16.3

2 November, 2009 by katelaity

“The fiend seize you, Bennett,” Tilney said with genuine surprise and irritation. “What the devil do you mean, we have to leave?”

Lizzie smothered the smile that wished to bloom upon her lips. It was no good pretending that Tilney was not delightful, but she had to do her best not to make the thought plain. This will be so much more difficult now, Lizzie thought despairingly. “The magistrate,” she offered. “The magistrate has arrived earlier than usual, the landlord tells me. He may well be here to investigate the duel…”

“Ah, and its aftermath,” Tilney finished. His brow furrowed as he sat upright with decision. “Then leave we shall. Help me up, Bennett.” He began to struggle to the edge of the bed.

“Nonsense!” Lizzie remonstrated. “You cannot possibly be thinking of getting up.” In vain she tried to tuck him back into the bed.

“We have no choice, Bennett,” Tilney said with admirable firmness. “Either we get on our way or we risk exposure. Be sensible, damme. We’ll be brought to Point Non Plus if the magistrate arrives and begins to ask uncomfortable questions.”

“I suppose,” Lizzie answered, hesitating as she tried to assail his logic, but finding no real recourse.

Tilney looked at her with cool appraisal. “You may have grown accustomed to your telling of Canterbury Tales, but I think it best if we have to avoid spreading too many dubious legends in our wake. Much easier to keep track of the truth as much as possible, eh Bennett?” He crooked one eyebrow in her direction and Lizzie did her best to maintain a steadfast light-heartedness and not give in to the swooning feeling of giddiness that filled her heart at that moment.

“I suppose,” she merely repeated, frowning down at Tilney. “How shall we proceed?”

“Help me up, Bennett,” Tilney croaked, making an effort to swing his pale legs out from under the bedclothes.

His face looked horribly pale, so Lizzie darted forward to steady his rise from the bed. “Easy now, Tilney. We can’t have you doing it much too brown, now.”

Tilney gave her a crooked smile. “Curse you, Bennett, but you do have a flair for cant.”

Lizzie could feel her cheeks grow pink. “Never mind that now, Tilney. We have important duties ahead of us.”

“Indeed we do,” he agreed, but Lizzie did not notice the gentle beam in his eyes as they took in her glowing face.

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