Sunday, February 22, 2009


As she lapsed into consideration of the half-remembered plot of Mrs. Radcliffe's tome, Alice began to notice a curious sound. It was a kind of rushing noise that she gradually recognized as a waterfall. This intrigued her and she returned to trying to catch a glimpse through the shutters of the carriage.

The sound continued to grow louder and Alice became quite certain that it was indeed a waterfall. Was this a good thing, she wondered. Would she be hurled off the waterfall to her death? That would be terrible indeed, Alice decided. Perhaps the waterfall would only mean a halt in their journey. Some kindly people in a mill would take pity on her and free her from this latest kidnapping excursion.

The rushing sound of the water increased and finally began to slowly recede. Alice sighed. Even a horrible death would be a nice change from the monotony of the journey. Once one has braved pirates on the ocean and a close shave with a watery death, it was hard to get too concerned about lesser perils, Alice decided.
I suppose I have become quite brave, Alice congratulated herself. If I were to face armed brigands I imagine I should remain quite calm. After all, I have stood in the midst of cannon-fire and did not tremble.

Readers will, of course, recall that Alice did a good deal more than tremble at the time she found herself in the pitched sea battle, that there was in fact a good deal of screaming and crying out in alarm. Let us not therefore suggest that Alice was deliberately fibbing. It is one of the peculiarities of memory for many of us, that we edit the copybook of time ever so subtly over time as to find ourselves in a rather different location than fact or the memories of others, might situate us.

One need not assume that the memories of others are any less prone to adjustment, nor that facts exist in a vacuum. After all, Alice might find herself on the side of philosophers who have suggested that the mere recording of observations change the things observed. However, Alice would have had to consider this matter at a much more subterranean level of thought than she had given it up to this point.

In fact, Alice's thoughts had already returned to unknotting the tangled memories of Mrs. Radcliffe's novel and had come to the conclusion that she was doubtless mixing together the strands of at least two novels. Her charming brow wrinkled inadvisably as she considered the story of the murdered mother and had the distinct feeling that this was from entirely another novel altogether.

It was quite confusing, but it did pass the time.

Just when Alice had determined that she had hold of the main narrative strand of The Italian, the carriage suddenly slowed. Alice was sufficiently surprised to once more drop the thin skein of memory and sit forward with eager anticipation for the next step in her own adventure.

The carriage came to a stop, the horses snorting and wheezing as they accustomed themselves to a stationary situation. An unseen hand snatched the carriage door open and Alice gasped.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Alice had begun to wonder if the rumbling of the carriage would ever stop. She had even dozed off after a time, so utterly bored by the endless journey that she very nearly wished for the presence of Miss Fielding's instructive tome, The Governess.

Well, nearly.

As she jounced along on the too-hard seat, Alice dully considered where her captor might be taking her this time. It was strange to realise that she was not overwhelmed by the knowledge that she had once more been kidnapped. Alice marveled how not that long ago she had been quite distraught by the very same experience.

How long ago had her father's funeral taken place? It was hard to tell. She had had ample time to reacquaint herself with the proper calendar dates whilst in the kind keeping of the Forward family, yet she had not bothered. Had she suspected that a short time later she would once more be whisked away?

Or had she simply begun to live for the moment like some summery butterfly?

Alice was unaccustomed to such abstract considerations and gloomily wished yet again for Lizzie's kindly guidance. No doubt her beloved cousin would be able to wisely counsel her on the appropriateness of her musings and warn her away if they should dip too far into melancholy.

She had to admit that she did not feel overwhelmed by melancholy, although perhaps it was one of the characteristics of that dread state that one did not seem overwhelmed by it even when one was in fact engulfed by it. It would take much pondering, Alice mused.

Tired of musing, Alice tried to apply her eye to a crack in the tight blinds that darkened the carriage. Perhaps she might see something that would give her a clue as to her whereabouts. Try as she might, however, there was nothing to be seen but a slight glimmer of light and colour that flashed by the carriage's path. There was little information to glean from it.

Alice sighed. If Lizzie were here, she would entertain me. Alice considered the point. What would Lizzie do? Draw her out in improving conversation? What might they converse about? Geography would probably be hopeless. Literature? Well, certainly it would be better to broach that subject with some evidence of the products of it in hand.

No, surely Lizzie would have generous reserves of memory to draw up and discuss at length. What stories might I dig up from memory, Alice asked herself. She tried to retrieve some details of the last tome by Mrs. Radcliffe that she had devoured. Certainly at the time, the adventures had seemed vivid and breathtaking.

In vain, Alice sought for the strands of narrative that had gripped her so completely at the time. There had been a ghost, was there not? And a heroine, of course, in grave danger. Her father -- or was it some other man -- forcing her to marry against her will? There was a nun, she was almost certain -- or had it been a priest?

Alice sighed. Why couldn't writers give one more to go on?

