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Love Alone Is Lord


F. Frankfort Moore

Author of " The Jessamy Bride," etc.

G. P. Putnam's Sons

New York and London

Cbe "Knickerbocker press




ftnicberbocber press, Hew t?orh

Love Alone Is Lord


IT was a strange night, breathless and sound-
less under a hot iron dome of innumerable
stars. Looking at these stars one had an op-
pressive sense of peering through tiny holes in
the iron door of a furnace at the seething flames
within. That is what the boy on the horse
thought when his mad gallop had ended and the
animal had recovered its breath and drunk at
one of the shrunken pools of the mill-stream.
There were nights on which he had looked at the
stars and they had seemed to him as the moth-
holes in a mighty violet velvet pall through
which the gleam of the golden streets of the
heaven beyond was apparent to him; and there
were nights when he had seemed to see the quiver
of accursed fires through the piercings of the pall.
This night was one added to the latter.

It was like a wild beast crouching breathless

2 Love Alone Is Lord

silent cruelly cunning waiting to leap upon
its prey. That was his next fancy; no boy that
ever lived in the world had so many imagin-
ings so fantastic an imagination. The night
was a wild beast with a glossy black skin and
he was its prey ; he could see its fiery eyes glar-
ing at him. He was at this time looking at
the stars from beneath the canopy of foliage, for
where the alders of the mill-pond became sparse
an avenue of poplars straggled on to the knoll.
Wherever his eyes looked, he saw the red fiery
eyes of the beast glaring at him.

While he sat on his saddle gazing through the
poplar boughs, his horse nosing the leaves on the
twigs, he felt that the night was more than an
ordinary wild beast: it was The Beast the Old
Dragon of the Apocalypse, which his Scotch
nurse had told him about during the long winter
nights at Aberdeen, sending him into a shivering
sleep. The old woman was too good a Presby-
terian to have a doubt respecting the material
existence of the Old Dragon she had talked to
a man who had actually encountered it, only
escaping its talons by the recollection of a timely
text and her convictions had become fused into
the phantasms of the child's imagination. An
unaccountable wind arose beyond the poplars,
setting their leaves rustling like a long wave
smashing upon a shallow beach of shells ; it came
upon the boy's face, filtered through the foliage
and yet hot hot as the air that bursts from an

Love Alone Is Lord 3

oven when the door is suddenly opened hot and
foul as the breath from the mouth of the fiery
dragon, it passed hissing its way down the long
lines of straggling trees until it was whispering
among the dry reeds of the pond.

The boy touched his horse with a spur and
pushed out from the oppression of the trees ; but
in the open once more there came to him that
sense of something awful watching him. For a
few moments he felt overcome ; but then, wheel-
ing his horse until it faced the uncouth shapes of
the trees, he rose in his stirrups and raised his
whip above his head, shaking it threateningly

"I defy you, I defy you!" he cried into the
night. "I defy all the Powers. Do your worst;
I shall not flinch. I am a man, and to be a man
is to be a master of the world. Do your worst,
do your worst. I am your master."

His reading had been of the man of gloom
the sombre personage who was stalking through
romance during the early years of the nineteenth
century, and the boy on the horse had conceived
a great admiration for this hero. His own every-
day grievances assumed heroic proportions when
contemplated through that lens of magnificent
distortion, his imagination. That was why he
was on horseback at midnight galloping across
the broadlands that lay between Southwell Village
and Newstead Abbey, in the county of Notting-
ham. He had had a quarrel with his mother, and

4 Love Alone Is Lord

he had forsaken her roof on the strength of it.
And now he was defying those indefinite Powers
of the Air who somehow seemed to be taking her
part. At that moment his fancy was dwelling
so deeply on the gloomily heroic that it never
struck him as ridiculous to think of the mysteri-
ous Powers of the Air busying themselves in a
private squabble. He had read Pope's Homer,
and Homer tends to make men and boys have a
pretty fair conceit of themselves. When Olym-
pus was in a blaze because a shepherd was love-
sick it would be impossible to set any limits to the
interest taken by the Powers in the affairs of men.

