So Near, Yet So Far

Jen Bennett
 

 The door closed and Catherine, breathing a sigh of relief, leant against it and let the quiet atmosphere of her apartment welcome her. In the distance, from the road many floors below, she could hear the honk of a car horn and a siren wailing. What a day, she thought and it’s only Monday! Her thoughts switched to Vincent, bringing a smile to her face. Oh how he had worried these last two weeks, concerned over what he felt was a weakening in their bond. Well, she thought smiling to herself, that’s a mystery solved.

After resting for what seemed like only a second, she decided that she really did have a lot of work to do that evening and began to ruminate on the idea of work, dinner and shower, though not necessarily in that order. She detached herself from the door which had, so kindly, been her leaning post for the last few minutes. Sighing, she walked past the sofa, dropping her coat and bag. Shower first she decided, followed by dinner and then work, Joe had once again, given her several cases to look at.

***

Showered, fed and very sleepy after spending three hours studying case notes, she demoted the notes to her bedroom floor and snuggled down into her bed. As she waited for sleep to come she thought of Vincent and the events of the last month. What a wonderful time she had had, and best of all, it had been with him….

***

"Catherine, I thought we could go camping this weekend, what do you think?" Vincent asked.

"Camping?"

"Yes, very often as a child, the elders would take us camping to far reaching tunnels and chambers. We would eat camp food, tell stories and sing songs around the camp fire of an evening. It was most enjoyable."

"Where would we go?"

"I thought I’d take you to the Crystal Cavern."

"Oh, yes I would love to see it."

"Very well, I will get everything organized and we can leave as soon as you come Below on Friday."

Catherine stepped forward, hugging Vincent, and through their bond he could feel the delight she felt at the thought of being with him for the whole weekend. Oh, Catherine, how I love you, he thought, kissing the top of her head

Their meeting this evening had been brief, but knowing they had a wonderful weekend ahead of them Vincent stepped back into the shadows.

"Until Friday, Catherine."

"Goodnight, Vincent."

Catherine turned, walked through the shaft of light and headed up the ladder to the basement of her apartment block.

***

Having worked very hard for the remainder of the week, Catherine had managed to leave work early on Friday. She headed home, showered, changed and collected the bag she had packed the previous evening. Heading down to the basement of her apartment building and into the tunnels, she cherished the familiar sounds of the constant chink chink on the pipes and the underground trains, and the faint smell of candle wax. She weaved her way though the maze of tunnels, her feet carrying her automatically on a path she knew well, but as she walked she had just the strangest of feelings… like…. like she would not be the same person when she returned.

She had noticed that over the last few weeks Vincent had been a little different with her…a note telling her he was thinking of her, a new found poem, roses, more frequent unplanned visits to her balcony…and their bond, even there she had noticed that his feelings were different… perhaps stronger, more emotional, but even if that were so, she sensed nothing wrong. In the flesh, he had been the perfect gentleman as always, willing to listen and ever the tower of strength, but maybe that had changed too…he had even teased her on occasion and appeared to be somehow more relaxed when alone with her. Perhaps this weekend would reveal something she had not been aware of previously. Perhaps there WAS something wrong and Vincent was taking her far away so she wouldn’t be able to run away from him…. Overtaken by her thoughts, Catherine soon found herself at the entrance Vincent’s chamber.

"Ah, Catherine, you are earlier than I expected."

"I managed to get away from work early today. Is there any thing I can help you with for our journey?"

"No, I’ve finished organizing and was just about to write in my journal as I sensed your approach."

"Oh." said Catherine, lowering her eyes and looking somewhat embarrassed "I’m sorry I interrupted you…I just though we could have an early start to our journey…I…"

"No apology is necessary, shall we…." Moving towards the exit of his chamber he stood aside, allowing her to go through first.

The next couple of hours passed by quite quickly, although after the first thirty minutes Catherine was completely lost in the web of tunnels and side tunnels she knew nothing about. They had long since crossed the catwalk bridge over the Abyss and walked though the Chamber of Winds. The constant chink chink on the pipes had all but disappeared and the tunnels took on an almost eerie feeling. Vincent had talked about events that had taken place Below since they last met and she, in return had listened but never spoke about her week, what could she say? There was nothing of interest in her world for her anyway!

"Well, here we are," said Vincent "I think we should camp here for the night."

Catherine looked around and found herself entering a quiet chamber off a side tunnel. The chamber was small in comparison to some she had seen and the ceiling was quite low. There was evidence of previous camping adventures with half burnt candles and a circle of stones on the ground off to one side of the chamber.

Vincent had lit the first of the candles and started to unpack the very large sack he had been carrying. First the food and cooking utensils, next their sleeping bags and mats.

"Can I help?"

"If you could start to share the food out that William has packed for us, I’ll start the fire."

***

With their stomachs full, the fire casting shadows on the chamber walls and a contentment in both their hearts, they enjoyed the peace they had found in each other’s company. Vincent for his part was leaning against the chamber wall with his eyes closed, enjoying the warmth and love he felt through their bond. Catherine, who snuggled deep under his travel cloak, felt the soft, slow breaths from Vincent, content in the knowledge that he was close.

"Catherine."

"Yes?"

"May I read to you?"

"Of course, what will you be reading?"

"The Highwayman (1). I found it when looking through some of Father’s books a few weeks ago. It filled me with a feeling I had never felt before, it made me realise… no…appreciate...no… understand, the power that comes from being able to love and be loved."

Catherine smiled, how I love to hear him read she thought, and breaking the silence Vincent began to read, his soft voice bringing to life the bleak, moonlit moors of England and the heartbreaking tale of the dashing Highwayman,

"He'd a French cocked hat on his forehead, and a bunch of lace at his chin;
He'd a coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of fine doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to his thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle--
His rapier hilt a-twinkle--
His pistol butts a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky."

And his beautiful Bess, the woman he loved, whom he could only visit by night


"Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred,
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."

