Frank Frankfort Moore.

Love alone is lord online

. (page 21 of 28)
Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 21 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


no nearer to the real woman. But this is no time
to talk philosophy to you, Cousin Byron. I wish
to give you the welcome of affection, not of philo-
sophy ; and indeed you are welcome. You have
already made friends with Mary. You and she
must have had a long chat. We were trespassers
on your grounds. We have had an annual fete
within the refectory of the old Priory, drinking
our syllabub and cowslip wine on the friars'
benches. It was Mr. Vince who took Mary away
to feed the carp. Strange man that he is! He
never said a word about your coming; I should,
of course, have inquired for you at the house."

" I fell asleep, and when I awoke I found myself
looking up to heaven, for the face of Mary Cha-
worth was bending over mine once again. How
like the child is to you! When I looked up and
saw her face, I thought for the moment that I was
merely recalling that morning so long ago when
you found me on the roadside. When she took
a few steps from me and I sat up, it seemed to



Love Alone Is Lord 367

me that by some miracle I had been borne back
a dozen years even before that day, so that I was
looking at you when you were a child."

" I believe that I was just such another chatter-
box," said Mary. "I am sure she talked to you
without ceasing."

" She told me a great deal" said Byron, and he
saw that she gave a little start. " Her name, for
instance. I was under the impression that Mr.
Musters had taken your surname."

"So he did," said Mary; "but he retained it
only for a few years, then he took his own sur-
name again, so that now we are the Musters."

"May I revisit the old place I suppose you
are at Annesley just now?" said Byron.

"Yes; we are at Annesley just now." She
paused for a moment before adding:

"It would be delightful to see you there once
again. I do not think that there is any danger of
a further menace from the picture. You have not
forgotten how it fell from its panel."

"I have not forgotten how anxious you were
for my safety," said he. " Do you remember the
dream that you had of coming down the stairs
and standing before it to pray that the crime of
my predecessor might not be visited on my head? "

She flushed, and cried quickly :

"I do not remember telling you that I had
such a dream. Why, it only happened the night
before we oh, if we begin recalling everything,
where shall we end?"



368 Love Alone Is Lord

"Ah, where, indeed?" said he. "Especially if
we begin to recall our dreams; I had my dream
as well as you in those days, Mary."

She put out a hand to him; tears were in her
eyes. But the moment that he touched it, she
turned away her head. When he let her hand
drop, she went away quickly without a word
without even glancing at him. Her little girl,
standing all this time on the lowest of the stone
steps, flinging her crumbs into the pond and
chatting familiarly to every fish that rose, rebuk-
ing some for their greediness, encouraging others,
and shaking her finger at all of them for not say-
ing "Thank you," hearing her mother depart, ran
up the steps and caught Byron by the arm.

"You must promise to come to see us. We'll
teach you how to make toffee in the right way.
We '11 have great fun if you come some day when
papa is not there. Good-bye."

He stooped and kissed her and she ran away
after her mother.

He watched them join the little party of child-
ren and nurses who appeared in the distance.



CHAPTER III

D YRON stood leaning against one of the carved
1~J stone vases, looking into the water, over
the surface of which a swallow was circling. He
watched it skimming the tiny ripples, then flash-
ing high into the air, wheeling with its wings
suddenly checking its flight, and then swooping in
an exquisite curve down to the surface once more.
It was then that the lines were suggested to him :

Our thoughts like swallows skim the main,
And bear our spirits back again.

He had seen her again, and all the space of
years that had elapsed was annihilated. He
found that he was thinking of her now as he had
thought of her long ago. It was as if he had been
reading a poem, and had then laid the volume
face down on his desk, but now he had returned
to pick it up and continue the passage where he
had left off. He had been able to continue from
the very line that he had last read. And his con-
tinuation of his reading had left him in the same
mood of plaintively passionate rebellion against
his destiny that had been his before.

He remembered perfectly how he spent hours
railing against the cruelty of the fate that had

369



370 Love Alone Is Lord

built up a barrier between Mary and himself be-
fore they had known each other; and now his
heart was full of the same emotion. He had been
longing all his life for a home, and yet he was
doomed to be a wanderer on the face of the earth.
He had come back to his inheritance only to find
that he was as far as ever from a home.

