Jane Austen Mystery - 10 - Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron: Being a Jane Austen Mystery by Stephanie Barron

Jane Austen Mystery - 10 - Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron: Being a Jane Austen Mystery by Stephanie Barron

Author:Stephanie Barron
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Tags: Mystery
ISBN: 9780553386707
Publisher: Random House, Inc.
Published: 2010-09-28T04:01:41+00:00


The Poet



MR. SCROPE DAVIES, I AM TOLD, IS POSSESSED OF A complex character. Indeed, if I may believe the Earl of Swithin, who knows Davies best, he is singularly equipped to serve as Lord Byron’s intimate, being possessed of a mind brilliant enough to win him a scholarship at King’s College, Cambridge—but too indolent to long remain there. It was at Cambridge he formed his acquaintance with Byron; and being, like Byron, of impoverished background, the two were continually borrowing money of each other. Davies is a gambler, and a familiar among the denizens of Crockford’s and White’s; a dandy who counts Mr. Beau Brummell among his friends, he is known for his immaculate dress and his existence on a pecuniary knife’s-edge.

“I had heard, from sources I should judge unimpeachable,” said our own particular banker, Henry, as we quitted the Castle, “that Davies stood surety for a significant loan—nearly five thousand pounds—when Byron was but a minor; which sum was not repaid for nearly six years. The duns so hounded Davies he was said to contemplate suicide; he was subject to arrest, and petitioned for the arrears in interest; and all the while, his lordship was abroad—enjoying the exotic climes that should inspire him to write Childe Harold. In this we find the measure of the gentleman’s loyalty—poor Davies has every reason to hate Lord Byron; and yet the two remain friends.”

There it was again; the word hate. If one were intent upon exonerating the poet, one might well begin by examining those who should wish to see him hanged. Cuckolded husbands, ladies spurned, and friends upon whom he presumed too much. “Mr. Davies was not arrested for debt, however?”

It was the Earl who answered me. “Byron mortgaged his birthright—Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire—last year; perhaps then he discharged his debt to poor Davies. The gentleman has been patience itself; not even the destruction of his peace may diminish his regard for Byron. He is even named as one of the Executors of his lordship’s Estate.”

It was not until we were arrived at Mr. Davies’s door that I understood he lived in Church Street—and, moreover, had taken a house directly opposite General Twining’s, where we had let down Catherine only a few days previous. The sudden knowledge of Byron’s proximity to his alleged victim brought me up short—any sort of meeting, in the dead of night, should have been possible. The poet might have been watching Catherine for weeks past, under the cover of his friendship for Mr. Davies! He might have stood, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, at an upper-storey window and observed the poor girl’s solitary progress towards her home. He might have intercepted her. Avowals of time and place, the witness of friends, were as nothing, once the position of both households was observed. I must pay a call of condolence soon on General Twining—and learn what I could of that fatal night.

Henry, I am certain, was alive to the possibilities in Mr.


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