Frank Frankfort Moore.

Love alone is lord online

. (page 2 of 28)
Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 2 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


charge of oaths, after which the inquiry as to
what was the business of the caller at such an
hour sounded tame as the sound of a pop-gun.
The voice was that of a man.

"Come down and open the door without a
moment's delay. It is Lord Byron who com-
mands you," cried the boy firmly.

Equally firm was the reply that came from the
voice at the window.

" I '11 give you till I count ten to get out of



Love Alone Is Lord 19

range, my gentleman," it said. "I '11 stir your
stumps for you, whether you be Lord Byron or
Lord Harry or Lord Knows Who. Off."

"Insolent scoundrel!" cried the boy. "I dis-
charge you from my service from this moment."

"And I '11 discharge my blunderbuss in my
master's service when I count ten," said the man
in the nightcap. He had put out his head far
enough to let young Byron see that he was wear-
ing a nightcap, one of the pattern that made men
look like idiots a bobbing tassel, and so forth.
The boy remembered to have seen such a night-
cap on the head of a man with such a bell -mouthed
blunderbuss in a caricature ; but he did not laugh
at the recollection. On the contrary, he became
angrier than he had been before. The indignity
of being refused an entry to his own house was
surely all the greater when it came through so
absurd an agent.

" You are a fool," he shouted up to the window.

"One two three four five " intoned the
voice above his head.

The boy took a step or two back. The sweep
of the carriage drive was edged with small white
flints, which marked its course on the darkest
night. Before the man with the nightcap had
come to "seven" Byron had kicked one of these
pebbles out of its foundation, and the sound of
the intoned eight was lost in the sound of crashing
glass, a wild oath, and a tremendous explosion.

In another moment it seemed as if all the dogs



20 Love Alone Is Lord

in the county had their tongues loosed. From
within the house every room might have held a
dog from the buildings behind, from houses that
seemed to be close at hand, from farms in the
distance, came the barking of dogs "mongrel,
puppy, whelp, and hound and curs of low de-
gree" the air was being worried; the night
became hideous with the tongues of dogs.

The nightcap had left the window. It might
have been knocked off by the explosion of the
bell-mouth; for that matter, the head that it
surmounted might have been blown into the
room. The boy below failed for some minutes to
hear the oaths that came through the broken
casement, so continuous was the clamour of the
dogs. But soon his mind was set at rest in re-
gard to the man. He was alive.

A light appeared at another window. It re-
vealed female drapery a flutter of white, a
woollen shawl scrambled over the shoulders of
a nightdress, an elderly woman's face framed in
frills.

The barking became less furious. The boy could
hear the man ramming down the lead into the
gaping gun with oaths for wadding, also a shrill
question or two yelled from the room with the
candle. Another wave of barking and yelping
and baying and howling dashed against the echo-
ing walls of the old mansion. Young Lord Byron
stooped to dislodge another of the white pebbles-
he had hurt his foot kicking out the first and



Love Alone Is Lord 21

when he straightened himself he found a man
facing him.

He started back, nearly overbalancing himself
on that paved border of the carriage sweep. The
man helped him to keep his feet, and then kept a
light hand on his wrist.

"Who are you? And what do you do here at
this hour?" asked the man, in no rude tone.

" I am Lord Byron. I suppose that I may come
to my home, Newstead Abbey, when I please
without being answerable to any servant," re-
plied the boy. "Take your hand off my wrist,
sir."

The man obeyed, after a moment's pause and
a queer laugh.

"Oh, you are my Lord Byron, are you?" he
said. " I suppose that in a coal-black night the
son of a hind would pass for the son of a lord, to
say nothing of the grand-nephew of one; but
there are certain signs. This night is not so dark
but that one with eyes one close to you, mind,
not up at a window with a brass gun-barrel
dazzling his eyes can see a youth with a head
like a maid's mop in its second year, bare of hat
or cap, mind, and a jacket that points to a burg-
lary in the demesne of a scarecrow, and

" Who are you, pray, that comments with such
freedom?" said the boy, feeling very ill at ease,
through a consciousness of his condition. He
was even more sensitive than a boy on such a
point.



22 Love Alone Is Lord

"I suppose that our relations at this moment
give me a certain privilege of comment the com-
ment of inquiry," said the man. "You are the
subject of inquiry. Are you a lord? Then why
come in the disguise of a let us say, a common
boy? A disguise is always suspicious, is it not?
And a peer does not always bear a coronetted
face, though sometimes the rascalities of one's
ancestors are faithfully transmitted."