As far as ever? And how far was that?

She had passed within half a dozen yards of the
entrance to Newstead; and it was just that nar-
row space that separated him from the happiness
for which he had passed his life in longing. If
she had entered the mansion at first, his life would
have been different. He thought of Mary Cha-
worth as his wife, of her child as his, and there
came before his eyes a picture of all the joyful-
ness of the home which would be his. He had
tasted of the world; the world had given him of
its best, but left him unsatisfied, because it had
withheld from him the one thing for which his
heart had been crying out. He knew that it is
the strongest of a man's instincts to be the founder
of a family and a home, to sit by his fireside with
wife and children around him, he knew that the
instinct has been transmitted from the very early
ancestors of the human race the cave-dwellers
who felt themselves secure when their fire was
beside them ; and he knew that the striving after
the happiness of a home is the worthiest that a
man can have.

He had fallen short of its attainment by a



Love Alone Is Lord 371

hand's breadth that was what was in his mind
when he watched Mary Chaworth moving away
from him; the voices of the children sounded
through the evening air and died away in the dis-
tance. He felt very lonely listening to them.
They were not for him. The sound that was for
him was that of the acclamation of the world for
its greatest poet, and he thought nothing of it.

He turned away from the flaming iris flags that
stood up among the broad floating leaves of the
surface of the fish-pond, and saw Vince standing
beside one of the stone urns. The man was smil-
ing in his own way, which Byron remembered but
too well.

"You are here as usual," he said. "I suppose
it was you who led the child to where I lay asleep."

"You are right, my good lord," replied Vince.
' I did not look for your arrival until much later,
in the day; but when I came upon you here, I
could not resist the temptation of seeing you
awake under unaccustomed conditions. I led the
child hither, and yes, it was worth it."

"You were spying on us?" said Byron.

" Your lordship could not use a more appropriate
word. I was spying, but from a polite distance.
I suppose that I am the politest spy in the world."

"Why should you be a spy at all, my friend?"
Is it because you believe it to be the rdle in life
which best suits your peculiar temperament?"

"It is with me a purely intellectual exercise,
my Lord Byron. I am an intellectual investiga-



37 2 Love Alone Is Lord

tor not a material one. I like the work and
pursue it as a mental recreation, and without the
hope of material gain. I am a sort of psycho-
logical chemist. I like to try experiments with
the souls of men and women, dropping them into
my crucible, blending them together upon occa-
sion and seeing what comes of it, subjecting them
to the lenses of my microscope, noting their
composition and frequently their decomposition.
I assure you that I have made some curious
discoveries."

" I cannot doubt it. Have you found that any
of your amalgams has resulted in the philosopher's
stone, a psychological philosopher's stone, Mr.
Vince?"

"Your lordship suggests a mind that changes
into gold everything that it touches?"

"Even so."

"Hitherto the result of my experiments has
been in just the opposite direction. I have found
that the majority of minds possess the property
of turning precious things into base. But then,
you must know that the sphere of my observa-
tion is so limited that I have not yet had an op-
portunity of trying experiments upon a poet.
Speaking as one of the cognoscenti, my lord, but
at the same time frankly, do you believe that I
should have any better results with a poet than
I have had with the clay out of which ordinary
souls are made?"

" I think, frankly, that if you have been work-



Love Alone Is Lord 373

ing in clay hitherto, you have not got very much
nearer to the soul that you have been talking
about."

" The tenement of clay it was a poet who in-
vented that phrase, was it not? But, alas! he
knew less science even than the most successful
of poets. The result of my experiments is to in-
duce me to believe that the tenement is more
spiritual than the spirit which is supposed to
honour it by making it its place of residence. The
man's body would do good in the world if the
man's soul would only let it alone. The man's
body is a noble thing; it is the man's soul that
plays the very devil with it."

Byron laughed.

"Your philosophy is the wisdom of the devil,
Mr. Vince," he said. "I wonder that you have
been allowed to live among the simple people here.
Properly speaking, you should have been stoned
or burnt years ago. Your doctrines are grossly
immoral. There must be no end to the mischief
that you do with your hideous experiments. What
is your object in life?"

" To live, my lord, only to live," laughed Vince.
"Perhaps I shall one day write the comedy of
life."

