Frank Frankfort Moore.

Love alone is lord online

. (page 23 of 28)
Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 23 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


coldly for some days were swept away in that flood
of recollections that came over him in the space
between her reaching the lobby and the last step.

"At last you are here," she cried, when he had
put both his hands out to her. " At last, my dear
Cousin Byron. Does it seem as if a month had
passed since we were here together? You re-
member the picture I saw you looking at it when
I was on the stairs. You have run many chances
of a violent death, I have no doubt, since you were



Love Alone Is Lord 403

threatened by my ancestor. I think you may
take it for granted that he will not menace you
again."

"That was my feeling when I came directly
upon him just now, ' ' said Byron. " I fancied that
he looked upon me more benevolently than he did
when I saw him for the first time. Look at him
closely, Mary ; does he not seem to wear a smile
which was not so before?"

She glanced sideways at the picture and shook
her head.

"I complete the quotation which you began,
and say, 'There's no such thing,'" she cried.

"You think my memory was at fault?"

" I think that if you were to see Dr. Drury at
Harrow now, you would find that he was quite
benign, 'which was not so before.' It is not safe
to trust implicitly to one's memory in the matter
of expression, especially when one is imaginative.
After I told you the story of my grandfather, I
am sure that your imagination gave a severity to
his expression that Gainsborough never intended
to be there. I must confess that I myself, after
the accident to the picture, could not look at him
without a sort of dread : I could not help wonder-
ing what he would do next. When I heard the
sound of the carpenters' hammers and chisels
bolting the frame to the wall I felt more at my
ease. Still, I never caught him in the act of
smiling."

Byron kept his eyes fixed upon the picture.



404 Love Alone Is Lord

He was thinking of the white figure of the maiden
whom he had seen kneeling where he was now
standing. He turned and looked at Mary. To
his eyes she seemed less changed than the picture.
His memory of her proved more faithful than his
recollection of the portrait.

"I am superstitious," he said. "I am a be-
liever in curses family curses. You know it was
said that a malediction was laid upon Newstead.
The Abbot returned from his visit to the Holy
Sepulchre without knowing that the King had con-
fiscated the property of the Church. He walked
through the woods to the door of the Priory only
to find it locked and sealed and the friars dis-
persed. The story is that he died alone in the
woods the same night."

" But he was too holy a man to lay his curse
upon the place in his last hours."

" He may not have spoken it ; but look at New-
stead to-day think of the fate of the family that
inherited it."

" I do not see that there is anything in their
fate to make it certain that the Abbot laid his
malediction upon them. I only think of the in-
heritor whose name will make the name of New-
stead immortal. What do you fancy, that there
is a double curse laid on the place the first being
that of the poor old Abbot, the second that of my
unfortunate grandfather?"

"Some nights ago," said Byron, "I took to
wandering through the old house, and after going



Love Alone Is Lord 405

into many uninteresting rooms I reached one that
did not seem to have been opened for years. The
lock was rusty and there was no key; but the
wood-work had rotted away about the bolt so
that the door burst open when I set my shoulder
against it. You never saw such a vault as lay
beyond the door. The dust felt under my feet
like a Turkish carpet. Cobwebs they hung
from the ceiling like the drooping sails of a caique.
The place seemed as uninteresting as the other
rooms until I found on the mantelpiece, pro-
tected by a bronze ornament, a slip of paper
signed by my predecessor ; it was evidently meant
to be attached to a sword, for it contained a state-
ment that the writer had killed with that sword
Mr. Chaworth, and an expression of regret that
he could do it only once."

"And you found the sword?" said Mary, in a
whisper. She had plainly been startled by his
story.

"I searched in every corner, but without suc-
cess," he replied. "It seemed as if the good old
man was setting his house in order during his last
days, and had prepared a label to fasten on to
the sword lest his successors should look on it as
an ordinary weapon. It clearly caused him some
uneasiness in his last hours to think that possibly
he should not be known to posterity as a mur-
derer. I suppose he must have died before he
was able to tie on his callous confession."

Mary shook her head and looked up to the



406 Love Alone Is Lord

features of the picture. There was a hint of fear
in her own face.

"You see the way he smiles now?" said Byron.
" You cannot but see his expression. It is not in
the least like what it used to be. It is the ex-
pression of a man who is confident that he will
eventually succeed in what he has set himself
to do." '

" And what do you fancy that he has set him-
self to do?" she asked, in a hushed voice.

