Tim the Ostler
Tim is definitely the third wheel on this weird date. He's an eavesdropper and, frankly, kind of freaky. He loves Bess, but she's already got a man, and we don't think she'd go for him even if she didn't. He's a strange presence in this poem, partly because he only shows up once. Still, the image of his strange, scary face doesn't go away fast, and he must be there for a reason. We can't say for sure, but we think you're supposed to assume that he rats out the highwayman. Maybe it's just revenge, maybe he hopes he can get with Bess once the highwayman is out of the picture. It doesn't work out.
- Line 21: Tim's appearance is described in a number of ways, but one of the most striking is the simile that compares his hair to moldy hay. That works well because Tim takes care of horses and probably spends a lot of time in the hay. At the same time, it just gives us a really clear image of his tousled, dirty-blond hair, and his lousy haircut. We bet the highwayman's hair is perfectly combed. Poor Tim, he doesn't stand a chance.