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who seemed to him to possess such agreeable
qualities as this little Miss Milbanke Belle Mil-
banke her friends called her. He felt that he was
better even for the thinking about her, and so he
continued thinking about her in order that her
object should be the nearer to accomplishment:
in time she might be able to pronounce his reforma-
tion completed, and surely the process was one
that he should account the simplest as well as the
most agreeable.

He got a letter from Lady Caroline the same
evening, in which she reproached him with vehem-
ence for having failed her the day before. He
had tired of her she could not doubt, she said,
that he had tired of her. Or had Miss Prudence
Prim poisoned his mind against her? Miss Prim,
she could assure him, had a tongue that jealousy
never failed to loosen. Her family knew this



33 Love Alone Is Lord

well, having had experience of her. She wore the
colours of the doves, and thus the unsuspecting
could scarcely be brought to believe that her
nature was more akin to that of the mischievous
magpie or the chattering chough.

Byron laughed when he came to this passage.
The rest of the letter was one hysterical outburst
on the possibility that occurred to her of his being
ill and unable to leave his rooms. If so, he had
only to send her a message and she would hurry
to his side she would be his nurse she would
bring her Byron back to health or else die with
him, for what would life be worth to her? and so
forth.

" But you will come to me to-morrow and re-
lieve the suspense of your Caroline," she added on
the last page. "Come to me; for I have some-
thing of infinite importance to both of us, nay,
to all the world, to whisper in your ear. Our
names are to be associated in a way that will
cause the curious to be still more curious, and the
spiteful to be still more malicious. But the occa-
sion will be so stupendous and the triumph so
huge that every voice of detraction shall be
hushed.

"Come to me, my Childe Harold, and I shall
whisper everything in thine ear."

He laughed again at these mysterious sugges-
tions. He made up his mind that he would never
give her the chance of whispering anything into
his ear. Her secret, if it existed at all, would



Love Alone Is Lord 331

remain hidden for ever if it could only be revealed
to him in a whisper.

He felt less afraid of her now than he had felt
before. He had been thinking of Belle Milbanke
and the ^gean. Somehow in his mind the two
seemed to be connected seemed to convey to
him the one impression, and that was of a gra-
cious calm retreat, where he should be safe from
the fury of the tempest safe out of hearing of the
rude noise of the world.

He had scarcely finished reading the letter
when his man announced Lady Melbourne. In
spite of his accession of courage he found him-
self glancing with some trepidation at the door,
after her ladyship had entered. He was relieved
to find that she came alone; and he greeted her
all the more warmly on this account.

But she was an acute observer; she had seen
his glance and she knew exactly what it meant.

"Oh, yes, my dear Byron, I am quite alone,"
she said. "No one suspects that I am here."

"You are not the less welcome, my dear lady,"
said Byron. " I am sure that you will believe that,
although you have not seen me for some days."

" I am so glad that we have not seen you for
some days you will not accuse me of a want of
hospitality for saying so," she said. "I have
noticed with feelings of the greatest satisfaction
that you have been neglecting us."

He laughed so easily that his uneasiness was
at once apparent.



33 2 Love Alone Is Lord

"The truth is, Lady Melbourne, that that
well, my friend Sligo came to me, and I was car-
ried away by the memories of the old days we
were together in the East, you know," he said,
beginning very glibly, but being a good deal less
fluent toward the close of his excuse for excusing
himself.

" I do not flatter myself that anything I said
to you a few days ago would influence you im-
mediately, but I am sure that you feel that I did
not speak at random," said Lady Melbourne.

" You spoke truly faithfully honestly, and it
is impossible that I should ever forget your
words," he said, taking her hand and kissing
it.

" I am very glad that such is your feeling," she
said. " I have been thinking a great deal about
you and your future since we had our little chat
together ; I have been thinking most of what you
said regarding the longing you had for a home
the home that you have never known. The re-
sult of my thinking over the matter was that I
asked myself the question, 'Why should Byron
not start a home of his own, and subject himself
to its sweet influences instead of being dependent
upon glimpses of the domesticity which he loves
through other people's doors? ' Seeing only the
homes of strangers is as unsatisfactory as looking
at happiness through another's eyes."

