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The Queen’s Pleasure

I AM writing to you from a lost corner of the far south-east of
Europe. The author of my guide-book, in his preface,
observes that a traveller in this part of the world, ” unless he has
some acquaintance with the local idioms, is liable to find himself
a good deal bewildered about the names of places.” On Thursday
of last week I booked from Charing Cross, by way of Dover,
Paris, and the Oriental Express, for Vescova, the capital of
Monterosso; and yesterday afternoon—having changed on Sunday,
at Belgrade, from land to water, and steamed for close upon forty-
eight hours down the Danube—I was put ashore at the town
of BCKOB, in the Principality of Tchermnogoria.

I certainly might well have found myself a good deal be-
wildered ; and if I did not for—Im afraid I can’t boast of much
acquaintance with the local idioms—it was no doubt because this
isn’t my first visit to the country. I was here some years ago, and
then I learned that BCKOB is pronounced as nearly as may be
Vscov, and that Tchermnogoria is Monterosso literally trans
lated—tchermnoe (the dictionaries certify) meaning red, and gora,
or goria, a hill, a mountain.

It is our fashion in England to speak of Monterosso, if we


                        30 The Queen’s Pleasure

speak of it at all, as I have just done : we say the Principality
of Monterosso. But if we were to enquire at the Foreign Office,
I think they would tell us that our fashion of speaking is not
strictly correct. In its own Constitution Monterosso describes
itself as a Basilestvo, and its Sovereign as the Basile ; and in all
treaties and diplomatic correspondence, Basile and Basilestvo are
recognised by those most authoritative lexicographers, the Powers,
as equivalent respectively to King and Kingdom. Anyhow,
call it what you will, Monterosso is geographically the smallest,
though politically the eldest, of the lower Danubian States. (It
is sometimes, by the bye, mentioned in the newspapers of Western
Europe as one of the Balkan States, which can scarcely be
accurate, since, as a glance at the map will show, the nearest
spurs of the Balkan Mountains are a good hundred miles distant
from its southern frontier.) Its area is under ten thousand square
miles, but its reigning family, the Pavelovitches, have contrived
to hold their throne, from generation to generation, through thick
and thin, ever since Peter the Great set them on it, at the
conclusion of his war with the Turks, in 1713.

Vescova is rarely visited by English folk, lying, as it does,
something like a two days journey off the beaten track, which
leads through Belgrade and Sofia, to Constantinople. But, should
you ever chance to come here, you would be surprised to see what
a fine town it is, with its population of upwards of a hundred
thousand souls, its broad, well-paved streets, its substantial yellow-
stone houses, its three theatres, its innumerable churches, its shops
and cafes, its gardens, quays, monuments, its government offices,
and its Royal Palace. I am speaking, of course, of the new
town, the modern town, which has virtually sprung into existence
since 1850, and which, the author of my guide-book says, “dis-
putes with Bukharest the title of the Paris of the South-East.”


                        By Henry Harland 31

The old town—the Turkish town, as they call it—is another
matter : a nightmare-region of filthy alleys, open sewers, crumb-
ling clay hovels, mud, stench, dogs, and dirty humanity, into
which a well-advised foreigner will penetrate as seldom as con-
venient. Yet it is in the centre of the old town that the
Cathedral stands, the Cathedral of Sankt Iakov, an interesting
specimen of Fifteenth Century Saracenic, having been erected
by the Sultan Mohammed II, as a mosque.

Of the Royal Palace I obtain a capital view from the window of my room in the Hôtel de Russie.

” A vast irregular pile,” in the language of my guide-book, ” it
is built on the summit of an eminence which dominates the town
from the West.” The “eminence” rises gradually from this
side to a height of perhaps a hundred feet, but breaks off abruptly
on the other in a sheer cliff overhanging the Danube. The
older portions of the Palace spring from the very brink of the
precipice, so that, leaning from their ramparts, you could drop
a pebble straight into the current, an appalling depth below.
And, still to speak by the book, these older portions ” vie with
the Cathedral in architectural interest.” What I see from my
bedroom is a formidable, murderous-looking Saracenic castle :
huge perpendicular quadrangles of blank, windowless, iron-grey
stone wall (curtains, are they technically called?), connecting
massive square towers ; and the towers are surmounted by battle-
ments and pierced by meurtrieres. It stands out very bold and
black, gloomy and impressive, when the sun sets behind it, in
the late afternoon. I could suppose the place quite impregnable,
if not inaccessible ; and it s a mystery to me how Peter the Great
ever succeeded in taking it, as History will have it that he did, by


                        32 The Queen’s Pleasure

The modern portions of the Palace are entirely commonplace
and cheerful. The east wing, visible from where I am seated
writing, might have been designed by Baron Haussmann : a
long stretch of yellow facade—dazzling to the sight just now,
in the morning sunshine—with a French roof, of slate, and a box
of gay-tinted flowers in each of its countless windows.

Behind the Palace there is a large and very lovely garden,
reserved to the uses of the Royal Household ; and beyond that,
the Dunayskiy Prospekt, a park that covers about sixty acres, and
is open to the public.

The first floor, the piano nobile, of that east wing is occupied by
the private apartments of the King and Oueen.

I look across the quarter-mile of red-tiled housetops that
separate me from their Majesties habitation, and I fancy the
life that is going on within. It is too early in the day for
either of them to be abroad, so they are certainly there, some-
where behind those gleaming windows : Theodore Basile, and
Aneli Basilitsa.

She, I would lay a wager, is in her music-room, at her piano,
practising a song with Florimond. She is dressed in white
(I always think of her as dressed in white—doubtless because
she wore a white frock the first time I saw her), and her brown
hair is curling loose about her forehead, her maids not having yet
imprisoned it. I declare, I can almost hear her voice : tra-la-lira-
la-la : mastering a trill ; while Florimond, pink, and
plump, and smiling, walks up and down the room, nodding his head to mark
the time, and every now and then interrupting her with a

The King, at this hour, will be in his study, in dressing-gown
and slippers—a tattered old dingy brown dressing-gown, out at


                        By Henry Harland 33

elbows — at his big, wildly-littered writing-table, producing
“copy,” …. to the accompaniment of endless cigarettes and
endless glasses of tea. (Monterossan cigarettes are excellent, and
Monterossan tea is always served in glasses.) The King has
literary aspirations, and—like Frederick the Great—coaxes his
muse in French. You will occasionally see a conte of his in
the Nouvelle Revue, signed by the artful pseudonym, Theodore

At one o clock to-day I am to present myself at the Palace, and
to be received by their Majesties in informal audience ; and then
I am to have the honour of lunching with them. If I were on
the point of lunching with any other royal family in Europe. . . .
But, thank goodness, I’m not ; and I needn’t pursue the dis-
tressing speculation. Oueen Aneli and King Theodore are—for
a multitude of reasons—a Oueen and King apart.

You see, when he began life, Theodore IV was simply Prince
Theodore Pavelovitch, the younger son of a nephew of the
reigning Basile, Paul III ; and nobody dimly dreamed that
he would ever ascend the throne. So he went to Paris, and
” made his studies ” in the Latin Quarter, like any commoner.

In those days as,—I dare say, it still is in these—the Latin
Quarter was crowded with students from the far south-east.
Servians, Roumanians, Monterossans, grew, as it were, on every
bush ; we even had a sprinkling of Bulgarians and Montenegrins ;
and those of them who were not (more or less vaguely) princes,
you could have numbered on your ringers. And, anyhow, in that
democratic and self-sufficient seat of learning, titles count for
little, and foreign countries are a matter of consummate ignorance
and jaunty unconcern. The Duke of Plaza-Toro, should he
venture in the classical Boul Miche, would have to cede the


                        34 The Queen’s Pleasure

pas to the latest hero of the Beaux-Arts, or buily from the School
of Medicine, even though the hero were the son of a village
apothecary, and the bully reeked to heaven of absinthe and to-
bacco ; while the Prime Minister of England would find his
name, it is more than to be feared, unknown, and himself re-
garded as a person of quite extraordinary unimportance.

