“Hey! Stop right there!” The highwayman jumped down from the giant rock he had been standing on, landing before the wagon and startling the horses and beavers pulling it.
“Don’t hurt us! Please! Except for that guy, because he’s a masochist! But no one else!”
“Yes! Hurt me! I want you to!”
“No.” The masochist looked pleased and disappointed at the same time. The highwayman looked the wagon over. “What have we here?”
“Sir! Just some simple jewels, gold, silver, platinum, priceless paintings and other art, plus more food and drink than we could actually eat. And this is our seventh best wagon – the others are at our third and fourth palaces! I swear!”
“You sure you haven’t got a hovel? A squalorous hovel?”
“No! Please, I beg – don’t do anything rash! Especially not to the girl. She’s got most of our jewelry on right now!”
“I see topaz and garnet there! You’re lying!”
“No sir! It’s diamonds and pearls! And real gold and silver… er, and platinum chain!”
“I don’t believe you. Come here, lass! The rest of you lot, stay here!”
The girl screamed. The rest of her family watched helplessly as the highwayman took her down from the wagon and removed her shoes. The women cried and ripped their clothes. The men punched the sides of the wagon and shielded the children’s eyes from the scene. The children played on their Atari 2100s.
The highwayman took off the girl’s shoes and filled a small bowl with water. He lovingly washed her feet, kissing them with lavender oil before putting her shoes back on. He then forced her to take a bag of gold, 10 diamond-encrusted necklaces and two bracelets for every man, woman and child in the wagon. He also repaired a support strut, replaced a wobbly wheel, and put a new canopy on the wagon. Finally, he left them with 6 enormous black stallions to pull their wagon, which he gilded with gold and silver leaf. Yes. He gilded the black stallions. What?
“Let that be a lesson to you! Spread the word. Bill the Highwayman will give you more, fix you, clean you, repair you, gild you and send you off with all your hearts’ desires!”
The people were traumatized. They had worked so hard to get rid of all their valuables, and this was the last of them. The highwayman laughed evilly as he walked off in his ratty t-shirt and patched pants, no shoes, no underpants, unshaven, unwashed and dirty. It wasn’t fair. They would repay him one day. Damn him!