Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century
Rodwell, G Herbert
As Alyce and her lovely daughter returned towards the cottage of the heath, their newly-made friend, for he had, they felt, been indeed a friend to them, made rapid progress in their good opinions; there was about his manner a gentle solicitude which is ever pleasing to the softer sex, and which now completely captivated both mother and child. That Anne should feel peculiarly delighted, was scarcely to be wondered at, when we reflect upon all the circumstances connected with their strange meeting. There was a romance, too, about the whole affair, and what sweet girl of Anne's age was ever dead to the powers of romance ?
It seemed so strange that he, whom they had so lately been talking of, as connected with their late superstitious fears, should suddenly become, as it were, closely linked to them by the bonds of gratitude ; and then, again, Walter Lerue being the first stranger who had approached the lovely girl for many years past, and possessing as he did in an eminent degree, those, almost resistless charms-youth, beauty, and apparent good nature-caused her to feel for the moment, that she had discovered some peculiar magic sensation of pleasure, for which she could not account.
Perhaps, all she felt was nothing more than unbounded delight at having so recently escaped a danger, at a moment when all hope seemed lost. Perhaps it might be the novelty of listening to the conversation of one, who spoke in strains so different to those she had as yet been accustomed to. It was the first time her ears had drank in the intoxicating breath of hidden flattery, and gallantry artfully disguised.
Walter Lerue, although young, was evidently a man who had seen much, and understood the world more deeply than his years would seem to warrant. But it was that very knowledge of the world, which now gave him the power of captivating the minds of his hearers, and taught him that a seeming timidity, is the most powerful weapon to use against the timid of the other sex-in fact it disarms them of their only safeguard -watchfulness.
There was one circumstance, which by most girls would have been regarded as highly flattering, but it caused Anne, more than once, to feel a degree of pain, scarcely to be accounted for; and that was, that whenever she turned towards their new acquaintance, she ever found his eyes rivetted upon her, as though they were endeavouring to allay their thirst of admiration at the fountains of her beauty.
Whether there was anything so very peculiar in the intensity of his gaze, we know not, but her inward heart seemed to say-" Why dost thou avert thine eyes ? Edward has often gazed upon their light ; but
|then their shades were never lowered, as if by the hand of unacknowledged fear."|
When they reached their home, Walter Lerue, unlike most young men in such circumstances, excused himself from intruding further upon them but expressed a hope that he might be allowed to return at a later hour, when they should have fully recovered from their recent alarm, and then, receive their commands regarding any further assistance they might deem his humble powers worthy of rendering. Just as he was turning away, after having received a thousand thanks, arid more than one assurance of the pleasure his proposed return would afford them, he dropped the whole contents of his portfolio.
Observing the admiration Alyce evinced upon viewing one of the drawings, he hurriedly picked up the remainder, and said--" Although, I fear, the poor efforts of my pencil will but ill repay you for the time you must lose in looking at them, I will, with your permission, leave them all, until I again have the honour of waiting upon you."
Anne did not hesitate to own the delight she should feel by such a favour, and, although Alyce by gentle signs endeavoured to check her, she confessed, that they had seen him sketching the ruined cross, and that how much she had then wished to have asked to look upon his work.
Walter Lerue, smilingly replied--" That I felt so much delight whilst there at work, or that I should have succeeded so well-for I believe it to be my best effort-is no longer to me a wonder, since I now find an angel was smiling on my endeavours."
Alyce did not hear this remark, but Anne, looking Lerue full in the face, said-" It is upon the good works of the heart, and not of the hands, that angels smile."
Walter Lerue felt for a moment a little abashed, for he at once understood that fulsome flattery was not the battery that would ever subdue a mind like Anne's. He endeavoured not to shew that he felt her rebuke, and after one or two common-place sentences, made his bow and took the road down towards the town.
He walked rapidly-then he ran a little way-then, more than once, looked back, for his vanity had raised a hope that he might perchance find the Beauty of the Heath was looking after him, but in this he was sorely disappointed, but not so much so, that it should prevent his bounding along, as one often does, when the mind is particularly satisfied with some clever thought or hope that suddenly seems about to be fulfilled.
