14.5

18 May, 2009 by katelaity

“How long have you known?” Lizzie couldn’t decide between anger and dismay at Tilney’s discovery. Surely if he had known…but ah! There was no good thinking about that.

“How long,” Tilney repeated. “It’s hard to say.” He paused and looked up at Lizzie speculatively. “There was always a hint, I think.”

“A hint!”

Tilney shrugged, the bedclothes shrugging along with him. “I knew something was not quite right.”

“Nonetheless –“

“Yes,” Tilney responded as if anticipating her comment, “I did nothing.”

Lizzie stared at him. “You knew and did nothing. Sir, I must ask –“

“No, no, no,” Tilney cried, his fist hitting the bed without a sound. “I beg you not to think of me as some kind of commonplace mind, fiend seize it! I was uncertain if I were right and what’s more, I knew that if you were undertaking such a charade, there must be some kind of excuse for it.”

“You mean –?”

“Yes, damme. I knew you were in some kind of havey-cavey business if you were engaging in this masquerade. I didn’t know if you were in the suds with some kind of family matter or trying to escape some sort of unfortunate attachment. Lawks, Bennett, it’s not as if you were easy to read.”

“I suppose not,” Lizzie admitted, flinging herself into the chair by the bedside, relieved at least to no longer have to carry off the disguise, although she had found it quite comfortable over time. “I was doing my best not to bring you any trouble or dis-ease.”

“You were a cracking companion,” Tilney admitted with a half-smile. “Lud, but you were cool-headed in the midst of that infernal dueling nonsense. I may have made a cake of myself getting shot, but I’m glad there was someone as sensible as you there to assist me, Bennett.”

“You-you are most welcome, Tilney.” Lizzie felt her face flush hot. As comfortable as she had been with Tilney all this time, she suddenly felt awkward and peevish now that he knew her secret and was complimenting her on her disguise.

“Not at all, Bennett,” Tilney responded, his eyes searching her face carefully. “I say, what should I call you anyway, Bennett? I can’t keep calling you Bennett. Nor George, I suppose.”

“My name is Bennett,” Lizzie said softly. “Elizabeth. Lizzie.”

“Quite suits you,” Tilney said decisively. “Lizzie it is.”

“Thank you. I think,” Lizzie said, marveling at the sound of her name from his lips.

“Well then, what are we going to do?”

“Do?”

“Well, we’re in the devil’s own scrape here, Bennett — er, Lizzie.”

“What do you mean?”

Tilney guffawed. “Let’s see: you’re a lone female traveling as a man, with a single gentleman for companion with a reputation as a bit of a rake, who’s also been shot in the midst of a French duel. Bad form, Bennett, very bad form.”

“When you put it that way…” Lizzie paused. What on earth could they do?

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