Having made the Spaniard as fast as I could, his arms being
bound to the tree behind him, and taking his sword with me, I began
to run hard after Lily and caught her not too soon, for in one more
minute she would have turned along the road that runs to the
watering and over the bridge by the Park Hill path to the Hall.
Hearing my footsteps, she faced about to greet me, or rather as
though to see who it was that followed her. There she stood in the
evening light, a bough of hawthorn bloom in her hand, and my heart
beat yet more wildly at the sight of her. Never had she seemed
fairer than as she stood thus in her white robe, a look of amaze
upon her face and in her grey eyes, that was half real half
feigned, and with the sunlight shifting on her auburn hair that
showed beneath her little bonnet. Lily was no round-checked country
maid with few beauties save those of health and youth, but a tall
and shapely lady who had ripened early to her full grace and
sweetness, and so it came about that though we were almost of an
age, yet in her presence I felt always as though I were the
younger. Thus in my love for her was mingled some touch of
'Oh! it is you, Thomas,' she said, blushing as she spoke. 'I
thought you were not—I mean that I am going home as it grows late.
But say, why do you run so fast, and what has happened to you,
Thomas, that your arm is bloody and you carry a sword in your
'I have no breath to speak yet,' I answered. 'Come back to the
hawthorns and I will tell you.'
'No, I must be wending homewards. I have been among the trees
for more than an hour, and there is little bloom upon them.'
'I could not come before, Lily. I was kept, and in a strange
manner. Also I saw bloom as I ran.'
'Indeed, I never thought that you would come, Thomas,' she
answered, looking down, 'who have other things to do than to go out
maying like a girl. But I wish to hear your story, if it is short,
and I will walk a little way with you.'
So we turned and walked side by side towards the great pollard
oaks, and by the time that we reached them, I had told her the tale
of the Spaniard, and how he strove to kill me, and how I had beaten
him with my staff. Now Lily listened eagerly enough, and sighed
with fear when she learned how close I had been to death.
'But you are wounded, Thomas,' she broke in; 'see, the blood
runs fast from your arm. Is the thrust deep?'
'I have not looked to see. I have had no time to look.'
'Take off your coat, Thomas, that I may dress the wound. Nay, I
will have it so.'
So I drew off the garment, not without pain, and rolled up the
shirt beneath, and there was the hurt, a clean thrust through the
fleshy part of the lower arm. Lily washed it with water from the
brook, and bound it with her kerchief, murmuring words of pity all
the while. To say truth, I would have suffered a worse harm gladly,
if only I could find her to tend it. Indeed, her gentle care broke
down the fence of my doubts and gave me a courage that otherwise
might have failed me in her presence. At first, indeed, I could
find no words, but as she bound my wound, I bent down and kissed
her ministering hand. She flushed red as the evening sky, the flood
of crimson losing itself at last beneath her auburn hair, but it
burned deepest upon the white hand which I had kissed.
'Why did you do that, Thomas?' she said, in a low voice.
Then I spoke. 'I did it because I love you, Lily, and do not
know how to begin the telling of my love. I love you, dear, and
have always loved as I always shall love you.'
'Are you so sure of that, Thomas?' she said, again.
'There is nothing else in the world of which I am so sure, Lily.
What I wish to be as sure of is that you love me as I love
For a moment she stood quiet, her head sunk almost to her
breast, then she lifted it and her eyes shone as I had never seen
them shine before.
'Can you doubt it, Thomas?' she said.
And now I took her in my arms and kissed her on the lips, and
the memory of that kiss has gone with me through my long life, and
is with me yet, when, old and withered, I stand upon the borders of
the grave. It was the greatest joy that has been given to me in all
my days. Too soon, alas! it was done, that first pure kiss of
youthful love—and I spoke again somewhat aimlessly.
'It seems then that you do love me who love you so well.'
'If you doubted it before, can you doubt it NOW?' she answered
very softly. 'But listen, Thomas. It is well that we should love
each other, for we were born to it, and have no help in the matter,
even if we wished to find it. Still, though love be sweet and holy,
it is not all, for there is duty to be thought of, and what will my
father say to this, Thomas?'
'I do not know, Lily, and yet I can guess. I am sure, sweet,
that he wishes you to take my brother Geoffrey, and leave me on one
'Then his wishes are not mine, Thomas. Also, though duty be
strong, it is not strong enough to force a woman to a marriage for
which she has no liking. Yet it may prove strong enough to keep a
woman from a marriage for which her heart pleads—perhaps, also, it
should have been strong enough to hold me back from the telling of
'No, Lily, the love itself is much, and though it should bring
no fruit, still it is something to have won it for ever and a
'You are very young to talk thus, Thomas. I am also young, I
know, but we women ripen quicker. Perhaps all this is but a boy's
fancy, to pass with boyhood.'
'It will never pass, Lily. They say that our first loves are the
longest, and that which is sown in youth will flourish in our age.