" Fate has indeed smiled on me to-day," he said; " to think now, that after watching and watching for days and weeks, and just upon being about to give up the pursuit, such a fall of good luck should be showered upon me. It's strange, that amidst all the beauties I have seen in every land of Europe, that I should never have gazed upon one so perfect as this simple girl, my Beauty of the Heath. But stop, stop, my master," he said, all at once checking himself, as if some weighty affair had suddenly struck upon his mind, " in pursuing love and pleasure, the goods of this world must not be forgotten-no, nor the ills neither-and, I fear me, if I be not cautious of my present ways, there may be more of ills than good come out on't. I'll hasten to the inn, and according to the news I OLD- LONDON BRIDGE.
|trust I shall there receive, shape my course. I wish I had never seen the girl. I think far more of her than prudence would, in my present position, sanction. I did not like that immoveable look she gave me, when I hinted she was an angel; how many, before now, have I called angels, and have been smiled on for my pains!"|
When Walter Lerue reached the Ferry--house, which was also the ostlery of Putney, his first anxiety was to enquire whether the letter- carrier from London had yet arrived. Being answered in the affirmative, and that a communication for him was lying on the table in the room lie occupied, he flew up the stairs, and seizing the epistle, tore it open ; but he scarcely read a line, ere he dashed it upon the table in evident disappointment. " No money yet !" he exclaimed; " not a single noble !-no matter: they may starve, but they shall not conquer me. A pretty plight I'm in, though-here at an inn, already owing much, and with not a chance of paying what I owe. I am too proud to confess my position to the host; and too honest to run away in debt, though it were but for a time. Never did I wish to have the command of money more than at this juncture, and never was I so truly poor as now. Fool that I have been to loiter here so long, and all for the sake of looking at the pretty face of one, whom, now I know, seems far more distant from me, than when a perfect stranger. She's not one to be fooled by flattery-that's clear to me at the starting; and as to marriage, in such a position as mine, 'twere madness to dream of it. No, no, let me call up the little sense her bright eyes have left me. The host may retain what things I have here; they will be ample security for my debt, until I can pay him: let me hasten to London at once, and see myself what course to pursue; but never, no never, let me look upon the Beauty of the Heath again."
The more Walter Lerue determined upon, " never, no never, looking upon the Beauty of the Heath again," the slower did he feel the time wear away, which might render it not unbecoming in him, to pay his promised visit to the cottage; for, although he appeared in his own mind determined never to see his enchantress more, it never struck him that the best way of accomplishing such determination, was to avoid her presence. No, with him, as with those who are always going to do something to-morrow, a day, that, strange to say, never arrives, he intended his never to be after the next time, but which next time he meant, he had not thought of asking himself.
He had sat for some time, turning over in his mind the most likely aquaintances he might with safety apply to for assistance in his present circumstances, when a gentle tap was heard at the door of his room.
" Come in," he said, but thinking it was one of the helpers, he did not observe who was standing at the door-it was a young girl, who, without being beautiful, possessed a countenance in which was found such a sweet expression of the purest innocence, that few could gaze upon her without an emotion, almost approaching to pity; she stood for a moment timidly, and then looking on Lerue, seemed upon the point of again retiring, when his eyes caught her moving dress, which causing him to turn, he said almost pettishly, as if to hide himself from reproach for
|. unkindness-" Lillia, you should have spoken; I knew not it was you." He rose, and taking her hand gently led her into the room.|
" I used to speak, Walter," she said, "freely, a little while ago, but lately you have seemed so altered towards me, that I have feared I might offend; even now in saying Walter, I feel my face burn: you told me to call you so, soon after you first came here; and it sounds so much sweeter to my ears, than Master Lerue, that when I am alone, and thinking what I can do next to make you more comfortable and happy, I always say Walter: I say it a hundred times a day. It has just struck me, as my father is away from home, and will be so for some hours, that if you had nothing else to do, perhaps you would finish the likeness of me you have been taking such pains with. I have not sat to you for now more than a week; indeed, it is nine days, at this very hour."
"You seem to keep most correct accounts with time," said Lerue; "I had really forgotten the whole affair."
The poor girl's face suddenly became scarlet, which, Walter observing, endeavoured to soften the effect his seeming want of recollection had caused, by saying, "I mean, Lillia, as regards the day and hour; but, it is, indeed, a very long time since you have paid me a visit here."
"You have not asked me lately," replied the girl, rather reproachfully; " you used to be always making some excuse for being down with us, or that I might be here with you; perhaps it were better had I never been; but you were so kind then."
