CLOSE-UP OF A QUEEN
What is She Really Like, This Queen Who for so Long has Dazzled the World with Her Beauty and Astonished It with Her Statesmanship?
One of the Best Answers You will Ever Find is in This, the First of Several Articles, by an American Woman who Spent Several Happy Weeks in the Queen's Company, as the Queen's Guest.
IN ALL the world there is no queen so queenly as Queen Marie of Rumania. Born an English princess, she has made the life of her adopted country so much a part of her life that she seems the very soul of it, and for her graciousness and her good deeds is loved by aristocrat and peasant alike. Further to identify herself with Rumania, and because she loves them for their picturesque beauty, she wears whenever possible the costumes of the peasants.
This lofty stone balcony opening from the famous Golden Room, in Castle Pelisor at Sinaia, is a favorite spot for Queen Marie. Through the forest stands Castle Peles, where Carmen Sylva once lived.
There is in all Europe no other royal residence so romantic as Castle Bran, in the far fastnesses of the Carpathians, rising out of the very crown of a peak. Its ancient gardens are a paradise of bloom—where the Queen and Mrs. Daggett spent many happy hours.
This ancient fortification, presented by the city of Brasov to the Queen, she has restored and furnished and made her beautiful Castle Bran. There are apartments for the King and for each of the children, as they may come for a visit. Still this is her personal castle.
Once a fortress which kept the Turks at bay, Castle Bran is now the Queen's place of escape from affairs of state. Here there is no court—not even a lady-in-waiting—and the Queen can be just a woman. At the right .
The Queen is shown standing in a doorway of the ancient fortress wall.
IT SEEMED that I had stepped from the Orient Express right off into once-upon-a-time and long-ago. I rubbed my eyes like Alice in Wonderland. Still the shine did not come off.
The room into which a lady-in-waiting had ushered me was all golden. All the vine-sculptured walls of it, all the arched and vaulted ceiling of it, all the tables and chairs and cabinets of it. Everything was literally overlaid with gold leaf.
There were hanging, swinging lamps of gold and silver curiously wrought. There were bowls of gold and copper and bronze everywhere filled with flowers. Jeweled, stained-glass casement windows stood ajar to let the sunlight in. And I noticed how the forest trees lifted their dark-green tops directly against the blue of the heaven that arched so close above this high tower room.
Then a door in the golden wall opened. There was the sound of a vibrant step. "Here I am," cried a voice with the eager, joyful naiveté of a girl. And it was the Queen, with eyes as blue and hair as golden as any story book might tell. I did not find her, you see—as perhaps you would have expected a Queen to be—sitting on her throne. That is at the palace in Bucharest. This where we were, a lovely castle in the Carpathian mountains, is the summer royal residence. Nor was she wearing her robes of ermine. All the same, she was radiantly appareled without benefit of any such symbols of state. And she came tripping right down a shaft of sunlight that splashed the room with its final touch of splendor.
She was in the gorgeous embroidered national costume of her own Rumanian peasant people. Bound round her white brow and floating in long lace ends behind, she wore the "marama" as the headdress of soft tissue is called. She had on the white tunic of the same material intricately stitched with silks in red and blue and gold in an old pattern. It was further ornamented down the front and on the deep, full sleeves with gold sequins that shone and sparkled with her every movement. Over this tunic she wore the "fota" the short, kilted skirt of brilliant red homespun. It was heavy with gold embroidery as thickly laid on as if modeled and sculptured on the cloth. And it was all so heavily golden that above her white-silk-clad ankles and her red-slippered feet, it swung as she walked with a certain rhythm, keeping time with her swinging necklaces of pearls.
So she made a splendid figure, oriental surely and almost barbaric in her beauty. But, fairy-tale as she appeared, she was all real besides. With the cordial clasp of a firm white hand, she instantly set aside all formality. All the things to be done when one comes before a Queen, all the things I didn't know at all about—well, anyhow she made me feel I needn't do them. There was royal absolution from every rite in the way she threw herself full length on the divan that streamed with precious stuffs of gold and silver. Into the luxurious depths of the cushioned chair placed for me beside it, I could sink comfortably, too, all anxious forebodings of form and ceremony forgotten.
"Have a cigarette," she said, snapping open a golden, jeweled case.
