On Tour with Queen Marie


Shopping Incognito


To me, there is no place which represents so magnificently the realization of the American imagination as the steel works at Gary. The Europeans accuse American men of living like machines, without romance, without sentiment, but the vast enterprises which have been conceived and developed in the business man's brain match the creative products of many another age and epitomize this. With the enlargement of the social consciousness these great projects have witnessed the development, by the incorporation within their gigantic machinery of business, of those philanthropic measures which help the worker to best help himself. The scoffer may say, of course, that all this is to the advantage of the money machine, but I know that the employer in these cases often does more than the public will ever know or could ever ask. The Queen, like many other important personages who have visited this plant at Gary, was carried away as she saw the molten metal run in streams of red-hot liquid from the furnaces. On this day I saw her bring about by the sheer force of her charm a most special coup de grace. All around her the workers, interrupted at her coming, far from her in sympathy, stood surly and muttering, men insolent from ignorance fortified. She sensed it. Instantly a softening change stole across her face and her clear, slightly raised voice called distinctly to them, "Is there a Roumanian among you?" One stirred uneasily, pulled himself up and strode forward unwillingly. She completely disarmed him by the hand she held out, palm up for shaking. "Shake hands with me," she said, "so am I, my friend."

As the tyranny of the schedule was ever before the eyes of the committee, this visit also had to be cut short in order to be at the South Shore Country Club for the luncheon which had been elaborately prepared by Mr. Vopicka, the former Minister to Roumania. The Queen was naturally a little weary but she was as cheerful as usual and grew rested as the meal progressed and Mr. Vopicka did all of the thoughtful things his naturally kind heart prompted, to please her. The dining-hall accommodates about five hundred people and every seat was filled. There was music and singing, toasts and speeches. Mr. Vopicka recited some pleasant reminiscences of his sojourn in Roumania, praising the Queen for her work; the Queen's response was brief but exceedingly grateful. I was seated next my daughter-in-law, a charming girl, who was much admired on this occasion. On my other side was Mrs. Kellogg Fairbank, one of the city's representative energetic women. I told her that I had asked the Queen to visit especially the Lying-in Hospital, in which we both were so very much interested and to which she had promised to go immediately after luncheon.

Leaving the Club rather abruptly, we dashed off to Chicago University where we were ushered into the dignified precincts of the faculty rooms, and here the Queen met a very impressive assembly of professors in full regalia. My dear friend, Dr. Judson, formerly President of the University, was there, his mischievous smile and gentle manners winning the hearts of the ladies-in-waiting as well as the Queen's. The President, Max Mason, escorted her to her car and we sped on to get in our visit to the Lying-in Hospital which she found extremely well run, she told me later. Prince Nicholas accompanied us on this trip through the rooms where the new babies are packed like loaves of bread. The matron said proudly, "We have three sets of twins here, sir." "Ah," Prince Nicholas replied, "another case of the usual American efficiency."

A very brief inspection of the elaborately equipped Hyde Park Y. M. C. A. followed before the motor-cycle police, with sirens screeching enough to be heard all over Chicago, preceded us along the thoroughfares, in and out of congested traffic, through great sprawling Chicago until we reached the Art Institute. The Queen's indefatigable energy, it seemed to me, reached its climax that day. Not a corner, not a picture did she leave unvisited, and with it all there were the greetings to make, the responses, the smiles. One of the most stately halls had been turned into a drawing-room to receive her, and the magnificent surroundings were a fitting background for this beautiful woman. She is a judge of art and a patron too really interested to miss a detail of it. In her country she is the star of all those who endeavor to create beauty. In my visits there I have heard some of the most exquisite music my ear has ever been blessed with, right in her private apartments in the palace. Once she was recovering from an operation, confined to her bed; there was an orchestra of twelve musicians who regaled us the entire evening in the dim light shed by hanging silver lamps. So much has already been written about this wonderful apartment, but I have never seen the exact words to describe it. There are white marble walls, Byzantine arches, carvings and rare ornaments of jade and crystal, rare living flowers for contrast, icons, Madonnas by Raphael and Rubens, dim lights, perfumes, but the atmosphere exceeds any words that try to imprison it. It is like an Arabian Nights Dream. Queen Marie herself is the artist, born with an exquisite sense of beauty, sometimes barbaric, sometimes exotic, always poetic. Seeing her seated in the carved throne chair against the magnificence of that room at the Art Institute, my mind wandered back to her own fitting background at her palace in Bucharest.