" And am I not so now, Lillia ?" said Lerue, putting his arm around her; " I wish to be always kind to those I like."
"Like ! like!" and she repeated the word with still stronger emphasis; "like is a colder word than that you used when first you held me thus; it then was-" and she again blushed-" love !"
" I know it was," was his reply; " but liking and loving, with some, mean exactly the same."
" No, no ! with none can it mean the same!" exclaimed Lillia, quite empassioned: " a thousand human beings may each one like a thousand other human beings, but every single one that make up all those thousands, that one can love but one !"
Saying this, the poor girl buried her blushing face in Walter's bosom, for she had been betrayed into the expressions of feelings, that till now, she had never dreamed her heart possessed, nor that her tongue had power to tell.
Lerue, now, for the first time,really felt the wickedness of the part he had been playing, a part, alas, too often played by man in his vain unthinking years. How many are bad, not meaning to be so, until, step by step, they find themselves involved in a labyrinth of wrong, from which, their only chance of egress appears to be attainable by still going on.
Walter Lerue was one of those, the like of whom are to be found in thousands, not recklessly vicious, nor willingly dishonourable, but wanting in that most difficult of virtues, the power to withstand temptation. How many a man, ay, and woman too, who after sinning, has exclaimed, "Oh, had I known the guilt! had there 'but been some one kindly hand, to have pointed to the precipice o'er which I have fallen-one saving voice, to have warned me of the danger I was hurrying to, how
|differently then would I have acted!" Oh! hypocrites-doubly hypocrites -for not only do you attempt to deceive those, who in pity listen to your ravings, but also to deceive yourselves !|
No crime, no, nor venial fault, is ever perpetrated by man, but he has been forewarned, ay, and in time too, to halt upon his guilty course, and with the power left, would he but exert it, of turning back into the road of right. Let any one of us ask our own hearts, did we ever do the most trifling wrong believing it to be a virtue, or believing that it was not a wrong even in the doing ? No! but then comes in TEMPTATION, with his tinted glass, to give a colouring fictitious to all we longing gaze at ; we know we are deceived; but then we have a saving clause, as we attempt to think it, by laying all blame upon TEMPTATION'S back: his back, indeed, must be wide, wide as the universe, if it can carry off from us the load of half the guilt we heap upon it.
Walter Lerue, was at that very moment we are writing of, endeavouring to call TEMPTATION to account, for his own cruel conduct, to the really innocent, confiding Lillia.
Lerue had arrived at her father's ostlery, where he had taken up his abode, in order, as he said, to ramble about the neighbouring country for the purpose of sketching, he being an artist. To the fulfilment of his artistic duties, he added the meditative pleasures of fishing, and the more active and healthful recreation of the sportsman; he seldom went out without his fishing-tackle, or his magnificent gun, which latter, upon a recent occasion, he had used to some purpose, as the reader is already aware. Finding the master of the inn a far superior person to most of those who usually fill such stations, and, what to youth, perhaps, was still more attractive, that this superior host, had a very superior daughter, not far removed from childhood, either in years, or manner-for, as we have before hinted, she was simplicity and innocence personified, young Lerue experienced great pleasure in passing many an evening alone with the host and his child. Her perfect innocence was something so new to Walter, who had lived much amongst the most profligate of London, and the circumstance of finding such simplicity in an abode, so unlikely to foster that charming attribute of woman, that he wa mightily taken with the youthful Lillia, and throwing off the rougher man, himself assumed the manners befitting childhood, and regarding the " Lilly of the Inn," for so he called her, more as a lovely plaything, than aught else, he sowed the seeds in her young heart, that were destined to bring forth the bitterest of all bitter fruit-unrequited affection.
