Arianna Stassinopoulos
March 23, 1981 12:00 PM

Onassis, a master of the art of pleasing women, was no less a master of the art of crushing them. There was something in Maria’s way of treating him like a sultan that brought out the despot in him. Underneath the easy sophistication of the cafe society habitué (and not that far below the surface), Onassis had retained all the primitive male impulses of the old-fashioned Greek. Ingse Dedichen, the daughter of a shipowner whom he nearly married during the Second World War, remembers the first time he beat her up, leaving her “like a boxer who has just lost a fight.” “Every Greek,” he told her afterward, “and there are no exceptions, beats his wife. It’s good for them. It keeps them in line.” There is no evidence that he ever beat Maria, but all the suppressed violence in him came out in the way he treated her, especially in front of his children. He would walk ahead with them, leaving her behind, and he belittled her constantly: “What are you? Nothing. You just have a whistle in your throat that no longer works.”

Whenever Maria exploded, and it was happening more and more by the summer of 1965, Onassis watched as though watching the temper tantrums of a child, but he was by no means unaffected. He may have been torturing her, but he did not want to lose her. The extent to which she did not want to lose him was soon tragically clear.

Even before she met Onassis, Maria had one overwhelming desire: to have a child. In 1966, at the age of 42, she found herself pregnant. It seemed a miracle. All her instincts, everything in her that longed for life, wanted a child. Onassis did not. He warned her that if she went ahead and kept the child it would be the end of their relationship. She was pitched into a torrent of doubt, fear, confusion. Her abortion, at the moment when she longed for a new source of energy and meaning, was her life’s greatest might-have-been. It was to be a boy, and had she dared give birth to it, it could have pulled her out of the self-destructive inertia into which her life gradually slipped. Her choosing to give in to Aristo’s will was the turning point. From then on their quarrels were only temporarily mended: They never really ceased.

Ari was spending less and less time with her, and one day she heard that Onassis’ servants at his Avenue Foch apartment had recently been ordered not to leave their quarters throughout an entire evening while he was entertaining a mystery guest; he would serve the food himself. Maria knew that Onassis had never stopped having affairs on the side. She had accepted that, as she had so much else, as part of what Greek women were brought up to expect. But why all this sudden secrecy? She carried on as if nothing was happening and asked no questions. And in some ways life went on as if nothing was happening. He went on calling her every day from wherever he was, and Maria, as always, would put everything aside to welcome him back. Lord Harewood, director of the English National Opera, remembers one evening when he suggested that they go out to dinner: “Oh, no, I can’t,” she replied unhesitatingly. “He is coming on the morning flight from New York, and I must go to bed early and be fresh for when he arrives.”

Maria soon had the solution to the Avenue Foch mystery. Ari and Jackie Kennedy had been seen dining together in New York at El Morocco; at “21”; at Dionysos; at Mykonos, together with Christina, Margot Fonteyn and Nureyev.

For a while Maria continued making no scenes. But a battle was raging inside her and it could not be contained for long. The explosion took place when Ari came back from New York in the spring of 1968 with the announcement that Jackie would be coming on the Christina for a short cruise in the Caribbean. Maria had by then learned that he had not merely kept in touch with Jackie since that cruise in 1963, but that he had been having long, regular telephone conversations with her from all over the world. She remembered the time she and Ari were in New York and he had called Jackie at her Fifth Avenue apartment. “Come over for a drink,” she had said. “I’d love to, and I have Maria with me.” “In that case, sorry, perhaps another time.” Then Jackie’s reaction was merely odd; now it took on sinister overtones. All Maria could do was watch and wait.

And to watch him was to watch a man tipsy with the smell of fame and drunk at the prospect of more. He was a driven man and there was one goal: Jackie. Jackie needed security and loved luxury, but much more important, she had a zest for life that had been stifled by the mantle of near-sainthood that the American press had thrown over her. There is an incident that sums up just how powerful that instinct was in her. The day of her husband’s funeral happened also to be her son’s third birthday. Everyone had assumed that John-John’s birthday party would be postponed. Jackie would not hear of it. For her it was a glorious coincidence that a day of grief and mourning could be crowned with a celebration of life, with noisemakers, paper hats, ice cream and toy trucks.