So we accepted Prince Theodore Pavelovitch, and tried him by
his individual merits, for all the world as if he were made of the
same flesh and blood as Tom, Dick, and Harry ; and thee-and-
thou’d him, and hailed him as mon vieux as merrily as we did
everybody else. Indeed, I shouldn’t wonder if the majority of
those who knew him were serenely unaware that his origin was
royal (he would have been the last to apprise them of it), and
roughly classed him with our other princes valaques. For con-
venience sake, we lumped them all—the divers natives of the
lands between the Black Sea and the Adriatic under the generic
name, Valaques ; we couldn t be bothered with nicer ethnological

We tried Prince Theodore by his individual merits ; but, as his
individual merits happened to be signal, we liked him very much.
He hadn t a trace of ” side ; ” his pockets were full of money ; he
was exceedingly free-handed. No man was readier for a lark,
none more inventive or untiring in the prosecution of one. He
was a brilliant scholar, besides, and almost the best fencer in the
Quarter. And he was pleasantly good-looking—fair-haired, blue-
eyed, with a friendly humorous face, a pointed beard, and a
slight, agile, graceful figure. Everybody liked him, and every-
body was sorry when he had to leave us, and return to his ultra-
mundane birthplace. ” It can t be helped,” he said. ” I must
go home and do three years of military service. But then I shall
come back. I mean always to live in Paris.”


                        By Henry Harland 35

That was in 82. But he never came back. For, before his
three years of military service were completed, the half-dozen
cousins and the brother who stood between him and the throne,
had one by one died off, and Theodore himself had succeeded to
the dignity of Basilitch, as they call their Heir Presumptive. In
1886 he married. And, finally, in 88, his great-uncle Paul also
died at the age of ninety-seven, if you please—and Theodore was
duly proclaimed Basile.

He didn t forget his ancient cronies, though ; and I was only
one of those whom he invited to come and stay with him in his
Palace. I came, and staid …. eleven months ! That seems
egregious ; but what will you say of another of us, Arthur Fleet
(or Florimond, as their Majesties have nicknamed him), who
came at the same time, and has staid ever since ? The fact is,
the King is a tenacious as well as a delightful host ; if he once
gets you within his portals, he won t let you go without a
struggle. ” We do bore ourselves so improbably out here, you
know,” he explains. ” The society of a Christian is a thing we’d
commit a crime for.”

Theodore’s consort, Aneli Isabella, Basilitsa Tcbermnogory
vide the Almanach de Gotha—is the third daughter of the late
Prince Maximilian of Wittenburg ; sister, therefore, to that young
Prince Waldemar who comes almost every year to England, and
with whose name and exploits as a yachtsman all conscientious
students of the daily press will be familiar ; and cousin to the
reigning Grand Duke Ernest.

Theoretically German, she is, however, to all intents and
purposes, French ; for her mother, the Princess Celestine (of
Bourbon-Morbihan), was a Frenchwoman, and, until her marriage,
I fancy that more than half of Aneli’s life was passed between


                        36 The Queen’s Pleasure

Nice and Paris. She openly avows, moreover, that she ” detests
Germany, the German language, the German people, and all
things German, and adores France and the French.” And her
political sympathies are entirely with the Franco-Russ alliance.

She is a deliciously pretty little lady, with curling soft-brown
hair, a round, very young-looking face, a delicate rose-and-ivory
complexion, and big, bright, innocent brown eyes—innocent, yet
with plenty of potential archness, even potential mischief, lurking
in them. She has beautiful full red lips, besides, and exquisite
little white teeth. Florimond wrote a triolet about her once, in
which he described her as ” une fleur en porcelaine.” Her
Majesty repudiated the phrase indignantly. ” Why not say a
wax-doll, and be done with it ? ” she demanded. All the same,
” fleur en porcelaine ” does, in a manner, suggest the general
effect of her appearance, its daintiness, its finish, its crisp chisel-
ling, its clear, pure colour. Whereas, nothing could be more
misleading than ” wax-doll,” for there is character, character, in
every molecule of her person.

The Queen’s character, indeed, is what I wish I could give
some idea of. It is peculiar, it is distinctive ; to me, at any
rate, it is infinitely interesting and diverting ; but, by the same
token—if I may hazard so to qualify it—it is a trifle …. a
trifle …. difficult.

” You re such an arbitrary gent ! ” I heard Florimond complain
to her, one day. (I heard and trembled, but the Queen only
laughed.) And that will give you an inkling of what I mean.

If she likes you, if you amuse her, and if you never remotely
oppose or question her desire of the moment, she can be all that is
most gracious, most reasonable, most captivating : an inspiring
listener, an entertaining talker : mingling the naivete, the inex-


                        By Henry Harland 37

perience of evil, the half comical, half appealing unsophistication,
of a girl, of a child almost—of one who has always lived far aloof
from the struggle and uncleanness of the workaday world—with
the wit, the humour, the swift appreciation and responsiveness
of an exceedingly impressionable, clear-sighted, and accomplished

But …. but ….

Well, I suppose, the right way of putting it would be to say, in
the consecrated formula, that she has the defects of her qualities.
Having preserved something of a child s simplicity, she has not
entirely lost a child’s wilfulness, a child s instability of mood, a
child s trick of wearing its heart upon its sleeve. She has never
perfectly acquired a grown person s power of controlling or con-
cealing her emotions.

If you don’t happen to amuse her—if, by any chance, it is your
misfortune to bore her, no matter how slightly ; and, oh, she is so
easily bored !—the atmosphere changes in a twinkling : the sun
disappears, clouds gather, the temperature falls, and (unless you
speedily ” brisken up,” or fly her presence) you may prepare for
most uncomfortable weather. If you manifest the faintest hesita-
tion in complying with her momentary wishes, if you raise the
mildest objection to them—gare a vous ! Her face darkens,
ominous lightning flashes in her eyes, her under-lip swells danger-
ously ; she very likely stamps her foot imperiously ; and you are
to be accounted lucky if you don’t get a smart dab from the. barbed
end of her royal tongue. And if she doesn t like you, though she
may think she is trying with might and main to disguise the fact
and to treat you courteously, you know it directly, and you go
away with the persuasion that she has been, not merely cold and
abstracted, but downright uncivil.

The Yellow Book—Vol. VII. C


                        38 The Queen’s Pleasure

In a word, Queen Aneli is hasty, she is impatient. And, in
addition to that, she is uncertain. You can never tell beforehand,
by any theory of probabilities based on past experience, what will
or will not, on any given occasion, cause her to smile or frown.
The thing she expressed a desire for yesterday, may offend her
to-day. The suggestion that put her in a temper yesterday, to-day
she may welcome with joyous enthusiasm. You must approach
her gingerly, tentatively ; you must feel your ground.

” Oh, most dread Sovereign,” said Florimond, ” if you won’t
fly out at me, I would submit, humbly, that you’d better not
drive this afternoon in your open carriage, in your sweet new
frock, for, unless all signs fail, it’s going to rain like everything.”
She didn’t fly out at him exactly ; but she retorted, succinctly,
with a peremptory gesture, ” No, it’s not going to rain,” as who
should say, ” It daren’t.” And she drove in her open carriage,
and spoiled her sweet new frock. “Not to speak of my sweet new
top-hat,” sighs Florimond, who attended her ; “the only Lincoln
and Bennett top-hat in the whole length and breadth of Monte-

She is hasty, she is uncertain ; and then …. she is intense.
She talks in italics, she feels in superlatives ; she admits no com-
parative degree, no emotional half-tones. When she is not ecstati
cally happy, she is desperately miserable ; wonders why she was
ever born into this worst of all possible worlds ; wishes she were
dead ; and even sometimes drops dark hints of meditated suicide.
When she is not in the brightest of affable humours, she is in the
blackest of cross ones. She either loves a thing, or she simply can’t
endure it ;—the thing may be a town, a musical composition, a
perfume, or a person. She either loves you, or she simply can’t
endure you ; and she s very apt to love you and to cease to love


                        By Henry Harland 39

you alternately—or, at least, to give you to understand as much—
three or four times a day. It is winter midnight or summer noon,
a climate of extremes.

” Do you like the smell of tangerine-skin ? “

Every evening for a week, when, at the end of dinner, the
fruit was handed round, the King asked her that question ; and
she, never suspecting his malice, answered invariably, as she
crushed a bit between her fingers, and fervidly inhaled its odour,
“Oh, do I like it ? I adore it. It’s perfect rapture.”