Lerue, as we have before said, was now endeavouring to throw all blame upon the shoulders of TEMPTATION; he had, from the moment he beheld the Beauty of the Heath, began to understand the extent of wrong he was doing the child of the inn, by awakening in her mind, feelings that must end in wretchedness, or perhaps in shame. He had gone so far in his thoughtlessness, that he knew not now how to undeceive her, without cruelly, most cruelly wounding a heart, that might have proved a treasure inestimable to another, but to him, all its purity and brightness were worthless. He had hoped by becoming more reserved, and by absenting himself more from her sight, to wean, as it were, her thoughts from one, upon whom he knew full well they were then so entirely fixed: having debated
|. much within himself upon this point, it seemed far less unkind to deceive her still, than openly to proclaim himself the unfeeling betrayer lie really was. He soon renewed by kindness, or rather unkindness in disguise, the impression of neglect which his late behaviour had stamped upon her mind; and acting as nearly as he could the part he used but shortly since to play, so agreeably to himself, and so fatally to her, he, to a degree, succeeded; for, oh ! how the youthful heart of woman does love to deceive itself, and frame all kinds of excuses for those they adore!|
Walter Lerue, in order to change the thoughts of poor Lillia, bustled about amongst his drawings, looking for the unfinished sketch of the " Lilly of the Inn," and seemed to her willing eyes, the same kind Walter she had seen him first.
" Oh, I want it to be finished," she said, " so very much ; for I long to tell my poor, dear, kind old father all, and to give him the picture of his child Do you know, Walter, this is the first secret I have kept from him in all my life? and it makes me feel at times so very miserable; for I think, perhaps, he would not like to know the number of hours I have passed with you alone. Why did you wish me not to tell him about the picture ?"
" In order that the pleasure might be the greater, when you gave it to him. But let us to work," said Walter, anxious to change the subject. " I almost forget where I put it. I thought it was in this portfolio," and he kept turning over his drawings carelessly.
" Or perhaps," said Lillia, " it may be in this: shall I look ?"
"Do, child," he replied, "while I search this drawer. You know I have twenty sketches of you, somewhere." "More than that," replied Lillia, "you were always making me sit before you, and then you used to look so kindly. Heavens!" she exclaimed, as her eye fell upon one of the drawings she was turning over, "how wonderfully like! and yet it cannot be."
"Cannot be what ?" enquired Lerue, heedlessly.
"Not the likeness of my kind, kind schoolfellow, Anne; or, as I ought to call her now, Mistress Allen, the Beauty of the Heath."
Walter Lerue felt the blood fly to his face, yet scarcely knew why he should be thus confused; but his heart told him, that Anne was really the magnet which had attracted nearly every thought from the poor girl before him. It is true he had never loved Lillia, nor had he ever thought of doing so; but there was a flattering to his self- esteem, in gaining the power over her young affections, which was too sweet to his vanity for his better feelings to combat.
" And here is their cottage, too," she said; " and here is the lovely face of Anne, twenty times repeated, upon the same sheet of paper: you never told me, Walter, that you knew Dame Allen and her daughter."
"Nor did I," replied Lerue, "not until to-day; but I have often seen them, and these sketches are merely the offsprings of memory."
" I do not wonder that her sweet face should be remembered," said the girl; " would that I were as fair as she! then I might sink as deeply into the memory of those who look upon me-I mean not that; but into the heart's memory of one-only one -"
Lerue could not resist the kindly feeling which her look of intense affection called up in his heart: he pressed her to his bosom, and fondly kissed her forehead. He was sorry he had done so, now it was done, for lie knew that such show of kindness on his part would but tighten the bonds that held her to him, and those bonds he wished, for her sake, as he deceived himself in thinking, to be for c er unloosed.
"Come, child," he said, " we will commence a new sketch of your pretty face, and not lose our time in looking for the one I have mislaid ; and while I am at work, you shall tell me all you know about Dame-- Dame Allen, I think you said the mother's name was ?"
Lerue knew the name quite as well as Lillia, but he descended to this deceit, in order to appear perfectly indifferent as to those about whom they were then to make the subjects of their conversation. Poor Lillia for a moment felt that all was once more as it formerly had been, and joyously she smiled upon the young artist, as she took her seat.
"You had better," said Lerue, " look more that way; I have drawn your full face, until I am tired of it-I mean of drawing it-not of the face, for none could over grow tired of that." The latter part of the sentence came forth but very coldly ; there was no truthful feeling in his tone of voice, but Lillia felt grateful at hearing even such words, and was happy.
"I will look any way you like best," she said, turning her eyes from him; " but you used to say, an artist could never give the real expression, unless the object's eyes were fixed on him."
Lerue, not seeming to hear this observation, began to sketch, as he said-" And now, Lillia, tell me-what meant you by Anne-is that the name of Mistress Allen ?-by Anne being your schoolfellow ? Was she indeed so ?"
