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land dipped toward the little river; but above
their quivering notes there floated through the
clear morning air a joyous peal of bells, varying
in distinctness with every breeze, and every breeze
that came to them laden with sound was laden
with scent the dewy perfume of the spring

Love Alone Is Lord 165

"Those are the bells of Gorston," said Vince.
"The people are very proud of them, and they
lose no opportunity of letting the world learn
how full-toned they are. But the world is cruel;
people have been heard to affirm that the fact of
every bell-ringer being provided with a full quart
of beer when he goes on duty in accordance with
the terms of the benefaction of the bells has got
something to do with the devotional ardour in the

"There is more ringing going on," said Byron.
"I can hear a wavering jingle from Elfrihurst

They sat motionless on their horses in the at-
titude of attentive listeners. The air throbbed
with the sound of the joy bells coming from the
two distant churches, and quivered with the
ecstasy of the larks overhead.

" Some joyful event has happened," said Byron.
"Can it be that Bonaparte has shot himself?"

"Or that the Prince has been shot by some
true patriot? " suggested Vince.

"The villagers have no sense of proportion,"
said Byron. " They would ring just as heartily
if one of their curates was getting married as they
would if Paris was entered by the Allies."

"Let us get down to the road; we may find
that something of importance has happened,"
said Vince.

They walked their horses down the gentle slope,
among the clumps of primroses to where the

1 66 Love Alone Is Lord

coach road twisted round the high bank that stood
like a headland at the bottom of Crowleigh woods,
and then went on to Annesley Hall in a straight
line. The village church of Gorston was half a
mile away in the other direction.

" 'T is a wedding, after all, and of the parson's
daughter," said Vince, when they had halted
their horses at the long green hedge overlooking
the road. He pointed with his whip to the lines
of school children dressed in white garments, and
at a befitting distance, the double row of the
Windstay charity girls wearing their red cloaks
and white straw bonnets. All carried baskets of
primroses and bluebells and other spring flowers,
and a garland of the same was festooned between
the trees across the road. The children were
chattering and craning their heads beyond the
ranks in which they stood, in the direction of the

"Only the wedding of a parson's daughter
would call for such a display of duty and devo-
tion," continued Vince. "Hallo, what has hap-
pened to you, my lord?"

"Happened to me?" said Byron. "What
should have happened to me?"

" Nothing, only you have become as pale as a
ghost, as pale as if you were going to be married

" You are a fool! " said Byron. " I am no more
pale than you are. What do I care if if if all
the parsons' daughters in the county were getting

Love Alone Is Lord 167

married to all the curates? But I think there is
a chill in the air I have felt it now and again. I
am going to have a canter to bring back the blood
to my face."

Vince gave a loud laugh.

"What," he cried. "Have you had a rebuff
already, that you now cannot trust your nerves to
sustain you against so embittering a pageant as a
bridal party? Oh, fie, my Lord Byron! You
will set us all thinking strange things. And I
gave you credit for being a man!"

"What a fuss you make over nothing!" said
Byron, with irritation. "Good heavens, man,
why should I not go away if I like, or stay if I like?
What the deuce are your parsons' blowsy daugh-
ters to me?"

" Nothing ; therefore, it would be folly for you
to run away at this time," said Vince. " There is
really nothing to be afraid of. Let the galled
jade wince; our withers are unwrung, my lord."

"Psha! There is no question of being afraid,"
said Byron. " Lud, Vince, do you suppose that I
fear that the vicar has a second blowsy daughter
yet undisposed of, whom he may insist on my
marrying before noon?"

" It is no vicar's daughter that is being married
to-day. Now I come to think of it, 't is the
wedding day of your distant cousin, Miss Cha-
worth, to Mr. Musters, of Colwick. How could I
have forgotten it? How could you have for-
gotten it, considering that you are among the

1 68 Love Alone Is Lord

bride's relations ay, and considering also that
you were so recent a guest at Annesley Hall, and
that you and Miss Chaworth enjoyed so many
excursions on horseback together in the autumn?
It would never do for you to run away just when
the cavalcade is in sight, my Lord Byron ; though
doubtless there are many people who will ask how
it is that you are not in one of those carriages
not the foremost, of course that is the carriage
of the bride and bridegroom it would be absurd
to think of your occupying a seat in that carriage,
would it not? But ah, here they come. Oh,
no, you are not pale any longer quite the con-
trary. Here they come. Oh, those children!
What an epithalamium!"

