It was Annie's face that dominated the front pages of the newspapers the next day. Such a clamor for a public appearance arose that President Grévy called on Philo and Annie in the Place Dauphine.
Philo's housekeeper, Adrienne André, was struck speechless when the President announced himself as she opened the door. Annie, also attracted by the sound of the bell, shook off a sudden memory of Bessie's similar reaction when admitting President Lincoln to the Baltimore house in 1864.
In Philo's study on the seventh floor, President Grévy proposed an idea.
"My dear Mam'selle Rainbow," he began, "Your singing and this wedding have helped bring together the Monarchists and the Republicans for the first time. I do not wish you to think me guilty of exploitation, but....."
Philo interrupted with a chuckle. "M'sieur le President, forgive me, but remember that we are Americans. The Prince Imperial himself wrote these words: 'The United States of America is governed by a clique of politicians, discredited in other careers, whose game is to exploit their popularity.' So exploit if you will! It's a fine old American tradition among you politicians!"
The President laughed. "I beg you to write that down for me. I shall use it the next time the American ambassador comes calling!"
He then asked Annie to sing in recital out of doors in front of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Sacré Coeur. "It is still in construction, but already occupies a special place in Parisian hearts. The Basilica, according to a resolution passed by the National Assembly, will represent a national vow of humility and repentance after the terrible days of the Commune."
Annie looked quizzically at Philo.
"M'sieur le President," he interjected, "forgive me again for interrupting, but Annie does not know of the Commune. However, my majordomo and housekeeper, Paul and Adrienne André, came to me because of it. May I ask Madame Adrienne to tell the story?"
The President agreed readily. Adrienne was called in and introduced.
"My husband, Paul, and I were married fifteen years ago," she began. "Days afterward, war was declared between Germany and France. The Germans marched on Paris. We refused to surrender, so they placed us under siege. We were cut off from the world for one hundred and thirty-one days. During the last month, we were bombarded night and day. Hundreds of women and children were killed. We ate cats, rats, dogs, horses, and even the elephant at the zoo!"
She dabbed at her eyes with her apron. "Finally, under humiliating terms, we surrendered. The Germans signed an armistice, and went away. But the trouble had only begun. The city was taken over by the Communards, including many socialists, Marxists, and radical republicans, all of them disgusted with the politicians who had brought this tragedy about and then sold our souls to end it!"
President Grévy coughed self-consciously. "Louis Adolphe Thiers was President then, not I," he stated apologetically.
Adrienne continued: "The Communards took hostages to force the government to change. To no avail! They shot the hostages and took more. They came to our street, the Rue St. Antoine, and dragged us and many others out of our homes. Then, they made another appeal to the government. The answer still was no. So we were lined up to be shot, but suddenly one of the Communards shouted, 'Stop!' He recognized my husband as a boy he had known in school. He negotiated with his associates. They said that if we would help them burn down the Ministry of Justice, we would be allowed to live. Naturally, we agreed."
She turned suddenly to Annie.
"Come to the window, Mam'selle," she said, rising and stepping over to the glass. When Annie stood beside her, she pointed outside to the left.
"There, beyond the bushes and the trees," she indicated, "is the Palace of Justice that houses the Ministry. Do you see? It forms the third side of the triangle known as the Place Dauphine!"
They sat down again.
Adrienne leaned forward in her chair, ready to tell the climax of her tale. "It was night. We went with them, but when they were busy lighting torches to set the Ministry afire, I screamed to Paul, 'Run!' I could not help myself. I felt surely they would kill us. We started off. One of them must have raised a gun. There was a shot. I stopped and turned around. The man who had saved us was battling with them. While I watched, another shot rang out. He fell dead!"
Her hands clutched her cheeks as if she could see it happening at that moment. Her eyes were wide with remembered terror.
"Suddenly, the door of this house was flung open, and Captain Duncan stepped out. He grabbed us and pulled us inside. We heard the Communards racing past, shouting, frustrated that we had disappeared. A few days later, peace was restored. And here we are, with the good capitaine, to this day."
Philo smiled. "Thank you, Madame, for sharing your story. You have neglected to tell, though, that because you distracted the Communards, the Ministry of Justice was saved! Only one hall was burned! Annie, that ends Madame Adrienne's brush with the Commune, but in the days after peace was restored, the government exacted a terrible revenge on Paris. Seventeen thousand people were rounded up and executed as Communards. Many of them were innocent. For that, much bitterness among the people, and turmoil in the government, exists today."
The President sighed deeply. "Yes, sadly, it is true. And this is why Mam'selle Rainbow can help to heal the wound. The newspapers have pointed out that you were once a slave. You have known bitterness, too. But it is more than that. The people of France have presented a statue of Lady Liberty to the people of the United States. It arrived there in June in crates and will be assembled on an island named Bedloe's in the harbor at New York City. It is magnificent, and will stand a hundred-and-fifty feet high when it is erected on its American pedestal next year!"