" God knows perhaps we too shall know some
day," said Byron.

She looked thoughtfully at the picture. Then
she rose quickly from her seat, saying :

"Let us go into the drawing-room. Why
should we allow ourselves to get into this gloomy
train of thought? I am no believer in these
superstitions, and you must try not to yield to
them, Byron. The drawing-room is a more cheer-
ful place than this. I cannot think what can be
keeping Mr. Musters. He has been absent for a
day or two on business ; I looked for him to return
earlier in the day. I reminded him before he left
that you were to dine with us."

Byron followed her into the drawing-room.
Her slight figure was that of a girl. Seeing her
walking in front of him he felt that she was but
returning to the piano after calling him her Min-
strel Boy. Surely an hour had not passed since
she had sung that song for him !

" I seem to be going into a place of magical



Love Alone Is Lord 407

echoes," said he. "The strains of The Minstrel
Boy have not yet died away into silence. I can
still hear the triumphant notes at the close. But
I have heard your voice singing that song when
I have been in strange places, Mary. At sea by
night, far away from land, I have awakened and
heard the sound of your singing hovering above
me ; and on some of those strangely lovely islands
of the vEgean you have been my Ariel."

"Only without the power to serve you as
Prospero," said she.

"Do not say that , " he cried . ' ' Serve me ? Can
I ever forget the service that you did me? Was
it not you who flung open the gate through which
I passed into a realm of romance and poetry?
Serve me? When I have been in doubt, in de-
spair, your voice has come to me :

"'Thy songs were made for the pure and free,
They shall never sound in slavery '-

Those were the words of your charter to me, when
you called me your Minstrel, and I know that,
whatever people may say of my singing now or
to come however greatly they may despise my
songs and deride my subjects they will say, ' He
was on the side of Liberty he sang out of love
for Freedom.' '

" And so you will remain while you live, Cousin
Byron, and when you are dead your songs shall
inspire the faint and the feeble to work out their
own salvation. In your last poem, only a few



408 Love Alone Is Lord

weeks old, there are some lines that will ever be
looked on as the watchword of those who are
striving for the overthrow of tyranny :

'"And Freedom's battle once begun,
Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son,
Though baffled oft is ever won.'

Those are inspiring words, Byron. I myself I
have felt inspired by them. Only the trumpet
call that inspires a man to action inspires a woman
to patience. War is for man waiting is for
woman."

She turned from him to the window. She
walked across the room and stood against the
flowered damask of one of the curtains, looking
vaguely out to the park. The western sun was
touching the topmost boughs with red.

It took him some moments to appreciate fully
the force of her words their application to
herself.

The moment that he perceived her meaning he
sprang to his feet, saying :

" I should be sorry to think that anything I
wrote inspired man or woman to be patient in
submission to tyranny."

She looked at him and smiled gently, shaking
her head.

"There are tyrannies from which no escape is
possible; a woman only knows of them, and a
woman if she prays aright will pray only for
patience patience patience," she said.



Love Alone Is Lord 409

" That is the creed of the harem," cried Byron.
"Patience behind the screen submission to the
bow-string and the Bosphorus. It should not be
the creed of Christian women. There are tyran-
nies that no woman should bring herself to bear
indignities that her own sense of self-respect
should "

She held up a finger to him, but without look-
ing toward him. He stopped in a second. There
was sudden silence in the room. From the shrub-
beries came the six-note call of a blackbird.

He crossed the room and stood behind her at
the curtain.

"Dearest Mary," he said, in a low voice, "you
are unhappy. When I saw you on the day of my
return I felt that you were unhappy you who
deserve to know nothing but happiness you who
have such sensibility as causes you to feel every-
thing with double the intensity of an ordinary
woman."

She made no reply to him. She kept her eyes
fixed upon the red light on the foliage.

" Is it so bad as that? " he said. " Is it so bad
that you cannot even seek to relieve yourself of
its burden by telling me of it? Are not you
assured that I shall be sympathetic with your
unhappiness ? "

" No, no," she cried, turning to him and giving
him her hand. "No, indeed. I cannot doubt
your sympathy, but ... oh, it is too late
now to say anything, even to you. If you have



410 Love Alone Is Lord

any feeling for me and I know that you have
much you will help me "

" Help you tell me how with my life "

" You have gone on too fast ; you can help me,
but only to pray for patience for submission."

