The truth is quite the contrary. Gambetta, in arranging his effects in his new home, took it upon himself to clean a pair of dueling-pistols; for every French politician of importance must fight duels, and Gambetta had already done so. Unfortunately, one cartridge remained unnoticed in the pistol which Gambetta cleaned. As he held the pistol-barrel against the soft part of his hand the cartridge exploded, and the ball passed through the base of the thumb with a rending, spluttering noise.
The wound was not in itself serious, but now the prophecy of Bismarck was fulfilled. Gambetta had exhausted his vitality; a fever set in, and before long he died of internal ulceration.
This was the end of a great career and of a great romance of love. Leonie Leon was half distraught at the death of the lover who was so soon to be her husband. She wandered for hours in the forest until she reached a convent, where she was received. Afterward she came to Paris and hid herself away in a garret of the slums. All the light of her life had gone out. She wished that she had died with him whose glory had been her life. Friends of Gambetta, however, discovered her and cared for her until her death, long afterward, in 1906.
She lived upon the memories of the past, of the swift love that had come at first sight, but which had lasted unbrokenly; which had given her the pride of conquest, and which had brought her lover both happiness and inspiration and a refining touch which had smoothed away his roughness and made him fit to stand in palaces with dignity and distinction.
As for him, he left a few lines which have been carefully preserved, and which sum up his thought of her. They read:
To the light of my soul; to the star, of my life—Leonie Leon. For ever! For ever!
Often there has arisen some man who, either by his natural gifts or by his impudence or by the combination of both, has made himself a recognized leader in the English fashionable world. One of the first of these men was Richard Nash, usually known as “Beau Nash,” who flourished in the eighteenth century. Nash was a man of doubtful origin; nor was he attractive in his looks, for he was a huge, clumsy creature with features that were both irregular and harsh. Nevertheless, for nearly fifty years Beau Nash was an arbiter of fashion. Goldsmith, who wrote his life, declared that his supremacy was due to his pleasing manners, “his assiduity, flattery, fine clothes, and as much wit as the ladies had whom he addressed.” He converted the town of Bath from a rude little hamlet into an English Newport, of which he was the social autocrat. He actually drew up a set of written rules which some of the best-born and best-bred people follow slavishly.