"Suspect as you please, I tell you that I am
Lord Byron, and it is my pleasure to sleep within
Newstead to-night."

" How do you propose convincing the man with
the blunderbuss that you are Lord Byron? A
man with a blunderbuss and no brains to prevent
him from using it is like a mongrel coachman on
the hammercloth the master of a thoroughbred
between the shafts. The head of my Lord Byron
can't resist the argument of a handful of leaden
slugs any better than the head of a hind. A
brace of slugs will turn the liveliest intellect to a
numskull."

The boy was puzzled, failing to catch the exact
drift of the man's phrases. But before he had
time to betray his condition there was the sound
of bolts being withdrawn and chains slipped.
The hall door was opened and the thin light of a
lantern showed the stout figure of a man in the
framework of the doorway pushing well in front
of him the yawning gun. Over his left shoulder
appeared a woman's face in its frame of frills.



Love Alone Is Lord 23

The man laid down the lantern on the step and
^aised his weapon.

"Hold hard, Dickon," said the man outside.
" Hold hard. I have my hand on the trespasser."

Still the other kept the blunderbuss to his
shoulder.

" Sure are ye sure of him, Mr. Vince? If not,
I can riddle him from here; I can make a sieve
of him. You stand to one side twenty yards
or so; the slugs scatter," said he.

"For the Lord's sake, for this young lord's
sake, and my sake too, man, lower that gaping,
toothless mouth of her. I don't want her to spit
slugs in my face," said the one outside. " 'T is not
a master trespasser, only an apprentice a boy."

"A boy a boy. Let me get hands on him,"
cried the man at the door, stooping for his lantern.
But his bravery was obstructed by a clutching
hand from behind. A figure in a petticoat and
shawl, frills and a broad bow of muslin under the
chin, became shakily luminous.

" You '11 not stir, Mr. Dickon ; you have n't a
son of your own," cried the woman.

"Keep back, woman, is this a time for polite
reproaches?" said the man, straining at his gar-
ment a stout, middle-aged Joseph resisting a
Potiphar's wife with grey wispy side curls bubbling
among the frills of her cap.

" We '11 have no hasty bloodshed if I can help
it," said the woman. " Bring the boy hither, Mr.
Vince. You can manage him single-handed



24 Love Alone Is Lord

without the aid of this bloodthirsty monster. Laur'
o' mercy! you must have had a terrible struggle.
The lad 's lamed and his garments are a sight!
Help him nigh. I hope 't is dark enough for my
modesty, Mr. Vince. A nightcap is honourable."

"It never was worn by Venus, or any of her
hussies, Mrs. Harwell," said the man whom she
had called Mr. Vince. " Here 's the trespasser,
only don't give me credit for his struggles ; they
took place in his attempt to capture the outer fort
of the citadel, I don't doubt. He has his story."

"No fears! he '11 have a new chapter with a
coal-hole in it before morn," said the lantern-man,
putting out a large hand and grabbing the boy
by the shoulder.

The boy swung a good blow with his fist on the
man's arm, with an indignant:

" How dare you, sirrah?"

The man carried off a handful of broadcloth,
for it was just the shoulders of the jacket that had
suffered most in the ride through the trailing,
scraping branches.

Mr. Vince laughed to see the man clap his other
hand to his arm with a quick oath, followed by :

"The young adder! An unprovoked assault!
You are a witness, Mr. Vince."

"The lad has spirit. Who is he. anyways?"

" He is my Lord Byron, the owner of Newstead
Estate. A genial home-coming for his lordship!
The welcome of barking bull-dogs and the huzza
of a blunderbuss."



CHAPTER III



WHAT nonsense is this, Mr. Vince?" said
the woman.

The man had ceased to rub his arm. Both his
arms had fallen to his sides in a clumsy caricature
of the "attention" attitude of the barrack-yard.
His mouth had become like that of his own
weapon, now gaping up at him from where he
had placed it at the door- jamb.

" What is this jest of your making, Mr. Vince?"
she repeated, eyeing the boy.

"No jest, i' faith!" said Mr. Vince. "What,
are you in doubt? You must be hard to con-
vince. Here you have a lad in a tattered jacket
and a face that 's black where it 's not bleeding,
coming without notice to Newstead Abbey an
hour after midnight, throwing a stone up to a
window, and then expecting that people freshly
awaked will take his word that he 's Lord Byron
come to take up residence at his own place. Is
there any one in the world who would act in such
a way except the son of Mad Jack Byron and the
grand-nephew of the late much-lamented peer
who made Newstead the pivot on which his
antics revolved for years ? Of course this is Lord
Byron."

