I HAD never been "out" before I became a matron, so there was in me an overdose of vitality which had to be worked off by degrees, and this would not be a complete record of my life if I did not pause awhile to describe these rather giddy but pleasurable years upon which I look back without a twinge of regret. I was still quite unripe, but I was also enviably innocent and trustful. I saw no evil in anything, nor did I imagine that others could do so.
It was in the winter and spring of 1897 that this joie de vivre period reached its height during a long visit Ducky, who was then Grand Duchess of Hesse, paid to us with her husband. Ernie could be the gayest of companions; he was, in fact, full of almost feverish life. There was something effervescent about him, rather restless even; he was highly strung and had the artistic temperament developed to the highest degree. He enjoyed everything and could also be a clever inventor of varied amusements. This was Ducky's first visit to Rumania as a married woman, and our joy at being together and sharing all things again knew no bounds.
We were probably looked upon as two frivolous young ladies and were no doubt severely criticized by those wiser and steadier than we were. But for both of us it was a period of magnificent enjoyment which the disapproval of others could not mar. There is a superb daring about youth, which is admirable in its way; barriers and obstacles only heighten the desire to overcome, break through and win.
Today I have learned that all periods of life are necessary for the forming of character and personality; joy is as indispensable as pain, but joy at the beginning ought to be stronger than pain, and those whose lives lie behind them must remember this and be glad when the young are happy, even if their joy is taken a little wildly. Character, like all things, must evolve; it is useless to imagine that the experience of others can help, retard or hasten this evolution. At best it can steady it, be a brake at the hour of peril. Youth has to skirt dangers, burn its fingers, has to be tempted, perhaps even to fall, so as finally to learn how to stand firm.
A Gay Season in Bukharest
THE giddy period when pleasure is paramount has to be lived through; it is like the spring storms before the calm of summer can set in. So, in spite of frowns and criticisms, in spite of those who blamed or forbade, our youth had to break through.
Bukharest was gay; in those days people seemed to be well off, and there were certain houses where we were allowed to go to dance. These were carefully chosen by uncle; we would never dare accept an invitation without his special consent. Strangely enough, he did not permit of our going to foreign legations; it was only much later that we obtained this concession. A pleasant set of acquaintances grouped themselves around us that winter, and I was at last even permitted a few friends. Having visitors who had to be entertained, we were able to reach out toward a certain emancipation, up to the present denied us.
Ducky and I both loved dancing, and we had a gay winter. Ernie enjoyed himself as much as we did, and, his vitality being infectious, he did Nando a lot of good. In his youth my husband had not the faculty of real enjoyment; he was too anxious, and this gave him a somewhat protesting attitude that we did our best to overrule. The truth was he was too much in awe of uncle; the fear of his vetoes was always with him, so he could never let himself go to complete enjoyment. Ernie, however, often helped him to overcome his inborn diffidence; the young brother-in-law, so to say, conquered Nando's doubts with his much greater self-assurance.
The chief event for us during that season was a costume ball we gave at Cotroceni. Ducky and I both appeared as Princesse Lointaine, a personage out of one of Rostand's plays, made famous by Sarah Bernhardt in her time. Quaintly enough, we had both chosen the same costume, although we had kept it secret from each other, with the only difference that hers was white with large, pearly lilies worn over the ears and mine was made out of a black-and-gold Indian tissue and that, instead of lilies, I wore red roses.
We won complete success; but these long, clinging gowns being difficult to dance in, before the cotillion we changed our costumes and reappeared clad as sun and moon, Ducky being the moon and I the sun.
The Poet Queen as a King of Poets
THE old king and queen generally graced our balls with their presence, and aunty, who could enjoy things with real zest, actually came dressed as Dante, wearing a long, flowing, red-cloth garment. She was an astonishingly successful embodiment of the eternal poet and, taking her part seriously, she was not only dressed as Dante but she moved through the room as though she had in truth been the great man come to life again. Uncle, of course, could not come in costume, but he made the tremendous concession of appearing in a călăraş uniform he had not worn since his young days.
The grave king, having donned a cavalry uniform for his niece's costume ball, strengthened the legend that I could do anything I liked with him. He may have had moments when his frigid austerity melted somewhat before my impetuous ardor, but these moments, alas, were few and far between. But I did feel, however, that there were hours when that more human side of his rather enjoyed yielding to my high spirits. I was, no doubt, a somewhat refractory and unsubmissive member of his well-disciplined community; but though unruly, he divined that I was without guile and there was a healthy frankness about me, occasionally disconcerting and certainly rarely found in his surroundings, but which was instinctively sympathetic to his upright nature.
