Sunday, July 12, 2009


Lizzie felt the need to do something useful while Tilney slumbered and, tired of the endless repairing of clothes, steeled herself to do her duty. Certain that Tilney would not at all mind, she retrieved his letter case from his baggage and sat down to compose a letter to the King of Naples.

It was funny how comforting the very act of writing was. Sitting at the small table in the corner where the light shone to its best in the late afternoon, Lizzie uncapped the ink and sharpened the quill. With luck she would have some time before the physician arrived to check on his patient and see the improvement the day had brought.

She selected one of the smaller size papers among Tilney's collection. Dipping the quill in the tiny bottle, Lizzie drew a breath and quickly wrote the date at the top, marveling again how much time had passed since that fateful day of the funeral. Another dip and she write "Your Majesty," in her usual manner, which was far too florid for her liking, but she found herself incapable of writing with the neat penmanship Lady Mangrove had always praised in her own writing. However much she might control the rest of her life, Lizzie found it impossible to restrain her pen.

It was provoking. Lizzie often suspected that her handwriting revealed things about her that she would prefer to keep locked in her most private thoughts.

She dipped the pen once more into the inkpot and paused. As her hand hovered over the ink, allowing a stray drop to fall back into the bottle rather than blot the paper, Lizzie felt her good intentions sink.

What had she to say?

Her immediate thoughts were to apologize for the delay in responding to his last missive, but how then to explain what had happened in the succeeding interval? "My excuse is rogues, pirates, destitution and a considerable amount of time spent in disguise as a young man." Hardly satisfying to her correspondent, Lizzie imagined.

Nor flattering when put so baldly, she had to admit. Mrs. Radcliffe would make much of such a narrative, but Lizzie was certain she had neither the skill nor the patience to make much of the events. Besides, it wasn't really the point, after all.

What was the point, though? Telling the king that she would be coming to Naples somewhat unexpectedly? That she had taken the hinted promises as definite indications? Where did she stand with the king after all?

Lizzie stared at the clean white page and sighed. Such a terrifying tyranny in that empty space.

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