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Lizzie did not immediately know what to do and remained immobile as statue. Then she thought better of it and stood up hastily. "Yes, Tilney, it is I. How do you feel…old fellow?"

"Weak," he chuckled, eyes still closed and his cheeks looking drawn and pale. "But at least I suppose I am still in this world. I had begun to think I might lose the fight, Bennett."

"They're going to be taking you to an inn to recover. The physician says you need a good deal of rest to recover." Lizzie restrained herself from fussing over him and adjusting his collar.

"Well, I got all the adventure I had been desiring, I fear," Tilney said with a weak smile. "I wanted a wild life and I got it. Perhaps I only wished to play at adventurer."

"You should recover completely from this, the physician seemed to be certain. You are young and hearty, Tilney. All will be well," Lizzie could not restrain herself from patting his shoulder, but she thought perhaps it was a manly enough gesture.

"Let us hope so," Tilney sighed. "I suppose I really ought to write to let my family know that I will be laid up for some time. Perhaps it would be best not to disclose the complete details. No need to worry them unnecessarily."

Lizzie nodded. "You can dictate and I will write. I should make myself useful."

Tilney reached for her hand and tapped it with his own. "You have been invaluable, Bennett. I hardly know how to thank you."

Lizzie blushed, relieved that he could not see her face. "Not necessary, Tilney. You have done much for me, more than you know."

"Nonetheless, I must say I owe you. I shall repay you."

"What do you plan to do once you recover?" Lizzie asked, trying to move the subject away from the awkward expressions of debts owed. Surely the men from the inn would be arriving any moment.

Tilney sighed. "I haven't the remotest idea. Perhaps I should go home and let you get on with your adventures, Bennett."

"Ah," Lizzie said, in surprise, struck for words. "I suppose I might have to consider heading back to the homeland as well."

"That precious stone set in a silver sea," Tilney chuckled. "At our lowest moments, home shines all the more brightly in our memory. Yet—"

"There were reasons to leave?"

"Indeed." Tilney lay silent so long that Lizzie feared he had once more lapsed into unconsciousness, but at last he continued somewhat enigmatically, "Problems must be solved, disappointments accepted, one supposes."

"I guess so," Lizzie said, her brow furrowed with puzzlement at his words. She looked up, hearing steps across the square. The men from the inn were coming at last. "Here they come, Tilney."

"Ah, very good," Tilney said, opening his eyes again to meet Lizzie's gaze. "I need to rest."

"You do, indeed, sir."

"Perhaps afterward," Tilney said, "we can discuss why a girl might pretend to be a boy, eh Bennet?"

Lizzie gulped, but the men from the inn were coming through the door, so she remained agonizingly silent.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


"Ah ha!" cried the physician. Grinning with pleasure, he held aloft the shot that had pierced Tilney's side. Lizzie realised that the cry had come from him and not the pale body before her. She grasped Tilney's hand and felt for a pulse at his wrist. It was still there, albeit weak.

"S'il vous plaît tenir encore," the doctor cautioned. Lizzie returned her hands to his shoulders although it seemed unlikely that he could move at all. However, when the surgeon began to sew up the would, Tilney did indeed begin to moan and move. Lizzie leaned down more firmly upon his shoulders and tried to restrain his movements.

The poor seamstress looked quite faint, clearly unaccustomed to such a sight in her little shop. But she held the basin steadily while the physician continued to mutter various oaths and imprecations under his breath as he tried to close the wound. Lizzie cast a glance at the work and blanched to see the terrible gash bound up with dark thread.

The physician, however, seemed quite pleased with his work. He reached into his bag to get a small bottle, which he then poured over the wound. Whatever was in the bottle must have been caustic, for it brought Tilney around with a shout and then a groan as he sank back down to the table.

"It must stay clean," the doctor said in painfully slow English. "Clean." He placed a square of linen over the horrible stitches and then sought her help to wrap bandages around Tilney's waist to hold the square in place. They slipped the roll under his back and Lizzie was too occupied to consider the intimacy of the moment, which was doubtless just as well.

Her thoughts were already as confused as a mending basket in a windstorm. She put all thoughts of propriety and correspondence away from her mind and concentrated on what would help her friend pull through this unfortunate experience. The seamstress smiled kindly and patted Tilney's head with a cloth dampened from the basin.

"Brandy," the physician said. "La fièvre, she always comes after. If he is strong, all will be well." He turned to the seamstress and bad her go get some men from the inn to take Tilney to a room there. Lizzie was grateful for his help.

"I will come back tomorrow," the doctor said, shaking Lizzie's hand. "To see how he goes and to receive my fee, one hopes." He chuckled, grabbed his bag and was out the door.

Lizzie leaned down to kiss Tilney's forehead. Already the heat of fever seemed to embrace it.

"Bennett?" he said weakly. "Is that you?"

Lizzie froze.