When Jackie boarded the Christina in May for the Caribbean cruise, Maria stayed behind. It was at this time that she began to find it impossible to sleep without pills. At the end of the cruise, Jackie called Bobby Kennedy and told him that she was considering marrying Onassis. At the time, Kennedy was in the middle of his campaign for the presidential nomination, and he asked her to do nothing until the campaign was over. A few days later, Bobby Kennedy was dead, shot by a gunman in Los Angeles, and Ari was on his way there to be near Jackie.

With the campaign tragically over, there were only two reasons left for continuing with the secrecy: Jackie wanted to consult Cardinal Cushing of Boston, who had married her to Jack Kennedy, about the Vatican’s attitude to her marrying a divorced man, and Onassis wanted to ease the shock for Maria. Whether out of cowardice, fear of what she might do or an unconscious desire not to lose her, Onassis told Maria nothing. He went on seeing her at the same time as huge bouquets of flowers were greeting his bride-to-be every morning wherever she was. There were just four letters on each card: JILY—Jackie I Love You.

After Robert Kennedy’s funeral, Onassis and his daughter spent a weekend with Jackie’s mother, Janet Auchincloss, at Hammersmith Farm in Newport. He went to Paris and Maria, then returned to the U.S., this time to Hyannis Port to spend time “preparing” John-John and Caroline—swimming with them, going for long walks, telling them that although he would never replace their father, their mother needed someone to take care of her. He returned to Maria; he went back to Hyannis Port, this time to meet Rose Kennedy who found him “pleasant, interesting, and, to use a word of Greek origin, charismatic.” He returned to Maria who was by then on the Christina.

“Maria, now I want you to go back to Paris, and wait for me there.”

“Go to Paris in August? Are you mad?”

“You have to go.”

“Why? What do you mean?”

“I’m having company and you can’t be aboard.”

“Who? And why can’t I be aboard?”

She knew the answer to both questions, but she asked them anyway, hoping for a miracle. But all that was left was fighting, swearing and finally her desperate announcement.

“Then, I’m leaving you.”

“I’ll see you in September after the cruise.”

“No, you don’t understand. I’m leaving you. You’re never going to see me again—ever.”

Maria could not bear to stay in Europe. She flew to the U.S. The public announcement of Ari’s wedding was still two months away. “I don’t like to lose,” Maria confided to her friend John Ardoin, the music critic of the Dallas Morning News. “Frankly I’m terrified of going home. It’s like the beginning of a performance …” Now that Onassis was gone, she felt she had no option but to return to performing. Since 1959 her professional engagements had been squeezed into the gaps of an increasingly hectic and emotionally demanding private life. In 1958, the year before Onassis came into her life, she had given 28 opera performances; by 1960 the number had dwindled to five; and in 1963 she sang no operas at all. Inevitably her voice had taken the brunt and her will to go on singing had been sapped.

Yet from Dallas she made an announcement: “Next season, I shall sing again at the Dallas Opera. Lawrence Kelly and Nicola Rescigno have been my friends for a very long time. It was with them that I made my debut in America. And it is with them that I would like to return to the stage.” She did not believe the statement; it was part of the performance. “Anything to survive, my dear,” she told John Ardoin. “At my stage of the game, anything to survive.”

On Thursday, October 17, 1968 Nancy Tuckerman, Jackie’s aide, announced the forthcoming marriage. Maria had returned to Paris. Three days later the ceremony was held on Skorpios. Artemis Garoufalidis, the bridegroom’s sister, placed on the heads of the couple delicate wreaths of lemon blossom, linked with white ribbon. Gold wedding bands were slipped on their fingers. Alexander and Christina looked on grimly. Caroline and John-John watched, dazzled.

That evening in Paris, Maria arrived smiling at the film premiere of Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear. She was still smiling when in the early hours of the morning she left Les Ambassadeurs where she had celebrated the 75th anniversary of Maxim’s. It was one of the most convincing performances of her career.

Ten days after the wedding, she wrote to Ardoin in her idiosyncratic English without once referring to Onassis by name: “I am reacting externally very well, I presume. But I am under severe pressure and am desperately trying to keep controlled. Of course I consider all this a liberation. But how little faith one is left with. One moment I am full of confidence and the next very little.

“John, what a lonesome life I see for myself. No work I can do will be what I was used to and no man is to my expectations or standards—and that does not mean financial situation. Is it so much to ask of people to be loyal, honest, faithful and passionate?”

