Sunday, February 17, 2008


As she trudged along the road, Lizzie -- or rather George, as she must now consider herself -- considered the likelihood of carrying out her masquerade. How did men behave in general, she quizzed herself, how were they likely to speak?

Lizzie put away the poetic lines of the King of Naples and tried to ponder more ordinary gentlemen. She kept herself to that class as Lizzie feared being unable to reproduce the noise and behavior of the lower classes with any accuracy. Besides, she realized, there was little to go on for that behavior. She called to mind the very strange Mr. Radley, who seemed to always be out in the garden planting carrots or deadly nightshade (the latter, he always said, had a grave purpose to safeguard the family, but Lizzie had never known of him actually employing the flowers in any kind of scheme; perhaps that was all for the best). There was also Mr. Bird, the butler, but he seemed to slip in and out of rooms without leaving behind so much as a shadow and thus offered little in the way of useful instruction.

The less said about Master Dick Spiggot the stablehand, the better.

So she was left with the examples of various affable young gentlemen like the persistent Arthur Boylett, whose conversation never failed to drive Lizzie to find someone more charming to talk to or a dance to join. She sighed as she walked along, remembering the pressure Alice had been facing to marry that very tedious young man. When he got going on the kings of England, a very dull night was promised for all. To hear him extrapolate on the true nature of Æthelred the ill-advised was to know the true meaning of infinitude and envy the unlettered people of hinterlands who might be spared the droning experience that Arthur’s stories offered.

The constantly changing swirl of young men who appeared at various house parties and assembly rooms offered little more help. They were dressed in like manner, they spoke in the same lazy tones and, unlike Arthur, mostly spoke about horses, complimenting this or that “beautiful stepper” or threatening to draw someone’s cork if their favorite hunter were not sufficiently praised.

What we need, Lizzie thought with a certain peevishness that might be forgiven in light of the early hour and her strenuous journey, is a better class of men.

I shall simply act as my self, she vowed. I will recall to keep my voice low, speak as little as possible and not offer any opinions. I may be thought a stupid young man, Lizzie scolded herself, but I will not be discovered as a woman. With that resolution, she picked up her pace, seeing the first outlying buildings of a small town coming into view with the dawning light.

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