She lighted one for herself. And we took up time where last we had left it. That was at the peace conference in Paris. Perhaps you recall those days? How, when men had made the war, in every land the cry was raised, Women Wanted! And women came to load freight cars, and to mine coal and to make munitions, and to drive ambulances under shrapnel fire. But after the war was over and men would make the peace, they meant to make it alone. And they did, but for just one woman only.
"Why, what in the world have you come for?" they asked in startled surprise one day.
And they had lifted their gaze in amazement, those gentlemen there at the peace table in Paris. Just among themselves, you know, they were picking up the pieces of civilization to patch together a new map of the world.
"Sirs," Queen Marie answered demurely, "I have come to give Rumania a face in the affairs of nations."
It was afterward, as we sat together on a sofa at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, that she explained to me: England, she pointed out, had Lloyd George. America had Wilson. France had Clemenceau. So land after land was being envisaged to the public through a personality that made its own people's propaganda. Therefore she had come, as she so frankly and engagingly announced, to give Rumania a face.
And she did. From the time of the lady's dramatic arrival in Paris, Rumania was reckoned with. Such a beautiful face it was that flashed into the newspapers' front pages, to hold ever since the admiring attention of two continents. For it has made a little land a large one, added ten million to its population, and more than doubled its domain.
This, then, was the woman I had come far to see. Since our first meeting in that campaign that captured a peace conference, there had been royal crested letters that I treasure, signed "Yours in sincere friendship, Marie.'' And at last there was the invitation that had bidden me come to visit her. That, you see, is the way it occurred. But how it all happened, I do not yet know. Nor, I think, does she. We have in common between us—well, a sense of humor. And, of course, our Anglo-Saxon tongue. The nationality that she has made famous is hers by marriage. The wife of King Ferdinand of Rumania, she is by birth an English princess, the descendant of kings and kings. And I am the daughter of a revolution that would make all men equal. She is a ruler who believes in her right. Still, there we were in her golden room, aristocrat and democrat. The Queen was on her divan. I was sitting opposite in the deep, soft-cushioned chair.
"It is strange, is it not?" I murmured.
She nodded assent.
Down below on the mountainside the monastery bells were pealing.
THIS at which I have arrived is a very old land. It is mystical with a religion that rises like incense from the hearts of a prayerful people. It is medieval with customs that still make decorative the everyday life of a primitive folk. The little town of Sinaia is called after the ancient monastery of the Greek orthodox church which has stood there for four hundred years. And both were named for the even more ancient Sinaia in Arabia. Sinaia in Rumania, on the route of the Orient express which stops here some three hours before arriving at Bucharest, serves as the summer capital. Above the railroad station are great hotels and a casino and many white villas of the rich. High above them the monastery, orientally red and blue and golden, ornaments the mountainside. Through the arched entrance beneath its black and gold domed bell tower, you pass to the royal estate that reaches right up the wooded slopes to the snow-capped mountain peaks. There are really a group of castles with their many turrets and steep-gabled roofs in Nuremburg style, white plastered, timbered with heavy carved oak. Before them are wide terraces brimming with bright flowers and set with sculpture, and with fountains of silvery falling water.
To reach the royal residence, you must have credentials. Every now and then through the forest, even after you have successfully passed the monastery gate, a guard with gun and bayonet steps out from a sentry box to challenge in Rumanian, "Who goes there?" Castle Peles was the residence of old King Carol, who built all these castles in his day. There he lived with his wife Elizabeth, known to the world as "Carmen Sylva." Since the death of the former rulers, it is used by the present king for his offices, for the assembling of the Crown Council, and for official and state entertainments. Castle Pelisor, meaning "Little Peles," occupied as the present royal family's residence, is less austere in its grandeur. And the personal apartments of the Queen, as you see in the golden room, are most artistically designed and executed. In still another smaller castle on the mountain side lived the Crown Prince Carol and his wife, the Crown Princess Helene, with the future heir to a throne, the laughing, golden-haired baby, little Prince Mihai.
Living in Old-World State
Here at Sinaia I found life lived colorfully. Night and day before the entrance to Castle Pelisor, there is a guard of four armed soldiers always at such stiff attention that they seem like statues standing there. The porter who so silently swings back the great castle door looks just as a real retainer should. He is a very large man with a very long, black beard. And his blue coat that hangs to his heels is trimmed with beautiful bands of embroidery glittering with the royal crest. Three times a day a bugler, stepping before the castle entrance, sounds the call for meals and the assembling of the court. In the castle's audience chamber the company arrives to do obeisance before their sovereigns. There are princes and princesses and almost always some visiting minister of state and a gold-braided general or two. And there are the aides-de-camp of the King's retinue and the ladies-in-waiting for the Queen, who make so much of the majesty that hedges about a throne.
