The Vostrands did not stay long at Lion’s Head. Before the week was out Mrs. Vostrand had a letter summoning them to meet her husband at Montreal, where that mysterious man, who never came into the range of Westover’s vision, somehow, was kept by business from joining them in the mountains.
Early in October the painter received Mrs. Vostrand’s card at his studio in Boston, and learned from the scribble which covered it that she was with her daughter at the Hotel Vendome. He went at once to see them there, and was met, almost before the greetings were past, with a prayer for his opinion.
“Favorable opinion?” he asked.
“Favorable? Oh yes; of course. It’s simply this. When I sent you my card, we were merely birds of passage, and now I don’t know but we are— What is the opposite of birds of passage?”
Westover could not think, and said so.
“Well, it doesn’t matter. We were walking down the street, here, this morning, and we saw the sign of an apartment to let, in a window, and we thought, just for amusement, we would go in and look at it.”
“And you took it?”
“No, not quite so rapid as that. But it was lovely; in such a pretty ‘hotel garni’, and so exquisitely furnished! We didn’t really think of staying in Boston; we’d quite made up our minds on New York; but this apartment is a temptation.”
“Why not yield, then?” said Westover. “That’s the easiest way with a temptation. Confess, now, that you’ve taken the apartment already!”
“No, no, I haven’t yet,” said Mrs. Vostrand.
“And if I advised not, you wouldn’t?”
“Ah, that’s another thing!”
“When are you going to take possession, Mrs. Vostrand?”
“Oh, at once, I suppose—if we do!”
“And may I come in when I’m hungry, just as I used to do in Florence, and will you stay me with flagons in the old way?”
“There never was anything but tea, you know well enough.”
“The tea had rum in it.”
“Well, perhaps it will have rum in it here, if you’re very good.”
“I will try my best, on condition that you’ll make any and every possible use of me. Mrs. Vostrand, I can’t tell you how very glad I am you’re going to stay,” said the painter, with a fervor that made her impulsively put out her hand to him. He kept it while he could add, “I don’t forget —I can never forget—how good you were to me in those days,” and at that she gave his hand a quick pressure. “If I can do anything at all for you, you will let me, won’t you. I’m afraid you’ll be so well provided for that there won’t be anything. Ask them to slight you, to misuse you in something, so that I can come to your rescue.”
“Yes, I will,” Mrs. Vostrand promised. “And may we come to your studio to implore your protection?”