Tourists from the other hotels were being landed at our pier from tiny boats, to have their supper at the Hotel Rhiner, for the cooking is famous. Jimmie came and pounded on our door, executing a small war-dance in the corridor when we appeared,
“We’ve struck our gait,” he said, ecstatically, to me. “Virtue is its own reward. This pays us for Baden-Baden and Paris. What do you think? The Rhiner family themselves do the cooking. There are the old mother, Fraeulein Therese, three sons, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren who run this house. I have ordered the corner table on the veranda for supper—and such a table! And afterward there is going to be a dance in the kitchen. Fraeulein Therese has promised to play for us on her zither, and there is going to be singing. Now, come along and let’s do the sunset stunt.”
Bee and Mrs. Jimmie followed us with gentle apprehension, for they are always a little suspicious of anything that Jimmie and I particularly like. Under a long, sloping roof we found several dozen little row-boats, with the “shipmaster,” a peasant whose costume might have come out of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. He launched us, however, and the boat shot out into the lake, with Jimmie and me at the oars, and then we saw a sight that none of us had ever seen before. The air was wonderfully calm and still. The only ripple on the lake was that which was left by our boat as we rowed out to where there was a break in the hills. On the east and west, there the tallest hills fall away from the Achensee and make an undulating line on the horizon. As we reached this break, we stopped rowing, transfixed by the glory of the scene.
The sun was just setting, a great molten mass of flame, splashing down in the crimson clouds, which showed in the aperture between the hills. Little thin wraiths of mist or haze curled up from this molten mass into the rosy sky above, as if the gods on Olympus were mulling claret for a marriage feast. The purple hills curved down on each side in the exact shape of an amethyst punch-bowl, and the radiance of colouring fairly blinded us. On the other hand, the full moon was rising above the eastern hills in a haze of silver, but with a calmness and serene majesty which formed a direct antithesis to the sinking sun she faced.
Lower and lower sank the king, going down out of sight finally in a blaze of splendour which left the western sky aflame with light. In the east higher and higher rose the queen, rising from her silver mists into the clear pale blue of the sky, and sending her white lances gliding across the blue waters of the Achensee, till their tips touched our oars.
We watched it, hushed, breathless, awed. I looked at Jimmie.
“What is it like?” murmured Bee.
And to my surprise, Jimmie answered her from out of the spell this magic scene had caused, saying:
“It is like a glimpse of the splendours of the New Jerusalem.”