There was an appearance of outriders in the
distance in the Chaworth livery, followed by a
carriage with four white horses, ridden by pos-
tilions in silver-braided waistcoats the sunlight
was gleaming upon these in the distance. The
school children, under the time-beating fore-
finger of a young lady she was the vicar's
daughter, who had a genius for organisation
had begun to lilt an old English melody to the
verses written for the occasion by the school-
master, and were grasping their bunches of
flowers with that firmness necessary to turn them
into successful projectiles. On the bank, and
among the twisted snakes of the exposed roots of
an undermined elm, ruddy dairymaids and rubi-
cund farm-labourers sat, or squatted, or swung,

Love Alone Is Lord 169

and began to cheer early, until the parson's
daughter held up a protesting hand, not without
a suspicion of chiding.

"Children to the fore!" was the cry that ap-
pealed to the sense of fair play of the elders, and
the epithalamium slurred its course into the
bright air. The schoolmaster, wearing the con-
scious smile of the approved poet, stood retired
behind the hedge of willows to mark the effect of
his poem. He became irritated at the omissions,
substitutions, and mispronunciations of his in-

The outriders trotted up, and then no power
had any control over the labourers they cheered,
the children yelled, the many dogs barked, the
infants in their mothers' arms wailed.

There she sat in the open carriage by the side
of her husband; he had been her husband for
the space of a quarter of an hour. She was as
pale as the orange blooms that clustered about the
diamonds fastening her lace veil ; but there was a
smile upon her face when she came among the
white school children. The carriage went slowly
while the wild flower tributes were flung into
the air, and fell about the carriage, some upon the
pink coat of the bridegroom, and some upon the
golden hair of the bride. They were dislodged by
her bowing, but then they rested on the white
lace, giving it the appearance of an embroidery
in yellow silk. She bowed to the school children,
speaking the names of some of them; then she

1 70 Love Alone Is Lord

lifted her eyes to the high bank where the men and
maids were cheering, with much waving of hand-
kerchiefs. Suddenly she looked at the other side
and saw the two horsemen beyond the hedge.
If she felt surprised, she did not show it. The
lovely whiteness of her face, the white of the
damask rose, did not change, her lips parted for
an instant while she looked at Byron, as if she
were speaking a word to be heard by herself alone.
She kept her eyes fixed upon him, and he saw, the
moment that she smiled, the ineffable depth of
their sadness. He took off his hat, she inclined
her head, and then made a motion with one of her
hands; she seemed as if she had meant to wave
her hand to him, but changed her mind at the
last moment.

That was all. The carriage drove on, the hus-
band bowed to right and left, the epithalamium
became a riot, and a milkmaid and her swain
who had ventured too close to the crumbling
ledge of earth, slipped and rolled down the bank
clutching at each other, to the detriment of their
holiday clothes. Thus the carriage rolled away
in a roar of laughter.

Byron watched the passing away of the vehicle.
He could see the shimmer of the white lace that
only covered a part of the bright hair so long as
the carriage remained in view; and, watching it,
he thought of the night when he had seen the
flight of meteors. So that was what it meant,
after all; the golden star with its trail of light

Love Alone Is Lord 171

which had moved before his eyes across the sky
had been a symbol of the floating away of that
star of golden light into another world than that
which it had made gracious for a short time. She
had gone out of his world, out of his life, leaving
darkness where the light of her presence had once

He felt that there was nothing but darkness for
him so long as he lived, when that gleam of gold
waned away into the distance, and his eyes were
staring into a blank blue space of sky where the
road made its turn, and the carriage disappeared.
He had not yet parted with the thought that she
loved him, but the cherishing of it gave him no
comfort; on the contrary, it made him feel all
the more bitterly of a world in which such things
were possible as a girl sitting as a bride by the side
of one man, while all the time she loved another.
He felt that he did right to despair of such a
world, and to hope that he would be spared the
degradation of living in it.

