As she stepped into the dining room of the inn, Lizzie found herself wistful. Contemplating her escape from this place suddenly made it seem so much more homey. The dingy interior and well-worn accoutrements took on a nostalgic air as she tried to force herself into thoughts of escape.
Well enough to know she had to go away -- for Tilney's good as well as her own -- but more difficult to actually act upon the knowledge. I can easily ride away, today or even tomorrow, Lizzie told herself.
But who would take care of Tilney?
Stop it, Lizzie thought with a shake. Tilney is well enough now, clearly on the way to recovery. He doesn't need you, she scolded. Lizzie did her best to ignore the stabbing pain in her chest. It didn't mean anything at all.
"Monsieur," she asked the landlord, lowering her voice mid-word as it had crept up to a higher register than usual. "If I could trouble your for some sustenance for my friend--"
The kindly landlord turned from his attentions to the glasses with mild surprise. "Ah, oui, oui. I have some lamb stew that is magnifique, even if it is I saying so." His smile was superceded almost at once by a more serious look, however.
"I have some news to share that you may not find so palatable, monsieur."
Lizzie started. "What is it?" The last thing she wanted was more surprises.
"The magistrate has arrived."
"The magistrate?" That didn't sound good, Lizzie thought.
"Oui, he arrives periodically to review local disputes and such like. He has come a bit earlier than usual, however. I do not know for certain, but I fear that perhaps someone may have told him about the duel. One suspects that he may be more interested in the principal duelists themselves, of course," and he gave a little Gallic shrug at this, "But one can never predict the actions of petite bureaucrats."
"Indeed," Lizzie answered, her voice ringing hollow in the empty room. She watched the landlord bustle around scooping some of the stew into a tureen while her thoughts ran like spring colts around the corridors of her mind. Magistrate! Law, bother, difficulties -- exposure! For both of them no doubt. This could not be borne.
"Merci, merci," Lizzie muttered as she took the tray from his hands. She made her way up the stairs as swiftly as it was safe to do, testing a wide variety of scenarios in her head as she struggled up the steps trying to keep the tureen level.
She burst through the door, startling Tilney who had a book open in his lap.
"We must depart today!"