" Oh, yes !" replied the Lilly of the Inn, " for many years; indeed for eight years; and oh, I used to love her so. You must know, that although poor father never talks about it, he was once in a very different station to that of keeping an ostlery-pray do not tell him I have said so-for he only let me know it a few days since, and wished me to keep the secret to myself; but, I know not why, I cannot keep a secret from you; and, indeed, the moment he told me, I felt so proud, that I determined to disobey him and disclose all to you; it seems, that do what I will, where you are concerned, I am led to do wrong; but this time, it is to do right, at least I think so."
"But about Mistress Anne," interrupted Leru; "has she lived here long ?"
"Oh, yes, almost as long as I can remember things clearly. I was just turned eight, when she came up to the old convent house to be instructed; she was older than I was; but from some cause or other, she knew nothing, and used at times to say the strangest words-you can't think how strange some were; but she was so industrious, that ere long she far outstripped the foremost there: but it was not because she was so quick and clever, that we all loved her so much; but because she was so sensible, and more than that, so kind. I never saw any one so kind in her manner-but you."
" And do they live alone ?" said Lerue.
" Mostly ! that is all the week days; but on Saturdays, at eve, Master Allen, with two others, always comes, and remains until the Monday morning."
"Not always," replied Lerue, " for I have now been in this neighbourhood for some weeks, and have never yet seen man enter their abode, except the menials."
" That may have been, because, this being winter, they never come as they do in summer, by water, and land here at the ferry, but reach the heath by the road from London; and I believe for nearly all the time you have been here, the merchant, for so I know him to be, from Anne having told me so, has been far away; and even when he does come, he is but little seen in the town; nor do the people hereabouts know much, or indeed anything, of who, or what he is, further than that he gives a great deal to the poor, and all his household say he is the best of all good masters. How are you getting on, Walter ?" enquired Lillia.
" Eh ! oh-oh, pretty well!" replied Lerue, looking upon the paper, which was still untouched; " oh, pretty well; but I am not so quick today as usual;" and he began to scratch away with his pencil, faster than he had ever done in his life before.
After workin , or seeming to work, for some little time, his mind appeared to be wandering far from the object of his labour. Lillia looking round, found him completely buried in thought; so much so, indeed, that lie was quite unconscious that she had risen from where she had been sitting, and was now standing behind him, looking upon the paper, drawn on certainly, but without the slightest approach to any definite object. She placed her arm gently round his neck, which made him start as from a dream, as she said-" Walter, I will no longer keep from you all the inmost feelings of my poor simple heart-listen ! I will now own in words, what you must have already guessed-yes, from a thousand, and a thousand little acts of mine ; for a female heart cannot long keep the secret of its affection from him, who, she believes adores her, as fondly as she does him. Walter, I love you-madly love you ! Do not think that I have suddenly changed the timidity of my nature, and become bold from recklessness. No, what I now say, I utter from the purest motives that ever sprung from a yet unsullied heart."
"Do not speak to me until I have said all that the promptings of my inmost soul now dictate; for if you check me, even by a look, I shall sink into the earth from shame, and fear that you will upbraid me- will hate me." For a moment she hesitated, as if already her courage was upon the wing. " No," she said, as if addressing herself, " I have pondered upon it for many a sleepless night; I have seen myself in the visions of a wandering mind, standing as I do now, speaking as I will speak; I then found strength and words to tell my hopes, and will do so now. Oh, Walter, you cannot guess the joy that is revelling in my heart, for what I am about to say is said to make you happy! Do not think that I am speaking from pride, but as I before told you, my dear, dear, too kind father, was not always what he now appears to be ; he .
