hand was shaken loose. He called on the venerable family notary; the old man was upset by the roadside—as I shall be also if I do not release this runaway metaphor.
The comtesse's mother persuaded the daughter to leave Paris for Basle, hoping that a change of scene would bring a change of mind; Liszt followed. It seems to me, however, more probable that the mother, learning that her daughter was determined to leave Paris with Liszt, went with her in the desperate effort to save appearances. But, however that may be, we find the comtesse and the mother at one hotel, and Liszt at another. A few days later, Liszt returned to his hotel to find his room choked with the comtesse' trunks, and to learn that the mother had gone back to Paris in despair. The comtesse had, as they say, "brought her knitting" and come to stay.
Paris is not easily excited over an intrigue conducted according to the established codes by which the intriguers bury their heads in the sand, as a form of pretence that nobody knows that they are billing and cooing beneath the sand, though of course everybody knows it, and they know that everybody knows it, except possibly the one other person most interested. But Paris was dumbfounded that a very prominent and beautiful comtesse should leave her husband and her children in broad daylight, and go visiting the most famous pianist in the world. The pianist was to blame, of course, in the public eye, and the whole affair was branded as a flagrant case of abduction. But, as we know now, it was the pianist who was the victim of this Sabine procedure.
Liszt's actions in this affair seemed, as usual, to be an outrage upon the ordinary laws of decency, but when the truth was learned, we find, as the world found—as usual, too late to change its opinion of him—that he did everything in his power to undo the evil into which his passion had hurried him, and to set himself right with the usual standards of society. And, as usual, he failed absolutely, because of the curious and insane stubbornness of the woman.
Some years later, even the Comte d'Agoult, as well as the comtesse' brother, the Comte Flavigny, confessed that Liszt had acted as a man of honour. The comte had obtained a legal separation from his wife, retaining their daughter. Liszt now proposed marriage. Both being Catholics, it was necessary to experience a change of heart and become Protestants. He exclaimed one day: "Si nous étions Protestants" but the comtesse crushed this hope with a sharp "La Comtesse d'Agoult ne sera jamais Madame Liszt."
Liszt bowed to the inevitable, and kept together his many patches of honour as well as he was permitted. The comtesse had a personal income of four thousand dollars a year, which was as nothing. According to Liszt's secretary, during the time of her stay with Liszt, she spent sixty thousand dollars, the most of which Liszt earned himself by his concerts. The pianist and the comtesse soon left Basle for Geneva, where they remained till 1836, with the exception of one journey to Paris, which Liszt made for a concert. But he returned rather to literature than to music, as on another occasion did Wagner.
For five years Liszt and the comtesse travelled about Switzerland and Italy, he occasionally being convinced that he was seriously in love with the woman who had been so imperious and unreasonable. A few conservatives outlawed him, but there were people enough who forgave him, or approved him, to give him an abundance of society of the highest and most aristocratic sort.
In 1836 his old flame, George Sand, visited Liszt and the comtesse. They toured Switzerland on mules. George Sand has described the wanderings in her "Lettres d'un Voyageur," where Franz represents Liszt, Arabella, the comtesse, and where one may read a poetic description of the comtesse' beauty even after being drenched with rain. Beauty that is water-proof is beauty indeed!
It is in this book of hers that Sand prints such illuminating epigrams as these:
"There are great errors which are nearer the truth than little truths."
"The most beautiful creations of genius are those which succeed to the epoch of the passions. The experience of life ought to precede art; art requires repose, and does not suit with the storms of the heart. The finest mountains of our globe are extinguished volcanoes."
"If you wish to arrive at truth, be reconciled to what is contrary; the white light only results from the union of the coloured rays of the spectrum."
"The oyster boasts and says: 'I have never gone astray,' Alas, poor oyster! thou hast never walked."
When Liszt had made his concert trip to Paris, the comtesse had awaited him at Sand's home. Then, after his famous duel with Thalberg—the weapons being pianos—he joined the group at Nohant, where Chopin and Sand, and Liszt and D'Agoult, and such guests as they gathered there, led a life of elaborate entertainment which made Nohant as famous as another Trianon. Meanwhile, there was going on a duel, the weapons of which were not pianos, but those invisible stilettos with which two women conduct a deadly feud, and politely tear each other's eyes out. George Sand was famous then beyond her present-day esteem, and she was a woman of vigour almost masculine and of a straightforwardness which was almost an affectation. She loved to go about in boots and blouse, and to ride bareback; she smoked cigars, and wrote at night. The Comtesse d'Agoult was eminently feminine. She would rather have spent one thousand francs on a gown than on anything else under heaven, except another gown. She had in her certain literary capabilities, not very marvellous, to be sure, but strong enough to provoke jealousy of the overpraised Sand, who had also, incidentally, been on very intimate terms with the present lover of the comtesse.
Unhappy is the lover who tries to play peacemaker between two of his mistresses. This is enough to bring lava from any "extinguished volcano." Liszt, after almost vain efforts to avoid downright hair-pulling, decided to take the comtesse away from Nohant. He seems to have sided with her against Sand, and said afterward: "I did not care to expose myself to her insolence" (sottise). Chopin, however, took sides with Sand, and it is said that his heart chilled toward Liszt, who spoke bitterly of this estrangement, but on Chopin's death wrote a biographical sketch full of affection, and of an admiration better balanced than the over-flowery style which marks all of Liszt's writings.
When the comtesse left Nohant, which Liszt never saw again, they went to Lyons, where he gave a concert for the benefit of the poor and working people. For what purposes of benevolence indeed did Liszt not give concerts! So great and so discriminating and so self-sacrificing was his charity, that it would almost plead atonement for a million such unconventionalities as his. He was not content to devote the proceeds of a single concert to some object of charity, but even gave money, and whole tours. Besides this concert at Lyons, and various others, one might mention the concert given for the flood sufferers at Pesth, and for the poor of his native town, and the concert tour by which he made Beethoven's monument possible at Bonn. Add to this the other sums he scattered to poor artists like Wagner from his meagre purse, and you will see one reason why women, who are more susceptible and perceptive of such qualities of character, were almost as helpless to resist Liszt's personality as he theirs. Even when he was "la petit Litz," he was found holding a street-cleaner's broom while he went to change a gold piece. And in his later years, his servant always filled two of his pockets with coin, one with copper, and one with silver; and the man used to say that when his master came home at night, the copper mine was usually untouched, but the silver deposit exhausted.
It was in Lyons that the comtesse began her literary career, by a French translation of Schubert's "Erl-König." She later obtained a considerable