It was in Berlin that, in the autumn of 1843, long delayed Fortune smiled on her. A novelty being wanted, she secured an engagement to dance at a fete organised by Frederick William IV in honour of his son-in-law, the Czar Nicholas, and a posse of Grand Dukes then visiting Potsdam. The autocrat of all the Russias expressed himself as highly pleased with the newcomer's efforts. The Berliners followed suit. Lola was "made"; and every night for a month on end she was booked up to dance somewhere.
While in the German capital, she is said to have had an encounter with the arm of the law. The story is that, mounted on a blood horse, she attended a review held in honour of the King and the Czar; and her steed, being somewhat mettlesome, carried her at full tilt across the parade ground and into the midst of the royal party assembled at the saluting-point.
When an indignant policeman, bellowing Verboten! at the top of his voice, rushed up and clung to the bridle, he received for his pains a vigorous cut from her whip. The next morning a summons was delivered to the daring Amazon, ordering her to appear before a magistrate and answer a charge of "insulting the uniform." Thereupon, Lola, feeling that the general atmosphere was unfavourable, packed her trunks. She managed to get away just in time, as a warrant for her arrest was actually being made out. But if she did not leave Berlin with all the honours of war, it is at any rate recorded that "she left this city of pigs with a high head and a snapping of her fan."
The Odyssey continued. The next place where she halted was Dresden. There the pilgrim swam into the orbit of Franz Liszt, who happened to be giving a series of recitals. Born in 1811—the "year of the Comet"—he was at the height of his powers when Lola Montez flashed across his path. During an early visit to England, as a "boy prodigy," he had gathered considerable laurels. Windsor Castle had smiled upon him, and he had played to George IV and to Queen Victoria. The chance encounter with Lola was a fateful one for both of them. But, as it happened, the virtuoso rather welcomed the prospect of a fresh intrigue just then. Wearied of the romanticism of the phalanx of feminine admirers, who clustered about him like bees, he found this one, with her beauty and vivacious charm, to have a special appeal for him. He responded to it avidly. The two became inseparable.
One evening, while Rienzi was being performed, his latest charmer accompanied Liszt to the Opera House, and, during an interval, joined him in the dressing-room of Josef Tichatschek, the tenor. Hearing that he was there, Wagner was coming to speak to him, "when he saw that his companion was a painted and bejewelled woman with insolent eyes." Thereupon, if his biographer is to be trusted, "the composer turned and fled." Lola had routed "Rienzi."
Musicians will be musicians; and Liszt was no exception. With his love affairs and his long catalogue of "conquests" in half the capitals of Europe, he was generally regarded as a Don Juan of the keyboard. It is said by James Huneker that, on leaving Dresden, Lola joined him in Constantinople. In her memoirs she says nothing about wandering along the shores of the Bosphorus in his company. Still, she says a good deal about Sir Stratford Canning, the British Ambassador, by whom, she declares, she was given a letter to the Chief Eunuch, admitting her to the Sultan's harem. But this, like many of her other statements, must be taken with a generous pinch of salt.
During that memorable summer Liszt was specially invited to Bonn, to unveil the Beethoven monument that had been erected there. The ceremony attracted a distinguished gathering, and was witnessed by the King and Queen of Russia, together with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It was also witnessed by Lola Montez, who accompanied Liszt. She was promptly recognised by Ignatz Moscheles; and, when they discovered her presence, the reception committee were so upset that they had her barred from the hotel in which rooms had been engaged for the guest of honour. But it took more than this to keep her in the background. While the speeches were in full swing, she forced her way into the banquet-hall, and won over the prudish burghers by jumping on the table and dancing to them.
The Prince Consort was shocked at the "liberty." Frederick William, however, being more broad-minded, cracked a Teutonic jest.
"Lola is a Lorelei!" he declared, with an appreciative grin, when the episode was reported to him. "What will she be up to next?"
An inevitable result of Liszt's dalliance with his new Calypso in the various capitals that they visited together during the months that followed was to shatter the relations that had existed for years between himself and Madame d'Agoult. The virtuoso emerged from the business badly, for the woman he had discarded in summary fashion for a younger and more attractive one had sacrificed her name and her reputation for his sake, and had also presented him with three pledges of mutual affection. Infuriated at his callousness, she afterwards, as "Daniel Stern," relieved her outraged feelings in a novel ("written to calm her agitated soul"), Nelida, where Liszt, under a transparent disguise, figured as "Guermann Regnier."
But the pace was too hot to last. Still, it was Liszt, and not Lola, who cooled first. "With Lola, as with others, known and unknown, it was," observes William Wallace, "Da capo al Segno." The story of the final rupture between them, as given by Guy de Pourtales, has in it something of the element of farce:
Liszt allowed her to make love to him, and amused himself with this dangerous sweetheart. But without any conviction, without any real curiosity. She annoyed, she irritated him during his hours of work. Before long he planned to escape, and, having arranged everything with the hotel porter, he departed without leaving any address, but not without having first locked this most wearisome of inamoratas up in her room. For twelve hours Lola raised a fearful uproar, breaking whatever she could lay her hands on.
Liszt, however, scenting this possibility, had settled the bill in advance.
But the incident does not redound to his credit, for the spectacle of a distinguished artist bribing a lackey to smuggle him out of an hotel and imprison in her bedroom the woman with whom he had been living, is a sorry one.
Having had enough of Germany for the time being, Lola decided to see what France had to offer. "The only place for a woman of spirit," she once said, "is Paris." Accordingly she betook herself there. As soon as she arrived, she secured lodgings in a modest hotel near the Palais Royal; and, well aware of her limitations, took some dancing lessons from a ballet-master in the rue Lepelletier. When she had taken what she considered enough, she called on Leon Pillet, the director of the Academie.
"You have, of course, already heard of my immense success in London," she announced with an assured air.
M. Pillet had not heard of it. But this did not matter. As had been the case with Lumley before him, Lola's ravishing smile inflamed his susceptible heart; and he promptly engaged her to dance in the ballet that was to follow Halevy's Il Lazzarone, then in active rehearsal.
Lola's debut as a premiere danseuse was made on March 30, 1844. It was not a successful one. Far from it. The fact was, the Parisians, accustomed to the dreamy and sylph-like pirouettings of Cerito and Elssler and Taglioni, and their own Adele Dumilatre, could not appreciate the vigorous cachuchas and boleros now offered them. When they voiced their disapproval, Lola lost the one thing she could never keep—her temper. She made a moue at the audience; and, if de Mirecourt is to be trusted, pulled off her garters (a second authority says a more intimate item of attire) and flung them with a gesture of contempt among the jeering crowd in the first row of stalls.
As may be imagined, the Press was unsympathetic towards this "demonstration."
"We will avoid damaging with our strictures," remarked Le Constitutionnel in its next issue, "a pretty young woman who, before making her debut, has obviously not had time to study our preferences."
A much more devastating criticism was published in Le Journal des Debats by Jules Janin. He went out of his way, indeed, to be positively offensive. Nor did Theophile Gautier, who in his famous waistcoat of crimson velvet was present on this eventful evening, think very much of the would-be ballerina's efforts to win Paris.
Beyond, he wrote, a pair of magnificent dark eyes, Mademoiselle Lola Montez has nothing suggestively Andalusian in her appearance. She talks poor Spanish, scarcely any French, and only tolerable English. The question is, to what country does she really belong? We can affirm that she has small feet and shapely legs. The extent, however, to which these gifts serve her is quite another story.
It must be admitted that the public's curiosity aroused by her altercations with the police of the North and her whip-cracking exploits among the Prussian gendarmes has not been satisfied. We imagine that Mademoiselle Lola would do better on horseback than on the stage.
An odd account, headed: "Singular Debut of Lola Montez in Paris," was sent to New York by an American journalist:
"When, a few days ago, it was announced that two foreign dancers, Mlle Cerito and Mlle Lola Montez, had just entered the walls of Paris, the triumphs achieved by the Italian ballerina could not eclipse the horse-whipping exploits of Mlle Lola. 'Let us have Lola Montez!' exclaimed the stalls and pit. 'We want to see if her foot is as light as her hand!' Never did they witness a more astounding entree. After her first leap, she stopped short on the tips of her toes, and, by a movement of prodigious rapidity, detached one of her garters from a lissome limb adjacent to her quivering thigh (innocent of lingerie) and flung it to the occupants of the front row of the orchestra.... Notwithstanding the effect produced by this piquant eccentricity, Mile Lola has not met with the reception she anticipated; and it has been deemed proper by the management to dispense with her reappearance."
But to give Lola her conge by word of mouth was a task which M. Pillet did not care to undertake. "So much was the haughty Amazon's riding-whip dreaded that a letter of dismissal was prudently delivered. As a result, bloodshed was avoided; and Mlle Lola has solaced herself with the reflection that she has been the victim of the Machiavellian cabal of Russia, still angry at her routing of Muscovite gendarmes in Warsaw."
With reference to the Warsaw episode, the slipshod de Mirecourt says that she was dancing there in 1839. At that date, however, she was no nearer Warsaw than Calcutta. None the less, she did go there, but it was not until she had left Paris after her failure at the Academie Royale. According to herself, the Czar Nicholas, who remembered her in Berlin, invited her to visit St. Petersburg, and, having a month to spare, she accepted a preliminary engagement in the Polish capital.
