Sunday, July 05, 2009


As Tilney snored on, Lizzie's thoughts raced. What indeed were they to do? What was her rightful situation at this point? She glanced down at Tilney's calm face, a little careworn to be sure, but just as open and appealing as it had been at her first sight of him.

That was the problem, after all.

By all that was right, she owed her affections to the hinted promises of the King of Naples, who, if he had been less than forthright in his declarations (a factor she put down to Italianate modesty), had nonetheless implied a very positive outlook in return for her attentions.

Despite his prodigious knowledge of insects, their habits and habitats, Lizzie had found that the immediate and tangible charms of Tilney had somehow made it very easy to forget the primarily literary appeal of the King. He was royalty, too, she tried to remind herself. Italian royalty to be sure, which was not quite the same thing; nonetheless, for a woman in her somewhat marginal position in English society, royalty of a kind was nothing to be sniffed at by any means.

Yet she must admit that she had hardly spared a thought for the King in some considerable space of time. Lizzie could not simply blame the rigours of caring for Tilney in his compromised position. Tending a sick bed had often left her with ample time to peruse the informative letters posted by her Neapolitan friend, re-reading with interest his knowledgeable dissertations on the dining habits of the common cockchafer.

You have not shown the slightest interest in cockchafer lore, Lizzie scolded herself.

It was true: since meeting up with Tilney on that fateful day, she had spared little more than the occasional thought for the King and his little creatures. She looked down at her friend's slumbering visage. It wasn't that he was remarkably handsome. His face, while pleasant enough, did not have the dazzling attraction of someone like the elusive Kit Barrington, who had so fascinated her poor cousin, Alice.

Yet there was so much good humour and lively wit in that face when it was awake. That was the chief distraction, Lizzie thought with a sigh, a mind that kept up with her own. Be fair, she reminded herself, a mind that sometimes pulled ahead, too. Trapped in the well-intentioned enclosure of Mangrove Hall, Lizzie frequently tired of slowing her thoughts to match the pace of those around her. Love them as she might, she could not claim much in the way of intellectual stimulation for the kindly relatives who took her in. It was a pleasant change to be kept on her toes by a friend who was every bit as clever as she, and more than willing to chafe her verbally.

But duty was a thing a young woman ought not abandon completely. Lizzie felt a flush of shame at her own indulgent ways. As much fun as her adventures had been (in retrospect anyway; it was difficult to recall now just how frightened she had been when Tilney was shot), it behooved her to remember that pleasure was not the aim of life and she owed it to her relations and to the memory of her parents to do what was right.

"We shall go to Naples," Lizzie said aloud. Tilney stirred at her words, but did not waken, turning his sweet face away from the light from the window. Lizzie felt a painful tugging at what was surely her heart-strings. Why must he look so thoroughly agreeable just then?

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