, a beautiful coal-black stallion, complimented him perfectly.
Moving the horse closer to the building, he tapped his whip on several
of the shutters, but everything was locked tight. Then an idea came to
him. He did an imitation of a nightingale's call and patiently waited.
Inside her second-story room, Bess Hardwick, the innkeeper's daughter,
sat at her dressing table, plaiting a love-knot into her long raven
hair. She mumbled a curse as a lock slipped from her fingers.
And then she heard it. A nightingale's call.
She *knew* that whistle.
Quickly, she hurried to look out her window, abandoning her hair.
"Aye Bess, my love. Who did you expect?"
She knew he was teasing her--as he always did. "Do you want to come in
for a bit? We can sneak into the kitchen."
He shook his head. "Not tonight. All I ask for is a kiss, love. I've
a prize to grab tonight. It should get me enough to convince your
father, so we may wed."
"Must you? I don't want the king's men to catch you."
"You know as well as I that those half-wits will never get me. They
haven't half a brain between them all."
"When will you return?"
"Before the morning. However, if they pursue me, I'll return by night.
Hell may bar the way, Bess, but I'll return, I swear it."
"Be careful," she said softly.
He rose up, bracing his feet in the stirrups. Even with the added
height to his tall, lean 6'2" frame, he could barely reach her hand.
But Bess pulled her braid free, her hair catching the breeze and flowing
down within his reach. He rubbed a handful of soft dark locks between
his fingers, then kissed them.
"Farewell, my Bess. I shall return." Lowering himself into the saddle
and releasing her hand, he turned and headed back west.
From the shadows, a dark figure watched the highwayman's departure. A
few moments after he disappeared over the rise of the far hill, Bess
closed her window. After a few more minutes had passed, the figure
melted into the shadows.
(the next morning)
Bess headed downstairs where in the front room, the guests were being
served breakfast. A quick scan of the room found no sign of Tom. She
"Good morning, my daughter."
Bess turned to greet the person who had come up behind her. "Good
Charles Hardwick smiled at his only child--the very image of his
Trisha. The only thing Bess had inherited from him was his temper. His
smile grew and he shook his head.
"Nothing. Have you had breakfast yet?"
"No, not yet."
"Come sit with me, then."
Bess was overjoyed. More often than not, her father would skip
breakfast or eat with guests. Rarely could they share the morning meal.
They took an empty table away from the crowds and sat. A few minutes
later, Marti Tynesdale, one of the servant girls, brought two plates
"Good mornin' Mr. Hardwick, Miss Bess." Marti was plain-looking with
thin, reddish-brown hair and piercing black eyes that Bess always felt
were boring into her. Not that she wasn't friendly--but there was
something about her that bothered Bess. She shrugged it off. She
wasn't going to let her suspicions ruin breakfast.
Putting it out of her mind, Bess ate and chatted with her father. Just
as they finished, Samantha, a friendly blond kitchen girl approached
"Master Charles, Mistress Jameson is here to see you."
Charles' face brightened. A few minutes later, the visitor made her
way to the table. "Good morning, Charles."
Bess wasn't sure if she liked Katherine or not. There wasn't much to
dislike. Katherine was a diminutive woman with flowing auburn hair,
eyes the color of the ocean, a soft alto voice, and a pretty smile.
Though she hadn't smiled as much since she had lost her husband Mark six
months ago. But her father was making Katherine smile again and
Katherine was doing the same for him. The only thing Bess disliked was
when Katherine would occasionally get a condescending tone of voice with
her, as though she were still a child. For heaven's sake, she was
"I'll leave you two to talk," Bess said, rising. "See you later,
"Good-bye, Bess dear," Katherine said with a smile.
Bess harumphed to herself as she ascended the stairs. *Dear*, indeed!
Katherine had a lot of nerve! "At least *I* am with someone
exciting--not an ordinary person like Father or someone boring like Mark
was!" she muttered under her breath. With that, she retreated to her
room to wait.
As soon as she could, Marti Tynesdale sneaked out to the stable. Once
inside, she wrinkled her nose and started to look around. When a figure
from behind poked her in the back, she squeaked and spun around. Once
she saw who it was, she became furious. "You have a lot of nerve, you
cursed whoreson! How dare you do that!"
"Oh honestly Marti, don't be such a scaredy-brat," Michael Jones
sneered. "There are more important things to worry about. I saw the
robber last night!"