He dropped her hand so suddenly as to suggest
that he was flinging it from him.

"Never never!" he cried. ''Mine shall never
be the voice that will join with yours in such
a prayer. Patience! Submission! Good God!
these are not words for such as you! I will not
hear them from your lips."

She passed her hand over her face as if her
thoughts had become visible and she was trying
to shut them out even from her own eyes. She
took a few hasty steps from the window.

"Do not talk to me any more oh, for God's
sake, do not talk to me any more. I tell you it
is too late to say anything. There are things that
cannot be changed by much speaking ; then why
speak of them? I tell you that silence submis-
sion these are a woman's best friends."

" And I tell you, Mary Chaworth, that

"May I trouble you to pull that bell-rope," she
said, regaining her usual calm voice by a marvel-
lous effort. " It is already three quarters past our
dinner hour. We shall wait no longer."

It seemed as if Byron's words to her were be-
ginning to bear fruit. She was no longer so sub-
missive as she had been.

He pulled the bell-rope, and when a servant



Love Alone Is Lord 411

responded she gave the order for dinner to be
served.

"Mr. Musters has surely been detained, and
without the means of sending a letter to apprise
me of it and to apologise to you," she said, in the
formal tone of a hostess. It sounded very cold,
and there was in it a suggestion of rebuke to him
for his warmth. Byron knew perfectly well that
if Mr. Musters were accidentally delayed in his
business, he would not take the trouble to apprise
his wife of the fact or to apologise to his guest.

He said nothing, but awaited in the silent room
the announcement of the butler that dinner was
served. He gave her his arm and they went in
silence to the dining-room.



CHAPTER VI

HE felt that he had never known anything so
sad in all his life as her acting of the part
of the genial hostess upon this occasion. The
ease with which she adopted the role in the
presence of the servants showed him with pitiless
plainness how accustomed she had become to this
part. She played it with the ease of an actress
who had appeared many times in the same charac-
ter. His quick imagination enabled him to per-
ceive that only by long practice could she obtain
such dexterity as she displayed and he felt deeply
for her. She had schooled herself to go through
the incidents of her daily life giving no sign of
suffering. A few minutes ago she had let him
see what was in her heart, and yet now she was
chatting to him with ease and vivacity.

He admired her and pitied her with all his soul.

He tried to imitate her to catch some of her
spirit, but he was conscious of a partial success
only. His vivacity was too studied. He felt that
the servants could see the strings hanging down
behind that tied on the mask of comedy which
he had assumed.

What did they talk about? The East, of
course, to start with. What monsters the Turks

412



Love Alone Is Lord 413

were! What a pity it was that Bonaparte had
not done civilisation a good turn by attacking
them and sweeping them out of Europe and then
getting killed himself before he had devastated so
much of the world! Where were the Turks to be
swept? Oh, anywhere was not the Bosphorus
deep enough, or was it being filled up with the
bodies of sultanas in sacks ? . . . The Helles-
pont he had really swum the Hellespont? Not
so great a feat that of Leander, after all ? The lady
must have been rather heartless, did he not think?
or was she faulty in the other direction? . . .

And Greece why should the Greeks be always
waiting for someone to do something for them?
Why should they not do something for them-
selves? Were they content to be the " bondsmen
of a slave " ? Surely the lines in The Giaour would
thrill them. Surely a people with so magnificent
a past

There was the sound of horses and a chaise
passing the windows.

"Mr. Musters at last!" cried Mary. "He is
too earnest a man of business ; he has lost many
a meal by his tenacity over a lease. Luckily we
have treated you as one of the family, Cousin
Byron. If we were having a dinner-party he
would "

Voices came from the hall, the voice of Mr.
Musters, loud, boisterous, encouraging the sort
of voice that comes to one with the impression of
a hearty pat on the back, and mingling with it,



4i 4 Love Alone Is Lord

another voice, shrill, feminine, with a shriek of
laughter.

Mary turned white and straightened herself in
her chair. Her eyes were flashing.

The door was flung open and Mr. Musters and a
lady, still laughing loud and long, a merry but
discordant duet, bustled into the room. She
had a word or two to say to him behind her hand
before she had gone far beyond the doorway;
he, following very close upon her, jerked his head
forward to hear, and, responding, there was an-
other burst of laughter.

