16 March, 2008 by katelaity
“Well, Bennett,” Tilney said languorously as he set his fork down, “Where were you bound anyhoo?”
Lizzie tried to cover her momentary panic with a bit of a cough, necessary anyway as the sudden constriction of her throat had caused a bit of her egg to go down the wrong way. “Bound — er, well, no where in particular, I suppose,” she said, remembering to keep her voice low and gruff as she might.
“Anyway the wind blows, eh?” Tilney laughed and the hearty sounds rang through the mostly empty inn. The landlord polishing glasses, looked up at the sound, but returned to his own thoughts when there seemed to be no immediate order behind their sounds. “So is that the adventurous spirit that got you into hot water in the first place?”
Lizzie tried not to betray the confusion she felt, until she remembered that she had suggested calamitous happenings were in her past and responsible for her destitute present. “Ah, yes…” She swallowed and took a big mouthful of coffee to hide her confusion. Why, oh why, did I think it was going to be easier to pretend to be a man? Lizzie scolded herself firmly. She had chosen her path and now it must be followed until another opportunity came her way. Lizzie tried to maintain her composure. Mr. Tilney must not glean from her appearance just how much she was attempting to hide.
Sure enough, there seemed to be a twinkle of amusement in his eyes that Lizzie was determined should not undermine her confidence in the charade. However, she was not well-prepared for his next conversational sally. Tilney picked up his own cup and used it to gesture lazily at Lizzie. “Let me guess: was it a press gang? Somehow I can imagine something of the sort, a wild type of lad like you, frequenting taverns on the coast — we all know the typical hellholes.” He winked at Lizzie. “Too much ale and the poor sort of acquaintances who don’t watch out for your best interests, I’ll wager.”
A flush of indignation rose from Lizzie’s breast, but she checked herself from a hot retort. Why not a press gang? She had read of them in her uncle’s newspapers, so she was familiar with the basic narrative. From a press gang she could easily work her way around to the pirates with a convincing ring of familiarity. With the pirates she could stick more closely to her experience and away from the need to tell expansive lies (which were, she admitted, much harder to keep in memory). “From Southampton, I’m afraid. I was at the Three… ah, Three Crowns when I was pressed. Service on the seas for some days, I couldn’t tell you how long. I was rather seasick at first.” Lizzie was loathe to portray herself as prone to seasickness, particularly because she had perhaps some immoderate pride on behalf of her good stomach, but expediency in narrative must overlook such small matters as truth.
Tilney seemed quite enraptured by the tale. “Heavens, lad. What a confounded havey-cavey business! They were free-traders I suppose, that was a bit of a hobble.”
Lizzie was a bit flummoxed by his outrageous cant, but she forged on as fearlessly as possible. It was with a full knowledge of the effect of her words that she said carelessly, “Oh, that was nothing compared to the pirates.”
“Pirates! Lawks! You don’t mean to say…?”
“Captured,” Lizzie smiled to herself as she bent her head down to the last few bites of bacon. It was a delight to be listened to with such rapt attention. I should not get used to this, she scolded herself, yet she found the pause before resuming her tale more delicious than the crispy bacon she popped into her mouth.