She is hasty, she is uncertain, she is intense. Will you be sur-
prised when I go on to insist that, down deep, she is altogether
well-meaning and excessively tender-hearted, and when I own that
among all the women I know I can think of none other who
seems to me so attractive, so fascinating, so sweetly feminine and
loveable ? (Oh, no, I am not in love with her, not in the least—
though I don’t say that I mightn’t be, if I were a king, or she
were not a queen.) If she realises that she has been unreasonable,
she is the first to confess it ; she repents honestly, and makes the
devoutest resolutions to amend. If she discovers that she has hurt
anybody’s feelings, her conscience will not give her a single second
of peace, until she has sought her victim out and heaped him with
benefits. If she believes that this or that distasteful task forms in
very truth a part of her duty, she will go to any length of
persevering self-sacrifice to accomplish it. She has a hundred
generous and kindly impulses, where she has one that is perverse
or inconsiderate. Bring any case of distress or sorrow to her
notice, and see how instantly her eyes soften, how eager she is to
be of help. And in her affections, however mercurial she may
appear on the surface, she is really constant, passionate, and, in
great things, forbearing. She and her husband, for example,


                        40 The Queen’s Pleasure

though they have been married for perilously near ten years, are
little better than a pair of sweethearts (and jealous sweethearts, at
that ; you should have been present on a certain evening when we
had been having a long talk and laugh over old days in the Latin
Quarter, and an evil spirit prompted one of us to regale her
Majesty with a highly-coloured account of Theodore’s youthful
infatuation for Nina Childe ! . . . . Oh, their faces ! Oh, the
silence!); and then, witness her devotion to her brother, to
her sisters ; her fondness for Florimond, for Madame Donarowska,
who was her governess when she was a girl, and now lives with
her in the Palace.

“I am writing a fairy-tale,” Florimond said to her, “about
Princess Gugglegoo and Princess Ragglesnag.”

“Oh ? ” questioned the Oueen. ” And who were they?

Princess Gugglegoo was all sweetness and pinkness, softness
and guilelessness, a rose full of honey, and without a thorn ; a
perfect little cherub ; oh, such a duck ! Princess Ragglesnag was
all corners and sharp edges, fire and fret, dark moods and quick
angers ; oh, such an intolerant, dictatorial, explosive, tempestuous
princess ! You could no more touch her than you could touch a
nettle, or a porcupine, or a live coal, or a Leyden jar, or any other
prickly, snaggy, knaggy, incandescent, electric thing. You did
have to mind your p’s and q’s with her ! But no matter how
carefully you minded them, she was sure to let you have it, sooner
or later ; you were sure to rile her, one way or another : she was
that cantankerous and tetchy, and changeable and unexpected.—
And then Well, what do you suppose ? ”

” I’m waiting to hear,” the Oueen replied, a little drily.

“Oh, there! If you re going to be grumpy, I won’t play,”
cried Florimond.


                        By Henry Harland 41

” I’m not grumpy—as you call it. Only, your characters are
rather conventionally drawn. However, go on, go on.”

” There was a distinct suggestion of menace in your tone. But
never mind. If you didn’t really mean it, we’ll pretend there
wasn’t. Well, my dears,” he went on, turning, so as to include
the King in his audience, ” you never will believe me, but it’s a
solemn, sober fact that these two princesses were twin sisters, and
that they looked so much alike that nobody, not even their own
born mother, could tell them apart. Now, wasn’t that surprising?
Only, Ragglesnag looked like Gugglegoo suddenly curdled and
gone sour, you know ; and Gugglegoo looked like Ragglesnag
suddenly wreathed out in smiles and graces. So that the courtiers
used to say, Hello ! What can have happened ? Here comes
dear Princess Gugglegoo looking as black as thunder. Or else—
‘ Bless us and save us ! What’s this miracle ? Here comes old
Ragglesnag looking as if butter wouldnt melt in her mouth.’—
Well, and then. . . . .”

“Oh, you needn’t continue,” the Oueen interrupted, bridling.

” You re tedious and obvious, and utterly unfair and unjust. I
hope I’m not an insipid little fool, like Gugglegoo ; but I don’t
think I’m quite a termagant, either, like your horrid exaggerated

“Oh, dear! Oh, dear!” wailed Florimond. “Why will
people go and make a personal application of everything a fellow
says ? If I had been even remotely thinking of your Majesty, I
should never have dreamed of calling her by either of those
ridiculous outlandish names. Gugglegoo and Ragglesnag, in-
deed ! ”

“What would you have called her ? ” the King asked, who was
chuckling inscrutably, in his arm-chair.

” Well, I might have called her Ragglegoo, and I might have


                        42 The Queen’s Pleasure

called her Gugglesnag. But I hope I’m much too discerning
ever to have applied such a sweeping generalisation to her
as Ragglesnag, or such a silly, sugary sort of barbarism as

“It s perfectly useless,” the Queen broke out, bitterly, “to
expect a man—even a comparatively intelligent and highly-developed
man, like Florimond—to understand the subtleties of a woman’s
nature, or to sympathise with the difficulties of her life. When
she isn t as crude, and as blunt, and as phlegmatic, and as insensi-
tive, and as transparent and commonplace and all-of-one-piece, as
themselves, men always think a woman;s unreasonable and capri-
cious and infantile. It’s a little too discouraging. Here I wear
myself to a shadow, and bore and worry myself to extermination,
with all the petty contemptible cares and bothers and pomps and
ceremonies of this tiresome little Court ; and that’s all the thanks
I get—to be laughed at by my husband, and lectured and ridiculed
in stupid allegories by Florimond ! It’s a little too hard. Oh, if
you’d only let me go away, and leave it all behind me ! I’d go to
Paris, and change my name, and become a concert-singer. It’s
the only thing I really care for—to sing and sing and sing. Oh,
if I could only go and make a career, as a concert-singer in Paris !
Will you let me ? Will you ? Will you ? ” she demanded vehe-
mently of her husband.

” That’s rather a radical measure to bring up for discussion at
this hour of the night, isn’t it ? ” the King suggested, laughing.

“But it s quite serious enough for you to afford to consider it.
And I don t see why one hour isn’t as good as another. Will you
let me go to Paris and become a concert-singer ? ”

“What ! And leave poor me alone and forlorn here in Ves-
cova ? Oh, my dear, you wouldn’t desert your own lawful spouse
in that regardless manner ! ”

                                                I don’t

                        By Henry Harland 43

” I don’t see what ‘lawful’ has to do with it. You don’t half
appreciate me. You think I’m childish, and capricious, and bad-
tempered, and everything that’s absurd and idiotic. I don’t see
why I should waste my life and my youth, stagnating in this out-
of-the-way corner of Nowhere, with a man who doesn’t appreciate
me, and who thinks I’m childish and idiotic, when I could go to
Paris, and have a life of my own, and a career, and do the only
thing in the world I really care for. Will you let me ? Answer.
Will you ? ”

But the King only laughed.

” And besides,” the Oueen went on, in a minute, “if you really
missed me, you could come too. You could abdicate. Why
shouldn t you ? Instead of staying here, and boring and worrying
ourselves to death as King and Oueen of this ungrateful, insuffer-
able, little unimportant ninth-rate country, why shouldn’t we
abdicate, and go to Paris, and be a Man and a Woman, and have
a little Life, instead of this dreary, artificial, cardboard sort of
puppet-show existence ? You could devote yourself to literature,
and I’d go on the concert-stage, and we’d have a delightful little
house in the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, and be perfectly
happy. Of course Florimond would come with us. Why
shouldn t we ? Oh, if you only would ! Will you ? Will you,
Theo ? ” she pleaded earnestly.

The King looked at his watch. “It s nearly midnight, my
dear,” he said. ” High time, I should think, to adjourn the debate.
But if, when you wake up to-morrow morning, you wish to resume
it, Florimond and I will be at your disposal. Meanwhile we’re
losing our beauty-sleep ; and I, for one, am going to bed.”

“Oh, it’s always like that ! ” the Queen complained. “You
never do me the honour of taking seriously anything I say. It’s
intolerable. I don’t think any woman was ever so badly treated.”


                        44 The Queen’s Pleasure

She didn’t recur to the subject next day, however, but passed
the entire morning with Florimond, planning the details of a
garden-party, and editing the list of guests ; and she threw her
whole soul into it, too : so that, when the King looked in upon
them, a little before luncheon, Florimond smiled at him significantly
(indeed, I’m not sure he didn’t wink at him) and called out, “Oh,
we are enjoying of ourselves. Please don t interrupt. Go back
to your counting-house and count out your money, and leave us in
the parlour to eat our bread and honey.”

