Frank Frankfort Moore.

Love alone is lord online

. (page 26 of 28)
Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 26 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

a word or two in the course of his prolixity that
were to me as the taking of a lucifer match out
of its tube illuminating in an instant. The
truth must be faced, though Charles, through
causes already hinted at by me, insisted on by
him, does not see things just now so clearly as he
might ; there is another and a younger lady show-
ing a fluttering pennon above the amatory ho-
rizon a pennon like a luring finger, signalling

"Ah, a cutter; Mrs. Ramsden is a three-

"Without being impolite it may be said that
one speaks of a three-decker and Mrs. Ramsden in
the same gender. But a three-decker is ponder-
ous when one wants only a pleasure yacht. When
we want a pretty bird to perch on our finger we
do not buy a swan, but a canary."

"And Mr. Musters has found this out?"

"A canary a dainty little yellow fluttering
fluter yellow, golden."

"You know her?"

" I have seen her. He paid a visit a few days
ago to a certain Mrs. Maudsley of the Grange;
he met her there. I have seen her driving with
Mrs. Maudsley a golden canary petted by men
under the name of Lady Caroline Lamb. What,
you have heard of her?"

Byron had given an exclamation as soon as
the name of Mrs. Maudsley of the Grange was

Love Alone Is Lord 459

mentioned; and now once more he roared with
laughter. The untiring Lady Caroline had
thought it worth her while to annex the simple
country squire of very country manners and tastes.
She was, as Vince had described her, a cutter who
could capture a prize in the shallowest waters.

"Oh, yes; I have heard of Lady Caroline," he
replied. "Who has not heard of her? I saw
something of her in town last year."

"Is it possible? Then you will be the more
interested in the story," said Vince. "It seems
that he went to the Grange one day ; I believe it
was the very day after Lady Caroline paid her
visit to you."

"So you know that, too, you rascal?"
" I looked for her coming every day," said
Vince. "When I heard how she had attached
herself to you in town I wondered if she would
let you have a rest in solitude at Newstead. But
to the story: Mr. Musters visited Mrs. Maudsley
alone Mrs. Ramsden is not on visiting terms with
Mrs. Maudsley and there he met Lady Caroline.
It looks as if the canary had hopped on to his
finger without a moment's delay; and he was fool
enough to brag of it to Mrs. Ramsden Charles
heard him when she was unkind to him the next
day. She somehow heard that he had gone a
second time when he pretended that he was going
to the Quarter Sessions. The next morning the
battle was pitched, and before lunch Mrs. Rams-
den left Annesley Hall in what looked like a

460 Love Alone Is Lord

baggage waggon, Mr. Musters following her, but
only as far as the turn that leads to the Grange,
where he was to dine. That is all the story that
Charles, the black-eyed, had to tell, except the
most important part to him to wit, his com-
pensation for the abrasion. The question of its
adequacy or inadequacy would not interest you."

" But the rest of the story compensates for the
want of interest as to his compensation," said
Byron. "Vince, that woman is a wonder!"

" You will need to give me other tokens of the
identity of the one to whom you refer: every
woman is a wonder. To which of the phenomena
do you refer?"

"Did you think that I meant Mrs. Ramsden?
Oh, Mr. Vince, do not make a pretence of ignor-
ance for the sake of a ban mot," said Byron. " I
tell you that she is a wonder. It is a pity that
she is so much of a woman that is her only

"Therefore you were able without reasoning
with her to prevent her from settling at New-
stead?" said Vince.

"I don't believe that she intended to do that,"
said Byron. " But 't would be folly to say with
any degree of definiteness what were her inten-
tions. Lady Holland used to affirm that her
greatest charm was that one never knew what she
would do next. It was a fearful joy entertaining
her for a single evening at any house."

"That is the sort of woman one tires of in a

Love Alone Is Lord 461

very short time : there is nothing so tiresome as
perpetual novelty, ' ' said Vince. " Will the squire
be disappointed in her, do you think?"

"Or will she be disappointed in the squire?"
said Byron. " I believe that the disappointment
will be mutual."

"Yes, eventually; but in the meantime "

" In the meantime the unhappiness of the only
good woman increases," said Byron in a low
voice. "Why does not someone kill that man?"
he added, after a pause.

