Monday, May 25, 2009


"I can see nothing for it," Lizzie said slowly, turning the thoughts over in her mind as she dared to say the words aloud, "but to continue as we have done. At least for the moment, anyway."

"Do you mean--?" Tilney frowned. "As we have done?"

"I mean," Lizzie said with the decision evident in her tone, even as she continued to sprawl luxuriously in the chair, "that we cannot change things here, certainly. And it may not be safe to alter our arrangements as we travel."

"Travel," Tilney echoed, seeming somewhat nonplussed.

"Think, Tilney," Lizzie said urgently, sitting up in her chair to regard him quite seriously. "We're in a bind now. We've gone with this masquerade for so long now that people have been taken in by it. We cannot change anything at present—it would cause too much confusion. So we need to continue to pretend. Otherwise we will be in for difficulties for sure."

Tilney frowned, but nodded his head. He must have realised she was right. "But for how long shall we do this? Surely after we leave this place we can return you to your rightful situation. Whatever that may be," he finished lamely, looking at her now with frank curiosity. "What is your rightful situation?"

Lizzie sighed. "I hardly know where to begin."

Tilney leaned back, crossing his arms behind his head. "I have no immediate plans."

Lizzie sighed again and thought about where to begin. "We were on the way to my cousin Alice's father's funeral," she began, but paused. "Perhaps I need to mention the King of Naples?"

Tilney raised an eyebrow. "Miss Austen would enjoy your tale, I suspect."

Lizzie could not entirely squelch the pleased grin that rose to her lips. "Let us begin with the funeral and add other elements as they come along."

"Were you close to your uncle?" Tilney quizzed her as he settled into his pillow.

"If you are going to ask those sort of questions at every juncture," Lizzie said with a narrowed eye, "this will take much longer than it need do."

"I am quite contrite," Tilney said with a yawn. "I will ask no more!"

Lizzie smiled. At this rate he would soon fall asleep and she need not expose all of her lively details of the story. Accordingly she made her voice as even and droning as possible as she began to tell the story of the funeral.

"It was a quiet day, very little in the way of plant growth or insect life," she started and was pleased to see Tilney's eye lids droop precipitously. "Alice and I were in our very finest mourning clothes and made sure that we had very neat and starched handkerchiefs in our pockets or sleeves, as that is certainly the most important part of funeral preparation."

Lizzie noticed that Tilney's eyes were closed now and so droned on in a similar tone. "We were riding along trying to recall what people had been wearing at the Assembly Ball," which wasn't entirely true, but seemed perfect for lulling Tilney into slumber. "I was trying to recall who had linen whereas Alice tried to recall who had worn silk and we compared notes on who had been the more raucous."

Tilney was not only asleep, but beginning to snore. Thank goodness, Lizzie thought. Now I can do a little thinking!

Monday, May 18, 2009


"How long have you known?" Lizzie couldn't decide between anger and dismay at Tilney's discovery. Surely if he had known…but ah! There was no good thinking about that.

"How long," Tilney repeated. "It's hard to say." He paused and looked up at Lizzie speculatively. "There was always a hint, I think."

"A hint!"

Tilney shrugged, the bedclothes shrugging along with him. "I knew something was not quite right."

"Nonetheless --"

"Yes," Tilney responded as if anticipating her comment, "I did nothing."

Lizzie stared at him. "You knew and did nothing. Sir, I must ask --"

"No, no, no," Tilney cried, his fist hitting the bed without a sound. "I beg you not to think of me as some kind of commonplace mind, fiend seize it! I was uncertain if I were right and what's more, I knew that if you were undertaking such a charade, there must be some kind of excuse for it."

"You mean --?"

"Yes, damme. I knew you were in some kind of havey-cavey business if you were engaging in this masquerade. I didn't know if you were in the suds with some kind of family matter or trying to escape some sort of unfortunate attachment. Lawks, Bennett, it's not as if you were easy to read."

"I suppose not," Lizzie admitted, flinging herself into the chair by the bedside, relieved at least to no longer have to carry off the disguise, although she had found it quite comfortable over time. "I was doing my best not to bring you any trouble or dis-ease."

"You were a cracking companion," Tilney admitted with a half-smile. "Lud, but you were cool-headed in the midst of that infernal dueling nonsense. I may have made a cake of myself getting shot, but I'm glad there was someone as sensible as you there to assist me, Bennett."

"You-you are most welcome, Tilney." Lizzie felt her face flush hot. As comfortable as she had been with Tilney all this time, she suddenly felt awkward and peevish now that he knew her secret and was complimenting her on her disguise.

"Not at all, Bennett," Tilney responded, his eyes searching her face carefully. "I say, what should I call you anyway, Bennett? I can't keep calling you Bennett. Nor George, I suppose."

"My name is Bennett," Lizzie said softly. "Elizabeth. Lizzie."