Every one must be on time. Our eyes are on the clock. Suddenly all conversation abruptly ceases. There is a little expectant hush. At precisely the appointed moment a door opens. The King in military uniform, with sword at his side, is entering from his apartment. And down the main staircase, in her bright embroideries and short swinging skirt, comes the Queen.
Now each member of the assembled company, according to rank and importance, steps forward, and bowing very low, kisses the hand, first of the King and then of the Queen. I am with the ladies-in-waiting. Each of them, as she bends the knee, makes a queer, quick little dip, "dropping a curtsy." But this is an art that one must be born to. I knew if I tried it, I'd fall on my face. I think the Queen did, too. Suppressing the merriment in her eyes, she fixed it all that first day when I came along. With quick tact she had shaken hands. So always the King did, too.
Still there is more. Now each gentleman present must kiss each lady's hand. I had never before seen anything like that done except on the stage. The first time it happened to me, I gave a little start. Eventually, however, I came to stand for it without jumping. It was three times a day, you know. So one got over the surprise. When all ceremonial observances had been completed, the court passed into the dining-room, the King and the Queen leading the way. The royal household, however, varied. Often, as when I first arrived, the King was gone a-hunting. Sometimes Carol with his Princess was present. Little-girl portraits of two daughters looked down from the dining-room wall; one is the wife of the King of Serbia, and the other married the King of Greece. Prince Nicholas, the second son, getting his training in the English navy, was home on a two-weeks leave. Princess Ileana, the youngest of the family, was traveling with her governess in France.
But there were two young visitors: Prince Gottfried Hohenlohe, the Queen's nephew, is the son of her sister who made a German marriage; and Archduchess Marie, her niece, is a daughter of the sister who married the Russian Grand Duke Cyril. Friedle and Moshka every one called them. Moshka was only seventeen. But she was dark-eyed, full-red-lipped, deep-bosomed, and very handsome. With it all she had the frankness and sincerity of a child.
"I don't care at all for society and for great palaces," she told a visiting diplomat one day. "But I just love the country."
"And what, then, is your ambition in life?" he asked.
"To get married and have a great many children," said Moshka quite simply.
"I hope that you may attain your wish," smilingly replied the statesman. He bowed low and kissed her hand.
And, "Thank you," Moshka answered gravely.
Friedle was at that age when he had just passed through his first love-affair. He was being subjected to the customary royal regime for recovery, sent on a visit to forget. Always Moshka and Friedle were asking me of America.
"Perhaps you may both come there some day," I said.
"But I am German. Who in America would wish to see me?" the boy answered sorrowfully.
"Why, the war is over," I exclaimed. "Everybody can be friends."
"Can we, do you think?" There was such eager pathos in Friedle's tone. "Everybody in the world? Can we be friends again, even if I am German . . ." The young voice trailed off with wistful sweetness.
My French Was Not
Moshka and Friedle and I became very well acquainted. Because when all around us were speaking Rumanian or sometimes French, we could talk English together. How blest is that tie that binds, you may never know until you have presented yourself at court so scantily equipped with language that you can rely upon only your mother tongue.
"Where is your French?" Beneath the searching gaze of the ladies-in-waiting I felt like a Bolshevik who had broken into the royal preserves. Certainly I was not in right. French is the passport to polite society in Europe. Every one who speaks anything else speaks also French as a matter of course and as the current medium of communication. At a royal court, which is the politest place of all, it is indispensable.
"Where is your French?" repeated the ladies-in-waiting. They not only became, I believe, suspicious, but at last curiosity, too, was mingled with scorn. What do they teach you over there? Don't you learn anything at all at school? At least, through the medium of their sort of English and my scanty French I could gather that was the way they felt in Rumania.
"I had it," I insisted desperately, as vainly I grasped at memory for my far-away college French. Latin and Greek I believe I could conjugate still. But these were dead languages. It was a living language I required. And it would not come.