This began well enough, for, if her terpsichorean abilities still left something to be desired, the Warsaw critics, ever susceptible to feminine charms, went into positive raptures about her personal attractions. One of them, indeed, became almost lyrical on the subject:
"Her soft silken hair," was this authority's opinion, "falls in luxuriant wealth down her back, its glistening hue rivalling that of the raven's wing; on a slender and delicate neck—the whiteness of which eclipses swansdown—is poised a lovely face.... Where the proportions are concerned, Lola's little feet are somewhere between those of a Chinese maiden and those of the daintiest Parisienne imaginable. As for her bewitching calves, they suggest the steps of a Jacob's ladder transporting one up to heaven; and her ravishing figure resembles the Venus of Cnidus, that immortal masterpiece sculptured by the chisel of Praxiteles in the 104th Olympiad. As for her eyes, her very soul is enshrined in their blue depths."
There was a lot more—several columns more—in a similar strain.
As was to be expected, such a tribute attracted the attention of Prince Ivan Paskievich, the Viceroy of Poland. He had a weakness for pretty women; and, after the long succession of lumpy and heavy-footed ballerinas occupying the Warsaw stage, this new arrival sounded promising. When a trusted emissary reported that the critics "had not said half what they might," he resolved to make her acquaintance. His first step was to send her, through Madam Steinkeller, the wife of a banker, an invitation to have supper with him at his private house.
Lola, flattered by the invitation, and less clear-headed than usual, was sufficiently trusting to accept. She soon, however, discovered that his Excellency's intentions were strictly dishonourable, for he made her, she afterwards said, "a most indelicate proposition." Her response was to laugh in his face, and to tell him that "she had no wish to become his toy." Thereupon, Paskievich, furious at such a repulse (and unaccustomed to being thwarted by anyone, must less by a ballet-dancer), dismissed her with threats of reprisals. The first of these took the form of a visit from Colonel Abrahamowicz, the official charged with "preserving morality in the Warsaw theatres." He apparently interpreted his responsible functions in a fashion that left something to be desired, for Lola complained that "his conduct was so free that I took serious exception to it."
Paskievich then dealt his next card. This was to instruct his understrapper to fill the theatre with a rabble and have her hissed off the stage. Lola, however, was equal to the occasion. Advancing to the footlights, before the terror-stricken manager could stop her, she pointed to Colonel Abrahamowicz, sitting in a box, and exclaimed: "Ladies and gentlemen, there is the dastard who attempts to revenge himself on a pure woman who has scorned his infamous suggestions! I ask your protection!"
Accompanied by M. Lesniowski, the editor of the Warsaw Gazette, she returned to her lodgings, wondering what would happen next. She was soon to discover, for the angry Colonel and a squad of police arrived with a warrant for her arrest as an "undesirable." When, however, they announced their purpose, she flourished a pistol in their faces and declared that she would put a bullet through the first of them who came near her. Realising that she meant what she said, and not anxious to qualify for cheap martyrdom, Colonel Abrahamowicz was tactician enough to withdraw. In the meantime, the public, learning what had happened, sided with Lola and raised lusty shouts of "Down with the Viceroy! Long live the Montez!"
Paskievich, who had crushed with an iron hand the rebellion of 1831, had a short and sharp way with incipient revolutionaries; and, calling out the troops, cleared the streets at the point of the bayonet. While they were thus occupied, Lola slipped off to the French consul and suggested that he should grant her his protection as a national. With characteristic gallantry, he met her wishes. None the less, she had to leave Warsaw the next morning, under escort to the frontier.
There were reprisals for a number of those who had taken her part. Thus the manager of the theatre and the editor of the Warsaw Gazette were dismissed; M. Steinkeller was imprisoned; and a dozen students were publicly flogged.
"Tranquillity has been restored," was the official view of the situation.
According to Lola herself (not, by the way, a very sound authority) she went straight from Warsaw and the clutches of the lustful Paskievich to St. Petersburg. Considering, however, that Poland was at that period under the domination of the Czar, it is highly improbable that, after her expulsion, she could have set foot in Russia without a passport. Had she been sufficiently daring to make the experiment, she would assuredly have been clapped into fetters and packed off to Siberia.
Lola's motto was "courage, and shuffle the cards." Undeterred by her previous failure there, she went back to Paris, to try her luck a second time.
Luck came to her very soon, for she had scarcely arrived in the capital when she encountered a young Englishman, Mr. Francis Leigh, an ex-officer of the 10th Hussars. Within a week the two were on such intimate terms that they set up housekeeping together. But the harmony was shattered abruptly by Lola, who, in a jealous fit, one day fired a pistol at her "protector." As this was more than he could be expected to stand, Mr. Leigh, deciding that they could not continue living under the same roof, severed the relationship.
In 1845 the Paris of Louis-Philippe was, when Lola resumed her acquaintance with it, a pleasant city in which to live. The star of Baron Haussmann had not yet arisen; and the capital's vulgarisation under the Second Empire had not then begun. John Bull still gave it a wide berth; nor, except for a few stray specimens, were there any hordes of tourists to gape at the "Froggies." Everything was cheap; and most things were nice. Paris really was La ville lumiere. Dull care had been given its marching orders. All that was required of a man was that he should be witty, and of a woman that she should be entertaining. The world of the boulevards—with its cafes and restaurants and theatres—was the accepted rallying point of the authors and poets, the painters and musicians, and the lights twinkling in the theatrical and journalistic firmaments, the men in velveteen jackets and peg-top trousers, the women in flounced skirts and shawls and elastic-sided boots. The mode of the moment.
Lola settled down among them, and was given a warm welcome. Among others with whom she was soon on friendly terms was the famous (or, perhaps, it would be better to say, notorious) Alphonsine Plessis. The Lady of the Camelias had a large heart and a wide circle; and Liszt, who was also back in Paris, was to be found among the guests attending her "receptions" at her house on the Boulevard de la Madeleine. Lola, who never cherished rancour, was prepared to let bygones be bygones, and resumed relations with him. But this time they were short lived, for the maestro was already dangling after another charmer, and, as was his habit, left for Weimar without saying farewell. Lola took his defection philosophically. As a matter of fact, she rather welcomed it, for it solved a situation that was fast threatening to become awkward. This was that she herself had now formed an intimacy with somebody else.
Her new acquaintance was Charles Dujarier, a young man of five and twenty, and a journalist of some distinction, being part proprietor and feuilleton editor of La Presse. Lola met him in the friendly atmosphere of a Bohemian cafe, where formal introductions were not insisted upon. As was the custom in such an atmosphere, the friendship ripened rapidly. Within a week of their first meeting the two set up housekeeping together in the rue Lafitte. Before long there was talk of marriage. But it did not get beyond talk, for Lola had put her head in the matrimonial noose once—in her opinion, once too often—and she had no desire to do so a second time. Apart from this consideration, she was probably well aware that her divorce from the philandering Thomas James had never been completed.
As Dujarier's acknowledged mistress, Lola was accepted without demur as one of themselves by the literary and artistic "set" thronging the cafes and salons they frequented. Gautier and Sue, with Claudin and Mery and Dumas, were those habitues of whom she saw most; and Ferdinand Bac (but nobody else) says that she was on intimate terms with the austere M. Guizot.
Gustave Claudin declared that he met Lola Montez in Paris in the spring of 1841. That she made an impression on him is evident from a passage in his Souvenirs:
Lola Montez was a charmer. There was something—I do not quite know what—about her appearance that was provocative and voluptuous, and which attracted one. She had a white skin, hair suggestive of the tendrils of honeysuckle, and a mouth that could be compared with a pomegranate. Added to this was a ravishing figure, charming feet, and perfect grace. Unfortunately, as a dancer, she had very little talent.
Towards the year 1845 the author of these notes saw much of her. She wanted him to write her memoirs, and gave him some material for them.... She was born in Seville in 1823, with a French officer for a godfather and (as is the custom in Spain) the city of Seville for a godmother. The adventures of her life were written out by her in an exercise-book. She told me that, at a ball in Calcutta, she had once refused to waltz with a wealthy gentleman who was so encrusted with diamonds that he resembled a snuff-box. When he asked her the reason for refusing to dance, she replied: "Sir, I cannot dance with you because you have hurt my foot." The would-be waltzer was a chiropodist!
Writing, as he did, nearly fifty years after the episode to which he thus refers, Claudin's memory was a little shaky. Thus Lola Montez was born in Limerick in 1818, not, as he says, at Seville in 1823; nor could Claudin have met her in Paris in the spring of 1841, as she had not then left India.
Dujarier, according to Lola, was much impressed by her political acumen, and employed her on "secret service" for the Government, entrusting her as a preliminary with a "mission to St. Petersburg." The story is an obvious concoction, if merely because Dujarier, being little beyond a penny-a-liner hack, had no power to employ anybody on such a task. Still, Lola always stuck to it. Still, it is just possible that she may have gone to Russia at this period, for Nicholas was interested in the art of the ballet, and welcomed foreign exponents of Terpsichore from wherever they came. He was a familiar figure in the green-rooms of his capital. He patronised Taglioni and Elssler, and was always ready to make up any deficit in the box-office receipts. It only meant grinding more out of his army of serfs.
If she did go from Paris to Russia, Lola did not waste her time there, for, she says, she "nearly married Prince Schulkoski," whom she had already met in Berlin. This, she adds, was "one of the romances of her life." But something went wrong with it, for the princely wooer, "while furiously telegraphing kisses three times a day," was discovered to be enjoying the companionship of another charmer. Lola could put up with a great deal. There were, however, limits to her toleration, and this was one of them. First, Tom James; then, George Lennox; and now Prince Schulkoski. Masculine promises were no more substantial than pie-crust. Poor Lola was having a sad awakening. It is not remarkable that she formed the conclusion that men were "deceivers ever." After such an experience, nothing else was possible.
