MONDAY, THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF OCTOBER, 1926. Whistle of steamers, roar of guns in white smoke puffs against gray fog, voices cheering in a stinging rain. . . . The Queen of Roumania arrives!
The Mayor advances, his selected ladies attend, the officials follow to do homage, cavalry escorts her, sirens blow and cars plow the crowd massed since daylight, expectant and cheerful despite the rain and cold, watchful, wild for the sight of a long-heralded royal face and for a smile they have long anticipated. They catch sight of her, a fair woman stately in size, palpably delighted at a waited-for dream realized, charmed with everything, and not afraid to show it. Their cheers swell, their waving becomes frantic. She waves back, spreading smiles across the ranks as an ancient queen would have spread gold, lost to the pelt of rain and long ticker-streamers spilling across her car from high windows. The Queen of Roumania is in America!
The motor-cycle police and the appalling siren shrieks have heralded her swiftly through the dense lane of people; City Hall is reached, where is to be enacted the dignified stateliness of ceremonies welcoming a noted visitor of state to these shores. Committees mass, bands commence the national airs, formations begin, the clatter of cavalry is deadened behind swinging doors as the Queen advances down the long hall to be throned beneath the massed American and Roumanian flags above a dais, while those assembled hush breathlessly to catch the sound of her responsive words.
Her Majesty is taking the first steps on that trail which she is to blazon across a world new to her and new to the ancient Europe which she represents.
At this point I am so irresistibly reminded of an other queen's "Royal Progress," as it was called in those days, that I cannot forbear a digression to recall to your mind a scene which every one of high-school age and over will doubtless remember. Not by actual vision's sight, not by the views, the smells, the sounds that imply participation, but by the magic of the printed word, by the unflagging zeal of a genius, the Wizard of the North, to the idea he had in mind to call up by his power the colorful, bloody days of medieval England in a tale of the cruel mistreatment of innocence at Kenilworth, that ruined castle set in the jewel-green of English lawns. I refer to the scenes of Queen Elizabeth's royal progress in a visit to her loyal peers, which centered at Kenilworth castle in Sir Walter Scott's book of that name.
All comparisons of queens aside, it is the scene alone that interests by its diversification and by its startling likeness in many places. This second arrival took place in the year 1575—three hundred and fifty-one years past in the history of civilization. A queen has graciously been pleased to let the light of her countenance shine on her favorites in their own homes instead of distantly at her palace. This high mark of honor is one most to be coveted, one to be provided for with due and elaborate preparations, weighty, symbolic, colossal. For weeks and months beforehand the noble houses to be so signally honored planned and schemed and labored with two parallel feelings, delighted pride at success and honest trepidation for fear of what may happen should those dearly worked-for plans fail. The wringing of housewives' hands that is known before every onslaught of guests so high and mighty as to carry an aura of fear, the careful feeling of every householder's purse that must bear the strain of fitting hospitality, rose in all those great castles that seethed to receive their queen. It was an age too of lighter spirits than ours, more tasteful, more wise in conceits of the fancy. In addition to the receptions and teas of our more meager imaginations, there were masques and revels devised to please the great lady, troupes of actors were employed for her delight, and there was the glowing pageantry of jousts and tilts and the endearing beauty of a scene where a Queen of Love and Beauty is chosen to the accompanying plaudits of royal hands.
Word of the Queen's slightest caprice in regard to plans is sent by runners on before, sparing neither horse nor man to set all the details right. Along her entire route the small householder, as well as the rich, has his provisions attached and portioned out to fill the hungry mouths of the royal train and the still hungrier ones of that mob of bedlam which tags on behind such a cavalcade, the hangers-on, the curiosity-mongers and the pleasure-seekers.
Can any one forget the crowded pages in Kenilworth that describe the very tone and color and living air of that motley crowd which thronged the road to Kenilworth to stare at a queen? Scott puts before one every class, every manner, every type, all their holiday spirits, all the haps and mishaps of human beings held in long wait for an anticipated event.
The throng and confusion was, however, of a gay and cheerful character. All came forth to see and to enjoy, and all laughed at the trifling inconveniences which at another time might have chafed their tempers . . . the mingled sounds which rose were those of mirth and tiptoe jollity . . . men laughed loud, and maidens giggled shrill; while many a broad jest flew like a shuttlecock from one party, to be caught in the air and returned from the opposite side of the road by another, at which it was aimed.
Those of us who watched the crowds attendant on Queen Marie's entrance into America in this year of our Lord 1926, will not need to have emphasized the apt description applying to another era: human beings remain too consistent. Here was the crowd, the word of arrival from announcing horns, the advance of a queen and her dignitaries, her gracious smiles, the same shouts and cheers prolonged; here were the same heartburnings among hosts and would-be hosts, the same anxiety and de light.
To-day what is the difference? Here on the edge of the twentieth century another queen "progresses" through a republican country. Again there is adulation, preparation, convocation, One might cynically say that the sole difference lay in that this modern queen rode on trains and motors instead of on horseback and that details were arranged by telegraph instead of by runners sent on before. But not at all. This was the adulation of courtesy before charm, not of the subservient knee before the divinity of kings.