Ducky was so happy with us that she prolonged her stay right into spring. She was as passionate a rider as I was, and we were in the saddle nearly every day. Everything had to be shared as much as possible with our friends, and especially with the precious Fourth Roşiori, of which all the officers, of course, became our very devoted slaves. We sisters let ourselves go in the exhilarating delight of being together, and each day we invented something new. Our clothes also played a great part; we liked being as smart as possible; often we dressed alike and were not above certain eccentricities of attire. Our pleasures were innocent enough; but being both of us rather showy, we, of course, often laid ourselves open to severe criticism.
Having good figures with slim waists, we had, for instance, special riding habits made tout d'une pièce, very tight fitting, as though molded to our bodies, worn with a leather belt round the middle. For warm weather we wore these habits in white drill, and even our boots were white. It certainly looked smart.
In those pre-motor days, it was the great chic to drive on the Chaussée, the Bukharest high-life promenade. There were many smart carriages and fine horses, and toward evening all the élégantes would drive up and down the long avenue in their very latest Paris toilettes, which were at that period showy, with exceedingly ornate hats.
Ducky and I often took part in this late-afternoon parade,and would dress up in consequence, careful that our gowns, hats, cloaks or parasols should be in pleasant harmony. I remember certain black-felt, boat-shaped hats we affected, with one long white and one long black plume. We called these the Empress Eugenie hats; they were decidedly becoming and accentuated the movement of bowing; for being, of course, much saluted, we had to keep bowing all the time.
Nando and Ernie also often drove out on the Chaussée. When our carriages met, our husbands used politely to salute us and we answered with becoming grace.
Of course, it was our pleasure to turn out as chicly as possible; our Victoria had the fashionable line, our horses were shiny, our harnesses smart, but the prince's carriage had an advantage over ours; beside the coachman sat a green-and-silver-clad chasseur with long plumes flying from his bicorn hat, whilst we could only boast of a footman.
A Practical Joke on Nando
FRIVOLOUSLY inclined as we were during that giddy period, purposely exaggerating our affectations, we began tormenting Nando to allow us to drive out with his chasseur. A great stickler for etiquette and prerogatives, and strongly imbued with a solid Teuton belief of man's superiority over woman, Nando indignantly repudiated these demands, declaring it was only the male members of the royal family who had the right to a chasseur.
"But it looks so much smarter," we insisted. "Why should your carriage be smarter than ours? It is quite dowdy to have a mere footman."
"You have your fine clothes," retorted my irate husband, "and leave unto Caesar—" But this was just exactly what we did not intend to do, and thereby hangs a tale so absurd that it would be a pity not to relate it.
Uncle also had a chasseur; he was smaller and less good-looking than Nando's beplumed swell, but he was a chasseur for all that. He may even, being a king's chasseur, have worn more silver braid than the prince's, but I do not clearly remember if this was so or not; but though rarely, even uncle occasionally took a turn on the Chaussée.
Amongst our special friends and dévoués was a young officer up to any fun, fearless, amusing and enterprising. Although it was a grievous violation of military rules, with the danger of impending punishment, we naughty sisters persuaded the rash young fellow to take off his uniform and don the livery of uncle's chasseur, which, somehow, we had managed to get hold of. Ernie was in the plot and it fell to his share to get Nando to start out on their drive before we left the house, so that they should already be coming back up the Chaussée when we drove down. Our whole effect depended upon our meeting each other face to face. Our friend and uncle's chasseur happened to be the same size, and though their faces were not alike, with the strap under his chin, the crowning glory of feathers waving about his head, his countenance was not of great importance; besides, Ducky and I had dressed as showily as possible, so as to attract all attention away from the box to ourselves.
It was not without an uncomfortable sensation of guilt, however, that we started off, smiles glued to our faces, our Empress Eugenie hats doing their duty to the utmost, and thus, right through the Calea Victoriei, past Capsa, past the palace, to the Chaussée we sailed, the plume of our chasseur offensively conspicuous.
With our hearts in our mouths, we finally perceived the rival chasseur coming towards us, his gay feathers fluttering above the crowd like wind-swept wings. Then came the excruciatingly exciting moment when our carriages met. Nando raised his hand to salute the king; he had a very special salute, reserved only for the sovereign of the land; there was a particular chic about it, the old Potsdam chic, with a certain stiff turn of the neck, because who else but the king could be sitting behind that privileged livery?