" It will be an illuminating work illuminated
by the fires of the Bottomless Pit," said Byron.

" I should like to make Lord Byron my hero,
as he is already the hero of the world," said
Vince.



374 Love Alone Is Lord

" I should like to see how you would treat me,"
said Byron. " I will say that you have lost no
opportunity of observing me any time that you
found me in your neighbourhood. You went far
the first time that we met."

"The most interesting night of my life," cried
Vince. " It was one of the strangest nights ever
known in the world. A night of marvellous
meteors. I watched them for hours. I left off
watching them to discover you. The meteor man
of our new century. I should have known that
you would be a meteor like the rest that I saw
that night. How could you be otherwise ? I was
so interested in you that I uttered my thoughts
aloud and so drove you to what? Had you a
presentiment of what was before you?"

"What do you mean? You insulted me and I
left you. I knew nothing more than that."

" Like Saul the son of Kish who, all unwittingly,
was led by asses to be made a king, you were
driven forth by my insolence and now you find
yourself monarch of the realm on which you en-
tered a few hours after leaving me the realm of
the immortals the realm of poesy?"

"Why do you put the inflection of a question
to that vile phrase, man?"

"I wondered if you would be inclined to call
the realm of poesy the one on which you entered,
or the other the immortal realm."

"What other?"

"What other? Why, the realm of love, to be



Love Alone Is Lord 375

sure; that is the only realm of the immortals
the realm of immortal love."

"Keep your gibes for another subject, friend
Vince."

" I will obey your lordship, but when I think
of what you have achieved in the other realm I
do not feel inclined to gibe. Lord Byron, you are
a great poet, and I pity any man with all my
heart who is compelled to be a great poet. A poet
is born. That is one of the bitterest truths of
life. He must have a father such as yours a
grandfather a mother such as yours. Of such
parentage is the great poet born. He is a poet,
but unconscious of his calling because he has not
yet heard the call to rise up and sing to the world.
How does he hear the call? There is only one
way suffering. It is when he looks around him
and sees how desperately wrong is the whole
ordering of the world that the pains of his poet-
hood come upon him, and he hears the summons
that he has no choice but to obey. You, Byron
the poet, know how you suffered. To be a poet
is to have double an ordinary mortal's capacity
for suffering. Your infancy, your boyhood, your
manhood suffering; and if Heaven has got a
great enough grudge against you to compel you
to produce even greater work than you have yet
done, you will have to face more suffering."

Byron looked at the man in surprise. He had
not expected so serious or so sincere an outburst,
from him. He had dropped his mocking note



37 6 Love Alone Is Lord

speaking now with earnestness and with more
than a preacher's confidence in the truth of what
he had to say.

"Everything that you said is true, Mr. Vince,"
cried Byron. " It is only when Heaven has a par-
ticular grudge against a mortal that he is called
to be a poet."

"The world honours him for being different
from other men, and then reviles him for not
being the same as other men," resumed Vince.
" The temperament of the poet insists on his being
a perpetual lover ; but the world looks for him to
be just the opposite the respectable husband.
The poet who is thwarted in his love becomes the
greatest of all."

" That is his discipline of suffering," said Byron.

"We need not look for examples, you and I,"
said Vince. "Ah, my Lord Poet, I have never
ceased to watch you since we first met, and you
did me the honour to see a likeness in me first to
your father and then to the Devil. I watched
you when that beautiful girl picked you up from
the ditch and brought you to her home. I knew
what the result would be, though I confess that
I did not dream of your being disciplined for
a poet. I it was who led you to see that bril-
liant wedding procession. I watched you, and
I knew that I had contributed to whatever end
your disciplining was leading you. That end
was Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. That poem has
but two cantos up to the present. But it is un-



Love Alone Is Lord 377

finished. I am wondering what the new cantos
will be."

" You are wondering if you could do anything
more to further the ends of Fate," said Byron.
" You are wondering if it would be in your power
to weave an additional lash to the scourge which
means the disciplining of a poet."

" I am not so conceited as to arrogate to myself
the office of a deputy Fate, my lord," said the
man, still gravely. "I shall have enough to do
looking on. Here are you still loving the one
woman of your heart, and here she appears still
loving you

"What do you mean, sir? What disordered
imagination is this of yours?" cried Byron, with
a sudden fierce clutch at the man's arm.