25



26 Love Alone Is Lord

"Bless us!" cried the woman. "Where 's his
ma?"

"I will overlook my treatment to-night," said
the boy with a grand air, and in a voice that
suggested dignified clemency. "I will assume
that your fault was due to an excess of zeal. Get
me a bottle of wine and something to eat. I pre-
fer champagne, if it is first-rate ; failing that, old
port. Light the sconces in the dining-hall and
arouse a lackey or two to attend. You, sir," he
turned to Mr. Vince, "will, I hope, do me the
honour to sup with me."

Mr. Vince bowed to the very ground with his
right hand upon his heart. The young man
thought him excessively polite, and so he was
excessively. It was too dark to see the expression
on his face.

" Oh, my lord, your lordship is too vastly gen-
erous," said he when his body was bent to its
perigee. " I am your lordship's most obedient
servant to command. The night is warm for this
time of the year, my lord, as your lordship
may

"Stop there!" cried the man who had been
spoken to as Dickon. " Stop there, if you please.
I know naught of any Lord Byron. I have no
order to give admittance to anyone of that name,
whether he be the owner of Newstead or not.
This is Newstead, but as you know, Mr. Vince, it
has been let for the past year to my Lord Grey
de Ruthen. I 'm his butler and nobody else's.



Love Alone Is Lord 27

What do you say, Mrs. Barwell? Mrs. Barwell
is my lord's housekeeper, and we have been left
in charge, as you know, Mr. Vince, against his
lordship's home-coming from the North in an-
other month. I can never quite make you out,
Mr. Vince, and that 's a fact ; but if this is a jest
of yours, all I can say is that 't is a sorry one."

He gave a searching glance at the young Lord
Byron, beginning at his head, his lordship's
strong point, and finishing at his feet, his lord-
ship's weak point. The intimacy of his scrutiny
seemed to embolden him, for he straightened
himself, put his arms akimbo, and said firmly:

"No, I'm ashamed of nothing, and I'll be
hanged if anybody, Lord or Common, enters the
mansion that I 'm charged with the care of, and
the more he tries to lord it, the surer I am that I am
in the right. That 's all there is to be said by me,
unless Mrs. Barwell has thought of saying a word."

He nodded sideways in the direction of the
housekeeper, but without looking at her. Mr.
Vince looked at her inquiringly, not without a
smile.

"Poor lad poor lad! he is very wild! There
is a story behind him," said she. This was
friendly, and not compromising.

" Look you here, young man I mean, my

well, I '11 go as far as ' sir ' that covers all. Look
you here, young sir, if you are all that you say you
are, how is it that you did n't ask for my lord
Lord Grey de Ruthen? Answer me that; but



28 Love Alone Is Lord

don't expect that I '11 let you by me upon your
reply, mind that."

"You are not bound to plead without condi-
tions, my lord," said Mr. Vince.

"It was kept from me. I never heard that
Newstead was let to a stranger," said Lord By-
ron. " I suppose they took it for granted that I
never would allow such a thing to happen. Of
course, I could not think of entering now. I find
the door of my ancestors shut in my face. I
shall not soon recover from this blow ; but it has
been experienced by others before me."

"True, my lord. There have been many in-
stances of such-like jugglery of Fate," said Mr.
Vince. "They say that the prior of this very
Newstead was on a pilgrimage to the Sepulchre,
when our bluff, English blackguard Bluebeard
turned out the monks, and he heard nothing of
what had happened until he landed in the Hum-
ber and rode up to the door of his priory it was
at the other side of the gable wall, I believe
only to find it barred and with the king's seal
upon it. The poor old churchman with his
scallop shell wandered about the park all through
that winter's night and was found dead in the
morning, probably where we are standing at this
moment."

The boy's eyes were alight.

"I never heard the tale before, sir," said By-
ron. "It is a touching one. Is it possible that
it has never been told by a poet? It would com-



Love Alone Is Lord 29

mend itself to Mr. Walter Scott, of Edinburgh.
I have just read his Minstrelsy of the Border. He
gives more than one ballad of the palmer with his
scallop shell."

The boy had listened with increasing interest
while the man told the story, and now he was
standing with his back turned to the stout care-
taker and the befrilled housekeeper. He had
forgotten their existence, he had forgotten his
own exclusion from the house which he had
meant to enter with dignity. The gates of an-
other and a more precious demesne had been
opened in front of him, and he had already taken
a step across the boundary. He could feel the
ambrosial airs of those broad, unknown regions;
he was already dimly aware of the awaking music
of their woods the minstrelsy of their waters.