Two weeks after his wedding, Onassis was back in Maria’s life—if, that is, he had ever left it. As soon as Jackie, had flown to New York, Onassis phoned Maria. “Madame n’est pas ici,” was the maid’s rehearsed reply. “No, Madame has not told us when she will be back.” The phone call was followed by flowers, by more phone calls, by more flowers. And always: “Non, Madame n’est pas ici.” It was a familiar game. He knew that with the barrier of his marriage it was going to be harder than before, but he also knew that it was only a matter of time and ingenuity before Maria opened her door and her life to him again. He knew his prey well. He knew that Maria would do anything to protect her “dignity,” to avoid making a “spectacle” of herself, so he chose the quickest route—whistling under Maria’s window at 36 Avenue Georges Mandel. When this failed, he started calling “Maria, Maria”; and when this failed, he threatened to drive his car through the front door.

The Baroness van Zuylen, an old friend of both of them, prepared the way. She had taken Maria’s side and was furious with Onassis, but being a supreme realist and knowing Maria’s misery, she had begun the long process of convincing her that nothing more could be lost by seeing him. Seeing him, of course, was not. forgiving him, especially because the press was full of the new Mrs. Onassis: her first Christmas on the Christina, her legendary shopping sprees, her latest present from her husband, diamond earrings worth $300,000. Publicly Maria had been restrained. Her only outburst came when she was asked for a comment on the wedding: “She did well, Jackie, to give a grandfather to her children. Ari is as beautiful as Croesus.”

Their first reunion was a quiet dinner at the Van Zuylen home immediately after Ari had spent Christmas with Jackie. He went to dinner at Maria’s apartment, but she made sure they were not alone: Friends were hastily invited. The house was filled with flowers and all was impeccably arranged for his arrival. Maria phoned Francesco Chiarini, an old friend from Milan, to ask him to play host and sit opposite her at the head of the table; then she phoned him again to tell him that she would, after all, ask Ari to sit there. “You do what you want, Maria,” Chiarini said, “but I don’t think you are right. Ari is now a married man and it would be much more correct to put him on your right.” She did so, but throughout the evening she continued to worry. “She was behaving like a nervous teenager,” remembers a guest, “picking the dogs up, putting the dogs down, opening and closing the windows, arranging and rearranging the flowers. It was as if she wanted to show him that life could go on without him.”

Disenchantment began to creep into Aristo’s marriage very soon. Jackie had, from the beginning, been his Narcissus pool; he could gaze at her and be flattered. But he was soon to discover that he could not sustain himself emotionally on that alone, nor on the surface affection that he and Jackie shared. At first Onassis enjoyed indulging the child-wife he had acquired, and protecting her from the Kennedys, the paparazzi, the world. “Jackie is a little bird that needs its freedom as well as its security,” he once said, “and she gets both from me. She can do exactly as she pleases—visit international fashion shows and travel and go out with friends to the theater or any place. And I, of course, will do exactly as I please. I never question her and she never questions me.” Gradually, however, as Jackie spent about $1.5 million in the first 12 months of her marriage, removed his favorite allegorical friezes from the Christina and completely, extravagantly and by no means always to his taste, redecorated the house on Skorpios, Onassis began to feel invaded and used. There was something compulsive, almost manic, about Jackie’s lavish spending. And the more he felt used by Jackie, the more he felt loved by Maria.

The turning point came in February 1970, when all the letters that Jackie had written to her former escort, Roswell Gilpatric, fell into the hands of an autograph dealer and were published around the world before they were returned to Gilpatric under the terms of a court order. There was one letter among them, written by Jackie from the Christina during her honeymoon, that raised a massive bruise on Ari’s ego:

Dearest Ros,

I would have told you before I left-but then everything happened so much more quickly than I’d planned. I saw somewhere what you had said and I was very touched-dear Ros—I hope you know all you were and are and will ever be to me—

With my love, Jackie

The blow to Ari’s Greek manhood was enormous and totally disproportionate to the actual content of the letter. Now the world that he had intended to dazzle and to some extent had dazzled with his marriage was quietly laughing behind his back. “My God,” he was confessing to his intimates, “what a fool I have made of myself.”

