The life of the Prince of Wales was blooming into new fullness. When he went to Berlin in February, 1878, the Queen allowed him to talk to Bismarck, without a witness, and, later, Lord Beaconsfield, who had once described the Prince's talk as " chitter-chatter, " said that he
"maintained his part"in a conversation
"with felicity — even distinction. "3
The Queen's doubts and defences broke down and she learned to celebrate the change with charming gestures. The years of darkness between mother and son seemed truly over and on July 13, 1878, the Queen travelled from Windsor to London to meet the Prince's friends at a garden party. They walked about together and had tea "in a beautiful Indian tent." The shades of forty years ago, the echoes of old music from the parties when she danced until dawn, seemed to return to her. After she had been to see H.M.S. Thunderer, in the Solent (pleased to find that she had not forgotten her "sea legs"), she gave a dinner party at Osborne. The Queen invited Lord Charles Beresford, the Prince's friend, instigator of the frolics at Marlborough House and inventor of practical jokes on the way to India. Now she thought Lord Charles "very funny . . . beaming with fun and a trifle cracky, but clever and a good officer." She had not used the word "fun" for many years. The new sprightliness of mind enlivened her letters and in one of them she went so far as to describe herself as "rather a portly, elderly lady." 4 One evening at Windsor she took out the music books she had not dared touch since 1861, and her plump fingers awakened the old tunes from the pianoforte, without a trace of sorrow, only pleasure.
NEWS of a Russian advance beyond Plevna forced Lord Beaconsfield into action and on December 14, 1877, he summoned the cabinet, to announce that he wished also to summon Parliament, to increase the country's defences, and to advise the Queen to intercede between the combatants.
Lord Beaconsfield said that there was
"dead silence"when he finished speaking. The Foreign Secretary, Lord Derby, still believed that "any active interference in Eastern affairs by England was to be depre