"I follow you I agree with you," said Byron.
" Please go on tell me that you have found some



Love Alone Is Lord 333

one that is not a home which has only a man
at the head of it."

" Of course it is not. As to the the important
'someone,' I am not so ready to speak. I am no
believer in match-making. I have seen as much
of life as convinces me that a maker of matches
is frequently a maker of mischief. At the same-
time I believe that it is in a woman's power some
times to turn a man's thoughts in a right direction
the direction in which happiness not his happi-
ness merely not her happiness merely but hap-
piness, their happiness, may be found."

"I am sure of it. After all, marriage is to be
happy but in the potential mood it is happiness
that may be."

"Quite so; everyone that talks about certain
happiness is one who knows little of life. Now,
the young woman whose name I would venture
to whisper in your ear is Belle Milbanke, my niece.
What, you are not overwhelmed with surprise?
Is it possible that

" I have been thinking more of her during the
past few days than I have ever thought about a
girl in all my life. She charmed me when she
came to lecture me at Melbourne House. I was
only sorry that

"That Caroline should behave like a fool upon
that occasion? That is what you think; but it
was really of no consequence. Belle knows Caro-
line too well to be surprised at anything she may
do. But let me tell you that she felt surprised



334 Love Alone Is Lord

upon that occasion. You it was who surprised
her. She has always been a girl who has taken
the serious things of life seriously ; about the less
important matters she has been pretty much as
other girls."

" She came to the conclusion that I was one of
the serious things?"

" That was why she set out to lecture you. She
has a sense of duty."

" I knew from the first that she was different
from most other girls. Well, she lectured me and
she prevailed."

" That is why she was surprised. She quite ex-
pected that you would be tough very tough, if
you condescended to listen to her at all. She was
convinced that she would have to stand against
a battery of your sarcasm, and yet so strongly she
felt that it was her duty to endeavour to lead you
into the right path, she braved all even Caroline
to go into your presence to convert you as Mr.
Wesley did the miners. She came back to the
drawing-room breathless with surprise and de-
light. And then you had a long talk with her at
the Hollands'. Now, all I wish to say to you at
this time is that Belle Milbanke is a thoroughly
good girl, of good family, and with a good mind,
and that she is greatly impressed by you. To
say anything more would be to compromise my-
self as a match-maker."

" You need only have said one thing to encour-
age me, if you meant to encourage me, and that



Love Alone Is Lord 335

is that Miss Milbanke is Lady Melbourne's niece,"
said Byron. " There is no man living who would
not be more impressed by a knowledge of that
relationship than by any other fact regarding a
young lady. I tell you frankly that I have been
thinking of Miss Milbanke since I met her, and
that the more I think of her the better I like her.
But I am not at all sure that her thinking about
me would have the same tendency. I have an
intuition that she still thinks me a fearful repro-
bate, if not an actual atheist."

"That may be," acquiesced Lady Melbourne,
cheerfully. " But if you believe that any girl ever
saved herself from falling in love with a man be-
cause she knew he had been even a reprobate
which, by the way, you never were or an atheist
which you could not be, however greatly you
might wish to be you make a mistake that a
little experience of life and young women should
correct. The reform of the profligate is the secret
ambition of every young woman who has serious
notions. Now, I have nothing further to say on
this subject. All that I meant by coming to you
at this time was to lead you to think about Belle
Milbanke, and it appears that there was no need
for me to come to you for this. Thus, you see,
I hasten to relieve myself of any responsibility in
this matter. The conclusion is with heaven,
where, as we are told, marriages are made."

She went away immediately. Byron made no
attempt to detain her, because he saw that she



33 6 Love Alone Is Lord

did not wish to say another word beyond that
which she had said to him at parting. She was
a woman who knew exactly how much to say
yes, to a word ; and of this fact he was well aware.
She could convey an exact shade of meaning by
her words, simply because she knew when to stop.

She left Byron sitting thoughtfully in his chair.
But after an hour's thoughtfulness he had ad-
vanced no further than he had reached before,
when he had found that in dreaming of Belle
Milbanke and that peaceful " Eden of the Eastern
wave," his thoughts had not strayed from the
subject which he had been considering for some
time.

