Sunday, August 03, 2008


Compared to the wine they had drunk with Black Ethel, this vin ordinaire seemed far rougher stuff, Lizzie thought to herself, not venturing to voice her opinion which Tilney would no doubt disparage with good natured humor. So she was surprised to hear him comment upon that very quality.

"Palatable, but not much more. Eh, Bennett?" Tilney said, his head held at a speculative angle. "In town this would be beneath my touch, but as we're in the country proper, I guess it will do." He poured a little more into each of their tumblers and grinned at Lizzie. "We'll get a little bosky and share the secrets of our amours."

"Oh, that wouldn’t really be sporting, now would it? I only asked for your advice in the broadest general terms, Tilney. No need to ramble through your conquests."

Tilney laughed. "No stories of you calf-loves, then? All right, I will share my secrets for success with the descendants of Aphrodite. Listen and learn, Bennett, and you will be a success with the pinkest of the pink when you return to our native land."
"Lawks, man, on with your advice then," Lizzie said, feeling emboldened by the wine's warm glow.

"The key," Tilney said with a knowing look, "is to flatter them of course."

"Well, yes, that works with everyone, men included," Lizzie interrupted.

"Ah, but you have to flatter women differently," Tilney insisted. "Men like to have their good qualities noticed. Girls on the other hand, need to have their imaginations awakened. Now listen first," Tilney said, noticing Lizzie's impatient gesture. "I know whereof I speak."

"A woman needs to have a picture painted of the vision she forms in your mind. She can't bear to be simply what she is -- lovely as that might be. Most of 'em have read far too many novels so they get these notions of dramatic scenes and romantic ideals. They want to be heroines, not just women, so you have to convince them that they are -- at least to you."

"I'm sure there are many sensible women whose imaginations have not been corrupted by the reading of novels," Lizzie retorted a shade too vehemently, swigging a little more wine from her tumbler.

Tilney chuckled. "Sensible women are no fun to flirt with."

Lizzie flushed, feeling again as if this sharpish young man had somehow seen through her charade. "I suppose that's true enough. Well, how would you begin to spin such a web of deceit before a docile young maiden of the realm?"

"Oh, it needn't be all lies. After all, the truth is much easier to remember." Tilney laughed a bit too heartily for such a slim joke, but poured more wine into his glass. "You must praise every limb of her frame with excessive enthusiasm --"

"My mistress's eye are nothing like the sun," Lizzie intoned bitterly as she stared into her glass.

"Oh, yes, poetry is always good -- provided it flatters," Tilney said with a strange look at his drinking partner. "Poetry sufficiently obscure might be passed off as one's own."

"Then I suppose it helps to woo an ignorant girl."

Tilney smiled but the expression stopped short of convincing. "As the sweet sweat of roses in a still," he intoned with a sonorous tone, "As that which from chafed musk cat's pores doth trill, / As the almighty balm of th' early east, / Such are the sweat drops of my mistress' breast."

"A girl might well be bewitched by your recitation," Lizzie admitted, washing down a little more red, "provided she is not scandalized by your choice of poets. Is Donne really fit for a gentle woman's ears?"

"What? A churchman of the first order, a loving husband --"

"And once a libertine who thought a true woman as rare as a falling star." Lizzie looked frankly at her companion, wondering again what really lay beneath his too-smooth exterior.

"He was onto something there," Tilney said, staring off into the distance. "Although he seemed to repent once he found such a gem."

"Is it the nature of all libertines to repent at last?" Lizzie was hardly aware of speaking her thoughts aloud, but it did not matter as Tilney appeared not to have heard.

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