Sunday, April 26, 2009


"You are awake," Lizzie said unable to conceal the delight in her voice, though she tried to smother the grin that tried to leap across her face. "How are you feeling?"

"Decidedly odd," Tilney muttered. Lizzie was encouraged to see that his eyes retained their focus if not yet enough of their accustomed sparkle. She dipped the flannel into the bowl and reached to wet his brow once more. He lifted a weakened hand to stop her.

"How long have we been here? Where are we anyway? What has happened?"

Lizzie paused before responding, wondering just how far she should backtrack in their adventures. It was most distracting to see his clever eyes scrutinize her face as if he suspected there were something that had not been entirely resolved between them.

"You were shot," she began haltingly, sitting on the chair ext to the edge of the bed. "And you have been suffering from a fever some days, which quite alarmed me, I can tell you."

"Have I alarmed you? I apologize my friend." His look was contrite and he laid his hand on hers. "And you have been tending me, Bennett? How very kind."

"It was nothing."

"Tut -- I am certain I was a great deal of trouble and I apologize for it most heartily," Tilney said with evident regret. "And where are we?"

"In a small village that goes by the name of Old Fénelon, although it is not clear that we are anywhere near what is known as Fénelon, which was the home of the author of Telemachus," Lizzie added with a frown.

"Geography, Bennett, not history and literature," Tilney said with a little more of his dry humour. "Where are we in relation to things I would recognize?"

Lizzie coughed to disguise her embarrassment and, she had to admit, slight annoyance. The thing about having been on her own the last few days, and treated like a man, was that she had not been questioned or corrected in that time. That was the power of breeches.

"We are not far from where you were shot. Indeed, we could not have traveled far from that place as you were too gravely injured."

"Do you think that wise?" Tilney asked, trying desperately to rise. Lizzie leaned down to try to help him gently to a sitting position, though he fussed and tried to do it himself. "Those men might pursue us. We ought to have removed ourselves more decisively from the area." His protestations were cut off by a violent fit of coughing.

"You should lay back down," Lizzie scolded.

"'pon rep, Bennett. It's not like I'm befogged," Tilney responded with considerable irritation, although he allowed her to help him back down onto the pillows. "Lud, I'm weak as a kitten. What does the leech say about my chances for recovery?"

"He says that you'll be feeling corky in no time," Lizzie said with every effort to conceal her discomfort in tossing off the cant Tilney used with such panache. "Not in such words of course," she added, hoping she had not gone too far, "But the sense is there."

"Do you think a fellow might get a bite to eat around here," Tilney said with studied laziness.

Lizzie took this to mean he was starving. "I will get some soup for you tout de suite." She hopped up to do just that but Tilney called to her at the threshold and she froze.

"And then there's a little mystery about which we need to speak, Bennett!"

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Lizzie paused at the window and regarded the sprightly village scene with nothing but fatiguing numbness. For three days now, Tilney had raved in the midst of a fever, seldom knowing her face or any rest. The physician seemed to shrug it off, but Lizzie was terrified at the sunken look Tilney's once bright face had taken on.

There were dark circles under his eyes as well. Worse, he alternately raved and lay so still that she was frightened most of the time. Lizzie really couldn't decide which state was worse.

When he raved, there were things that made her blush with embarrassment. Sometimes Tilney cried out for someone named Thomasina, ardently weeping for her "soft, pale hand," then at other times he cursed her roundly in salty language that Lizzie might have expected to issue from the mouths of pirates but not the lips of a well-bred Englishman.

But when he was wan and silent, it was she who wept fearing any moment that his skin would turn cold as the grave and he would slip away from her forever, the unspoken mystery between them dying along with him.

Nonetheless he rallied again and again, sometimes regaining speech and lucidity for a short while. Tilney would wring her hand and call her friend. "Bennett," he would say, seemingly having forgotten his awareness of her masquerade, "you're a stout fellow! Stay by me in this time and I will not forget your kindness."

Lizzie had no doubt that he might well forget altogether the truth of her situation, but she was more concerned with his shifting health and inability to stay out of the weird world of shadows that illness seemed determined to place upon his brow.

"Tell my mother I am sorry," he said repeatedly when he was straying once more from his best mind. It seemed to weigh much on his conscience. "I did not mean to hurt her!" he said with a voice that tore the strings of Lizzie's heart.

Sometimes the words Tilney spoke had no connection to reality at all, and Lizzie could not follow the logic of his ramblings on ants, bees and umbrellas. He was clearly raving. But it disturbed Lizzie as she saw him grow weaker day by day.

She tried to make him eat, but even soup had no appeal. The physician suggested wine, d'accord! But Lizzie was reluctant until every thing else failed to tempt him. At last she gave in and it seemed to provoke even more heat within his ravaged frame. She had mopped his brow repeatedly this whole day and only now, when the afternoon sun seemed at its highest, did she finally pause to breathe in a little fresh air.

As these grim thoughts marched through her brain, Lizzie heard Tilney stirring afresh. Afraid that he was once more held in the coils of lunatic frenzy, she turned to re-wet the flannel that had served to wet his brow and lips, but found his eyes open and clear.

"Bennett, what has become of us?" he asked, his vision direct and frank.