Oh, of course, "Bonjour," and "Je ne parle Français," and a few little things like that, I managed to bring to the surface. But even if I could have done them all, those sentences in which I was once 100 percent, they would not have sufficed for this environment. "See the girl sitting there." "The boy has a new book." Those are not really useful remarks at all. Anything I could possibly have commanded would have been utterly inadequate. So I found myself in this Rumanian world in a crisis, quite cut off from communication. And the crisis came.
First, I should tell you that the importance of French at court is all the. more important because of the importance of a lady-in-waiting. The Queen has four of them. Three are white-haired. There is one who is not. And she has lovely, dark eyes. It was she who was going to teach a handsome visiting Englishman to speak Rumanian.
"We shall begin with the verb to love," she said. "And you will learn."
I think he did.
Now, all the ladies-in-waiting belong to the very oldest Rumanian nobility. It is the highest honor that can come to them, this, to be selected for the service of the Queen. Two of them are in residence with their own apartments at the castle. And two more are always ready to come on call. Their place is neither that of companion nor social secretary. But it is both of these and then a good deal more glorified. They travel with the Queen and receive with the Queen. They "hold audiences" for the Queen, which she may not have the time or the inclination to hold herself. They are the special consultants of the Queen. Through them she both receives messages and transmits her wishes. And with the wide French atmosphere with which they encircle her, they become, as it were, the special guardians of all approach to the throne. Each wears on the front of her gown as a badge of office a diamond letter M, for Marie, surmounted by a diamond crown.
Of course, I saw how much I ought to speak French. When I couldn't, the ladies-in-waiting kindly did what they could with English as from day to day they arranged the royal appointments for my program. They were very polite. But now and then I think they must have said in Rumanian to themselves, "Oh, bother!" Because, you see, it was often difficult. To speak a foreign language is not at all the same thing as to talk it. Each of us often quite missed the other's meaning.
The "Big Lunch"
Which was how I came to make my real faux pas. A lady-in-waiting had come for me to spend the morning with the Queen. It was to be a whole morning in the golden room. And it would be lovely.
Just outside the door she paused for some further instructions: there would be at one o'clock a "big lunch." That much I gathered. Some more I didn't get. But a "big lunch" was certain to be at the other castle where I didn't yet know the way. Would she then be coming to pick me up?
But the door of the golden room was even now opening. And I was in the presence of the Queen. Always, when I crossed this threshold, a dream closed round me. And the morning had gone when the Queen herself brought us both back to reality. She looked at her watch with a start:
"Why, that luncheon!" she exclaimed. "Oh, I meant to tell you, too," she hurriedly added, "that the King is coming today. And I awfully hope he will like you."
It was seven minutes to the hour for a luncheon like that. The Queen, of course, was ready in her embroidered costume for any castle occasion. But I must dress. I rushed from the golden room, my one thought first to find the lady-in-waiting. Else how should I know how to reach the luncheon? From the Rumanian servants I might not even enquire the way. The great castle? And this was the "little" one. Even here, you've no idea how many doors a castle can have. Once the lady-in-waiting, taking me up one long corridor and down another, had pointed out hers.
"There," she had said, "I shall be if you need me."
Where now was the door that belonged to the lady-in-waiting? This it must be, I decided, making desperate selection. I knocked. It was too timidly. I knocked louder.
And the door opened. A valet held it wide, Oh, so wide! And silhouetted against the light directly behind him was a gentleman just slipping into a dress shirt.
For one terrible instant I stood transfixed. And the gentleman did, too, head forward, arms just thrust through the sleeves of the shirt. And the valet did, too, hand on the still wide-open door. Then I found my English excuses. And fled.
Somehow I reached my own right room. How I had missed my guide I never did learn. After all, you know, she was the Queen's lady-in-waiting, not mine. And finding me late, I suppose she had hurried along in the royal train.
And My Best Dress Not Unpacked
I had just about three minutes to spare for dressing. Where was that beautiful gown I had brought for just such an occasion as this? I tried to think. Why, to be sure, just where it would most naturally be, all snug in tissue-paper packing at the bottom of my trunk.
Three minutes! And now there were only two. That lovely thing in orchid satin and lace! I never could dig it out. With bitter resignation I swung open a closet door to seize the nearest gown within reach, gray and from the year before last. I had acquired my under-slip and was struggling with suede slippers when there came a knock at the door. Something in French was said in a masculine voice.