|was once a soldier, and one who was high in the estimation of his king, when that king, so lately dead, was worthy of being loved. I know not all the causes that first led to his altered fortunes, but that which doomed him to pass so many years in this most humble station, was its being discovered that my poor father had imbibed the tenets of the reformed religion: he was compelled to fly from London; the only friend he dared to trust, was Walter Cromwell, father to the Earl of Essex. It was he who placed my father here, as being a refuge of the greatest safety. Here he has lived for many years-I but a few short weeks. At my birth, my mother died; and from that hour, my dear, my only parent, centred all his love, all his hopes in me. I was placed at the convent school, the better to elude the watchful eyes of our religious enemies; but not a day was past but my father came and poured into my longing ears, the purer doctrines of his own pure faith. As I grew up, his anxiety for my welfare was ever his chiefest thought. Oh, how I have heard him sigh, and have often felt a tear fall upon my cheeks as I lay, in sleep, as he believed, and heard him exclaim, ' Oh, my poor, poor child, if Heaven take me from thee, what will be thy fate ? Not one relative, one friend on earth hast thou but me !' Oh, Walter, when I have heard him say this, my own heart seemed ready to burst !" For a moment Lillia ceased; but, almost immediately, smiling through her tears, she continued- "But now, Walter, comes the happier part of my long story. The convent school having been abolished, I was obliged to be brought here, and I arrived on the very night that you did. Few people ever remain here, so that when you took up your abode under his roof, my father felt at last that he had an inmate with whom he could speak as he was wont to do in former years. The moment the dear old man saw you, he liked you, Walter. I should make you vain, were I to tell you half the kind things he has said of you to me; it was dangerous praise to pour into the ears of one so young and inexperienced as I. Besides himself, you are the only man I have ever spoken to: imagine then, the impression your kind manner and looks made upon my mind. You never said you loved me; but I knew you did, for every little act of yours, spoke with its silent tongue too plainly for my willing heart not to understand its meaning. Oh, how I should blush at what I have already said, were I not about to say that which I feel will sanctify the former! Walter, dear Walter, for many days you have been so altered, that I could not, if I would, but endeavour to find out the hidden cause -I have discovered it !"|
Had a shot passed through his brain, Lerue would scarcely have felt more stunned then he did at, as he thought, his secret being discovered, and that too, by the last being on earth be would have liked to have known it.
" Discovered it !" at last he exclaimed.
"Yes," said the innocent girl, "I have indeed, Walter;-you are poor !"
The relief he at that moment experienced, gave to his features a most peculiar expression, which Lillia believing to be the effects of wounded pride, at being told he was poor, said-" But, oh, Walter, since I have found that out, I love you a thousand times better than before; and
|. but for your poverty, you would, perhaps, have never heard the confession I have this day made."|
" But how, dear Lillia," he said, "how did you discover my secret, as you call it ?"
Oh," she replied, " you have told me it more than once, although you knew it not. Often, when I have thought you were asleep, I have watched near your door, that none should approach to disturb your, slumber, when suddenly you would speak aloud, and always about money. Even this very day, as I was coming near your door, you exclaimed, ' They may starve, but they shall not conquer me,' and something about ' No money yet !' And now, Walter, own that you are, poor: I hope you are very-very poor indeed, for then my pleasure will, be unbounded."
" What, Lillia, at my being poor !" exclaimed Lerue, at the same time smiling. " Is poverty such a blessing, that you would wish poor- Walter to be thus blessed ?"
" No, Walter," replied the girl; " but that I might be blessed in relieving all your wants. I have told you, you have won the good opinion of my dear father; mine you know you have. My father has saved much, and all he has I know was saved for me: he tells me too, that now King Henry is dead, that perhaps he may become even wealthy. Ask him then openly-fearlessly for his child. You will not be refused, for he would refuse nothing-not even his life, were the losing it to make me happy: then Walter, dear Walter, all I should ever possess will be yours. And now you know the real cause of my seeming boldness: can you hate me for it? Why don't you speak, Walter ? Have I done wrong ? tell me-tell me! but if I have, it was for your happiness, which, now I have confessed my love, is all I will ever live for."
Lerue was perfectly bewildered; what to say, or what to do, he knew not: to undeceive her at such a moment he felt would be the acme of cruelty: the confiding girl having thrown herself upon his breast as she uttered her last words, was prevented from observing the strange workings of Walter's countenance: his features took alternately the expression of almost every feeling but that of real love: pity, vexation, disgust at his own unthinking, unfeeling folly, in having led a poor innocent child into what he knew must prove hopeless misery, now filled his mind, and for a time, held his tongue spell-bound. At last he said-" Dear Lillia, your unexpected avowal-your generous anxiety for one so truly unworthy as I am, has robbed me of all power to speak my thanks-my gratitude-my- " he hesitated: oh, how she listened for the one word more !-the only one she cared to hear-but, alas ! it came not; he never said " my love !"
