The month had been mild hitherto, but no sooner had they started than the weather turned to snow; and a snowstorm persistently accompanied them across the Channel and southward beyond. They broke the journey at Aix-les-Bains, at which place they arrived past midnight, and the snow being by this time deep a path was cleared with spades for them to the fly in waiting, which two horses, aided by men turning the wheels, dragged with difficulty up the hill to the Hotel Chateau Durieux — an old-fashioned place with stone floors and wide fireplaces. They were the only people there — the first visitors of the season — and in spite of a huge fire in their bedroom they found the next morning a cone of snow within each casement, and a snow film on the floor sufficient to show their tracks in moving about. Hardy used to speak of a curious atmospheric effect then witnessed: he was surprised that the windows of the room they occupied — one of the best — should command the view of a commonplace paddock only, with a few broken rails and sheds. But presently ‘what had seemed like the sky evolved a scene which uncurtained itself high up in the midst of the aerial expanse, as in a magic lantern, and vast mountains appeared there, tantalizingly withdrawing again as if they had been a mere illusion’.
KeywordsGrand Hotel Great Beauty Break Rail Mere Illusion Stone Floor
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