Jackie called to apologize and explain. He was a model of sophisticated, homme du monde understanding. Not long after that, he took his revenge. He spent four successive evenings with Maria and was seen leaving her apartment at one o’clock in the morning. On the evening of May 21, Maria and he were photographed radiantly smiling at Maxim’s. They were, it is true, chaperoned by Maggie van Zuylen, but it was too much for Jackie—which is precisely what it was intended to be. She called Ari from New York and told him that she was leaving for Paris. She was not met at the airport, but the same night, at the same restaurant, at the same table where Ari and Maria had dined with Maggie van Zuylen, Ari and Jackie dined alone. Neither of them seemed in a mood to enjoy the evening. There were long pauses and closed faces, but, after all, this was not a private dinner: Jackie was making a public statement to the world and to Maria.

Maria knew that Aristo had opened his heart to her as to no one else. He had complained about Jackie, he had raged against Jackie, he had defied Jackie by appearing with Maria at Maxim’s. But when Jackie instantly demanded a symbolic replay of his dinner with Maria, Aristo did what Jackie wanted.

For Maria their four nights together had been much more than an exercise in nostalgia. That brief interlude sang with a joy she had almost forgotten. She felt alive again. For the first time in two years, she could experience happiness, something she thought she had lost forever. On the basis of these few happy days she began to build her fantasies about the future. The day after Ari’s tête-à-tête dinner with Jackie the fantasies were in ruins. Three days later, Maria was taken to the American Hospital.

At 8:50 that morning, Edgar Schneider announced on Radio Luxembourg: “Maria Callas has attempted to commit suicide by taking an overdose of barbiturates. She has been urgently admitted to the American Hospital at Neuilly.” Had she tried to take her life? Or was she at the American Hospital, as the official story issued from Georges Mandel had it, for her routine checkup, only earlier than usual?

Neither the official nor the sensational version was accurate. She was clearly not at the hospital for a routine checkup, but neither had she attempted suicide, at any rate with the conscious decision the assertion implied. Feeling once again betrayed, once again used, a rope in Onassis’ tug-of-war with his wife, Maria had begun to feel her life draining away. A web of futility—the emotion she dreaded more than any other—had spun itself around her. She had, however temporarily, given up on life, and that is not such a long way from consciously taking it. She longed for sleep but it eluded her. The sinus trouble that had plagued her all her life had come back and at times she felt as though she could not even breathe. She took more barbiturates to find sleep and more tranquilizers to find peace. By the time the morning of May 26 dawned, she was so dazed that she was barely conscious. After that experience, she built the fortifications around her even higher than before. “The less you give, the less you’re hurt,” she said.

Two months later, she began a summer-long vacation with friends on the island of Tragonisi in the Aegean Sea. Most of Maria’s day was spent in the water, swimming, diving for shells, strangely shaped stones, the odd piece of antiquity like an urn and occasionally even a small fish. She had a hard, peasant skin that tanned marvelously, and with her long hair pulled straight back, she looked confident, strong and free. The sea was always a joy for Maria, bringing out the child in her, and with it her optimism.

In that expansive mood on her name day, August 15, she received a surprise visit. Onassis flew in by helicopter, kissed her on the lips under her big beach umbrella, put a pair of hundred-year-old earrings on her ears, kissed Djedda, the poodle he had given her, was photographed doing all these things and flew out again. All was once again forgiven. The Greek bearing kisses and gifts had wiped his record clean—until the next time. Maria was becoming more and more resigned to the fact that their relationship, however unsatisfying and even humiliating, still remained the most important thing in her life. So although many hopes had died, others flickered; there was in any case the precious knowledge, which time only confirmed, that she was his greatest friend.

In 1971 the shadows began to lengthen across Onassis’ life. The man who had fulfilled his dream of being one of the most conspicuous people on the planet, as well as his dreams of power and wealth, was beginning to discover that he was not omnipotent and could not control everything and everybody. On July 29, his “pet,” Christina, was married in Las Vegas to Joseph Bolker, a 47-year-old real-estate operator with four daughters from a previous marriage. When Onassis heard the news, he raged for hours, cut Christina off from her trust and for the next six months subjected the couple, according to Joseph Bolker, “to extraordinary pressures,” until finally the following February they started divorce proceedings. Meanwhile Onassis had received a much greater shock. On October 21 his first wife Tina, now divorced from the Marquess of Blandford, was secretly married in Paris to his lifelong rival, Stavros Niarchos. It was 18 months after her sister Eugenia, who was married to Niarchos, had died on their private island from a combination of physical injuries and a large quantity of barbiturates. After three expert examinations of the body, the investigating magistrate instituted proceedings against Niarchos and called for his arrest. The Piraeus high court decided against charging him, but the gossip and the ugly rumors went on. They were still rife when, just a year after the case had been officially closed, Tina married the man over whom a grim question mark continued to hang.