It is in the nature of things, doubtless, that a temperament such
as I have endeavoured to suggest, should find the intensity of its
own feelings reflected by those that it excites in others. One
would expect to hear that the people who like Oueen Aneli
like her tremendously, and that the people who don’t like her
tremendously don’t like her at all. And, in effect, that is precisely
the lady’s case. She is tremendously liked by those who are near
to her, and who are therefore in a position to understand her and
to make allowances. They love the woman in her ; they laugh
at and love the high-spirited, whimsical, impetuous, ingenuous
child. But those who are at a distance from her, or who meet
her only rarely and formally, necessarily fail to understand her, and
are apt, accordingly, neither to admire her greatly, nor to bear her
much good will. And, of course, while the people who are near
to her can be named by twos and threes, those who view her from
a distance must be reckoned with by thousands. And this brings
me to a painful circumstance, which I may as well mention with
out more ado. At Vescova—as you could scarcely spend a day
in the town, and not become aware—Queen Aneli is anything
you please but popular.

“The inhabitants of Monterosso,” says M. Boridov, in his


                        By Henry Harland 45

interesting history of that country, ” fall into three rigidly separated
castes : the nobility, a bare handful of tall, fair-haired, pure-
blooded Slavs ; the merchants and manufacturers, almost exclusively
Jews and Germans ; and the peasantry, the populace—a short,
thick-set, swarthy race, of Slavic origin, no doubt, and speaking a
Slavic tongue, but with most of the Slavic characteristics obliterated
by admixture with the Turk. . . . Your true Slav peasant, with
his mild blue eyes, and his trustful spirit, is as meek and as long-
suffering as a dumb beast of burden. But your black-browed
Monterossan, your Tchermnogorets, is fierce, lawless, resentful,
and vindictive, a Turk’s grandson, the Turk’s first cousin :
though no one detests the Turk more cordially than he.”

Well, at Vescova, and, with diminishing force, throughout all
Monterosso, Oueen Aneli is entirely misunderstood and sullenly
misliked. Her husband cannot be called precisely the idol of his
people, either ; but he is regarded with indulgence, even with
hopefulness ; he is a Monterossan, a Pavelovitch : he may turn
out well yet. Aneli, on the contrary, is an alien, a German, a
Niemkashka. The feeling against her begins with the nobility.
Save the half-dozen who are about her person, almost every
mother s son or daughter of them fancies that he or she has been
rudely treated by her, and quite frankly hates her. I am afraid,
indeed, they have some real cause of grievance ; for they are most
of them rather tedious, and provincial, and narrow-minded ; and
they bore her terribly when they come to Court ; and when she is
bored, as we have seen, she is likely to show it pretty plainly. So
they say she gives herself airs. They pretend that when she isn’t
absent-minded and monosyllabic, she is positively snappish. They
denounce her as vain, shallow-pated, and extravagant. They
twist and torture every word she speaks, and everything she
does, into subject-matter for unfriendly criticism ; and they quote


                        46 The Queen’s Pleasure

as from her lips a good many words that she has never spoken, and
they blame her savagely for innumerable things that she has never
thought of doing. But that’s the trouble with the fierce light
that beats upon a throne—it shows the gaping multitude so much
more than is really there. Why, I have been assured by at least
a score of Monterossan ladies that the Queen’s lovely brown hair
is a wig ; that her exquisite little teeth are the creation of Dr.
Evans, of Paris ; that whenever anything happens to annoy her,
she bursts out with torrents of the most awful French oaths ; that
she quite frequently slaps and pinches her maids-of-honour ; and
that, as for her poor husband, he gets his hair pulled and his face
scratched as often as he and she have the slightest difference of
opinion. Monterossan ladies have gravely asseverated these charges
to me (these, and others more outrageous, that I won’t repeat),
whilst their Monterossan lords nodded confirmation. It matters
little that the charges are preposterous. Give a Queen a bad
name, and nine people in ten will believe she merits it.

Anyhow, the nobility of Monterosso, quite frankly hating
Oueen Aneli, give her every bad name they can discover in their
vocabularies ; and the populace, the mob, without stopping to make
original investigations, have convicted her on faith, and watch her
with sullen captiousness and mislike. When she drives abroad,
scarcely a hat is doffed, never a cheer is raised. On the contrary,
one sometimes hears mutterings and muffled groans ; and the
glances the passers-by direct at her are, in the main, the very
reverse of affectionate glances. Members of the shop-keeping
class alone show a certain tendency to speak up for her, because
she spends her money pretty freely ; but the shop-keeping class are
aliens too, and don’t count—or, rather, they count against her,
” the dogs of Jews,” the zhudovskwy sobakwy !

But do you imagine Queen Aneli minds ? Do you imagine she


                        By Henry Harland 47

is hurt, depressed, disappointed ? Not she. She accepts her
unpopularity with the most superb indifference. ” What do you
suppose I care for the opinion of such riff-raff ? ” I recollect her
once crying out, with curling lip. ” Anyone who has the least
individuality, the least character, the least fineness, the least
originality—any one who is in the least degree natural, uncon-
ventional, spontaneous—is bound to be misconceived and
calumniated by the vulgar rank and file. It s the meanness and
stupidity of average human nature ; it s the proverbial injustice of
men. To be popular, you must either be utterly insignificant, a
complete nonentity, or else a time-server and a hypocrite. So long
as I have a clear conscience of my own, I don’t care a button
what strangers think and say about me. I don’t intend to allow
my conduct to be influenced in the tiniest particular by the
prejudices of outsiders. Meddlers, busybodies ! I will live my own
life, and those who don’t like it may do their worst. I will
be myself.”

” Yes, my dear; but after all,” the King reminded her, “one
has, in this imperfect world, to make certain compromises with
one’s environment, for comfort’s sake. One puts on extra clothing
in winter, for example, however much, on abstract principles, one
may despise such a gross, material, unintelligent thing as the
weather. Just so, don’t you think, one is by way of having a
smoother time of it, in the long run, if one takes a few simple
measures to conciliate the people amongst whom one is compelled
to live ? Now, for instance, if you would give an hour or two
every day to learning Monterossan. . . .”

” Oh, for Heaven’s sake, don’t begin that rengaine,” cried her
Majesty. ” I ve told you a hundred million times that I won’t
be bothered learning Monterossan.”

It is one of her subjects sorest points, by the bye, that she has


                        48 The Queen’s Pleasure

never condescended to learn their language. When she was first
married, indeed, she announced her intention of studying it.
Grammars and dictionaries were bought ; a Professor was
nominated ; and for almost a week the Crown Princess (Basilevna),
as she then was, did little else than grind at Monterossan. Her
Professor was delighted ; he had never known such a zealous pupil.
Her husband was a little anxious. ” You musn’t work too hard,
my dear. An hour or two a day should be quite enough.” But
she answered, ” Let me alone. It interests me.” And for almost
a week she was at it early and late, with hammer and tongs ;
poring over the endless declensions of Monterossan nouns, the
endless conjugations of Monterossan verbs ; wrestling, sotto voce,
with the tongue-tangling difficulties of Monterossan pronunciation ;
or, with dishevelled hair and inky fingers, copying long Monte-
rossan sentences into her exercise book. She is not the sort of
person who does things by halves.—And then, suddenly, she turned volte-face ; abandoned the enterprise forever. ” It’s
idiotic,” she exclaimed. ” A language with thirty-seven letters in
its alphabet, and no literature ! Why should I addle my brains
trying to learn it ? Ah, bien, merci ! I’ll content myself
with French and English. It’s bad enough, in one short life, to have
had to learn German, when I was a child.”

And neither argument nor entreaty could induce her to re-
commence it. The King, who has never altogether resigned him-
self to her determination, seizes from time to time an opportunity
to hark back to it ; but then he is silenced, as we have seen, with
a ” don’t begin that rengaine.” The disadvantages that result
from her ignorance, it must be noticed, are chiefly moral ; it
offends Monterossan amour-propre. Practically, she does perfectly
well with French, that being the Court language of the realm.

No, Oueen Aneli doesn t care a button. She tosses her head


                        By Henry Harland 49

and accepts ” the proverbial injustice of men ” with magnificent
unconcern. Only, sometimes, when the public sentiment against
her takes the form of aggressive disrespect, or when it interferes in
any way with her immediate convenience, it puts her a little out of
patience—when, for instance, the traffic in the street retards the
progress of her carriage, and a passage isn’t cleared for her as
rapidly as it might be for a Queen whom the rabble loved ; or
when, crossing the pavement on foot, to enter a church, or a shop,
or what not, the idlers that collect to look, glare at her sulkily,
without doing her the common courtesy of lifting their hats. In
such circumstances, I dare say, she is more or less angered. At
all events, a sudden fire will kindle in her eyes, a sudden colour in
her cheeks ; she will very likely tap nervously with her foot, and
murmur something about ” canaille.” Perhaps anger, though, is
the wrong word for her emotion ; perhaps it should be more
correctly called a kind of angry contempt.

