Forgive me for throwing the plot of my story off kilter, but I haven't made much progress with the story as it stands and so wrote this section, which occurs later on in the novel. It's based on a verse from the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes that goes as such:

"Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,

And 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.

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,

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.""

It is based loosely on this, of course, but it is where I drew my inspiration. Enjoy.

P.S. This is very much something that I want to be responded to. I'm not asking for glowing reviews. I want honestly critical opinions on this bit of my story so I can fix them and make it better. Also, I will your stories in return. And if you don't have a million of them, I'll probably read and respond to them all. :)

Elizabeth yawned and burrowed deeper beneath her blankets. The warmth she drew from them was a relief in and of its own. Everything was silent. Even the slight murmur of voices from the next room had ceased. The inn slept.

Suddenly, there was a change in the night's so recently acquired calm. The silence was broken. Sitting up in bed, Elizabeth listened intently to the new sound: it was a tapping. Brief spells of it, and then nothing, and then more tapping. Someone outside was knocking on the closed shutters. Apprehensive, Elizabeth slid out from under her covers and onto the cold floor. She rose onto tiptoes to protect her feet from the icy wood.

Her gown, thrown over a chair back, was retrieved and donned, as were the thin slippers she left below her bed. She tiptoed to the window.

Outside was completely black. The storm from earlier had left its clouds to mask the moon and stars, so no light was at hand to show the ground below.

Easing open the window, Elizabeth leaned into the night. It was cold out. It was wet and cold and windy and she nearly considered returning to the warmth of her bed and forgetting the nameless traveler tapping at the inn's windows. But she could not. It was the middle of the night and so miserable out that no sensible person would possibly brave being outdoors. She had to know who it was. She was eager to discover who was behind this midnight disturbance.

As she pulled her gown tighter about her and shrank back into the room to wait, she listened as the tapping drew nearer. Now she could see a light.

It was faint, just a glow on the path, and it was bobbing and stopping along with the taps. She waited. The light grew and the tapping neared ever closer until it was finally to the edge of the building. In a second, the faint glow burst into solid flame held aloft on a candle, the candle held aloft by a man whose face Elizabeth could not quite make out. She trusted her position and the darkness still surrounding the rest of the building to hide her from his attention.

Tap tap. He tapped with his riding whip on the shutters, pausing after each one as if hoping it would be opened to him. None were.

Then his face came into focus. As he stepped up to a window three away from the one below Elizabeth's, he raised the candle just high enough so as to illuminate all of his features. He had a small nose and thick, black eyebrows. The hat he wore was brown, gold rimmed, and three pointed. Lace spouted at the neck of his velvet coat.

Elizabeth pulled back suddenly, recognizing the thief and hoping his light had not fallen upon her. For a moment, everything was silent. The tapping had stopped. Then a call came from below.

"Hogan?" He was directly below her window now. He had seen the flurry of movement as she hid herself. "Miss Hogan?"

Elizabeth considered. If she simply shut the window and climbed back into bed as though nothing had happened, she could sleep until the morning and then wake to think this all a dream. Alternately, she feared that, should she do this, he would call to her even louder and wake the rest of the building.

She stepped up to the window.

The thief was now holding the candle higher to light further up the wall than he had originally needed to. Its glow fell on Elizabeth's face as she leaned out to him.

"Goodnight," she said, holding herself tightly against the cold.

"Goodnight, miss," the thief bowed curtly as he replied.

Elizabeth felt a shiver run through her as the wind picked up. "It's the middle of the night, sir. What are you doing knocking on our windows?"

He gave a brief smile. "I was just seeing who was here."

"It's an inn, sir," retorted Elizabeth tersely. "The rooms are full. Everyone's here." And she added on a second thought, "And everyone's asleep."

"Sorry to hear it."

"Please keep your voice down, sir, or I will go back to bed and leave you to continue your tapping."

The thief nodded, his eyes flicking back to her, lit and dancing with the flame he held. He smiled.

"Is there something I can help you with?" Elizabeth asked, flustered by his sudden malevolent grin.

"You can," he took a step towards the wall, his heels clicking on the path. "I have a proposition for you, Miss Hogan."

Elizabeth waited, unnerved.

He continued. "Tonight, several miles from here, there is a family traveling towards us in a carriage that is to carry them through to Longford. With them, there are a husband, wife, and son." He paused. "They are carrying a substantial amount of gold."

"Please, don't," Elizabeth started, cut short before she could argue any further.

"It shouldn't take long," the thief went on, seeming not to notice her distress. "If everything goes well, I shall be back before morning. If anything goes wrong, I shall be back tomorrow night. Either way, I shall be back for you. And we'll be rich."

Opening her mouth to begin her protest anew, Elizabeth quickly shut it again. He was smiling up at her, his eyes glinting brighter than before. She frowned.

"I hope you're not implying I take part in this escapade of yours," Elizabeth was growing cold with the wind and invitation of a thief.

He smiled, raising up on his toes and falling back down jovially. "Of course I am. A friendless thief cannot live on such riches alone."

"You are being far too forward, sir. If you cannot be civil, which I seriously doubt, then I shall say goodnight and pray they I never meet you again," Elizabeth watched for some flicker of anger or irritation in the thief's expression, but saw none. He simply smiled and held his hat to her in a grand salute.

"Goodnight, m'lady," he nodded with a flourish, "I shall see you in the morning."

She grabbed the window pane with clenched fists and leaned further out to him. "You will not!" But he had blown out his candle and disappeared again into the night.

There were sounds of movement from the window next to her and then the slamming closed of a shutter. They had been overheard.

Everything was silent once more.