The lady at the head of the table had not risen
at the entrance of their visitor, and the visitor
advanced, the plumes in her immense hat nodding
as she walked, and Mr. Musters making heavy
strides behind.

They both spoke at the same instant, and both
much louder than was necessary.

"What! Byron! Heavens above us! was it
for this evening I asked you?" cried Mr. Musters.

"I am very ungenteel, dear Mrs. Musters, but
'twas all Mr. Musters 's fault," the lady was say-
ing at the same moment, only at the other end of
the table.

Mrs. Musters had dropped her napkin on the
floor to the left of her chair the stranger was
advancing from the right. She stooped to pick
it up when the lady stretched out her hand, and,
taking a long time to find the napkin, Mrs. Mus-
ters gave her an opportunity of which she availed



Love Alone Is Lord 415

herself to withdraw her hand unshaken. She
did not do so, however, without a sniff and a
flounce. She was a large, florid woman a crea-
ture of noble contours opulent ; splendid hair of
two distinct shades ; large arms and round teeth
well displayed, filling up the ruby oval of parted
lips.

"Mrs. Musters," said the master, "I had no
chance of preparing you, but that matters nothing ;
I told Mrs. Ramsden that she would be welcome.
Heavens above us! you should see the mess that
the builders and carpenters and painters and Lord
knows what else have made of her house. She 's
spending some money over it ah, the pickings
that these Indian nabobs get at the court of the
Great Mogul! Money! What's money to an
officer of the Honourable Company with as many
chances as Warren Hastings, the rascal, had of
getting on in the world? Eh, my Lord Byron?
But I'm forgetting my manners. Let me have
the honour, Mrs. Ramsden; this is our young
friend and kinsman, Lord Byron. Eh, what, you
young jackanapes ! "

"Pardon me, sir; Mrs. Musters has finished
dinner; I must conduct her to the door," said
Byron. He had risen suddenly while his host was
still speaking that accounted for the "jacka-
napes" and he was in time to offer his arm to
Mary, who, with her eyes fixed coldly on the door,
had left her place at the head of the table. She
never looked at either her husband or the visitor.



416 Love Alone Is Lord

But both her husband and the visitor looked at
her, silently, but with expressions on their faces
that suggested a volcano.

Byron bowed to Mary at the door and returned
to his place.

"Now, Mr. Musters, we will talk about that
jackanapes," he said quietly.

Mr. Musters burst into a roar of laughter, Mrs.
Ramsden leaned up against the table, smiling;
somehow her smile seemed louder than his laugh.

" Heavens above us ! the lad is as ready to run
me through the weasand as his granduncle was
the Chaworth of his day," roared Mr. Musters.
"But I'll take care that you don't do it. I'll
apologise for the word with all my soul ; and I '11
swear to you that it was unintentional; it was,
after all, your punctilio that called for it in mis-
take, mind ; you jumped up from your chair into
my very face, and I had a notion that you meant
to put a slight upon one of the most charming
ladies in the county that's you, Mrs. Ramsden
you have heard of Mrs. Molly Ramsden in St.
James's, I swear, Byron?"

Mrs. Ramsden was looking very roguishly at
Byron, and Byron laughed in response.

"Mrs. Ramsden 's charms are toasted nightly
at White's," said he, bowing to the lady, who
made a splendid courtesy to him, all her jewelry
shivering and tinkling in the act.

" Oh, my lord, you are a desperate flatterer, as
everyone knows," she cried, even before she had



Love Alone Is Lord 417

wholly regained her feet. "For myself, I vow
that I have never felt so nattered in all my life
as I am now to receive the attention of the noble
poet whom to read is to adore and to behold is to
worship."

"Madam, all the honour is on my side," said
Byron, and he was sure that he spoke the bare
truth.

"Hullo, what's this what's this?" cried Mr.
Musters. "Poet poet! Didn't you deny the
report t' other day when I taxed you with it?"

Byron shrugged his shoulders.

" I am not sure that you taxed me with any-
thing in particular," he said. "But if you did
and if I denied it, I'll stand by my denial now."

"It is only among barbarians like you, Mr.
Musters, that the name of the noble Lord Byron
is not known as a poet," said Mrs. Ramsden,
striking Mr. Musters playfully with her folded fan
she had been using the fan pretty freely on her
face, but the exertion more than neutralised the
soothing effects of the current of air.

