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satisfaction that she had resisted that tempta-
Did he feel a certain gladness at the proof
given to him that she was not as other women?
While he rode slowly in the tracks made by her
horse at his gallop, he was ready to affirm that she
had been mad to fling away the prospect the
certainty of happiness which he had opened up
before her. She said that she had done it for his
sake. That was her sweet unselfishness : she was
ready to sacrifice her own happiness lest she
should interfere with his. That was the aspira-
tion of a saint ; but it was founded on no more
substantial a basis than the ecstasy of a saint.
How would she ever be the burden to him that
she had spoken of? His house? What were his
obligations in regard to the house of Byron? He
came in view of the long range of front of New-
stead when he asked himself the question.
There was the answer before him.
"The obligation to maintain a tottering ruin,"
he said. "She has been foolish enough to place
such a consideration before every other her hap-
piness my happiness!"

But she had also introduced the question of his
future as a poet.

He became impatient at the thought. How
was it possible, he asked himself, that the circum-
stance of his having forever by his side the one



44 Love Alone Is Lord

dear soul whose presence had been to him the
golden key that unlocked the gates leading to
that spacious domain of poesy upon which he had
entered should be otherwise than a blessing to
him? Her sympathy her guidance the sense
of her purity and graciousness surrounding him
forever how could she think that such influ-
ences could be otherwise than beneficial to his
work?

Then the words of Vince came back to him:
"Only by suffering only by suffering."
Was it possible that she believed that only by
suffering could a poet reach the heights on which
Dante and Milton had walked, or penetrate to the
depths of darkness which their poetry illuminated?
He threw himself off his horse and entered the
porch of Newstead.
His butler met him.

"Lady Caroline Lamb is awaiting your lord-
ship's return in the drawing-room," he said.



CHAPTER VIII

BYRON did not betray any surprise at the
announcement, though it had come upon
him with a shock of something more than sur-
prise. The fact was that he was too much
amazed to be able to realise the import of the
words spoken by the butler. The incidents of the
previous two hours absorbed his thoughts too
fully to allow of his being able to consider such a
matter as had been suggested by the servant.
He had passed through a crisis in his life and he
felt that this was an anti-crisis ; he had a vague
impression of its being flat and of little interest
to him.

She was out of the drawing-room and beside
him in the hall before he had succeeded in col-
lecting himself sufficiently to determine what he
should do.

She had her hands upon his shoulders, crying
first, cooing afterwards :

"Byron! my dear Byron! my dear lord!
my only lord and master of my life and destiny!"

"Oh, will you drink coffee? I believe that I
can command some excellent coffee," said he a
poor response to such enthusiasm.

Her hands dropped from his shoulders.

441



44 2 Love Alone Is Lord

"Coffee coffee!" she said derisively.

" I sometimes take a cup in the afternoon, and
I thought that perhaps you would join me," he
said. " It is so good of you to visit me in my
loneliness. Shall we go into the drawing-room?"

He held the door open for her, talking glibly
about trivialities, as men do whose nerves are
strung to the highest tension, and they entered
the room together. He glanced at her reflection
in the high mirror of the console the moment
that she passed the door; he wondered how he
had ever been attracted by such a reflection,
and it was in the force of this impression that he
said:

" How charming you look to-day more charm-
ing, if that were possible, than ever! But you
are never other than exquisite, Caroline. To
what is our simple county indebted for the
honour of this visit? Will you have time to sit
down?"

" Oh, Byron, my Byron ! " she cried, and then she
sat down and wept, with her usual dainty lace
handkerchief up to her eyes. She was in weeping
costume he recognised that fact at once ; he had
become schooled to her methods of expressing
herself. She was very careful that her toilettes
should be congenial with her emotions ; so care-
ful that when she was conscious of a wrong note
in her toilette she immediately corrected it by a
substitution of emotion. She always wept when
she was dressed in white with a blue sash. Byron



Love Alone Is Lord 443

had once said that the sash was the bit of blue
sky beyond the rain clouds, and suggested an
intermediate rainbow riband.

He now watched her weep on the unsympa-
thetic arm of the sofa.

He watched her for some moments and then
he rose from his chair without a word and, seat-
ing himself at a small escritoire, began to write
a letter, but not until he had conscientiously ex-
amined the quill. (His nerves were very highly
strung indeed.)