When I first came to Vescova, some years ago, the Prime
Minister and virtual dictator of the country was still M.
Tsargradev, the terrible M. Tsargradev,—or Sargradeff, as most
English newspapers write his name,—and it was during my visit
here that his downfall occurred, his downfall and irretrievable

The character and career of M. Tsargradev would furnish the
subject for an extremely interesting study. The illegitimate son
of a Monterossan nobleman, by a peasant mother, he inherited the
unprepossessing physical peculiarities of his mother’s stock : the
sallow skin, the broad face, the flat features, the prominent cheek-
bones, the narrow, oblique-set, truculent black eyes, the squat,
heavy figure. But to these he united a cleverness, an energy, an
ambition, which are as foreign to simple as to gentle Monterossan


                        50 The Queen’s Pleasure

blood, and which he doubtless owed to the fusion of the two ; and
an unscrupulousness, a perfidy, a cruelty, and yet a surperficial
urbanity, that are perhaps not surprising in an ambitious politician,
half an Oriental, who has got to carry the double handicap of a
repulsive personal appearance and a bastard birth. Now, the
Government of Monterosso, as the King has sometimes been
heard to stigmatise it, is deplorably constitutional. By the
Constitution of 1869, practically the whole legislative power is
vested in the Soviete, a parliament elected by the votes of all male
subjects who have completed three years of military service. And,
in the early days of the reign of Theodore IV, M. Tsargradev
was leader of the Soviete, with a majority of three to one at his back.

This redoubtable personage stood foremost in the ranks of
those whom our fiery little Queen Aneli ” could not endure.”

” His horrible soapy smile ! His servile, insinuating manner !
It makes you feel as if he were plotting your assassination,” she
declared. ” His voice—ugh ! It’s exactly like lukewarm oil.
He makes my flesh creep, like some frightful, bloated reptile.”

“There was a Queen in Thule,” hummed Florimond, “who
had a marvellous command of invective. Eaving help your
reputation, if you fell under her illustrious displeasure.”

” I don’t see why you make fun of me. I’m sure you think as
I do—that he s a monster of low cunning, and cynicism, and
craft, and treachery, and everything that’s vile and revolting.
Don’t you ? ” the Queen demanded.

” To be sure I do. I think he’s a bold, bad, dreadful person.
I lie awake half the night, counting up his iniquities in my mind.
And if just now I laughed, it was only to keep from crying.”

” This sort of talk is all very well,” put in the King ; ” but the
fact remains that Tsargradev is the master of Monterosso. He


                        By Henry Harland 51

could do any one of us an evil turn at any moment. He could
cut down our Civil List to-morrow, or even send us packing, and
establish a republic. We’re dependent for everything upon his
pleasure. I think, really, my dear, you ought to try to be decent
to him—if only for prudence sake.”

” Decent to him ! ” echoed her Majesty. ” I like that ! As
if I didn’t treat him a hundred million times better than he
deserves ! I hope he can’t complain that I’m not decent
to him.”

“You’re not exactly effusive, do you think ? I don’t mean
that you stick your tongue out at him, or throw things at
his head. But trust him for understanding. It’s what you
leave unsaid and undone, rather than what you say or do. He’s
fully conscious of the sort of place he occupies in your heart, and
he resents it. He thinks you distrust him, suspect him, look down
upon him. . . .”

“Well, and so I do,” interrupted the Oueen. “And so do
you. And so does everybody who has any right feeling.”

” Yes ; but those of us who are wise in our generation keep
our private sentiments regarding him under lock and key. We
remember his power, and treat him respectfully to his face, how-
ever much we may despise him in secret. What s the use of
quarrelling with our bread and butter ? We should seek to
propitiate him, to rub him the right way.”

” Then you would actually like me to grovel, to toady, to a
disgusting little low-born, black-hearted cad like Tsargradev !
” cried the Queen, with scorn.

“Oh, dear me, no,” protested her husband. “But there’s a
vast difference between toadying, and being a little
tactful, a little diplomatic. I should like you to treat him with something more
than bare civility.”


                        52 The Queen’s Pleasure

” Well, what can I do that I don’t do ? “

” You never ask him to any but your general public functions,
your state receptions, and that sort of thing. Why don’t you
admit him to your private circle sometimes ? Why don’t you
invite him to your private parties, your dinners ? ”

” Ah, merci, non ! My private parties are my private parties.
I ask my friends, I ask the people I like. Nothing could induce
me to ask that horrid little underbred mongrel creature. He’d
be—he’d be like—like something unclean—something murky
and contaminating—in the room. He’d be like an animal, an
ape, a satyr.”

” Well, my dear,” the King submitted meekly, ” I only hope
we’ll never have cause to repent your exclusion of him. I know
he bears us a grudge for it, and he s not a person whose grudges
are to be made light of.”

” Bah ! I’m not afraid of him,” Aneli retorted. ” I know he
hates me. I see it every time he looks at me, with his snaky
little eyes, his forced little smile—that awful, complacent, in-
gratiating smirk of his, that shows his teeth, and isn’t even skin
deep ; a mere film spread over his face, like pomatum ! Oh,
I know he hates me. But it’s the nature of mean, false little
beasts like him to hate their betters; so it can’t be helped.
For the rest, he may do his worst. I’m not afraid,” she concluded

Not only would she take no steps to propitiate M. Tsargradev,
but she was constantly urging her husband to dismiss him.

” I’m perfectly certain he has all sorts of dreadful secret vices.
I haven’t the least doubt he’s murdered people. I’m sure he steals.
I’m sure he has a secret understanding with Berlin, and accepts
bribes to manage the affairs of Monterosso as Prince Bismarck
wishes. That’s why we’re more or less in disgrace with our


                        By Henry Harland 53

natural allies, Russia and France. Because Tsargradev is
paid to pursue an anti-Russian, a German, policy. If you would
take my advice, you’d dismiss him, and have him put in prison.
Then you could explain to the Soviete that he is a murderer, a
thief, a traitor, and a monster of secret immorality, and appoint a
decent person in his place.”

Her husband laughed with great amusement.

You don t appear quite yet to have mastered the principles of
constitutional government, my dear. I could no more dismiss
Tsargradev than you could dismiss the Pope of Rome.”

” Are you or are you not the King of Monterosso ? “

“I m Vice-King, perhaps. You re the King, you know. But
that has nothing to do with it. Tsargradev is leader of the
Soviete. The Soviete pays the bills, and its leader governs. The
King s a mere fifth-wheel. Some day they ll abolish him. Mean-
while they tolerate him, on the understanding that he’s not to

” You ought to be ashamed to say so. You ought to take the
law and the Constitution and everything into your own hands.
If you asserted yourself, they’d never dare to resist you. But
you always submit—submit—submit. Of course, everybody takes
advantage of a man who always submits. Show that you have
some spirit, some sense of your own dignity. Order Tsargradev’s
dismissal and arrest. You can do it now, at once, this evening.
Then to-morrow you can go down to the Soviete, and tell them
what a scoundrel he is—a thief, a murderer, a traitor, an impostor,
a libertine, everything that s foul and bad. And tell them that
henceforward you’re going to be really King, and not merely
nominally King ; and that you’re going to govern exactly as you
think best ; and that, if they don’t like that, they will have to
make the best of it. If they resist, you can dissolve them, and

The Yellow Book—Vol. VII. D


                        54 The Queen’s Pleasure

order a general election. Or you can suspend the Constitution,
and govern without any Soviete at all.”

The King laughed again.

” I’m afraid the Soviete might ask for a little evidence, a few
proofs, in support of my sweeping charges. I could hardly satisfy
them by declaring that I had my wife s word for it. But,
seriously, you exaggerate. Tsargradev is anything you like from
the point of view of abstract ethics, but he’s not a criminal. He
hasn’t the faintest motive for doing anything that isn’t in accord-
ance with the law. He’s simply a vulgar, self-seeking politician,
with a touch of the Tartar. But he’s not a thief, and I imagine
his private life is no worse than most men’s.”

“Wait, wait, only wait!” cried the Oueen. “Time will
show. Some day he’ll come to grief, and then you’ll see that
he’s even worse than I have said. I feel, I know, he’s everything
that’s bad. Trust a woman’s intuitions. They’re much better
than what you call evidence.

