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advantage before the world an incident which she
shared with him alone it really would scarcely
bear to be thought of as an incident it was only
a start and a blush and a sudden disappearance ;
and yet by her adroitness it became a beginning.

Moore called upon him before he had drunk
his morning bottle of soda water it was one of
his biscuit and soda water days. The Irishman
was so roguishly enigmatical as to be quite un-

"A victim!" he cried, with burlesque sigh and
a raising and lowering of the eyes. " Is it a vic-
tim that you are, my lord, or a conquering hero? "

"That's what I should like greatly to know,"
said Byron. "The two issues are commonly so
confounded it needs the opinion of a poet and a
man of the world like yourself to determine which
is which."

"A willing victim in such a case only there
never was such another case," said Moore.
" Heavens ! such rapidity of conquest ! But, then,
there never was quite such another as Lord Byron,
And as for her ladyship well, to be sure, there

Love Alone Is Lord 219

was Cleopatra. But within an hour, heavens!
And Lady Holland says that she offered to pre-
sent you, and that you said you were acquainted
with her already. Madame de Stael, when she
heard the whispers, had her laugh, and her epi-
gram and her shrug the shrug was set in the
epigram a living fly in the amber."

"Do you remember what this marvellous epi-
gram was? " asked Byron. " If you tell me what
it was and to what it referred, I shall be pleased
to give you my opinion as to its aptness. Mean-
time, it is difficult to appreciate either the amber
or the fly. What happened at Lady Holland's
after I left you may not know that I went away
quite early."

Moore twinkled merrily for a moment, and then
burst into a loud laugh that threatened the sta-
bility of his stock.

" You carry the whole thing off with a splendid
air," he cried. "Upon my soul you do! But,
my dear friend, take my advice and never try to
play a part with your attorney or your confiden-
tial poet. Oh! you left early , did you ? Sly sly,
my Lord Byron! Well, you confess, and that dis-
arms the suspicious. But what's the value of a
confession when I was there to see for myself?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake! man, say what you
came here to say at once, and do not keep on that
'I could and I would' air," cried Byron, with
some measure of irritation. " What is it that you
came here to say? You cannot tell me that any

220 Love Alone Is Lord

one knew why I went away so early. No one
knows but myself."

" Therefore everyone has a right to a guess at
the reason, and they had their guess and they all
guessed the same thing," said Moore.

"When they are unanimous their unanimity is
astonishing," said Byron. "And were you made
aware of the conclusion they came to? but
you may have been yourself among those who

"There is none like her in the world," said
Moore. " If she had been born a man she would
be to-day the greatest commander alive. Gra-
cious heavens! the thought of her achievements
sweeps one off one's feet! Such sweet audacity!
such adorable daring! I give you my word that
Rogers himself well, it was said that Rogers was
once foremost in her train."

His voice had sunk to a confidential whisper,
and he held up a hand of awe as he made his

"Is it possible Rogers actually Rogers?"
said Byron, in exactly the same tone. " I would
not have believed it."

"That is because you do not know her suffi-
ciently well," said Moore.

"Faith, that is a very plausible reason," said
Byron. " I believe that I do not know her suffi-
ciently well, considering that I do not know her
at all. Look you here, Thomas the Rimer; at-
tend to me while I give you my word of honour

Love Alone Is Lord 221

that since I addressed my feeble remark to Ma-
dame de Stael a remark that was like a child's
hiccup in the centre of a thunderstorm I have
uttered no word to any woman, good like a few
of them; bad like most of them; or indifferent
like all of them. Come now, out with your
story, keeping this affirmation as your basis.
Don't force me to tell my man Fletcher to clean
up my pistols."

"What," cried Moore, "you mean to tell me
that you did not talk with Lady Caroline Lamb?
that you did not go with her my dear lord, you
must surely have heard enough of her to know
that in a little affair of this kind

"The little affair is less than little: it is non-
existent. I never spoke to Lady Caroline Lamb
in my life. Of course, I have heard of her; but
I have not the honour of her acquaintance. I
do not know her even by sight. Was she at Lady
Holland's last night?"

" Lady Holland said that you told her that you
were acquainted with Lady Caroline, and that
you went to her side the moment you escaped the
de Stael."

