Summary of The Highway Man by Alfred Moyes

The high-way-man was preparing himself for plundering expedition that night. The night was dark and stormy. Violent wind was blowing. There were dark clouds in the sky. The moon was in helpless situation too. She was disturbed vehemently by the swiftly moving clouds. To the poet, the moon appeared to as helpless as the old fashioned warship in the turbulent sea. The shape of the moon had turned Vague. (The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas; the road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor.)

In this condition of the night the highway man came on the horseback to the door of the inn. He was dressed gorgeously. He had a French cocked hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin, a red velvet coat, and breeches of brown doe-skin. These dresses fitted him well without producing any wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh. He carried pistol and a repair on a light sword. The handles of the pistol and the sword reflected light.

The highwayman was in love with the inn-keeper's young daughter named Bess. Bess was a cute girl, with red lips, long black hair, and a pair of dark eyes. When the highway man came to meet her, the door was closed. He whistles a tune. Bess opened the door of the casement. She was at that time plaiting a love knot into her long black hair.

All except, Tim, the ostler of the stable, were asleep. So nobody except him heard what ran between Bess and the highway man.

The highway man said that before going to the highway for robbery that night he must get a kiss from her. He also said that he would come back before morning. If the red coat soldiers worried him through the day, he would then return by moonlight. He told Bess to wait for him by moonlight.

Tim, the ostler, was a rival to the highway man. Tim loved the inn keeper's daughter, Bess. So when he heard the secret plan of the highwayman, he then informed all about him to the red-coat soldiers.

Then the highway man prepared to leave. Bess loosened her hair in the window and thus allowed a stream of perfume spread across the window. The highwayman kissed the waves of the perfume in the moonlight. Then he rode to the west on his robbing expedition. Bess in the inn waited. The time that the highwayman had promised to return passed. It became the evening. To her great astonishment she found the red coat soldiers marching up to the inn door. But the highway man did not return.

The soldiers occupied the strategic positions in the inn. They were ready with loaded guns near every window. Thus every window was very dangerous for the highway man. They bound Bess tightly with the leg of her narrow bed near a casement.

They put gags in her mouth and thus closed her mouth. She could not speak. Two soldiers kept close watch on her. There was also a gun near the casement. Its barrel was beneath Bess's breast. The soldiers tortured Bess and laughed at her.

Bess intelligently tried to supply warning to her lover before he came near the window and face the lethal death by the bullets. But she was helpless. She could neither move her hand nor speak. She twisted her hand and managed to free a hand from the tight grip of the rope. She put a finger on the trigger of the gun and waited for the highwayman to return.

At midnight the highwayman returned riding. As he came nearer, Bess pulled the trigger of the gun. She was shattered to pieces. She was of course ready for such tragic fate. Her main aim was to rescue her lover from death at the cost of her own life. The highway man changed his direction and escaped the danger that night. Bess's intelligence proved successful. But the next morning he was shocked to hear that his dear beloved Bess had killed herself to warn away him from the clutch of the red coat soldiers. He felt utterly sorry. He was a true lover and never wanted to betray his beloved. He came back riding to the inn and was shot down on the highway. Though the red coats killed him like dog, he was more human than them.

It is said that the highway man used to come to the inn-door and whistled to attract Bess who would be plaiting a red love knot into her hair. It was an example of an immortal love.