"Quite suits you," Tilney said decisively. "Lizzie it is."

"Thank you. I think," Lizzie said, marveling at the sound of her name from his lips.

"Well then, what are we going to do?"


"Well, we're in the devil's own scrape here, Bennett -- er, Lizzie."

"What do you mean?"

Tilney guffawed. "Let's see: you're a lone female traveling as a man, with a single gentleman for companion with a reputation as a bit of a rake, who's also been shot in the midst of a French duel. Bad form, Bennett, very bad form."

"When you put it that way…" Lizzie paused. What on earth could they do?

Sunday, May 10, 2009


"Indeed," Lizzie said with an affectedly lazy drawl. She avoided raising her eyes and concentrated on nibbling at the piece of bread very slowly. "And what would that be, Tilney?"

He paused, the soup spoon still clutched in his hand. "What was the name of the sawbones who attended me?"

Lizzie felt herself relax a little. Was this all he was wondering? "M. Sangsue. He ought to be coming sometime today in order to examine you further. He has been quite confident of your recovery when I was quite concerned."

Tilney's face looked slightly clouded, as if he were trying to recall something elusive. "It was he who fished out the shot from my side?"

Lizzie nodded. "It was quite an exacting procedure. It took him a good long while to extract the ball from your wound. Quite a bit of delicacy involved. I'm sure you'll find monsieur le docteur to be a most trustworthy and painstaking task master."

Tilney sighed, setting the spoon back in the cooling bowl of soup. "Painstaking is correct. I say, Bennett, did you help with this procedure?"

"Indeed I did," Lizzie answered, trying hard to maintain her lazy drawl even as she rose in excitement. Oh, if Alice could only see her then! How she would marvel at her cousin and her ability to sustain such a painful and difficult procedure, to say nothing of the blood. No doubt at all: it was a fabulous encounter and no less. Lizzie took unaccustomed pride in her careful charade. She had portrayed the male not only in the casual wearing of the clothes, but in the midst of shocking adventures, had maintained the role with all aplomb. "It was quite horrifying, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

"You have been a good friend, Bennett and brave." Tilney nodded sagely, leaning back again the pillows.

"Why thank you, Tilney. You're most kind."

"Why it's no less than the truth," Tilney rejoined. "Quite a lot to withstand—horror, blanche and blood," he added, shaking his head as if in disbelief of it all."

"Especially when one is a girl, yes?"

Lizzie froze once more. He knew!

Sunday, May 03, 2009


Lizzie tried not to feel her heart beating in her throat, where it seemed to have leaped at the moment she heard his words. A mystery to clear up? He could only mean the secret of her identity which he seemed to have figured out, at least insofar as he had deduced that she was not the boy she pretended to be.

As she hurried down the stairs, the feeling of panic rose. Lizzie's mind fluttered helplessly over the problem. What to do, what to do? If Tilney knew, what would he do? Would he send her away? Expose her? Or -- worse?

No, Lizzie thought with a determined chin jutted out at no one in particular, she could not think Tilney a man capable of getting her started in the petticoat line. He might not be above a scrape or two, Lizzie assured herself, but underneath all the casual devilry, he was a regular gentleman.

She ordered some soup from the landlord, who had become accustomed to her self-assured commands and scrupulous accounting. Lizzie had been loathe to use any more of Tilney's money than was absolutely necessary, but lacking any of her own, it was required.

The landlord seemed a bit spooked by her sudden appearance. He was a bit taken aback to see her so flustered and bustled himself to get the soup with all due speed. "The young monsieur, he is awake?" he croaked in his limited English as he handed the tray to Lizzie, a generous half loaf of bread with a wedge of fine ham tucked in beside the bowl.

Lizzie smiled. "Oui, monsieur. I think he has begun to recover at last."

"Dieu merci! Then perhaps you can get some rest, too. Vous êtes très fatigue!"

Lizzie smiled and shrugged in a most Gallic manner as she took the tray and headed back up the stairs. It was true, she was completely done in, as much by the worry as by the lack of sleep. She stifled a yawn. This would not do. There was still much to be done.

Pushing open the door to Tilney's room, Lizzie smiled. He looked very tired and wan, but there was more than a spark of life in his face now. "Come now, old man. I have some fine soup for you here." She laid the tray across his lap as he struggled up to a sitting position.

"Ah, Bennett, that has to be the best soup I have ever smelled," Tilney said with relish as he seized the spoon. Lizzie grinned. It was only a simple peasant stew, but it must indeed seem heavenly to his deprived senses.

Tilney dove in, scooping up a few quick spoonfuls before he spoke another word. Lizzie satisfied herself with a little handful of bread torn from the loaf. Tilney looked up at her with a familiar twinkle in his eye.

"I say, Bennett, there is one thing we need to speak about very soon,"

Lizzie stiffened, her hand frozen with the bread at her lips.