"Then Lady Holland said what was Great
Bacchus ! I begin to perceive from what quarter
the wind blows. Lady Caroline a fascinating
creature with hair like like a will o' the wisp,
and a figure to correspond?"

" I thought you must have seen her. So, then,
the story is

222 Love Alone Is Lord

"More ridiculous than ever. This is the true
story : I caught a glimpse of the back of a shapely
head while I was pretending to listen to Madame
de Stael's diatribes. I was foolish enough to think
that the hair resembled that of of a lady whom
I knew some years ago, and when the de Stael
had left me free I mentioned to Lady Holland
that I was going to renew my acquaintance with
that lady no name was mentioned there was
no need. Lady Holland said, 'You know her?'
indicating I now suppose Lady Caroline Lamb.
I said 'Yes,' meaning not Lady Caroline, but my
friend. When I got face to face with her, I was
startled to find that she was a stranger. I turned
and fled straight to my rooms. That's the
whole true story."

The Irishman looked comically solemn for some
moments, and then the catspaw of a smile on his
face was shaken to a storm of laughter.

"It is not all the best has to come; you are
not acquainted with it," he cried. "You could
not have been gone more than a few minutes when
Lady Caroline disappeared as mysteriously as you
had. You were quickly missed from the salon, and
one of the men said that you had called for your
carriage and driven away. Immediately afterward
Lady Caroline was not to be found. More inqui-
ries in the hall result : her ladyship had also called
for her carriage and driven away. Now you can
understand what was the topic that enlivened the
latter part of our evening at St. James's Square."

Love Alone Is Lord 223

" No, that I cannot," cried Byron. " What, sir,
cannot a man take his carriage to his own door
without its being assumed by his hostess and his
fellow-guests that he is running away with the
next lady who leaves the same house ? I tell you,
Moore, it is too bad. Lord! what is this society
to which I have returned? Is it all so corrupt
that people take it for granted that if a man and
a woman leave a house, even in separate carriages,
mind you, within an hour of one another, they
have an assignation? If this is your England,
give me Constantinople and my Turks."

Moore smiled, but gravely.

"My dear Lord Byron," he said, "pray don't
talk of England as if I owned it. Ireland is my
country and the deadly enemy to England for
many years. But let me say that in this special
bit of gossip

"Bit of gossip? Miserable slander, if you

" Lady Caroline would not thank you to defend
her respectability at the expense of her adventur-
ousness. No, the truth is that we have been won-
dering for the past some time what the next
escapade of Lady Caroline would be. Her hus-
band is said to have been quite uneasy, 't is un-
natural for her to remain so long calm. Her
pauses are seldom of such duration."

"That is all very well. But why pay her the
bad compliment of assuming that I must be the
other cloud to attract this charming electrical

224 Love Alone Is Lord

creature, and so precipitate a storm that seems
to have been looming for some time?"

" I am afraid that our friends take too literally
the personality of Childe Harold," replied Moore.

"Our friends? Our enemies rather," said
Byron, quickly.

"Our best friends are invariably our worst
enemies," said Moore. "I am afraid that you
will never be forgiven for not running away with
Lady Caroline. Certainly her husband will never
forgive you for the omission."

" Heavens, you Irishman, I cannot be expected
to run away with a woman to whom I have never
spoken, merely to oblige her husband," cried
Byron. " If it became known that I was so oblig-
ing I should need to have the Bank of England
behind me and Carlton House before me to meet
all the demands that would be made upon me.
Enough of this, my friend. You may let it be
known as soon as you please that the history of
Childe Harold is not an authentic autobiography."

Moore shook his head.

" It is easy enough making the announcement,"
said he; "but the public will continue to take it
as such, and to buy it as such."

"Then, in heaven's name, let them take it for
what it is: the autobiography of a rake who has
seen the error of his ways and amended them."

Moore laughed slyly.

"I believe that you have hit on the only way
that remained to you to give an additional coat

Love Alone Is Lord 225

of blacking to your character, and so to increase
your interest in the eyes of the public," said he.
" Childe Harold the profligate, who, determined to
reform, went to Constantinople to carry out his
cure ajid then came to London to complete it!
Lord Byron, I shall drop in with Murray and tell
him to print another edition on the strength of
this advertisement."

