An Entertainment for a Princess
EVERY AFFAIR in honor of the Queen's visit, M which I so lightly entered and so lightly left after sipping the sweet of it, was anticipated by untold and unnoticed pains, care and attention to detail. I realize that now more than I ever could have before I was in charge of one such entertainment myself. I dwell on it here merely because it was the only one outside the purely social I was intimately enough connected with to observe at first hand. And because the details of one such may be interesting.
When the first plans for the visit were being formulated and suggestions were coming in right and left for the Queen's pleasure, I began to think of the little Princess Ileana, and I determined at once to find some special way of entertaining her. She has always been such a serious, high-thinking girl. In her own country it is she who sponsors most of the girls' organizations, who is the head of the Girl Scouts and the Camp Fire Girls of Roumania. These organizations in our own city are so thoroughly worth while, so intensely living as com pared to some of the dead but remaining organizations to which we older women belong, that I realized they were the ones to help me. With all the enthusiasm of their youth they responded. Representatives of the Big Sisters, Girls' Friendly, Junior League, Girl Scouts, Girls' Service League, Northfield League, Camp Fire Girls, Girl Reserves and other girls' organizations met with me and helped me plan the whole thing. An entertainment, we decided on, at a theater, honor escorts of the societies represented, public school children to attend and a book of signatures to be presented.
Then the fun began! Not all the public school children of the vast Manhattan brigade. Only so many from each school. Of that "so many" two special pupils to be chosen to attend the brief reception for the Princess after the performance. Then the principals of each school to be approached with the subject, their answers filed, answered, and so on and so on. ... Well, the matter went be yond my hands then. For two weeks beforehand I secured four extra secretaries to help me with the work. Every day, as with all such attempts, new details multiplied like protozoa by division. Especially was this true with our most ambitious project. This was the idea of presenting the Princess with a book of the autographs of the five thou sand selected children who attended. We had a most beautiful presentation volume prepared, bound in rose-red Morocco and embossed with the Princess's crest in gold. The first pages were hand illuminated on parchment. The inside pages were sent out to each school for the pupils' signatures. Since the pages have to be bound double the first seventy-five schools received them first with a stamped addressed envelope inside for return to me, and then the second seventy-five were to receive them. We puzzled and discussed how best to in sure a neat page of signatures and finally hit on the brilliant idea of inserting a ruled page, made specially to fit, inside the leaves for a guide. We were very proud of ourselves. Then, in a day or two after the first seventy-five went out, the returns came pouring in. And eighty per cent of the schools had signed on the guide lines instead of the page! All our work to be done over with the addition of a most ferocious sign, DON'T SIGN ON THIS PAGE! at the top of the guide lines. Such haps and mishaps went on constantly. One minute we were perfectly sure we had sent out too many tickets . . . the next we had visions of an empty house facing the Princess and madly granted requests right and left. We could only hope for the best.
Saturday, October 23.
In this case fortunately the best did happen! Fortified with hopes for it but prepared for almost anything, the secretaries and I went down at nine this morning to the Capitol Theater where our performance was to be held. I had some difficulty in persuading the guardians of the portals at the theater that I had a right to enter. They were on duty well enough and I was more pleased than otherwise. Silly to think that anything might happen, but it gave me a firm feeling that nothing would happen at my entertainment if careful attention could prevent it.
I stationed myself at the head of the stairs and watched with perfect delight the faces of the public school children who came running in, not walking, the instant the doors were opened at 9:45. From the names signed on the school pages that had come back to us, I really did not know what to expect to see. If one of us came across a name as American as "Mary Jones," say, it was a matter of comment among names that sounded like an inventory of the Ghetto, Little Italy and all the Russias combined. What I saw from the head of the stairs was a crowd of as fine-looking, well-dressed children as you would want to see anywhere. They were smart-looking, at ease, all of a class, with that smart apery of childhood and its phenomenal knack of "catching on." Their names may have been Yanska Petrolavivitch, Yolanda Uropolina, but they certainly looked to me like What The Weil-Dressed Children Will Wear.
And their faces! Absolutely alight. Fired into ardor in anticipation of seeing in the flesh a "Princess"—heretofore only a character in a fairy-tale. All my weariness, all the vexations, left me then. I didn't care so much after that, I must admit, if the Princess was pleased or bored, just so she stood up like a good girl and illustrated these children's fairy-books.