As long as I live I shall never forget the expression of disgust, nor the frustrated gesture with which Nando lowered his hand when it suddenly dawned upon him that it was not uncle he was saluting, and to what a shocking degree those two irrepressible sisters had transgressed against the rules of the family, annexing a privilege to which they had no right. Ernie had, I believe, a pretty bad time calming his irate brother-in-law, but he slyly persuaded him that nothing could better punish the delinquents than to ignore completely their crime. Nando heroically adhered to this attitude till we went to bed; it can easily be imagined what a scolding I was then given, but I have forgotten the scolding, and the trick was worth the risk.
Following the Gypsy Trail
I CAN hardly believe that uncle was not informed of our escapade, but he ignored it—which was the only thing to do. If he had begun to punish the transgressors, our poor officer friend would have found himself in a sad plight and I am afraid the two giddy sisters would have laughed on the wrong side of their faces.
Ducky and I also took great pleasure in hunting out the picturesque sides of Bukharest, the old parts of the town, far away from fashionable traffic. We used to haunt the streets where there were queer little shops in which we found quaint objects in leather, pottery, wood and metal of local workmanship. We often came back with our carriages piled high with these strange acquisitions, at which the servants turned up their noses. Now that I had Ducky for a companion, I could indulge in that suppressed desire to know Rumania more intimately from that side which made it so different from the Western countries to which we were accustomed. She took the same interest in it as I did, so that everything became worth while.
A great attraction was the gypsy camps, mostly to be found on the outskirts of the town. We would leave our carriage and penetrate undismayed amongst the tents, climbing over heaps of indescribable refuse, gazing about us full of interest, but not without a shudder.
In a second we were surrounded and besieged by a tattered horde, loud in their insistence for alms. Naked little children, palms extended, would whine for pennies, repeating endlessly the same cry, "Cinci parale coconita," whilst impudently handsome girls, scantily draped in filthy rags, once bright, now discolored, would laugh, arms akimbo, showing an enviable display of white teeth, strong as those of young wolves.
Bewildered, dazed, half attracted, half repelled, we had not eyes enough to grasp all the picturesqueness. Noise and confusion, skinny dogs slinking about, dusty donkeys and lame, raw-boned horses—starved-looking animals, patient and long-suffering, nightmare creatures one almost hoped Were not real—and moving as masters through all this confusion, fierce, dark-eyed men, hitting right and left with their sticks to keep a little order amongst their tribe.
Riding picnics were one of our special entertainments when the dancing season was over. Ernie had left, but Ducky stayed on, loath to tear herself away from me and surroundings become dear to her. These picnics were sometimes arranged by us, sometimes by my regiment.
Either tea or lunch was sent on before us to some wood, where a few non-riders would meet us by carriage. Few ladies rode with us, but Hélène Odobescu was a solid horsewoman and could keep up with our pace, also Mlle. Olga Catargui, a tall, slim girl, and Nelly Wyndham, the younger daughter of the English minister.
The Youth Movement
Hélène Odobescu had a delightful old father, Colonel Odobescu, who wore long side whiskers. He was all square and portly, had a dominating voice, an explosive laugh and a great love of horses. He rode a strange, speckly chestnut with queer patches of white about his legs. All these details may seem trivial, but they make my pictures more vivid. Personally, I like to know how a person looked, what a lady wore, what flowers were on the table, or any quaint detail which singles out one man from another. The fun of life is observation. The comic, the sad, the beautiful, the strange, the pathetic, the absurd—it all serves to amuse the eye, to interest the mind, to move the heart. Man or beast, flower or landscape, event or sensation, laughter and tears—all is of interest for anyone who lives with his every faculty, and the man who can only be stirred by great events, despising the interests every day offers, lives on the outside edge of life, not in its very heart. This, at least, is how I feel.
It was only much later, when I began using my pen, that I realized what an unconscious observer I had been in my youth and how great was the store of knowledge hoarded up through the years.
In my youth it never entered my head to try to write. For many years I was quite unable to take myself seriously or to imagine that I should ever be able to do anything really well except riding. I continued to imagine I was still the very ignorant girl who had started out from home at the age of seventeen with little knowledge and no accomplishments. Accustomed to be ruled by mama and her conceptions of life, her code still counted for me undisputedly. Although I struggled for freedom and for a certain measure of independence, I felt myself of little account.