"Would such an act of justice diminish from
her unhappiness?" said Vince.

" Can you doubt it? " said Byron.

" Yes, I doubt it," replied Vince, after the lapse
of a thoughtful half -minute. "I doubt it. But
I do not think that God would be very hard on
anyone who killed Musters before he kills his

They separated without another word.

One of the two at least was not in want of a
subject for thought during the rest of the day.

What was to be the end of this history this
series of escapades of the man to whom Mary
Chaworth considered herself bound? That was
the question which occupied all Byron's thoughts.
She had told him that her husband's fickleness
would be certain to drive Mrs. Ramsden from
Annesley, and till that event took place she could
only be patient. To think of it! To think that
she was counting upon her husband's fickleness to

462 Love Alone Is Lord

give her a chance of living once more under the
same roof as her children!

But now that he had proved even more fickle
than she could have anticipated that he would be,
she had not got any nearer to the feebly satisfactory
end which she had hoped for when Mrs. Ramsden
should take her departure. What was she to hope
for now? Was she content that the conditions
under which she was living should continue for
the rest of her life? Was she willing to condone
and condone a fresh condonation every week?
Did motherhood so crush a woman's spirit as to
make her ready to submit to any humiliation
rather than that her children should run the
chance of not honouring their father?

He believed that her whole aim in life was to
keep her children living in ignorance of the life
their father led. She would not separate herself
from him lest there should be what she called a
"scandal" as if the scandal of her continuing
under the same roof with him was not the greatest
that could exist!

But all such questions as that of the relative
proportion of the scandals were insignificant com-
pared with the question of how long was the
existing scandal to continue? Was there any
loop-hole of escape for her from the detestable
position which she had accepted with resignation?
She was little more than a girl, and was she to
spend the best years of her life as the past fort-
night had been passed? What had she to look

Love Alone Is Lord 463

forward to except misery until her old age-
rather until her husband was made forcibly aware
of the limitations that age brought upon a man?
I she had anything to hope for in the future
she might with some show of reason make up her
mind to be resigned to an intermediate unhappi-
ness; but, though innocent, she had accepted a
life s sentence to misery and humiliation without
any but the slightest sign of rebellion.

He lost all patience thinking of her submission.
In the force of his passionate thoughts he struck
at obstacles in his room with his fist. He knocked
over a chair and kicked it in a cowardly way as
it lay upon the floor, he flung his box of pens on
the floor and stamped upon it, simply because his
stamping caused it to make a little tapping noise
against the side of a glass dish. He was as in-
sanely enraged in thinking over this thing, which
certainly was of vital importance to himself, as
most men are, for a second or two, over irritating
trifles. His demonstration did not last longer
than a second or two, and then he flung himself
into a chair, his hair tossed, his knuckles bleeding.
He felt disagreeably flushed, and he had a sense
of his own impotence to take any action that
would be likely to be productive of good.

He had found the story of Musters 's quarrel
with his guest highly amusing; but the picture
that now came before his mind of the white girl,
standing at the half-open door of her solitary
room upstairs, terrified at the crashing of the

464 Love Alone Is Lord

glass in the breakfast-room the shouts of the
man the shrieks of the woman, trembling, not
knowing what was about to take place, was not
one that moved him to laughter. How had she
lived through it? What sort of life was hers in
these days? Pitiful! Pitiful!

And yet he could not do anything to help her!
She would not allow him to make any move on
her behalf. She had drawn a barred shutter be-
tween herself and him this, although he was
ready to put his arm about her and carry her into
a new life where she would know only happiness.
That vision of his island that mirrored itself in
the sapphire sea came before him once again
vivid, placid an orange grove, a riot of roses.
. . . It was waiting for them, and yet she
would not come she would not come. She was
ready to spend the rest of her life waiting at a
half -open door for the next terror that was coming.

And he could do nothing!

