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.

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