Onassis’ shock was shared by his children, whose mistrust of Niarchos—a mistrust with which they had both been brought up—had deepened further since their aunt’s death. For a long time after Tina’s marriage to Niarchos, Ari refused even to acknowledge her existence.

But the greatest blow was even closer to home: the realization that his marriage had been a calamitous mistake. “Cold-hearted and shallow,” is how he was now describing Jackie to Constantine Gratsos, his closest business associate. Only two years earlier, she was “like a diamond, cool and sharp at the edges, fiery and hot beneath the surface.” Ari craved love, but had to settle instead for flattery and attention, for being talked about and stared at. While Jackie was finding the Greek dramas, with all Aristo’s ragings and explosions, impossible to cope with, Maria lived through them with him. It was to Maria that he ran for the love. Now that he had everything else, he was beginning to see it was the only thing he really wanted. He would fly over to Paris to see her or, more often, he would talk with her for hours on the phone.

She was soon to be witness to a deep misery she could do nothing to ease. In January 1973, Alexander Onassis crashed in his father’s two-engine Piaggio not far from Athens. He was recognized only by the monogram on his bloodstained handkerchief. His right temple had been reduced to pulp and his brain was irreparably damaged. Onassis’ son had been the most important person in his life, not because of their relationship, which was by no means wholly happy, but because the son represented the future—the only intimation of immortality for a man totally caught up in the world. By the time Onassis and Jackie arrived from New York, Alexander was being kept alive by a life-support system in an oxygen tent. A few hours later all hope was gone. Onassis asked the doctors to wait until Christina had arrived from Brazil and then “to torture him no more.” In his first shocking paroxysm of grief, he refused to have Alexander buried. Nobody quite knew what he wanted instead. In between spells of catatonic pain and outbursts of rage and blasphemy, he wanted the body “deep-frozen.” Then he wanted him buried inside the chapel on Skorpios, a privilege reserved for saints. Finally he agreed to have him buried by the side of the chapel and have the grave covered by an annex later.

After the tragedy, Maria provided Onassis with his only hold on life. She herself had been deeply shaken by Alexander’s death. When Aristo first came to see her after the funeral, she was appalled by the sight of the man who walked in, and after a few minutes alone with him she was even more frightened. It seemed as if a lifetime’s guilt had crystallized around Alexander’s death. Aristo was no longer the man she knew, but he was still the man she loved.

It was her existence and, even when he was not with her, the knowledge of her existence and her love that helped pull him through, at least for a time. Yet a vital string had snapped and the signs were everywhere. His business losses during 1973 were enormous. On paper his worth dropped from nearly a billion dollars to half that amount. He was spending less and less time with Jackie and had told her bluntly that he was no longer interested in indulging her frivolities.

In October 1974, came yet another tragedy: Tina was found dead in the Hôtel de Chanaleilles in Paris. Onassis was so shaken that he could not even bear to attend his ex-wife’s funeral. Tina had died from an edema of the lung, but Christina remained full of suspicion, bitterness and outrage at Niarchos. She herself had skirted death a few weeks earlier with an overdose of sleeping pills, and now needed desperately to make some sense, however irrational, of all the tragic, sudden deaths: first her aunt, then her brother, now her mother. She became convinced that if her father had not married Jackie the deaths would somehow have been averted. For Onassis’ only daughter, Jackie was the ill omen that had spread disaster in their family, and Christina started openly bemoaning the fact that she had helped drive her father away from Maria.

Meanwhile, Onassis was struggling with ill health. Since Alexander’s death he had been having trouble keeping his eyes open for long and talking without slurring his words. At first he put it down to physical and emotional exhaustion and refused to find out more about it; but it was only a question of time before he had to enter a New York hospital. His condition was diagnosed as myasthenia gravis, a defect in the body’s chemistry which makes impossible the routine transmission of impulses through nerves and muscles. He could only keep his eyes open by taping the drooping lids to his eyebrows, and he had to have regular painful injections to minimize the effects of the disease. His body had turned against itself, and Onassis turned viciously against the woman whom he now irrationally considered the source of his accumulating woes.

His first concern was to reduce to the legal minimum, and if possible less, Jackie’s share in his estate. Having done this in his last will and testament and fearing that she might challenge it, he carefully added a codicil: “I command my executors and the rest of my heirs that they deny her such right through all legal means, costs and expenses charged on my inheritance.”