"You may go to the the publisher, and be
hanged to you all ! I wish that I had never come
back to this miserable place of petty scandal and
kitchen intrigue."

Again Moore was tickled.

" That 's all very well in its way, ' ' said he. " But
to be the author of a popular poem is to become
the servant of the public, and you will find that
you must run away with Lady Caroline Lanib
because it is expected of you."

"I'll do it by deputy, Moore," said Byron.

Moore, who had not yet quite paid off his liabil-
ities on account of his deputy in the office of Col-
lector at Barbadoes, shook his fist at his friend

and then waved him an adieu.


BYRON'S annoyance at the report which Moore
had brought to him was sincere ; but it was
not long lived. He reflected that, after all, he
had not been accused by the gossips of any act
which society looked on as a crime. English so-
ciety in his day was, quite as much as it is in ours,
disposed to take a lenient view of such an incident
as that which was laid to his charge to his credit,
rather, Moore, would have it. There are some
people who prefer the voiceless shrug of tolera-
tion, when referring to the reappearance among
their usual associates of the participators in these
little fantastic steps in the serious minuet of mar-
riage; but there are others who bite their lips,
lower their heads, and then look up with eyes that
barely refrain from laughter; again there are
some who lean across the table with one protective
palm held sideways at their mouth, while they
whisper the toothsome details to their friends.
But the end of all is laughter and good humour,
and an expression of wonder what the world is
coming to.

But to say that society has not its rigidities
would be ridiculous. Byron knew that it has:
" You must not be found out cheating at cards."


Love Alone Is Lord 227

"Outside the card-room the Ten Command-
ments are obsolete ; within the card-room people
are more religious, they retain one," said Byron,
when his rooms were deserted on the departure of
a great lady with her sole unwedded daughter,
that same afternoon. His moralisings when
Moore had gone were interrupted by his accus-
tomed visitors. They had come by the dozen
during the weeks that followed the first blaze of
the meteor, Childe Harold, but this day they came
by the score. Two duchesses (with daughters) ;
three ex-ministers (with wives) ; a peeress or two,
and then the general circle where fashion and let-
ters met, and occasionally shook hands. His
rooms had never been crowded before; and he
noticed how so many of his visitors, immediately
on entering, glanced furtively into dim corners
and peeped behind screens and pedestals, as if
expecting to find Lady Caroline concealed some-

But everyone had been very pleasant and gra-
cious, and some even gay as well as witty. The
silken swish of scandal went round certain groups,
and there was a pretty uplifting of hands play-
ing at being shocked, parodying the prude. Here
there was merriment. In other groups there was
in the conversation something like the beating
of time; they were talking of some forthcoming
poem, and here there was solemnity.

Byron's annoyance on hearing Moore's story
had long ago vanished, and when he found him-

228 Love Alone Is Lord

self alone he discovered that it had given place to
a certain admiration of the cleverness of the young
woman who must have observed his departure
and made up her mind to set the tongues of that
distinguished company wagging, almost compell-
ing them to associate her name with his in a trans-
action which could not fail to be talked about.
When he hurried away from Lady Holland's on
the previous night he had not thought about the
act being an unusual one, though it occurred to
him before he went to sleep that it would bear to
be so interpreted. But that young woman must
have known perfectly well that it was an unusual
act, and that to be followed almost immediately
by her own disappearance would cause it to be
regarded as an extraordinary one. He had also
an impression that she knew that people would
not talk of each act separately ; they would take
very good care to link the one with the other and
talk about them as if they constituted a single

That meant that the young woman meant that
her name should be joined with his precisely as
had been done by their friends before many hours
had passed.

But what could her object be?

That he found rather more difficult to deter-
mine. Had she been impelled by a sort of school-
girl's love of mischief to lead on her friends to the
discovery of a mare's nest? or did she wish to
punish him for his impudent bashfulness when he

Love Alone Is Lord 229

stood before her? Perhaps she wished to teach
him a lesson in good manners; or was it in self-
possession, which some people consider the be-
ginning and the end of all good manners ?