Fortunately for Lerue, relief came to his aid when most desired; the father's voice was heard calling upon his child: that sound like magic, awoke Lillia from her dream of bliss; for though Lerue spoke not of love, she never for an instant doubted his affection for her; and her joy was in having, as she believed, made him as happy by her confession, as that confession had made herself. As she released herself from his embrace, she looked into his face with such an expression of
|confiding truthful devotion, that he had not the power to resist imprinting upon her pure but now willing lips, one kiss of real, of heart- felt kindness. Poor Lillia was for that single moment the happiest of human beings; she pressed both his hands fervently to her lips-then casting upon him a look of intense affection, hurried from the room. For several minutes, Lerue stood exactly as she had left him, perfectly lost in thought; at last he said-" Well! this is a pretty climax to my folly. How shall I act? I would not willingly further deceive her, nor would I wound a heart so kind, unselfish, as that I now find she possesses. Who would have dreamt of one so innocent, being in such a place as this ? had I been different to what I am, she might have proved a blessing to me. Poor soul! why has fate been so cruel to one deserving of all happiness ?-so unjust as to let her cast her whole heart's hopes upon him, who never can requite her? With what simplicity did she detail her strange but generous scheme for extricating me from my poverty! So I am to ask her father for her hand! there are few prettier, it is true, and I doubt me if there be many half so honestly given, as she would bestow hers on me. I wish I had never come here ! But it is too late now to think thus: something must be done, and that quickly, or faith, she will have obtained her parent's consent, and I shall be married to the Lilly of the Inn before I am aware of it. She is but a hild; and if once I am gone, there is but little doubt she will soon forget me, and all that has passed this day. Yes, absence is the only cure for love's fever." The clock of the village sounding, reminded Lerue that it was time for him to think of returning to the cottage on the heath.|
" I am but in ill plight," he said, " for further gallantries, at such a moment as this; but the common courtesies of life call upon me to make the effort; so I will e'en away. Besides, I would rather the affair of the morning were kept untalked about; for when the body of the man I shot be found, some questions might be asked me, as the principal actor in the death, that, for the present, I should find it unpleasant to answer: how foolish of me not to have thought of that before ! I will take the shorter road across the heath, and pray of my new-made friends to keep the secret: the finding of the dead body of a robber is no such great wonder now-a-days, so the thing will, as usual, soon be forgotten."
Lerue hurried away, and to his great relief, unseen by Lillia, whom he felt he should henceforth dread to meet, until he had determined upon the course he should take. As he walked along, buried in thought, he accidentally turned into the wrong road, and never discovered his mistake, until slipping upon something smooth beneath his feet, he found he was standing in a quantity of congealed blood. He involuntarily started back, and casting his eye quickly around, found he was in the very situation where the man he shot had fallen; but, strange to say, no corse lay there. He hastened on, and soon after entered the cottage, where he found the whole contents of the portfolio he had left with his fair friends arranged around the apartment, and being still admired by both Alyce and her daughter. One circumstance rather annoyed him, for he discovered now, that in this collection were all the sketches ho
|. had taken of the Lilly of the Inn. These caused Ann to be prodigal indeed of praise, for she pronounced the likenesses to be perfect.|
" All," said Anne, half sighing, " she is a sweet girl, the most amiable but most childish of human beings: her thoughts are ever on her tongue. What she feels she must give utterance to."
Lerue felt, in its fullest sense, the justness of this remark, which brought to his mind the whole scene, he had but so lately taken part in. He could not help remarking to himself the coincidence of these two sweet girls, the one loving him, the other, by him beloved; both going through almost the same actions, speaking nearly the same words, for now Anne was as profuse in the praise of Lillia, as the latter had been of the Beauty of the Heath. She too, now related how they had been for years together at the convent school. It was true, the one resided entirely within the walls, the other for merely a few hours of each day.
Lerue, who knew all before, felt constrained to put on an air of interest and surprise at what he heard. Again he had to listen to the story of the father having been formerly a soldier-of his superior birth: Alyce spoke much; " For," she said, " now young Edward was upon the throne, it was expected he would restore the old man to his rights." She told Lerue, that for many years she had known who and what he was; and how highly he was respected by all the country round; and that Walter Cromwell, who had befriended him, had also befriended her, and all she held dear ; and was just about to enter more fully into the truth of who they, themselves, were, when Anne gently checked her mother, by saying--" This gentleman, mother, can feel but little interest in the affairs of people so simple, as the family of Master Allen." The name of Allen she particularly emphasised.
