Uncle Jim had volunteered no explanation about Paestum, neither Aunt Caroline nor Marion had spoken on the subject, and Irma had been too busy packing to study her guidebook. So as they left Naples, as she looked from the railway carriage, she could but wonder what was before her.
Soon passing the thickly settled environs of Naples they were in a region of small farms. The season had been late, and the vines were not far advanced, but there were many workers in the fields and some of the vines trained on poles showed a certain amount of leafage. After a while, they had passed the slopes of Vesuvius, and then began to realize, by the panting of their engine, that they were going up hill.
“We stay at Cava for the night, and to-morrow go to Paestum. Of course you know about Paestum,” said Uncle Jim teasingly.
“I am contented with Cava,” replied Irma.
At dusk the little Cava station gave no hint of what the place was. A group of facchini fell upon their baggage, the four were hurried into a carriage, and after driving through a long, quiet street, they reached the outskirts.
Here, at the entrance of a house in a garden, a fat landlady welcomed them with many bows.
A facchino with a green apron took some bags, a diminutive cameriera, in scarlet skirt and pink blouse, seized others, and soon Irma found herself in a small room filled with massive inlaid furniture. Curtesying low, the little cameriera quickly returned with a can of hot water.
Left to herself, Irma was a trifle lonely, and she was glad when the little maid returned to guide her to the dining-room. There she heard a strange mixture of accents, as she entered the room.
Her uncle came forward and led her to a seat. As she watched and listened, she found that her opposite neighbors were Germans, while beside her was an Italian lady. Now indeed she was in a foreign country. The dinner, too, was different from the conventional table d’hôte of their Naples hotel. Irma refused an elaborate dish of macaroni, remembering the curtains of yellow macaroni drying in untidy places, that she had noticed from the train.
“If you don’t eat macaroni,” said Uncle Jim, understanding her reluctance,
“you will often have to go hungry.”
In the morning Irma woke to the depressing sound of rain.
“No Paestum, to-day!” exclaimed Uncle Jim, as she took her seat at breakfast.
“Paestum! What is Paestum?” she asked, and after that he permitted her to eat in peace.
All the morning the rain poured in torrents, to the discouragement of two or three parties of automobilists, who had planned a trip to Paestum, and a return to Naples by the Amalfi road. Most of the men wandered about the huge house aimlessly, dropping occasionally into a chair in the sitting-room, trying vainly to help time pass more quickly by reading the month-old newspapers and magazines on the little center table. A few wrote letters, and a number of men and women gathered in little groups to compare notes about past or future travels.
Marion held himself aloof from the three or four other young people in the house. He sat in the furthest corner of the long drawing-room, buried in a book, and he said not a word to Irma during the whole morning.
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