He had frequently heard of Lady Caroline Lamb
since his return from the East ; but he had never
before had an opportunity of seeing her. Now
and again he had heard her name bandied about a
club card-room, in connection with some freak of
hers in connection with some jeu d'esprit of hers,
as bright as a surgeon's knife, and as sharp-edged.
She was undoubtedly the most unconventional
creature that ever made a man's life a burden to
him, that man being her husband, and she main-
tained her reputation (for unconventionality) un-
sullied by a single sensible record, so that for three
or four years she was a fearful joy to hostesses
who were content to overlook the convenances
in order to secure a possible source of attraction
to a necessary guest or two.

People knew a good many things that she had
done, but no one was bold enough to say what she
would do next. It was only safe to say that she
would not repeat herself. No matter how foolish
was the thing she had done she would not repeat
it. She seemed to have inexhaustible resources
of shocking within herself and an originality in
foolishness that almost amounted to genius. If
she had not been amusing, and the wife of Lord
Melbourne's heir, she would soon have ceased to
jingle in such salons as Lady Holland's; but her

230 Love Alone Is Lord

wit and her vulgarity made her welcome in a so-
ciety where both qualities were essential to suc-
cess, before an economical age had agreed to
admit candidates who possessed only one of the

Byron was more than languidly interested in
this remarkable young woman who had voluntar-
ily linked her name with his in an affair that could
not but be widely discussed from many a stand-
point, including that which recognised the exist-
ence of her husband, a man of distinction and
considerable force of character. Byron's life had
been too full of daring not to make him apprecia-
tive of any display of this quality in another. His
very birth was accounted in some quarters an act
of daring, and he had never been conventional
since. After thinking about Lady Caroline for an
hour or two, he found himself longing to meet her
again. He was thinking about her hair. She
was the star upon the surface of the mere that had
led him to think for a moment of the star that had
once been high in his heaven. He had mistaken
the pale reflex on the water for that star, and now
he had become quite interested in her pale beauty.
He wondered when he should have a chance of
meeting her. Would it be necessary for him to
be presented to her? Would she not burst out
laughing when some hostess linked their names in
going through the formality?

He went to two receptions full of eager anticipa-
tion; and was almost petulant when he found

Love Alone Is Lord 231

that she had been asked to neither of them. What
could hostesses mean by inviting him without her?
That was the question which he put to himself
each night driving to his rooms. When the scan-
dal of society had associated their names who were
the hostesses that they should put them asunder?

After an interval of a day or two he heard her
name sent flying down the line of lackeys at a ball
given by Lady Westmoreland. She had just en-
tered in advance of him. The fellows nearest the
ballroom door were calling her name when those
nearest the entrance were speaking his; so that
once again their names mingled, and loungers
about the doors of the room smiled and gave each
other those of them who were on terms that
allowed of an exchange of confidences playful,
but expressive finger-thrusts, or significant jerks
of the thumb in the direction of the shoulder.

He fancied he noticed some of these signs as he
passed down the lines of gazing young women
and old women also ; his entrance had made them
breathless ; they flocked round him when he had
passed and was greeting his hostess. He glanced
about him when he had reached one of the little
settees that stood between the high console tables
with the enormous branches of candles surrounded
by quivering crystal prisms, springing out from
the centre of the mirrors he looked about him,
but failed to see her.

He was greatly disappointed, but only at first;
it did not take him long to reflect upon the fact

232 Love Alone Is Lord

that this capricious creature could not be ex-
pected to do anything in an ordinary way that
she could not even be passively ordinary : she was
bound to be elusive and unusual. She knew that
he would look round expecting to see her, there-
fore she would take good care to be beyond the
range of his eyes. He had no doubt that she was
preparing to startle him and, incidentally, the re-
mainder of the people in the ball-room. It was
necessary for him to be prepared for any caprice
that might seize her.

It was Lady Westmoreland herself who asked
him for permission to present Lady Caroline Lamb
to him. He fancied that he detected a little
twitch of the mobile lips of his hostess as she said :

" I had somehow acquired the notion that you
were already acquainted with Lady Caroline ; but
she tells me that you have never met."

" She speaks the truth : I have never been for-
tunate enough to meet her ladyship," said Byron.

