The moon was a ghostly galleon, the road a ribbon of moonlight and the lovers cared not at all for anything but one another. He’d come back for her with the yellow gold just as his words had promised. She was no longer just Bess, the landlord’s daughter, but his companion now to take to wife. She rested her head on his chest while he stroked her long dark hair; there still was a red love knot plaited there.
Suddenly he could wait no longer and guided them into the darkness, where a hidden cave appeared. Leading Bess inside he kissed her, he kissed the landlord’s daughter and held her fast to him. She ran her fingers down his velvet coat and smiled up at him. “Such a dandy. What will you do now that you’ve given up this life? Given it up for me.” Her black eyes sparkled with unshed tears and he kissed her. “Don’t cry my bonny sweetheart. You’re my prize tonight. And I intend to have my way with you,” he spoke with a jesting leer.
Bess gave him a look he’d never seen before and kissed him fiercely, her hands finding their way beneath his coat, feeling the softness of his shirt and wanting only to feel his warm skin again hers. They pulled apart and by unspoken word undressed hastily with him spreading his cloak upon the hard stone floor. He pulled his Bess down to him and just held her close in wonder, grateful that they’d been able to get away, grateful that she was his. Then he kissed her and unbound her hair so it fell about them like a dark cloud over the purple moor. And he loved her gently there, in the cold of a winter’s night; on a stone floor an in ancient cave they came together as one.
Two days later, at a small country church, they were married. He became an honest man, who had made an honest woman of the lovely Bess and they settled into a routine on the small farm his gold had bought. Gone was the velvet coat and the thigh high boots, gone were the jeweled weapons, but there was his lovely Bess and that was enough for him.
Seasons passed and children came and he told them all the story of how he’d been a highwayman once before he settled down and became a farmer. Not one of the children ever believed a word he said and Bess merely laughed when he recounted the old tale for them. They lived and laughed and loved. And still of a winter’s night they curl up in their warm bed and he reminds her again that she is his greatest and only prize.*
*A happier ending to one of my favorite pieces of poetry that reminds of the winter time every time I read it.