Among other items in her repertoire of alleged happenings in Russia at this period was one that certainly takes a good deal of swallowing. This was that, while having a "private audience" with the Czar himself and Count Benkendorf (the Chief of the Secret Police), an important visitor was announced. Thereupon, and to avoid her presence being known to the newcomer, she was locked up in a cupboard and left there for several hours. When the Czar came back, he was "full of apologies and insisted that she should accept from him a gift of a thousand roubles."
Other details follow:
"A great magnate conquers her at St. Petersburg; Grand Dukes perform their tricks; and Circassian Princes die for her. But soon she has enough of caviare and vodka. What, she wonders, is the good of becoming fuddled with drunkards and wasting valuable time on half-civilized Asiatics?"
No good at all, was Lola's decision. Accordingly, she bade farewell to Russian hospitality, and, relinquishing all prospects of wearing the Muscovite diadem, returned to Paris and Dujarier. Her lover's influence secured her an engagement in La Biche au Bois at the Porte St. Martin Theatre; but, as had happened at the Academie Royale, she was a "flop." The critics said so with no uncertain voice; and the manager announced that he agreed with them. Clearly, then, the ballet was not her metier.
"Well, dancing isn't everything," said Lola, who always took a reverse in philosophical fashion.
AN "AFFAIR OF HONOUR"
The evening of March 7, 1845, was one pregnant with fate where Dujarier was concerned. He had received, and accepted, an invitation to a supper-party at the Freres-Provencaux restaurant, given by Mlle Anais Lievenne, a young actress from the Vaudeville company. Among the other convives gathered round the festive board were a quartet of attractive damsels, Atala Beauchene, Victorine Capon, Cecile John, and Alice Ozy, with, to keep them company, a trio of typical flaneurs in Rosemond de Beauvallon (a swarthy Creole from Guadaloupe, with ambitions to be considered a novelist), Roger de Beauvoir (a friend of Alphonse Karr, and whose other claim to distinction was that he had once challenged Balzac), and Saint-Agnan (an individual dubbed by journalists a "man-about-town"). Altogether, a gathering thoroughly representative of the theatre, the press, the world, and the half-world.
Lola was invited to join the party; but, at Dujarier's special request, she excused herself. If, however, she had gone with him, the tragedy for which the evening was to be responsible might have been averted. Still, nobody can look ahead.
For some time, all went merrily as the proverbial marriage bell. The ladies were not too strait-laced; dull care was banished. Food and drink without stint; music and lights and laughter; bright eyes and pretty faces. Champagne corks popped; toasts were offered; jests were cracked; and tongues wagged.
But it did not last. The clouds were gathering; and presently the harmony was interrupted. Dujarier was to blame. Unable to carry his liquor well, or else, under the spell of her bright eyes, he went so far as to remark to his hostess: "My dear Anais, figure to yourself, in six months from now you and I will be sleeping together." The damsel's acknowledged cavalier, de Beauvallon, a stickler for propriety, took this amiss and declared the assertion to be unwarranted. Words followed. Warm words. Mlle Lievenne, however, being good-tempered, merely laughed, and peace was restored.
But the patched-up truce was only a temporary one. Feeling still ran high. A few minutes later, de Beauvallon picked another quarrel with Dujarier, this time complaining that he had neglected to publish a feuilleton of his, Memoires de M. Montholon, that had been accepted by him. As was to be expected, the result of pestering the sub-editor at such a moment was to receive the sharp response that he "must wait his turn, and that, in the meantime, there were more important authors than himself to be considered."
With the idea of calming frayed nerves, somebody suggested that they should all adjourn for a flutter at lansquenet, then ousting ecarte. The proposal was accepted; and, the revellers having settled down, Saint-Agnan, having the best-lined wallet, took the bank.
Fortune did not smile on Dujarier. The luck seemed against him; and, when the party broke up in the small hours, he was a couple of thousand francs to the bad. Worse than this, he was unable to settle his losses until he had borrowed the necessary billets from the head waiter. As a result, his temper was soured, his nerves on edge. Accordingly, when de Beauvallon was tactless enough to upset him again, he "answered somewhat abruptly."
This, however, was not all. The "wine being in, the wit was out." A woman's name cropped up, that of a certain Madame Albert, a young actress in whose affections Dujarier had, before Lola Montez appeared on the scene, been ousted by de Beauvallon. The recollection rankled, and he made some sneering reference to the subject. With an obvious effort, the other kept his temper and curtly remarking, "You will hear from me to-morrow, Monsieur," left the restaurant.
"It might have been thought," is the comment of Larousse, "that, with the fever of the wine abated, these happenings and the recollection of the indecorous words accompanying them would, by the next morning, have been forgotten."
But they were not forgotten. They were remembered. On the following afternoon, while Dujarier was in his office, lamenting the fact that he had made such a fool of himself, and wondering how he was to explain matters to Lola, two visitors were announced. One of them was the Comte de Flers and the other was the Vicomte d'Ecquevillez. With ceremonious bows, they stated the purport of their call. This was that they represented de Beauvallon, who "demanded satisfaction for the insults he had received from M. Dujarier."
The quarrel, however, was really one between two rival papers, La Presse and Le Globe, which had long been at daggers drawn. Granier de Cassagnac, the editor of Le Globe, was the brother-in-law of de Beauvallon, and Emile de Girardin, the proprietor of La Presse, had systematically held him up to ridicule in his columns. Hence, when the news of the restaurant fracas leaked out among the cafe gossipers, the result was that everybody said: "il n'y eut qu'une voix pour dire 'c'est le Globe qui veut se battre avec la Presse.'"
Dujarier, who had no stomach for fighting—except with his pen—would have backed out if he could. But he could not. Things had already gone too far. Accordingly, he referred the visitors to his friends, Arthur Bertrand (a god-son of the Emperor) and Charles de Boignes, and then hurried off to consult them himself.
"Pistols for two and coffee for one," was their decision when they heard what he had to tell them. There was, they were emphatic, no other way by which he could satisfy his "honour." The code demanded it.
Clutching at a straw, Dujarier next sought counsel of Alexandre Dumas.
"I don't know why I am fighting," he said.
If it came to that, Dumas shared his ignorance. Still, he insisted that a "meeting" was inevitable.
This was the case. For a Frenchman to refuse to "go out"—no matter what his reason—would be to incur social ignominy. He would be looked upon as a pariah; not a hand would be offered him; and he would have bundles of white feathers showered upon him by his former acquaintances.
It was all very ridiculous. Still, it must be remembered that "the period was one when journalists aped fine gentlemen, and killed themselves for nothing." Ferdinand Bac declares that this practice was "largely the fault of Dumas, who, in his romances, would describe lovely women throwing themselves between the combatants to effect their reconciliation."
Since a meeting could be a serious affair, the seconds were naturally anxious to protect themselves. Accordingly, the four of them, putting their heads together, drew up a document which, in the event of untoward consequences occurring, would, they felt, absolve them of responsibility:
"We, the undersigned, state that, as the result of a disagreement, M. de Beauvallon has provoked M. Dujarier in a fashion that makes it impossible for him to refuse an encounter. We ourselves have done all we can to reconcile these gentlemen; and it is only at M. de Beauvallon's urgent demand that we are proceeding in the matter."
As the challenged party, Dujarier had the choice of weapons. The privilege, however, was not worth much to him. He had never handled cold steel, while his adversary was an expert fencer, and he was also such a poor marksman that he could not have made sure of hitting a haystack at twenty yards. Still, he reflected that, although de Beauvallon was unlikely to miss him with a rapier, he might possibly do so with a bullet. Accordingly, he elected for pistols.
When Dujarier came back to her that evening, Lola, with womanly intuition, saw that some trouble had befallen him. Under pressure, he admitted that he was about to fight a duel for which he had no stomach. At the same time, however, he led her to believe that his adversary was de Beauvoir, and not de Beauvallon.
Having thus calmed her fears, for she knew that de Beauvoir was no more a fire-eater than was he himself, he went off to have another consultation with his seconds.
"I shall not be back until late," he said, "as I am supping with Dumas. You must not stop up for me."
Instead, however, of returning that night, Dujarier, feeling that he could not face Lola and tell her the truth, stopped with one of his seconds. There he wrote and sealed a couple of letters, charging de Boignes to "deliver them if required by circumstances." The first was to his mother:
If this letter reaches you, it will be because I shall be dead or else dangerously wounded. To-morrow morning I am going out to fight with pistols. My position requires it; and, as a man of honour, I accept the challenge. If you, my good mother, should have cause to weep, it is better that you should shed tears for a son worthy of yourself than to shed them for a coward. I go to the combat in the spirit of a man who is calm and sure of himself. Justice is on my side.
A more difficult, although less flamboyant, letter to write was the second one, for its recipient would be the woman who had given him her heart: and was even then anxiously awaiting his return:
MY EVER DEAREST LOLA:
I want to explain why it was I slept by myself and did not come to you this morning. It is because I have to fight a duel. All my calmness is required, and seeing you would have upset me. By two o'clock this afternoon everything will be over.
A thousand fond farewells to the dear little girl I love so much, and the thoughts of whom will be with me for ever.