" I defy you all! " he cried ; and then wheeling
his horse once more, galloped into the starlight
darkness of this warm night, and did not slacken
his speed until he had been borne to the highest
ridge, if it might be called a ridge, of the sloping
lands. A windmill was on one hand, and on the
other a small Norman church tower was faintly
seen, with a white stone here and there among
the many grey stones of the churchyard. The
tinkle of a sheep's bell trickled through the
silence from a far-off pasturage.

The horse was blown, and stood with lowered,
outstretched neck, panting hard. The boy patted
its burning withers, saying :

"Good Sultaun! Ah, if all friends were but as
true as thou!"

He had a feeling of having got the better of the
oppressive Powers that had been leagued against

Love Alone Is Lord 5

him. He began to peer into the darkness for
some landmark that he knew; he had forsaken
the road at his first wild gallop ; his pause among
the poplars had lost him his bearings, and his
second hard ride had carried him into miles of
mystery. He did not know the windmill, and he
had no notion in what direction the narrow road
beside the old church led. Even if he had known
so much he would not have known enough to be of
any service to him. He had no acquaintance with
the localities so far removed from the high road.

With the feeling, which tended to humiliation,
that he was lost, came the resolution:

"I will not return. Whatever may happen to
me I shall never return!"

He spoke out his firm resolve into the .still
night, and he had no thought that he might find it
as difficult to go on to his destination. After all,
one's destination is whither one's destiny leads.

From the elevated land on which he was stand-
ing his horse, there was a splendid panorama of
darkness round which his eyes might range.
Darkness lay upon the world as a garment, with
here and there the faint sparkle of a light in some
homestead or some hamlet. Thinking of the
darkness as a cloak, this imaginative boy thought
of the sparkle as coming from one of its silver
buttons. The cloak that lay upon the earth was
far less bespangled than the garment of the
heaven; but now the stars were shining more
faintly than they had shone when he had thought

6 Love Alone Is Lord

of them as dragons' eyes. The gems in the belt
of Orion were topaz, and the Pleiades were as pale
as pearls. Castor and Pollux were lustreless as
paste, only the planet Venus palpitated very low
in the sky. Jupiter had climbed to the Lady in
the Chair, and every now and then a feather of
cloud brushed across his steadfast face, hiding
it for a moment. The boy noticed this, but he
was unable to trace the floating of the feather
across any of the star-clusters that made the
embroidery of the Chair.

"Which is my star?" he said. "Was I born
under the influence of Jupiter or Venus Jupiter,
the master of the leven-bolt, or Venus, wedded
to the lame god lame like me a god, though
lame? Where is the planet Vulcan? Surely that
is my star a crippled god the patron of the
halt, and wedded to Venus a conception to
make gods and men roar with laughter ay, but
Homeric laughter, not the vulgar chuckle of the

There was something thorny in his own laughter
at that moment, but it broke off with a sudden
exclamation. Before his eyes in the Constella-
tion of Leo three large meteors swept through the
sky, leaving behind them trains like those of a
rocket, which gave them the aspect of comets in
motion. They fled in different courses and, un-
like any shooting stars that he had ever seen, they
were not evanescent; they buried themselves
beneath the horizon, and their phosphorescent

Love Alone Is Lord 7

trains, each shaped like a folded fan, faded away

Before he had recovered from his astonishment,
the celestial wonder had increased ten-fold a
thousand-fold. From every quarter of the sky
came .meteors ; some, in flying along through the
stars, were as wisps of the marsh, vanishing in a
breath; others rosy as a ruby and of a greater
splendour than the Evening Star, melting into
the distance, but leaving a brilliant streak to
mark their pathway. The heavens were alive
with light moving, quivering, shooting, glanc-
ing, gleaming, living sparks. They crossed each
other's courses ; some seemed to meet each other
in mid-air; some to slip along, diverging from
one point like shoals of phosphorescent fry which
one sees in the purple depths of a tropical gulf.
About the seven stars of the Pleiades hundreds
flashed and looked like fireflies floating about a
cluster of grapes so transparent that the moon
could be seen shining through them. Thousands
of these starry marvels were of the vapoury
sheen of glow-worms, but many were crimson and
enormous, blazing like red-hot shells shot from a
mortar, illuminating the whole heaven for several
moments before they burst into innumerable
fragments fiery chips with a crash, followed
by a crackling.