And she had a nickname for him, which, as well as her general
criticisms of his character, had pretty certainly reached the
Premier s ear ; for, as subsequent events demonstrated, very nearly
every servant in the Palace was a spy in his pay. She called him
the nain jaune.

Subsequent events have also demonstrated that her woman’s
intuitions were indeed trustworthy. Perhaps you will remember
the revelations that were made at the time of M. Tsargradev’s
downfall ; fairly full reports of them appeared in the London
papers. Murder, peculation, and revolting secret debaucheries
were all, surely enough, proved against him. It was proved that
he was the paid agent of Berlin ; it was proved that he had had
recourse to torture in dealing with certain refractory witnesses in
his famous prosecution of Count Osareki. And then, there was


                        By Henry Harland 55

the case of Colonel Alexandrevitch. He and Tsargradev, at sun-
set, were strolling arm-in-arm in the Dunayskiy Prospekt, when
the Colonel was shot by some person concealed in the shrubberies,
who was never captured. Tsargradev and his friends broached
the theory, which gained pretty general acceptance, that the shot
had been intended for the Prime Minister himself, and that the
death of Colonel Alexandrevitch was an accident due to bad
aiming. It is now perfectly well established that the death of the
Colonel was due to very good aiming indeed ; that the assassin
was M. Tsargradev s own hireling ; and that perhaps the best
reason why the police could never lay hands on him had some
connection with the circumstance that the poor wretch, that very
night, was strangled and cast into the Danube.

Oh, they manage these things in a highly unlikely and
theatrical manner, in the far south-east of Europe !

But the particular circumstances of M. Tsargradev’s downfall
were amusingly illustrative of the character of the Oueen. Ce
que femme veult, Dleu le veult. And though her husband talked
of the Constitution, and pleaded the necessity of evidence, Aneli
was unconvinced. To get rid of Tsargradev, by one method or
another, was her fixed idea, her determined purpose ; she bided her
time, and in the end she accomplished it.

It befell, during the seventh month of my stay in the Palace,
that a certain great royal wedding was appointed to be celebrated
at Dresden : a festivity to which were bidden all the crowned
heads and most of the royal and semi-royal personages of
Christendom, and amongst them the Basile and Basilitsa of

” It will cost us a pretty sum of money,” Theodore grumbled,


                        56 The Queen’s Pleasure

when the summons first reached him. “We’ll have to travel
in state, with a full suite ; and the whole shot must be paid from
our private purse. There’s no expecting a penny for such a
purpose from the Soviete.”

” I hope,” exclaimed the Queen, looking up from a letter she
was writing, ” I hope you don’t for a moment intend to go ? ”

” We must go,” answered the King. “There’s no getting out
of it.”

” Nonsense ! ” said she. ” We’ll send a representative.”

” I only wish we could,” sighed the King. “But unfortunately
this is an occasion when etiquette requires that we should attend
in person.”

“Oh, bother etiquette,” said she. ” Etiquette was made for
slaves. We’ll send your Cousin Peter. One must find some
use for one’s Cousin Peters.”

” Yes ; but this is a business, alas, in which one’s Cousin
Peter won’t go down. I’m very sorry to say we’ll have to attend
in person.”

“Nonsense ! she repeated. “Attend in person ! How can
you think of such a thing ? We’d be bored and fatigued to death.
It will be unspeakable. Nothing but dull, stodgy, suffocating
German pomposity and bad taste. Oh, je m y connais ! Red
cloth, and military bands, and interminable banquets, and noise,
and confusion, and speeches (oh, the speeches !), until you re ready
to drop. And besides, we’d be herded with a crowd of ninth-rate
princelings and petty dukes, who smell of beer and cabbage and
brilliantine. We d be relegated to the fifth or sixth rank, behind
people who are all of them really our inferiors. Do you suppose I
mean to let myself be patronised by a lot of stupid Hohenzollerns
and GratzhofFens ? No, indeed ! You can send your cousin


                        By Henry Harland 57

“Ah, my dear, if I were the Tsar of Russia ! ” laughed her
husband. ” Then I could send a present and a poor relation, and
all would be well. But—you speak of ninth-rate princelings. A
ninth-rate princeling like the Basile of Tchermnogoria must make
act of presence in his proper skin. It’s de rigueur. There’s no
getting out of it. We must go.”

” Well, you may go, if you like,” her Majesty declared. ” As
for me, I won’t. If you choose to go and be patronised and bored,
and half killed by the fatigue, and half ruined by the expense, I
suppose I can’t prevent you. But, if you want my opinion, I
think it’s utter insane folly.”

And she re-absorbed herself in her letter, with the air of one
who had been distracted for a moment by a frivolous and tiresome

The King did not press the matter that evening, but the next
morning he mustered his courage, and returned to it.

“My dear,” he began, ” I beg you to listen to me patiently for
a moment, and not get angry. What I wish to say is really very

“Well, what is it? What is it ? ” she inquired, with antici-
patory weariness. ”

It’s about going to Dresden. I—I want to assure you that I
dislike the notion of going quite as much as you can. But it’s no
question of choice. There are certain things one has to do,
whether one will or not. I’m exceedingly sorry to have to insist,
but we positively must reconcile ourselves to the sacrifice,
and attend the wedding—both of us. It’s a necessity of our posi-
tion. If we should stay away, it would be a breach of international
good manners that people would never forgive us. We should be
the scandal, the by-word, of the Courts of Europe. We’d give
the direst offence in twenty different quarters. We really can’t


                        58 The Queen’s Pleasure

afford to make enemies of half the royal families of the civilised
world. You can’t imagine the unpleasantnesses, the complications,
our absence would store up for us ; the bad blood it would cause.
We’d be put in the black list of our order, and snubbed, and
embarrassed, and practically ostracised, for years to come. And
you know whether we need friends. But the case is so obvious,
it seems a waste of breath to argue it. You surely won’t let a
mere little matter of temporary personal inconvenience get us into
such an ocean of hot water. Come now—be reasonable, and say
you will go.”

The Queen’s eyes were burning ; her under-lip had swollen
portentously ; but she did not speak.

The King waited a moment. Then, ” Come, Aneli—don’t
be angry. Answer me. Say that you will go,” he urged, taking
her hand.

She snatched her hand away. I’m afraid she stamped her foot.
” No ! ” she cried. ” Let me alone. I tell you I won’t

” But, my dear . . . .” the King was re-commencing ….
” No, no, no ! And you needn’t call me your dear. If you
had the least love for me, the least common kindness, or considera-
tion for my health or comfort or happiness, you’d never dream of
proposing such a thing. To drag me half-way across the Con-
tinent of Europe, to be all but killed at the end of the journey by
a pack of horrid, coarse, beer- drinking Germans ! And tired out,
and irritated, and patronised, and humiliated by people like ——
and —— ! It’s perfectly heartless of you. And I when I
suggest such a simple natural pleasure as a trip to Paris, or to the
Italian lakes in autumn—you go and tell me we can t afford it !
You re ready to spend thousands on a stupid, utterly unnecessary
and futile absurdity, like this wedding, but you can’t afford to take
me to the Italian lakes ! And yet you pretend to love me ! Oh,


                        By Henry Harland 59

it’s awful, awful, awful ! ” And her voice failed her in a sob ; and
she hid her face in her hands, and wept. So the King had to
drop the subject again, and to devote his talents to the task of
drying her tears.

I don’t know how many times they renewed the discussion, but
I do know that the Queen stood firm in her original refusal, and
that at last it was decided that the King should go without her,
and excuse her absence as best he might on the plea of her preca-
rious state of health. It was only after this resolution was made
and registered, and her husband had brought himself to accept it
with some degree of resignation—it was only that her
Majesty began to waver and vacillate, and reconsider, and change
her mind. As the date approached for his departure, her alterna-
tions became an affair of hours. It was, ” Oh, after all, I can’t
let you go alone, poor Theo. And besides, I should die of heart-
break, here without you. So—there—I’ll make the best of a bad
business, and go with you “—it was either that, or else, ” No,
after all, I can’t. I really can’t. I’m awfully sorry. I shall miss
you horribly. But, when I think of what it means, I haven’t the
trength or courage. I simply can’t “—it was one thing or the
other, on and off”, all day.