It was on the evening following that he dined
with Rogers at his house, the windows of which
looked out upon Green Park. Moore and Sheridan
were his fellow-guests, and as Byron was giving
himself a day or two of freedom in the matter of
regimen, no longer confining himself to biscuits
and soda-water, the evening was a merry one.
Byron and Moore joked after the manner of
irresponsible schoolboys, the former being in par-
ticularly high spirits. Sheridan, too, was at his
best, telling anecdote after anecdote from his own
experience, from the incidents on the night of the
first performance of The School for Scandal, when
he had been so overcome with delight that he was
apprehended in the street and locked up by the
watch until the morning, down to his little acci-
dent of the previous week when, on being found



Love Alone Is Lord 337

in difficulties by the same authority, and his name
being demanded, he had said " Wilberforce."
Sheridan was an inexhaustible storehouse of memo-
ries, and when his memory failed him his imagina-
tion came to his rescue, so that no story of his
ever lacked a legitimate and witty conclusion.
He was the most conscientious of raconteurs,
placing the entertainment of his hearers before
all considerations of accuracy.

It was rather annoying that his story of the
Regent and his jockey should be interrupted by
the sounds of an altercation just outside the win-
dows of the dining-room in Green Park. There
was a noise of female voices, speaking together,
but not in unison shrill clamant strident
denunciatory.

" I cannot hope to compete with that enter-
tainment," said Sheridan. "Friend Rogers, you
should make your serenaders sing more piano.
But all vocalists are, I know, apt to get out of
hand."

Moore swore under his breath at the interrup-
tion, and Rogers, after waiting for a minute in
the hope that the altercation would drift across
the Park, went to one of the windows and threw
it open, his intention being to instruct the watch-
man to send the belligerents farther afield.

The instant he opened the window one, at
least, of the voices became audible to his party.
The lisp of Lady Caroline Lamb, even when her
voice was pitched in a high key, was unmistak-



33 8 Love Alone Is Lord

able. The less ardent voice Byron knew to be-
long to another lady, well known in ministerial
circles, from whom he had received some letters
expressive of her admiration for his genius. He
had visited her, but not for some months. There
stood the two women face to face, the greasy
light from one of the lamps of the Park flickering
over their faces and finding a marvellous response
in the diamonds of their hair, there they stood,
clamouring at one another like two fishwives,
although their carriages and footmen were only
a short distance away in the thoroughfare, and
the crowd of a London street at midnight had
begun to collect about them, offering a word of
encouragement every now and again to the one
or the other of the ladies.

Only a few seconds had elapsed after the window
was opened before the casus belli was revealed by
the threats on the one hand, the defence on the
other, with hints, by no means darkly veiled, of
frustrated guilt on the part of the former.

"I know that you look for his coming: you
believe that you have him as firmly in your claws
as you had poor -

' 'T is not my carriage that has been stopping
the way for the past hour, madam; take my ad-
vice and give your unfortunate husband an
hour "

"Contemptible hussy! If I want to know the
direct path to perdition I will come to you for
advice, but till then "



Love Alone Is Lord 339

" That is the only path on which you have kept
straight that is Lord Byron's judgment, not
mine; I had it from him last week."

' 'T is no wonder that he talked to me of your
ladyship as an overripe meddler, if you shriek out
his confidences through the parks. 'T would suit
your age better if you were to "

The voices crashed together in mid-air and
broke into shrill fragments, whereupon the crowd
cheered and jeered.

"Two of Lord Byron's admirers privateers
with all sail set silk and muslin and pennons fly-
ing have met in trying to meet him and convoy
him to some of their routs. They are firing
broadsides red hot, like his lordship's poetry,"
was the explanation that an elderly naval man
gave to someone who made an inquiry in passing
as to the origin of the altercation.

Every word reached the ears of all within
Rogers 's dining-room, until hurried steps were
heard in the street, and there was a cry of " The
watch the watch at last." The crowd broke;
the watch remonstrated, the voices still vitupera-
tive dwindled away in the direction of the
carriages.