As Vincent read he spoke of Bess’ secret admirer and his betrayal, the Highwayman’s crime and as the soldiers approached, conflict


"He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon.
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon over the purple moor,
The redcoat troops came marching--
Marching--marching--
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door."


He told of how Bess, bound by the soldiers ‘With a musket at her breast’ sacrificed her life to warn her love as she saw him approach. At first he turned and ran but as recognition dawned,

"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 coat
When they shot him down in the highway,
Down like a dog in the highway,
And he lay in his blood in the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat".

Vincent’s voice took on a eerie tone telling of the ghostly couple that live on the moonlit moors.

Finally his voice faded, the wind once became audible amongst the tunnels and the fire casting dancing shadows on the chamber wall

"Oh, that was beautiful."

"Thank you."

Once again, they sat in silence, Catherine staring into the distance thinking about the Highwayman and his beloved Bess, faintly aware of Vincent's growing restlessness.

"I…." Vincent sighed, wondered how he could put into words what he was feeling. What he was thinking. How could he tell her? "Catherine, have you ever struggled to say something to somebody?"

"Yes I have."

"How….. How did you overcome that?"

"I haven’t."

"Haven’t?"

She sighed, took a deep breath and said "Vincent, there are so many things I would like to tell you but…I…I sometimes worry about how you will react to them."

He pulled her closer to him and chuckled, "That, Catherine, is exactly how I feel."

Catherine sat in silence trying to absorb what Vincent had just said. Did this mean that he wanted to say the same things to her as she did to him? Did she dare take that next step? She could feel Vincent holding her close, his muscles becoming tense with the continued silence, but despite being so near, he was still so far. …She decided.

"I want to tell you now, but promise me you won't run away."

"I promise you I am going nowhere…" Not now, not ever. Vincent had let the words in his sentence trail off, hoping, knowing that Catherine would understand and be able to finish the sentence for herself.

She raised her head from where it had been resting on his shoulder. Turning to look at him, their eyes met and at that moment, she knew she could say what was in her heart. Vincent, through the bond they shared, could feel the love she felt for him radiating through her veins, but even then, he dared not to hope that perhaps his plan would come true, for he had decided that he needed to know.

Catherine could feel her heart starting to pound with nervousness, worried about how he would react. Looking deep into his eyes and projecting all her being through their bond, she spoke. "Vincent, when I am with you, I am happy, I feel complete and at peace. When we are separated I feel a loss, an empty terrible loss and I know that it will only be filled when we meet again. I know that I love you, that I AM in love with you."

She paused, allowing her words to be absorbed "I want you to know that you hold my heart, that you will always hold my heart and that wherever you go, I go. Your heart is my heart." Taking a deep breath and as resolutely as she could, emphasising each word as she spoke, she continued "In my life Above, I meet many people but I could never feel for them the way I do for you. It is you, that I want and no other, ever."

She had continued to watch him slowly, trying to read his reactions to the words she had spoken. She saw a sparkle of love and adoration in his eye just before a single tear cascaded down his cheek.

Vincent, embarrassed by his emotional state lowered his head. "I am humbled with your words, but how can this be? I have nothing to offer you. Are you sure that it is me you want?"

Catherine raised her hand to his chin, encouraging him to lift his head and make eye contact with her. Continuing she said "Nothing? Vincent, you offer me everything, you are everything, you are my life. Before we met I was a spoilt child, I wanted for nothing and lived in luxury. Every weekend, I would be at this party or that party with this person or that person, in this dress or that dress, but it wasn’t until I met you that I realised what a shallow, carefree life I had led." She took a deep breath and exhaled. "The night you saved me and brought me into your home, you trusted me as no other had, you watched over me and kept me safe like no other had and even before I was strong enough, you started to love me like no other."

"But Catherine, there are so many things another could give you that I could not. I cannot drop by your office and bring you lunch, escort you to dinner or take you to concerts and sit amongst your friends Above."

Catherine sighed, wondering how she could get through to him that it was he and he alone that she loved, wanted and longed to wake up next to each morning. So near yet so far, again! Then something occurred to her…it was worth a try. "Vincent, would you tell me why you like The Highwayman so much?"

He sighed, thought and sighed again. He knew he had been out-maneuvered.

"Vincent?"

"The Highwayman is so…me. I understand him. I can relate to him. He has committed crimes, just as I have. He loves as I do. He leaves her knowing that one day he may never see her again and just the thought of that could break his heart. He knows that he is lost to himself, to his shadows and demons in the life he leads, and that she is the one thing that anchors him, that keeps him safe against the worst storms. He….. He would be lost without her."

It was Catherine’s turn to shed a tear, it was only now that she understood, it all made sense. The notes on her balcony, the loving words of poetry, the roses and now The Highwayman. It saddened her to realise that the only way Vincent could make his feelings known to her was through poetry, through the words of another. Still what was good for one was, indeed, good for the other!!!

"Vincent, in The Highwayman, Bess gives her life for that of the man she loves, in the hope that she could save him. I want you to know that I would put my life down for you, just as Bess did for her Vincent."

"Oh Catherine, no!" Vincent shook his head, appalled at the thought of a world without her.

"Yes, Vincent…" and here goes, she thought. Speaking slowly, she continued "Vincent, I want you to check our bond so you know that what I am saying is true and sincere. I love you with all my being. I want to be with you and one day, I want to be able to call you my husband and the father of my children."

Catherine could tell from his reaction that she had caught him off guard, but to her surprise he neither moved nor flinched, so she continued. "I know that I have a life Above and there is much good I have yet to achieve, but I also have much love to give to those I care about. I want to be able to call the tunnels home, our home, where our children live and sleep and eat. I want to speak to Father as I would have my own, Mary as I would my mother and Jamie as a sister. I want to see Mouse and all his inventions and experience all of William’s wonderful cooking… regularly. Vincent… these are the things I want. I want… a life with you."

At the thought of her mother and father, Catherine had shed a tear for each of them, knowing that they were both long gone to another life. She had also surprised herself in the knowledge that she cared for Farther as much as she did. She guessed it was a night of revelations.

