excerpt from
Through Charley's Door
by Emily Kimbrough
Drawings by Alice Harvey
Harper & Brothers 1952

We did not give such homage as we had rendered Monsieur Patou to the Queen of Rumania when she visited Chicago. But when she came to the store she was given a spontaneous reception that surpassed in fervor any ceremony we could have conceived in the publicity department.

There was a Buyer on the first floor whom I did not know particularly well, but I had found comfort in his gentle, even meek, acquiescence to any presentation of his merchandise that I submitted to him. I had even wondered that having such quality he had been able to push past others to become head of his department. With the arrival in the city of the Queen of Rumania, a complete metamorphosis took place in this Buyer that bewildered even the people in his own section who knew him far better than I.

One of these told me about the change, beckoning to me one day as I was passing through. He led me to a far corner behind a display table before he spoke, and even then shook his head several times, as if he could scarcely himself believe what he was about to tell me. 'We don't know what's got into him," he began, and jerked his head to indicate the Buyer, who was at that moment standing in the center aisle peering toward Charley's Door with the intentness of an Indian Scout on lookout duty.

"Who's he waiting for?" I asked.

"The Queen of Rumania," my informer answered in a tone of such sarcasm he might have been saying "Little Red Riding Hood." "It's a fact," he added. "Ever since the Queen came in town he's been like that. He's got his ears so peeled he can hear her motorcycle escort sirens even on Michigan Avenue, and he goes scampering out through the door right onto the street. Thinks maybe hell see the procession go by. And have you seen the way he's got himself fixed up?"

I had to admit I hadn't been in the section recently.

"Well," the assistant elaborated, "he's bought himself a new suit. He's taken to wearing a flower in his buttonhole every day. And he even walks different—struts up and down as if he were leading a Shriners' parade or something."

I asked if my informer was sure the Queen of Rumania was the cause of all this.

"Certainly," he answered, "he told me so himself. He just says all his life he's wanted to see somebody royal but never thought he'd get a chance. Now he's made up his mind since a Queen has come to Chicago, she's bound to do what every other visitor here does, come to Marshall Field's, and he's going to be ready for it. Says if he's on hand when she comes in she might even speak to him, ask him the way to some department or something. And he'd remember it all his life. That's why he's out there practically every minute. He don't even go up to the lunchroom any more. He brings in sandwiches and eats them at his desk. And while he's back there he's got one of his salespeople posted in the aisle. I never saw the beat of it. And him, that's never got excited about anything before!"

The next morning at half-past eight as I passed Mr. Schaeffer's office on my way to mine, I saw my boss at his telephone and waved. He beckoned to me vigorously and I went in. He was listening impatiently, raising his eyebrows and opening his eyes wide to indicate to me he was getting a big story. He then broke in on it. "Yes, sir," he said, "I have it all. Thank you very much for letting us know. Well be ready. We appreciate this. Good-by." And he hung up.

He hung up and simultaneously jumped from his chair. "The Queen of Rumania's on her way down to the store," he said moving rapidly past me.

I turned and followed him to get his instructions.

"That was her secretary. She wants to come early so there won't be any crowd. Get a photographer and hold her down on the first floor if you can, until I get word to you I've got the executives lined up to receive her." He disappeared through the door that led to the Executive Offices.

I didn't stop to take off my coat. I ran to the Art Department, stuck my head in the door, requesting a photographer immediately on the first floor wherever the Queen was to be found. I was on my way to look for her. I called in the news through the open door of the newspaper office and left the Bureau on the run.

As I came out of the center bank of elevators on the first floor I saw the Buyer his salesclerk and I had been discussing the preceding day. They were together, some distance away, facing me and looking toward Charley's Door.

One instant later I saw coming through the Randolph Street door behind them a small group of people, perhaps five or six in all. I stood still a second to make sure of what I saw before I acted. And I saw a young girl and a beautiful woman step out ahead of the other members of the group that closed in deferentially behind them. I knew then my hunch was right.

Queen Marie of Rumania and her daughter, Princess Ileana, had come to Marshall Field's and were advancing along the aisle behind the Buyer whose whole way of life had been changed by the news only that they were in the same city as he.
Short of breaking into a yell or a clattering run, I could not reach him first. I could not give warning.

So I took off at a walk as close to a run as I dared make it. I would have waved to attract his attention, but I was in full view of the royal party, and he completely engrossed in his conversation, totally unaware of me and the party coming up behind him.

The Queen was the first to catch his attention. Still behind him, she spoke in a deep, rich voice with an unmistakably European accent. "May I see, please," she said, "some of your beautiful things there?" pointing to a showcase.

I think the Buyer knew immediately to whom the voice belonged, because he stood perfectly motionless staring ahead of him at me for a perceptible lapse of time. Then he turned to look up, for he was a small man, into the face not two feet away from him of Her Majesty, Queen Marie of Rumania. And with a gentle sigh, he slipped quietly down across the floor at her feet in a dead faint.

When he returned an hour or so later from the First Aid Room, restored though still somewhat shaken, he found on his desk an autographed photograph, left for him by the Queen. But he never saw her again.