Sheridan was too wise to make the attempt to
conclude his story that had been interrupted so
rudely. He began another, although he knew
perfectly well that the depression which had crept
over the party from the misty Park outside was
not such as could be dispelled by his wit. He



34 Love Alone Is Lord

was anxious, however, to do his best for Rogers
as well as Byron. His fresh story was like a lamp
newly lit in a mist. It illuminated without dis-
pelling the vapour.

Byron alone of the little party laughed boister-
ously at the point of the narrative. For the next
hour he talked almost incessantly, and never more
wittily. He might have been successful in plac-
ing all the party at their ease if everyone had not
felt that he was making a great effort to appear
at his. His merriment was more depressing than
his silence would have been. When Sheridan
rose at last and said that he had an engagement
for the morning which it was necessary for him,
departing from his usual custom, to keep, so that
he was forced to leave the table, everyone felt
relieved, though they all knew with what a pang
it was that Sheridan forsook the superb claret of
Rogers 's cellar.

Byron and Moore drove off together in silence
and it was not until the carriage was at St.
James's Street that the former said,

" This is the last of our roystering together, my
friend at least for some time."

" I need not ask you when you made up your
mind to this," said Moore, in a low voice.

" You need not. You heard the way my name
was tossed into the gutter. You heard the yell
of laughter that came from the scum of the street
when my name was mentioned. I do not care
to run the chance of a repetition of that scene.



Love Alone Is Lord 341

The truth is that I have been but I need not
confess to you ; numbers of our friends have con-
fided in you their unalterable belief in my faculty
for folly, and now I admit that I have been what
they said I was a fool, with no redeeming fea-
ture for my folly. But it is over."

" Whither are you going? "

" Heaven knows ! and perhaps another power
one of equal potency, I am beginning to think.
But I shall leave London and, possibly, England."

"At any rate you will keep me informed as to
your movements and I may be able to give you
some of the gossip of the town."

" I don't greatly care to hear anything. I feel
just now that I have had enough of the town
to last me for some time. Here we are at my
door. My benediction go with thee, Thomas the
Rimer. 'When you shall these unlucky deeds
relate, nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in
malice.' '

"You may trust to me. I shall have nothing
to relate. There will be a good deal of talk
chatter women especially."

" I shall not hear it. Good-bye to you."

They shook hands and parted without another
word. Byron entered his sitting-room and lit the
candles on his writing table. Without a pause,
and acting deliberately, he took paper from his
desk and wrote a letter to Miss Milbanke, propos-
ing marriage to her in the most conventional
way, and devoid of any lover-like pleading. He



34 2 Love Alone Is Lord

addressed the letter and put it into his post-bag
to be delivered in the morning.

He felt a great relief at having taken this step.
It was as if he had built a wall between himself
and disaster.

The next day Lady Caroline Lamb's carriage
stopped at his door, and her ladyship, on finding
the doors of his rooms locked, and learning from
the caretaker of the house that Lord Byron had
gone away to foreign parts, failed to retain con-
trol over her feelings. She flung herself wildly
against the locked doors, shrieking for her Byron
to come back to her upbraiding him in unmeas-
ured terms for deserting his Caroline his Will o'
the Wisp.

The footmen standing outside exchanged glances.
Thomas winked. Charles put a gloved forefinger
to his nose.

"She has her tantrums again," muttered the
coachman.

The caretaker offered to find her ladyship a
cordial.



PART III
CHAPTER I

ALL the sweet scents of the spring landscape
floated about him. The travelling chaise in
which he sat bareheaded seemed to cleave its
way through the waves of a sea of scent as his
felucca with its sail set had cleft its course through
the ripples of the .^Egean. He had all the delight
of a traveller being borne through new scenes
all the joy of a traveller who, after long wandering
through a barren land, comes suddenly into the
very midst of a place of verdure, of waving grass
underfoot and the tenderness of half -opened buds
overhead. The beautiful English landscape closed
its arms upon him, clasping him in a mother's
embrace.

There had been a shower in the early May
morning, and the sunshine had been so fitful that
the roads were not quite dry; here and there a
pool of water was glistening, and every pool was
a mirror to the faint blue of the sky; he saw its
sheen as the chaise swept past; and the thrush
and the blackbird whose bath had been disturbed,
fled, uttering a note before they disappeared into

343



344 Love Alone Is Lord

the emerald tracery of the hedgerow. The rap-
ture of a lark's song shivered and quivered from
the sky; and when one song dwindled away in
the distance, another began a short way ahead,
waxing louder and louder as the chaise went on,
and then waning into a sweet thinness. A musi-
cal chain of song was being woven in the air
above those lovely slopes, and no link was broken
by silence.