” When you finally know your own mind, I shall be glad if
you’ll send for me,” said Theodore. ” Because I’ve got to name
a Regent. And if you’re coming with me, I shall name my uncle
Stephen. But if you’re stopping here, of course I shall name

There is a bothersome little provision in the Constitution of
Monterosso to the effect that the Sovereign may not cross the
frontiers of his dominions, no matter for how brief a sojourn,
without leaving a Regent in command. Under the good old
regime, before the revolution of 1868, the kings of Tcherm-


                        60 The Queen’s Pleasure

nogoria were a good deal inclined to spend the bulk of their time
—and money—in foreign parts. They found Paris, Monte Carlo,
St. Petersburg, Vienna, and even, if you can believe me, some-
times London, on the whole more agreeable as places of residence
than their hereditary capital. (There was the particularly flagrant
case of Paul II, our Theodore s great-grandfather, who lived for
twenty years on end in Rome. He fancied himself a statuary,
poor gentleman, and produced oh, such amazing Groups ! Tons
of them repose in the Royal Museum at Vescova ; a few brave
the sky here and there in lost corners of the Campagna he used to
present them to the Pope ! Perhaps you have seen his Fountain at
Acqu amarra ?) It was to discourage this sort of royal absenteeism
that the patriotic framers of the Constitution slyly slipped Sub-
Clause 18 into Clause ii, of Title 3, of Article XXXVI : Con
cerning the Appointment of a Regent.

” So,” said Theodore, ” when you have finally made up your
mind, I shall be glad if you will let me know ; for I’ve got to
name a Regent.”

But the Oueen continued to hesitate ; in the morning it was
Yes, in the evening No ; and the eleventh hour was drawing near
and nearer. The King was to leave on Monday. On the pre-
vious Tuesday, in a melting mood, Aneli had declared, ” There !
Once for all, to make an end of it, I ll go.” On Wednesday a
Commission of Regency, appointing Prince Stephen, was drawn
up. On Thursday it was brought to the Palace for the royal
signature. The King had actually got as far as the d in his
name, when the Oueen, faltering at sight of the irrevocable docu-
ment, laid her hand on his arm. She was very pale, and her
voice was weak. ” No, Theo, don t sign it. It’s like my death-
warrant. I I haven’t got the courage. You’ll have to let me
stay. You’ll have to go alone.” On Friday a new commission


                        By Henry Harland 61

was prepared, in which Aneli’s name had been substituted for
Stephen’s. On Saturday morning it was presented to the King.
” Shall I sign ? ” he asked. ” Yes, sign,” said she. And he

” Ouf ! ” she cried. ” That’s settled.”

And she hardly once changed her mind again until Sunday
night ; and even then she only half changed it.

“If it weren t too late,” she announced, “do you know, I
believe I’d decide to go with you, in spite of everything ? But of
course I never could get ready to start by to-morrow morning.
You couldn t wait till Tuesday ? ”

The King said he couldn’t.

” And now, my dears ” (as Florimond, who loves to tell
the story, is wont to begin it), ” no sooner was her poor confiding
husband’s back a-turned, than what do you suppose this deep,
designing, unprincipled, high-handed young woman up and
did ? ”

Almost the last words Theodore spoke to her were, ” Do, for
heaven’s sake, try to get on pleasantly with Tsargradev. Don’t
treat him too much as if he were the dust under your feet. All
you’ll have to do is to sign your name at the end of the bills he’ll
bring you. Sign and ask no questions, and all will be well.”

And the very first act of Aneli’s Regency was to degrade M.
Tsargardev from office and to place him under arrest.

We bade the King good-bye on the deck of the royal yacht
Nemisa, which was to bear him to Belgrade, the first stage of his
journey. Cannon bellowed from the citadel ; the bells of all the
churches in the town were clanging in jubilant discord ; the river
was gay with fluttering bunting, and the King resplendent in a
gold-laced uniform, with the stars and crosses of I don’t know how


                        62 The Queen’s Pleasure

many Orders glittering on his breast. We lingered at the landing-
stage, waving our pocket-handkerchiefs, till the Nemisa turned a
promontory and disappeared ; Aneli silent, with a white face, and
set, wistful eyes. And then we got into a great gilt-and-scarlet
state-coach, she and Madame Donarowska, Florimond and I, and
were driven back to the Palace ; and during the drive she never
once spoke, but leaned her cheek on Madame Donarowska’s
shoulder, and cried as if her heart would break.

The Palace reached, however as who should say, ” We’re not
here to amuse ourselves ” she promptly dried her tears.

” Do you know what I’m going to do ? ” she asked. And, on
our admitting that we didn t, she continued, blithely, ” It’s an ill
wind that blows no good. Theo’s absence will be very hard to
bear, but I must turn it to some profitable account. I must
improve the occasion to straighten out his affairs ; I must put his
house in order. I’m going to give Monsieur Tsargradev a taste of
retributive justice. I’m going to do what Theo himself ought to
have done long ago. It s intolerable that a miscreant like Tsargradev
should remain at large in a civilised country ; it’s a disgrace to
humanity that such a man should hold honourable office. I’m
going to dismiss him and put him in prison. And I shall keep
him there till a thorough investigation has been made of his official
acts, and the crimes I’m perfectly certain he’s committed have been
proved against him. I’m not going to be Regent for nothing.
I’m going to rule.”

We, her auditors, looked at each other in consternation. It was
a good minute before either of us could collect himself sufficiently to speak.

At last, ” Oh, lady, lady, august and gracious lady,” groaned
Florimond, ” please be nice, and relieve our minds by confessing
that you re only saying it to tease us. Tell us you re only joking.”

                                                ” I never

                        By Henry Harland 63

” I never was more serious in my life,” she answered.

” I defy you to look me in the eye and say so without
laughing,” he persisted. ” What is the fun of trying to frighten
us ? ”

“You needn’t be frightened. I know what I’m about,” said she.

” What you’re about ! ” he echoed. ” Oh me, oh my ! You’re
about to bring your house crashing round your ears. You’re about
to precipitate a revolution. You’ll lose your poor unfortunate
husband’s kingdom for him. You’ll goodness only can tell what
you won’t do. Your own bodily safety your very life will be in
danger. There’ll be mobs, there’ll be rioting. Oh, lady, sweet
lady, gentle lady, you mustn’t, you really mustn’t. You’d much
better come and sing a song, along o’ me. Don’t meddle with
politics. They’re nothing but sea, sand, and folly. Music’s the
only serious thing in the world. Come let’s too-tootle.”

” It’s all very well to try to turn what I say to jest,” the Queen
replied loftily, “but I assure you I mean every word of it. I’ve
studied the Constitution. I know my rights. The appointment
and revocation of Ministers rest absolutely with the Sovereign.
It’s not a matter of law, it’s merely a matter of custom, a matter
of convenience, that the Ministers should be chosen from the party
that has a majority in the Soviete. Well, when it comes to the
case of a ruffian like Tsargradev, custom and convenience must go
by the board, in favour of right and justice. I m going to revoke

” And within an hour of your doing so the whole town of
Vescova will be in revolt. We’ll all have to leave the Palace, and
fly for our precious skins. We ll be lucky if we get away with
them intact. A pretty piece of business ! Tsargradev, from
being Grand Vizier, will become Grand Mogul ; and farewell to


                        64 The Queen’s Pleasure

the illustrious dynasty of Pavelovitch ! Oh, lady, lady ! I call it
downright unfriendly, downright inhospitable of you. Where
shall my grey hairs find shelter ? I’m so comfortable here under
your royal roof-tree. You wouldn’t deprive the gentlest of God’s
creatures of a happy home ? Better that a thousand Tsargradevs
should flourish like a green bay tree, than that one upright man
should be turned out of comfortable quarters. There, now, be
kind. As a personal favour to me, won’t you please just leave
things as they are ? ”

The Queen laughed a little not very heartily, though, and not
at all acquiescently. ” Monsieur Tsargradev must go to prison,”
was her inexorable word.

We pleaded, we argued, we exhausted ourselves in warnings and
protestations, but to no purpose. And in the end she lost her
patience, and shut us up categorically.

” No ! Let me be ! ” she cried. ” I’ve heard enough. I know
my own mind. I won’t be bothered.”

It was with heavy spirits and the dismallest forebodings that we
assisted at her subsequent proceedings. We had an anxious time
of it for many days ; and it has never ceased to be a source of
astonishment to me that it all turned out as well as it did. But
ce que femme veult, le diable ne scaurait pas l’empecher.

She began operations by despatching an aide-de-camp to M.
Tsargradev’s house, with a note in which she commanded him to
wait upon her forthwith at the Palace, and to deliver up his seals
of office.