He had promised Vince to inspect on the next
day a vehicle which the latter had designed for
himself, employing a local wheelwright to build
it out of the remains of the carriages which had
been bequeathed to him, in the true satirical
spirit, by his father, in addition to the annuity
on which he lived in his cottage in something
more than comfort. The vehicle was a sort of
dog-cart, but heavy, and Vince 's horse took
rather a prejudice against it the moment he saw

Love Alone Is Lord 465

it. Byron assisted in persuading him to entrust
himself to the embrace of the shafts, which, hav-
ing originally belonged to a chaise, were unpro-
portionately stout for the new vehicle ; but Vince
would not allow him to join him in trying the
animal in the cart. The animal allowed himself
to be warped by his prejudices even when be-
tween the protective shafts. He showed his un-
easiness in many ways, and only after a long
struggle did Vince persuade him to go through
the entrance gates. He returned after an hour's
argument with the horse on the road. Of course,
the man had got the best of the argument, but he
would not go so far as to say that he had con-
vinced the animal that the new machine was

But while Byron was spending that hour in
exercise outside the gates, a lady, driving her
own phaeton and pony, pulled up beside him with
a cheerful greeting. He had no difficulty in
recognising the figure, features, and, crowning all,
the hat of Mrs. Ramsden. She nodded her
plumes until they swept over his hair, but he
escaped their effect by an exercise of politeness,
bowing to her as if she were the Princess, the
generosity of whose proportions she all but

" I could not resist the opportunity of recom-
mending myself to your lordship, though I had
only the honour of meeting your lordship once
before, ' ' she said. " But I hold that 't is the duty

466 Love Alone Is Lord

of neighbours to be neighbourly, and, besides,
Lord Byron, the lord of poets, has no greater ad-
mirer than my humble self."

"You overwhelm me, my dear madam," said
Byron, with another bow.

" I have ever been from a child a worshipper of
the Muse," cried the lady, with some pride.

" And I trust that the Muse has responded with
a grant of inspiration, madam," said Byron. "I
trust that the public will have an opportunity of
becoming acquainted with your style. The world
it waiting."

"Oh, my lord, you flatter me; my poor at-
tempts would not be worth the printing," she
cried, in all the pride of self -depreciation. " But
if your lordship really condescends to take an
interest in my trifles, I should feel honoured by
a visit."

"At Annesley Hall?" said Byron maliciously.

"At Annesley? Good heavens, no!" shrieked
the lady. " Do not speak to me of Annesley and
that odious man. I cannot bear to hear his name . ' '

" I am the better pleased that I have not men-
tioned it," said Byron.

" A dangerous man, my lord. He believes him-
self to be quite irresistible to ladies ; but, for my
part, I have never thought of him as anything
beyond a blustering country lout. He knows
nothing of modest women."

"What, although you were his guest for some
days, Mrs. Ramsden?"

Love Alone Is Lord 467

" Do not taunt me with my innocence, my lord.
If in my simplicity I attributed to him a benevo-
lence which was really only the trail of the serpent
the trail of the serpent, I repeat was I so
greatly to blame? He found me in the midst of
my builders' mess, and when he almost carried
me off by main force, I thought him the soul of
kindness and hospitality. My lord, I was soon
undeceived. Honour? the wretch does not know
what the word means. But, thank Heaven, my
principles are inseparable from my life even when
I go on a week's visit away from home. The
man's attentions were never otherwise than odious
to me, and to escape his persecution I fled from
his house. It may have been ungenteel, still, my
lord, I ask you, what is a reputation for gentility
compared to to "

"To a reputation for for reputation? You
were quite right, Mrs. Ramsden. Honourable
people will acquit you of any charge of impolite-
ness. What, madam, if one knows that one's
host is about to offer one poison in his wine, is one
to be called impolite for rejecting the cup?"

" I am fortified by the excellent views of your
lordship on this delicate subject. And now they
say that the fellow has taken up with a tiny wisp
of a woman who is staying at the Grange. Has
your lordship seen her yet?"

Byron marvelled at this woman's having hit
upon the "wisp"; he thought that the sobriquet
was of his own invention.

468 Love Alone Is Lord

"I believe that I did see a somewhat slight
lady " he began.

"Slight?" came the lady's crescendo, interrupt-
ing him. "Slight? Why, the creature is a mere
wand a barley stock and her hair, whether it is
her own or not, is five shades at least too light for
her complexion. The poor thing looks such a
silly piece, however, it would be but an act of
charity to warn her against that man. Plain and
all though she may be even when disguised by
art to a distasteful degree, she should not be con-
demned to suffering perhaps ruin. How do you
feel on this subject, my lord?"

