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The Highwayman William Darby
Darby's career ended at the end of a rope. He was caught while drunk, in the bed of a prostitute. He was given a quick trial and hanged all in the span of a single hour. They hanged his horse also, just for spite.
Jack and I had heard the stories about William Darby, both the good and the bad ones. We had even heard reports of sightings of his ghost and that of his horse, riding the back roads, waving his saber looking for a coach to rob.
Jack and I were riding our bicycles back home from Navan. We had spent the day exploring the countryside and lost all track of time. It was late in the evening and we were close to home, only a few miles to go.
Jack stopped suddenly and pointed to the next hill, "Look there, what do ya make of that?"
Looking, I saw a dark horse, running at full speed. On it was a tall man, wearing a cape that billowed out behind him. His wide brimmed hat was pulled down over his eyes. As the rider came closer we could see that he wore a mask over the nose and mouth, leaving only the eyes to be seen.
The horse and rider came on at full gallop straight towards Jack and me.
Frozen in our tracks, unable to flee we watched the massive horse grow closer and closer, showing no sigh of slowing down or turning away.
We could see now that the horse was a raven black, it had bright yellow eyes. The Rider waving a saber over his head was shouting, "Stand and deliver you pups, stand and deliver!"
Just before the mighty horse would have trampled us into the dirt it stopped and reared up on its hind legs, snorting and his hot breath leaving a trail of vapor in the cool air.
When back on its four legs its rider
dismounted, he was a tall man with fire red eyes, large hands with long bony
fingers that had dagger-like fingernails at the end.
Jack and I spoke at once, "We don't have any money, sir."
With that he grabbed Jack and pulled him close, then looking at me said, "No money have ye? Well now we have a problem. How about I take this fine young lad's head instead, then I take yours too?" one of his long fingernails traced down Jack's cheek leaving a thin red mark to so its path. He then reached out and took hold of me, pulling me in next to Jack.
I noticed a thin dark line around the man's neck and saw that his head leaned a little crooked to one side.
"You like my little scar do ye? Just rope burns my boy, and see how my neck bends where the rope broke it when they strung me up."
"You're William Darby, aren't you," said Jack.
"Oh, you have heard of me have ye."
"We both have," I said, " you are famous around here."
"Famous you say! Well now isn't that something," he said with a huge smile.
"Oh yes sir, everyone around here has heard of the great William Darby. The bravest highwayman that ever was," Jack said.
"Really now," Darby said, "isn't that something. After all these years people still look up to me. I like you boys, I'm not going to kill you after all, besides if I did the fairies would have a fit and there would be holy hell to pay. They have this rule about killing children and such. Not that I would kill you anyway if I wanted to, you understand."
"Oh yes sir, we appreciate it too," I said with Jack nodding in agreement.
"Well, as long as you understand that," he said glaring at us.
Looking past us, he saw a sack tied around the handlebars of my bicycle.
"What be in the package?" he asked.
"What's left over from our lunch," Jack answered.
"Give it over," and he released us from his grip.
Jack retrieved the sack and handed it to Darby. He opened the sack, and sticking his nose into it he took a deep breath.
"Hmmm, food," he said softly. He then devoured the contents then the entire bag.
"Good, give me more" he demanded.
"That's all of it," said Jack, "we don't have any more."
Darby grabbed Jack, and pulled him close, "Now that's a pity, because I am still hungry." He then sniffed Jack's face saying, "You smell pretty tasty," with an evil grin.
"The fairies wouldn't like it if you ate us," I said with all the tone of defiance I could muster.
"Humm, yes, the damn fairies. Have I mentioned how much I hate the little creatures? They be nasty little things. Always butting in telling everyone what to do, never minding their own business. Oh sure, they look so cute, so sweet, but I warn ye, never turn you back on one. Then if ya do something to they don't like, they get the rotten leprechauns after ya, and believe me, they can make one's life hell."
He released us once again. Jack and I got our bicycles and slowly started to walk off, leaving him standing there still cursing the fairies. When we got out of sight, we got on our bicycles and rode like the wind all the way home.
People say that when the wind is blowing the right way, William Darby can be heard cursing the fairies and calling for food. Some say the fairies condemned him to forever stand on that spot, along with his horse, to be tormented by any fairies that may come along and forever calling for food.
Jack and I never went anywhere near that place again.
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