Once I said to aunty: "I cannot get accustomed to taking myself seriously." The old queen's tragic eyes looked at me with an astonishment not unmixed with pity. "You do not take yourself seriously ? You, the mother of several children? I took myself seriously at the age of three!"
Many years later I remember talking with my friend Elise Bratianu, a lady for whom I always had great respect and of whom I stood slightly in awe. She was asking me why I did not do a certain thing, and I lightly answered, "Because I am not intelligent."
My friend turned and looked at me with her piercing eyes. "You have no right to say such a thing! You are full of intelligence, but you are too lazy to use it; just try and see the things you could do if you gave up being lazy!"
This tart admonishment made me think. Intelligent? Was I really intelligent? I had never seen myself in that light. It was a fresh point of view; it opened out quite new horizons, other possibilities. Intelligent? Supposing it were true? Elise said it with such authority. She also said I was lazy, too lazy to use my intelligence. Lazy? Perhaps I was.
This was characteristic of my attitude towards myself; I had not the least ambition to be clever.
The only indoor accomplishment I had was painting. Of course, I was fond of reading in several languages, but I found the greatest pleasure with my brush. Both Ducky and I, like several of the women of the English royal family, such as Empress Frederick and Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, who were real artists, had .talent for painting and drawing. I never worked enough so as to become a real artist, but what I did produce had a certain originality, and also, I believe, some strength; my drawing was good and I was undeniably une coloriste.
Aunt Elisabeth was always painting books, elaborate enluminures on parchment, destined for churches. Although Ducky and I were not great admirers of aunty's art as a painter, this idea of illuminating books was very attractive to us.
We did not try to paint Bibles or to compose our own verses, but we decided each to paint a book for the other, decorated with flowers, and, as text, a selection of those poems and quotations most dear to us. At the age of twenty-two and twenty-three, these were, of course, more sentimental than philosophical and well dosed with Weltschmerz; for, although we loved life and its gayeties, we were acutely conscious of its tragic undercurrent.
These books were not only planned and promised but actually took form, and we still treasure them immensely. They are full of color and originality, and although no doubt faulty, still, today I consider them artistically good.
Later I painted two more books, more important productions with an art which had become more raffiné, more studied and perhaps better understood; I had, so to say, learned to express myself.
One of these books was painted for my great friend, Pauline Astor, as a wedding present. Being a bridal offering, I decided that I would paint white flowers only. The result was certainly uncommon, and so that it should be absolutely perfect in every detail, I had it bound in a thick silver embroidery chosen from an old church design and studded over and over with moonstones. The general effect was deliciously pure and frosted; the book was, in fact, a great treasure.
I do not exactly know how Queen Alexandra came to see this book, but it so took hold of her imagination that each time I came to England, she insisted that Pauline should send the book, so that she could look at it again and again. Of course, I was happy and proud that this very dear aunt of mine should be such an enthusiastic admirer of my work.
The second of these more sophisticated books was painted for my husband. It was my biggest achievement and had been conceived with the idea of leaving something to the house which could not be carried off. I was never able to keep anything I painted; everything was carried off almost before it was dry.
From the very first I was interested in Rumanian art and in art in Rumania, and soon after I had come to the country, a group of young artists asked me to put myself at their head and form a societă which we called Tinerimea—Youth. We were the new generation going ahead, emancipating ourselves from the older schools, but we were not eccentrics.
Today most of the members of our Tinerimea have grown gray, a younger generation has sprung up with a newer and more startling school of which the mentality slightly distresses me. I cannot, with the best will in the world, see things as they do; why must everything be as ugly as possible and look as though drawn by a child of three ? Why must cows be blue and portraits so flat that they stick to their background, and all faces be khaki-colored, why must houses look as if they were tipsy and people have one eye and no nose? And why are tables drawn as though, one looked down upon them from a gallery, and trees resemble worn-out broomsticks upon giant sausages which have no resemblance to trunks? I really think that artists today try to see how far they can make fun of the public without its revolting.
I know that as queen I have often declared that the hardest trials in my royal round were listening to the complaints of the opposition and visiting ultra-modern picture exhibitions, when I had to smile upon an art which filled me with almost physical distress.