And then he sounded that deepest depth of
despair which cries out a perpetual " Why ? why ?
why?" Why could not he have met her three
months sooner than he did? Why should she
have given her promise to that man before she
had met the one whom she loved and who would
ever love her? "Why? why? why?" That
voice gnawed at his heart all the time that he
watched her, and long after she had disappeared in
the distance. And the worst of all the questions

172 Love Alone Is Lord

that came to him was the fierce demand why
he had not insisted on her breaking her promise
to the other man when he found out that she
loved, not the other man, but himself? Why had
he not carried her away by night? This youth of
imagination felt, at the thought, the arms of the
girl tight about his body, while he fled with her
behind him on the saddle, into the night into a
land where Love alone was lord. Yesterday
last night why had he not done it then? It was
time enough then; but now it was too late. He
had had the agony of seeing her pass away from
him, and it was the other man who would know
the delight of feeling her sweet hands clasping
him. It was too late he had lost her, and his
life was over.

He had the sensation of dreaming a dream in
which he had the knowledge that it was a dream
that the agony of it all was only visionary that
in a few moments he would awaken and know
that the bitterness had no real existence. He
watched as in a sleep the passing of the train of
carriages, he heard the cheers of the tenantry,
but he never felt that they were real.

It was the voice of the man who was on the
horse beside him that awoke him.

"That is all there is to be seen, my Lord By-
ron," he said. "The rest of the entertainment is
not for such as you and I. I was generous toward
her to-day. I did not deprive her of the satis-
faction of knowing that we were witnesses of her

Love Alone Is Lord 173

triumph. A young woman's cup of happiness is
never full unless she knows that the men whom
she rejected have witnessed her in her hour of
triumph. She saw us."

Byron turned to him with an astonished in-
quiry in his eyes.

"Oh, yes; I knew that you loved her; I, too,
loved her for a while," said Vince in response.
" She knew it, though I never was fool enough to
confess it to her. But you were not quite so
reticent, my lord. You confessed and she laughed
at you. You were a fool for your pains. Here
we are on the same level at last ; the head of the
family and the wretch barred out of the family
by the bar sinister. Love levels all; so does re-
jection. Give me your hand, man, never think
that all joy has died out of the summer because
the rose we loved has been plucked by another
hand than ours. You will find your path strewn
with roses, and you may gather them by the
score. Come with me. We shall post to London
to-day, and our cry shall be

"Forget," said Byron. "That shall be my
word forget."


MR. KEAN was to act the part of the Duke of
Gloster at Covent Garden Theatre, and
there were few unoccupied seats in the house.

"Has he appeared yet?" asked a young lady
in a voice of tremulous anxiety of her neighbour
in the boxes, on hurrying to her place.

"Not yet; the curtain is still down," was the

" So I perceive ; but he may appear before the
play begins, and I should die were I to miss seeing

The other lady stared at her, and said :

" Lud! my dear, how could you hope to see Mr.
Kean before the play begins? You should have
betaken yourself to the stage door."

The girl returned the stare of her friend.

"Kean Mr. Kean, who is Mr. Oh, to be
sure, he is the actor. Is he in the play to-night?
Of course, I remember now; he does the part of
Richard or Hamlet, or someone; nobody wants
to see him; we have all come to gaze at Childe

" I think the town has gone mad over your

Love Alone Is Lord 175

Lord Byron," said the other. " One hears nothing
else but ' Byron, Byron, Byron,' varied by ' Childe
Harold, Childe Harold, Childe Harold.' I never
thought it possible that a poet a mere poet
could so upset "

"There he comes," cried the girl.

"Where where? Why will those odious peo-
ple stand up so as to shut out my view ? ' ' cried the
elder lady, jumping to her feet and vainly en-
deavouring to look over the heads of some people
who stood between her and the door, around which
there was a crowd. "Was there ever anything
so tiresome ? I cannot catch a glimpse. Heavens !
he will be in his box before I have a chance!"

She was shrill, almost tearful, in her com-
plaints, craning her head forward one moment,
and the next leaning to one side, dodging the
feathery trophy which crowned her neighbour,
stooping, so as to take advantage of a temporary
vista that promised much, swooping, with the
quick drop of a hawk, down upon the lorgnette
that lay on the arm of her chair, apparently
hoping that the glass would enable her to see
through the solid phalanx that interfered with
her vision.

"Psha!" she said, resuming her seat with a
swish and a pout. " Psha! 't is not he after all
't is only the Regent."

The younger lady laughed with dainty malice.