"Wait, please wait," I begged in English.
And then—oh, this was the gown that fastened in the back. However should I get it done? Again the knock at the door. The voice this time was imperative, absolutely so. I just felt it was saying, "The King commands."
That surely was in effect its message. I had succeeded with one fastening at the top of the dress and one at the middle, you know. At the next knock 1 had to open the door. The gentle-' man who was there was an aide-de-camp and with expression and tone so anxious and urgent that there was no doubt he was telling me I should come immediately. What is that of which one may get guilty? Lèse majesté, I feared. My right hand behind me frantically clutched my gown together. But even so, of course, I went.
I found indeed a "big lunch" for which the King had specially returned. The greatest dignitaries of the eastern church were here, with long black beards and high, black hats and long black robes. They had come not merely from near-by Bucharest. Metropolitans from Alexandria and Antioch and a Patriarch from Jerusalem were here.
They had come officially to inaugurate the King and Queen as Defenders of the Faith. Rumania, now large enough and important enough, so succeeds to the position formerly held by great Russia. With solemn ceremony in the Crown Council Chamber, the King and Queen were decorated each with a great gold chain and an enormous, splendid, jeweled cross.
All of which had been ceremoniously commenced before I arrived. The aide-de-camp who had rushed me across from Pelisor and along the graveled paths and up the staircase of Peles had just time to hurry me into position in the line of gentlemen and ladies-in-waiting and others who stood outside the Council Chamber.
Fortunately I found myself beside a friend. "Oh, Moshka," I cried, turning round and letting go the frantic clutch at my gown, "could you button me up?"
She did, with some giggling but with real celerity. Then the doors of the Council Chamber opened, and the procession led by their Majesties appeared.
Moshka whispered: "I've got hysterics in my hind legs. And see how cold my hands are. It's the way I always get when anything important occurs." But now behind the last military commander and minister of state, we, too, who had waited outside closed in to follow on to the great state dining hall. It was a splendid luncheon with all the gold plate and the jeweled goblets. There must have been, I should say, some fifty guests. Just after the caviar I looked up to catch the rather intent gaze of a black-frocked gentleman directly across the table. Such handsome, dark Rumanian eyes. He was smiling ever so little.
Oh! Now I knew. Where had I seen those eyes? Why, just above the neck-band of the gentleman's unionsuit as, head bent forward, he recently stood poised in struggle with his shirt.
Now, the embarrassment of that previous painful moment it would not have been possible to continue. So I smiled. And he smiled again, now quite frankly.
Still the incident didn't close. Pretty soon I noticed a humorous expression more or less rippling up and down the table. The King had leaned forward a little with a look down my way. Even a Metropolitan was smiling. And what was the matter with Friedle? His napkin before his face, he was choking with either a fish-bone or laughter.
After the luncheon everybody gathered in the beautiful audience chamber of great Castle Pelash. All the most important people, you see, in this part of the world were there. And I was there, in the gown of the year before last, feeling just as wilted as a woman would.
Still, just like that, it had to be. The Queen was now presenting me to His Majesty, the King.
He shook hands with me, it did seem, cordially. And it was nice of the Queen. To make everything quite easy, she laid her hand confidentially on the King's sword-hilt.
"I want you, my dear," she said, "to tell Mrs. Daggett all about the Rumanian kolchak, the pink crocus that grows in the meadows. Because you know so much about botany."
Still the King, it appeared, could not be interested in the pink kolchak. They had told me what a shy man he is. But now he plunged right in, as it were, and with a wide, open smile.
"Mrs. Daggett," he said, "I understand, has been having adventures in Rumania. Right here at Pelisor."
The Whole Story Came Out
So then the story was out. The royal remark seemed to ring round the audience chamber. A little smiling circle was closing about us. On the outer edge of it the gentleman with the handsome Rumanian eyes shook his head. It was not he who had told.
Ah, Friedle! Now he was amplifying and explaining for the edification of all who understood English. It appeared that man}' did.
"You see," said Friedle, "my room was next, so I could hear it all. I grasped perfectly just how much Mrs. Daggett needed help. But I couldn't make a move. I was worse off even than was Prince X—.I hadn't yet reached my shirt. So I just got behind my door and stayed there."
The next day the Queen said to me with relief, "It seems that the King likes you very well."
And I found myself seated next His Majesty at table.