"The matter is too delicate for my handling,
madam," said Byron.

"Well, perhaps that may be so," said the lady.
"At any rate, I hope that I shall have the honour
of a visit from your lordship before many days
have passed. Your lordship may count upon a
hearty welcome. I promise your lordship better
entertainment than may be obtained from read-
ing my humble verses," she added, with a roguish
coiling and uncoiling of the lash of her whip.

" I ask for no more intellectual enjoyment than
may be derived from a perusal of your poems,
Mrs. Ramsden," said Byron.

Mrs. Ramsden smiled rather broadly and then

"I have heard that you are wicked, ' : she said;
"but you must promise to visit me in a purely
intellectual spirit."

Love Alone Is Lord 469

"Mrs. Ramsden, I shall shave my head and
come in the disguise of the Prior of Newstead,"
said he.

"Hush!" she said reprovingly; "that borders
on the impious. But I vow that I shall count the
days until I can welcome you. In the meantime
you may have an opportunity of warning that
barley stock she really is like a barley stock
that Mr. Musters is a rascal, with no sense of
honour and only the feeblest appreciation of good
looks in a lady. I wish your lordship good-

She put her pony in motion, leaving Byron
bowing bareheaded on the roadside. She had
driven round the bend in the road before he


HE could stand the inaction no longer. Every
day he found himself facing that question,
What is to be the end of the business? Why was he
down here at Newstead living the life of a her-
mit? What was he waiting for? What did he
expect to happen? What could possibly happen
that would bring about a change in the situation
of matters in regard to Mary and himself? Had
he made up his mind to follow her example and
to spend the rest of his life praying for patience?
He felt that he had great need to begin his prayers
without further delay.

He had ridden to the knoll a couple of days
after his pleasant little chat with Mrs. Ramsden,
not because he retained any hope of meeting her
there, but simply for the sake of assigning some
destination to his ride. He felt very mournful
before setting out, and as he rode slowly along the
roads and across the country, he did not find him-
self becoming more cheerful. Never before had
his recollection of the lovely autumn day when he
had first gone over this ground with her by his
side been so vivid. It was not merely that he
had a general sense of what had been in his heart
at that time the exultation which had followed


Love Alone Is Lord 471

her unconscious revelation of the night before;
added to this he was able to recall the minor
impressions which had been his on that morning.
Once again he sat upon his horse among the trees
of the "diadem" of the little hill and thought of
how she had pointed with her whip to the man
in the distance who was coming toward them.
He remembered how he had clutched at the pom-
mel of his saddle when she spoke those words
those deathless, deadly words, " the man whom I
have promised to marry"; and he had gazed down
the slope and seen the man advancing slowly, as
it seemed, but inexorably as Fate. Mary had not
smiled at that time. He had never forgotten that.
He wondered if she had had a presentiment of the
part that man was destined to play in her life.
For himself he knew that he had had no such
consciousness. He had hated the man who was
shutting him out from happiness, but he had
never thought that Mary would be otherwise than
happy with that man.

Now he looked across the green landscape and
longed for his approach. After all, it would be
better than an aimless waiting the crash that
would come when he fell upon the man with the
thong of his riding whip round his hand and the
horn at the other end swinging above his head.
Perhaps the man would beat him to death, but
he felt that even that would be preferable to the
inaction which had become unendurable. He
would at least have a chance of avenging Mary's

47 2 Love Alone Is Lord

wrongs upon the body of the burly ruffian who
had brought misery into her life.

Before he quite knew what was in his mind he
found himself galloping along the track that Mary
had taken when she had fled from him a fortnight
before. Down he went, along the borders of the
fields, across the meadows, as hard as his horse
could carry him. He did not slacken his speed
until he had reached the gates at Annesley Hall.
His horse was steaming as he pulled up at the
porch and asked for Mr. Musters.

Mr. Musters was not at home, the man said.
He had driven off in the morning to Quarter Ses-
sions he did n't know what Quarter Sessions ;
but he believed that that was what his master
had said.

