18.4

22 March, 2010 by katelaity

“Monsieur,” a familiar voice called.

Lizzie turned to see the kind landlord’s cousin Armand, who approached quietly, seeing that Tilney had fallen once more into a slumber. “What is it, Armand?”

“Monsieur, I know that I am to take you . . . what do you say? A ways, no?”

“Oui, that is so, Armand.”

“I need to get home soon, monsieur. My children, my wife—there is much to do at our farm.”

Lizzie looked at the man and saw a simple farmer far from home. Her heart felt a stab of sympathy quite remote from her own troubles. “I know, Armand. I think we are near enough to the main thoroughfare to catch a mail coach to . . . ah, our destination.” Best to remain cagey about that, Lizzie reminded herself.

“Oui, monsieur,” Armand agreed. “Do you think your ami will be ready to travel such an arduous way?”

Lizzie had her doubts, but she covered them with bonhomie. “He is quite strong and will recover quickly. Why, he is already much more himself. We will be just fine, Armand. You need not worry.”

Perhaps it would make things easier, anyway. If Lizzie needed to make her own escape and head toward Naples, then she could leave Tilney to make his way homeward once more and be safe. She would have to do it and silence her traitorous thoughts that whispered that she could not leave him not tomorrow, not ever.

What is the world, Lizzie thought, that allows us hearts and no way to express them? Allows us minds that must hold in their ruminations that might make this life less painful for many, that must leave to bland tradition the burning passions that wished to break free of such moorings and speak to authentic emotions and lives? What a world this is that gives us hearts to crack with longing and desire and yet no mind to comprehend the ways these hearts operate.

Armand took his seat once more, a hefty hunk of bread and some of the cheese beside him. The carriage rattled off and while the movement shook Tilney, he did not awake, but slumbered on, leaning comfortably against Lizzie’s shoulder as she stared off into the space beyond the window.

The French countryside that passed her view remained unseen. Her thoughts were filled with obligations made, tragedies already unfolded and the warm shape of Tilney’s head pressed against her shoulder. Lizzie could smell the scent of his hair, a fragrance she had come to know well as she cared for his injured body. Such a foolish thing, she told herself, a mere animal sensation.

But it did not stop her from inhaling deeply the musky smell of his head, nor caressing with her free hand the dark curls of his head as he lay slumbering beside her. Surely, she remonstrated with herself, surely the King of Naples had charms in excess of this modest English gentleman. Surely the King would make her laugh as much as Tilney did, surely. And his knowledge of insects was vast. Tilney could not with certainty identify more than a dozen species.

“I hate insects!” he had announced quite decidedly one day. Lizzie leaned her head upon his and felt a tear fall from her eye.

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