18.3

15 March, 2010 by katelaity

“If I were to make such a feeble escape from an argument,” Lizzie said as she sliced off a little more cheese, “You would never let me hear the end of it, excoriating me for laziness and lack of aplomb.”

“Bennett, if it weren’t so unseasonably hot, I would stridently argue for the natural superiority of English men over English women,” Tilney said pulling his hat low enough to cover his eyes from her gaze before yawning elaborately and sinking back. “Lawks, but I’m fagged to death all of the sudden.”

“How very convenient for you. You’re just in a miff because you can’t defend your point. Concede, Tilney.”

“Nothing of the sort,” he muttered, sinking even lower and thrusting his legs out in front of him, the picture of perfect ease. “Swallow your spleen, old man. My point’s been made for me by better men than I. You just need to open a book.”

“You’re too smoky by half,” Lizzie said with malicious glee. While his hat concealed his eyes from her merry gaze, it did not stop her from admiring his fine profile. There was determination in that chin, but good humour and kindness in his mouth, however much he might scowl. Lizzie felt herself blush at the thought of her stare being noticed and turned her attention to what was left of their lunch.

She wrapped up the bread and cheese and corked the wine, trying to keep the thoughts from racing through her mind again. It was far too difficult to concentrate on anything other than the agreeable young man now snoring softly nearby.

With determination, Lizzie attempted to take command of her thoughts and turn them toward their proper destination: the King of Naples. Think of it, Bennett, she said with mock severity, a king awaits you — one with a surprising interest in the habits and peculiarities of insects and arachnids, which certainly counted for much.

Tilney evinced no interest in such creatures. Indeed, Lizzie doubted whether he could tell a mosquito from a mosque.

Yet the fact remained all too vividly before her, that she had grown accustomed to his voice, to his slangy speech and moreover, the visage that slumbered before her now.

Lizzie frowned. She had never had a commonplace mind, but now she continually coloured up at the sight of Tilney, at his laughter, at his smile, at that warm voice she once feared she would never hear again after the duellist’s bullet winged him. It was fortunate that she had been there to nurse him back to health from the terrible blow, but the idea kept fighting its way into her mind that he might never have been in the position of being shot were it not for her.

Stifling a tiny sob, Lizzie turned her head away from Tilney again. He was nearly recovered, certainly well enough for travel. Though he continued to tire easily, he was well out of danger. There was only one answer.

She would have to abandon him.

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