Having written his letters, he proceeded to draw up his will. This document left, among specific bequests to his mother and sister, certain shares that he held in the Palais Royal to Lola Montez.
The date of the meeting was March 11, and the rendezvous was a retired spot in the Bois de Boulogne. A bitterly cold morning, with snow on the ground and heavy clouds in a leaden sky. As the clock struck the appointed hour, Dujarier, accompanied by his seconds, and M. de Guise, a medical man, drove up in a cab. They were the first to arrive.
After waiting for more than an hour, Dujarier was in such a nervous condition that his seconds declared he would be justified in leaving the field, since his adversary had not kept the appointment. Instead, however, of jumping at the chance, he took a swig at a flask of cognac. The potent spirit gave him some measure of Dutch courage, and his teeth stopped chattering.
"I will fight," he announced grandiloquently. "I am a Frenchman, and my honour is very dear to me."
It was to be put to the test, for a few minutes later de Beauvallon and his seconds arrived, with a tardy apology.
On behalf of their principal, Dujarier's seconds then made a last appeal for an amicable settlement. It was coldly received; and they were told that "the insult offered was too serious to be wiped out by words." There being nothing else for it, the preliminaries were discussed, the conditions of the combat being that the adversaries should stand thirty paces apart, advance six paces, and then fire.
The pistols were furnished by d'Ecquevillez, and it had been expressly stipulated that his principal should not have handled them until that moment. When, however, Bertrand examined the pair, he remarked that, since the barrels were blackened and still warm to the touch, it was obvious that somebody had already practised with them. As, however, d'Ecquevillez swore that they had not been tried by de Beauvallon, the protest was withdrawn.
The distance being measured and the adversaries placed in position, the seconds stepped aside. Then, at a signal, the word was given. The first to fire was Dujarier. He was, however, so agitated that he sent a bullet wide of the mark. De Beauvallon, on the other hand, was perfectly cool and collected. He lifted his weapon and aimed with such deliberate care that de Boignes, unable to restrain himself, called out excitedly: "Mais, tirez donc, Monsieur!" With a nod, de Beauvallon pressed the trigger. There was an answering flash and a report; and, as the smoke drifted away, Dujarier reeled and fell, blood gushing from his mouth and nostrils.
When Dr. de Guise examined him, he looked grave. He saw at once that the injury was serious. As a matter of fact, Dujarier was dead before they returned to Paris.
As the cab reached the house in the rue Lafitte, Lola, waiting there in an agony of suspense, heard the rumble of wheels. Rushing downstairs, she stepped back with a cry of terror, for three men were carrying a heavy burden into the hall. Instinctively, she realised that the worst had happened, that her suspense was at an end.
"Mademoiselle, we have ill tidings for you," said de Boignes.
"I know it," said Lola. "Dujarier is killed. I felt sure this would happen. You should not have let him fight."
The funeral of Dujarier, which took place a couple of days later in the cemetery at Montmartre, was attended by characteristic pomp. The velvet pall above his coffin was held by Balzac, Dumas, and Joseph Mery, and a flowery "oration" delivered at the graveside by Emile de Girardin:
"Whether it endure but a single day, or be deep and prolonged, Man's sorrow is always barren and profitless. It cannot restore to a disconsolate mother, bemoaning her untimely loss, the son for whom she weeps, or give him back to his friends.... Let the words written by Dujarier: 'I am about to fight a duel for the most absurd and futile of causes,' never be effaced from our memory. Farewell, Dujarier! Rest in peace! Let us carry away from the graveside the hope that the recollection of so lamentable an end will last long enough to shield others from a similar one. Let all mothers—still astounded and trembling—derive some measure of confidence from this hope, and pray to God for poor Dujarier with all the fervour of their souls!"
As may be imagined, talk followed. A vast amount of talk, in the newspapers and elsewhere. "The topic was discussed," one reads, "at the royal table itself by the family of Louis-Philippe; and Queen Amelie and Aunt Adelaide stigmatised the conduct of this wicked hussy, Lola Montez, in severe terms."
After such an experience, Lola felt that she had had enough of France for a time. Accordingly, she went back to Germany. There she resumed relations with Liszt, who took her to a second Beethoven Festival at Bonn. While allowance could be made for the artistic temperament, this was considered to be straining it, and caustic remarks on the subject appeared in the press.
During the absence of Lola from Paris, the relatives of Dujarier had not been idle. Unpleasant whispers were heard that the dead man had not fallen in a fair fight; and that the fatal bullet had come from a weapon with which his adversary had already practised. As this was contrary to the conditions of the encounter, the arm of the law reached out, and de Beauvallon and his seconds were called upon for an explanation. The one they furnished to them was deemed adequate by the authorities. Still, if "honour was satisfied," the friends of de Beauvallon's victim were not. Accordingly, they set to work, and, pulling fresh strings, managed to get the official decision upset.
An article on the subject that appeared in Le Droit took a severe tone:
"The grounds alleged to be responsible for this deplorable business," declared an editorial, "were utterly frivolous. As a result, the public prosecutor has instructed an examining-magistrate to enquire into all the circumstances, and an autopsy will be held. It is possible that other measures will be adopted."
Other measures were adopted.
"All duels," was the austere comment of the examining-magistrate who conducted the enquiry, "are marked by folly, and some by deliberate baseness." Where this one was concerned, he hinted at something sinister, and asked pointed questions about the pistols that d'Ecquevillez had been obliging enough to furnish. The answer was that they belonged to M. de Cassignac, who, for his part, declared that, until the actual day of the meeting, they had been in the custody of the gunsmith from whom he had bought them. The gunsmith, however, M. Devismes, said that this was not the case; and another witness declared that he had seen de Beauvallon having a little surreptitious practice with them in the garden.
The next thing that happened was that, before the magisterial enquiry was finished, de Beauvallon and d'Ecquevillez made a hurried departure from Paris. During their absence, it was decided to abandon further proceedings for want of evidence. Thinking himself safe, de Beauvallon then returned. But he was not safe. The Supreme Court cancelled the decision of the inferior one, and announced that he was to stand his trial for murder.
As public feeling ran high, and it was felt that an impartial jury could not have been secured in Paris, the trial was held at Rouen. The date was March 26, 1846. Attracted by the special circumstances of the case, the court was crowded.
"Nearly all those who were present," says Claudin, "belonged to the world of the boulevards." Albert Vandam was among the spectators; and with him for a companion was a much more distinguished person, Gustave Flaubert.
All being in readiness, and the stage set for the drama that was about to be unfolded, the judges, in the traditional red robes, took their seats, with M. Letendre de Tourville as president of the Court. M. Salveton, the public prosecutor, and M. Rieff, the advocate-general, represented the Government; and Maitre Berryer and M. Leon Duval appeared respectively on behalf of the accused and the dead man's mother and sister.
As it had been suggested that de Beauvallon had purposely arrived late on the ground, in order to have some preliminary practice, he was told to give an account of his movements of the morning of the duel.
"I got up at seven o'clock," he said, "and went downstairs with the pistols which had been waiting for me at the concierge's when I returned home on the previous evening."
"The concierge remembers nothing of that," interrupted M. Duval. "This is a fresh fact. We must certainly consider it. What happened next?"
"I went off in a cab to M. d'Ecquevillez, and handed the pistols to him. At half-past ten I returned home, to wait for my seconds. We arrived on the ground at half-past eleven. M. de Boignes received us coldly, with his hands in his pockets, and said: 'You do well to keep us waiting like this for you. Name of God! this isn't a summer morning. We think there is not sufficient motive to fight a duel.' I answered frigidly, but politely, that I did not agree with him, and that I was in the hands of my seconds."
"But one of them, M. de Flers," remarked the President, "thought the quarrel trifling and said so. Another thing. Why did M. d'Ecquevillez tell us that the pistols belonged to him? Remember, he has given us details as to where he got them."
"I ignore details," was the lofty response.
"If you do, we don't," returned the judge.
A vigorous denial was made by de Beauvallon to the suggestion that he was familiar with the pistols used in the duel. To convince the jury that he was not to be believed, the opposing counsel then told them that he had once pawned a watch belonging to somebody else. When the judge expressed himself shocked at such depravity, de Beauvallon, says a report, "hung his head and wept."
Nor did d'Ecquevillez, the other defendant, cut a very happy figure. His real name was said to be Vincent, and aspersions were cast on his right to dub himself a "Count." He swore he had never admitted that the pistols belonged to him, and that de Beauvallon had borrowed them from the gunsmith, Desvismes. The latter, however, calling on heaven for support, declared the statement to be a "wicked invention."
Believing in the efficacy of numbers in getting up their case, forty-six witnesses were assembled by the prosecution. Mlle Lievenne, the first of them to be examined, brought with her an atmosphere of the theatre, "adopting a flashy costume, in deplorably bad taste." "This," says a chronicler, "took the form of a blue velvet dress, a scarlet shawl, and a pearl-grey mantle." Altogether, a striking colour-scheme. But it did not help her. To the indignation of the examining-counsel, she affected to remember nothing, declaring that she had been "too busy at the supper-table, looking after the company."
The other young women, described as "more or less actresses," who had also been present, appeared to be suffering from a similar loss of memory. Their minds, they protested, were absolutely blank as to what had happened at the restaurant and very little could be extracted from them. When they had given their evidence, they looked for seats in the body of the court. The Rouen ladies, however, having somewhat rigid standards, would not permit them to sit between the wind and their propriety.