The boy on the horse was overcome by the
wonder of a phenomenon which he believed had
never occurred in the history of the heaven and

8 Love Alone Is Lord

the earth. Once again his memory went back to
the awfulness of the Vision seen at Patmos by the
Divine. He heard the hard voice of his old nurse
reading of the terrors of the Last Judgment.
"And the stars of heaven fell to the earth."
Surely this was the night that St. John had
foretold! The stars were falling, and the heavens
would soon roll together as a scroll, the elements
would melt with fervent heat, and then the
Last Trump.

He felt himself trembling in anticipation of the
dread sound, but somehow he was not conscious
of the terror which had come to him when he had
heard the old Scotchwoman intoning the Vision.
He sat breathless on his horse, waiting for the
scene of which this star-flight was the prelude,
but he did not pray. He felt that nothing could
move him to prayer at that moment. He knew
that all the people in the world who were watching
these stars fall from heaven were praying for
mercy. That thought was of itself sufficient to
prevent him from praying. But he waited, and
before long the beauty of the spectacle absorbed
all his attention, shutting out every apprehension
.as to what the next hour would bring forth. So
he had more than once watched a thunderstorm,
losing every sense of its danger in contemplating
its grandeur. He had felt himself to be a portion
of the tempest, and now he began to think of him-
self in connection with this miracle which was
being enacted before his eyes.

Love Alone Is Lord 9

He had felt, when he set out on this wild
gallop in the early part of the night, that he was
making his first real move into the world of action
the world in which he was determined to play
an heroic part a striking part. In his mind the
two were the same. Napoleon was his hero
The name of Napoleon filled all the world just
then. There was no man in the world who was
not a pigmy compared with Napoleon. He had
heard of the portents in nature with which the
obscure Corsican had been ushered into the
world, and now the world was being suffocated
with his name. What if this miracle of meteors
had come to mark his own entrance into the

The heart of the boy, that was beating very
fast, beat still faster, and swelled at the thought.
He felt more passionately than ever those aspira-
tions which had caused him at times to sit
gloomily apart from his schoolmates at Harrow.

"A meteor a meteor I am one of them I
am one of ye! " he cried. "A miracle of meteors!
By Heaven! I would rather have the glorious
moment of a meteor than live the changeless life
of a fixed star. That is my destiny to flame
across the heavens with all the eyes of the world
upon me, not to remain a star for a sailor to steer
by. My destiny is to be a portent, not a guide
to man."

He had almost shouted out his words into the
night, and he had scarcely ceased when the whole

io Love Alone Is Lord

heaven was illuminated. What seemed a ball of
fire almost as large as a full moon rushed across
the sky, leaving a molten track behind it as
broad as the bands of a rainbow, and plunged
into the darkness of the west, making it blaze
like a furnace. It was the largest of the meteors
of that marvellous night; and it had the shriek
of a bomb-shell.

The horse sprang with its four legs into the air
at the first blaze of the light, and when, a few
seconds later, the awful sound ran across the sky,
it reared with a snort of terror, and then made a
wild dash for anywhere.

It went down the sloping ground and through
a low straggling hedge into a field that contained
the stubble of the wheat harvest. A shallow
stream the same that was dammed for the old
mill three miles away opened itself abroad
where there was a dip in the land. The horse
went through the marsh in a single splash. On
across the level it sped, and, with a crash of
splintering timber, through a padlocked gate and
into the midst of a flock of sheep, that fled to
right and left with heart-breaking bleats. The
rider was but dimly aware of the creamy backs
rolling into the distance like white breaking
waves on the ridge of an unseen reef. The sound
of the bleating was already faint behind him, and
still the horse was flying venire b terre. It seemed
to crouch before every mad stride that it made.
He had a feeling that it was a belt of trees which

Love Alone Is Lord 1 1

made the grey line zigzagging across the meadow
beyond the sheep pasture. That was his first
thought of danger. He made a feeble attempt
to pull the beast round to where a gap was
faintly apparent. He might as well have tugged
at the trunk of an oak. The horse was going
straight for the trees, as if it had been struck

