On Tour with Queen Marie


Kansas City St. Louis Springfield


To-day is Armistice Day. A great day in the memory of the world which, though forgetful, cannot yet forget that fateful significance. Our train stopped early at Lincoln, Nebraska, for Her Majesty to greet the people assembled with brass bands in full horn, and farther on at Omaha and St. Joseph, Roumanian gatherings headed by priests in their vestments and peasant women in costume waited for the Queen to speak to them in their own tongue.

When we arrived in Kansas City it was getting dark and the city glimmered like a million fireflies flocked in the gloom. President Coolidge had just left about two hours before, after dedicating the new memorial to the dead fallen in the War, which the city had so proudly erected, and the huge crowd was still in gathering along the streets and avenues. As half of Kansas City is in Missouri and half in Kansas there was an enormous delegation. The Queen looked picturesque sitting back in her car in a sweeping brown hat and her red velvet coat; great white-globed Easter lilies lay in a sheaf along her arm and set her off beautifully in the shimmering light.

The procession moved toward the top of the hill where the monument stood which the President had dedicated earlier in the day. We mounted the hill slowly and the great shaft, guarded on either side by noble grieving sphinxes with their wings furled over their faces, was most impressive with the searchlights setting it off in sweeping reliefs against the mystery of the night sky. On the summit of the shaft, in a vast hollow bowl burns the fire, with smoke rising day and night, which is never to be extinguished, surely as extravagantly grateful a monument as the disaster has inspired. The Queen, after an introduction from the Mayor on the flag-decked platform below, spoke a broadcasted message to the effect that these dead had not died in vain, the hope in every heart there present. "They died that we might have peace," she said. She then placed her wreath reverently at the base of the monument. It was made of dried flowers painted in the Roumanian colors, a very artistic thing. One can't escape wondering where all these wreaths come from to appear at just the right moment. (Mr. Morris tells me at this point that such things do not appear out of the sky, but that he had been busy telegraphing ahead.)

As the Queen had requested that some banquets be omitted, we were given a vastly needed opportunity to rest that evening before going to the city; auditorium where a concert to celebrate the day had been planned. Her Majesty was splendid-looking in her glinting gold evening cape sweeping to the ground and with the waxy white lilies again on her arm. The feature of the program was a patriotic composition, very ambitious in character, written by the orchestra leader, and consisting of an ode sung by the civic societies of Kansas City, and various solo parts. The performance ended with an elaborate ballet, after which we were taken to the house of one of the prominent ladies of Kansas City, Mrs. Jacob Loose, who did her utmost to make a happy evening for us. An organ was played all during the evening, but the guests, who evidently were bursting with Western vigor and energy, talked louder than the organ sounded. Kansas City is a bustling western town and its citizens, certainly those we saw, are perfectly capable of competing with any in vivacity and hustle.

They are a generous lot of people as was proved by the train that pulled out that night heavy laden with their gifts, among them mallard ducks and cakes, home baked. The letters that come from everywhere offering gifts to the Queen are masterpieces. Everything imaginable has been suggested. A letter has just come from a far-off farmer, saying that he has the most wonderful egg-laying hen in America, and that he would gladly offer her to the Queen if she gave him her correct address . . . he "wa'n't going to risk his hen on no train."

Friday, November 12.

The approach to St. Louis on the train is so delightful that I fail to see why other cities do not copy it or build with that in mind. Instead of the wretched alleys and byways, sooty and grime covered and mean looking, suggestive of all the horrors of modern industrialism, in the first impression, of most towns, St. Louis allows the trains to go through the most beautiful section of the city, and Forest Park is the first thing that meets the eye. Wonderful for travelers but hard, it may be, on Forest Park. Our train stopped there. A regiment of soldiers had lined up in military greeting, while the Mayor came aboard to escort the Queen to an open car on which plumes, instead of flags, brilliant in the national colors, spread airily in the breeze. The same were on all our cars and added a bright and unique bit of color to our trip through the city to the Coronado Hotel where we were taken for hot breakfast before a tour of inspection. We sensed the quieter atmosphere here, the dignity of the South encroaching on the more blatant West, and the gentle survival of French influences. The old families here are greatly proud of descent from the early days of the French regime and carry still its impress in their houses and manner of living. Their luncheon in the Queen's honor showed the culinary art and excellent taste of Paris.

