Vestis virum reddit, Lizzie thought as she wiped the water from her chin after gulping a healthy amount of water from the well. Although its dark shape had alarmed her initially, she was grateful for its cool, restorative waters. She was nervous of lingering long by the group of cottages, but Lizzie was reluctant to leave the well behind immediately. It had been too long since she had drunk so deeply of fresh water.
Where would she go anyway, Lizzie reminded herself. She peered in the midnight dark toward the lane that led right up to the well. Many a cart had traveled this way; no doubt the fishermen had carried their catch to market daily. They would head out long before dawn, surely.
Strangely, she had no desire to be noticed. While at first Lizzie had longed to knock on a cottage door and be welcomed into the friendly warmth of a nearby hearth. Caution had checked her wish then, but what about now? Surely she could risk meeting others in her guise as a young man, hair carefully pulled back, pants attesting to her stature as a man.
But Lizzie found herself desiring instead to strike out on this unknown lane and see what she might encounter along its curves. She had already begun to consider what her name might be in this masquerade. George, surely, seemed the most suitable name for some reason that she could not quite recall. Lizzie had considered Cesario, but discarded it as far too romantic a notion. After all, there would be no likelihood of meeting a Duke Orsino, as she already had a nobleman’s heart (although she felt a stab of pain remembering the state of the King of Naples’ letter and hoping that once dry it would still be legible). She would keep the Bennett surname, as it might prove useful.
With one further deep drink from the well, “George” set out on the lane heading away from the sea. If only I had some boots, Lizzie tutted, but if wishes were horses -- well, there she was. In time, no doubt, her feet would become accustomed to the rough life of the traveler. No doubt there would be much to get used to in this new life, Lizzie thought as she jumped at a strange sound, only to realize it was an owl hooting on her late night hunt.
I am alone, thought Lizzie. This thought had terrified her on the wide ocean’s waves, but now she regarded it with a strange sense of wonder. Had she ever been truly alone in her life until this singular voyage? She had certainly felt bereft when her parents had died, suddenly plunged into the position of poor relation and lonely orphan. Lizzie had been at an awkward age: not quite old enough to be on her own, yet not young enough to be the fawning child who might make new parents love her as their own. Admittedly, Alice’s parents were hardly the warm home of tender novels. The peculiar and nearly silent Lord Mangrove frightened her at first, as did Lady Mangrove with her sudden passions and constant wrangling with Lord Mangrove. Alice was sweet enough -- if only she could manage to interest her in books without pictures!
Ah, Alice, Lizzie thought with a sudden stab of longing -- where are you now?