"Things are coming to a pretty pass," they declared, "when play-actresses imagine they can sit beside respectable women like ourselves."
Thereupon, the discomfited damsels withdrew to the hard benches of the public gallery.
Dumas, subpoenaed as a witness, drove all the way from Paris in a four-horsed carriage, with Mery as a travelling companion. When he took his place on the stand, M. de Tourville, affecting judicial ignorance, enquired his profession.
"If," returned the other, striking an attitude, "I did not here happen to find myself in the country of the illustrious Corneille, I should call myself a dramatist."
"Just so," was the caustic response, "but there are degrees among dramatists."
Taking this for encouragement, Dumas launched out into a disquisition on the history of the duello through the ages that was nearly as long as one of his own serials. In the middle of it, a member of the jury, anxious to be in the limelight, asked him a question.
"How does it happen," he enquired, "that Dujarier, who considered that a man of fashion must fight at least one duel, had never prepared himself by learning to shoot and fence?"
"I cannot tell you," was the reply. "My son, however, told me that he once accompanied him to a shooting-gallery. Out of twenty shots, he only hit the target twice."
Dumas made an exit as dramatic as his entry.
"I beg," he said, "that the honourable Court will permit me to return to Paris, where I have a new tragedy in five acts being performed this evening."
Lola Montez, garbed in heavy mourning, was the next summoned to give evidence.
"When," says one who was there, "she lifted her veil and removed her glove, to take the prescribed oath, a murmur of admiration ran through the gathering." To this an impressed reporter adds: "Her lovely eyes appeared to the judges of a deeper black than her lace ruffles."
The presiding judge had no qualms about enquiring her age; and she had none about lopping five years off it and declaring that she was just twenty-one. Nor did she advance any objection to being described, with Gallic candour, as the "mistress of Dujarier."
During her evidence, Lola Montez, probably coached by Dumas, did just what was expected of her. Thus, she shed abundant tears, struck pathetic attitudes, and several times looked on the point of collapsing. But what she had to say amounted to very little. In fact, it was nothing more than an assertion that ill-feeling existed between Dujarier and de Cassagnac, the brother-in-law of de Beauvallon, and that the quarrel was connected with an alleged debt.
Dujarier, she said, had forbidden her to make de Beauvallon's acquaintance, or to attend the supper at the restaurant. He had returned from it in an excited condition at 6 o'clock the next morning and told her that he would have to accept a challenge.
"I was troubled about it," she said, "all day long. But for M. Bertrand's assurance that the encounter was to be with M. de Beauvoir, I would have gone to the police. You see, de Beauvoir was a high-minded gentleman, and would not have condescended to profit from the poor Dujarier's lack of skill."
"Did you not," enquired counsel, "say 'I am a woman of courage, and, if the meeting is in order, I will not stop it'?"
"Yes, but that was because I understood it was to be with de Beauvoir, and he would not willingly have harmed Dujarier. When I heard it was to be with de Beauvallon I exclaimed, 'My God! Dujarier is as good as dead!'"
"I myself," she added, "could handle a pistol more accurately than the poor Dujarier; and, if he had wanted satisfaction, I should have been quite willing to have gone out with M. de Beauvallon myself."
A murmur of applause met this assurance. Lola's attitude appealed to the spectators. She was clearly a woman of spirit.
During the proceedings that followed some sharp things were said about M. Granier de Cassagnac, the accused's brother-in-law. Some of them were so bitter that at last he protested.
"Monsieur le President," he exclaimed hotly. "I cannot bear these abominable attacks on myself any longer."
"If you can't bear them, you can always leave the court," was the response.
"This gentleman's indignation does not disturb me in the least," said the public prosecutor. "I have already had experience of it, and I consider it to be artificial."
After all the witnesses had been examined and cross-examined, and bullied and threatened in the approved fashion, Maitre Duval addressed the jury on behalf of the dead man's relatives. In the course of this he delivered a powerful speech, full of passion and invective, drawing a parallel between this affaire d'honneur and the historic one between Alceste and Oronte in Moliere's drama. According to him, Dujarier was a shining exemplar, while de Beauvallon was an unmitigated scoundrel, with a "past" of the worst description imaginable. Having once, years earlier, pledged a watch that did not belong to him, he had "no right to challenge anybody, much less a distinguished man of letters, such as the noble Dujarier." The various causes of the quarrel were discussed next. Counsel thought very little of them.
De Beauvallon had complained that Dujarier had "cut" him. "Is it an offence," enquired M. Duval, "for one man to avoid another? Upon my word, M. de Beauvallon will have to kill a number of people if he wants to kill all those who decline the honour of his companionship." As for the gambling quarrel, this was not serious. What, however, was serious was that, on the morning of the encounter, de Beauvallon had gone to a shooting gallery and had some private practice with the very pistols that were afterwards used. This gave him an unfair advantage. "If," was the advocate's final effort to win a verdict, "M. de Beauvallon is acquitted, the result will be not only a victory for an improperly conducted duel, but the very custom of the duel itself will be dishonoured by such a decision."
Leon Duval having sat down, the President turned to the defendant's counsel.
"The word is with you, M. Berryer," he said.
Maitre Berryer, a master of forensic oratory, began his address by contending that duelling was not prohibited by the law of France. In support he quoted Guizot's dictum: "Where the barbarian murders, the Frenchman seeks honourable combat; legislation on the subject is profitless; and this must be the case, since the duel is the complement of modern civilization."
The judges were unprepared to accept this view off-hand; and, after consulting with the assessors, the President insisted that, whatever M. Berryer might say, duelling was illegal in France. Although he did not tell him so, it was also quite as illegal in England, where Lord Cardigan had, a little earlier, only just wriggled out of a conviction for taking part in one by a combination of false swearing and the subservience of his brother peers.
Not in the least upset, M. Berryer advanced another point. As might have been expected of so accomplished an advocate, he had little difficulty in demolishing the elaborate, but specious and unsupported, hypothesis built up by the other side. Hard facts did more with the stolid and unimaginative Rouen jury than did picturesque embroideries.
"Is the accusation true?" demanded the President.
"On my honour and on my conscience, before God and before man," announced the foreman, "the declaration of the jury is that it is not true."
As a result of this finding, de Beauvallon was acquitted of the charge of murder. But he did not escape without penalty, for he was ordered to pay 20,000 francs "compensation" to the mother and Dujarier's relatives.
"He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow." Convinced that there had been a miscarriage of justice and a vast amount of false swearing, the dead man's friends set to work to collect other evidence. By a stroke of luck, they got into touch with a gardener, who said that he had seen de Beauvallon, in company with d'Ecquevillez, having some surreptitious pistol practice on the morning of the duel. Thereupon, the pair of them were rearrested and tried for perjury. Being convicted, d'Ecquevillez was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment and de Beauvallon to eight years. But neither couple stopped in durance very long. The revolution of 1848 opened the doors of the Conciergerie and they made good their escape, the one of them to Spain, and the other to his Creole relatives in Guadeloupe.
"HOOKING A PRINCE"
Immediately after the Rouen trial, Lola left France, returning once more to Germany. Perhaps the Irish strain in her blood made her a little superstitious. At any rate, just before starting, she consulted a clairvoyante. She felt that she had her money's worth, for the Sibyl declared that she would "exercise much influence on a monarch and the destiny of a kingdom." A long shot, and, as it happened, quite a sound one.
Her intention being, as she had candidly informed Dumas, to "hook a prince," she studied the Almanach de Gotha, and familiarised herself with the positions and revenues of the various "notables" accorded niches therein.
Germany was obviously the best field to exploit, for that country just then was full of princes. As a matter of fact there were no less than thirty-six of them waiting to be "hooked." The first place to which she went on this errand was Baden, where, according to Ferdinand Bac, she "bewitched the future Emperor William I. The Prince, however, being warned of her syren spell, presently smiled and passed on."
Better luck befell the wanderer at her next attempt to establish intimate contact with a member of the hoch geboren, Henry LXXII. His principality, Reuss-Lobenstein-Ebersdorf (afterwards amalgamated with Thuringia), had the longest name, but the smallest area, of any in the kingdom, for it was only about the size of a pocket-handkerchief. But to Lola this was of no great consequence. What, however, was of consequence was that he was a millionaire (in thalers) and possessed an inflammable heart.
A great stickler for etiquette, he once published the following notice in his Court Gazette:
"For twenty years it has been my express injunction that every official shall always be alluded to by his correct title. This injunction, however, has not always been obeyed. In future, therefore, I shall impose a fine of one thaler on any member of my staff who neglects to refer to another by his proper title or description."
But that the Prince could unbend on occasion is revealed by another notification to his subjects:
"His Most Serene Highness and All-Highest Self has graciously condescended to approve the conduct of those six members of the Reuss militia who recently assisted to put out a fire. With his own All-Highest hand he is (on production of a satisfactory birth certificate) even prepared to shake that of the oldest among them."
Risking a prosecution for lese-majeste, a local laureate described the incident in stirring verse. An extract from this effort, translated by Professor J. G. Legge, in his Rhyme and Revolution in Germany, is as follows:
HONOUR TO WHOM HONOUR IS DUE
Quite recently in Reuss Militia at a fire (I'm sure it will rejoice you) Great credit did acquire.
When this, through a memorial, Their gracious Prince by Right Had learned; those territorials He to him did invite.
And when the good men shyly Stood up before him, each His Gracious Highness highly Praised in a Gracious speech.