In St. Louis as in New Orleans, that other lovely daughter of France in the New World, there is the pretty custom, long handed down, of a yearly carnival where a Queen is chosen, amidst much heart burning, from among the prominent debutantes of the season, and for the year ensuing she has much influence on social matters and is accompanied by two ladies-in-waiting wherever she goes. This is a rare honor which grandmothers proudly hand down to newer generations, blushing still, no doubt, with their pleasure and pride. The honored Queen for this year was Miss Love who sat next Princess Ileana and amused her vivaciously during the luncheon with stories of St. Louis life. I could see in the Princess's eye the envious delight I imagined she must be feeling . . . to be chosen a queen instead of being born one, and to have to work at it only a year! Our hostess in charge, the wife of the President of the Chamber of Commerce, rose and persuaded the Queen to say a few words. Her comments were relative to the unique position of women in the United States, their unprecedented equality with men, and their many privileges which she hoped were appreciated. It is plain Her Majesty thinks well of our American men, and she has indeed every right to.

Directly after lunch we went to inspect the University of St. Louis where the courtly Dean gave a brief talk, praising the Queen as a ruler, a brilliant woman and a beauty. She responded very charmingly that as a woman as well as a queen she had much curiosity and had gratified much of it on her visit to America; that only by understanding each other could countries come to agreements to avert war. Later she spoke personally to a group of Roumanians and went from there to the University chapel to act as a godmother to the baby of a former Red Cross worker in Roumania who had requested this favor of Her Majesty.

The usual conventional banquet took place that night, but I shan't dwell on it beyond saying that Colonel Carroll's wife had appeared during the day and was present with us, and that one lovely feature of the affair was the appearance of a beautiful brunette in an orchid velvet gown who presented to the Queen a bouquet of the most exquisite orchids I have ever seen. We were simply amazed to learn they were products of the city's own botanical gardens. Some connoisseur evidently had bred them. Afterwards we attended a horse-show, extremely well done, where the marvelous horses, spirited and highly trained, were a great divertissement. The Prince and Princess had persuaded their mother to allow them to go with the young people of St. Louis to a ball being given that evening where they had the time of their lives, they later told us.

Saturday, November 13.

Springfield, the state capital of Illinois and the home of Abraham Lincoln, was our next short stop. Here the Queen had especially asked to see all that she could of the Great Emancipator's mementos and memorials, feeling as she does so keenly the true greatness of this national character. We were conducted first to the arsenal where Her Majesty was welcomed by many, high and low, and where her national hymn was sung in Roumanian by her countrymen. After the regular exchange of speeches and compliments on the part of the Governor and the Queen, we were driven to Lincoln's modest wooden home and to his tomb not far off, a pretentious granite monument with chambers inside where are collected many souvenirs, and where the Queen honored the memory of this, the noblest of men, so deeply imbedded in the public consciousness, both common and royal.

Upon our return to the train we had a lively time at lunch with the gentlemen and ladies-in-waiting talking over the prospects of our visit to Chicago which all were looking forward to with high interest. Chicago, from all the varied accounts of it, had thoroughly impressed the strangers and they had great expectations of this almost fabulous city. I wrote a note to the Queen requesting that she should include an inspection of the Lying-in Hospital, of which I am a member of the board, and which is considered a fine example of its kind. I asked especially also that she should meet my life long friend Miss Jane Addams and visit Hull House if possible. She sent for me later in the afternoon and with the letter in her hand, asked me to tell her more about these matters. She did not seem to know much about Hull House and after explaining it to her, I said that if it were possible and consistent with safety for her to go there, she would certainly find inspiration for future work in her own country in the place and, above all, in Miss Addams who is considered one of the greatest women of her time for her contributions to the difficult and young science of sociology, and for the instructions she has given to every heart in ways of charity. Her Majesty seemed much aroused and said that I should arrange with the Committee to include these two places in her Chicago program, and seemed especially keen about meeting Miss Jane Addams.