In the early summer of that same year of 1897 which had begun so gayly, we had to live through terrible anxiety. My husband caught a virulent form of typhoid fever and we very nearly lost him. Several times lie was at death's door, as the original malady was aggravated by various serious complications, and it was finally double pneumonia which nearly carried him off. I remember how he was kept alive by injections of salt water in great quantities, which tortured, but finally saved the patient.
I no longer remember distinctly how long the illness lasted, but it seemed endless. Life around us stopped; there was only that one central, all-absorbing preoccupation of the sick bed.
Three doctors were in constant attendance: Dr. Jean Cantacuzène, Doctor Buicliu and Doctor Kremnitz, a German with a long brown beard, a very clever man and a personal friend of the king and queen.
I knew little about illness and was no good as a sick nurse, but besides the three doctors and a Rumanian sister, Nando was marvelously nursed by his old servant Neumann and his somewhat older wife. These two were the type of servants today becoming rare; the type which lived and slaved for, loved and criticized the house they served.
During the period of my husband's illness, aunty was in a curious state of mind. Sickness had a strange effect upon her; it roused her latent love of drama. Her imagination saw, and to a certain degree even reveled in, the tragedy that it would be if the young crown prince were to die.
The old king, a child of four becoming heir to the throne, a young widow, foolish, inexperienced, unworthy of bringing up' her own children, and she, Carmen Sylva as savior, in her element, with large, motherly gestures, sweeping the bereaved into her embrace. She imagined it all, she lived it through in thought, and as her thoughts became words, she, so to say, forced us to live it with her, for she spoke of nothing else. Each time she mounted the high Cotroceni stairs leaning upon the arm of a servant—and she came twice a day—it was as though for a funeral, and the swish of her long robes over the carpets was pregnant with disaster.
Her daily invasion was indeed "gorgeous Tragedy in sceptred pall come sweeping by."
She would settle down in one of my rooms, assembling around her as many women of the household as she could gather together, and then, in a deep, grief-laden voice, she would gloat over every tragic story of sickness or death that she or others had ever witnessed.
Curiously enough, she was always hungry, so food had to be set before her at odd hours. I can still see her eating large ham sandwiches whilst she kept discoursing upon these lamentable subjects, for there were strange contrasts in aunty, and somehow, this sandwich eating was so little in keeping with the rest.
I confess that I fled from these meetings, to which the doctors were also bidden and whichever of the nurses was not on duty. I simply could not stand so much talk at a moment when my heart was on the rack. I preferred uncle's stony calm. He was very kind to me during this terrible time and he, too, could not relieve his anxiety by words. But in spite of his kindness, uncle always remained the relentless upholder of outward appearances to which all sentiment had to be sacrificed. My mother, the moment she understood how serious was Nando's illness, proposed to come to me, but uncle would not permit me to accept her offer, for the reason ^that, none of Nando's family being able to come, it might make a bad impression in the country if a parent of mine hastened to my side and not one of the Hohenzollerns. This was very characteristic of King Carol. I considered it cruel, especially as aunty was so terribly sure that I was in a short time to become a widow. Uncle, however, could not prevent Ducky from coming back to be with me during my trouble, although it was but a short while ago that she had left us.
It was quite wonderful the way the people shared our anxiety. Cotroceni courtyard was daily filled by a dense but absolutely quiet crowd, come to get news and to express their silent sympathy. In spite of the hundreds that collected beneath our windows, not a sound was heard. Hidden behind a window curtain, with beating heart I would often watch this crowd; I felt grateful for their sympathy, but it heightened my anguish as, more than anything else, it made me realize how close we were to a catastrophe.
Aunty would occasionally go out on the balcony and, with tragic face and finger on lip, pantomime the news to those waiting below. I could not bear to watch her; it hurt something within me, because I could not help feeling that unconsciously she was enjoying the drama of the situation. In moments of crisis, the difference between our two natures was very marked.
Nando Battles for Life
Never shall I forget one terrible night when I was suddenly called to my husband's bedside, the doctors believing it was the end. I had only just gone to snatch a little rest after a day of great anxiety. I can still hear that sinister knock at the door, the voice calling me, feel how like an automaton I threw on my dressing gown and entered the sick room. Nando lay on his back; he was so thin that his body seemed one with his sheet. His face was livid and he was breathing with difficulty; his eyes were wide open, glassy, but all the same, when I sank on my knees beside his bed, instinctively his hand groped for mine. I closed my fingers gently over his, they were wet with perspiration; perspiration was pouring from him, our joined hands lay in a small pool of water. I had often heard of death sweat; now I knew what it was!
