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in greater danger than you are at present."

He laughed, but uneasily ; and then he frowned
before saying,

" Danger? Danger of what, my dear lady?"

" Danger of deterioration," she replied. " Dan-
ger of losing every sense of responsibility."


274 Love Alone Is Lord

" Responsibility for what? to whom? " he said.

"To yourself to begin with to Heaven, by
whom you were endowed with genius to the
world which you are cheating out of its due. Do
you think that it is a light thing to be a poet and
a genius, Byron? Do you think that you were
so endowed for the gratification of yourself alone?"

" I take a humbler view of my gifts, madam,
such as they are."

" Then you do a great wrong to Heaven. Heaven
has endowed you with its most precious gift to
mortals. A poet is a man sent from God to
convey His message to men. A poet is God's
trumpet to sound into the uttermost parts of the
earth. A poet is an interpreter between God and
man, and no one knows that better than yourself,
Byron, however you may scoff at poets in general
and talk cynically of yourself. Those very ele-
ments in Childe Harold, which some people call
sceptical, tell me that you take a true and an ex-
alted view of your vocation. Well, now you have
the ear of the world, and yet instead of making
the most of your opportunity you are frittering
away your time in this house. Forgive me if I
have spoken to you with frankness. You know
that I have only spoken to you as I would to my
own son."

"I thank you for the compliment which you
have paid to me, my dear lady," said Byron, kiss-
ing her hand. He was deeply touched by the
earnest way in which she had spoken to him,

Love Alone Is Lord 275

although some things that she said stung him
sharply, feeling as he did that they were true.
"Indeed I thank you; but you are mistaken in
believing that I take so exalted a view of any-
thing that I have written, even though I awoke
one morning and found myself famous. I have
made up my mind that I shall never write another

"And that is the result of the good influence
which you tell me your visits to this house have
had upon you," said Lady Melbourne.

" I do not say that I have come to this deter-
mination solely on account of my delightful asso-
ciation with your household, Lady Melbourne,"
he said slowly. "It is the result of a resolution
which I made some time ago."

Lady Melbourne looked at him for some mo-
ments curiously, and then laughed gently.

"You talk as if it were in your own power to
stop making poetry," she said. "Your deter-
mination amuses me the trumpet made a resolu-
tion that never again would it utter a note to
rally the drooping ranks of the army; but the
moment that liberty was in danger there came a
trumpet blast in the ears of the nation that slept ;
the trumpet found out that it was not its own
master that there was a Power behind it that
made it sound as He pleased. My dear Byron,
I know you better than you know yourself. If I
thought that you would have it in your power to
keep your resolution I would tell you to leave this

276 Love Alone Is Lord

house at once and never to cross its threshold
again ; but I know that you have heard the voice
that all true poets have heard the voice that
calls and you cannot choose but obey its sum-
mons. Will you tell me that you have never
heard that voice calling to you, Byron?"

He became more uneasy than ever. He looked
away from her and bit his nails nervously as was
his habit. He rose from his seat and walked
across the room to the window. There was a long
silence. He gave a sigh, quite failing to stifle it.

"Ah! here is Caroline back from her ride at
last," he said.

"Let her come," said Lady Melbourne. "I
know that, in spite of Caroline, you sometimes
even now hear that mysterious voice whispering
to you as you heard it before; and I know that
when it calls to you one day, you will not be able
to resist its summons. Now I have uncharged
my soul. I have warned you."

"You have purged yourself from all responsi-
bility, my dear lady," said he. "My sins will be
visited on myself only."

"That is impossible," said she. "The world is
so ordered that the consequences of a man's sins
cannot be confined to himself alone. His acts
effect others as well. They suffer for him."

"Unto the third and fourth generation," said
Byron. "That upsets all our ideas of justice.
But that is how things are ordered. One man
eats his cake and another suffers the indigestion."

Love Alone Is Lord 277

Then Lady Caroline entered the room. She
had been riding in the Park and had expected to
meet Byron there; forgetting that he had told
her that he was to breakfast with Mr. Hobhouse,
who had been with him for some time on his
travels. She was very angry with him because of
her forgetfulness. She pouted in order to be
petted, and when he did not show himself quite
as ready as he usually was to admit himself in
the wrong, she stormed very prettily, setting him
laughing; and then became tearful; at which he
promised to stay for lunch, and so throughout the
day the comedy of disconnections the force of
the illogical was played, and being both the actor
and the audience, he was greatly diverted ; though
as he was driven back to St. James's Street to
dress, in order to be her companion at a great
reception the same night, he was graver than he
had been at any time during the day.

