Ludwig faced the chamber of peers, where the demand of the populace was placed before him.
“I would rather lose my crown!” he replied.
The lords of Bavaria regarded him with grim silence; and in their eyes he read the determination of his people. On the following day a royal decree revoked Lola’s rights as a subject of Bavaria, and still another decree ordered her to be expelled. The mob yelled with joy and burned her house. Poor Ludwig watched the tumult by the light of the leaping flames.
He was still in love with her and tried to keep her in the kingdom; but the result was that Ludwig himself was forced to abdicate. He had given his throne for the light love of this beautiful but half-crazy woman. She would have no more to do with him; and as for him, he had to give place to his son Maximilian. Ludwig had lost a kingdom merely because this strange, outrageous creature had piqued him and made him think that she was unique among women.
The rest of her career was adventurous. In England she contracted a bigamous marriage with a youthful officer, and within two weeks they fled to Spain for safety from the law. Her husband was drowned, and she made still another marriage. She visited Australia, and at Melbourne she had a fight with a strapping woman, who clawed her face until Lola fell fainting to the ground. It is a squalid record of horse-whippings, face-scratchings—in short, a rowdy life.
Her end was like that of Becky Sharp. In America she delivered lectures which were written for her by a clergyman and which dealt with the art of beauty. She had a temporary success; but soon she became quite poor, and took to piety, professing to be a sort of piteous, penitent Magdalen. In this role she made effective use of her beautiful dark hair, her pallor, and her wonderful eyes. But the violence of her disposition had wrecked her physically; and she died of paralysis in Astoria, on Long Island, in 1861. Upon her grave in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, there is a tablet to her memory, bearing the inscription: “Mrs. Eliza Gilbert, born 1818, died 1861.”
What can one say of a woman such as this? She had no morals, and her manners were outrageous. The love she felt was the love of a she-wolf. Fourteen biographies of her have been written, besides her own autobiography, which was called The Story of a Penitent, and which tells less about her than any of the other books. Her beauty was undeniable. Her courage was the blended courage of the Celt, the Spaniard, and the Moor. Yet all that one can say of her was said by the elder Dumas when he declared that she was born to be the evil genius of every one who cared for her. Her greatest fame comes from the fact that in less than three years she overturned a kingdom and lost a king his throne.
The present French Republic has endured for over forty years. Within that time it has produced just one man of extraordinary power and parts. This was Leon Gambetta. Other men as remarkable as he were conspicuous in French political life during the first few years of the republic; but they belonged to an earlier generation, while Gambetta leaped into prominence only when the empire fell, crashing down in ruin and disaster.