There was a step on the stair. Lizzie's heart leapt. It must be the physician, she told herself and hastily rolled up the letter she had begun, tucking it into her pocket, then moving swiftly to cap the ink and return all the items to their places in the letter case.
She would finish the letter later, surely. Lizzie did her best to thrust away all disruptive thoughts nagging at her mind, suggesting that it wasn't a matter of time that was needed to complete the letter, but a decision about what the contents might be. Never mind that, she scolded. Somehow it would all work out.
She instantly recognized the steady rap at the door. Crossing to open it, she found the frowning physician on the other side. He entered the room with a curt nod and went straight to the patient.
"His colour looks much better," he said placing a palm on Tilney's forehead. "And the fever, she is gone. Excellent."
"He was awake earlier," Lizzie mentioned, trying to look as appropriately nonchalant as she could manage. "I daresay he will be awake again soon."
The sawbones nodded as if this were all according to plan. "You must get him to eat. As much as possible. Do not accept his arguments. We need to restore his strength. There is always a chance he may have to fight off further infection. It was a deep wound."
Lizzie, who had assumed the worst was over, worried anew. "How will we know when he's out of danger?"
The physician shrugged in that peculiarly Gallic way. "One cannot say. We shall simply have to observe." He looked at Lizzie with his usual penetrating stare. "You need rest as much as he. It will do no good to fall ill yourself."
"Well, I -- " Lizzie stammered.
"No," he continued, waving away Lizzie's protests. "You have worn yourself out. And even with a," he paused searching for the right word, "tenacious constitution like your own, your reserves are not endless."
Lizzie swallowed and found she had nothing to say.
"Sleep, eat, rest." He gestured down at the slumbering Tilney. "Push him over. There is plenty of room for two."
Lizzie did her best to conceal her alarm. "Certainly, certainly. As you suggest."