Mr. Vince looked at him in silence, and then
laughed. The boy drew himself up with a start,
back into the region of the commonplace.

" What! " cried Mr. Vince, " is it possible that a
Byron is susceptible to sentiment, to something
besides the wasting of substance in riotous living,
followed by the inevitable husks which the swine
do eat? Go away, boy, you are an impostor, no
true Byron."

" I said he was an impostor from the first, com-
ing hither at midnight ! Where is his cap ? Look
at his coat. A young rascal scamp!" said the
caretaker, advancing with a menace. Not too
provocative a one his arm still had an ache.



30 Love Alone Is Lord

Vince put up a staying hand.

"Go to your bed, my good friend Dickon,"
he said. " The ghost of the dispossessed Prior of
Newstead will not haunt your slumbers, be as-
sured of that. This is indeed young Lord Byron,
and he will send you a guinea in the morning for
having disturbed your serenity, the serenity of
the unimaginative, the placidity of emptiness as
to the head and of repletion as to the stomach.
My lord will be the first to acknowledge your zeal
as the defender of his home against himself. If
the Byrons had ever found some to defend them
against themselves the house would to-day stand
on a firmer foundation. My Lord Byron," he
turned to the boy ; " you will not enter Newstead
at this time. If you have no plans of your own,
it may be that you will honour my humble cottage
by accepting its shelter till morning. It will not
overtax your lordship to walk thither, 't is hard
by the entrance gates. Believe me, my lord, to
obtain the shelter of a friendly cottage is not a
wholly unsatisfactory case even for such as set out
with high hopes of occupying a mansion. A roof is
a roof, and four square feet of roof is a shelter for
any man; a royal duke can need no ampler."

He bowed to Lord Byron, and this time with
no affectation of the elaborate, which before had
suggested a scheme of mockery to the sensitive
youth against whom it had been directed.

The butler-caretaker picked up his lantern, lis-
tening, with half -turned head, while he stooped,



Love Alone Is Lord 3 1

for the doubtful young lord's answer to the man's
courtesy Mr. Dickon never felt otherwise than
a ringing in his head, after Mr. Vince had been
speaking; but he had a vague impression of the
meaning, that showed itself here and there among
the cross-work of phrases, as a hen's egg reveals
itself laid in the hay of a manger.

" I thank you, sir," said the boy.

" Good-night, Mr. Vince," said the man with the
lantern.

"Good-night, Mr. Vince and and my lord,"
said the woman, with a gasping tremolo.

"Good-night to you both," said Mr. Vince.
"Caretaker, you have taken care. Housekeeper,
you have kept the house. His lordship's guinea
to each of you."

"H'm!" breathed the man nasally. The wo-
man gave her shawl a twitch. They were too com-
fortably placed to thaw appreciably beneath the
warmth of a poor man's promise that a minor
whom they had shut out from his house would
send them a guinea.

The bolts and chains rattled in the hall, and
then came the flat slap of slippered feet crossing
the bare floor.

Byron laughed, and the man beside him fol-
lowed at his leisure.

" They have their doubts about me. I cannot
blame them. But how is it that you have none,
Mr. I believe they called you Mr. Vince?" said
the boy.



32 Love Alone Is Lord

"I believe I gave you my reasons," he replied.
He spoke naturally now, with no "my lord "-ing.
"Only a Byron would appear in such a guise at
such an hour with such an object."

" The guise of a guy, I admit, and the ob-
ject "

"Ha, that 's it, What was your object? I
understood that you were at Harrow-on-the-Hill
a student perhaps, a fighter certainly. Ha,
'crede Byron,' that is the motto of your race
and some have taken it in earnest and suffered for
their error. This is the way to the lodge. I am
one of the living errors which resulted from taking
the motto in earnest. Shall we move? This is
the way to the lodge. Do not disdain a shoulder
to lean upon."

" I have gone through a good deal since night-
fall, and even if I were not lame, I should have
good reason to be tired. I believe, if they had
not seen that I was lame, that man and the woman
there would have treated me with more respect;
but a peer with a foot like mine looks as foolish as
a foreigner to such people. They think that a
peer must be perfect."

"They do, in spite of all the plainest evidence
in opposition. I would not say that you were a
cripple, Lord Byron."

"But I am one. When people are with me
for any time they forget it. What was your first
thought when you saw that I was limping? Tell
me that, Mr. Vince."



Love Alone Is Lord 33

"Nemesis, I thought of Nemesis. Of course,
Dr. Drury taught you all about Nemesis?"

