Sunday, January 25, 2009


Tilney sank back down to the table. If he had been pale before, he was nearly white now. Lizzie gasped and her tears fell freely. There was no one to see them now and she feared that Tilney could not hang on much longer.

Just then the door flew open and a harried man with a bag stepped in, closely followed by the alarmed seamstress, who was still blathering away wildly even as the physician waved her down. Lizzie was beyond relieved to see that a saviour had come.

"He's been shot, here," Lizzie said frantically, indicating the shocking wound needlessly and forgetting her French. "Ici, ici!" she added, still holding Tilney's hand in her own.

"C'est tout droit," the doctor said calmly, which maddened Lizzie to know end, but he stepped up to feel Tilney's pulse at the neck, frowned and then moved down to his side to peer at the wound.

"Permettez-moi de travailler," he said abruptly to Lizzie, indicating she ought to move to the other side of the table and out of his way. Loathe as she was to leave Tilney's side, Lizzie realised it was best to let the physician work.

He looked up at her, squinting a little. "Plus de lumière, s'il vous plait," he said, then adding, "monsieur," with such a crooked eyebrow that Lizzie feared she had been discovered. There was no time to think about that, however, when Tilney's life hung in the balance.

Lizzie and the seamstress moved to open the curtains of the shop and let more light in. The seamstress opened the door wider too. Lizzie hoped the fresh air from outdoors would prove bracing to the poor young man who seemed barely alive.

Oh, please do not take him from me, Lizzie fervently asked. I cannot bear to be parted from my dear friend. How could I know, how could I have imagined --

Lizzie found she was unable to finish the thought, save for redoubled wishes that he be safe, please let him be safe and whole.

The doctor called for water and the seamstress galloped off to fetch a basin. He rummaged through his bag and pulled out what looked like a very large set of pincers. He looked over at Lizzie. "Aidez-moi à le tenir," he said and she walked over as one in a trance, terrified at what was about to happen.

She leaned over and pressed her hands down on Tilney's shoulder, which felt icy to her touch. A sob threatened to break out from her throat, but through sheer force of will, Lizzie held it in. I must not fail him now, when he needs me most, she thought and inclined as far as she dared, then nodded to the physician.

The seamstress returned with a basin and stood ready beside the physician. He plunged the pincers into the wound and Tilney groaned, trying to rise from his weakened position. Even if Lizzie had not been holding him down, she doubted that he could have risen. He had become far too weak.

As the physician probed deeper, she could feel the body under her hands become weaker. All at once there was a terrible cry that pierced Lizzie's ears with horror.

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