" How strange! Someone must be to blame for
so grave an omission," said Lady Westmoreland.
"What has society done to justify its existence
if Lady Caroline Lamb and Lord Byron remain
unacquainted ? ' '

"Your ladyship will, with your usual tact, re-
pair the carelessness of months," said Byron.
" Shall I accompany you in search of the fascina-
tion whom you named?"

"I could not think of allowing you: I shall
bring her to your lordship," cried Lady Westmore-

Love Alone Is Lord 233

land, and no one present seemed to think that the
position of royalty should not be accorded to him
in such a matter as the presentation of a young
woman occupying the highest position in the
social world.

She tripped up, Lady Westmoreland leading
her by a dainty finger. She carried her train it
was like the foam of a breaking wave over her
left arm, her jewelled feet were twinkling. She
was looking timidly down while she advanced,
and everyone saw that she was playing the part
of a bashful girl extremely well. (One of the wits
said that it was a well-known fact that an actor
was best in a part which was quite contrary to his
nature.) Lady Westmoreland seemed to be bid-
ding her to take courage.

When within a couple of yards of where Byron
was standing, she stood, her eyes still on the floor
and their long lashes on her cheeks, her left hand
pressed against her left side. She had become a
statue of the demure. He took a step forward,
and Lady Westmoreland said the usual phrase of
introduction. He bowed low, whispering:

" This is indeed an honour; " but Lady Caroline
did not stir! She remained marble a statue of
femininity. There was a long pause an embar-
rassing pause. It seemed as if she were ready to
faint her body was surely beginning to totter;
but just as an arm was about to be put about her,
she raised her eyes with the suddenness of a flash
with the suddenness of a blow. She looked at

234 Love Alone Is Lord

Byron steadily in the face for a few seconds, then,
quick as lightning, she dropped the foam wreath
from her arm, and whirled herself half a dozen
yards away from him, as though he had made an
attempt to lay a hand on her and she were eluding
him. Then she stopped, looked over her shoulder,
and laughed at him just as she had laughed on
Lady Holland's couch. Still laughing in the most
musically mischievous way imaginable, she floated
away sideways, slowly for some moments, and
then turning round and flying with her diaphan-
ous draperies flying behind her a veritable Diana
Surprised by a Man. Only in this case it was the
man who was surprised too surprised to laugh,
but certainly not to blush. But in a few moments
he was joining in the laughter that rippled around
him. Everyone was laughing, and nearly every-
one was admitting that the tableau had been
charming while it lasted. Byron said that he had
seen an Albanian dance that was very like all this
a girl facing a man, with downcast eyes, and
then suddenly turning and flying, and stopping
and looking over her shoulder.

"Only in the dance the girl returned," said he.

"Lady Caroline should have learned her part
better," said Lady Westmoreland.

" Your ladyship should not be too exacting : the
evening is not over," remarked someone a man.

"True," said her ladyship. "But it would be
like Lady Caroline to give a new interpretation of
an old dance."

Love Alone Is Lord 235

"A dance that is as old as the little hills that
once skipped as old even as the big ones that
were too gouty to skip," said a philosopher.

"The sets are being arranged for a quadrille
a skip from Albania to Mayfair," said Byron. " I
dare say that Lady Caroline will be content with
the less exciting diversion until she finds herself
in the midst of the brigands of Asia Minor."

"There are several Tory ministers of Albion
Major present ; would she be able to see the differ-
ence, do you fancy?" said Mr. Sheridan, who by
the side of Lord Melbourne had watched the whole

Then came the sound of the fiddlers and the
atmosphere became dense with flying draperies.
Byron moved to a chair, not being a dancer. He
was joined by a number of his friends, and a brisk
conversational kottabos was set in motion, with an
anecdote introduced now and again to make it
more lively, and an occasional phrase or two whis-
pered across the back of a protecting hand and
followed by a laugh sometimes by a knowing
shake of the head, with an expressive glance.

But all the time that Byron was listening to and
participating in these exchanges with his friends,
he was glancing with affected carelessness to right
and left, expecting the return of Lady Caroline,
and wondering in what guise she would reappear

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Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 13 of 28)