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.