"Non, non," Lizzie said blushingly, but trying to drop her vocal tone to a lower register. "Je suis un homme." Oh god, I do hope they believe me. It seemed easy enough to fool Tilney so far (although at various moments, she had had her doubts even about that), but could she fool the eyes and ears (and noses) of a bunch of Frenchmen?
Particularly a group of Frenchmen who were more than a trifle irritated by having their duel interrupted. "Nous sommes ici par erreur," Lizzie hastened to add, because they had not dropped the aim of their pistols which were still fixed upon the two of them.
"Can't you tell them we mean no harm?" Tilney said with a hint of irritation.
"I'm trying," Lizzie growled with appropriate frustration for her George persona. "Nous ne voulons pas nous mêler," she offered with what she hoped was a placatory tone.
At least now the men were exchanging glances with one another. It was a better sign than their previous grim humorlessness. For the hundredth time, Lizzie wondered why the French had such a peculiar lack of humor.
Undoubtedly, they thought the same of the English, she reflected.
"Pardon, nous vous quitterons, ah, à vos affaires," Lizzie groped her way toward something diplomatic, revealing their knowledge of the illicit nature of their business and a determination not to interfere with it.
Not to mention her hope that she had persuaded them to imagine her a man.
One of the men, a tall one with a bare head, waved them over with his pistol. He seemed to be judging both Tilney and Lizzie with care. "Venir ici, à la fois de vous."
Lizzie checked her tongue, which wanted to launch into a hurried explanation of their presence there, to tell the story of the runaway horse and the matter of too much wine, but her time spent with Tilney had already alerted to the fact that men preferred in general to say as little as possible. It would be best to remain silent.
The tall man, whose eyes were so dark they seemed almost solid black in the pupils, stared intently at the two of them as they walked closer, Lizzie trying her best to copy the exaggeratedly relaxed saunter that Tilney affected. His normal look of harmless laziness had likewise returned. Lizzie marveled once more at how much lay below that superficial mask of gentle lassitude.
"You look 'armless enough," the Frenchman said at last, startling them both with his abrupt change to English. "It is unfortunate, however, that you happened upon our little altercation."
"No business of ours, old boy," Tilney practically yawned. "What you French lot get up to is of very little interest to us. We were just blowing off a little steam after a heavy lunch. You know how it is."
"Tout à fait," the Frenchman replied. "Nonetheless, we cannot let you leave."
Oh dear, Lizzie thought, trying to hold in a wave of breathless fear. The pistols were once more leveled at them both and at this distance, they were bound to be lethal!