Listen, Lily; I have my place to make in the world, and it may take
a time in the making, and I ask one promise of you, though perhaps
it is a selfish thing to seek. I ask of you that you will be
faithful to me, and come fair weather or foul, will wed no other
man till you know me dead.'
'It is something to promise, Thomas, for with time come changes.
Still I am so sure of myself that I promise—nay I swear it. Of you
I cannot be sure, but things are so with us women that we must risk
all upon a throw, and if we lose, good-bye to happiness.'
Then we talked on, and I cannot remember what we said, though
these words that I have written down remain in my mind, partly
because of their own weight, and in part because of all that came
about in the after years.
And at last I knew that I must go, though we were sad enough at
parting. So I took her in my arms and kissed her so closely that
some blood from my wound ran down her white attire. But as we
embraced I chanced to look up, and saw a sight that frightened me
enough. For there, not five paces from us, stood Squire Bozard,
Lily's father, watching all, and his face wore no smile.
He had been riding by a bridle-path to the watering ford, and
seeing a couple trespassing beneath the oaks, dismounted from his
horse to hunt them away. Not till he was quite near did he know
whom he came to hunt, and then he stood still in astonishment. Lily
and I drew slowly apart and looked at him. He was a short stout
man, with a red face and stern grey eyes, that seemed to be
starting from his head with anger. For a while he could not speak,
but when he began at length the words came fast enough. All that he
said I forget, but the upshot of it was that he desired to know
what my business was with his daughter. I waited till he was out of
breath, then answered him that Lily and I loved each other well,
and were plighting our troth.
'Is this so, daughter?' he asked.
'It is so, my father,' she answered boldly.
Then he broke out swearing. 'You light minx,' he said, 'you
shall be whipped and kept cool on bread and water in your chamber.
And for you, my half-bred Spanish cockerel, know once and for all
that this maid is for your betters. How dare you come wooing my
daughter, you empty pill-box, who have not two silver pennies to
rattle in your pouch! Go win fortune and a name before you dare to
look up to such as she.'
'That is my desire, and I will do it, sir,' I answered.
'So, you apothecary's drudge, you will win name and place, will
you! Well, long before that deed is done the maid shall be safely
wedded to one who has them and who is not unknown to you. Daughter,
say now that you have finished with him.'
'I cannot say that, father,' she replied, plucking at her robe.
'If it is not your will that I should marry Thomas here, my duty is
plain and I may not wed him. But I am my own and no duty can make
me marry where I will not. While Thomas lives I am sworn to him and
to no other man.'
'At the least you have courage, hussey,' said her father. 'But
listen now, either you will marry where and when I wish, or tramp
it for your bread. Ungrateful girl, did I breed you to flaunt me to
my face? Now for you, pill-box. I will teach you to come kissing
honest men's daughters without their leave,' and with a curse he
rushed at me, stick aloft, to thrash me.
Then for the second time that day my quick blood boiled in me,
and snatching up the Spaniard's sword that lay upon the grass
beside me, I held it at the point, for the game was changed, and I
who had fought with cudgel against sword, must now fight with sword
against cudgel. And had it not been that Lily with a quick cry of
fear struck my arm from beneath, causing the point of the sword to
pass over his shoulder, I believe truly that I should then and
there have pierced her father through, and ended my days early with
a noose about my neck.
'Are you mad?' she cried. 'And do you think to win me by slaying
my father? Throw down that sword, Thomas.'
'As for winning you, it seems that there is small chance of it;'
I answered hotly, 'but I tell you this, not for the sake of all the
maids upon the earth will I stand to be beaten with a stick like a
'And there I do not blame you, lad,' said her father, more
kindly. 'I see that you also have courage which may serve you in
good stead, and it was unworthy of me to call you "pill-box" in my
anger. Still, as I have said, the girl is not for you, so be gone
and forget her as best you may, and if you value your life, never
let me find you two kissing again. And know that to-morrow I will
have a word with your father on this matter.'
'I will go since I must go,' I answered, 'but, sir, I still hope
to live to call your daughter wife. Lily, farewell till these
storms are overpast.'
'Farewell, Thomas,' she said weeping. 'Forget me not and I will
never forget my oath to you.'
Then taking Lily by the arm her father led her away.
I also went away—sad, but not altogether ill-pleased. For now I
knew that if I had won the father's anger, I had also won the
daughter's unalterable love, and love lasts longer than wrath, and
here or hereafter will win its way at length. When I had gone a
little distance I remembered the Spaniard, who had been clean
forgotten by me in all this love and war, and I turned to seek him
and drag him to the stocks, the which I should have done with joy,
and been glad to find some one on whom to wreak my wrongs. But when
I came to the spot where I had left him, I found that fate had
befriended him by the hand of a fool, for there was no Spaniard but
only the village idiot, Billy Minns by name, who stood staring
first at the tree to which the foreigner had been made fast, and
then at a piece of silver in his hand.
'Where is the man who was tied here, Billy?' I asked.
'I know not, Master Thomas,' he answered in his Norfolk talk
which I will not set down. 'Half-way to wheresoever he was going I
should say, measured by the pace at which he left when once I had
set him upon his horse.'
