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.