She started to her feet and was beside him in
an instant. She snatched from the desk the
paper on which he had just written the date and,
tearing the sheets into a hundred pieces, snowed
them through the room, with the gesture of an
angry woman flinging a missile.

"How dare you treat me in this way?" she
cried. " Do you know me so little as to fancy
that I will submit to such infamous such in-
human contempt?"

" Do you know me so little as to fancy that I
will submit to your silly intrusion at such a time
as this?" he said quietly. "I believed that you
had something that you accounted of some im-
portance to say to me, and I was prepared to
listen to you with patience. But, instead of say-
ing what you had to say, you began to weep
without any object, and I thought that you would
be the more easily composed if I occupied myself
in another part of the room. Pardon me for my



444 Love Alone Is Lord

rudeness. Now, may I beg of you to let me
know your reason for this visit of surprise? "

It was now her turn to be surprised. When
she had stormed at him in the old days in the
fashion of which she had just given him a florid
example, he had always responded with a jest or
a laugh ; upon one occasion only had he suggested
to her other possibilities, and then she had not
been raging at him, she had only been looking at
Miss Milbanke.

She was surprised at his harshness; he was
undoubtedly rude: but he had just come from
seeing the woman whom he loved fly from him;
though it is doubtful if the lady before him, had
he made this explanation to her, would have
admitted the plea of extenuation.

She gazed, pouting very prettily (he had once
thought) and looking velvety and innocent, while
she said :

"Oh, Byron, how you have changed! Oh, who
could have believed it possible? What can have
changed you, dearest Byron?"

"My dear Caroline," he said good-naturedly,
"I understood that we were playing with coun-
ters, not with current coin. I had no idea that
you would bring your tokens to be cashed. Surely
you will not go so far as to tell me that you were
acting au grand sgrieux."

"Oh, heavens; I laid my heart at this man's
feet and he, when he has trampled it into the
mire, he asks me if I did it au grand serieux,"



Love Alone Is Lord 445

cried the lady, beginning to pace the room with
her hands clasped at first and then flung passion-
ately toward the ceiling, after the style of Mrs
Siddons in The Grecian Mother. Lady Caroline
had studied her best effects.

"Pardon me," said Byron; "but you forget
that I was by your side when we saw her in that
part. Any comparison would be unjust."
She stopped in the midst of her passion.
"What do you mean?" she demanded.
" Mrs. Siddons ; you imitate her with astound-
ing ability; but The Grecian Mother is a poor
play. You should try the dagger scene in Mac-
beth in which she excels; it is grander."

In a second she made a rush to the wall; she
snatched from the panel the Turkish dagger
which Scott had presented to Byron through
Murray a few weeks previously; she clutched it
by the haft, and in a flash she had flung the
sheath with its coral and turquoise gems across
the room, and held up the glittering blade in the
act to stab herself.

" Thus thus do I take your advice the dagger
scene I will thus

He flung himself upon her and caught her by
the wrist.

"You are mad mad drop the dagger drop
it, I say," cried Byron, struggling with her. She
was lithe as a leopard. He felt her wrist slip
round under his fingers. For a few seconds they
went backwards and forwards he forced her back



44 6 Love Alone Is Lord

till the dagger was high above her head ; had he
let go her wrist the point would have fallen upon
his face; she went back so far that to save her-
self from being overthrown she fell upon her
knees.

He had the dagger in his hand. They were
both panting with the struggle gazing with
fierce eyes at each other.

"You are a mad woman!" he gasped.

She was still on her knees. She covered her
face with her hands he saw the marks of his
fingers on her wrist.

"For God's sake, Byron, forgive me," she said,
between her sobs. "I am mad, but you have
driven me mad no, no; I do not blame you
only pity have pity Byron my love my
love!"

He laid the dagger on a table and went to her.
He was greatly affected.

" Dear Caroline, I have been to blame," he said.
" It was brutal of me to utter an unworthy taunt.
You have always treated me far better than I
deserve. Give me your hand. Let me help you
to a chair. I shall never forgive myself
cowardly! "

She suffered him to raise her, and she dropped
from his arms reluctantly into a chair. She
averted her head, still sobbing fitfully. A long
strand of her beautiful hair had in the course of
her struggle become loosened, and it fell in soft
coils on to her shoulder and made a subtle em-



Love Alone Is Lord 447

broidery of gold thread down the bosom of her
frock and even over the blue silk of her sash.