" ' That strain again,' " said the poet.

" ' That strain again! It had a dying fall.
Oh, it came o'er my soul like the sweet air
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odours.' "

There was an unbroken chain of sweet sounds
that seemed nearer the heaven than the earth,
and there was an unbroken chain of sweet scents
that seemed swinging in the tender air, just above
the surface of the grass.

The white butterflies danced above the wild
flowers of the lanes, the small bees went in zigzag
curves from one cluster of shy bluebells into the
luscious depths of the foxgloves and Canterbury
bells, sipping sweets and swinging, ringing a fairy
chime that only the poet's ear could hear. And
then came the pink of an almond tree standing
alone at the side of a cottage, the white of a haw-
thorn a billowy snowdrift suspended in the air
or else a fleecy cloud under the blue sky. The
green pastures were full of fleeces, the young



Love Alone Is Lord 345

lambs trotting weak-kneed up to the ewes and
turning to gaze with them at the chaise. Beside
the little stream the large cattle lay lazily chew-
ing the cud. The broad green of the pasturage
spread side by side with the rich brown of the
freshly ploughed fields, not flat, but sweeping up
the gentle slope, the furrows like the waves of an
even sea that only broke along the ridge of the
hill in a fringe of foam where the white clouds
had drifted and curled away from the sun. But
all the clouds of the sky were not there ; now and
again a shadow would sail across green meadow-
land and brown field, sweeping over the plough-
ing teams, and the solitary figures of the sowers
with the swinging hands, on to the swinging
arms of the windmill. From the copse, where a
lane joined the high road, came the notes of a
cuckoo.

Byron lay back upon the cushions of his chaise,
tasting of the sweetness of the English spring
nothing of the charm of the soft tints of the
gracious time, of the notes of the birds, of the per-
fume that saturated the air was lost upon him,
and he felt himself to be a part of that spirit of
the spring which was passing over the land,
leaving flowers where its unsandalled feet had
touched the earth and opening the blossoms that
it breathed upon. He felt all the calm delight of
the hour, and he was glad that he had not carried
out his intention of going to the East, but had
spent the months of his absence from London in



346 Love Alone Is Lord

the west of England. He had been a welcome
guest at the houses of many friends, and he
scarcely felt even mortified to receive a letter
from Miss Milbanke rejecting for the present his
offer of marriage, but expressing the hope that
she might be permitted to exchange letters with
him from time to time. In the course of the next
few months he came to hear that she had refused
two other proposals made to her by men each of
whom was a much more eligible suitor than he.

And then the poem which he had begun to
write on the evening he had spent in the com-
pany of Lord Sligo was published, and the suc-
cess of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage was repeated
in The Giaour, only more abundantly. Edition
after edition was called for, and with the issue of
each came pages of magical poetry that entranced
all England with their melody.

Of course, he received many letters from the
woman from whom he had fled letters reproach-
ful, full of fiery denunciation, and then melting
into wild tears on every page, and all ending with
the cry, "Come back come back!" When
Drury Lane was opened and his address spoken
on the stage, she clamoured " Perfidious ! " " False
wretch!" She knew, she declared, that it was he
and he only who had prevented her from being
the one to speak the address: Mr. Sheridan had
given her his promise that hers was to be the
first voice heard by playgoers on the new stage,
and had Mr. Sheridan ever been known to break



Love Alone Is Lord 347

an engagement? No; it was the man whom she
had trusted so fondly that had been false to her.
It would be in vain for him to deny it.

Byron made no attempt either to acknowledge
it or to deny it. He laughed, somewhat grimly,
at the thought of the possible interview which
she would have with Mr. Sheridan. But he was
not uneasy for Mr. Sheridan. He had every con-
fidence in that gentleman's ability to extricate
himself from any position in which he might
find himself through having been too prodigal of
his promises.


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Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 19 of 28)