‘Now, here you stay,’ I said, ‘till I am ready to fetch you;’ and I turned to go.
But as I went a great doubt took me, and once more I remembered my mother’s fear, and how my father had ridden in haste to Yarmouth on business about a Spaniard. Now to-day a Spaniard had wandered to Ditchingham, and when he learned my name had fallen upon me madly trying to kill me. Was not this the man whom my mother feared, and was it right that I should leave him thus that I might go maying with my dear? I knew in my breast that it was not right, but I was so set upon my desire and so strongly did my heartstrings pull me towards her whose white robe now fluttered on the slope of the Park Hill, that I never heeded the warning.
Well had it been for me if I had done so, and well for some who were yet unborn. Then they had never known death, nor I the land of exile, the taste of slavery, and the altar of sacrifice.
THOMAS TELLS HIS LOVE
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 reverence.
‘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 hand?’
‘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.’