Vincent realised not by the words she had spoken, but by the feelings in their bond that this woman, his Catherine, did truly want to be with him. His thoughts raced. He now knew for certain the path that he would take tomorrow, the only difference being that perhaps tonight had made it easier.

He became aware that Catherine was staring at him intently, trying to read his every thought, fear and feeling. He also knew that she was not as good as he where their bond was concerned. He smiled the most loving smile Catherine thought she had ever seen and in his eyes she saw love and adoration, admiration and wanting.

Well, she thought once again, here goes. Slowly she leaned forward, tilting her head upwards to meet Vincent. She hesitated for a moment, then kissed him. To her surprise he hadn’t moved, so she kissed him again, this time for much longer and more slowly. Vincent, overwhelmed by the wonderful feel of Catherine’s lips, responded and reciprocated her kisses. They kissed for a long time, very slowly, very tenderly, enjoying the new found physical contact between them. They found that their bond soared on wings of delight, flying to a height neither had ever thought possible.

"Ca…Cath….Catherine." Vincent eventually managed to say in between kisses

"Yes, Vincent."

"I have truly been touched by your heart this evening and I believe you when you tell me the things that you want….."

Catherine smiled and glowed triumphantly from within. She had finally managed to tell him and make him understand, but most importantly, he hadn’t run away, yet!

"….But it is getting late, the fire has all but dead and I fear that unless we get some sleep, we shall not make it to the Crystal Cavern tomorrow."

Catherine sighed very deeply. As much as she knew Vincent was correct, she also didn’t want the evening to end. She hoped that he wasn’t trying to run away from her, from the passionate kisses they had shared and she had enjoyed so much.

Vincent read her thoughts. "Catherine, I promise you that tomorrow will be better than today."

Resigning herself to the fact that the evening had ended, it was with an almost heavy heart that Catherine got up and retired to her sleeping bag and mat on the opposite side of the cavern. As she cuddled into the sleeping bag and sleep became her friend, she heard a voice calling from the other side of the Cavern…

"Catherine."

"Yes?"

"Catherine, I…I love you."

"I love you too Vincent, with all my heart."

"Goodnight."

"Goodnight, sleep well"

***

Vincent woke early the next morning, despite having laid awake for hours thinking about the passionate kisses they had shared and the things Catherine had said to him. He had come to realise over the last few hours that it really might be possible to have the life he had always been told was not possible.

He rolled over and looked across the cavern in the direction of Catherine. In the dim light he could make out her form and the bond told him that she was still sleeping. He hoped she had slept well.

He became lost in his thoughts of years ago…. He remembered the camping trips, swimming in the lake with the other children, the stories and songs. Oh what special days they were, he thought. Then he remembered everything changing, the separation from the other children because his hair had started to grow, the swimming and bathing alone and then there was Lisa…. He shuddered remembering that terrible time…. And now Catherine, his dear Catherine. They had had several conversations of late on the subject of Lisa, well actually it was Catherine talking to him, telling him that she was not Lisa, would not act like Lisa and indeed loved him for who he was….

Catherine rolled over, disturbing his thoughts. He could tell from her breathing that she was in that happy place… not quite awake and not quite asleep. He could feel a warm peaceful glow emanating though their bond. He rose and dressed deep in the shadows of the chamber, whilst she still dozed.

***

Catherine became fully aware of her surroundings sometime later, having been floating in a place of warmth, love and dreams. She wasn’t sure what it was that had woken her, but she became acutely aware of freshly brewed coffee and cooking bacon.

Vincent, having been lost in his thoughts again, stirred as he became aware that Catherine was awake.

"Good morning Catherine, did you sleep well?"

"Yes, thank you. Is that William’s coffee I smell?" she asked, as she rose out of her sleeping bag and moving closer to the fire.

"Yes."

"Mmmm, I’d better have some of that before my deprivation gets the better of me!"

At Vincent’s obvious confusion she when on to explain, "I become terribly grumpy and miserable if I don’t get my standard cup of coffee in the morning."

Vincent chuckled, thankful for her explanation and handed her a cup of coffee "There is more coffee in the pot should you feel you need a second cup." he said teasingly.

"Vincent, are you teasing me?"

"Me? Of course not" he replied, winking at her.

After breakfast, they packed up their belongings and continued their journey to the Crystal Cavern. They headed down into the core of the earth, through dark tunnels, winding tunnels, big tunnels and small tunnels, the geology of the rock changing with their descent. She wondered how Vincent could possibly remember the way with so many twists and turns and it was with a happy heart that she followed him, unaware of the true reason for this trip.

***

"Oh Vincent, this is beautiful!" exclaimed Catherine

They had reached the Crystal Cavern and Vincent stood mesmerised by Catherine and her reaction to the cavern. She looked in wonderment, like a child on Christmas morning, at the delights waiting to be admired.

"Oh, Vincent…"

He had stepped back into the shadows of the cavern entrance, allowing Catherine the opportunity to explore the cavern for herself and also getting the perfect vantage point to admire her from, without her noticing.

"Vincent, where are you?" called Catherine, looking around for him.

"I am here." He said, stepping out from the safety of the shadows

"This is such a beautiful place, and to think you came all the way down here over two years ago to find the crystal for my necklace" As she said this, Catherine had pulled the necklace out from beneath her sweater. She held it between her thumb and forefinger savouring the though.

"Oh thank you for bringing me here, we will be camping here tonight, won‘t we?"

"Come," said Vincent.

And they walked towards the other side of the vast cavern, whereupon….

"Oh, Vincent..!"

Catherine had come to a complete stop in mid-walk, she stood staring vertically upwards. She saw the cavern roof high above her, casting reflections of majestic light from the lanterns they carried. She saw crystals of many colours in formations she could never have imagined.

Vincent, once again, was fascinated by Catherine’s amazement and was reminded of the night it rained in the park as they listened to the orchestra. Catherine had that same innocence about her now as she did then. Oh how she fills me with love and brings happiness to my heart, he thought.