Down to the animal's neck he bent his head
it was his only chance. As the horse went straight
at the belt he felt boughs scraping along his back,
each leg was struck by a broken branch, and in
his ears there was a rattling sound of crackling
twigs, while a bunch of foliage swept across his

It was all over in a second. The horse had
passed through the obstruction and was shooting
across the meadow. The rider managed to retain
his seat. He saw on each side the great, shape-
less bulk of sleeping cattle. Only one or two
were on their feet. He went by them in a flash.
The turf had a spring in it that seemed to put
fresh life into the beast, for this wild gallop its
third within a few hours was the swiftest of the
night. It stimulated the ever active imagination
of the boy, and he thought of himself as in a
boat flying from crest to crest of the waves. He
might have thought of a wreck, for the horse was
within a hundred yards of a gate far too high to
leap over and far too strong to be broken down
without breaking down its assailant. Beyond

12 Love Alone Is Lord

it there seemed to be a wall surmounted by a
black billow of foliage.

Straight for the gate the animal went. The
rider tugged at the reins, throwing himself back
in the saddle. And at that moment he felt that
the Last Day was indeed following hard on the
miracle of the falling stars his own Last Day-
he had been a fool to expect the sound of the
angel's trumpet first there it was before him
the gate to Eternity!

Straight for it! His horse made no attempt
at a leap. It gathered itself together for a
charge and rushed at the obstacle. There was a
crash a shivering of wood a whirl. The rider
felt himself swung high into the air, then sinking
down deep into a sombre sea whose waves stung
every limb with the sting of thorns, and then he
ceased sinking and swung and swung, gasping
for breath and striking out strongly with his
arms among hard waves that bound his arms
as with whipcord; he swung and swung until
there came a sudden crackling of timber and he
found his feet on solid earth, and the broken
bough of a tree in his hands.


IT took him some time to realise what had
happened by what agency he had been
saved from death. He could not understand
how he came to be standing under a tree with a
high wall beside him. After the excitement of
that whirlwind race the sudden change into rest
and silence was like passing from the fierce
struggle with Death into oblivion. He was con-
scious of aching limbs, of a body torn by twigs
and pommelled by boughs. And there was that
high wall beside him shutting him off from every-
thing. His lame foot was paining him. He seated
himself on the spreading roots of the tree, from
which the sinking of the wall had drawn the earth,
leaving them exposed, and, collecting his scattered
senses, was able in some moments to account for
his position.

He remembered that hurricane rush at the
gate he had seen for a second the narrow strip of
roadway and the wall with the curve of autumnal
foliage spreading over its ivy; but still then it
came upon him with a flash ; he had been thrown
over the horse's head across the roadway and
into the boughs of the tree actually on the farther
side of the wall.


14 Love Alone Is Lord

There could be no doubt about it. He could
trace his descent through the obstructive boughs
that had saved his neck by yielding gently to his
weight, breaking his descent, but being them-
selves broken by the effort.

Curiously enough, his first thought was : What
would his mother think if he had been killed and
his mangled body brought to her in the morning?
He had parted from her in anger. He was not so
overwhelmed with joy at the reflection that he
was alive and only indifferently mangled as to
be incapable of thinking that it was rather a pity
he had not been killed, if only to teach his mother
a lesson. Her temper was unendurable.

Then he thought of the portent of the meteoric
shower. Was this all that it meant? Was that
miracle of falling, blazing worlds (he assumed that
they were stars, and he had learned that stars
were worlds) brought about solely to portend his
accident? He laughed at the notion, and pulled
aside an obscuring branch from above his head,
so that he might see if the stars were still falling ;
but he was unable to get a fair view of the sky.

Lastly the thought came to him and it was a
humiliating one that the enterprise on which he
had set his heart must be abandoned. He had
had certain very heroic designs, but how could
he now hope to realise them? On horseback he
might have passed as one of the gloomy, cloaked
heroes who were frowning their way through
romances in prose and verse at the period, but on

Love Alone Is Lord 15

foot where were the elements of the heroic in
the spectacle of a lame boy bareheaded he had
lost his cap long before his final catastrophe
and wearing a tattered jacket?

He felt greatly discouraged at the cutting short
of his enterprise. The smallest of all the stars
that he had seen falling was typical of his dis-
aster; it did not call for so imposing a display
as he had witnessed. He felt utterly helpless.
Without his horse he could not even return to his
mother's house to ask her forgiveness and to sub-
mit once more to the terrors of her tongue.