As in a haze, I saw all three doctors standing at the foot of the bed. They were quite still, their work was done, their human knowledge exhausted, the young prince was now in the hands of God. A priest was reading Latin prayers, his hushed, droning voice fitted into the ghastly dream; also the sudden appearance of uncle and aunty, who had also been summoned; her face was tragic, his careworn, and his shoulders were bent. Aunty was quite convinced that this was the end, she had always been expecting it, but I, with my faith in life, clung to hope; to me, the scene was all unreality, it was not possible that he should have to go so soon.
It was my faith which was destined to win through. This night brought a turn for the better; it was the crisis. Nando began to breathe more easily; one of the doctors bent over him, felt his pulse, a dawning look of hope came into his eyes. A change—but a change for the better! I dumbly gazed up into his face; he nodded his head. The tension of uncle's face relaxed; the tragic lines of aunty's lips softened; the priest was crossing himself, he had closed his breviary. The Angel of Death had passed.
Convalescence at Sinaia
Finally, with innumerable precautions, we were able to transport our invalid to Sinaia. It was the Vânatŏri soldiers of his own battalion who carried him in a litter from the station up to the Foişor. I well remember that solemn procession—I, walking beside the stretcher, Carol on one side, Lisabetha on the other, hanging on to my hands, uncle sedately trudging along with us.
It was an immense relief to get our invalid into fresh, vivifying mountain air, but for over six weeks he still lay in his bed, pale, exhausted, with a brown beard, terribly changed, with gaunt, waxen face and skeleton-like hands. To me he seemed almost a stranger.
Ducky had to leave for Grandmama Queen's Diamond Jubilee, to which Nando and I were also to have gone.
Summer dragged along slowly. Our two beloved little ones were my great consolation; we were much together. I taught them my love for flowers and we used to bring beautiful nosegays back to papa, who lay so patiently in his bed. The Sinaia wild flowers are beyond words beautiful, and Nando knew every one of them and all their names. I can still see his long white fingers touching them tenderly, like a friend.
A tragic and quite unforeseen incident happened in our house a little while after we had settled at Sinaia. Doctor Kremnitz, who was to remain with us till the prince could be declared completely recovered, died one morning, quite suddenly, of heart failure. I had just been talking with him; we had even joked and he had told me to run out and take a little exercise, whilst he would go to his room for a rest, for he had a fatherly spirit and all three doctors knew that I, too, had been through a long strain. They had been immensely kind to me, understanding that this had been my first experience of mortal sickness. At home I had never known sickness; we had been spared these cruel experiences, this had been my initiation.
We found Doctor Kremnitz dead on his bed, fully dressed; it was a terrible shock and a real grief for uncle and aunty, to whom he had been, for years, a close friend. Besides, the sad event had to be hidden from the invalid, who was still much too weak to sustain such emotion, and for a long while we had to keep him from finding out what had happened.
It was difficult to invent reasons for the sudden disappearance of the doctor he was so fond of, difficult also to prevent the news being brought to him unawares.
Doctor Kremnitz being a very big and tall man, and having died in his room on the second floor, it was exceedingly difficult to carry his body down the narrow stairs of our cottagelike house. Besides, in order that Nando should notice nothing of this lugubrious maneuver, it had to be done during the night, in hushed silence.
Uncle was pleased to find that I did not lose my head and was somewhat surprised to discover how entirely I could be relied on in an emergency. I observed that I had suddenly gone up in his estimation. It was the first time he had put me on trial, and I had not failed, nor had I complicated things by any show of feminine nerves or exaggerations.
Although I had no opinion of my intelligence, I had a firm belief in my strength; I had never had to call upon it, but I knew it was all there, that my courage would never fail me when needed. My perfect health gave me a reserve force, lying dormant within me, but which I instinctively knew could be drawn upon when necessary. Besides, courage was fundamentally part of my creed.
A great ado was made when Frau Kremnitz, who had been abroad, arrived for her husband's funeral. Although aunty had reason to dislike her, she received her as though one of the family.
These two women were strangely alike. Both were writers, both had their gray hair cut short, and had deep-set, haunted eyes. Their speech was intense, vibrant; they were always listening to themselves, always seeing themselves the central figures of tremendous events.