"Please tell me we are going to camp here tonight?"

"Yes we are, just over here."

Catherine looked in the direction he was walking and once again she could see the remnants of a previous camping trip.

"Oh, how wonderful!" she exclaimed.

Catherine continued to explore the cavern in awe. Vincent put down the sack he’d been carrying and joined her. She was standing once again under the highest part of the cavern. He put his arms around her and she rested her head on his shoulder and together they stood as one, to admire the Crystal Cavern in all its majesty.

***

"Thank you for cooking dinner, Vincent"

"You’re welcome."

They sat, Catherine leaning her head against Vincent’s shoulder, looking into the hidden depths and heights of the cavern. The flames from the fire cast a warm glow, the candles flickering where they lay and reflections dancing from the faceted geodes of the cavern, from floor to ceiling, wall to wall.

He breathed a long, slow sigh, pulled Catherine closer into him and nuzzled her head, drinking in her scent. He was glad he had brought her to the cavern and thankful for the time they had had together, but how on earth was he going to…how could he….

"Catherine?"

"Mm-hm?"

"Do you like it here?"

"Yes, I do. This is such a special place and I’m glad you wanted to bring me here and share it with me." She turned toward him, and raising her left hand she traced the out line of Vincent’s face with her finger. Vincent, in return, raised his hand to hers and holding her hand against his face, he spoke in his ever loving, ever tender voice.

"Catherine, is what you see before you really what you want?"

"Yes Vincent, it is."

"But I look so different from others."

"Beauty comes from within, you taught me that." She smiled "And when I tell you that I love you, I mean all of you."

She searched his face and eyes for any detail, any emotion that may betray his thoughts and insecurities. She wondered what was concerning him so. She decided, in that instant to confront her own fears.

"Is there something wrong?"

"No, why would you think that?"

"I don’t know, I just sense something, but I don’t know what."

Vincent lowered his head, knowing that the time had come. It was time to confront his insecurities, his own future. He had to know, finally. He had thought that he had managed to hide his thoughts and feelings from Catherine, but obviously not well enough.

Shyly he spoke. "Catherine, I asked you to come on this trip with me because I wanted to talk to you without distraction…. the home tunnels can be so…. public, but we talked so much last night that I don’t know quite where to begin."

"What is it? You can talk to me." She could feel the fear rising in her, wondering what it was he wanted to talk about, for she knew there had been changes in him. Trying to suppress her fear so it wouldn’t leak into their bond, she went on, "I am here for you, I love you."

He smiled, trying to reassure her there was nothing wrong. He exhaled. "Over the last few months I have come to realise that life is very special and should not be wasted. I can now believe that anything is possible and I know that I care very deeply for you and I accept that you care for me."

"Vincent, I don’t just care for you. I. Am. In. Love. With. You.." Catherine could feel the frustration building within her, she thought she had finally managed to tell him last night how she felt, but before she had time to answer, Vincent continued.

"I brought you hear to ask you… to ask if you thought…if you could see a time when…when you would want to call me your husband?"

Stunned into silence, she stared wide-eyed at him and he continued "I brought you here to ask you to be my wife."

Still incredibly stunned, she tried to talk, and although her lips moved, not a sound could be heard. Vincent became nervous, he had never seen Catherine like this before and struggled to know what to do for the best. All he could think about was her running away from him, from the reality that now faced her. With trepidation he spoke again, "Catherine, I have come to realise that all this time I have been wrong, wrong to keep our relationship in this…state, wrong not to allow you to stay in the tunnels more, wrong to deny you what you so desire…and I hope that you will forgive me." As he looked up at her, she saw pleading in his eye. "Please, I don’t want to waste any more time. Life should be lived, treasured even, but never wasted."

Catherine smiled the most iridescent smile he had ever seen and he heard a whispered "yes," as her voice returned.

"Yes?"

"Yes, I would love to be your wife."

At that moment Catherine could feel herself falling in love with him all over again, and though their bond Vincent could feel it to. Slowly, their lips met and they kissed a slow, lingering passionate kiss. Catherine could feel herself melting into Vincent’s arms as never before. One kiss led to another and another….. and another. Catherine could feel the passion building in her, a passion that had for so long been denied. They had crossed so many boundaries already this weekend that she didn’t want to stop now.

"Vincent?"

"Yes"

"If I am to be your wife then…"

"I know Catherine, but I’ve never…I…"

Catherine brought her finger to Vincent’s lips to silence him, whispering "I know" and she kissed him on the cheek. Slowly she moved her kisses around his face. She kissed his eyes, nose, muzzle, cheeks and jaw and when she saw that he was accepting of her touch, she tenderly moved her kisses to his neck and then back to him mouth for another long passionate kiss. Vincent responded with a surge of passion he had not known he was capable of, one that swept him away on a tide of emotion, love and wanting replacing his insecurities and fears.

Catherine, knowing how insecure Vincent could feel about his appearance, wondered how he would react if she started to explore the rest of him. But then, if they were going to become husband and wife, well surely he must be accepting of her seeing him naked. Catherine broke away from his loving kisses and with longing in her eyes and wanting radiating though their bond she spoke quietly .

"Vincent, I wouldn’t want to do anything you wouldn’t want me to."

"I know what you ask but I… I don’t know what to say."

"Would you like us to just kiss?"

"No, I…" and Catherine kissed him into silence again. She could tell from the flush of his cheeks, even against the dim light of the cavern, that he was embarrassed. Slowly she nursed his soul, trying to take away the pain of separation and solitude he had known, believing that he could never love or have the experience of loving.

She sat back staring at Vincent’s clothing. She had never had the need to understand the fastenings on his clothing before, but now…Vincent smiled, reading her thoughts, finding her obvious confusion entertaining, and it was her turn to blush. Willingly but still shy, he removed his black travel cloak and began to undo the fastenings on his clothing. Catherine gently moved his hands away, now understanding. She removed his outer clothing and when she looked down became aware that she was indeed, still fully clothed.

