They had praised the mountain with the cloud off, to Jeff, very politely, and now the mother said, a little more intimately, but still with the deference of a society acquaintance: “He seems very gentlemanly, and I am sure he is very kind. I don’t quite know what to do about it, do you?”
“No, I don’t. It’s all strange to me, you know.”
“Yes, I suppose it must be. But you will get used to it if we remain in the country. Do you think you will dislike it?”
“Oh no! It’s very different.”
“Yes, it’s different. He is very handsome, in a certain way.” The daughter said nothing, and the mother added: “I wonder if he was trying to conceal that he had come second-cabin, and was not going to let us know that he crossed with us?”
“Do you think he was bound to do so?”
“No. But it was very odd, his not mentioning it. And his going out on a cattle-steamer?” the mother observed.
“Oh, but that’s very chic, I’ve heard,” the daughter replied. “I’ve heard that the young men like it and think it a great chance. They have great fun. It isn’t at all like second-cabin.”
“You young people have your own world,” the mother answered, caressingly.
Westover met the ladies coming out of the dining-room as he went in rather late to breakfast; he had been making a study of Lion’s Head in the morning light after the cloud lifted from it. He was always doing Lion’s Heads, it seemed to him; but he loved the mountain, and he was always finding something new in it.
He was now seeing it inwardly with so exclusive a vision that he had no eyes for these extremely pretty women till they were out of sight. Then he remembered noticing them, and started with a sense of recognition, which he verified by the hotel register when he had finished his meal. It was, in fact, Mrs. James W. Vostrand, and it was Miss Vostrand, whom Westover had know ten years before in Italy. Mrs. Vostrand had then lately come abroad for the education of her children, and was pausing in doubt at Florence whether she should educate them in Germany or Switzerland. Her husband had apparently abandoned this question to her, and he did not contribute his presence to her moral support during her struggle with a problem which Westover remembered as having a tendency to solution in the direction of a permanent stay in Florence.
In those days he liked Mrs. Vostrand very much, and at twenty he considered her at thirty distinctly middle-aged. For one winter she had a friendly little salon, which was the most attractive place in Florence to him, then a cub painter sufficiently unlicked. He was aware of her children being a good deal in the salon: a girl of eight, who was like her mother, and quite a savage little boy of five, who may have been like his father. If he was, and the absent Mr. Vostrand had the same habit of sulking and kicking at people’s shins, Westover could partly understand why Mrs. Vostrand had come to Europe for the education of her children. It all came vividly back to him, while he went about looking for Mrs. Vostrand and her daughter on the verandas and in the parlors. But he did not find them, and he was going to send his name to their rooms when he came upon Jeff Durgin figuring about the office in a fresh London conception of an outing costume.