A Pen-and-Ink Duel
In earlier days they had written a book together, in the form of an exchange of letters between two friends. The collaboration had been interesting, had no doubt for a while united them in the same enthusiasm, but this was before my time, and I knew that today aunty harbored no love in her heart for Frau Kremnitz. The breach had come, I believe, when uncle asked Frau Kremnitz to help with his Mémoires instead of aunty, herself a poet and writer.
From uncle's point of view, I understand that he did not feel he could use his too exuberant and romantic queen for this sober and precise work, but the preference given to another rankled in Carmen Sylva's heart, and the doctor's wife is the only woman of whom I ever knew aunty to be jealous. This did not, however, prevent her, when the moment came, from overwhelming her rival with sympathy and, what seemed to me, exaggerated affection.
With the death of Doctor Kremnitz, Doctor Romalo came into our lives, and was our house doctor to the end of his life.
Uncle and aunty finally left for their yearly cure in Switzerland and my mother and younger sister, Beatrice, then still quite a Backfisch, came to stay with us.
Nando was still an invalid, but was allowed to leave his bed for a few hours during the day, and would sit in the sunshine on the balcony, playing innumerable patiences or being carefully entertained, according to his strength, by the few people allowed to see him.
It was a supreme joy to have my mother and sister with me. Baby Bee, as we called her, was a delightful and intelligent companion, and immensely enjoyed Sinaia and its beautiful forest. After the long strain, my youthful spirits gained the upper hand again, and I must admit that our riding assumed rather wild proportions.
Mama, although strict and a tremendous critic, liked to see the young have a good time. She thought that they never could have enough exercise and nothing could rouse her indignation more than if we demurred about going out in the rain.
"It is ridiculous to remain at home because it rains. People who allow their exercise to depend upon the weather never take any exercise at all." Mama's maxims were never wanting in conviction, and for a healthy young being who had been severely kept in leash, this sudden encouragement to give way to her natural impulses was like a door opening upon sunshine. Mama volunteered to spend the time whilst we were out with our invalid, so we two sisters let ourselves go to the enchantment of the summer vacation. Der Onkel's weighty shadow was removed by absence, so it was mama who took over the reins. The Old Palace, as we called uncle's court, was little in evidence; Castle Peleş seemed to be sleeping. None of its vigilance was abated, however, as I was later to learn, to my cost.
All through life I was inconceivably careless about how my actions might appear to others, I never even thought of how things might look from outside. "Vivre et laisser vivre" was my motto; it never struck me that my high spirits could fill others with suspicion, nor that my actions could be misinterpreted, which they nearly always were. But high spirits are a dangerous possession for a royal lady, as there come hours when everything is unimportant but the joy of the moment. Caution is thrown to the winds and the spirit of fun and mischief is allowed full sway, mostly with disastrous results; for all the world over there are jaundiced eyes ready to see things as they are not, ready to make mischief, to tear a reputation to pieces.
In fairness to all sides, I must admit that prudence was not my specialty. I took others at face value, never suspecting them of guile, so it never entered my mind any but the real interpretation could be given to my actions.
Who were those so eager to make trouble, I never really discovered. I suppose the Chief Inquisitor was foremost amongst them, but even today I cannot understand what object they had in view. Could none of them remember that they had been young? Was my natural aspiration towards the pleasures of my age so much to be condemned? Perhaps there were some who understood me as I really was, but they never came to the fore, and I must sadly state that my detractors were ever on my heels, never leaving me any peace or respite, so that I always paid a hundredfold for each smallest folly. Was there something particularly conspicuous about me that attracted criticism, jealousy? Was it because I was in a far land, " une Princesse Lointaine,'' as I was often called in my youth? Others probably can explain this better than I; I could not see myself as others saw me. I never used subterfuges; everything I did, I did openly; I never tried to delude others. I was always of perfect good faith, genuinely desirous of making others happy, of spreading nothing but good will around me. But I was seldom met with the same spirit of generous, broad understanding. It was never my way to spy upon others or to interfere with what was no business of mine. I liked to see people happy and successful, but I have been spied upon all through the days of my life, except the few short years when my husband was king. He had perfect faith in me and we allowed no treachery when together, we stood at the head of things.
Those who spy imagine they are being well informed, little realizing how many lies are brought to them as truth. I loved humanity, I imagined that everyone was my friend, that joy bred joy, that trust awoke faith.