Again she sat back. She pulled off her sweater and her shirt tossing them to one side, next she removed her bra. Vincent watched her attentively as she reached for his hands, asking him to touch her, caress her. At first he was hesitant, not wanting to hurt her, but as his passion grew, he wanted nothing more than to feel her skin, to hold her in his arms, and to discover and know everything there was no know about her.

Their remaining layers of clothing slowly peeled away. They lay in each others arms gently caressing and exploring every part of each other. Vincent was captivated by Catherine’s soft dove white skin, the reactions of her body to his touch, her longing for him growing so strong that he could barely control himself. She found his touch to be so welcome, so wanted, so electrifying. She explored his body longingly and had barely been able to stop herself from pouncing on him. She was overwhelmed by the feel of him, strong bulging muscles in his arms and upper torso and the soft pelt of fur covering his back and chest.

And now Catherine could wait no longer, Vincent could wait no longer, they had a longing to join to be and move as one and they were swept away on a long tide of emotion, soaring high once more.

They made love several times that night, each time exploring and enjoying each other, each time being better than the previous. The light from the candles and the embers of the fire had slowly died as morning came, but Vincent and Catherine needed no fire or candle to give them heat or light. They fell asleep contented in each others arms knowing that they truly were one, in body and in mind.

***

They awoke much as they had fallen asleep, contented and together.

"Good morning, Catherine"

"Mmmm, good morning." she replied from where she was lying between Vincent’s outstretched arm and his body. She snuggled into him, feeling the soft pelt of fur on his chest, still in that happy place between awake and asleep through definitely not dreaming.

He smiled and with a teasing tone, he announced to the cavern, "I suppose I should get the coffee on?"

Raising her head and kissing him, Catherine laughed, "I don’t think that will be necessary."

"Oh?"

"There are other ways of keeping the coffee monster at bay!" and she winked

"Are you teasing me, Catherine?"

"Of course not, I wouldn’t dream of such a thing." she replied, trying to muster the most innocent face she could. Failing miserably, she laughed.

Again they became hopelessly lost in each other, their only thoughts being the needs, wants and desires of the other, and they became one.

******************************

 

Bleep, bleep, bleep! Catherine’s alarm clock shrieked, shattering the silence that had been. She rolled over; was it morning already? She felt like she’d only been asleep for a few minutes. She lay, the silence once again having been restored, thinking about the day ahead…. Deposition to take at 9, need to be in the office by 11, and if I work though lunch I might just be able to get to the bridal store before closing. Oh and Jenny’s coming for dinner tonight so I’d better stop by the grocery store.

***

"So, are you going to tell me?" asked Jenny bluntly

"Tell you what?"

Jenny laughed "You don’t fool me that easily. You called me up asking for a dinner date. You never call me. In fact, you nearly always cancel me, so what is soooooo important?"

Catherine and Jenny had sat talking long after dinner, they had talked about everybody and everything, except what Catherine had wanted to talk about. She had been waiting for the right time to broach the subject and here it was, staring her in the face.

"I’m getting married……..on Saturday."

Jenny stared blankly at Catherine, words forming on her lips but struggling to be pronounced

"W…when did this happen, I didn’t know you were seeing anybody."

"I’ve been seeing somebody for the last 3 years." she replied

"What????"

Catherine smiled, this was going to be interesting. She and Vincent had spoken to Father about the Joining ceremony and Catherine‘s request to have just one friend present. Eventually Father had agreed to Catherine’s request and here she was, with Jenny sitting in front of her, ready to tell her wondrous three year story.

And so it was with a deep breath that Catherine recalled the night over three years ago, when her world fell apart and how she built a new one filled with trust, hope and love. She spoke now about her ‘lost days’, being cared for and returned to the life Above, the special community Below she had been taken to and the person that had rescued her.

"Oh Catherine, he sounds just perfect. When can I meet him? Can we meet for lunch tomorrow?"

Catherine sighed "Vincent lives Below because he is not like any other, if he were to be seen Above I would shudder to think what would happen to him." Catherine continued to talk about Vincent and slowly Jenny understood.

"So! Do I get to come to the wedding then?"

"Yes, Jen. I would like you to be at our Joining."

"Fabulous!! Do you have a dress? What about flowers? Shoes? Bridesmaids?"

Catherine had been for the final fitting for her dress that day and she described it in every detail to Jenny. They talked long into the night, but at the thought of work the following day, they decided to call it a night. Before she left, Jenny had promised to leave work early on Friday and head to Catherine’s, where they would descend into the mystical world Below, ready for the Joining on Saturday.

***

In the tunnels Below Vincent sat in Father’s chamber.

"I just don’t know what is happening, Father. A month ago I could feel Catherine as I could myself, our bond was stronger than ever… but now…. now I feel a distance has come between us."

"I’m so sorry Vincent." Said Father solemnly. "I will be honest with you though. When you told me you and Catherine were to be joined, I had my misgivings."

"I know Father, but I love her and she is my life. I fear that if I were to never see her again, I would wither and die like a rose without water."

"Have you spoken to Catherine about your bond?"

"She is aware."

"But you have not spoken about this with her, why?"

"Father, I sense another. I sense Catherine’s love for another. She hasn’t mentioned anybody but I sense her love is divided."

"Oh Vincent, I am sorry."

Their discussion lasted long into the night and when, at least, Vincent left Father’s chamber, it was with a heavy heart that Father decided to do what he thought best.

***

"Hey, Radcliff!" called Joe as she walked by his office. "Where have you been all day?"

"I’ve been taking depositions for the Jones case, and any how it’s only 2 pm, why?"

"There’s a man waiting for you in the board room. He’s insisted on waiting for you. He said he would only speak to you. He wouldn’t give his name."

"Oh," replied Catherine, raising an eyebrow. "I guess I’d better go find out what he wants then."

Catherine paused outside the door to the board room and took a deep breath. This was just what she didn’t want this afternoon. She opened the door.

"Father!"

"Hello, Catherine."