" Substitute observation for imagination and I
will not object to your words," said Vince. "I
suppose there is such a thing as a disorderly chem-
ist's laboratory. And when it is a laboratory
for souls and every soul is a more potent me-
dium of explosive mischief than gunpowder, and
the result of the amalgamation of two of them
may wreck a kingdom, can you wonder that a
simple looker-on such as myself should occasion-
ally be disordered?"

"Tell me what you have seen," said Byron,
suddenly.

"Saul and his witch," cried the other. "He
called her a hag, and only missed burning her by
a day or two, but he wished to know what it was



378 Love Alone Is Lord

that she saw. My Lord Poet, I need not tell you
that she loved you long ago; you saw the look
she cast at you, boy and all as you were then,
when she had not been a wife for half an hour? "

" It meant nothing."

"But you knew that she loved you; you did
not leave Annesley Hall at that time without
learning that she loved you, although she was to
marry the man who now ill-treats her."

Again Byron clutched his arm, this time with
both hands.

" That is not possible ; he could never be such
a monster," he cried.

" Do you really need to ask me such a question
after talking face to face with her for half an
hour?" said Vince. "Do not tell me that you
did not see her story in her eyes. Do not tell me
that you did not see her face as the face of a
woman that has been very close to sorrow so
close that her lips met the lips of Sorrow and she
said to Sorrow, 'Be thou my Joy'?"

"I saw it I saw it," said Byron, in a low
voice. "I saw it and said that it was the ex-
pression of one who was reconciled to grief. . . .
But she has her children."

"And her religion. I had her missal in my
hand one day, and I read the words which she
had written on the blank pages : ' Lord, I know
not what I should ask of Thee, Thou only know-
est what I want and Thou lovest me better than
I can love myself. Give to me, Thy child, what



Love Alone Is Lord 379

is proper, whatsoever it may be. I dare not ask
bitter crosses or comforts. I only present myself
to Thee. Behold my wants of which I am ig-
norant, but do Thou behold and do according to
Thy mercy. Smite and heal, depress me and raise
me up. I adore all Thy purposes without know-
ing them ; I am silent. I offer myself in sacrifice.'
Those were the words that Mary Chaworth wrote
in her book of prayers. It is because I committed
those words to memory before I left the church
where she had laid her book, that I tell you she
has her religion as well as her children to support
her in her worst hours. Now, there we have cer-
tain ingredients that go to the making of a pure
soul of woman, and do you not fancy that the
interest of watching their chemical changes when
brought into contact with well, with other in-
gredients of a totally different character, is
absorbing?"

Byron was pacing the narrow ground that lay
between the urns at the top of the stone steps.
His head was bent. He did not seem to hear
what the man had said certainly not the latter
sentences. At last he came to a standstill before
Vince and said :

" There is ill-treatment and ill-treatment. What
form does his take?"

" That form which a woman, unless she has lost
all sensibility, can least endure," replied Vince.

"She has a rival?"

" Now and again rarely the same during the



380 Love Alone Is Lord

summer that was a living force in the winter.
The man, as you know, lived at Colbrook before
his marriage. Then he came to Annesley, and
later on he acquired another house. 'Thrift,
Horatio, thrift!' Why should a gentleman of
ambition restrict himself when he has three fine
houses to keep up? He makes every house his
home except the one that his wife inhabits.
Three? He would need a dozen, this Squire
Musters."

"What ruffians men are!" said Byron.

" We are indeed," acquiesced Vince. " I prefer
you will observe, to accept the statement in its
concrete, rather than its abstract, form. I have
noticed that when men talk of the wickedness of
man they take it for granted that their hearers
will not accept their statement as a confession.
Nay, when a man shakes his head and complains
of the wickedness of men, he has a pleasant sense
of exceptional virtue, but in reality he is regret-
ting that he has lost so many opportunities of
participating in the wickednesses which he has
attributed to others. Has your lordship had
many chances of mourning over lost oppor-
tunities?"

" He is not at Annesley just now? " said Byron,
paying no attention to the man's sneers indeed,
he was unconscious of them.

"He? Who? The wicked man?"

"Musters."