He stood watching her for some time, not with-
out remorse. But he could say nothing beyond
the words that he had spoken to her.

She was the first to break the silence.

" I know you have come to hate me," she said,
sobbing gently between every word.

"No, no; you are wrong quite wrong, I as-
sure you," he said.

"You think me silly you cannot understand
how love is a woman's whole existence," she said;
and he never forgot her words.

"I think I can understand it now," he said
gravely. But he was not thinking of her, but of
another. It was not from her that he had learned
this truth.

She looked up quickly. Her sobs had ceased
with extraordinary suddenness. He noticed a
light in her eyes. He wondered if she really fan-
cied that she had triumphed.

"Oh, Byron, why did you come into my life?"
she cried, almost piteously.

" I have been wondering that for some months,"
he said.

"What? and you talked of Destiny you con-
soled me by declaring that it was your destiny,"
she said quickly.

" Did I ? Did it console you, Caroline ? " he asked.

" It did at the time. I gave up everything for
you, Byron."



448 Love Alone Is Lord

"You told me that you gave up several men
for me you mentioned their names. But I de-
serve your reproaches."

" I have never reproached you."

" That was your generosity. But I have never
ceased to reproach myself."

"If I have led you to do that I am glad that
I came here to-day."

" I have been asking myself why you came here
to-day. I am glad that you have answered me.
But as I have told you, your visit was unneces-
sary. Still, your coming has made me reproach
myself still further. Well, as you have accom-
plished your mission, perhaps "

She was on her feet in an instant.

"You would turn me out of your house?" she
cried. "You fling me away? You spurn me
from your presence with gibes? "

" My dear Caroline, I am thinking only of your-
self," he said. "I pray of you not to give me
cause for any further self-reproach. Even your
reputation people have cruel tongues."

"Your tongue is the most cruel," she cried.
"I have dared all for your sake. There was a
time "

"There never was a time when I should have
been indiscreet enough to ask you to pay me a
solitary visit at my house," said he.

"You are a wretch! But I know who incul-
cated these notions of propriety upon you. There
is only one person who could do it. You were a



Love Alone Is Lord 449

changed man from the day she forced herself into
my room and found you there. Belle Milbanke!
You do not know her; but I have known her
She always hated me; she mocked me-this
timid country -bred girl!"

"Take my advice, Caroline, the last I may ever
give you. Go back to your home and your child-
ren, and pray to Heaven to give you the heart of a
little child the heart of Belle Milbanke. I can-
not tell you to leave my house, but I can leave
you in it alone."

He went toward the door. She easily inter-
cepted him. Her movements were more than ever
like those of a panther.

"You will never be the cur to do that," she
cried. " Oh, Byron, Byron, why did you not let
me kill myself just now ? Give me that dagger
give it to me again."

She was frantic; but she was also tired. She
had become frantic three times within a quarter
of an hour. He looked into her face and saw
that she was acting. She had been treating him
as if he had been a fool.

"Give me the dagger," she gasped.
In an instant he had turned round, pale with
anger. He snatched up the weapon. She thought
that he was about to kill her. She gave a woman's
shriek and cowered before him. He thrust the
haft into her hand, crying :

" There take it take it. I will not stop you
this time."



45 Love Alone Is Lord

He was gone from the room before she was
aware that the weapon was in her hand.

He hurried down the hall, but paused when
half-way to the porch door. He heard the clang
of the dagger on the floor of the drawing-room,
and he laughed. Then he heard the door opened
quickly and the sound of her voice; she was
laughing; but he knew that her laugh was that
of a woman whose cheeks are still pale from a
recent terror. He waited until she came up to
where he stood. She was pallid as death.

" I hope we shall not have rain before I reach
the Grange: I am the guest of my dear friend,
Mrs. Maudsley, of the Grange: you know her?"
she said quite calmly.

"I have not that honour," he replied. "Your
carriage "

" It is an open one : I ordered it to wait for me
at your gates," she said.

"A pair of black horses? I saw it some dis-
tance up the road as I came through the gates.
I hope the rain will be delayed. Good-bye."

She glanced back at him from the porch: a
footman was holding the door open for her.