" You poor soul ! " she said. " You have caught
the fever rather more acutely than the worst of

1 76 Love Alone Is Lord

us; and you were so ready to reprove me! Oh,
fie, Sophia!"

In every other part of the playhouse equal alert-
ness was displayed to that shown by these ladies.

" If we only knew which box he is going to, we
should be prepared," said an anxious angular lady
in pink to her sister in blue. They were middle-
aged maidens with a limited income between
them. Their dinners would be meagre for weeks
through their indulgence in the extravagance of
the theatre; but they could not resist it; they
had been reading Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.

" Ah, if we only knew ! " echoed the other. Then,
putting her thin lips close to her sister's ear, she
whispered :

"Do you think that we might inquire of the
gentleman in front of you, Theodosia? He looks
well bred."

"Araminta, how could you be so bold?" whis-
pered Theodosia, raising her thin mittened hands.

"My dear sister, he might not make the at-
tempt to take advantage of our temerity," said
Miss Araminta. "We could be cold to him im-
mediately after. Supposing we fix our eyes on
the wrong box, dear?"

A little further conversation and consultation,
and the elder lady bent forward to the gentleman,
saying in her most highly-bred voice :

" May we presume to inquire of you, sir, if you
know which of the boxes Lord Byron will occupy ? "

Love Alone Is Lord 177

The gentleman turned round.

"Madam, I neither know nor care," he said
firmly. " I came to see Mr. Kean as the Duke of
Gloster on the stage, not Jack in the box or your
Byron in the box, or anyone else in a box, and if
you will take my advice, you will do the same,

The ladies looked at each other, their thin lips
firmly closed. They were ladies of spirit. They
refused to be rebuked by any stranger.

"Sir," said Miss Theodosia, "we asked you for
information, not advice. The former we fancied
you might be able to give us, the latter we are
capable of giving to you, should you desire it, on
the subject of good manners."

The accents of precision travelled far ; there were
titters to right and left. The ill-bred man glared
at the maiden sisters, and then at the titterers.

"Madam," said a young man, leaning forward,
" my Lord Byron, the greatest poet of this or any
other age, will occupy the second box from the
stage on the opposite side, with Mr. Thomas
Moore, the Irish melodist."

"We thank you, sir," said Miss Araminta.
" We are pleased with your information, but more
by the knowledge that politeness toward ladies
is not quite extinct."

"Blues!" whispered one man to his neighbour
in the next row. " You can tell by their accent
that they belong to the Blues."

178 Love Alone Is Lord

"A dangerous fellow, this Byron, sir a rank
sceptic, if not worse an infidel an atheist.
They say that he is at heart a Turk," said a man
in the pit to the one sitting next to him.

"Ay, at heart, most of us in England are so
to-day, from those living in Carlton House "

" His Royal Highness would have made a cap-
ital Sultan beyond doubt ; but 't is one thing to
be a Sultan, and quite another to be an infidel."

"Is that theology?"

" Undoubtedly, sir ; there is the case of David,
the King of Jerusalem. He was the man after
God's own heart, and wrote the Book of Psalms ;
so that his numerous his numerous lapses were
forgiven him."

" He counted them by the thousand ; Abishag,
the Shunamite, was the last. Our new poet
seems to have much in common with David,
including his lyrical gifts. You have read Childe
Harold's Pilgrimage, sir?"

" Not I, sir; I would not willingly read a poem
by an infidel."

" He admits frankly that at his ancestral home
he was foremost in orgies," said a young man
with large eyes to an elder with spectacles and a
twinkle behind each lens.

" He made orgying an art and excessing a science
that is why we all envy him to-day," said he.

" I do not," said the youth. " I shudder at the
thought of an orgy."

Love Alone Is Lord 179

" I don't, unless it be an orgy of poetry, or an
orgy of priggishness. I take a poet to be a bit of
a man, and this fellow seems to be something of a
man, though not so much so as the poet that
speaks to-night, our Shakespeare

" I was disappointed in Childe Harold's Pil-
grimage on the whole. I counted six false rhymes
in the first canto alone."

"Off with his head so much for Byron," said
the man with the spectacles, anticipating with
a change the phrase with which Mr. Kean would
electrify the house in an hour or two.

"Can he really be so wicked as people say?"
a young wife asked of her husband.

" Oh, yes ; a man can always manage to be as
bad as people say, but, as a matter of fact, he
rarely is," replied her husband.

