It was early yet, but there were those here and there who stirred. Here and there, a carter hitched up his horses and a landlady opened her shutters as her meat pies baked. The smell so bewitched Lizzie's nose that she thought for a moment she might simply swoon away with the delicious aroma of that simple meal. As she slipped along the quiet streets, Lizzie pondered the relative requirements of morality and hunger. While she was not one to pay close attention to the vicar's advice on most Sundays, Lizzie had the same moral compass as most girls her age had.
Trained by novels sentimental and gothic, Lizzie knew that rules were rules, but also that rules could bend when circumstances called for it and the heroine were sufficiently in need. If she found herself in a strange country, far from home and without succor, it was perfectly understandable that a heroine might find herself taking part in activities or going places where a young woman might not be expected to wander alone.
Without realizing it, Lizzie had turned her steps toward the public house from which rose the enchanting scent of baked meats. A more seasoned observer might have guessed that Lizzie already planned to partake of the food one way or another, seeing her singular focus and the way she licked her lips as she slipped along between the sparse buildings in the dawn light. Our heroine herself, however, still sought to find thoughts reconciling her to thievery in the pages of the many novels she had read. It was unfortunate that the tome which rose to the top of her consciousness happened to be Miss Fielding's instructive volume of school girls and their governess. Miss Fielding's heroine would not allow such a thing as she was contemplating; no, her self-denying good girls would sooner starve than steal.
The kitchen window was in sight now. Lizzie could feel the marvelous scent assaulting her like an unseen mist. Now she knew how the dogs outside the butcher's shop on the high street felt. It would have been quite undignified to have her tongue hanging out, but Lizzie had never felt quite as hungry as she did then. It was with a start that she recalled her last meal aboard the Bonny Read. It gave her a disconcerting moment of confusion. None of it seemed real.
Alice, sweet Alice! Where could she be? Alone! Lost! Worse than that, she could not allow herself to go. Her head seemed to fill with a grey fog and she froze halfway across the alley, uncertain. Just then the rising sun hit her with a shaft of light and Lizzie swallowed as best she could with her dry mouth.
I shall think about this later, Lizzie told herself as resolutely as any of Miss Radcliffe's heroines. She drew in a deep breath and plunged across the road, intent upon the pies just beyond the window. She flattened herself against the wall of the public house and listened for a moment. All seemed quiet enough and she was about to dart a hand in when a loud voice startled her.
"Boy! Come here!"