As Byron rose unsteadily to his feet, Samuel frantically began to reconsider his position. He knew Byron would believe him- it was exciting and meant adventure and Byron would find it all too irresistible. But with Hobhouse staring so concernedly at him and the sun streaming in through the windows, Samuel was starting to disbelieve himself.
“WELL?” Byron boomed.
Hobhouse winced. “I may not have been drinking all night” he said “but could you perhaps..not shout?”
“Oh do shut up, Hobhouse” Byron grumbled, lowering his tone. “Now, Coleridge, what is it?”
“Erm...” Samuel was floundering badly and he knew it. “Well. It's a bit of a story.”
“So we'd gathered.” Hobhouse crossed his arms.
There was no way he was getting out of this. He thought fast. “I have...a business opportunity. A new publisher. He wants to meet Lord Byron... He's foreign” Samuel added belatedly.
“Where is he?” Byron was definitely interested. His week must have been very dull indeed.
“He's...” Where was Machiavelli anyway? Samuel didn't know. “...attending to some business. He says he'll come round later. I'm to...” Samuel smiled, inspired. “Hobhouse? Can I beg a favor on his behalf? I'm afraid his luggage has been detained- would you lend him some clothes? I believe he's about your build.”
Hobhouse waved his hand airily. “Of course, of course. Nothing too fine, mind, but Lord knows I've got coats and cravats aplenty”.
Byron snorted. It was a habit. Hobhouse ignored him. “Would you prefer to collect them now? I'm sure his Lordship here- ” Hobhouse wrinkled his nose “would like to sleep off last night's debauch”.
Byron snorted again. “Don't let me detain you!” he called, disappearing into the corridor.
A moment passed, and then he popped his head round the doorframe. “Do bring your foreign gentleman by later, Coleridge. I must confess I'm simply burning with curiosity”. Then, deftly snatching a bottle of brandy from the sideboard, he disappeared again, this time for good.
“Shall we?” asked Hobhouse.
“Oh- yes. Yes, yes, of course”. Samuel was certainly feeling the effects of his sleepless night. He rubbed his eyes and sincerely wished he had a dark room to stretch out in for a couple of hours.
Hobhouse seemed to read his mind. “Coleridge? You look fagged half to death. I've a spare room if you need to rest and then we can sort some clothing for your friend.”
He's not exactly a friend, Samuel wanted to say. He sent a silent thought at Machiavelli. Wherever you are you damned undead bastard, you'd better come back this evening. And not by flying in a window, either. Just...be respectable? Please? I'm getting you some clothes.
“Thank you, I accept” he told Hobhouse.
“Well then” said Hobhouse, holding the door open “let's be on our way”.
Samuel made sure his laudanum was still safely tucked in his pocket.