Lizzie was grateful when the need for a luncheon became apparent and the two reined in a small country inn. The ride all morning had been noted for Tilney's unusual silence and lack of good humor. He appeared to be deep in thought and answered Lizzie's few conversational gambits with little more than a grunt.
They handed over their reins to the groomsmen and stepped into the cool comfort of the inn. It was a pleasant place of thick oak posts and lace-curtained windows. The landlord lead the two of them to a small table in the corner from which they might glimpse the other folk filling the dining room that day.
There were two young ladies sitting quietly with an older woman, perhaps their mother. To the right, an elderly pair of men sat munching cheese and bread without a word to one another. A table of four held a lively pair of couples, chatting with animation and laughing frequently at one another's comments. It gave the room a fond cheery feel Lizzie thought.
Tilney's thoughts clearly headed in another direction as he reflected misanthropically on the folks gathered there. "Honestly, Bennett, look around us. What a sad reflection of the horrors of modern life."
"Lud, Tilney. What are you talking about? I see nothing but a pleasant gathering of friendly folk. What could be cheerier?"
"Bennett, you are far too kind and trusting," Tilney snorted. "You look, but you do not see."
Tilney nodded his head toward the table with the two young women and their guardian. "What does that table suggest to you?"
"Two young ladies, friends or sisters, under the careful watch of their mother or some such relative," Lizzie said feeling a little puzzled by the hint of venom in his tone.
"Not at all," Tilney said, a coldness creeping into his voice. "Two young jackdaws in training with a senior member for advice on the craft."
Lizzie laughed, a little too soprano at first, coughing to deepen it to a contralto. "Tilney, you can't be serious. They look like nice country girls and their mother, or chaperone, looks kindly if dull."
"Bennett," Tilney chided with a shadow of his usual humor, "You ignore the details. Every aspect of their simple frocks has been designed to tempt the masculine gaze, to leave us besotted with their beauty. They are, in short, snares. Hook our eyes and our purses are not far behind."
"Ah, disappointed love has ruined your perspective, my friend. Do you not think girls dress to please themselves? They do tend to delight in the little touches of silk and lace that we often ignore. Who gives a hang about types of muslin but women? Is none of it for their own pleasure?"
Tilney waved away the suggestion. "Snares for us, Bennett, and nothing more. We shall end up like those two broken hearted old men over there," indicating the two elder gentlemen.
"Now, now," Lizzie said, stranded somewhere between exasperation and amusement, "Who's to say they're broken hearted? Perhaps they are merely enjoying the comfort of an understanding silence. They have known each other for decades and are perfectly content to share the fellowship of happy memories."
"You are far too optimistic," Tilney grumbled, reaching for a piece of bread which he buttered with far too much force.