Marti's jaw dropped. "But--that's impossible!"
"'Tis not. He came here last night."
"But that's impossible. I would've been awakened if a midnight guest
had arrived. Besides, Master Hardwick wouldn't allow a common thief
"He didn't come for that, little fool. He had a secret rendezvous--or
so he thought."
Jones' eyes darkened. "Hardwick's daughter."
"*Bess*--and the highwayman?"
Marti shook her head. "The little brat always acts so prim and proper.
I never thought she would cavort with a thief."
Jones' eyes narrowed. "Neither did I."
Marti caught the look in his eyes and snorted. "And even if she
wasn't, she certainly wouldn't cavort with you--a common stable hand."
Jones glared at Marti--but she smirked at him. "Face it, Mike.
Hardwick wouldn't let you lay a finger on his daughter."
"And you'll have as much of a chance getting Hardwick himself. He's
got Mark Jameson's widow for a mistress."
Marti's eyes narrowed dangerously. "I'll handle that bitch Katherine.
You must go to the dragoons."
"Think, Mike--we tell them that the highwayman comes here. They'll
capture him--and we'll get the reward money. They're offering 5,000
pounds for Duncan Kincaid--dead or alive. Alive would be even better.
They'll throw him in Newgate, we'll split the reward, and you'll have
Bess. Then all we need to do is make sure that Katherine has an
'accident' and I'll be sure to comfort Charles after she dies. If I do
it right, I'll soon be an innkeeper's wife." Jones didn't look
convinced until Marti sidled up to him, lightly running a hand across
his chest. "We'll *both* get what we want."
Slowly, a smile grew on Michael Jones' face. "Yes, we will."
Thomas Kincaid strode quickly the streets of London. He caught many an
eye from young ladies of all classes--and some not so young.
It was at times like this that he cursed his God-given good looks. The
King's men were already suspicious enough. He didn't need half the
women in London eyeing him.
Damn it, he had wanted to get out to the Black Swan Inn--to Bess--early
this morning. But the soldiers had caught onto his trail. Now he had
to play this deadly game of hide and seek. And if he were caught, they
would either hang him or throw him into the hellhole that was Newgate.
Glancing back, he saw that he had lost them. Finally.
Winding through the streets in a roundabout way just in case he was
still being followed, he made it back to the inn near the river he was
staying at. Glancing at the clock as he went in, he noticed it was
already 4 pm.
"'Bout time you got back, lovie," Meghan Dunn, one of the inn's
maidservants, greeted him.
"Very funny, Meg."
"I'm just teasing ya, Tommy. You know I wouldn't try anything with
you. For one--we've known each other for too long--and for another, ye
have your Bess." Meghan tossed her read hair over one slim shoulder as
she followed Tom up the stairs.
"I do worry about you, Tom--robbing people in the dead of night, and
with Georgie's goons offering 5,000 for your head!"
"Don't worry, Meg. It's over now."
"You're goin' ta stop?"
Tom nodded at the money pouch on the bed. "I've got enough to buy that
inn for sale up near Edinburgh. And that will be enough to convince
Hardwick that I'm good enough for his daughter. Besides, you and Bess
are the only ones who know I'm the highwayman. I'll buy the inn, Bess
and I will move up there--and the highwayman is no more."
"And the redcoats will be none the wiser!"
Tom grinned. "Exactly."
Meg grinned back. "I'm glad t' hear that you're giving up the
foolishness finally. But I got one question. Why do the wanted posters
say Duncan Kincaid?"
Tom shrugged. "They have me mixed up with my cousin. He was always
getting into trouble. But Duncan's gone to France, and once Bess and I
are up north, they'll never figure it out."
Meghan nodded. "Aren't you going to talk to her father?"
Tom pulled out his pocket watch and glanced at it. "Not today--it
would be too late by the time I got there. I'll meet Bess later tonight
and we'll talk to her father tomorrow morn."
"I hope it works out for you two."
"I hope so too."
Meghan smiled at that, then gave Tom a farewell sisterly hug and
departed. After she had gone, Tom glanced again at his watch. 4:30
p.m. He would rest, have supper, and head out at 9 p.m. That would get
him to the Black Swan by midnight.
But Tom had no idea that the turn of events were about to radically
change in a terrible way.