"Father, what’s wrong, is Vincent ok?"

"Yes, he is fine… well actually, no he isn’t. Is there somewhere we could talk, privately?"

They found a quiet corner in a local diner and ordered coffee. Father looked around him, taking in the sights he had not seen in so long. He rarely came Above these days, preferring to see out the rest of his days Below with the people he cared about and who cared about him. The waitress brought their coffee. Father, taking a sip, studied Catherine over the top of his cup.

"Father what it this about, would you please tell me!" she implored.

"I have to ask you. Are you in love with another man?"

Catherine looked completed aghast at the question. He saw the pain in her eyes as she struggled to comprehend the question.

"Father, I love Vincent and Vincent alone! Why do you ask?"

"Vincent tells me that the bond you two share has changed. He says that he feels your love for another." The horror he saw in Catherine’s face slowly mellowed and changed into something…it was a look he had seen before…and then he realised.

"Catherine, are you….?"

"Yes." she interrupted "I am."

Father sat back in his chair astounded at the revelation. He had come Above today expecting to give Catherine a piece of his mind. How could she do this, to Vincent, to his son? It was bad enough that they had had this ‘relationship’ for so long, but then this idea of the Joining, it was simply preposterous. But this…. this changed everything. Sitting forward and lowering his voice he asked "How long have you known? When are you planning to talk to Vincent?"

Catherine sighed, this wasn’t what she had had in mind. "I found out on Monday when I went to see Peter. I had planned on coming Below this evening to talk to Vincent as I know how worried he’s been, but I just cannot think of a way to tell him."

Father’s expression changed. For the first time, he really saw Catherine for who she was. He saw the woman that his son loved, and now she was going to be his wife and a mother to his children. His eyes softened and with a welcome acceptance he spoke "Catherine, I am sorry, I should have known better. I just see Vincent in such pain and it frightens me. It reminds me of all the dark times, all the shadows that have cast themselves over his life. I just want what is best for him. He is my son."

"Yes Father I understand, but he must be allowed to live, to experience…to love and to be loved."

Father thought, yes he could see now why Vincent loved Catherine, and it was with a warm heart full of love that he spoke,

"Catherine, I look forward to welcoming you into our lives on Saturday, but please, speak to Vincent tonight!"

"I will."

Father rose and picked up his hat, said goodbye, and left the diner. Outside, rain had started to fall as he once more headed Below.

***

Vincent was sitting in his chamber, consumed with his thoughts. He was supposed to be Joining with Catherine on Saturday but as on so many previous occasions, his doubts began to creep from the shadows. How could she love me, why did she love me, what kind of life would she have with me and indeed whether she would be better off with her new found love. He was so overwhelmed by his possessing thoughts that he didn’t notice Catherine enter his chamber. She had been standing in the entrance for several minutes just watching him, wondering just how she was going to tell him. Catherine could see that several of the candles had long since expired and only a dim glow remained. She could see Vincent sitting in his high backed leather chair, silhouetted against the arched window.

"Vincent."

"Catherine! What are you doing here? I…I didn’t feel your approach." He looked ashamed that he had not felt her near.

"I wanted to talk to you…." She had decided whilst dawdling in the entrance to his chamber that she would just get straight and to the point about our bond."

Vincent moved uneasily. He felt uncomfortable and was really not sure he was ready to have a conversation about their bond just yet.

Catherine moved to kneel in front of Vincent, So near, yet so far, once again, she thought. Aloud, she continued "Vincent, I know why our bond is different."

"Catherine, please, I don’t want to talk about this, not now."

"Well, I do, so we are going to."

Vincent, taken aback by the tone and bluntness in her voice, felt that he had no option but to yield. "Very well." and he sighed.

"Vincent, our bond has changed because there is another," she paused, "There is a child, our child." She looked at him, imploring him to listen, to understand that the love she felt for another, was for the child she was carrying, their child.

"A child?" whispered Vincent, shocked.

"Yes, a child." Catherine could see the pain and anguish falling away, only to be replaced by panic.

"But how can this be? Are you well? You aren’t hurt, are you."

"No Vincent, I am quite well and there is nothing wrong, other than not having seen you for three whole days."

Slowly as his comprehension grew, she could see his eyes soften and his face return to the loving face she knew so well. He took her in his arms from where she had been kneeling at his feet and embraced her with all that he was, all that he had to offer, the doubts and shadows in his life, once again banished from his thoughts.

Unbeknown to them, they had not been alone. Father, worried about Vincent, had gone to his chamber and had found them. Father smiled, grateful that Catherine had visited and spoken with Vincent. From the shadows where he stood, he had heard most of their conversation and became witness to their loving embrace. He retreated, with just a little sadness in his heart.

***

Friday came all too quickly for those Below. Preparations for Vincent and Catherine’s Joining were in full swing, despite their initial wishes for a small, intimate ceremony in Fathers’ study. William, was fussing continuously over the banquet he was preparing, thankful that Catherine and the helpers had gone to great lengths to ensure he had more than ample raw ingredients. Mary had prepared one of the guest chambers with twin beds in it for Catherine and Jenny, airing the beds and laying out fresh towels. Vincent was busy in the Great Hall organising furniture with Mouse, whilst others decorated the hall. Father had buried himself deep in the shelves of his library searching for something special, a poem or verse he could use at the Joining tomorrow. Ever since his conversation with Catherine he had felt guilty. He had finally realised that although he hadn’t been unkind to her these three years, he hadn’t exactly been hospitable either. He would be conducting the Joining ceremony tomorrow and he wanted to do the best for his son and his very soon to be daughter. He secretly hoped that he could go some way to making amends.

As evening descended, Vincent was ushered back to his chamber so there was no chance of him meeting Catherine in one of the tunnels, and as planned she and Jenny descended Below. She was welcomed at the threshold by Jamie, who assisted them with their luggage and escorted them to the guest chamber. Catherine was glad to be returning to the tunnels but for Jenny, the experience was quite new. From the descriptions and explanations Catherine had given, Jenny knew what to expect, but even so, she wondered how she could have lived in New York all this time and not know about the people Below.

