The rider sprang off as light as a cat and pulled the reins over the horse's head. Then he marched straight over to me and put them into my hand.
"Hold the mare for me, lad. And when I come back, I'll give you a golden guinea."
A dark stranger leaves his magnificent horse in the care of a boy he's never met. As dusk falls, others offer to pay the boy handsomely for the animal. Then soldiers arrive, demanding to know where the horse's owner has gone.
Could the stranger be the notorious Dick Turpin, known for his daring holdups and amazing exploits? Is the horse the legendary Black Bess? And will the boy ever see the reward he's been promised?
There's mischief in the air, but it isn't entirely clear who's causing it.
A young beggar recalls the momentous night he happened to be in the right place when a stranger galloped into town, promising a gold coin if the boy would watch his horse until he returned. The unnamed narrator has his loyalty tested repeatedly as passersby can't help being intrigued by the incongruous pair barefoot urchin and glorious steed ( I had never in my life been offered so much money by so many people, and yet I still hadn't seen a penny of it ). Finally, the king's men arrive, announcing that the horse, Black Bess, belongs to the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin. Now what? Staying with the horse will surely lead to Turpin's arrest. Thompson (The New Policeman) frames the story as a sale after Turpin is arrested elsewhere, the boy tries to sell the horse and in doing so, she introduces a host of ambiguities. Was the boy as true to Turpin as he said? Is the horse really Black Bess? It's a suspenseful and tautly written story as is, and Thompson's sly twist makes it all the richer. Ages 10 up.