'You set him on his horse, fool? How long was that ago?'
'How long! Well, it might be one hour, and it might be two. I'm
no reckoner of time, that keeps its own score like an innkeeper,
without my help. Lawks! how he did gallop off, working those long
spurs he wore right into the ribs of the horse. And little wonder,
poor man, and he daft, not being able to speak, but only to bleat
sheeplike, and fallen upon by robbers on the king's roads, and in
broad daylight. But Billy cut him loose and caught his horse and
set him on it, and got this piece for his good charity. Lawks! but
he was glad to be gone. How he did gallop!'
'Now you are a bigger fool even than I thought you, Billy
Minns,' I said in anger. 'That man would have murdered me, I
overcame him and made him fast, and you have let him go.'
'He would have murdered you, Master, and you made him fast! Then
why did you not stop to keep him till I came along, and we would
have haled him to the stocks? That would have been sport and all.
You call me fool—but if you found a man covered with blood and
hurts tied to a tree, and he daft and not able to speak, had you
not cut him loose? Well, he's gone, and this alone is left of him,'
and he spun the piece into the air.
Now, seeing that there was reason in Billy's talk, for the fault
was mine, I turned away without more words, not straight homewards,
for I wished to think alone awhile on all that had come about
between me and Lily and her father, but down the way which runs
across the lane to the crest of the Vineyard Hills. These hills are
clothed with underwood, in which large oaks grow to within some two
hundred yards of this house where I write, and this underwood is
pierced by paths that my mother laid out, for she loved to walk
here. One of these paths runs along the bottom of the hill by the
edge of the pleasant river Waveney, and the other a hundred feet or
more above and near the crest of the slope, or to speak more
plainly, there is but one path shaped like the letter O, placed
thus [symbol of O laying on its side omitted], the curved ends of
the letter marking how the path turns upon the hill-side.
Now I struck the path at the end that is furthest from this
house, and followed that half of it which runs down by the river
bank, having the water on one side of it and the brushwood upon the
other. Along this lower path I wandered, my eyes fixed upon the
ground, thinking deeply as I went, now of the joy of Lily's love,
and now of the sorrow of our parting and of her father's wrath. As
I went, thus wrapped in meditation, I saw something white lying
upon the grass, and pushed it aside with the point of the
Spaniard's sword, not heeding it. Still, its shape and fashioning
remained in my mind, and when I had left it some three hundred
paces behind me, and was drawing near to the house, the sight of it
came back to me as it lay soft and white upon the grass, and I knew
that it was familiar to my eyes. From the thing, whatever it might
be, my mind passed to the Spaniard's sword with which I had tossed
it aside, and from the sword to the man himself. What had been his
business in this parish?—an ill one surely—and why had he looked as
though he feared me and fallen upon me when he learned my name?
I stood still, looking downward, and my eyes fell upon
footprints stamped in the wet sand of the path. One of them was my
mother's. I could have sworn to it among a thousand, for no other
woman in these parts had so delicate a foot. Close to it, as though
following after, was another that at first I thought must also have
been made by a woman, it was so narrow. But presently I saw that
this could scarcely be, because of its length, and moreover, that
the boot which left it was like none that I knew, being cut very
high at the instep and very pointed at the toe. Then, of a sudden,
it came upon me that the Spanish stranger wore such boots, for I
had noted them while I talked with him, and that his feet were
following those of my mother, for they had trodden on her track,
and in some places, his alone had stamped their impress on the sand
blotting out her footprints. Then, too, I knew what the white rag
was that I had thrown aside. It was my mother's mantilla which I
knew, and yet did not know, because I always saw it set daintily
upon her head. In a moment it had come home to me, and with the
knowledge a keen and sickening dread. Why had this man followed my
mother, and why did her mantilla lie thus upon the ground?
I turned and sped like a deer back to where I had seen the lace.
All the way the footprints went before me. Now I was there. Yes,
the wrapping was hers, and it had been rent as though by a rude
hand; but where was she?
With a beating heart once more I bent to read the writing of the
footsteps. Here they were mixed one with another, as though the two
had stood close together, moving now this way and now that in
struggle. I looked up the path, but there were none. Then I cast
round about like a beagle, first along the river side, then up the
bank. Here they were again, and made by feet that flew and feet
that followed. Up the bank they went fifty yards and more, now lost
where the turf was sound, now seen in sand or loam, till they led
to the bole of a big oak, and were once more mixed together, for
here the pursuer had come up with the pursued.
Despairingly as one who dreams, for now I guessed all and grew
mad with fear, I looked this way and that, till at length I found
more footsteps, those of the Spaniard. These were deep marked, as
of a man who carried some heavy burden. I followed them; first they
went down the hill towards the river, then turned aside to a spot
where the brushwood was thick. In the deepest of the clump the
boughs, now bursting into leaf, were bent downwards as though to
hide something beneath. I wrenched them aside, and there, gleaming
whitely in the gathering twilight was the dead face of my