" His wife is at Annesley. Is not that enough ? ' '



Love Alone Is Lord 381

" You said that he was never to be found in the
same house as his wife."

' To be found ' ? Are you anxious to find him,
or are you thinking of paying a visit of duty to
your cousin ; she is your cousin even though half
a dozen times removed."

" I do not know what I shall do. Why should
you assume that I intend to do anything?"

" I made no such assumption ; it was your lord-
ship who talked of finding Mr. Musters. To talk
of finding is to talk of seeking, and

" And to talk of seeking is to talk of foolishness,
and to talk to Vince is to talk to a fool. Come,
man, throw aside your affectations of cynicism
your double meanings talk to a man like a
friend I have always treated you as a friend, in
spite of your gibes and jeers and flaunts and
sneers. You know as well as I do that when I
asked if Musters was at Annesley, all that I had in
my mind was the thought of her being beside him
at this moment. Why should you always look at
the worst possibilities rather than the best?"
Vince laughed quite pleasantly.

"I look at the probabilities rather than the
possibilities," he said. "The probabilities are all
in favour of the worst, the possibilities are of the
best happening. In spite of statistics spread
away in my memory, I am never despondent of
the possibility of good happening even now; I
feel that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility
that you will return to London to-morrow."



382 Love Alone Is Lord

Byron was startled for the moment; the con-
versation of this strange man usually contained
some element of a detonating quality.

"Who was talking about my going back to
London?" said Byron. " Let me assure you that
I have no intention of doing so."

"I knew you had no such intention; your
avowal of this adds to my statistics bearing upon
the likelihood of the best happening rather than
the worst," said Vince.

"Psha! I am tired of you, friend Vince. You
weary me. What kind of people do you consort
with that you are alive to-day? They are cul-
pably good-natured; you should have been run
through the vitals long ago. Come up to dinner
with me some evening."

" In order that the negligence of our neighbours
may be redeemed?" said Vince. ''I feel hon-
oured by your lordship's hospitable offer, but I
prefer the simplicity of the Sybarite to be found
within my own cottage to the ostentation of un-
eatables which I understand is to be found on
your lordship's dinner-table. I much prefer a
dinner of herbs garnishing a well-cooked joint to
the stalled ox that stays in his stall while pickled
gherkins are juicy with brine in the dining-room.
The luxuries of the potato pot are not for me, and
the exhilarating imp that lurks in the soda-water
bottle, shooting its cork up to the ceiling in its
wild pranks, will never make me his victim."

" Do you suggest that I condemn my guests to



Love Alone Is Lord 383

the fare which I find suits myself, you rascal?"
cried Byron.

" I would not do so for the world," said Vince.
" I was speaking in parables, assuming that your
lordship was vinegar and that my tastes were
oleaginous. I have the honour to wish my Lord
Byron good-evening, and a bad appetite for din-
ner. I am sure that I could not wish you any-
thing more congenial to your tastes and table.
Good-evening. We shall meet again before long :
your lordship will begin to be lonely."

He took off his hat, making a mock obeisance,
and strolled away, having escorted Byron to the
door of the mansion.



CHAPTER IV

BYRON passed the rest of the evening and far
into the night roaming through Newstead.
Not more than a dozen rooms in the great man-
sion attached to the ancient priory had been fur-
nished; and when he had gone through all of
these, he attacked the empty apartments, the
greater number of which he had never before
entered. He had no object in his exploration;
nor did he make any important discovery of
missing wills or skeletons in cupboards. He was
in a gloomy mood, and he found his employment
a congenial one. Passing from room to room and
from gloom to gloom, he arrived at last, carrying
with him a small lighted lantern, at a room situ-
ated at the top of a flight of seven steps, which
curved in the beginning of a spiral ascent off a
lobby. The door was locked, but the frame felt
so shaky when he pushed at it that he knew he
had only to throw his weight against it to send
the lock flying from the rotten wood.

He did not find it so easy as he had thought it
would be to effect an entrance ; but after two or
three attempts the screws in the lock yielded and
the door creaked open, admitting him to the
musty smell of a dungeon. He threw the light

384



Love Alone Is Lord 385

of his lantern round the walls, and disclosed the
enormous fungus growths on the plaster gro-


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 23 24 25 26 27 28

Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 21 of 28)