All that Lady Melbourne had said came back
to him. He felt that every word that she had
spoken was true. He was frittering his days away
quite unworthily, and, moreover, with the wasting
of his time he was encouraging people in their
nodding and whispering every time that he and
Lady Caroline entered a room together. So far
as he himself was concerned he did not mind the
innuendoes of these people ; but Lady Melbourne
had hinted at the possibility of harm coming to
others through his acts. . . .

He was not a lively companion for Lady Caro-

278 Love Alone Is Lord

line for the rest of the evening ; though for her part
she did not care greatly whether he were lively or
the opposite. She was quite content to be seen
with him, and to prevent some odiously beauti-
ful women who she knew had designs upon him
from having more than a few minutes' conversa-
tion with him. She had had some evidence of
the infatuation of more than one attractive
woman for Byron she had found a letter on his
table one day when she was calling at his rooms,
and she had not scrupled to read it; and at an-
other time she noticed that he was wearing a
woman's jewel dangling beside his own seal, and
he refused, with many a tantalising suggestion of
intrigue, to tell her how he had acquired it. She
was always jealous of her influence upon him ; and
she was not clever enough to know that only by
the exercise of toleration and by a knowledge of
when to turn away her head, and when to close
her eyes, can a woman retain her hold upon a
man, whether that man be her lover or only her

People said that poor Byron could not call his
soul his own, but these were, for the most part,
the women of engaging manners who had been
"warned off the course," as the sporting men put
it, by Lady Caroline. Others said that as Byron
had written a poem to prove that men have no
souls, it was only a just retribution that had
fallen upon him now in the form of that soul-
snatcher with the hair of a saint.

Love Alone Is Lord 279

These were people who were ever on the side of
true religion, and who in the secret depths of
their own hearts felt that they would be glad to
change places with Byron, atheism and all. Only,
of course, they would take very good care that
Lady Caroline Lamb did not make fools of them,
as she certainly was making of Lord Byron.

But Lord Byron was on his way to wisdom, as
every man is who begins to feel that he has been
making a fool of himself he did not accuse Lady
Caroline of anything.


IT was some days later that they had a little
quarrel that passed beyond the limits of
their usual little brother-and-sister recriminations,
which invariably ended in a teasing imploration
for forgiveness and an entrancing "making
friends " again, with perhaps an outburst of gaiety
and a will-o'-the-wisp dance by the lady. But
this was different.

It is certain that something happened to dis-
turb her before Byron arrived, and her little girl
who was in her boudoir had not been made very
happy. He arrived late, excusing himself by say-
ing he had been overtaken by Rogers, who had a
good deal to say to him as they had not had an
opportunity of conversing for some months.

" And so you waited to listen to him when you
were due here?" she said.

"Yes," he replied. "But I assure you I left
him before we had exhausted our topics : we are
to clear off all arrears at dinner on Friday."

"You have not promised to dine with him on
Friday?" she cried. "Friday is the day of Mrs.
Lambton's ball: you are coming there with me."

"Confound it!" said he. "Why will people
ask me to dances? Is it to humiliate me, know-


Love Alone Is Lord 281

ing that I cannot join with the jackanapes in hop-
ping about a blowsy woman till we are both
blown? I will go to Rogers 's dinner, and if I have
time I may look in at the Lambtons' on my way

"Do you expect that I will consent to so ab-
surd an arrangement? " she cried. " You will not
dine with Mr. Rogers and his coterie to talk scan-
dal half the night. You will accompany me to
the Lambtons', Byron."

"I am very sorry," said Byron, "but I pro-
mised Rogers. Sheridan is to be one of us, and
Campbell and Moore and a few others. Heavens !
Caroline, when such fare as this is at one side of
the road and the Lambtons' ball on the other,
which would I choose, can you fancy?"

"The very fact of your asking such a question
indicates your intention to wound me and you
know it," she cried. "You forget that I shall be
at the Lambtons'."