A solemn affidavit (With parents' names and date) Each then produced and gave it —His birth certificate.
His Highness then demanded The eldest of the band, And clasped that horny-handed With his All-Highest hand.
Now, this great deed recorded, Who would not dwell for choice Where heroes are rewarded As in the land of Reuss?
Where Lola was concerned, she very soon put a match to the inflammable, if arrogant, heart of Prince Henry, and, as a result, was "commanded" to accompany him to his miniature court at Ebersdorf. She did not, however, stop there very long, for, by her imperious attitude and contempt of etiquette, she disturbed the petty officials and bourgeois citizens surrounding it to such a degree that they made formal complaints to his High-and-Mightiness. At first he would not hear a word on the subject. Such was his favourite's position that criticism of her actions was perilously near lese-majeste and incurred reprisals. As soon, however, as the amorous princeling discovered that his bank balance was being depleted considerably beyond the amount for which he had budgeted, he suffered a sudden spasm of virtue and issued marching-orders to the "Fair Impure," as his shocked and strait-laced Ebersdorfians dubbed the intruder among them. There was also some suggestion, advanced by a gardener, that she had a habit of taking a short cut across the princely flower-beds when she was in a hurry. This was the last straw.
"Leave my kingdom at once," exclaimed the furious Henry. "You are nothing but a feminine devil!"
Not in the least discomfited by this change of opinion, Lola riposted by presenting a lengthy and detailed account for "services rendered"; and, when it had been met (and not before), shook the dust of Reuss-Lobenstein-Ebersdorf from her pretty feet.
"You can keep your Thuringia," was her parting-shot. "I wouldn't have it as a gift."
The next places at which she halted were Homburg and Carlsbad, two resorts then beginning to become popular and attracting a wealthy crowd seeking a promised "cure" for their various ills. But, finding the barons apt to be close-fisted, and the smart young lieutenants without one pfennig in their pockets to rub against another, Lola was soon continuing her travels.
In September, 1846, she found herself in Wurtemburg, where, much to her annoyance, she discovered that a certain Amalia Stubenrauch, a prepossessing damsel, who would now be called a gold-digger, had conquered the spare affections of King William, on whom Lola herself had designs. But that large-hearted monarch had, as it happened, few affections to spare for anybody just then, for, when she encountered him at Stuttgart, he was on the point of being married to Princess Olga of Russia. A correspondent of the Athenaeum, who was there to chronicle the wedding festivities for his paper, registered disapproval at her presence in the district. "From the capital of Wurtemburg," he announced sourly, "Lola Montez departed in the schnellpost for Munich, unimpeded by any luggage." Somebody else, however (perhaps a more careful observer), is emphatic that she "went off with three carts full of trunks." As she always had a considerable wardrobe, this is quite possible.
When, at the suggestion of Baron Maltitz (a Homburg acquaintance who had suggested that she should "try her luck in Munich"), Lola set off for Bavaria, that country was ruled by Ludwig I. A god-child of Marie-Antoinette, and the son of Prince Max Joseph of Zweibrucken and Princess Augusta of Hesse-Darmstadt, he was born at Salzburg in 1786 and had succeeded his father in 1825. As a young man, he had served with the Bavarian troops under Napoleon, and detesting the experience, had conceived a hatred of everything military. This hatred was so strongly developed that he would not permit his sons to wear uniform. Under his regime the military estimates were cut down to the bone. The army, he said, was a "waste of money," and he grudged every pfennig it cost the annual budget. He did his best to abolish conscription, but had to abandon the effort. For all, too, that he was a god-son of Marie-Antoinette, he had no love for France.
Ludwig's sister, Louisa, exchanging her religion for a consort's crown, was the wife of the Czar Alexander I; and he himself was married to the Princess Theresa of Saxe-Hildburghausen, a lady described as "plain, but exemplary." Still, so far as personal appearance goes, Ludwig himself was no Adonis. Nestitz, indeed, has pictured him as "having a toothless jaw and an expressionless countenance." But his consort did her duty; and, at approved intervals, presented him with a quiverful of four sons and three daughters. Of his sons, one of them, Otto, was, as a lad of sixteen, selected by the Congress of London to be King of Greece, much to the fury of the Czar Nicholas, who held that this was a cunning, if diplomatic, attempt to set up a Byzantine empire among the Hellenes. "Were I," he said in a despatch on the subject, "to give my countenance to such a step, I should nullify myself in the eyes of my Church." Nesselrode, however, was of another opinion. "It is unbecoming," he was daring enough to inform his master, "for the Emperor of Russia to question a step upon which the Greeks themselves are not in entire accord." A remarkable utterance. Politicians had gone to Siberia for less. Palmerston, too, had his way, and Otto, escorted by a warship, left his fatherland. On arriving in Athens, the joy-bells rang out and the columns of the Parthenon were flood-lit. But the choice was not to the popular taste; and it was not long before Otto was extinguished, as well as the lights. By the irony of fate, he returned to Munich on the very day that Ludwig had erected a Doric arch to commemorate the activities of the House of Wittelsbach in securing the Liberation of Greece.
Despite this untoward happening, Ludwig remained an ardent Phil-Hellene; and, as such, conceived the idea of converting his capital into a mixture of Athens and Florence and a metropolis of all the arts. Under his fostering care, Munich was brought to bed of a succession of temples and columns, and sprouted pillars and porticoes in every direction. The slums and alleys and huddle of houses in the old enceinte were swept away, and replaced by broad boulevards, fringed with museums and churches and picture galleries. For many of the principal public buildings he went to good models. Thus, one of them, the Koenigsbau, was copied from the Pitti Palace; a second from the Loggia de' Lanzi; and a third from St. Paul's at Rome. He also built a Walhalla, at Ratisbon, in which to preserve the effigies of his more distinguished countrymen. Yet, although it ran to size, there was no niche in it for Luther.
In his patronage of the fine arts, Ludwig followed in the footsteps of the Medici. During his regime, he did much to raise the standard of taste among his subjects. Martin Wagner and von Hallerstein were commissioned by him to travel in Greece and Italy and secure choice sculpture and pictures for his galleries and museums. The best of them found a home in the Glyptothek and the Pinakothek, two enormous buildings in the Doric style, the cost of which he met from his privy purse. Another of his hobbies was to play the Maecenas; and any budding author or artist who came to him with a manuscript in his pocket or a canvas under his arm was certain of a welcome.
We all have our little weaknesses. That of Ludwig of Bavaria was that he was a poet. He was so sure of this that he not only produced yards of turgid verse, defying every law of construction and metre, but he even had some of it printed. A volume of selections from his Muse, entitled Walhalla's Genossen, was published for him by Baron Cotta, and, like the Indian shawls of Queen Victoria, did regular duty as a wedding-gift. One effort was dedicated "To Myself as King," and another "To my Sister, the Empress of Austria"; and a number of choice extracts were translated and appeared in an English guide-book.
Ignoring the divinity that should have hedged their author, Heine was very caustic about this royal assault upon Parnassus. Ludwig riposted by banishing him from the capital. Still, if he disapproved of this one, he added to his library the output of other bards, not necessarily German. But, while Browning was there, Tennyson had no place on his shelves. One, however, was found for Martin Tupper.
Ludwig cultivated friendly relations with England, and did all he could (within limits) to promote an entente. Thus, on the occasion of a chance visit to Munich by Lord Combermere, he "sent the distinguished traveller a message to the effect that a horse and saddlery, with aide-de-camp complete, were at his service." His companion, however, a member of the Foreign Office Staff, who had forgotten to pack his uniform—or in John Bull fashion had declined to do so—did not fare so well, since his name was struck off the list of "eligibles" to attend the palace functions. Thereupon, says Lord Combermere, he "wrote an angry letter to the chamberlain, commenting on the absurdity of the restriction."
But Ludwig's opinion of diplomatists was also somewhat unflattering, for, of a certain embassy visited by him on his travels, he wrote:
"A Theatre once—and now an Ambassador's dwelling. Still, thou are what thou wast—the abode of deception."
A strange mixture of Henry IV and Haroun-al-Raschid, Ludwig of Bavaria was a man of contradictions. At one moment he was lavishly generous; at another, incredibly mean. He could be an autocrat to his finger tips, and insist on the observance of the most minute points of etiquette; and he could also be as democratic as anybody who ever waved a red flag. Thus, he would often walk through the streets as a private citizen, and without an escort. Yet, when he did so, he insisted on being recognised and having compliments paid him. The traffic had to be held up and hats doffed at his approach.
Nowadays, he would probably have been clapped into a museum as a curiosity.
Such, then, was the monarch whose path was to be crossed, with historic and unexpected consequences to each of them, by Lola Montez.
On arriving in Munich, Lola called on the manager of the Hof Theatre. As this individual already knew of her Paris fiasco, instead of an engagement from him, she met with a rebuff. Quite undisturbed, however, by such an experience, she hurried off to the palace, and commanded the astonished door-keeper to take her straight to the King.
The flunkey referred her to Count Rechberg, the aide-de-camp on duty. With him Lola had more success. Boldness conquered where bashfulness would have failed. After a single swift glance, Count Rechberg decided that the applicant was eligible for admission to the "Presence," and reported the fact to his master.
But Ludwig already knew something of the candidate for terpsichorean honours. As it happened, that very morning he had received from Herr Frays, the director of the Hof Theatre, a letter, telling him that, on the advice of his premiere-danseuse, Fraeulein Frenzal, he had refused to give her an engagement. Count Rechberg's florid description of her charms, however, decided His Majesty to use his own judgment. But he did not give in easily.
