Queen of Scots

When the Duncan Cargo ship docked at Southampton, a telegram from Disraeli was handed to Philo at quayside.
"We are to go directly to Chislehurst," Philo informed Bart. "The Prime Minister will meet us there."
"What's at Chislehurst, Cap'n?" Bart queried. "Or don't you want me to ask questions yet?"
Philo smiled. "I must say you've been very good at holding your tongue. I know you've been close to bursting since we left Boston, but I needed the time to think. I can begin to tell you a few things now."
"Just a few things?" Bart grinned. "Not everything?"
Philo gave him a playful tap on the arm. "What did I tell you in Boston? Everything will be revealed in time. Believe me, son, you will know all soon enough."
Later in the day, as they traveled by train through the English countryside, Philo explained that their destination lay a short distance from London.
"We'll be arriving at Chislehurst Station soon," he said. "I ought to fill you in a bit. The Prime Minister may very well be waiting on the platform to meet us."
Philo drew out his pocket watch and checked the time.
"Yes, we'll be there shortly. I have told you that a young man I knew was killed in South Africa. His death occurred on the thirty-first of May, just as the Zulu War ended. Word was not received in England until three weeks later because the oceanic cable has been laid only as far south as the Madeira Islands."
"Where the wine comes from!" Bart interrupted with a proud grin. "They comprise an archipelago in the North Atlantic off the coast of Morocco and belong to Portugal!"
"It's nice to know your Harvard education wasn't wasted," Philo smiled tolerantly, "but that's irrelevant, lad. The point is the ships dock there with news which can only then be cabled to Europe, meaning the boy was dead weeks before his mother heard of it. That seems especially tragic to me. Perhaps I am overly sensitive about it because I didn't know...about Nelle...until I got home from the war, after thoughts of her had sustained me during my imprisonment. Somehow it is more terrible that way, believing your loved one to be alive and well, engaged in life's pursuits, and then you discover that all the while....."
His voice trailed off as he gazed through the window at thatched-roof cottages of gray stone that burgeoned from green meadows like giant toadstools in a fairy tale. The steady churning of the wheels beneath the railroad car echoed in the rhythmic monotone of a nursery rhyme Philo remembered from childhood.
Slowly, its words rolled from his tongue: "'Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been? I've been to London to see the Queen...the Queen...the Queen.....'"
"We're going to see Queen Victoria?" exclaimed Bart, his voice rising excitedly.
Philo glanced at him as if he'd forgotten the young man was there.
"No...well, yes...a queen she be, but Victoria's not her name," he said, coming back to reality with a clear focus on Bart's face. "It's not the Queen of England we've come to see, but the deposed Empress of France, the beautiful Eugénie, widow of Napoleon the Third. It was her son, the Prince Imperial, who was killed...by seventeen thrusts of Zulu assegais sharp as daggers. Oh!"
Philo buried his face in his hands. Bart remained silent. Then, regaining control, Philo continued.
"Forgive me, son, but it is too horrible a thought. Such an elegant, manly boy he was...handsome, debonair, a year or so older than you and Ardie. Yes, the Prince became twenty-three last March, and I cared for him deeply."
"Ardie and I have just turned twenty-two," Bart confirmed.
"I know little more than the frightful circumstance of his death," Philo added. "Disraeli, as a politician, has an eye for the sensational. I presume he gave me that detail to illustrate the uncivilized horror our aristocratic Parisian prince must have faced at the end. To be confronted by dark warriors wielding those frightening spears.....! Had fate been kinder, he would have been the object of adoration on the Parisian boulevards rather than the target of blood lust in the wilds of Zululand!"
"Yes, sir," interrupted Bart, "I can imagine how his poor mother must feel. Excuse me, sir, but how have you come to know such exalted people? We've been told so little of your life away from us."
Philo sighed. "I've been remiss, Bart, for not sharing more of my life with you. I'll try to make up for it."
He paused, his eyes again taking on a faraway look. "You see, when I first went to Paris, I met a lady, at one time a famous actress...but I shall not speak of her now. Suffice it to say that she introduced me to her dressmaker, and....."
"Dressmaker?" Bart asked with incredulity.
Philo nodded. "Yes, her dressmaker...who happened also to be the most famous fashion designer in Europe, perhaps in the world. His name is Charles Frederick Worth, official dressmaker to the Courts at Vienna and Paris, in other words, to the Empress Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and to the Empress Eugénie of the Second French Empire. Charles became my friend, and he, in turn, presented me to the imperial ladies. As was customary, I arrived for my Court presentations with gifts. The gifts I gave were representative of the Asian treasures I had begun to import into Europe. The Empresses were delighted and opened royal doors for me all over the Continent."
He joined his hands at the fingertips and settled his chin on them, looking Bart squarely in the eye. "My business has been my great adventure. I pray daily that my sons will find themselves as fulfilled in their work as I have in mine."
Bart shook his head. "That's a big order, Cap'n!"