"Oh, no," he said, smiling; "I am not so im-

" If you remembered it, you were more impolite
still," said she.

"You place me between the horns of a di-
lemma," he said, with a humorous imitation of a
Frenchman's shrug. " If I say that I forgot that
you were going to the Lambtons', I disgrace my-
self; if I say that I remembered, I shall hurt
your feelings. Think, my Caroline, that this is
one of the times when a man should be silent.

282 Love Alone Is Lord

These times occur more frequently in a man's life
than he knows of."

"That is quite true. One of the times was
when you met Mr. Rogers and rashly agreed to
dine with him; for you are not going to dine
with him."

" I don't think that dove-coloured robe suits
you on such a dull day as this," said Byron, play-
ing with one of her sleeves.

She snatched her arm away with an excla-

"Do you fancy that I will give in to you
because you object to the shade of my robe?"
she cried.

"If I were anxious to propitiate a woman I
should never make the first advance by assuring
her that her dress did not become her," said

"Then you do not want to propitiate me?"

"Why should I? You never stand in need of
being propitiated. You are always on the mar-
gin on reasonableness."

She flared up.

"You delight in saying everything that will
pique me," she cried. "You fancy that I am
wholly in your power that you may affront me
at your will, but I will show you that that

She flounced out of the room, but she did not
flatter herself when she fancied that she did it
very prettily. She was woman enough to know
that men are apt to regard as insipid a woman

Love Alone Is Lord 283

who chooses to remain placid in all circumstances.
Byron had shown himself to be the poet of storm
rather than of calm. She believed, and rightly,
that she had wearied him during the first few
months of their friendship by her manifest desire
to please him. She hoped that it was not yet too
late to make a diversion.

It was not. Byron was quite diverted by the
flashing of her will-o'-the-wisp lightning. She
heard him laugh quite pleasantly before she had
reached the corridor.

But the little girl who was left alone with Byron
showed signs of taking her mother's mood rather
seriously. She had had previous experience of
the same lady, and knew that she had some rea-
son for alarm. She looked at Byron and came
to the conclusion that his merriment was artifi-
cial, or else he did not know her mother. She
shook her head and began to sob. Byron had
her in his arms in a moment, soothing her by
her favourite story of a giant killing people,
and then by singing her an Albanian lullaby.
In a very short time he had soothed her so com-
pletely that she would not leave him, but lay with
her head of golden curls on his shoulder, a little
chubby arm about his neck, the prettiest nestling

She was not so greatly interested in the Alban-
ian lyric as she had been in the story of the giant's
carnage and voracity, and soon her eyes closed.
He looked down at her with all the pride of his

284 Love Alone Is Lord

achievement: he had never heard of a man's put-
ting a child asleep. He continued his lilt in a
lower tone, fearful lest the little one should awaken
to weep : he had heard of men (fathers, too) run-
ning away from a crying child. The incantation
continued to work, however, and he soon became
aware of the fact that an infant of three is a
considerable burden when asleep in the arms of
a man who has been nursing her in a constrained
position, with a bent back, and feet only touching
the floor with their toes.

He was beginning to manoeuvre for a more
natural pose, still crooning his lullaby, when the
door opened quickly. His back was toward it,
and he could not turn round without disturbing
the child to warn the intruder. He could only
hold up one finger beyond his shoulder, whisper-
ing, "H'sh! h'sh! I will not have the child
aroused however penitent you may be, madam."

Then he resumed his chant, and soon began to
marvel at the silence of the one who had entered
the room. If it was Lady Caroline, she had cer-
tainly become penitent beyond all precedent
with an inartistic want of reserve.

He turned his head round, bending it back at
the side of his chair until he could see to the door.
Then it was that he found that it was not the
child's mother who was there ; it was a young and
pretty girl, who wore her hair in ringlets that
flowed from beneath a hat of much simpler design
than Lady Caroline affected. She had advanced

Love Alone Is Lord 285

only a few steps, and was standing with a rather
frightened expression on her face.

She flushed crimson when Byron looked at her,
and he was even in advance of her in this respect.
She was a complete stranger to him; and he was
certainly in an unusual position. Some moments
had passed before he regained sufficient self-pos-
session to say, jerking his head round as before,
very awkwardly :

"Pray, come in; Lady Caroline will be here
presently, I am sure."