"Au revoir, my lord," she said, with her eyes
fixed upon him.

"Good-bye," said he.

She went down the steps. The man closed the
door, and Byron strolled back to the drawing-
room. He picked up the dagger from the floor
and searched about the legs of the sofa for the



Love Alone Is Lord 451

sheath which she had hurled away from her.
After some trouble he found it. It was nothing
the worse for its ill-treatment ; nor was the blade
of the weapon; he examined it with some care
before replacing it in its sheath. He smiled while
he fastened it upon its hook on the wall ; but his
smile did not last.

He had got rid of her, but not without a dis-
play of some brutality. He was fully conscious
of this fact, and the satisfaction that he felt at
his achievement was almost, but not altogether,
neutralised by his reflection upon the means he
had thought necessary to employ in order to
effect it. He could not get rid of the feeling that
he was to blame for the closeness of their associa-
tion the previous year in London. He had heard
a good deal about Lady Caroline from his friends,
and yet he had, out of sheer wilfulness in ex-
actly that spirit which he displayed all his life in
rejecting the warnings of his friends taken upon
him the playing of a part in that comedie & deux
which was entirely to his taste.

And the last act in this little comedy had just
been played with great spirit in his drawing-room
he did not include in the play her rentree to
the hall, where she had become commonplace, but
commonplace with a certain sublimity due to the
effect of her sudden recovery of self-possession
the last act with its tawdry heroics and the usual
dagger of the ill-treated heroine.

How well she had managed to maintain the



45 2 Love Alone Is Lord

traditions associated with her appearance in so-
ciety ! He did not believe that she had seen the
dagger on the wall when waiting for him to ar-
rive; he felt confident that it had merely caught
her eye hanging there when he had uttered his un-
worthy taunt, and she had thought it a pity that
so opportune a "property" in stage language
should be wasted.

And she had actually deceived him just as
Xenxis had deceived his brother painter. They
had been associates in the comedy, and yet she
had only to become a little extravagant to make
him believe that she was in earnest. She had
made a fool of him up to the last.

He accepted that as the penalty for his folly
in allowing himself to join in her original fooling,
and he considered that accounts between them
were now square. But as he stood at the window
and looked out into the grey day on the eve of
June, he wondered if he would have received Lady
Caroline in precisely the same way as he had, if
he had not come straight to her from watching
that piece of horsemanship which Mary Chaworth
had displayed.

He came to the conclusion that, although the
woman had tired him with her tantrums long
ago, still it was rather fortunate both for her and
himself that he arrived feeling some bitterness in
his heart against womankind in general.



CHAPTER IX

TIE dismissed the actress from his thoughts as
1 1 easily as one dismisses the story of a dull
play as easily as one forgets a morning rainbow,
a meteor's trail, a rocket's golden whirl. He was
not in a mood for comedy.

He was not without hope. He went every day
to the knoll and waited sometimes for an hour,
sometimes until late in the afternoon. His horse
did not need to be guided; it turned its head
directly toward his destination the moment it
went through the entrance gates. He knew that
if she wished to see him, Mary would at once go
to the knoll. But she did not come to him. She
dared not trust herself. She had saved herself
once, but not by trusting to her own principles,
principles never yet saved a woman from love,
but by the speed of her horse ; and she would not
trust herself again.

That was how he came to think of her absence
after a week of fruitless visits to the trysting-
place. She had no need of him. She found that
she could continue living under the conditions
which prevailed at Annesley Hall, and without
seeking help from him. He never saw her either
on her horse or in her carriage on the roads. He

453



454 Love Alone Is Lord

might as well have been living a thousand miles
away from her. Only once during this time did
he hear anything about Annesley Hall. His in-
formation came from Vince.

Of course, Vince found in the narrative a great
deal that was humorous and picturesque yes,
picturesque from the standpoint of an artist who
confines his practice to the grotesque and the
bizarre.

" I had it from Charles, a footman, with morals
and an occasional purple eye in its earlier
stages saffron overhung by a thunder-cloud in
its later," said Vince, assuming the pose of
the amused narrator, fastidious of details and
conscious of the incongruous, so long as it does
not detract from the design of the composition.
" Charles was faithful to his principles as well as
to his plush, hence the local inflammation which
caused the discoloration around the eye. But
he was compensated, and compensation really
means consolation in such cases as his."