"Would you like me to help you unpack, Catherine?" Jamie asked

"No thank you Jamie, Jenny and I will manage."

"Ok, I’ll bring you supper when it is ready and I’ll keep popping back to make sure there is nothing you need."

"Thank you."

Jamie turned to leave the chamber, but Catherine called after her "Jamie, could you let Vincent know we are here and ask him to come and see us."

"I’m sorry" said Jamie "but Vincent isn’t allowed to come and see you this evening, it’s unlucky for him to see his bride on the eve of their Joining," seeing the disappointment in Catherine’s eyes, she added "but I could give him a message for you when I take him his meals."

"Please, just tell him I am here, thank you."

"No problem, I’ll see you later." and Jamie once again turned and headed out of the chamber.

***

Vincent, so desperately wanting to see Catherine, had paced back and forth in his chamber. This was ridiculous Catherine was so near, yet so far. How could he possibly sleep here, in his chamber tonight, knowing that she was so close and he hadn’t seen her. He’d had had a constant stream of well wishers through his chamber during the evening, and each had told him how radiant Catherine looked, though he was sure nobody knew that Catherine was with child - they had decided not to tell anybody for now, it would be their secret, just for a little while.

Mouse broke Vincent’s thoughts "Vincent?"

"Yes, Mouse."

"Mouse is happy for you. Happy that you found a love."

"Thank you, Mouse. Have you seen Catherine?"

"No."

"Do you know which chamber she is sleeping in tonight?"

"Yes, but Mouse cannot say." Mouse replied, becoming uncomfortable with Vincent’s questioning.

Vincent chuckled "I have been forbidden to see Catherine this evening, would you take a note to her for me."

.But Mouse isn’t supposed to…"

"Please, Mouse" continued Vincent imploringly

Mouse gave in. It was not very often Vincent asked for anything "Ok good, Ok fine."

Vincent scribbled his note to Catherine and handed it to Mouse. "Thank you, Mouse."

***

Catherine and Jenny had talked all evening and into the night. They had had their fair share of visitors and well wishers also, including Father much to Catherine’s surprise.

Her dress hung from the wardrobe, though thankfully it had been obscured from the eyes of well wishers by its cover. As Catherine and Jenny decided to call it a night, Mouse called ,"Catherine," from the entrance of their Chamber.

"Yes, Mouse, you can come in."

Mouse appeared in the doorway. "This is for you!" he handed her the note and shyly retreated back into the tunnel.

"Thank you, Mouse" she called after him.

Catherine opened the note where she stood, recognising the handwriting immediately. It read:

My dear Catherine,

How I long to be with you,

Until tomorrow,

Vincent

"What does it say." asked Jenny

Catherine turned to Jenny with stars in her eyes and passed her the note

"Oh, how wonderful Cathy, he must be a special guy to catch your heart."

"He is."

***

Saturday morning came, activity within the tunnels had reached fever pitch with the excitement of the Joining. Catherine and Jenny had woken as Jamie brought breakfast into the guest chamber, informing them that after breakfast she would escort them to the bathing chambers, having been given strict instructions not to leave them and not to let Catherine and Vincent meet in the tunnels. As a result, Vincent had also been allocated a chaperon and through the pipe system, each chaperon was able to communicate, preventing a surprise meeting. Catherine and Jenny had been led to and from the bathing chamber after their breakfast, shortly after which, Vincent had arrived with his chaperone. They had each returned to their relative chambers, unaware of the complex system in place to ensure traditions were being met.

In the rest of the tunnels the atmosphere was not so peaceful. In the kitchen, William was rather red in the face, worried that his cooking just wouldn’t do the occasion justice, having just yelled at two of the apprentice cooks. Mary was in the Great Hall putting touches to the last of the decorations worried that things just didn’t look quite right. Baskets of candles had been placed at the Hall entrance enabling every guest to collect one as they entered. The candles had been made lovingly by Rebecca, their resident candle maker. Each ivory tapered candle had been embellished with an overlying red and white rose. The tapestries still hung in the Great Hall as they always had but the stair rails had been decorated with ivory festoons and every so often red and white roses had been intertwined. Several large candle chandeliers were in place with new candles in them, waiting to be lit. Finally, at the top of the Hall where they were to be joined, stood two very large red and white rose flower arrangements, on antique stands.

In his study, Father was unable to contain his nervousness and one may have been able to detect he had more nerves than the bride to be. He paced back and forth until, at last, he decided to visit Vincent and give support to his son.

Vincent was in has chamber. He had been long since dressed, ready for the Joining ceremony. He had donned his dress trousers and waistcoat, both made of black velvet, his high tying dress shirt and black boots. In addition and as always, he wore the soft leather pouch around his neck containing the rose Catherine gave him on their first anniversary. As Father entered, Vincent looked up from the book he was reading.

"How can you be so calm, Vincent?"

"Father, I am imprisoned in my chamber. I cannot check on progress in the Great Hall and I cannot roam the tunnels, so I have to pass the time somehow." Vincent smiled; Father had become, once more, the nervous parent.

Out in the distant tunnels, helpers had begun to arrive. Over the years, Catherine had met several of the helpers at Winterfest and during times of great threat to the tunnel community. Most had contributed to the occasion by donating food, gifts and their time. As each arrived they too were met by volunteers and escorted down to the Great Hall.

And finally, in the Guest Chamber, all was tranquil. Catherine and Jenny had, by comparison, had a very lazy morning. They had bathed, talked and slowly Catherine had got ready. First her hair had been curled and pinned up, allowing loose curls to flow around her neck. Into her pinned up hair, Jenny had added florets of white roses. Her gown was a plain heavily woven satin dress. It was full length with a figure hugging bodice and sleeves, fully flared skirt and square neck. The skirt, sleeves and neck had been hemmed with the tiniest of pearls. In her hands, she carried a single red rose and at her throat she wore the crystal necklace given to her by Vincent over two years ago.

