’The day of the packet’s sailing. I shall hope to be visited by you here. The best flowers sent me have been placed in your little vases, giving life to the remembrance of you, though not, like them, to pass away.
‘A. I. NOEL BYRON.’
Shortly after, I was in England again, and had one more opportunity of resuming our personal intercourse. The first time that I called on Lady Byron, I saw her in one of those periods of utter physical exhaustion to which she was subject on account of the constant pressure of cares beyond her strength. All who knew her will testify, that, in a state of health which would lead most persons to become helpless absorbents of service from others, she was assuming burdens, and making outlays of her vital powers in acts of love and service, with a generosity that often reduced her to utter exhaustion. But none who knew or loved her ever misinterpreted the coldness of those seasons of exhaustion. We knew that it was not the spirit that was chilled, but only the frail mortal tabernacle. When I called on her at this time, she could not see me at first; and when, at last, she came, it was evident that she was in a state of utter prostration. Her hands were like ice; her face was deadly pale; and she conversed with a restraint and difficulty which showed what exertion it was for her to keep up at all. I left as soon as possible, with an appointment for another interview. That interview was my last on earth with her, and is still beautiful in memory. It was a long, still summer afternoon, spent alone with her in a garden, where we walked together. She was enjoying one of those bright intervals of freedom from pain and languor, in which her spirits always rose so buoyant and youthful; and her eye brightened, and her step became elastic.
One last little incident is cherished as most expressive of her. When it became time for me to leave, she took me in her carriage to the station. As we were almost there, I missed my gloves, and said, ’I must have left them; but there is not time to go back.’
With one of those quick, impulsive motions which were so natural to her in doing a kindness, she drew off her own and said, ’Take mine if they will serve you.’
I hesitated a moment; and then the thought, that I might never see her again, came over me, and I said, ‘Oh, yes! thanks.’ That was the last earthly word of love between us. But, thank God, those who love worthily never meet for the last time: there is always a future.
I now come to the particulars of that most painful interview which has been the cause of all this controversy. My sister and myself were going from London to Eversley to visit the Rev. C. Kingsley. On our way, we stopped, by Lady Byron’s invitation, to lunch with her at her summer residence on Ham Common, near Richmond; and it was then arranged, that on our return, we should make her a short visit, as she said she had a subject of importance on which she wished to converse with me alone.