Two girls from each organization had gone ahead to the Ambassador to escort the Princess down to the theater. At last they came. She looked her most charming and girlish self in Roumanian costume, simple and symbolic. The manager of the Capitol and myself met her and led her between a lane of girls in uniform to her box. I could positively hear the one concerted breathless gasp of the children as they watched her take her place and respond to their cheers with the simple salute of the Roumanian Girl Scouts. The roar of the children's clapping hands almost drowned out the sound of the national airs as the curtains parted on a tableau of girls in Roumanian costume. It was the fairy-tale princess they cheered, I knew, and nothing else. The program went swiftly on, a ballet, songs by Mme. Charles Cahier, motion pictures of Roumanian Red Cross activities, and my presentation of the book of precious autographs. I could see the children lean forward eagerly at the thought that their names were in that book! I took advantage of their state of subjection to try to impress on them that the motto of royalty, "Ich Dien," was imprinted on the heart of every monarch, and that the life of a sovereign was one of service, not self-indulgence. They listened with gratifying attention and felt, no doubt, whatever they pleased.
Princess Ileana then responded. Her message was first in Roumanian, then in English. "I thank you for these dear expressions of your love. I will carry your greetings back to the children in Roumania as you have theirs in me." She stood there so simply and spoke in her beautifully modulated voice, and was no whit disturbed by the amplifier in front of her, though she told me it was her first speech before a large audience. That pleased me beyond words, but when in conclusion that audience of five thousand school children rose as the Girl Scouts carried the American flag onto the stage, and recited with one voice, without the loss of a beat between the timed words and entirely without rehearsal, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, my pride in the school children of my own country knew no bounds.
A very brief reception to the honor pupils followed in a hall above, the Princess giving each hand a hearty shake as it passed. She was a lovely thing to look at in the flowing blouse and scarfed head dress of her country; strong, athletic and spirited. At parting she embraced me heartily and thanked me. Prince Nicholas, I was sorry, could not be present due to a previous invitation to visit the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Having been in the navy several years, he is greatly interested in naval matters and especially in mechanics. Though he is young he seems to possess a great deal of related information on varied topics and has a great deal of savoir-faire. The Queen is justly proud of these two young people.
I reached home thoroughly gratified, I must admit, at our performance and thankful too—confession is good for the soul—that it was over. The girls who had helped me and I had only time for a few minutes of congratulation, before I had to tear off to Mr. and Mrs. J. Tileston Wells's charming luncheon at the Colony Club for the Queen, where she met again Mrs. Charles Dana Gibson who seems to have an attraction for her.
The Queen was escorted by members of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to the Brooklyn Armory that afternoon to review the 106th Infantry Regiment. She was accompanied by a large party, including the Prince and Princess. On this occasion she was declared honorary colonel of the regiment and given a silver sword. The crack 106th did their best to make a fine showing before a reviewing officer who knows what troops can accomplish, as Queen Marie is a Colonel of the 4th Regiment of Roshiori in Bucharest, Honorary Colonel of the Serbian Cavalry Subotitza Iarnu Georgias, and is known throughout Europe as the Soldier Queen.
The review, which did justice to this splendid regiment, was followed by a reception held in the Council of Officers' room in the Armory.
That night was the dinner of the honorable Sulgrave Institute, one of the main inducements for the Queen's trip. She has been made an honorary life member of this altruistic gathering of high-thinking men and women who joined forces primarily to bind closer the interests of England and America in the purchase and endowment of Sulgrave Manor, George Washington's ancestral home in England, and whose finished ethics have not stopped at that fine gesture well executed, but have gone on to cement friendship and peace among all nations. With David Lloyd George and Frank B. Kellogg, Her Majesty, as an honorary life member, has pledged her interest in the work the distinguished personnel of the Institute fosters. The two Anglo-Saxon nations, one cradled in the other, have so much in common, so much more to bring them together than the few irritating objective differences which tend to part them, that any project to bring those common interests to light and to thought in a day when the differences are so carelessly harped on, appears as "blessed" as are all peacemakers.
It was a weighty affair, though John W. Davis presided with all his usual grace and charm. I was glad to think of the Prince and Princess tripping the light fantastic off at West Point, encountering the delicious parry and thrust of young eyes on theirs. The speech at our dinner by Dr. John Grier Hibben of Princeton University was very finished and thoughtful. This was followed by one by Dr. John H. Finley, that searched antiquity and revived Sheba and Dido and Penelope with which to compare Her Majesty. She rose nobly to the analogy but floundered on the limitations of a bad cold which had almost closed up her throat. The dinner ended with much pomp and circumstance.