16.6

22 November, 2009 by katelaity

“Stupid thing, really,” Tilney said from his crumpled state on the floor. “I just came over a bit weak.”

Lizzie charged forward to slip her arms under his. “If you’ve torn out those stitches—”

“Steady on, Bennett,” Tilney said with as much verve as usual though his face had become several shades paler than when she left the room. “I took care to collapse neatly enough. Even you should be impressed.”

Lizzie continued to mutter words of considerable derision under her breath as she helped Tilney regain seating on the bed. “You might have caused additional injuries, you know,” she said trying very hard to look cross and not at all relieved that he seemed to have added no further harm. As she let go of him, Lizzie found it impossible not to blush at having had need to touch him so intimately again.

To cover her embarrassment and confusion, she told Tilney that the landlord had recommended his cousin as a procurer of transportation.

“Wonderful idea, Bennett,” Tilney said, looking a bit faint. His cheeks were flushed pink. Lizzie worried a bit that the strain had been too much for him, but he gamely finished knotting his cravat while she looked on. Her fingers itched to help him smooth out the fabric, but Lizzie willed them into compliance.

“I think a phaeton will be the best thing. We can doubtless hire a good sturdy carriage horse and let our mounts trot along behind us. We ought to make good time.”

Tilney gave her a penetrating look. “And whither shall we wend, eh, Bennett?”

Lizzie froze. “Whither?”

“You seem to have a destination in mind already,” Tilney continued, picking some imaginary lint off his spotless sleeve. “Care to impart the location to your traveling companion?”

“Ah, well,” Lizzie began, but then halted abruptly. After a moment’s consideration, she added with as casual an air as possible, “I thought south would be safest, of course.”

“Of course,” Tilney rejoined. “Why ‘of course’?”

“Lud,” Lizzie drawled, “they know we’re English, after all.”

“Tare ‘n hounds, Bennett,” Tilney said with evident irritation. “What’s that got to do with the price of cheese?”

“Sharpen up, Tilney,” Lizzie said with a small laugh. “They’re going to expect us to head north to get closer to home. We’ll fool them all.”

“You are a bright chum to have in a scrape and no mistake,” Tilney said with a grin that warmed Lizzie exceedingly. “Let’s get all our gear together then, shall we? We’ll be off once the landlord’s relation gets here.”

Lizzie turned to the desk to begin packing Tilney’s belongings up and so missed his puzzled look of perplexity.

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