Alyce stopped herself at once, for she knew the merchant's wish still to remain under his assumed title.
Lerue took an early opportunity of relating the strange chance which had led him to the spot of the morning's adventure, and of the disappearance of the robber's body; and then took occasion to say, that if they had not already mentioned the circumstance, it were, perhaps, as well to be altogether silent upon the subject; particularly, as there remained no evidence, beyond a pool of blood, that such an occurrence had taken place at all. This feeling being so completely in accordance with their own, for more than all did they shun publicity, that it was at once determined, that beyond an account being sent to the merchant, no further notice should be taken.
So agreeable did Walter Lerue render his conversation to both mother and child, and so charmed had he become, particularly with the lovely Anne, that Time, who never will lag upon his course, when he is wished to do so, flew by at a prodigious rate; and several hours had been born and died, since it would have been seemly on the part of Lerue to have terminated his visit, had that visit been, as believed to be, merely one or ceremony, mixed with good feeling. Walter had a peculiar tact in making himself appear at once as an old friend, and so completely had he succeeded in this respect, before he left the cottage, that Anne not only had displayed to him all her own drawings, which, of course, he praised far beyond their real deserts, but had more than once, at his
|request, taken up her lute, and sang to him some of her sweetest ditties; the one he appeared to admire the most, ran thus-|
There was a sadness in the air, even more powerful than the melancholy attempted to be depicted by the words, which sank deeply into the heart of Lerue, for he thought, at the moment, how truthfully might such a song be sung by poor Lillia.
"I cannot help thinking," observed Lerue, " that I have heard the same ditty, or surely one breathing a like sentiment, many years ago; and as you were chanting the sweet air, there came upon your features an expression, which reminded me of a face I had seen before; but where, or when, or under what circumstances, I cannot, for my life, bring to recollection-were you ever in London ?"
"I was born there," replied Anne, " on Old London Bridge !"
" But for these eight years," said Alyce, " she has resided here upon the heath."
"No!" said Lerue; "it was neither on the old bridge, or on this heath, that I believe I have before seen that face :" saying this, the young artist fancied himself authorized to look intently upon the features of the lovely Anne: he gazed so long, and with such an unmistakable expression of admiration, that our heroine was fain to turn her head aside to conceal the deep blush his enchanted looks had raised. "I have it!" he suddenly exclaimed: "yes, memory has looked back and back upon itself, until it has met with the very object that should stay its further course. Do not feel offended when I tell you of the vision, as it were, that has so often floated before my mind, and caused me to think that we had met in former times. It is now some years since, but the impression was so strong, that now it seems but as yesterday. You will smile, I am sure, when I tell you, that she who so completely resembled you, was a child, acting at the fair of St. Bartholomew: she was called the Venus, and well deserving of the name she was, for such perfection of form and feature--such beauty of---Heavens !" he ejaculated, as he turned and looked upon the face of Anne; it was one living flame !
" Dear, dear Anne," exclaimed Alyce. starting to her child, "you are
|. ill. Oh, sir," she continued, addressing Walter Lerue, "leave us, I beseech you: she will be better-far better with me alone."|
Lerue felt doubly inclined to stay, were it only by his assiduity to prove the interest he took in the fair girl; but his gentleman-like feelings restrained him from further intrusion, and taking a hurried, but kind farewell, and saying in a few words all that could be said upon such an occasion, he departed.
" Oh, mother, mother !" exclaimed Anne, the moment he was gone, and at the same time bursting into tears, as she sank her head upon the bosom of Alyce, " I thought I should have died as he was speaking. In a moment, mother, every scene of all that wretched time of my early life, flew like ghosts before my eyes. I saw the fiends that then were ever around me; that dreadful woman I called my mother, stood there; yes, there, plainly as I see you now: the poor old man, too, my only friend, I saw-and then a feeling of shame called all the blood from out my heart into my face. I felt it rush then, but why, I knew not; for why should I feel shame at that, the which I had no power to prevent; and yet I do often and often feel that I would not for worlds have any one know the life I once was compelled to lead, although then but a poor helpless child !"
Alyce did all that a fond mother could do, to remove the sad feelings the chance words of Lerue had conjured up. We must now leave the fair ones of the heath, and once more return to OLD LONDON BRIDGE.