They took their stations high up among the hills. A few spectators saw their figures outlined against the sky. The command to fire rang out, and from both pistols gushed the flame and smoke.
A moment later, Lassalle was seen to sway and fall. A chance shot, glancing from a wall, had struck him to the ground. He suffered terribly, and nothing but opium in great doses could relieve his pain. His wound was mortal, and three days later he died.
Long after, Helene admitted that she still loved Lassalle, and believed that he would win the duel; but after the tragedy, the tenderness and patience of Racowitza won her heart. She married him, but within a year he died of consumption. Helene, being disowned by her relations, prepared herself for the stage. She married a third husband named Shevitch, who was then living in the United States, but who has since made his home in Russia.
Let us say nothing of Lassalle’s political career. Except for his work as one of the early leaders of the liberal movement in Germany, it has perished, and his name has been almost forgotten. As a lover, his story stands out forever as a warning to the timid and the recreant. Let men do what they will; but there is just one thing which no man is permitted to do with safety in the sight of woman—and that is to play the craven.
Outside of the English-speaking peoples the nineteenth century witnessed the rise and triumphant progress of three great tragic actresses. The first two of these—Rachel Felix and Sarah Bernhardt—were of Jewish extraction; the third, Eleanor Duse, is Italian. All of them made their way from pauperism to fame; but perhaps the rise of Rachel was the most striking.
In the winter of 1821 a wretched peddler named Abraham—or Jacob— Felix sought shelter at a dilapidated inn at Mumpf, a village in Switzerland, not far from Basel. It was at the close of a stormy day, and his small family had been toiling through the snow and sleet. The inn was the lowest sort of hovel, and yet its proprietor felt that it was too good for these vagabonds. He consented to receive them only when he learned that the peddler’s wife was to be delivered of a child. That very night she became the mother of a girl, who was at first called Elise. So unimportant was the advent of this little waif into the world that the burgomaster of Mumpf thought it necessary to make an entry only of the fact that a peddler’s wife had given birth to a female child. There was no mention of family or religion, nor was the record anything more than a memorandum.
Under such circumstances was born a child who was destined to excite the wonder of European courts—to startle and thrill and utterly amaze great audiences by her dramatic genius. But for ten years the family—which grew until it consisted of one son and five daughters—kept on its wanderings through Switzerland and Germany. Finally, they settled down in Lyons, where the mother opened a little shop for the sale of second-hand clothing. The husband gave lessons in German whenever he could find a pupil. The eldest daughter went about the cafes in the evening, singing the songs that were then popular, while her small sister, Rachel, collected coppers from those who had coppers to spare.