At the same time she summoned to her presence General
Michaïlov, the Military Governor of Vescova, and Prince
Vasiliev, the leader of the scant Conservative opposition in the


                        By Henry Harland 65

She awaited these gentlemen in the throne-room, surrounded by
the officers of the household in full uniform. Florimond and I
hovered uneasily in the background.

” By Jove, she does look her part, doesn’t she ? Florimond
whispered to me.

She wore a robe of black silk, with the yellow ribbon of the
Lion of Monterosso across her breast, and a tiara of diamonds in
her hair. Her eyes glowed with a fire of determination, and her
cheeks with a colour that those who knew her recognised for a
danger-signal. She stood on the steps of the throne, waiting, and
tapping nervously with her foot.

And then the great white-and-gold folding doors were thrown
open, and M. Tsargradev entered, followed by the aide-de-camp who had gone to fetch him.

He entered, bowing and smiling, grotesque in his ministerial
green and silver ; and the top of his bald head shone as if it had
been waxed and polished. Bowing and smirking, he advanced to
the foot of the throne, where he halted.

” I have sent for you to demand the return of your seals of
office,” said the Queen. She held her head high, and spoke
slowly, with superb haughtiness.

Tsargradev bowed low, and, always smiling, answered, in a voice
of honey, “If it please your Majesty, I don’t think I quite under-

” I have sent for you to demand the return of your seals of
office,” the Oueen repeated, her head higher, her inflection
haughtier than ever.

” Does your Majesty mean that I am to consider myself dis-
missed from her service ? ” he asked, with undiminished sweetness.
” It is my desire that you should deliver up your seals of office,”
said she.


                        66 The Queen’s Pleasure

Tsargradev’s lips puckered in an effort to suppress a little good-
humoured deprecatory laugh. ” But, your Majesty,” he protested,
in the tone of one reasoning with a wayward school-girl, “you
must surely know that you have no power to dismiss a constitu-
tional Minister.”

” I must decline to hold any discussion with you. I must
insist upon the immediate surrender of your seals of office.”

” I must remind your Majesty that I am the representative of
the majority of the Soviete.”

” I forbid you to answer me. I forbid you to speak in my
presence. You are not here to speak. You are here to restore
the seals of your office to your Sovereign.”

” That, your Majesty, I must, with all respect, decline to

“You refuse ? ” the Queen demanded, with terrific shortness.

” I cannot admit your Majesty’s right to demand such a thing
of me. It is unconstitutional.”

” In other words, you refuse to obey my commands ? Colonel
Karkov ! ” she called.

Her eyes were burning magnificently now ; her hands trembled
a little.

Colonel Karkov, the Marshal of the Palace, stepped forward.

“Arrest that man,” said the Queen, pointing to Tsargradev.

Colonel Karkov looked doubtful, hesitant.

” Do you also mean to disobey me ? ” the Oueen cried, with a
glance …. oh, a glance !

Colonel Karkov turned pale, but he hesitated no longer. He
bowed to Tsargradev. ” I must ask you to constitute yourself my
prisoner,” he said.

Tsargradev made a motion as if to speak ; but the Oueen raised
her hand, and he was silent.

                                                ” Take

                        By Henry Harland 67

“Take him away at once,” she said. “Lock him up. He
is to be absolutely prevented from holding any communication
with any one outside the Palace.”

And, somehow, Colonel Karkov managed to lead Tsargradev
from the presence-chamber.

And that ended the first act of our comical, precarious little

After Tsargradev’s departure there was a sudden buzz of con-
versation among the courtiers. The Queen sank back, in evident
exhaustion, upon the red velvet cushions of the throne. She closed
her eyes and breathed deeply, holding one of her hands pressed
hard against her heart.

By-and-bye she looked up. She was very pale.
“Now let General Michaïlov and Prince Vasiliev be intro
duced,” she said.

And when they stood before her, ” General Michaïlov,” she
began, ” I desire you to place the town of Vescova under martial
law. You will station troops about the Palace, about the Chamber
of the Soviete, about the Mint and Government offices, and in all
open squares and other places where crowds would be likely to
collect. I have just dismissed M. Tsargradev from office, and
there may be some disturbance. You will rigorously suppress every
sign of disorder. I shall hold you responsible for the peace of the
town and the protection of my person.”

General Michaïlov, a short, stout, purple-faced old soldier,
blinked and coughed, and was presumably on the point of offering
something in the nature of an objection.

” You have heard my wishes,” said the Oueen. ” I shall be
glad if you will see to their immediate execution.”

The General still seemed to have something on his mind.


                        68 The Queen’s Pleasure

The Oueen stamped her foot. ” Is everybody in a conspiracy to
disobey me ? ” she demanded. ” I am the representative of your
King, who is Commander-in-Chief of the Army. Are my orders
to be questioned ? ”

The General bowed, and backed from the room.

” Prince Vasiliev,” the Queen said, ” I have sent for you to ask
you to replace M. Tsargradev as Secretary of State for the Interior,
and President of the Council. You will at once enter into the
discharge of your duties, and proceed to the formation of a

Prince Vasiliev was a tall, spare, faded old man, with a pointed
face ending in a white imperial. He was a great personal favourite
of the Queen’s.

” It will be a little difficult,” said he.

” No doubt,” assented she. ” But it must be done.”

” I hardly see how I can form a Ministry to any purpose, with
an overwhelming majority against me in the Soviete.”

” You are to dissolve the Soviete and order a general election.”

” The general election can scarcely be expected to result in a
change of parties.”

” No ; but we shall have gained time. When the new deputies
are ready to take their seats, M. Tsargradev s case will have been
disposed of. I expect you will find among his papers at the Home
Office evidence sufficient to convict him of all sorts of crimes. If
I can deliver Monterosso from the Tsargradev superstition, my
intention will have been accomplished.”

” Now let’s lunch,” she said to Florimond and me, at the close
of this historic session. ” I m ravenously hungry.”

I dare say General Michaïlov did what he could, but his


                        By Henry Harland 69

troops weren’t numerous enough to prevent a good deal of dis-
turbance in the town ; and I suppose he didn’t want to come to
bloodshed. For three days and nights, the streets leading up to
the Palace were black with a howling mob, kept from crossing
the Palace courtyard by a guard of only about a hundred men.
Cries of ” Long live Tsargradev !” and “Death to the German
woman ! ” and worse cries still, were constantly audible from the
Palace windows.

“Canaille!” exclaimed the Oueen. “Let them shout them-
selves hoarse. Time will show.”

And she would step out upon her balcony, in full sight of the
enemy, and look down upon them calmly, contemptuously.

Still, the military did contrive to prevent an actual revolution,
and to maintain the status quo.

The news reached the King at Vienna. He turned straight
round and hurried home.

” Oh, my dear, my dear ! ” he groaned. ” You have made a
mess of things.”

” You think so ? Read this.”

It was a copy of the morning s Gazette, containing Prince
Vasiliev s report of the interesting discoveries he had made
amongst the papers Tsargradev had left behind him at the Home

There was an immediate revulsion of public feeling. The secret
understanding with Berlin was the thing that “did it.” The
Monterossans are hereditarily, temperamentally, and from motives
of policy, Russophils. They couldn t forgive Tsargradev his secret
treaty with Berlin ; and they promptly proceeded to execrate him
as much as they had loved him.

The Yellow Book—Vol. VII. E


                        70 The Queen’s Pleasure

For State reasons, however, it was decided not to prosecute him.
On his release from prison, he asked for his passport, that he
might go abroad. He has remained an exile ever since, and
(according to Florimond, at any rate) ” is spending his declining
years colouring a meerschaum.”

” People talk of the ingratitude of princes,” said the Oueen,
last night. “But what of the ingratitude of nations? The
Monterossans hated me because I dismissed M. Tsargradev ; and
then, when they saw him revealed in his true colours, they still
hated me, in spite of it. They are quick to resent what they
imagine to be an injury ; but they never recognise a benefit. Oh,
the folly of universal suffrage ! The folly of constitutional
government ! I used to say, Surely a good despot is better
than a mob. But now I’m convinced that a bad despot, even, is
better. Come, Florimond, let us sing …. you know ….
that song. . . .”

” God save the best of despots ? ” suggested Florimond.

MLA citation:

Harland, Henry. “The Queen’s Pleasure.” The Yellow Book, vol. 7, October 1895, pp. 29-70. Yellow Book Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010-2014. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020.