Philo leaned across and patted Bart's hand. "You'll be a huge success in whatever you do. God pointed the way to something grand the night He inspired you to blow that whistle at Fredericksburg! By the way, whatever happened to the whistle, boy?"
Bart grinned. He stretched his legs to pluck it from the pocket of his pants, holding it up for Philo to see.
"I gave it to Ardie when I first arrived at the house on North Charles, when you sent Annie and me up from Fredericksburg. Ardie gave it back to me the morning we left Boston last week," he explained. "He's had it all this time. He told me to carry it with me into the world. He thinks it might help somebody again sometime."
Bart lifted the whistle to his lips and blew it twice.
At the sound of the whistle, a short wiry man in a tall hat and a long dress coat, passing by in the corridor, stopped and poked his head in the compartment door.
"I say, Captain, so here you are!" the gentleman exclaimed. "I boarded at the last station, hoping to find you so we could chat! And this young man, I presume, is Master Barton Creel! How do you do, sir? Benjamin Disraeli is my name."
The visitor bowed with a flourish as Bart leapt to his feet.
"Mister Prime Minister!" Bart exclaimed.
Disraeli threw his head back and laughed heartily. "Thank you for addressing me thus! My colleagues in the Commons are sometimes less respectful. They have been known to call me 'Dizzy', which, admittedly, I sometimes am!"
Philo rose and extended his hand. "But 'what's in a name', as Shakespeare has put it, 'that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet'....."
Bart broke in banteringly with the next line from Romeo and Juliet: "...'So (Disraeli) would, were he not (Disraeli) call'd, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title!'"
Charmed, Disraeli sat and pulled Bart down alongside him. "I'm going to ask you to address the Commons, young man. I want the Opposition to hear what you Americans think of me!"
Laying aside a large nosegay of flowers he carried, the fine-featured gentleman removed the gloves he wore despite the July heat.
"My friends," he said, "I took this time for a chat before we see the Empress. She is in a bad way, you know. That is one reason I am so happy to see you here, young fellow. May I call you Bart? She adores handsome young people of either sex, and is always happier with a coterie of them around her. Distinguished personages such as myself are of no use to her right now save to express sympathy and say depressing things."
He turned to Philo.
"Captain, our little friend has been with the Empress every day since receiving les affreuses nouvelles, the awful news. Such a darling girl! She has given great comfort to Her Imperial Majesty. Hers is a noble heart, for her own suffering must surely be beyond all bounds. Yet she has spoken not a word of it to anyone."
Philo addressed the Prime Minister. "Bart does not know about the young lady."
His hands crossed atop a walking stick between his knees, Disraeli peered at Bart. "I see. Well then, I shall tell you a bit about her. She was the girl whom the Prince had thought he might one day take to wife. It was not a matter of public knowledge, you see, because since the abdication of his late father, the Prince Imperial had gradually become the hope of those who wished to see the Empire restored in Republican France. This presented many problems. For him to have chosen the usual royal princess from the standard bloodlines might have been offensive to the Republicans in France. Whereas, for him to have chosen a commoner would have been unsuitable in the Imperialists' eyes. Truly, a dilemma!"
"A story went the rounds," Philo broke in, "that the Prince Imperial was interested in marrying Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria. This infuriated the French, who despise the English."
Disraeli smiled impishly. "I do not disavow that I may have repeated that story from time to time myself. It is known as throwing hounds off the scent! We were most concerned that the truth not be let out. It could have proved disastrous if the world knew that the Prince Imperial, the would-be Napoleon the Fourth, Emperor of the French, was in love with an American girl he met in London!
"To me, it seemed an interesting possibility. A wedding of imperialist France to democratic America would create an autocratic dynasty infused with republican blood!
"However, in researching his choice, we found, to our amazement, that the Prince's instincts had not after all strayed so far from the stables of the royal preserve!
"The girl was not just an American. She was of purely Scottish descent. Nor was she just an ordinary Highlander lassie born by chance in the New World, but a direct descendant of the half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots! And Mary, as this American might likewise have become, had once been Queen of France!"
Disraeli banged his cane upon the floor, his enthusiasm increasing as he concluded his story. "Think of it! Our American girl could lay claim to the throne in Scotland today! Further, as did her royal aunt, many times removed, she could reign in France as well! God of Abraham, what a marvelous tale!"
His voice suddenly fell. He gave a long sigh. "Alas, 'tis a tale never to be told!"
Disraeli turned to Philo again. "Young Napoleon would be alive today had he not begged to accompany his British soldier friends as an observer of the Zulu War. An observer! Ha! He demanded to be included in the most dangerous missions! Against the best advice, he had ridden out on patrol that day astride a horse named Fate. They found his body next morning. Seventeen wounds! An assegai had even pierced his right eye. They say he died bravely, fighting almost single-handedly against a howling mob of at least forty Zulu warriors. What a hero! What an Emperor he would have made!
"The Zulus stripped him naked, but, mysteriously, the gold chain around his neck they left behind. It was strung with medallions. I received it yesterday, which is why I have come here to greet you. I want to deliver it personally to the Empress Eugénie."

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