Lizzie felt her feet stumble with unaccustomed awkwardness, as if they were very remote from her instead of attached to the ends of her legs. "Oh, mumbles," thought Lizzie, "I must be foxed!" It was a thought equally frightening and exhilarating. While she had seen Lord Mangrove stagger on occasion from an exquisite over-indulgence in West Indian rum, she had never imagined experiencing the effects herself. I must remember it all precisely and write it in a letter, Lizzie thought. To the King of Naples, she added quickly, then immediately realised that she could do no such thing.
This experience, although fascinating, could not have come at a more precarious time, for she needed to maintain the easy masquerade as George that she had taken up as well as concentrate on guiding her horse, for Mr. Tilney was already aboard Darcey and looking to be quite high in dudgeon, impatient to be on his way. Darcey had picked up his mood and stamped his feet with an excess of vital energy.
Lizzie's horse showed signs of the same restiveness and she had to hop helplessly on one foot as the pony danced around her, trying in vain to spring aboard the saddle. It was to her shamefaced embarrassment that the groom finally had to take a hand and help her up. She had no more than lighted in the saddle when Tilney took off at a sharp clip and Lizzie was forced to follow.
Although she wanted very much to go more slowly – and thought the sudden speed a less than prudent idea immediately after a meal and particularly when the horses were cold – Lizzie held her tongue and bounced along in Tilney's wake as well as she might, although the sloshing of the plonk in her stomach soon proved discomforting.
I shall never drink again, Lizzie promised herself foolishly, particularly if I know that vigorous exercise on horseback will follow fast upon such indulgence. Her head had begun to ache unaccountably badly and she could feel a glow of perspiration exude from her forehead. The swiftly tilting scenery went past with a nacreous green glow.
All at once a sound rang out which Lizzie recognized from recent events to be the sound of pistol shot. Tilney's head whipped around in the direction from which the shot seemed to come, reining Darcey in slightly, but the lively chestnut was unwilling to stop altogether, shying coltishly away to the left while Tilney craned his neck left, a hand raised to shade his eyes.
Coming upon the pair so quickly and with the lag of liquor in her blood, Lizzie failed to rein in sufficiently, her horse bumping into Darcey, who reared and snorted loudly. Her more timid mount shied, cowering from Tilney's stepper. At that moment another shot rang out, rather close to the two riders and Lizzie's horse took this as sure sign of danger and bolted wildly, ignoring Lizzie's heartfelt cry of "Stop! Stop!"