I went with Estin, who swiftly vanished into the party, while I vanished into obscurity, finally fetching up against a plump, freckled, 40ish lady who felt about as relaxed in this swift company as I did. This was a costume party, a fact that most of the males had ignored but the women had not, a surprising majority of them appearing skirtless with black silk stockings and high heels that gave you lots of leg. The best of the legs belonged to Skeeter Werner, who had recently retired from international ski racing, and Faith McIlvaine, who had by now shed both her galoshes and her despair.
At first there was a photographer scurrying around snapping pictures with a battery of flashbulbs which, in this dim cave, left one's eyes with a Hiroshima halo for some minutes after each firing. The party finally ended when a fat stockbroker, who shall remain nameless, became weary and went outside to rest his eyes. As a resting place he chose the frozen mud beneath his Jaguar, where he lay, feet protruding into the dark road. Harcourt (Bill) Amory went to the rescue of his good old friend the stockbroker, a charity to which the good old friend responded by leaping up and punching Bill in the face. This made everyone feel fairly morose, and we all went home.
The day after the party I staggered up the mountain with Peter Estin and his mountain class. This is a regular crew of Club Ten people who used to take a long lesson with Peter on Saturdays and Sundays. They are a very El Morocco-looking lot—cool, but among themselves very jolly, quite good-looking, extremely sophisticated, foreign or quasi-foreign in accent, and all very good skiers. Their vitality is amazing. The previous night's do for old Ghighi had been, apparently, just the restful interlude they needed to prepare them for a day on the mountain. And, I understand, on any weekend neither red wine nor black morning takes one second from their skiing.
The group this day included the Count Vittorio Camerana and his wife Cristina, Armando Orsini, Peter Estin and one or two svelte camp followers. Also in the group was a stocky, lank-haired young man, clad entirely in lemon yellow, who was smoking a cigar rather awkwardly and chattering in French and Italian as we rode up in the gondola. We skied the lift line fairly fast, and the young man kept bubbling in various Mediterranean tongues as he flashed in and out of the moguls on the hard-packed slope.
"Ah," I said to myself, "a friend of Orsini's from Italy."
Halfway down the lift line we made a left onto a hairy trail that winds along through a lot of birch trees. The snow was deep, cut up and a little crusty. The young man still skied fast, but now not so steadily. I stopped at the first turn and looked back just as he spun in a cloud of snow. He arose, smiled, said something in French and came down another 20 yards. Suddenly he went down again in another cloud of snow. This time he arose silently, lurched another few feet and almost fell again. The next word he spoke was pure Anglo-Saxon, delivered with pure New York inflection, and that was the end of the Romance languages for that afternoon.
When the young man was reorganized, we set out after the main body of the expedition. It was just around the next turn, observing the top of a small aspen whose trunk had suffered some recent bark peeling. Clinging to the top of the aspen, bending it with his weight, was a porcupine. Vittorio began tugging at the tree, apparently to get the porky close enough to grab. Cristina slid over toward me. "How do you call that—that anneemuhl?"
"A porcupine," said I.
"Ah," said she, "un porc-�pic."
"Oui" said I, "un porc-�pic."
"Oh," said she. "It would make a divine hat."
At this point Vittorio decided not to grab the porky and risk a swat from the prickly tail. Instead he contented himself with shaking the anneemuhl down into the snow. Once on the snow, the porcupine set off into the woods with a marvelous, rollinggait. "Aha," said Orsini, "he has a good backside, I think, for merengue." And with that the mountain class swept off through the trees once more.