“Have you decided on a hotel there?” he asked, ironically. But Bee flinched not.
“There are two good ones—the ‘Kaiserin Elisabeth’ and the ’Goldenes Kreuz.’ It will probably be very crowded, for they always celebrate the Emperor’s birthday.”
Jimmie and I looked at each other helplessly. She knew all about Ischl, and had intended to steer the whole four of us there, while Jimmie and I had just heard of it, and were planning to give her a nice little surprise!
Jimmie said nothing, but took his hat and went out to telegraph for rooms.
“I’m glad I didn’t bet with you, Jimmie,” I whispered as he passed me.
It is the merest suspicion of a journey from Salzburg to Ischl, but it consumes several hours, because every inch of the country on both sides of the car is worth looking at. The little train creeps along now at the foot of a mountain, now at the edge of a lake, and it is such a vision of loveliness that even those unfeeling persons who “don’t care for scenery” would be roused from their lethargy by the gentle seductiveness of its beauty. Ischl appears when you are least looking for it, tucked in the hollow of a mountain’s arm as lovingly as ever a baby was cradled.
Our rooms at the Goldenes Kreuz had a wide balcony where our breakfasts were served, and commanded not only a view of the mountains and valleys, and a rushing stream, but afforded us our only meal where we could get plenty of air.
Our first experience in the general dining-room was a revelation of many things. The room was air-tight. Not a window or door was permitted to be opened the smallest crack. The men smoked all through dinner, and quite a number of women smoked from one to a dozen cigarettes held in all manner of curious cigarette-holders, some of which were only a handle with a ring for the cigarette, something like our opera-glass handles, while others were the more familiar mouthpieces. But all were jewelled and handsome, and the women who used them were all elderly. Two women smoked strong black cigars, but as the smokers were very smart and went in court society, Bee’s eyes only grew round and big, and she ventured no word of criticism.
But all this smoke and lack of ventilation made the air very thick and hot and unbreathable for us, so that we complained to the proprietor, who sympathised with us so deeply that he nearly wept, but he assured us that Austrians were even worse than the French in their fear of a draught, and he declared that while he would very willingly open all the windows, and as far as he was concerned, he himself revelled in fresh air,—nevertheless, if he should follow our advice, his hotel would be emptied the next day of all but our one American party.
In vain we reminded him that it was August. Not a window nor a door was opened in that dining-room while we were there.
But we got along very well, for we are not too strenuous in our demands,—especially when we realise that we cannot get them acceded to,—so in lieu of air we breathed smoke, and in watching the people we soon forgot all about it. Air is not essential after all when royalty is present.