" But I did hear something of it, but I warned
him that it would not do for us, and he disclaimed
the poetry," said Mr. Musters.

"I can furnish you with the assurances of a
number of newspapers that I am no poet," said
Byron. "They defend me most convincingly
against such a charge. I am sometimes at the
point of believing in my own innocence."

Mrs. Ramsden laughed, and said very archly



4i 8 Love Alone Is Lord

that for her part she was certain that Lord Byron
was a wicked man wickeder even than people
said; and Byron said that his head would be
turned if he listened to her sad flatteries. Mr.
Musters looked from the one to the other in a
puzzled way. He had a sort of consciousness that
he was being made fun of, so he swore against the
servants for the delay in re-serving the joints
which had been removed before his arrival with
his visitor. He had ordered the butler to see that
fresh plates were brought; and now he gave the
bell-rope a pull to show the kitchen that he was
not to be trifled with.

The viands were brought in before the bell-rope
had ceased swaying.

"Seat yourself, my lord," he cried, for Byron,
after opening the door for Mary, had not resumed
his chair. "Seat yourself, man, you have not
gone half through your dinner yet. If Mrs.
Musters has chosen to go off in high dudgeon
about something, that is no reason why you
should have your dinner cut short. Sit down, I
say."

" I have had an excellent dinner, I assure you,"
said Byron. " I wonder that the report about
my eating did not reach you with the creditable
one which you credited. There are a score of
persons who know all about my diet for every
one who has read my verses. I only dine twice
a week."

" What, have your funds fallen so low as that? "



Love Alone Is Lord 419

cried Musters. "Sit down, and I'll do my best
to raise a mortgage on whatever you have to
offer."

'A box of pins," said Byron. "No, I'll not
sit down again. There is nothing so dishearten-
ing at a dinner table as someone who has just
dined and is unequal to repeating the process. I
shall join my cousin in the drawing-room for the
time being."

"You are a fool: you'll be merrier here,"
growled Mary's husband.

"I'm not so sure of that," said Mrs. Ramsden,
with a roguish smile at Byron, by which she
meant to suggest that the roguishness was with
him.

"At any rate," said Byron, "you will be the
merrier for my absence."

He spoke from the door, which a footman held
open for him. He waved his hand with a joint
bow, which only the lady acknowledged.

Before he reached the drawing-room he had
clenched his fingers and ground his teeth at the
thought of the brutality of the man whom he had
just quitted. It was as if, with the opening of
the door that admitted Mrs. Ramsden, a light had
streamed in illuminating the secret recesses of the
Musters 's menage. He could now understand why
Mary should wear the expression of a woman
reconciled to unhappiness. He could now under-
stand the meaning of Mary's words in the drawing-
room. Patience! Yes, but for how long? for



420 Love Alone Is Lord

how much? There were acts committed against
a woman which even the most patient should
riot suffer. To suffer them a woman would be
a traitress to herself consenting to her own
dishonour.

The most elementary ethics of men of the
stamp of Musters were comprised in the phrase
"common decency," and it was accepted as one
of the tenets of the creed of common decency that
a man who wished to lead a free life must do so
outside the home of his wife and children. To
introduce into his family the elements incidental
to his undomestic life was regarded on all hands
as something that even laxity could not tolerate.
It was plain to Byron that the answer to Mary's
prayer for patience fell short of her necessities in
such a case as had just been presented to his
sight. Heaven, who had certainly heard her im-
ploration for patience by granting her this virtue
in greater abundance than fell to the lot of most
women to receive, had not made provision to
meet such a contingency as the arrival of Molly
Ramsden. Byron felt that if she had shaken
hands with that woman he would never have for-
given her. One gets out of patience with the
patient Griselda, and he could not have remained
to witness Mary Chaworth's acquiescence in the
humiliation her husband had offered her.

He admired the way in which she had behaved.
Though taken by surprise as he was now sure
her husband meant that she should be she had



Love Alone Is Lord 421

adroitly refused to shake hands with the insult
that had brazened itself before her. She had re-
fused to remain in the room with it, and had
departed with dignity. But Heaven had granted
her the gift of patience in abundance: she had
left the dining-room herself instead of ordering
the woman out of it.

He found her in the drawing-room. The


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 25 26 27 28

Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 23 of 28)