"Thank you, my lord," said the girl, rather
nervously, but advancing a few steps; "but
but I knew that she was not here I knew that
you were here alone."

"Not quite alone," said he. "But I am not
sure that

" Oh, you never met me before, if that is what
you are thinking," she said. " My name is Anna-
bella Milbanke. Lady Melbourne is my father's
sister. I have only been in town for a few days.
I heard of you, Lord Byron, and and

She became very nervous; he could hear her
quick breathing. He did his best to place her at
her ease, though he was far from being at ease
himself. The child was amazingly heavy. He
felt an attack of cramp coming on.

"Of course of course," he said. "I am only
sorry that your curiosity that is, the interest
which you are good enough to take in me you will
pardon me rising you see the pretty little soul

286 Love Alone Is Lord

was troubled about something, and fell asleep
in my arms. You have doubtless read about that
unhappy Childe Harold and became interested
in "

"I read Childe Harold and it shocked me, I
think it dreadful," said the young lady, with a
certain pretty primness.

He was amused.

"And therefore you were anxious to see the
dreadful author?" said he. "Yes, and alone
you admitted just now that you knew that I was
alone. Miss Milbanke, you are a a woman."

"I made up my mind that it was my duty to
come to you, Lord Byron; my mother did not
know of my resolution," said the girl. "It may
have been wrong of me not to tell her ; but I felt
that I should do my best to see you so that I
might say how wrong you have been

"H'sh!" he whispered, for she had raised her
voice and was speaking with great earnestness.
"H'sh! it will never do to visit my sins upon so
sweet a little head as this ; I would not have her
awakened for worlds ; and, indeed, Miss Milbanke,
I am not worth all the trouble to which you have
put yourself."

" Any person who has the power of of doing
so much mischief as you have, is worth saving, if
only on account of the poor people who may be
led astray," said the girl. "Lord Byron, I am
very young and I am country bred; I have had
no experience of the world ; but I know how good

Love Alone Is Lord 287

religion is for everybody and how dreadful it is
for anyone to scoff the more beautiful the poetry
is, the more wicked it becomes, leading innocent
people to scoff and your poetry is very beautiful.
That is what makes it so bad, so sad."

He could see that tears were trembling in her
eyes. She spoke with vehemence, but her atti-
tude and tone were not those of the one who de-
nounces, but of the one who entreats. Her hands
became clasped. He felt that the gesture was
not premeditated, but it took away in a moment
from the primness of the appearance of this ear-
nest little lady.

The picture in that daintily decorated room
panels painted after Lady Diana Beauclerk's de-
signs of playing children, every child a Cupid,
and gilt chairs upholstered in pink damasked silk
would have seemed queer had anyone been
present to see it. The poet whose name was on
everyone's lips, who was being idolised by the
most distinguished society in the world, and de-
nounced in many pulpits, sat in his constrained
attitude over the child so that her head could
rest comfortably on his shoulder and her little
white arm still encircle his neck ; and a few yards
away that graceful girl stood with imploring
hands before him, her face flushed and her eyes
brimming with tears ; and both of them recognis-
ing the fact that the child must on no account
be awakened, their voices seeming all the more
intense by the necessity to keep them subdued.

288 Love Alone Is Lord

"What am I to say to you, Miss Milbanke?"
said Byron. "I feel inclined to say anything
that you may suggest to me, to give you any
promise that you may ask me to make to you
yes, unto the half, nay, the whole, of my king-
dom, my little empire of metre, and I myself will
retire to any Elba that you may assign to me."

" I expected that you would make a mock of
me," said the girl. "Your poetry sounds like
that of a mocking spirit who looks upon the
world and all that it contains as nothing more
than a grim jest. I made up my mind that I
would not be deterred by your mocking of me,
and you have not been half as bad as I expected."

" Believe me, I am not mocking you, Miss Mil-
banke," said he. " Every word that I spoke just
now I meant. I cannot deny anything that you
have said. Childe Harold has made me famous,
but I have come to think of such fame in the
light of infamy. I have made up my mind to
write no more. I have already withdrawn much
of what I have already written, because I found
that it was giving offence. I am not sure that I
shall not withdraw Childe Harold "

"Oh, no, no," cried the girl, so eagerly that the
child in Byron's arms made an uneasy move. He
held up a warning finger and Miss Milbanke low-
ered her voice. " I did not mean you to go so
far as that oh, no; you must not think of giv-
ing up writing poetry. Could you do it? I
wonder if you could do it. I always thought that

Love Alone Is Lord 289

great poets were like like the Hebrew prophets.
One of them declared that he had nothing to do
with it, that he was simply the messenger of God."

