Lord Houghton's tale of General Radowitz.

Hare's Journals, Oct 24

Lord Houghton arrived. He is rather crusty, but most amusing. His conversation is always interesting, even when no one else can speak...

Lord Houghton talked of the Bonapartes, and of the graves of Josephine and Hortense at Rueil, and of Madame Mère. 'I had a very narrow miss of seeing Madame Mère, and I am very sorry I did not do it, for it would only have cost a scudo. She was a very long time dying, it was a kind of lying in state, and for a scudo the porter used to let people in behind a screen which there was at the foot of the bed, and they looked at her through the joinings. I was only a boy then, and I thought there was plenty of time, and put it off; but one day she died.'

Lord Houghton also said: 'One of the prettiest ghost stories I ever heard is that of General Radowitz. He was made Governor of Frankfort, and not being able to go himself, and having servants who had lived with him a long time and knew all his tastes, he sent them on before him to secure a suitable house and get everything ready. They chose an excellent house, with a large garden full of lilacs and laburnums, overlooking the glacis. When General and Madame Radowitz arrived some time after, they found everything as they wished, and began to question their old servants as to how they had got on, and especially as to the neighbours. The servants said that the next villa was inhabited by a person who was quite remarkable - a lady who was always known in Frankfort as the "weisse Frau," - a very sweet, gentle person, who was full of charity and kindness, and greatly beloved. She had however, quite lost her memory as to the past since the death, very long ago, of her lover in battle: she had even forgotten his name, and answered to all questions about him or her own past, "Ich weiss nicht! Ich weiss nicht!" but always with a sweet sad smile. And she had lived in the place so long, that, every one belonging to her having passed away, no one really knew her history. Yet, while her mind was gone as to the past, as to the practical present she was quite herself, went to market and transacted her own affairs.

'Gradually the confidential maid of Madame Radowitz made friends with the servants of the weisse Frau - for the gardens of the two houses joined - and from servants' gossip the Radowitz family learnt a good deal about her, and from all around they heard of her as greatly respected, but always the same, sad and sweet, always dressed in white, never remembering anything.

'One day the weisse Frau, who had taken a great fancy to the maid of Madame Radowitz, invited her to come at twelve o'clock the next day: she said she expected some one; indeed, she pressed the maid to come without fail. The maid told her mistress, who said certainly she had better go; she should on no account wish so excellent a person as the "weisse Frau" to be disappointed.

'When the maid went, she found the little salon of the weisse Frau in gala decoration, the table laid and bright with flowers, and places set for three. The Frau was not in her usual white dress, but in a curious old costume of rich brocade, which was said to have been intended for her wedding-dress. She still said she expected some one, but when asked who it was, looked distressed and bewildered, and only said, "Ich weiss nicht!"

'As it drew near twelve o'clock she became greatly agitated - she said he was coming. At length she threw the windows wide open, and gazing out into the street, looked back and said, "Er kommt! Er kommt!" She had a radiant expression no one remembered to have seen before; her eyes sparkled, every feature became animated - and as the clock struck twelve, she went out upon the landing, appeared to enfold some one invisible in her arms, and then walking very slowly back into the room, exclaimed "Hoffman," and sank down dead!

'In the supreme moment of life she had remembered the long-forgotten name.'