" By book and birch. Indeed, Mr. Vince, he
made Nemesis seem a very living power when we
had been guilty of something flagrant. But you
say thai you looked on me as the Nemesis of the
House of Byron. Well, do you think that I am
that now, Mr. Vince?"

" His late lordship, of blessed memory, was of
that opinion."

"Ah, I have heard that my grand-uncle had
good reason to think that every foot that halted
in his neighbourhood meant the approach of
Nemesis! Heavens, sir, did he think so little of
his crime as to suppose that a child would be
sufficient to do the work of a faithful Nemesis in
his case?"

"He hated your father and your father's
father, and yet he lived to know that their off-
spring was the heir. That was how he felt that
you were a sort of Nemesis. I have heard him
curse you roundly and soundly for an interloper."

He ceased. Byron made no comment, but
leaned heavily upon his friendly shoulder, and,
after some jerky movements, withdrew his hand
and wiped his forehead with his handkerchief,
breathing hard.

" You cannot be overcome by reason of what I
have told you," said Mr. Vince.

" Oh no," said Byron. " I only paused in order
to hear the sound of ghostly, mocking laughter.



34 Love Alone Is Lord

Have ghosts any sense of humour, do you think? "

"I daresay humour of a sort."

"Then the spirit of my grand-uncle must be
convulsed having witnessed the reception of his
heir when he made an attempt to enter into pos-
session of the hall which he vacated. It must
surely have been his merry malevolence that led
me to Newstead to-night. How he must have
chuckled when I was greeted with the salvo from
the blunderbuss ! "

"If he had any hand in the business he would
have made the man aim straight."

" Oh, no ; that would have shown a disposition
to be merciful. A handful of slugs in the brain
early in life is there anything better for a
Byron?"

"It is now that you should hear the ghostly
laughter. The inheritor of Newstead speaks in
the vein of Diogenes within a stone's throw of
the ancient walls."

" Within a blunderbuss' shot, you mean."

" Ah, yes, to be sure ; it was the priory window
that was within a stone's throw of you. You
smashed one pane, did you not ? ' '

"And you saved me from smashing another.
Was your sudden appearance at that spot as re-
markable as mine, do you think, Mr. Vince ? Are
you accustomed to roam these grounds at mid-
night? Have you the privilege? Perhaps you
are the steward. Everybody seems to know
more about Newstead than Lord Byron. To



Love Alone Is Lord 35

think that there was no one to tell me that the
place had been let! Are you the steward?"

" Do you suggest that I should render to you
an account of my stewardship, my lord? My
shoulder is at your service once more. That is
how they travelled in the old days my lord with
his hand on the shoulder of his steward."

The boy was extremely glad of the friendly
support, and so they resumed their walk.

"You can tell me some matters that others
conceal, about my property," said the boy.

"I can tell you everything; but I am not the
steward," said the man.

" Pray inform me who you are? " cried Byron.

" I am the son of my mother, but not of my
father."

"What does that mean?"

" It means that my father was Lord Byron, and
that I bear my mother's name, not his."

" I daresay that you bear the more honourable
name," said Byron, after a long silence.

"Oh, fie, my lord! Think of your ancestors,
think of your own father. Why, there is hardly
one of the race that did not attain to such dis-
tinction as is only granted to princes the dis-
tinction of a picturesque adjective. It was not
Byron the Good, or Byron the Great ; it was not
il magnified, as in the case of Lorenzo, nor ' the
Silent,' as with a certain William. No, my lord,
your father was Byron the Mad, and your great-
uncle was Byron the Bad. So the voice of the



36 Love Alone Is Lord

people confers a voice without a baptism; it is
linked with distinction forever."

"Linked with distinction, do you call it? I
call it handcuffed to distinction."

"It could not be more aptly described. It
marks the arrest of the felon, and this is the end
of our journey."

They had reached the entrance to a cottage
which stood at some distance from the carriage
drive, almost hidden among its trees.



CHAPTER IV

BYRON expressed his surprise. Who could
tell that a cottage existed in this place?
Was it a kind of Rosamond's Bower?

"One would fancy so, did not one know that
the builder was never known to make the attempt
to conceal any of his wickednesses," said Vince.
"Ostentation in evil amounted to a foible with
him. He dreamed of the glory of the title the
'Bad Byron.' He must have died happy in
the knowledge that his claim was universally
recognised."

" Was there no dissentient voice from the popu-
lar verdict?" asked Byron. "Who lived here
long ago?"

" There was one dissentient," said Vince, slowly.
" She lived in this cottage. She was my mother.



Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 2 of 28)