But, alas, this was not the case, and whilst I was roaming through the forest, glad as a bird because of my young sister's company, enjoying to the full that glorious liberty mama allowed us, others sat in the dark, weaving webs in which to catch me and blight my happiness. They seemed to see wrong in everything; every one of our actions, passing through their murky brains, became distorted and ugly. And yet I do not think that anyone really disliked me; some were genuinely attached to me, some gave me their wholehearted admiration, some would have willingly followed me to the ends of the earth. And yet, all I did was found wrong, was criticized, disapproved of. I seemed to find no mercy, no understanding. Others lived their lives in a turbulent round of pleasure; no one seemed to think the worse of them for it; but although I saw few people, seldom went anywhere, and none of the gayeties of the grand monde ever touched our defensive little court, although my life was one long suppression on the hard road of duty, it was, all the same, I who was supposed to have fabulous adventures, to have astonished the world with my frivolity. Why, why? Still today I ask why?
Finally, mama left, uncle and aunt came back, the Old Palace came into full sway again, and that was the end of liberty and good will.
Youth is wonderful, but it is also a tragedy, with its manifold hopes and delusions, with its insatiable hunger and longings, with its belief and doubting, with its urgent need of action, of self-expression, of ideals, of love.
Those who are tremendously alive rebel against restriction; the moment, to them, seems everything; they do not weigh consequences or count the cost; they go ahead, break through, want to get there, believe they can win.
I have known all these phases, and because my life was too hemmed in, my revolts have been deep and painful. Once, in these years of conflict, I wrote a book of confessions which was destined for my people; I wanted to be understood. The book was to have been called From My Heart to Theirs, but I never published it. War came, and with it other ways of thinking and feeling, overwhelming events which shattered "all our yesterdays" and swept soul conflicts away. We were up against stern and uncompromising reality; the days of romance were at an end.
Royal or not royal, we are all equals before God; we are human beings; neither crown nor throne shields us from those passions and emotions peculiar to humanity. We stumble and fall, we cry out in pain or hope, we pursue illusions, we rejoice or lament, we climb, we aspire to greater heights, we believe in our strength, in our rights, and have to discover our weakness, have to learn to bear our defeats and to begin all over again; and through the good days and the bad runs that eternal little thread of hope—hope that one day we shall touch our ideal.
When my husband was considered strong enough to travel, we were sent to Nice, to Château Fabron, a house belonging to my mother. It was considered necessary that the prince should spend a winter in the south, an unheard-of event in our lives, tuned to duty and nothing but duty, but before we left, it was well impressed upon us that Nice was a place of perdition, that we were in no wise to imagine that we were going there to amuse ourselves, but purely for the sake of health.
Wolves in Sheep's Clothing
We were given what were considered safe guardians, and these had orders to write daily reports about all our doings.
There would be much to say about some of those whom King Carol imposed upon our household at different periods of our life. They were certainly chosen with care and after "reifliches Überlegen," but much of the trouble and conflict which darkened our days had to do with these followers whom we treated as friends and who often, alas, all unknown to us, were used as spies and denouncers.
Perhaps the only thing which has shaken my belief in humanity is the incomprehensible cowardliness of most human beings before those who represent power.
Is loyalty really so difficult? Is it so hard to keep faith? Is it so essential to be in at the kill? At first I did not understand this simple explanation of many of my misfortunes. Few were absolutely loyal; either out of fear or for the sake of self-interest, ever and ever again we were betrayed into the hands of power.
Power seems to be an irresistible magnet; nearly everyone wants to be on the side of power. Being all the days of my life something of a rebel, I never worshiped power; it always awoke in me a feeling of antagonism. I hate to see men behave as slaves, or merely as instruments; there is something degrading about it. I was never amongst the lion hunters. I had genuine admiration for those who had made great names for themselves, but I was never irresistibly attracted to them, nor had I any particular desire to sun myself in their glory. I approve of hero worship; we have need of great men for today as well as for history. The story of a country is made glorious by the names of its heroes. I am distressed when their faces are marred by those who cannot rest before they reduce all men to the same level. I remember my grief when I was told that William Tell probably never existed, that Joan of Arc was merely hysterical and that Shakespeare did not really write his plays. I do not wish to see either human beings or cathedrals pulled down, but nothing is sadder than to watch betrayals caused by that desire to kowtow to power, to the man of the moment. It is an ugly sight.
Editor's Note—This is the fifth of a new series of articles by Queen Marie of Rumania. The sixth will appear next week.