He pulled himself up among the branches of the
tree that had played so friendly a part in regard
to him a short time before, and soon reached the
top of the wall. From this point of vantage he
was able to see how great was the distance that
he had been thrown. The road between the gate
and the tree was more than ten feet broad, and
the wall was certainly eight feet high. He had
read of the catapults of the Romans which sent
men whirling through the air. He felt that he
could write a chapter on the sensations of one
of the victims of this implement.

The gate beneath him had two of its highest
bars smashed, and across the lowest lay the body
of the horse. It was a sickly sight to be seen even
beneath the pale light of the stars the immov-
able stars ; and for a time the boy, looking down
on it, was overcome. He fancied that he was
more concerned about the death of his horse than

1 6 Love Alone Is Lord

he was about his own escape from destruction.
He looked about for a way of descent, but found
none. The wall was too high to allow of his
reaching the ground by a drop, and the night
was too dark to let him see any crevices for
his foot between the stones. He crept along
the top for some distance, hoping to discover
some palpable breaking away of the mortar: he
wondered what the poachers did. Surely they
were neglectful. He wearied himself to no pur-
pose. Even the ivy, from which he had great
hopes, had its roots on the inner side of the wall
He was forced to descend by the branches of the
tree in which he had lodged when thrown over
his horse's head, and doing so, found himself in
what seemed to be a spacious park. From his
post on the wall he had seen rising above the dark
clouds of foliage in the distance what he thought
might be the arch of a gable. If he was right,
that was probably part of the mansion which the
park encircled, and the carriage drive would be
easily found if he only managed to reach the
building. He discovered a woodman's track and,
following it for some way, came upon a gravel
walk which in turn brought him to a broad
avenue. He was approaching it from the rear,
and walking with difficulty. A quarter of an
hour had passed before he was abreast of the
stable buildings and the high walls of an orchard.
A few more minutes were sufficient to reveal the
mansion itself, but the moment he went round

Love Alone Is Lord 17

the curve of the avenue and the great gable arose
before his eyes, he gave a cry of astonishment,
and clapped his hands boyishly with a laugh.

"Who would have thought it?" he cried.
"Who would have thought it?"

The dead blackness of the night gave to the
place the aspect of an etching. It was as still as
stone. Houses, trees, garden all as silent as if
hewn out of a quarry of black marble. There
were cypresses on the cleared land space; they
spread out long arms draped in black velvet,
without the least motion. There was a long,
high wall of yew, clipped in fantastic shapes of
peacocks, and bears, and monsters. They looked
like a row of stone sculptures. A stone pediment
at one end of a low terrace in front of the house
was surmounted by the figure of a bear supporting
a quartered shield. The boy limped to the figure
and leaned against it, looking along the front of
the ancient priory.

"My destiny again," he said. "It was my
destiny to be pitched headlong into my own
estate to find my own doors closed in my face.
I meant to ride up to the gates and to enter with
the dignity of the rightful master, and yet here I

He did not need a light or a looking-glass to
tell him what was his appearance at that moment.
His hair, luxuriant in its curls, was tossed; his
face was scratched, and his clothes were soiled
and torn. The figure which he cut was very

1 8 Love Alone Is Lord

different from that which he had designed for
himself. He felt humiliated. Not for many
minutes, however, for the desire to assert him-
self, which all through his life was strongest when
he had received his heaviest rebuff, came upon
him with irresistible force. He flung himself
away from the stone ornament, crossed the terrace
walk to the great hall door, and gave the swinging
iron chain of the bell a mighty pull.

Beyond a doubt he felt a huge desire to turn
and fly for a place of hiding when he heard the
clang of the bell within, but he stood his ground,
and, after the lapse of an unreasonably short time,
sent the bell jangling more wildly than before.

He had no need to do it a third time. He
heard the sound of a shutter being released and a
window opened above his head. He looked up
and saw first the huge bell-mouth of a blunder-
buss covering him, and then the head of a man
projected cautiously beyond the level of the sill.

The blunderbuss seemed to discharge a grape-

Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 1 of 28)