Bess had come down for supper to see her father bidding Katherine
good-bye. The sun was just beginning to set.
"Come Bess, have supper with me."
Happily, she followed him to sit down. Marti served them again, and
while they ate, Bess managed to bring up the subject of Tom. After
several minutes of disagreement, her father reluctantly agreed to talk
with them both the next day.
Bess hugged Charles effusively, then ran up the stairs. Charles smiled
and merely shook his head.
The sun was setting when Jones came out of the stable to take a few
minutes' break. He saw the approaching riders and smiled. Everything
was going as planned.
The four redcoats dismounted and Jones, for the benefit of any
observers, went up to the commander and began to lead his horse into the
"Which is she?" the commander asked in a low voice.
"The short, pretty one with long black hair. You'll know her if you
see her--she's always got her hair plaited in one way or another."
"Where is her chamber?"
Jones snorted a laugh. "Think you I would know that? Ask Marti--the
plain-looking servant girl who has cow eyes for Hardwick. She would
know more than I."
The commander nodded. "Very well. You'll be paid when Kincaid is in
our hands." Then the four headed for the inn.
When the door opened again, Charles was surprised to see a group of
redcoats enter, but quickly masked it. Stepping up to the one with
commander's insignia, he greeted him. "Welcome to the Black Swan. I'm
Charles Hardwick. What brings you gentlemen out this far?"
"Just a stop on our way to Brighton."
"Come and sit down." He turned and upon seeing Marti, called for her.
"Marti! Bring the King's men something to drink."
Marti brought them ale and after Charles had left, one grabbed her by
the arm. "Which room belongs to your lord's daughter?"
Marti smiled. "Up the stairs--the last one on the left. The window
has a perfect view of the road," she said in a low voice. Then, raising
her voice for benefit of others, she asked them if they wanted more ale.
One of the young soldiers blushed at Marti's attention, and the others
laughed at him.
Laughing herself, Marti breezed off to the kitchen to refill their
cups. Coming back, she set down the cups, then whispered to the
commander, "There she is."
The commander turned to see a black-haired girl descend the steps. And
he smiled cruelly to himself.
"Thompson, Daniels, you two sneak up there when no one's looking,
before the girl goes back up. When she comes in, gag her and tie her
up. We'll wait ten minutes, then follow you. Be sure no one sees you
going up there."
The two got up, making it look like they were going out back for fresh
air, then when no one was looking, slipped upstairs.
After good-nights to her father and grabbing a scone from the pantry,
Bess headed upstairs. She would try that love-knot again while waiting
Bess smiled to herself. She couldn't wait to tell Tom that her father
had agreed to talking with him.
Going inside her room, she had barely closed the door when she was
grabbed roughly from behind. Before she could react, a hand clapped
over her mouth and she felt the icy chill of a knife against her skin.
"Don't you dare scream," an unfamiliar voice ordered.
She did as told, a cold chill creeping through her. The voice belonged
to one of the redcoats she had seen downstairs. What did they want with
Within minutes, the two had gagged and bound her. It was then that
Bess heard a knock on her door, followed by three quick taps.
"Come in, sir," one of the soldiers said.
The door opened to admit the other two redcoats, and to Bess' shock,
Marti Tynesdale. Her eyes widened, then narrowed in rage.
Marti smirked at her before turning to the redcoat in charge. "How
soon will Kincaid show up?"
"When he shows--I don't care how long it takes. Don't worry, you two
backstabbers will get your reward as soon as we have him."
Marti shrugged. "Fine by me." She threw another smug look at Bess
before slipping out. The redcoat locked the door, then ordered Bess
tied to the foot of her bed. Then he tied a musket next to her, the
barrel directly beneath her heart.
"Keep good watch for your highwayman lover, Mistress Hardwick," the
commander sneered. "For tonight, he'll meet his end like the bastard he
Bess glared at him.
Smirking, the redcoat turned around. He took Bess' chair from her
dressing table and plopped into it. Two more knelt by the window,
muskets at the ready, and the fourth kept guard at the door. She
remembered Tom's promise:
*"I'll return by night. Hell may bar the way, Bess, but I'll return, I
But Bess hoped against hope that he would not come tonight.
Eventually, the redcoats drifted off while waiting. Bess, hoping to
escape, twisted her hands desperately, but the knots were tied fast.
She continued to stretch and struggle. The time seemed to crawl by.