It was not enough. He decided to divorce Jackie but only after he had made it as humiliating as possible for her. He hired a private detective to follow her with the specific brief of producing evidence of adultery. Then he invited Jack Anderson, the Washington columnist, to lunch. Ari began with deliberately controlled complaints about Jackie along the lines of: “What does she do with all those clothes? All I ever see her wearing is blue jeans.” The hard facts were to follow later at Onassis’ office after he had discreetly withdrawn, and his aides took Anderson on a sightseeing tour of all the piles of ledgers, memos and letters documenting Jackie’s frenzied extravagance.

About that time, telling Jackie nothing, Onassis asked Roy Cohn to represent him in divorce proceedings. By then he had moved out of Jackie’s apartment and was staying in his suite at the Pierre. He had considered divorcing her as early as 1972, but now any remaining doubt had evaporated. All that was left was a driving desire to hit her as hard as possible. While Onassis was drawing up a master plan of the steps to be taken before the announcement of divorce proceedings, Maria was singing in Japan. In the dim picture of lost happiness by which Onassis was haunted, Maria was the only clearly defined figure. A few months earlier on the Today program, she had described Ari in public, for the first time in 15 years, as “the great love of my life.”

Was there still time? Sick and broken though Onassis was, something in him said yes. But the events that followed submerged any hope of happiness with Maria. In February 1975 he collapsed in Athens. The French liver specialist, Dr. Jacques Caroli, advised flying him to Paris for an immediate gallbladder operation; the American heart specialist, Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, recommended flying him to New York for intensive treatment to strengthen him before any operation was contemplated. Onassis chose Paris. The one thing he made sure he took with him for what turned out to be his last journey was the red cashmere blanket Maria had bought him from Hermes for his birthday. He had the operation on February 10. He never recovered complete consciousness. For the next five weeks in Room 217 of the Eisenhower Wing of the American Hospital, he was kept alive by a respirator and was fed intravenously.

Maria felt as though she was tied to the same machine that was keeping Aristo alive. A friend whose mother was being treated in the room next to Onassis provided her with news: They have replaced all his blood; Jackie came to the hospital for half an hour; they have given him a massive infusion of antibiotics; Christina has not left his bedside all night; he has been put in an oxygen tent.

Maria could not bear it any longer. She felt that he was as much part of her as her own breath, and yet during those harrowing weeks she was not allowed to be at his side. The doctor had said that he could survive in his present condition for months. She decided to leave Paris, to leave Europe. She rented a house in Palm Beach and it was there on March 15,1975 that she received the last report from the American Hospital. Aristo was dead.

His death had struck her an almost mortal blow. To exist in a world that did not contain him seemed pointless. The past had vanished and, in her deep suffering, there was no future. “All of a sudden, I am a widow,” she declared. Through the interminable days that followed, her only real action was reaching for one of the many bottles on her bedside table for more tranquilizers, more sleeping pills, more forgetfulness.

But in time the numbness began to fade, and the spirit to stir. By the summer of 1975 she was back in Paris and accepting a few invitations. Frederick, who did her hair, would arrive at her apartment to prepare her for the evening: “I would be putting her hair up and then many times, as I was getting near to finishing, the anger would begin mounting inside her. ‘Why go? Why go anyway? Take it down, Frederick. I’m not going.’ ” Frederick would take the chignon down; the maid would telephone to explain that “Madame is indisposed”; and Maria would get into bed and watch television until late into the night. Through her recording royalties and good investment advice from Onassis, Maria had amassed a personal fortune of at least $10 million. Yet she had no heart to spend it, or even to venture far from her bedroom at Georges Mandel.

In the spring of 1977 she made a last pilgrimage to Skorpios; she knelt for hours in front of Aristo’s tomb, praying. Inside, Maria herself had been dead for some time and, on September 16, at the age of 53, the small part of her that had gone on existing gave up. She awoke late, her maid recalled. She had breakfast in bed, then got up and took a few faltering steps toward the bathroom. There was a piercing pain in her left side, then the maid heard the sound of a fall. She was put back to bed and made to drink some strong coffee. They phoned her doctor; he was out. They rang the American Hospital; the number was engaged. Finally they rang her butler’s doctor, who started out immediately for Georges Mandel. She was dead of a heart attack before he arrived.

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