"Lawks!" Mr. Tilney exclaimed for the umpteenth time, "Such adventures you had with the pirates. I should never have guessed a slight lad such as you to have had the stomach for such goings on."
"Indeed," Lizzie said with some umbrage on behalf of her seized alter ego George Bennett, though she tried to contain her nettled tone, "The size of them man is seldom any indication of character. I have known great men who quailed at the sight of a tiny mouse."
"Now, now, don’t kick up a fuss, Bennett. It's no reflection on fine lad as yourself to say the one finds amazement in all you have accomplished at such a tender age. Duly impressed, that I am."
Lizzie felt her self flush with pride, which her lively bay gelding seemed to sense and picked up his gait a little. They were riding along the eastward road and it was a gorgeous day, perfect for riding in that it was not too hot and the cool breeze from the sea was at their backs. It seemed ages since Lizzie had been on horseback -- how strange an effect kidnapping had on one's life!
There was the inconvenience and horror of the kidnapping itself, but at this moment, Lizzie would not have traded the sequence of events for the world. Their life on board Black Ethel's ship was certainly extraordinary enough, but here she found herself on the road to Italy and while her bay was not quite the fine stepper that Tilney's chestnut Darcy was, he was certainly a strong mount and a joy to bridle.
Tilney himself w as a bit of a puzzle. He maintained such an air of casual decadence with his perpetual cant and his lazy drawl, but those bewitching hazel eyes had a curious habit of probing deftly while his mouth produced a indolent smile. Lizzie knew she had to be on her guard with such a clever clogs. She even suspected once or twice that he had seen through her disguise, but as his behavior betrayed nothing of the sort, she decided that it must be a mistaken worry on her part. It was not so difficult after all, masquerading as a man. She chuckled to herself to think that things would be entirely different in the opposite direction -- what man could master the intricacies of the life of the fairer sex, where myriad strictures demanded an even greater plethora of subterfuges to circumnavigate their bindings. Lizzie chuckled to herself to think with admiration of the innumerable creativities of women.
"What are you thinking about, Bennett, that give you such a saucy grin?" Tinley asked, reining in his chestnut momentarily.
"Women," Lizzie said, the ambiguity of her thoughts and Tilney's appreciation merging in an unexpected frisson.
"Ah, Bennet, will you never learn?" The normally sunny disposition of her partner clouded briefly, Lizzie realized. "Women are treacherous, untruthful and deceiving. You should learn better and be forewarned."
Lizzie gazed with frank curiosity at her companion. "Mr. Tilney --" she began, but with an audible grumble from that target, remembered that she was not to address her pal so formally. "Sorry, Tilney, just used to the demands of pirates. But as Black Ethel herself would no doubt argue, women are no more inclined naturally to vice than men."
"You seem to have unusually strong feelings on the subject, Bennett," Tilney said at last with a hearteningly sober tone.
"When you have traveled with a pirate queen," Lizzie said thoughtfully, "You learn a lot about the worst of the lives of women."