We returned to the hotel, allowing hardly half an hour to dress for the very elaborate dinner arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Meeker and the Chicago committee in the Casino Club where the Queen and Vice-President Charles G. Dawes shared the thrones at the table. The brightly illuminated one-story building sits in a broad open space of ground. Within, the mode of decoration, ultra modern to the last degree, strikes the eye of every beholder by its completely unique effect. Black and gold are its barbaric colors, gold in the myriad candelabra, black in the long glass covered tables in which the candle flickers are reflected as at the bottom of a dark pool. Only candle light is used, and the flames sway and glimmer among all the black and gold in a manner that greatly credits the clever Mrs. John Carpenter, so successful in decorations.

It was a beautiful party in every way, thought out and planned without any sparing of trouble. The meal itself was excellent, not the case in some we attended. The Queen's gown was the same she had worn at some of her most important functions, the black medieval costume embroidered in silver and diamonds. She had on the great tiara, pearls of an exquisite sheen hung from her chin to her waist and she looked more like one of those gorgeously dressed Madonnas of a Gothic church than anything I can describe. The dinner was brilliant; many representative citizens and society people of Chicago made it so. Not being of that city by birth, I can now speak as an outsider and say that these people are as fine a product of the twentieth century as any I have met in all my travels. I had suggested to the host that at Denver, the place on the left of the Queen had been occupied by different gentlemen during the evening; Mr. Meeker adopted this idea with even greater success and the Queen was very much interested in the different gentlemen who devoted themselves to her. Mr. Arthur Meeker, a wonderful host who understands the art of hospitality perfectly, gave an excellent speech and his wife, an ideal type of Chicago's progressive women, presented the Queen with a book about Chicago. Mr. Morris was in a happy mood that night and said some words which came straight from his big heart. The Queen responded most tactfully as is her wont. While the tables were being cleared for an entertainment to follow, we gathered in pleasant groups for coffee. It was 4:30 when I got to bed that night after an eventful day, trying to keep up with Chicago's energy and "miss nothing."

Tuesday, November 16.

To-day is to be "The Queen's own day," as she said she wanted one day to do as she pleased in Chicago. She started off by having what she termed as "a very necessary shampoo," and at 9:30 we dashed off to the Woman's Athletic Club, concerning which I had spoken to them on the train when I promised them a swim. The Queen, Princess Ileana and I started from the hotel unaccompanied by any of the suite except "Craggie" yipping and yowling over what he felt was something fine. The lynx-eyed Kenyon was up with the Queen's Roumanian chauffeur in the Palace uniform. The Queen had a mistaken impression that she could travel incognito for one day at least, that unaccompanied by the motor-cycle police we could follow the crowd along Chicago's boulevards. She even labored under the illusion that she could go shopping unnoticed in Marshall Field's. Never was she more mistaken. I had been skeptical from the beginning but I pampered her in this whim, knowing what one such day would mean to her. Of course it could not be. Some of those energetic reporters saw us leave the hotel, and that was enough. Until we entered the doors of the Athletic Club they were right with us, but there they were balked. Being a woman's institution, they could not get beyond the doors. We felt like those criminals of old who have fled to Sanctuary, and, breathless with relief, we went to the top floor where the fine pool is. In a moment the Queen reappeared from the dressing-room in a dark blue knitted suit that set off beautifully her splendid proportions. She told us that she devoted at least one month of the year to her health, taking baths and treatments so as to keep herself in the best possible trim for such arduous exertions as fall to her lot. She plunged from the springboard like a girl. The Princess was a picture too, of youthful athletic beauty in a suit of gray. The swimming mistress wore one of white woolen tricot which the Queen admired so much she ordered one for herself straightway. We had a race to the end of the pool, the Queen, Craggie and I. I forget who won but it might have been Craggie, having the day of a dog's life. As we rested, we sat about smoking and munching caviar sandwiches before girding our selves up to go shopping. I had an idea of what we would face downstairs, although the Queen dressed as inconspicuously as possible and, in spite of all precautions, photographers, who had been patiently waiting, greeted us with exploding flash lights and fuses. Poor Craggie, utterly demented, dashed out into the street while we waited in agony to see him killed in the mêlée of wheels. The Queen could not bear it and sprang out herself after him. She boxed his ears for him and called him "a silly dog" while he ducked his cowardly head.