"Cathy, you look stunning," Jenny had proclaimed. "How do you feel?"

"I feel that…… my life is just beginning and I have not yet understood how wonderful it is going to be."

"Are you ready?"

"Yes."

Jamie, changed and now in her ’best’ tunnel clothes, was waiting anxiously outside the chamber. As Catherine exited, assisted by Jenny, Jamie stared in awe "You look beautiful!"

"Thank you, Jamie." As they prepared to leave the chamber, Jamie announced through the pipes that they were on their way.

The last of the guests were ushered into the Great Hall and at the far end stood Mouse with a nervous Vincent and an even more nervous Father.

Father turning to Vincent asked "How do you feel? Are you nervous?"

"I feel like a new born child, with a whole life to look forward to, Father."

Father smiled happily, hoping the future would be kind to his son.

***

Catherine stood facing the closed doors to the Great Hall, looking radiant. In her heart, she could feel the love she had for Vincent and the child she carried and bursting with hopes and dreams for a future she was yet to meet.

As if on cue, the doors to the Great Hall swung open with a clunk, announcing her arrival. As she peered in she saw all the people she had grown to love and respect, tunnel dwellers and helpers alike, each one holding a single burning candle. Slowly, the gathering parted and she saw Vincent walking towards her. How beautiful he looked, how he took her breath away with his long flowing golden mane. The love in his eyes permeating every cell in her body, melting her heart like she had never known before. Coming to a halt, smiling and taking her hand he spoke

"Can I lead you though the dark?"

"There is no darkness, Vincent, when you are with me."

He turned and together they walked into the Great Hall, tracing the steps he had just taken.

"You look radiant, Catherine." he whispered into her ear

"You look wonderful yourself." and she smiled, her ever loving, never faltering smile.

Having heard several Ohhhhhh’s and Ahhhhh’s as they walked, they came to a halt just in front of where Father was standing. The path that had been created for them slow vanishing, surrounding them with love and warmth, the dancing light from the candles casting shadows on the walls creating a glow.

In front of their friends and family, who had gathered to celebrate their love, they proclaimed what they meant to each other. Catherine spoke about how her life had changed, how she had come to appreciate the gift of life and how Vincent had given her the strength to allow her to take paths she never would have considered before. Vincent spoke about how he only ever lived through poetry and literature, how he never thought it was possible to have what he has now and how, because he had known years without a love, it made him all the more thankful now. Together, they spoke about the trust, love and hope they held for the future, a future they would face together, as one.

Father stood looking down on Vincent and Catherine awed at what he saw they stood for. He saw a whole community before him, some of which had travelled for days from their further most reaching tunnels, gathered to see the day his son became a husband. And in this community, he saw a single, united thought…hope.

Before Father declared Catherine and Vincent husband and wife he asked for a little indulgence.

"Catherine, Vincent, I would like to dedicate to this poem (2) to you for you have both come so far, and I suspect, it was written for you" Father began to read:

"A magic moment I remember:

I raised my eyes and you were there.

A fleeting vision, the quintessence

Of all that's beautiful and rare.

I pray to mute despair and anguish

To vain pursuits the world esteems,

Long did I near your soothing accents,

Long did your features haunt my dreams.

Time passed- A rebel storm-blast scattered

The reveries that once were mine

And I forgot your soothing accents,

Your features gracefully divine.

In dark days of enforced retirement

I gazed upon grey skies above

With no ideals to inspire me,

No one to cry for, live for, love.

Then came a moment of renaissance,

I looked up- you again are there,

A fleeting vision, the quintessence

Of all that`s beautiful and rare."

Vincent and Catherine became husband and wife. The community laughed, ate and drank for many hours after dark. There were party games, music and dancing. Vincent and Catherine danced all night, with eyes only for each other. They were oblivious to the comments of admiring spectators and the games played by children.

Slowly, one by one, two by two people retired to their chambers and Helpers were escorted Above. As the musicians retired also and the light from spent candles diminished. Mr and Mrs Vincent Wells continued to dance. On the wall of the Great Hall, their shadows could be seen, dancing in time with them. Becoming aware of their aloneness Catherine stopped dancing, she looked around and said,

"Can you hear it… Vincent? Listen, you can hear it if you try… the music."

"Yes, I hear it."

 

 

(1) Noyes, A. The Highway man

(2) Pushkin, A. A Magic Moment I Remember

 

The Highwayman (unabridged) by Alfred Noyes

The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
Riding--riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.

He'd a French cocked hat on his forehead, and a bunch of lace at his chin;
He'd a coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of fine doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to his thigh!
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle--
His rapier hilt a-twinkle--
His pistol butts a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred,
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.

Dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim, the ostler listened--his face was white and peaked--
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter--
The landlord's black-eyed daughter;
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say:

"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 stood upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the sweet black waves of perfume came tumbling o'er his breast,
Then he kissed its waves in the moonlight
(O sweet black waves in the moonlight!),
And he tugged at his reins in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon.
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon over the purple moor,
The redcoat troops came marching--
Marching--marching--
King George's men came marching, 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 bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets by their side;
There was Death at every window,
And Hell at one dark window,
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had bound her up at attention, with many a sniggering jest!
They had tied a rifle beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her. She heard the dead man say,
"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 like years,
Till, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it, she strove no more for the rest;
Up, she stood up at attention, with the barrel beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing, she would not strive again,
For the road lay bare in the moonlight,
Blank and bare in the moonlight,
And the blood in her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot tlot, tlot tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hooves, ringing clear;
Tlot tlot, tlot tlot, in the distance! Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding--
Riding--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 who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the casement, drenched in her own red blood!
Not till the dawn did he hear 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 there.

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 coat
When they shot him down in the highway,
Down like a dog in the highway,
And he lay in his blood in the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

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 gypsy's ribbon looping the purple moor,
The highwayman comes riding--
Riding--riding--
The highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.


Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard,
He taps with his whip on the 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.