He stood, turned to Annie, and made a low bow. "I, the President of France, beg you to sing before the people of Paris as a living American symbol of freedom. You, a former slave, will represent Lady Liberty. You will be our exemplar in the struggle to set ourselves free of the divisions in our past. Will you accept, Mam'selle?"
With tears in her eyes, Annie replied, "It will be my pleasure to accept this great honor, unworthy as I am."
Beth and Bart returned two weeks later from their honeymoon on the coast of Normandy. Renoir had arranged a cottage for the newlyweds in the lovely fishing village of Honfleur, near which Claude Monet had painted the work, Impression: Sunrise, 1872, that gave the Impressionist movement its name.
Thrilled by Annie's news, Beth immediately approached Charles Frederick Worth and asked him to design a gown for Annie to wear. He made her a copy of the statue's robe in copper-colored silk washed with the blue and green tones copper takes on with oxidation. He hired a noted coppersmith to make the crown. Frederic Auguste Bertholdi had created the monument of copper sheeting held in place by wrought iron bands riveted to the frame.
Thus, on an afternoon in October of 1885, Annie Creel, otherwise known as "Miss Rainbow," born a slave in the state of Louisiana, sang of freedom in the capital of France. Standing before the incomplete Basilica of the Sacré Coeur atop the lofty hill known as the Butte de Montmartre, she saw the ancient city of Paris spread at her feet. In closing, she raised a flaming torch and sang La Marseillaise, joined by a huge assembly of Parisians.
After the recital, Philo asked Annie if she would remain with him in Paris.
"I would not consider it, Cap'n," she said, "if I felt truly welcome in Louisburg Square. Irene is a good mother, but she's spoiling little Brad. I don't say much about it, but I s'pose what I think shows in my face. Bridget has worked it out with Irene. She gets along with her as well as anybody could. She can help care for Brad. You know, I never can get over how much...I hate to say it...how much Irene is like her mother!"
She stayed in Paris, and was exceedingly glad she did when, on Beth's twenty-fifth birthday the sixteenth of March 1886, everyone gathered around the table to celebrate. Doctor Dash was given a place of honor beside the birthday girl. Annie sat on her other side.
"Annie, do you remember the cable you sent the captain to announce Brad's birth?" she asked.
Annie smiled. "'Deed I do!"
"Well, do you remember you said you might like to have a little girl for a change?" Beth continued her questioning.
Annie nodded, her wise old eyes aimed at Beth's.
"It may be that...you'll get your wish...pretty soon," Beth concluded shyly.
Bart jumped in. "I hope it will be a girl, and I want her to look just like Beth. And now I propose another toast." he declared. "This time, to Dash!"
Everyone turned to Dash with a quizzical look. No one was more puzzled than he.
"What for, old man?" he asked, nonplused.
"Simply this, old fellow," Bart said, "your Tibetan shaman chose the twenty-fifth of August for our wedding date. That turned out to be the day consecrated to Saint Louis. The shaman had not been told we were to be married in Louis's Sainte Chapelle! I cannot say that I'll ever understand numerology or mystical symbols and signs, but before all of you, I do declare that if my daughter...or my son...is born on the twenty-fifth of August, that will make a believer of me!"
Dash stood with him. "I'll drink to that," he said.
The baby indeed was born on that day.
It was a girl.
Beth gave Bart the privilege of selecting the name.
He was seated at her bedside with Philo and Annie. He looked over at his mammy and reached across the baby and Beth to take her hand.
"Annie, I am your child. I should name her that in your honor....."
Annie shook her head. "No, Little Bart, dear son of my heart, God gave me the gift of watching you become a wonderful man. That is honor enough for me."
He loosed her hand and bowed his head. Finally, he lifted his eyes to his daughter and took her in his arms.
"I have had three mothers," he said to her softly. "Annie is with me now. By giving you the names of the other two, I bring them again into my life. My daughter, you are
Roma Nelle Creel."
Philo and Annie exchanged grateful glances.
"Thank you, son," Philo whispered.
When the day came that the baby began to talk, it seemed almost impossible for her to say her own name. They rehearsed her day after day: "Roma Nelle, Roma Nelle, Roma Nelle."
She tried. She would squint her eyes of periwinkle blue and scrunch up her tiny nose and try, try, try: "Rohm-el, Rohm-el, Rohm-el."
Then, in frustration, she would give her coppery curls a good yank and cry: "Bad girl!"
At last, Bart conceded, and suggested they settle on "Romelle," or, sometimes, "Romy," for short.
"But what's in a name," he laughed that day, "if she looks like you, Beth!"