"Now," said the Queen, "let's do our shopping." Confidently imagining ourselves unescorted, we surreptitiously stole down the avenue and selected a quiet entrance to Marshall Field's store. How could we have been so ridiculous as to imagine that the tireless reporters of Chicago would let us "get away" with our project? In less than two minutes after our entrance they were after us with their "Look this way, Queen." . . . "Head a little higher!" Throughout the store there went a cry, "The Queen! The Queen!" and a mob pressed us into a jelly. It was impossible to move past the first counter. Even Secret Serviceman Kenyon became alarmed and with the assistance of an employee forced his way through the crowd. The Queen, nothing daunted by the jam, was not going to miss anything. Her eagle eye spied a lovely jade-green dressing-case in the distance and nothing would do but that she must examine this, and have it sent out to the hotel. Then she caught sight of a pleasing cloisonné carafe and tray which she also commandeered. By this time it was impossible to move. Half distraught I suggested to Kenyon that we take an elevator to the top floor as an escape. The door was closed on the crowd and we mounted to a floor which few people frequent at eleven o'clock in the morning. But word had got ahead of us and we met a mob as great when we got out. Kenyon suggested that we take the back stairs while some one held the door closed, but two stories lower it was the same performance, only the mob was denser. I looked for a place of refuge and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw a high iron fence and a wall barricading the fur department. That was the very place to go. The doors were closed and the Queen examined at leisure the display of furs which were so much finer than any we had been able to see in the headquarters of the Hudson Bay Company in Winnipeg or Vancouver. She selected a lovely gray lamb coat with a beautiful silver fox collar, for the Princess to try on. As we wanted to do some Christmas shopping, we thought next of seeking a jeweler. This was easier thought of than done. The mob that followed us down the street was so dense that State Street was practically closed. I was nervous and frightened, for I considered the venture dangerous, considering the various stories I had heard but which evidently had not come to Her Majesty's ears, about the antagonistic attitude of many of the city's inhabitants. As we all know, Chicago is the place where the melting in the pot of America comes to a boil. Here the bitter outcast, the conscientious objector, the open fanatic, the discontented representative of mankind, have collected for a few generations. In the midst of this seething mass of humanity, one cannot but fear for the safety of so outstanding a person as the Queen of Roumania. I am sure Mr. Kenyon and I realized the situation on that morning as we never had before, and I felt chills run down my backbone as we pushed through the crowd on our way to a State Street jewelry shop where the Queen admired a jade cigarette box which the manager gallantly presented to her. So far we were unmolested. But upon emerging a more thrilling climax awaited us. Bedlam had broken loose. Having no police to control matters, the mob had surrounded the car, were hanging over the top and on the running board. They were by no means unfriendly, all we could hear was, "Gee, ain't she great!" . . . "She's prettier than the pictures!" . . . etc., etc., but this did not allay my fear. It takes only one madman to inflict an injury, and when the chauffeur could not possibly force a way through the crowd—so dense that it filled State Street from one side to the other—I was so overwhelmed with the responsibility of it all I could only put my head out of the car window and shout, "Send for a policeman!" It was only after Kenyon procured a few husky Irish policemen to beat the crowd about that we finally managed to get free. I asked the calm Queen if she knew what fear was, and she simply smiled at me and said, "I am in a measure a fatalist, and I believe that nothing will happen to me until my hour comes. I have never been afraid of the physical attack of any human being."