Below, she heard a clock strike midnight, and suddenly she found the
trigger of the musket. In that instant, she knew what she had to do.
The chiming roused the dozing redcoats and they set back to preparing
A few minutes later, Bess heard the faraway sound of hoofbeats. Oh
God--he was coming after all! When the shadow of horse and rider
appeared over the rise, fear clutched her heart.
"He comes!" one of the window guards informed the commander in a
The commander nodded. "Wait till the bastard is in range--then kill
The minutes dragged on like years. He came nearer and nearer.
"Get ready," the commander ordered.
So intent were they on their task that they had completely forgotten
Bess. In that split second, she stretched her hand, her finger
moved--and the night stillness was shattered.
Tom was almost down the hill when a gunshot shattered the silence.
Swiftly, he spurred Midnight, his stallion, back to the west, thinking
only of escape, not knowing that Bess had shot herself--that she had
sacrificed her life for his.
The next morning, Tom arose early, wanting only to get breakfast,
saddle Midnight, and head out to see Bess.
After he had eaten, he headed out to the stable. He was almost to the
door when he heard Meghan talking to someone inside. Recognizing the
voice of Meg's sweetheart, Tim Nelson, Tom turned to leave, deciding to
give them a few minutes alone. But then he heard Tim say "Black Swan"
and he stopped short.
Meghan gasped. "They didn't!"
"They did," Tim said, his voice laced with anger. "Tied her up to her
bed with a musket and shot her. All because they thought she had a
connection to the highwayman."
*No!*, his mind screamed. *It couldn't be!*
"Are you sure it was her?" Meghan's voice faltered.
"Aye," Tim said sadly. "Bess Hardwick. Such a beautiful girl, I was
told. Took after her late mother, Hardwick's wife. Poor man. His
daughter was all he had left."
*NO! Not Bess--not my beautiful Bess!*
Without thinking, he dashed inside. Meghan and Tim looked up. Meg's
face crumpled upon seeing him. "Tom, I'm--so sorry...."
"I'm going to kill them," he whispered. Suddenly, that was the only
thought on his mind. Revenge.
Not even bothering to saddle Midnight, he released the stallion,
mounted and yelled for the horse to go. In seconds, they were gone.
If anyone would have seen Tom Kincaid on the road from London to
Brighton, they would have thought him a madman. And in truth, he was.
Mad with grief, hellbent on revenge.
"You bastards!" he screamed to the sky. "You'll pay for murdering my
Bess--I swear you will!"
He would kill them--they would die for what they had done to
her--slowly and painfully.
He noticed nothing of the surroundings, thought of nothing except that
Bess was dead. He didn't heard the shots behind him, barely felt them
tear into him, was only vaguely aware of tumbling from Midnight's back.
His only thought was that he would soon be with Bess forever....
Very few people were actually informed of Thomas Kincaid's death. Tim
Nelson found out from one of his usual sources and he told Meghan.
Meghan sent word to Tom's family and grieved on her own. After the
soldiers' trial and the grieving period, Charles and Katherine married,
but Charles was never the same again. And the tale of the highwayman
soon became nothing more than a simple legend.
But some say that on winter nights when the wind blows and the moon
plays hide and seek with the clouds, casting spooky shadows and turning
the road into a moonlit ribbon, that the faint sound of hoofbeats can be
heard--and that it is the spirit of the highwayman, on his way to see
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas.
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
He'd a French-cocked hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of claret velvet and breeches of brown doeskin,
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.
Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
"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 rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement. His face burnt like a brand!
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the
He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon,
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A redcoat troop came marching--
King George's men came matching, up to the old inn-door.
They said no word to the landlord. They drank his ale instead.
But they gagged his daughter, and bound her to the foot of her narrow
Two of them knelt at the casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window,
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see through the casement--the road that he would ride.
They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest.
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now, keep good watch!" and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man
*"Look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!"*
She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ring clear;
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance--were they deaf that they did not
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding--
The redcoats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still.
Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer. Her face was like a light.
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him with her death.
He turned, he spurred to the west, he did not know she stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, and his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness
Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high.
Blood-red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet
When they shot him down on the highway.
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his
*And still on a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding--
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.
Over the cobbles he clatters and clashes in the dark inn-yard.
And he taps with his whip on th' shutters, but all is locked and barred.
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.*
-- Alfred Noyes
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