" And you think that Lord Byron is really and
truly wicked?" she said in an awed whisper.

" Is not everybody in the theatre on tip-toe of
curiosity to see him? Do you think that virtuous
people would be in that state for any reason except
to see an extremely wicked young man?" said
her husband, smiling tolerantly.

"Oh, but a poet," suggested the wife.

"Well, Pye is a poet Poet Laureate, and yet
people don't crowd the theatre to catch a glimpse
of Pye. Take my word for it, Lord Byron is a
shocking young man."

i8o Love Alone Is Lord

So the gossip went round the playhouse. No
one was talking of Kean ; the great actor seemed
to be regarded by the playgoers as filling a per-
fectly legitimate place in drawing people together
to see Lord Byron. Kean was accepted as a sort
of high-class showman, whose business it was to
give the public a chance of seeing that lusus
natures a peer who had written a great poem.

The hour for the beginning of the performance
was already passed by five minutes, the Prince
Regent had taken his seat in the royal box, and
was showing some impatience worse than that,
the occupants of the gallery were showing some
impatience at the delay in raising the curtain.
A message from the royal box to behind the
scenes met with a curt excuse. Mr. Kean was
obdurate. He did not mind about himself, he
said to the anxious manager; it was for Shake-
speare he trembled; he would not be a party to
such an insult as would be offered to Shakespeare
were Lord Byron to enter the playhouse and draw
away, as he certainly would, the attention of the
audience from the stage. Considering that Mr.
Kean acted in Gibber's version of the play, he
need not have been so punctilious for the honour
of Shakespeare.

But Mr. Kean was right; for a few minutes
later there was a movement among the vast
audience, a movement and a whisper surging
round boxes and pit and gallery, the sound that
follows the opening of a sluice, a trickling whisper

Love Alone Is Lord 181

at first, swelling in tone and gaining in volume,
until the whole house was in a seething whirl. It
lasted an amazingly short time, considering the
vehemence which it attained. But the hush that
followed was infinitely more impressive than the
clamour. Every eye in the house seemed strain-
ing to catch a glimpse of the young man with the
marble brow and the auburn curls who was
following with scarcely a hint of a halting foot,
the theatre attendant who was bowing his way
to a box, followed by a short gentleman with a
humorous Irish face, an eye that seemed con-
stantly twinkling at the jest of a retrousst nose.
In another minute they had reached their box
and seated themselves very quietly on the back
chairs. With a sigh, the sigh of subsiding waters,
the playgoers settled down into their places.
There was a slight buzz of criticism, the flash of
a smile flying round the faces in the boxes like a
glint of sunshine over a garden on a day of fleecy
flying clouds of April, and then with a cry of
"order" from the disorderly parts of the house,
the curtain rose, and the figures of Mr. Gibber's
introduction began to talk. Mr. Kean would not
appear until the second act, with his soliloquy:

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this son of York,

and so it was not thought discourteous to any one,
unless to Gibber, and he did n't matter, to talk
sotto voce in the boxes.

1 82 Love Alone Is Lord

It was of Lord Byron that everyone whispered,
and no one whispered of his poetry now; it was
all very well to speak of his poetry before he had
appeared; but since he had been seen, it was of
his face that everyone talked.

"What a face!" "the features that one sees
on a Greek stone cameo" "the face of a Greek
god" "the curls of the young Paris" "what
eyes ! melting mournful mysterious "- " eyes
with doom written large within their depths"
"and what a brow! whiter than ivory -marble "
" and his neck

The brigade of dandies, with their necks en-
wound with five yards of stiff cambric, held up
their hands disdainful of the unstocked poet ; but
somehow his low, soft collar with a tie loosely
fastened, so as to display the hollow of his throat,
made them feel ashamed of themselves, and, of
course, the more ashamed of themselves they
were the more earnestly did they shrug their
shoulders and talk of taste and ton. The tyr-
anny of the impudent beau of the eighteenth
century had been followed by the insolence of the
dandy of the nineteenth. The beau had been
a marvel of dignity and grace; the dandy was
dowdy, clumsy in his ridiculous stock, and the
mufBings of superfluous coats and many waist-
coats. Already the Byron collar was being
adopted by young gentlemen of fashion, who
fancied they perceived a short cut to fame by
adopting the dress of the most famous young

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Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 10 of 28)