"Is it suggested," he demanded acidly, "that I should receive all these would-be ballerinas and put them through their paces? They come here by the dozen. Why am I troubled with such nonsense?"
"Sire," returned Rechberg, greatly daring, but with Lola's magnetism still upon him, "you will not regret it. I assure you this one is an exception. She is delightful. That is the only word for it. Never have I seen anybody to equal her. Such grace, such charm, such ——"
"Pooh!" interrupted Ludwig, cutting short the threatened rhapsodies, "your swan is probably a goose. Most of them are. Still, now that she's here, let her come in. If she isn't any good, I'll soon send her about her business."
Brave words, but they availed him nothing. Ludwig shot one glance at the woman who stood before him, and capitulated utterly.
A sudden thrill passed through him. His sixty years fell away in a flash. A river of blood surged through his sexagenarian arteries. His boast recoiled upon himself. Rechberg had not deceived him.
"What has happened to me?" he muttered feebly. "I am bewitched." Then, as the newcomer stood smiling at him in all her warm loveliness, he found his tongue.
"Mademoiselle, you say you can dance. Well, let me see what you can do. Count Rechberg, you may leave us."
"Do I dance here, in this room, Your Majesty?"
Lola wanted nothing better. The opportunity for which she had been planning and scheming ever since she left Paris had come at last. Well, she would make the most of it. Not in the least perturbed that there was no accompaniment, and no audience but His Majesty, she executed a pas seul there and then. It was a "royal performance," and eminently successful. Her feet tripped lightly across the polished floor, and danced their way straight into Ludwig's heart.
"You shall dance before the public," he announced. "I will myself give orders to the director of the Hof Theatre."
Luise von Kobell, when a schoolgirl, encountered her by chance just after her arrival, and thus records the impression she received:
As I was walking in the Briennerstrasse, not far from the Bayersdorf Palace, I saw a veiled lady, wearing a black gown and carrying a fan, coming towards me. Something flashed across my vision, and I suddenly stood still, completely dazzled by the eyes into which I stared, and which shone from a pale countenance that lit up with a laughing expression at my bewilderment. Then she swept past me; and I, forgetting what my governess had said about looking round, stared after her until she disappeared.... "That," said my father, when I reached home and recounted my adventure, "must have been Lola Montez, the Spanish dancer."
The next evening little Fraeulein von Kobell saw her again at the Hof Theatre, where her first appearance before the Munich public was made on October 10, 1846.
Lola Montez assumed the centre of the stage. She was not dressed in the customary tights and short skirts of a ballerina, but in a Spanish costume of silk and lace, in which shone at intervals a diamond. It seemed as if fire darted from her wonderful blue eyes, and she bowed like one of the Graces at the King in the royal box. She danced after the manner of her country, bending on her hips and alternating one posture with another, each rivalling the former one in beauty.
While she was dancing she held the attention of all; everybody's eyes followed her sinuous movements, now indicative of glowing passion, now of frolicsomeness. Not until she ceased her rhythmic swayings was the spell interrupted. The audience went mad with rapture, and the entire dance had to be repeated over and over again.
Ludwig, ensconced in the royal box, could not take his eyes off her. During an entr'acte he scribbled a verse:
Happy movements, clear and near, Are in thy living grace. Supple and tender, as a deer Art thou, of Andalusian race!
"Wunderschoen!" declared an admiring aide-de-camp to whom he showed it.
"Kolossal!" echoed a second, not to be outdone in recognising laureateship.
As, however, the cheers were mingled with a few hisses ("due to the report that the newcomer was an English Freemason, and wanted to destroy the Catholic religion"), the next evening the management took the precaution of filling the pit with a leather-lunged and horny-handed claque. This time the bill consisted of a comedy, Der Weiberseind von Benedix, followed by a cachucha and a fandango with Herr Opsermann for a dancing-partner.
Lola's success was assured; and Herr Frays, who had started by refusing to let her appear, was now full of grovelling apologies. He offered her a contract. But Lola, having other ideas as to how her time should be employed in Munich, would not accept it.
"Thank you for nothing," she said. "When I asked you for an engagement, you told me I was not good enough to dance in your theatre. Well, I have now proved to both Fraeulein Frenzal and yourself that I am. That is all I care about, and I shall not dance again, either for you or for anybody else."
If she had known enough German, she would probably have added: "Put that in your pipe and smoke it!"
Munich in those days must have proved attractive to people with small incomes. Thus, Edward Wilberforce, who spent some years there, says that meat was fivepence a pound, beer twopence-halfpenny a quart, and servants' wages eight shillings a month. But there were drawbacks.
"The city," says an English guide-book of this period, "has the reputation of being a very dissolute capital." Yet it swarmed with churches. The police, too, exercised a strict watch upon the hotel registers; and, as a result of their activities, a "French visitor was separated from his feminine companion on grounds of public morality."
"None of your Parisian looseness for us!" said the City Fathers.
But Lola appears to have avoided any such rigid censorship. At any rate, a certain Auguste Papon (a mixture of pimp and souteneur), whom she had met in Paris, happened to be in Munich at the same time as herself. The intimacy was revived; and, as he did not possess the entree to the Court, for some weeks they lived together at the Hotel Maulich. In the spring of 1847 a young Guardsman found himself in the town, on his way back to England from Kissengen. He records that, not knowing who she was, he sat next Lola Montez at dinner one evening, and gives an instance of her quick temper. "On the floor between us," he says, "was an ice-pail, with a bottle of champagne. A sudden quarrel occurred with her neighbour, a Bavarian lieutenant; and, applying her foot to the bucket, she sent it flying the length of the room."
Lola certainly made the running. Five days after she first met him, Ludwig summoned all the officials of the Court, and astonished (and shocked) them by introducing her with the remark: "Gentlemen, I have the honour to present to you my best friend. See to it that you accord her every possible respect." He also compelled his long suffering spouse to admit her to the Order of the Chanoines of St. Therese, a distinction for which—considering her somewhat lurid "past"—this new recipient was scarcely eligible.
When he heard that instructions had been issued for paying special compliments to her, Mr. Punch registered severe disapproval.
"It is a good joke," he remarked, "to call upon others to uphold the dignity of one who is always at some freak or other to lower herself."
When she first sailed in dramatic fashion into the orbit of Bavaria's sovereign, Lola Montez was just twenty-seven. In the full noontide of her beauty and allurement, she was well equipped with what the modern jargon calls sex-appeal. Big-bosomed and with generously swelling curves, "her form," says Eduard Fuchs, "was provocation incarnate." Fuchs, who was an expert on the subject of feminine attractions, knew what he was talking about. "Shameless and impudent," adds Heinrich von Treitschke, "and as insatiable in her voluptuous desires as Sempronia, she could converse with charm among friends; manage mettlesome horses; sing in thrilling fashion; and recite amorous poems in Spanish. The King, an admirer of feminine beauty, yielded to her magic. It was as if she had given him a love philtre. For her he forgot himself; he forgot the world; and he even forgot his royal dignity."
The fact that Lola always wore a Byronic collar helped the theory, held by many, that she was a daughter of the poet. But her real reason for adopting the style was that she had a lovely neck, and this set it off to the best advantage. She studied the art of dress and gave it an immense amount of care. Where this matter was concerned, no trouble or care was too much. Her favourite material was velvet, which she considered—and quite justifiably—to exercise an erotic effect on men of a certain age. She was insistent, too, that the contours of her figure ("her quivering thighs and all the demesnes adjacent thereto") should be clearly revealed, and in a distinctly provocative fashion. This, of course, was not far removed from exhibitionism. As a result, bourgeois opinion was outraged. The wives of the petty officials shopping in the Marienplatz shuddered, and clutched their ample skirts when they saw her; anxious mothers instructed dumpy Fraeuleins "not to look like the foreign woman." There is no authoritative record that any of them did so.
LUDWIG THE LOVER
Lola Montez had done better than "hook a prince." A lot better. She had now "hooked" a sovereign. Her ripe warm beauty sent the thin blood coursing afresh through Ludwig's sluggish veins. There it wrought a miracle. He was turned sixty, but he felt sixteen.
The conversation of Robert Burns is said to have "swept a duchess off her feet." Perhaps it did. But that of Lola Montez had a similar effect on a monarch. Under the magic of her spell, this one became rejuvenated. The years were stripped from him; he was once more a boy. With his charmer beside him, he would wander through the Nymphenburg Woods and under the elms in the Englischer Garten, telling her of his dreams and fancies. His passion for Greece was forgotten. Pericles was now Romeo.
In dem Suden ist die Liebe, Da ist Licht und da ist Glut!
In the south there is love, There is light and there is heat,
Yet Lola Montez was not by any means the first who ever burst into the responsive heart of Ludwig I. She had many predecessors there. One of them was an Italian syren. But that Lola soon ousted her is clear from a poetical effort of which the royal troubadour was delivered. This begins:
Tropfen der Seligkeit und ein Meer von bitteren Leiden Die Italienerin gab—Seligkeit, Seligkeit nur Laessest Du mich entzuendend, begeistert, befaendig empfinden, In der Spanierin fand Liebe und Leben ich nur!
A free rendering of this passionate heart throb would read very much as follows:
Drops of bliss and a sea of bitter sorrow The Italian woman gave me. Bliss, only bliss, Thou gav'st my enraptured heart and soul and spirit. In the Spanish woman alone have I found Love and Life!