One may get over, then, even a gown of year before last. And even a faux pas can have a happy ending.
The Queen is the busiest woman I know. Her day begins at 7 a.m. with her correspondence. Breakfast is at 9 a.m. No, not in bed: at the household breakfast table. There are dignitaries and deputations to be received in audience more or less all day. In the evening there are frequent social affairs that engage the royal attention often up to midnight. But there are intervals between when all these affairs cease from troubling.
"We shall be going now," she announced one day, "to visit my people."
Religion and royalty afford for the Rumanian peasant the pageantry of his existence. But the Mother of God can be seen only as a pictured ikon. The Queen is Our Beautiful Lady, who from her high and splendid places every once in a while comes down to earth.
So now at the Sinaia railroad station they opened the royal waiting-room and spread the red velvet carpet. And we all passed through to the royal train, the Queen and Moshka and the lady-in-waiting and I and some visitors from the English nobility. The stateroom which I had was done in mahogany with green velvet hangings and carpet and the royal crest embroidered on the pillows. And there was a lounge outside with library table and divan. The Queen's own car has polished mahogany woodwork inset with ebony and inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Her bedroom has the walls all covered with moss-green velvet, and there are touches of gold embroidery. Her sitting-room is hung and upholstered in pale blue silk brocade.
The Queen Visits Her People
The railroad time-table, specially printed for Tren Regale in letters of gold, outlined a trip of four days. The train traveled always at night. In the morning after breakfast in the dining car, we invariably found ourselves arrived at a station fluttering with flags in the Rumanian red, yellow and blue and palpitant with the excitement of a festive occasion. The people had been holding their places in line for hours. Nearly always, too, there were soldiers with glittering officers to emblazon the scene. And there were town folk in modern store clothes. But the real color note was set by those others: women with kerchief-covered head and wearing the embroidered blouse and homespun skirt; men in tight, white woolen trousers, embroidered white sheepskin vest, and high, black sheepskin hat; then there were the children, quaint miniatures of their elders.
I looked out over these, her people. How eager each upturned face! At the moment of her appearing you could note a quick little intake of the breath like a little gasp of joy. Then into all the dark eyes came exactly the look they have in church.
The Queen stood forth sparkling in all her embroideries. She was smiling, happy, herself as joyous as the throng she looked down upon. This, you could see, was just as much her day as theirs. Then, at a signal from the schoolmaster, the assembled worshippers below broke forth in song. And there thrilled out on the morning the wildly beautiful strains of the national anthem, the Traiasca.
Always they had spread their most beautiful carpet and strewn it with flowers. On this the Queen stepped down from the train. A little girl presented a bouquet of flowers. The mayor, with official red sash worn diagonally across his breast, made a speech and knelt and kissed his sovereign's hand. So did the generals and the colonels and the black-robed priests.
At the end of the carpet of flowers, beneath a flowered arch of welcome, we followed the Queen to the waiting automobiles. Amid wild cheering and cries of "Long life" we were off. Riding beside the car in which I sat with the Queen, galloped the convoy of outriders, each sashed diagonally with a bright, embroidered band. Always there was such a guard of honor to accompany us for a mile or so beyond the town. Then we went on our way for the day to find far little villages and lovely old churches. Sometimes we ate a picnic lunch beneath a larch tree. Sometimes we were entertained with pomp and ceremony at the country houses of the old nobility. They were very much honored that the Queen had come. They, too, curtsied and kissed her hand, with all the charm of old-time grace and devotion. At twilight we always turned back, speeding along the dusty roads to the royal train again. At dinner on the train, on the last night of the trip, there sat at the head of the table a radiant Queen. She seemed to sparkle more than ever in her embroideries.
"We've had a lovely time," she declared, "haven't we?"
The Queen's Castle Bran
Among all the royal palaces and castles, there is one that is very special. And that not only in Rumania. There is in all Europe no other royal residence so romantic. Castle Bran is in the far fastnesses of the Carpathians. It stands right against the sky, rising precipitately out of the very crown of a mountain peak. The name means "a gate," and it is so called because it guards the mountain pass below. This is the ancient fortress with which the Saxons defended this part of Europe against the Turks. Inscriptions on its foundations show that it stood here in the year 1200, and how much older than that it may be, no one can tell. This ancient fortification, presented by the city of Brasov to the Queen, she has restored and furnished and made her beautiful castle Bran; There are apartments for the King and for each of the children as they may come for a visit. Still this is her personal castle.
