Irene refused an invitation to the wedding. She wrote, "Brad is a delicate child, and I would fear for his health if he were to cross the ocean." Everyone understood her concern. She had suffered two miscarriages and had nearly given up hope of having a child. Bradley was an unexpected gift.
A follow-up letter to Philo came from Annie: "It goes without saying that Ardie will not be there, either, because of Irene. I, of course, shall be. Beth's parents and I will be sailing together. I have three wedding gifts - my treasured silhouette of Li'l Bart cut soon after we arrived in Baltimore, and one of Beth that her mother says was cut at about the same age. The third is my acceptance of their invitation to sing at the wedding!"
Beth told Bart, "A small ceremony will do, darling, just family and friends." No announcement was made..
A story was leaked to the London press, however, presumably by someone at Farnborough Hill. It reported that the Empress Eugénie planned to attend incognito on the arm of Arthur Bigge, who had presented Pepper to Beth and the Prince Imperial. Bigge was now assistant private secretary to Queen Victoria.
A firestorm of opinion erupted in the Paris press.
Fuel was added by reports in Vienna that the Empress Elizabeth would also be there, escorted by her Court dressmaker, Charles Frederick Worth, Philo's friend, the famous Parisian fashion designer.
The anti-monarchist Republicans in France raised a hue and a cry against allowing Eugénie to reenter the country. They invaded the gardens of the Élysée Palace, residence of French presidents since her late husband, Napoleon the Third, was deposed in 1870.
President Jules Grévy appeared at the entrance to placate them.
"She's only a visitor here!" he declared. "The Prince Imperial is dead. He is no longer a threat to the Republic. Let us receive her as a bereaved mother come to pay homage to the city of her son's birth. She will only be here for a day!"
Meanwhile, the Imperialists were conducting a counter-demonstration in the neighboring Place de la Concorde where Louis the Sixteenth and his queen, Marie Antoinette, had been beheaded in 1793. The placards read: "Regicides OUT! Monarchy IN!" When they heard of the President's conciliatory remarks two blocks away, they dropped their signs, shouting "Bravo!"
En masse, they ran toward the Élysée Palace.
Republicans and Imperialists rushed wildly at each other, linked arms, and, eight thousand voices strong, marched on the Élysée Palace singing the national anthem of France, La Marseillaise.
Beth wired the Empress that she would understand if she did not wish to come because of the furor.
Eugénie wired back, "I wouldn't miss the fun!"
The wedding had nearly become a matter of state. The government offered the use of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, but Beth refused. Not only had the Prince Imperial been baptized there, but his father had been responsible for its restoration. It would have proved too painful for Eugénie.
In lieu of Notre Dame, Beth requested the use of her favorite, the magnificent Sainte Chapelle, thirteenth-century "Holy Chapel" of the King of France who was later canonized as Saint Louis.
It stood almost adjacent to the Place Dauphine.Its superimposed two-storey walls of jewel-like, stained-glass windows represented a Gothic masterpiece. A student of the Impressionist painter, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Beth had spent many hours with him in the Sainte Chapelle observing the opalescence of light filtered through its glorious windows.
The wedding date was set by Doctor Dash, whom Bart had asked to be his best man.
Their work under the aegis of Louis Pasteur had already begun to earn them international attention, if not acclaim.
Joining forces, they had made remarkable progress in the adaptation of ancient Oriental principles of healing to Western medical science. They encountered powerful opposition from established medical society, but the moral support of Pasteur not only encouraged them to continue, but also commanded respect from those who would ridicule.
The day after Bart proposed to Beth, he shared the good news with Dash.
"Splendid, old man!" the Mongol had declared. "Let my marriage gift to you be the wedding date. It is a custom in Mongolia to consult the shaman, who is a combination of village doctor and parish priest, to select the most auspicious date for an important event. It happens that a Tibetan family I know here in Paris is presently entertaining a friend from Lhasa. He is a shaman of the Lamaist religion! What luck!"
Beth was delighted when Bart told her.
"Do you believe in this sort of thing?" he queried.
She smiled mysteriously, thinking of the Gypsy queen's command to marry him. "You may owe more than you suspect to 'this sort of thing.' It will please your best friend to do it. That is enough for me."
The date chosen was the twenty-fifth of August. Heads shook in amazement. The Tibetan shaman, with no knowledge of Western history or holidays, had chosen Saint Louis' Day. As previously decided, the wedding was to take place in Saint Louis' own chapel, the Sainte Chapelle!
Despite threats of riot, there was little disturbance in the street outside the Sainte Chapelle when the day came. A large crowd waited for a glimpse of the guests. Fashion reporters, denied a preview of the Charles Worth gown Beth would wear, jostled for a place near the entry As carriages drew up and discharged passengers, some arrivals captured more attention than others.
The tactful Empress Eugénie, discerning that her presence in Paris was offensive to many in the Republican majority, chose a vehicle of the most ordinary type. Still in mourning for the late Prince Imperial, she dressed in a subdued black costume of simple design, but still in keeping with her reputation as the most stylish Royal in Europe.
Her obvious deference to the tastes of the bourgeoisie earned a round of cheers from as many Republican gawkers as from Imperialists. Behind her came Arthur Bigge with a silver-beribboned Pepper in his arms.
When the Empress Elizabeth's imposing coach arrived, the crowd voiced an impromptu cry of surprise that not Charles Worth, but Crown Prince Rudolph, twenty-seven years old and the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne, leapt out jauntily to hand his mother down. A few hysterical screams indicated the presence of several women titillated by a glimpse of the most romantically handsome and eligible prince on the Continent. Scarcely noticed, Worth followed them out.
By far the greatest reception, however, was accorded Annie, who arrived with Philo. Sedate and of regal bearing, she made a tremendous impact on the crowd. Although past sixty, she scarcely showed her age.
Black people were a rarity in Paris, and even more rarely had Parisians observed so regal and commanding a presence unsullied by condescension. The gentle gaze she cast over the admiring throng impressed them all with its warmth and humility. Annie's years in Baltimore as "Miss Rainbow," singing her way into the hearts of presidents, foreign statesmen, and visiting kings, had left no taint of arrogance upon her.
True to her theatrical name, Worth had gowned her in iridescent silk and had designed a hat inspired by a painting of a West African queen.
When she sang at the ceremony, her voice drifted through open windows, enthralling the crowd still in the street. Their numbers grew as passersby lingered with them to listen to her.
When Annie left the Sainte Chapelle on Philo's arm, a thunderous ovation awaited her.