16.5

15 November, 2009 by katelaity

“I’m afraid we must be asking for our bill,” Lizzie told the landlord. “It is imperative that we leave quite soon, as we are expected in, ah, Italy soon, and Mr Tilney tells me it is much further than we originally ascertained and the date necessary for our arrival quickly approaches.”

“Oui, monsieur,” the landlord agreed. He did not bat an eyelash at the patently outlandish story, by which Lizzie was made certain that he was indeed the soul of discretion.

This was indeed fortunate for them both.

While surely he did not believe the tissue of lies she had just woven, he was not in the least bit concerned. That was something positive that Lizzie could say about the French; they were far more worldly and far less inclined to judge than her fellow countrymen. Of course he had been taken in by her masquerade, but Lizzie did not count that against him, for she prided herself on her flawless performance as a boy.

“We shall also require a carriage or a phaeton—I’m not certain what you call them here, a smallish conveyance due to Mr Tilney’s injuries. I fear it will be too much effort for him to have to ride and I think it wiser to use this mode of transport.”

“Oui, monsieur. Will you wish to drive the carriage yourself, Monsieur George?”

Lizzie considered the question carefully. She hadn’t really ever tried to drive a cart or carriage, but given her comfort with riding horses, surely it would be possible to manage them just as well in such a conveyance. Further, it would sidestep the need to involve an outsider in their little ménage, which would certainly decrease the chance of uncomfortable questions.

“Yes,” she told the landlord, “That is precisely what we need.”

“Very good, monsieur. I will call my cousin, Armand. I think we can arrange for such a conveyance at least as far as the Italian border.”

“We can hire someone to bring it back here,” Lizzie said. “That will be the simplest thing to do.”

The landlord went to fetch the boy from the kitchen to run this errand, while Lizzie considered if enough time had passed to allow Tilney to complete his toilette. She blushed at the thought of the intimate way they had somehow arrived at living. It was certainly not her intent to do anything untoward or unfitting for a young woman in her situation, but somehow since she had washed ashore in that coastal village Lizzie had been unable to reconcile her situation with propriety and so it had to be unless they unmasked altogether.

And where would they be then?

Lizzie sighed. What were they to do? She could not admit to herself that her feelings for Tilney were anything but grateful consideration for a corky individual like him, one to whom she could confide all the difficulties of her situation—well, almost all of her difficulties. Surely it was no more than that. And just as surely, he was no more interested in her than as a passing curiosity of course, she thought as she climbed the steps.

Lizzie knocked at the door. “Are you ready, Tilney?”

“Ah, not quite, but you’d better come in,” came his strangled reply.

Alarmed, Lizzie threw the door open. “Good heavens, what are you doing on the floor, Tilney!”

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