“You must need rest and change,” I said, “when you talk like that. Let us try the Tyrol.”
THE EPISODE OF THE TYROLEAN CASTLE
We went to Meran. The place was practically decided for us by Amelia’s French maid, who really acts on such occasions as our guide and courier.
She is such a clever girl, is Amelia’s French maid. Whenever we are going anywhere, Amelia generally asks (and accepts) her advice as to choice of hotels and furnished villas. Césarine has been all over the Continent in her time; and, being Alsatian by birth, she of course speaks German as well as she speaks French, while her long residence with Amelia has made her at last almost equally at home in our native English. She is a treasure, that girl; so neat and dexterous, and not above dabbling in anything on earth she may be asked to turn her hand to. She walks the world with a needle-case in one hand and an etna in the other. She can cook an omelette on occasion, or drive a Norwegian cariole; she can sew, and knit, and make dresses, and cure a cold, and do anything else on earth you ask her. Her salads are the most savoury I ever tasted; while as for her coffee (which she prepares for us in the train on long journeys), there isn’t a chef de cuisine at a West-end club to be named in the same day with her.
So, when Amelia said, in her imperious way, “Césarine, we want to go to the Tyrol—now—at once—in mid-October; where do you advise us to put up?”—Césarine answered, like a shot, “The Erzherzog Johann, of course, at Meran, for the autumn, madame.”
“Is he ... an archduke?” Amelia asked, a little staggered at such apparent familiarity with Imperial personages.
“Ma foi! no, madame. He is an hotel—as you would say in England, the ‘Victoria’ or the ’Prince of Wales’s’—the most comfortable hotel in all South Tyrol; and at this time of year, naturally, you must go beyond the Alps; it begins already to be cold at Innsbruck.”
So to Meran we went; and a prettier or more picturesque place, I confess, I have seldom set eyes on. A rushing torrent; high hills and mountain peaks; terraced vineyard slopes; old walls and towers; quaint, arcaded streets; a craggy waterfall; a promenade after the fashion of a German Spa; and when you lift your eyes from the ground, jagged summits of Dolomites: it was a combination such as I had never before beheld; a Rhine town plumped down among green Alpine heights, and threaded by the cool colonnades of Italy.