"So much for Charles and his black eye; an
excellent prologue to the tragedy or is it a farce ?
I think it must be a tragedy that you have to
relate, you look so amused," said Byron.

" The classifying of a drama depends only upon
the temperament of the one who undertakes such
a duty," said Vince. "The funniest comedies
that I ever saw were those that had set out as
tragedies. I have exploded over the last scene
in Hamlet acted in a barn, simply because the



Love Alone Is Lord 455

Prince of Denmark and Laertes fought, the one
with a shovel, the other with a poker belonging
to a different set of fire-irons. So the impression
of tragedy is dependent upon the thickness of a
lath of iron."

" Therefore an incident should be narrated be-
fore it is classified; and I am not yet in a posi-
tion to put a name on the one which tarries on
your telling," said Byron.

"True. The demon probity is the offspring
of a country life and abundant leisure," said
Vince. "Charles of the purple eye was abun-
dantly prolix when he came to me for advice;
but perceiving his fault I should have refrained
from indulging in it myself."

" Is that a specimen of the morality of Charles? "
asked Byron. " If so, 't is sound, though coming
from a man with a black eye."

"His morality was not inflamed," said Vince.
" But 't is not for a servant to criticise his mas-
ter's visitors."

"Was morality one of them?" asked Byron.

"On the contrary, it was Mrs. Ramsden who
appeared at Annesley Hall," said Vince. "Mrs.
Ramsden, large, a peony among the roses of
womankind; vivid, with a laugh. She was Mr.
Musters 's latest flame."

"Flame? a firebrand. I have seen her and
heard her," said Byron.

" It is not possible that she was there when you
went to dinner?" said Vince,



45 6 Love Alone Is Lord

" Not at first : she came in later. I knew that
it would interest you too much to hear about her,
so I refrained from telling you."

"I can appreciate your reticence. Reticence
implies confidence, though many people are super-
ficial and think just the contrary. But you did
know who the woman was? "

"Not exactly. But I saw the woman a
flame, a firebrand, one of Sir Humphry's thou-
sand-candle beacons to be a warning to mariners.
Is there a Mr. Ramsden? Was there ever a Mr.
Ramsden? Was he her husband, and if so was
she ever married to him?"

" All pertinent questions suggested by the glare
of the lady. It is understood that Mr. Ramsden
is her husband an Indian Nabob who may re-
side in Ormuz, so well endowed is his wife. She
has been in her house for a year, with several
changes of maids, and now she has brought
painters and furniture tailors into the place to
add to its attractiveness."

"Mr. Musters hinted at that as an excuse if
such were needed for her visit to Annesley."

"A visit which terminated day before yester-
day not without recrimination. You see, it is
impossible to be close to a flame without getting
heated."

"And Mr. Musters got burnt?"

"It was at breakfast two days ago. Charles
was in waiting but he thinks it must have begun
earlier. She had the bad taste to call him a sot



Love Alone Is Lord 457

because the honest English squire prefers a bowl
of rum and milk, with a couple of eggs beaten in,
for breakfast, to the more usual chocolate. He
objected to the word, and his objection took the
form of flinging her chocolate pot out of the win-
dow without going through the preliminary of
raising the sash. She retorted by upsetting his
rum over the table, and that upset his setter,
Dolphin by name, who was sitting by his master's
chair. The gentleman hurled a hot muffineer at
her which she just escaped, and in responding
with a dish-cover from the cutlets, not being
accustomed to the ranges of the room, she sent
her missile pretty fairly into the centre of the
lustre chandelier. A carving knife upraised the
lady's shriek Charles's interference and his con-
sequent wound, made up the battle of the break-
fast table."

Byron roared with laughter.

" It is an epic," he cried. " It is Homeric ; but
the dish-cover among the lustres is distinctly
Miltonic."

" Charles spoke of a few incidental lyrics after
the room had begun to look untidy trifling
with poised plates flinging forks, plate holders,
a toast-rack, the pistol fire of the pitched

battle- -"

"Lyrics the pistol fire is the lyrical element
of a campaign, the cannon fire is the epic. And
it all arose over a remark of the lady who pre-
ferred chocolate to rum for breakfast?"



45 8 Love Alone Is Lord

"Ah, so poor Charles believes, but he dropped


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Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 25 of 28)