Lizzie's heart leapt with hope.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


"And who are you that I should marry you?" Alice demanded.

"I am…" and he paused as if to heighten some theatrical sense of drama, "Gilet de Sauvinage!"

"Do I know you?" Alice asked, somewhat nonplussed.

"No, of course not," her kidnapper answered in a slightly more normal voice. "You don't know me at all." He also ceased to sound entirely French as well.

"I think perhaps I do," Alice said slowly, her thoughts circling around the tinge of recognizable tenor in that voice.

"Non, mademoiselle, non," he said hastily and very Frenchily. "Now, I must hasten away." With that he stepped back and closed the door suddenly. Alice heard the key turn in the lock and tried the handle. But the door would not move.

"How vexing," Alice muttered.

After staring at the door impotently for a moment or more, Alice at last sighed and turned back to regard the room. The morning light had grown slightly stronger but it was as yet only weakly stimulating. The fire would be welcome when it came, but there was no telling how long she might have to wait.

No tea, no fire, no food – it was quite barbaric. Alice tapped her foot. She felt Lizzie's absence ever more keenly. Surely her wise cousin would not stand still for such behaviour. Lizzie was so much better at commanding other people. She recalled how much more effective her cousin was at managing the recalcitrant Mrs. Perkins, who could be quite beastly to poor Alice when she was out of temper.

Thoughts of home, even of the often disagreeable housekeeper, caused a lump to well up in Alice's throat. While she had much improved her overall command of the vagaries of life as a kidnapee, she was still a young person far from home and the comfort of friends, without even a cup of tea for solace.

It was indeed quite unbearable. Alice gave in to a sudden fit of tears, throwing herself on the bed as they flowed copious and seemingly unstoppable. It was so unfair! Alice badly wished for someone to whom she could state those very words. It would be so delightful to say them aloud and receive some kindly expressions in exchange.

"It's not fair," Alice whispered, her voice barely audible in the large room. The tears still fell in rivulets across her pale cheeks. Hearing the words echo made her feel even more alone, which renewed her crying fit.

After a time, however, her sobs died down and her shoulders stopped shaking. As she wiped her tears away with her sleeve, Alice once more longed for a pocket in which she might have concealed extra handkerchiefs.

I shall never again complain about carrying a handkerchief, Alice thought, recalling all the times her mother had called after her, inquiring whether she carried that indispensable item and showing some consternation at Alice's cavalier attitude toward that accessory. Handkerchiefs were rather useful items after all, Alice admitted. How useful it would be if people simply carried extra ones with them at all times, so those without might prevail upon those who had them.

When he returns, I shall ask—no! demand a handkerchief, Alice promised herself. Picking up the novel which lay on her pillow, she got up and sat in what appeared to be an uncomfortable chair to find out what might happen to poor Victor next. At least it would keep her from dwelling on her own considerable discomforts.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


It was the same figure who had faced her previously, clad in dark clothes and wearing a broad-brimmed hat with a kerchief over most of his face. She drew back, unsettled considerably by his sinister appearance. This was her kidnapper.

"Miss Mangrove," he began, his voice raspy and low, his accent perhaps French. "You are my prisoner."

Well, that was obvious enough. In her irritation, Alice forgot a little to be afraid. It was more than a little vexing to always be dependent upon the kindness of strangers. While Alice had once counted on others to direct her daily activities, recently she had begun to find herself increasingly annoyed by the determined attempts by other people to control her days. In fact she had begun to have an irrational desire to not do anything at all until she had had a chance to think about things first.

Perhaps she had developed the taste first when leading Constance around. That eager young friend, whose absence once again caused Alice a stab of longing, had been all too ready to follow Alice even unto the very gates of Perdition, she recalled with a blush of shame.

It may have been her consciousness of that painful memory or some nascently emerging sense of self, but Alice found a reserve of anger forming deep inside her.

"What right have you to imprison me here, of all places! There is no fire, I have had no food and have nothing to change into. If you wish me to perish, congratulations! I am well on my way to illness and death."

Despite her words, Alice found she felt marvelously warm all of the sudden, stirred by her indignation to a warmer state. And as for fading away into weakness -- well, quite the opposite effect seemed to stimulate her very limbs.

For his part, the kidnapper seemed taken aback and sputtered a little behind his masquerade. "I—I—I—I'm sorry. I should have thought—"

All at once his voice seemed higher and less certain, not quite so French and almost familiar, Alice thought, where have I heard that tone before?

However, before she could explore the matter further, he harrumphed and his voice returned to the previous gruffness. "I will remedy the situation. You will be provided with appropriate food and I will have someone lay a fire for you."

"Thank you," Alice simply, unable to think of anything more appropriate.

"You are my prisoner," he repeated, as if uncertain how to proceed next.

"Until when?" Alice prompted. It would be helpful to have some kind of schedule in mind. A young woman needed to have a calendar of events upon which to order her days. That was perhaps the worst thing about all this kidnapping; schedules were so irregular.

Despite the kerchief, Alice could tell that he was somewhat horrified by her failure to properly cow before his manly authority. "Why until you marry me!" he announced with evident pleasure.

Oh dear, Alice thought. How dreadful!