Byron had his suspicions, but he kept them to
himself. After all, why should Musters have
given orders that he was to be denied to him?
Whatever Musters was, he was hardly likely to
dread meeting such an antagonist as his wife's
cousin. He would think himself capable of crush-
ing the life out of all the poets in England be-
fore sitting down to his breakfast of rum and

Byron rode slowly away from the Hall. He
did not make any inquiry for Mr. Musters 's wife.
If she was within the house and became aware of
his visit and of his riding away without asking to
see her, she would know that he was still loyal
(formally at least) to the spirit of the incident

Love Alone Is Lord 473

that parted them. He had not pursued her that
day ; he did not mean to pursue her now.

He rode slowly back to Newstead. He scarcely
knew whether he was glad or sorry that the im-
pulse on which he had acted was frustrated. It
would have been a great joy to him to break the
monotony of his life by taking a swinging blow
at that man; but if the result were to be the
death either of himself or his antagonist, Mary
would be the sufferer; and all that he had been
thinking about for weeks was how it might be
possible to diminish her suffering.

He dismounted at his own porch, the groom
took the horse, and he entered the house. He
had not taken half a dozen steps up the hall
before the butler came quickly forward, saying:

"Mrs. Musters awaits your lordship in the

He was able, as usual, to control himself in the
presence of the servants. He muttered a word
or two about having ridden too far, and handed
his hat and whip to a footman. The butler threw
open the door of the drawing-room.

He greeted her formally until the door was
closed again ; then he put out both his hands to

" Mary Mary my Mary, you have come at
last," he whispered.

She withdrew a step or two, shaking her head


"Ah, Byron," she said, "I hoped that you

474 Love Alone Is Lord

understood surely my last act should have con-
vinced you that I was in earnest in all that I said
to you."

" I do not know what you said to me then. I
hope I know what you are going to say to me
now," he cried. "I waited for you at the knoll
every day for a week. I hoped that but you
have come to me now."

" For a moment only for a moment," she said.
" Byron, I know that I can trust to you I know
that you will be generous that you will not give
me pain."

" I want to lead you by the hand to happiness,

" Then you will never again speak to me as you
spoke when we last met. Do not think so meanly
of me as to assume that I could ever be happy
through a wrong-doing. For a moment, perhaps,
I had a sense of temptation. It is past. It will
never return. But it is not about my happiness
that I came hither to speak; it is yours your
happiness, my dear Byron."

"You cannot speak of mine without speaking
of your own ; there is no difference between them. ' '

" That is true, indeed, for I can only be happy
if I know that your happiness is assured. I want
to make it assured in the only way possible."

"There is only one way, Mary, and you know
what that way is."

" I do. I am about to point it out to you. I
got a letter from your sister Augusta yesterday,

Love Alone Is Lord 475

and she told me in it much which I did not know
before. She was aware of the good feeling that
there is between us, and she was sure that my
influence with you in this matter would be of

"And the matter what is the nature of the

" Miss Milbanke I did not know that you had
proposed marriage to her last year."

" I did so. I fear that I did so through selfish
motives. An impulse it was a sudden impulse.
I had been foolish she seemed a sweet girl not
knowing my own heart I thought that you were

far away from me ; but now "

" Now I am farther away than ever, but Miss
Milbanke is closer, Byron."

"She refused me very promptly, and she was
right. I thank her daily."

"I believe that Augusta has seen her; at any
rate, she has learned that Miss Milbanke is disposed
to think of you more kindly than she did

" That is only another way of saying that she
would refuse me with greater emphasis."

" No ; she has spoken to Augusta of you with
great tenderness, and your sister left it to me to
plead with you on her behalf. I do so, Byron,
with all my heart. I believe that with this girl
your happiness will be assured. Such an influ-
ence as marriage with her will have upon you is
just what you need for happiness. Think of her
in this house, Byron; she will make it a home for

47 6 Love Alone Is Lord

you for you, my poor boy, who have never
known what a home is. All your restlessness will
cease. You will never wish to wander again."

"She is nothing to me, Mary. If you are
pleading for my happiness you are also pleading
against the best interests of Miss Milbanke
against her happiness. I do not love her. I have
never loved anyone but you, Mary, and it is
impossible that I should ever love another. Ah,
my dearest "

"Byron, for heaven's sake! Ah, I trusted you
to refrain from addressing me in this way, or I
should not have come here to-day. You have
made me sorry that I trusted to your honour."

" We may never meet again, Mary, and I should

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 26 28

Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 26 of 28)