16.4

9 November, 2009 by katelaity

“Well, damme, Bennett,” said Tilney, his voice a little more gruff than usual. “I feel unaccountably weak. Must be the surgery.”

“Agreed,” Lizzie agreed. “But can you possibly travel? We shall have to hire a coach or phaeton, surely.”

Tilney regarded the issue with a passing solemnity. “Do you suppose there is one to be had in this tiny village?”

“I can ask the landlord,” Lizzie said, “But first let’s get you into some kind of, er, state fit to be seen.” Lizzie could feel her face turn crimson with the thought. How could she be valet to this young man? It was not only improper, but also the thought was more than a little daunting to her sensibilities. She had a strange Alice-like sensation that she might just swoon with consideration of the situation.

That would not do.

How to negotiate then between Tilney’s helplessness and her own sense of propriety? In vain Lizzie contemplated the options. There seemed to be little chance of escape from one scrape or another of a most perplexing kind.

“Ticklish situation, eh Bennett?” Tilney said. “My suggestion is that you lay out my wardrobe on the bed and help me to this chair here,” he indicated the desired seat with and outstretched hand,” Then, er, leave me to the task while you go inquire of the landlord whether there might be some suitable conveyance available. We can pursue things from there,” he said, smiling as Lizzie aided him to sit on the dressing chair.

“As you wish,” she sighed, looking askance at the effort this move had caused him while admiring the fine pink flush in his cheek. How had she ever considered Tilney’s face to be anything less than the first chalk was a mystery? While it was not conventionally handsome, she nonetheless saw in its every line his character – at times exasperating, but always bright and observant.

In a flash, Lizzie had laid out the necessities of his wardrobe, sighing that she had had no chance to properly starch his cravat, but Tilney had taken to carelessly leaving it askew for so long, it was doubtless of little concern to him. She busied herself gathering up the details of his clothing. “There you are,” she said at last, running her gaze once more over the accoutrements that littered the mattress. “Do be careful.”

“I have been dressing myself for a good many years,” Tilney drawled, trying to hide his amusement not at all, though his cheeks were a good deal pink. It must be the strain of rising from the sickbed, Lizzie told herself.

After a moment, she finally stepped out of the room and into the hall, and so missed Tilney’s odd look of both relief and perplexity.

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