"There is no court," she explained to me; "not even a lady-in-waiting. And I ask here only the people I like."
From Sinaia, Bran is distant some three hours' journey by automobile, so that you may go and return in a day. We went, the Queen and Moshka and I, in her polished mahogany silver-mounted car. The top is always down, and she rides with the wind. Peasants' straw-covered ox-carts and flocks of sheep and herds of goats made way. Pigs and chickens and geese scattered to the ditch as we flew by. Flashing here through a village and there through a forest, over a mountain and down to a valley, the beautiful machine seemed to rise and dip like a bird. And at last, with one final whirl straight for the clouds, it dropped us at the castle entrance. Up so high, there never was need for a moat.
A narrow flight of some thirty steps leads to the great oak door. When you stand within the ancient courtyard you know you have come to the Castle of Dreams-Come-True.
We sat on the high, flowered balcony at dinner. "There's going to be such a beautiful storm," the Queen announced, "we shall not go back tonight." She turned to me: "That will not matter. I shall lend you a nightgown. And I shall put you to sleep—let me see, I think in the bedroom of my Ileana."
Hardly had we finished coffee, when suddenly from over the next mountain with a mighty rush and a roar the storm had come. Now there is no such thing as electric light at Bran. In the central castle hall, Florentine silver lamps swing softly in the gloom. On the white Rumanian hearth, for this cool evening, a fire glowed red from out the farthest blackness. Lightning flashed. The thunder rolled. The wind howled. But the Queen stretched herself at ease on a divan and smiled.
"This, my castle," she explained, "is the house where the four winds meet. But its walls are four feet thick."
At the next resounding crash Moshka covered her ears.
"But," the Queen insisted quietly, "it's only God. It is God warning us what He can do. That's the way I always feel. In a storm at Bran, all the mystery of God and the majesty of God just sweep surging through my soul."
Still Moshka crouched all the evening on the great bear rug on the floor. Until at last the storm had gone rumbling on its way across mountain and valley.
It was eleven o'clock. "And now it is time for good night," said the Queen.
She held high against the shadows a lighted silver candlestick her maid had brought. She stepped to the wall beyond the bookcases. A paneled door flew open at her touch. From the threshold she waved her hand to us.
And she disappeared down the secret staircase in the thick, stone wall. Armored knights once clattered down these same stone steps to dark dungeons where they led. This is later by some seven hundred years. And a Queen in red-slippered feet stepped softly down to pleasant dreams in a beautiful chamber.
I awoke next morning with that feeling one sometimes has, you know, of left-over wonder. My hand brushed the spread of rich, yellow satin. The light streamed through curtains of orange silk at the window. And from a picture on the wall the saint for whom Ileana is named looked down at me. Ah, yes, I remembered. I had slept in the bed of a princess. And I had worn the Queen's lace nightgown.
The next day, back at Sinaia again, the chime of the monastery bells drifted softly through the golden tower room. The Queen was on her divan. And I was in the deep, soft easy chair. Often I had noticed the bracelet she wore on her wrist, a bracelet of pearls and diamonds from which hung a tiny, golden key. Always she wore it—as we walked in the garden or strolled in the forest together, as also when she dressed for the grandest functions of state. What might its meaning be?
This day, on a small table beside the divan, I observed a book bound all in gold. Purposely, of course, it was there. At length the Queen reached for it. I saw her unclasp the mysterious bracelet. Carefully she detached the tiny, golden key. And with it she unlocked the golden clasp of the golden book.
"It is," she explained, "the Book of my Memories. Only one other person, my favorite lady-in-waiting, has ever seen what is written here. This key unlocks the book. The book never leaves my personal possession. And the key I wear night and day on my wrist."
Now there were hours in the golden room when we talked of many things. Of life and love, as women will. There were times when we laughed together. And times when we wept together. As women will. But more. There were times when I would have hushed my very breathing: out of the golden book steadily, with even, measured tones, Marie of Rumania was reading to me. And from a far little girlhood, through flaming youth and full maturity, a woman's soul was passing by.
So I came to know something of a life that has been lived with a great deal of joy, with some heartbreaks, but always with very high courage.
How the monastery bells are pealing!
(To be continued)