Ludwig had a prettier name for his inamorata than the "feminine devil" of Henry LXXII of Reuss. He called her the "Lovely Andalusian" and the "Woman of Spain." She also inspired him to fresh poetic flights. One of these ran:
Thine eyes are blue as heavenly vaults Touched by the balmy air; And like the raven's plumage is Thy dark and glistening hair!
There were several more verses.
A feature of the Residenz Palace was a collection of old masters. Wanting to add a young mistress, Ludwig allotted a place of honour among them to a portrait of Lola Montez, from the brush of Josef Stieler. The work was well done, for the artist was inspired by his subject; and he painted her wearing a costume of black velvet, with a touch of colour added by red carnations in her head-dress.
Ludwig's heart being large, Die Schoenheitengalerie (as the "Gallery of Beauties" was called) filled two separate rooms. The one qualification for securing a niche on the walls being a pretty face, the collection included the Princess Alexandra of Bavaria (daughter of the King of Greece), the Archduchess Sophie of Austria, and the Baroness de Kruedener (catalogued as the "spiritual sister" of the Czar Alexander I), a popular actress, Charlotte Hagen, a ballet-dancer, Antoinette Wallinger, and the daughters of the Court butcher and the municipal town-crier. To these were added a quartet of Englishwomen, in Lady Milbanke (the wife of the British Minister), Lady Ellenborough, Lady Jane Erskine, and Lady Teresa Spence. It was to this gallery that Ludwig was accustomed to retire for a couple of hours every evening, to "meditate" on the charms of its occupants. Being, however, possessed of generous instincts, and always ready (within limits) to share his good things, the public were admitted on Sunday afternoons.
But Ludwig could scratch, as well as purr. On one occasion he chanced to meet a lady who had figured among the occupants of the Schoenheiten. She was considerably past the first flush of youth, and Ludwig, exercising his prerogative, affected not to remember her.
"But, Sire," she protested, "I used to be in your gallery."
"That, madame," was the response, "must have been a very long time ago. You would certainly not be there now."
From her modest hotel, where, soon tiring of his society, she left Auguste Papon to stay by himself, Lola took up fresh quarters in a small villa which the King had placed at her disposal in the Theresienstrasse, a boulevard conveniently near the Hofgarten and the Palace. While comfortable enough, it was held to be merely a temporary arrangement. There was not enough room in it for Lola to expand her wings. She wanted to establish a salon and to give receptions. Accordingly, she demanded something more suitable. It meant spending money, and Ludwig had already, he reflected, spent a great deal on her whims and fancies. Still, under pressure, he came round, and, agreeing that there must be a fitting nest for his love-bird (with a perch in it for himself), he summoned his architect, Metzger, and instructed him to build one in the more fashionable Barerstrasse.
"No expense is to be spared," he said.
None was spared.
The new dwelling, which adjoined the Karolinen Platz, was really a bijou palace, modelled on the Italian style. Everything in it was of the best, for Ludwig had cash and Lola had taste. Thus, her toilet-set was of silver ware; her china and glass came from Dresden: the rooms were filled with costly nicknacks; mirrors and cabinets and vases and bronzes; richly-bound books on the shelves; and valuable tapestries and pictures on the walls. French elegance, added to Munich art, with a touch of solid English comfort in the shape of easy chairs and couches.
To check a playful habit that the Munich mob had of throwing bricks through them, when they had drunk more beer than they could carry, the windows were fitted with iron grilles. As a further precaution, a mounted officer always accompanied the Barerstrasse chatelaine when she was driving in public, and sentries stood at the door, to keep the curious at a respectful distance.
A description of the Barerstrasse nest was sent to London by a privileged journalist who had inspected it:
"The style of luxury in which Lola Montez lives here passes all bounds. Nothing to equal it has been met with in Munich. It might almost be an Aladdin's palace! The walls of her bed-chamber are hung with guipure and costly satin. The furniture is of Louis XV era, and the mantelpiece is of valuable Sevres porcelain. The garden is filled with rare flowers, and the carriages and horses in the stables are the wonder and envy of the honest burghers."
"The Queen herself could not be better housed," said Lola delightedly, when she saw all the luxuries of which she was now the mistress.
"You are my Queen," declared Ludwig fondly.
While Lola, to please her patron, grappled with the intricacies of the German tongue, Ludwig, to please his charmer, took lessons from her in Spanish. She still stuck to her Andalusian upbringing, and is said (but the report lacks confirmation) to have introduced him to a Kempis. This, however, is probably a misprint for Don Quixote. None the less, her inspiration was such that her pupil could write:
Thou dost not wound thy lover with heartless tricks; Nor dost thou play with him wantonly. Thou art not for self; thy nature is generous and kind. My beloved! Thou art munificent and unchanging.
* * * * *
"Give me happiness!" I begged with fierce longing. And happiness I received from thee, thou Woman of Spain!
Notwithstanding the suggestion implied by this assurance, Lola always insisted that her relations with the King were purely platonic. While this view is a little difficult to accept, it is significant that Ludwig's lawful spouse never objected to their "friendship." Her Majesty, however, was of a placid temperament. Perhaps, too, she thought that the fancy would not endure. If so, she was wrong, for, with the passage of time, the newcomer was obviously consolidating her position. "Lola Montez, of horse-whipping notoriety," remarked a journalist, "appears to be increasing in favour at the Court of Bavaria. The Queen calls her 'My dear,' and the ladies consider it their duty to caress the one who has all the world of Munich at her feet."
During the summer, Ludwig, divesting himself of the cares of state, retired to his castle at Bruckenau, picturesquely situated in the Fulda Forest; and Lola, attended by a squadron of Cuirassiers, accompanied him to this retreat. There, as in the Nymphenburg Park, Ludwig dreamed dreams, while Lola amused herself with the officers of the escort. Halcyon days—and nights. They inspired His Majesty with yet another "poem":
SONG OF WALHALLA
Through the holy dome, oh come, Brothers, let us roam along; Let from thousand throats the hum Rise, like rivers, swift and strong!
When the notes have died away Let us clasp each other's hand; And, to high Heaven, let us pray For our dearest Fatherland!
While she accorded it full value, Lola Montez did not depend on mere beauty for her power. She had a markedly sadistic vein in her composition; and, when annoyed, was not above laying about her right and left with a dog-whip that she always carried. An impudent lackey would be flogged into submission, or set upon by a fierce mastiff that she kept at her heels. High office, too, meant nothing to her. She boxed the ears of Baron Pechman; and, because he chanced to upset her, she encouraged her four-coated companion to tear the best trousers of Professor Lasaulx, the nephew of Goerrez, a Cabinet Minister.
Her English bulldog (with apparently a strain of Presbyterian blood in him) had an unerring scent for Jesuits. He seemed to disapprove of their principles as much as his mistress did, and would attack them at sight. This animal would also appear to have been something of a prohibitionist. At any rate, he once bit a brewer's carman, delivering goods to a bierkeller. When the victim expostulated, Lola struck him with her whip. This infuriated the crowd to such an extent that she had to take refuge in a shop. There she happened to jostle a lieutenant, who, not recognising her, ventured on a protest. The next morning he received a challenge from a fire-eating comrade, alleging that he had "insulted a lady." Because the challenge was refused, a "court of honour" had him deprived of his commission.
What a distressed commentator has dubbed the "equivocal position" of Lola Montez at Munich also stuck in the gullet of the Cabinet, and heads were shaken. Public affronts were offered her. When she visited the Odeon Theatre, the stalls adjoining the one she occupied were promptly emptied. "Respectable women drew back, exhibiting on their countenances disgust and terror." But the masculine members of the audience were less exclusive, or perhaps made of sterner material, for they displayed eagerness to fill up the vacant stalls. "A new chivalry was born," says a chronicler of town gossip, "and paladins were anxious to act as a buckler."
With the passage of time the infatuation of the Wittelsbach Lovelace became so marked that it could not be ignored in places beyond Munich. The Countess Bernstorff grew seriously perturbed. "There has long been talk," she confided to a friend, "as to whether King Ludwig would so far presume on the kindness and indulgence of the Queen of Prussia as to bring Lola Montez to Court during Her Majesty's forthcoming stay in Munich." The problem, however, was solved by the tactful action of Lola herself, who gave the palace a wide berth until the visit had come to an end.
In his Memoirs of Madam Jenny Lind-Goldschmidt shocked horror is similarly expressed by Canon Scott Holland at the possibility of the Swedish Nightingale, who was arranging to give a concert there, encountering Lola in her audience:
The time fixed for this visit to Munich was, in one respect, most unpropitious; and, for a young artist, unsupported by powerful moral protection, the visit itself might well have proved extremely unpleasant. It was impossible to sing at Court, for the reigning spirit in the household of King Ludwig I was the notorious Lola Montez, who was then at the climax of her ill-gotten power. To have been brought into contact with such a person would have been intolerable. An invitation to Court would have rendered such contact inevitable.
But if Jenny Lind adopted a lofty attitude and refused to fulfil an engagement in the Bavarian capital, lest she should have chanced to rub shoulders with Ludwig's mistress, other visitors did not share these qualms. They arrived in battalions, and evinced no disinclination to make her acquaintance. "To the shame of the aristocracy and the arts," says a rigid commentator, "every day there were to be found at the feet of this Cyprian intruder a throng of princes and philosophers, authors and painters, and sculptors and musicians."