" But how if a poet becomes the messenger of
the Evil One, Miss Milbanke?"

" He must change, that is all. He must write
for the glory of God. I would not for the world
have you withdraw Childe Harold, it is so beau-
tiful in parts, it is all true poetry; if I did not
feel that it was so great, would I have braved all
as I have done in order to implore of you to to
write nothing more like it, but to use your splen-
did powers? Oh! I feel that I have fallen into
the strain of a preacher commonplace ; everyone
has been saying that you should employ your
gifts in a right direction, and things like that. I
meant to say something different, to ask you if
you do not think that it would be nobler to write
a single verse that would give true comfort to
some weary soul, a single verse to make the
simple life of a man or woman seem brighter,
than to write a great poem whose tendency is to
make people doubt, to induce people to mock."

" I feel that it would I feel that you are right
in this matter, Miss Milbanke."

"Oh, Lord Byron," she cried, with whispered
intensity, "look down at that little one which is
in your arms and ask yourself if you would like
to see her grow up believing all that Childe Harold
would lead people to believe."

"God forbid," said Byron. "She is a sweet

290 Love Alone Is Lord

child. I hope you do not think that she is con-
taminated by being in the arms of the wretch
who wrote Childe Harold."

"Now you are mocking again," she said.

"Come hither and kiss the child, Miss Mil-
banke," said he. "I kissed her before she slept.
I should like you to kiss her now."

Only for a moment did the girl show any hesi-
tation. She walked slowly to where he was sit-
ting, and knelt on the carpet, putting her lips
down among the masses of golden spirals that fell
around the child's face, and kissing her on her
little cheek, hot and flushed in sleep.

"A white butterfly alighting with infinite ten-
derness on a pink sleeping flower," whispered
Byron. " I knew that I could trust you not to
awaken her."

But there was another one at the door whom
he could not so trust. The door was flung open
and she almost sprang into the room, and stood
glaring at the tableau before her.

The child stirred uneasily. Byron raised his
hand, saying,

" Hush! You make such a noise ! "

"What has brought you hither, pray, Belle
Milbanke?" cried Lady Caroline. "Who invited
you to my boudoir? Let me tell you that for all
your primness and propriety

"The child is awake I knew that you would
awake her," cried Byron.

"We are all awake, my Lord Byron, though

Love Alone Is Lord 291

you and this silly chit seemed to fancy that I
would shut my eyes to your assignation," shrieked
Lady Caroline.

"Caroline, you forget yourself," said Miss Mil-
banke, with all the dignified severity of a small

"You are a pretty censor you, alone in this
room with Lord Byron," cried Caroline.

"Miss Milbanke came as a pretty censor and
she spoke with good sense, as all censors should,"
said Byron. "If she will allow me, I shall ac-
company her to Lady Melbourne's drawing-

"That will be a lapse into propriety," sneered
Caroline. "She will, I fear, find it insipid after
an hour of the solitary society of the lively Lord
Byron. Do not go down with her, Byron."

" I cannot allow Miss Milbanke to go alone.
You have suggested that she came as a visitor to
me, and you were right. That makes it incum-
bent on me to accompany her to Lady Melbourne,"
said Byron, going to the door. Miss Milbanke
was already there.

"You fool! I made the suggestion on behalf
of the girl," cried Caroline. " I want to save her
from the result of her own indiscretion. She is
but a girl. Byron, stay, I command you."

Miss Milbanke had left the room, Byron was
following her, when Lady Caroline sprang be-
tween him and the door with the fierce agility of
a wild cat. She banged the door and locked it

292 Love Alone Is Lord

in his face. Then holding up the key, she burst
into a fit of laughter, dancing before him in her
old fashion, waving the key in his face. His face
had become very pale.

He looked at her for a few moments ; he seemed
in doubt what he should do. Was he to make
the attempt to take the key from her? He knew

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Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 16 of 28)