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 A Spirit In Prison 3 Alerter l'administrateur Recommander à un ami Lien de l'article 

A Spirit In Prison

by Robert Hichens


Chapter V

 

Three days after Artois' conversation with Hermione in the Grotto of Virgil the Marchesino Isidoro Panacci came smiling into his friend's apartments in the Hotel Royal des Etrangers. He was smartly dressed in the palest possible shade of gray, with a bright pink tie, pink socks, brown shoes of the rather boat-like shape affected by many young Neopolitans, and a round straw hat, with a small brim, that was set slightly on the side of his curly head. In his mouth was a cigarette, and in his buttonhole a pink carnation. He took Artois' hand with his left hand, squeezed it affectionately, murmured "Caro Emilio," and sat down in an easy attitude on the sofa, putting his hat and stick on a table near by.

It was quite evident that he had come for no special reason. He had just dropped in, as he did whenever he felt inclined, to gossip with "Caro Emilio," and it never occurred to him that possibly he might be interrupting an important piece of work. The Marchesino could not realize work. He knew his friend published books. He even saw him sometimes actually engaged in writing them, pen in hand. But he was sure anybody would far rather sit and chatter with him, or hear him play a valse on the piano, or a bit of the "Boheme," than bend over a table all by himself. And Artois always welcomed him. He liked him. But it was not only that which made him complaisant. Doro was a type, and a singularly perfect one.

Now Artois laid down his pen, and pulled forward an arm-chair opposite to the sofa.

"Mon Dieu, Doro! How fresh you look, like a fish just pulled out of the sea!"

The Marchesino showed his teeth in a smile which also shone in his round and boyish eyes.

"I have just come out of the sea. Papa and I have been bathing at the Eldorado. We swam round the Castello until we were opposite your windows, and sang 'Funiculi, funicula!' in the water, to serenade you. Why didn't you hear us? Papa has a splendid voice, almost like Tamagno's in the gramophone, when he sings the 'Addio' from 'Otello.' Of course we kept a little out at sea. Papa is so easily recognized by his red mustaches. But still you might have heard us."

"I did."

"Then why didn't you come unto the balcony, amico mio?"

"Because I thought you were street singers."

"Davvero? Papa would be angry. And he is in a bad temper to-day anyhow."

"Why?"

"Well, I believe Gilda Mai is going to bring a causa against Viviano. Of course he won't marry her, and she never expected he could. Why, she used to be a milliner in the Toledo. I remember it perfectly, and now Sigismondo -- But it's really Gilda that has made papa angry. You see, he has paid twice for me, once four thousand lire, and the other time three thousand five hundred. And then he has lost a lot at Lotto lately. He has no luck. And then he, too, was in a row yesterday evening."

"The Marchese?"

"Yes, in the Chiaia. He slapped Signora Merani's face twice before every one."

"Diavolo! What! a lady?"

"Well, if you like to call her so," returned Doro, negligently. "Her husband is an impiegato of the Post-office, or something of the kind."

"But why should the Marchese slap her face in the Chiaia?"

"Because she provoked him. They took a flat in the house my father owns in the Strada Chiatamone. After a time they got behind with the rent. He let them stay on for six months without paying, and then he turned them out. What should he do?" Doro began to gesticulate. He held his right hand up on a level with his face, with the fingers all drawn together and pressed against the thumb, and moved it violently backwards and forwards, bringing it close to the bridge of his nose, then throwing it out towards Artois. "What else, I say? Was he to give his beautiful rooms to them for nothing? And she with a face like -- have you, I ask you, Emilio, have you seen her teeth?"

"I have never seen the Signora in my life!"

"You have never seen her teeth? Dio Mio!" He opened his two hands, and, lifting his arms, shook them loosely above his head, shutting his eyes for an instant as if to ward off some dreadful vision. "They are like the keys of a piano from Bordicelli's! Basta!" He dropped his hands and opened his eyes. "Yesterday papa was walking in the Chiaia. He met Signori Merani, and she began to abuse him. She had a red parasol. She shook it at him! She called him vigliacco -- papa, a Panacci, dei Duchi di Vedrano! The parasol -- it was a bright red, it infuriated papa. He told the Signora to stop. She knows his temper. Every one in Naples knows our tempers, every one! I, Viviano, even Sigismondo, we are all the same, we are all exactly like papa. If we are insulted we cannot control ourselves. You know it, Emilio!"

"I am perfectly certain of it," said Artois. "I am positive you none of you can."

"It does not matter whether it is a man or a woman. We must do something with our hands. We have got to. Papa told the Signora he should strike her at once unless she put down the red parasol and was silent. What did she do, the imbecile? She stuck out her face like this," -- he thrust his face forward with the right cheek turned towards Artois -- "and said, 'Strike me! strike me!' Papa obeyed her. Poom! Poom! He gave her a smack on each cheek before every one. 'You want education!' he said to her. 'And I shall give it you.' And now she may bring a processo too. But did you really think we were street singers?" He threw himself back, took the cigarette from his mouth, and laughed. Then he caught hold of his blond mustache with both hands, gave it an upward twist, at the same time pouting his big lips, and added:

"We shall bring a causa against you for that!"

"No, Doro, you and I must never quarrel. By the way, though, I want to see you angry. Every one talks of the Panacci temper, but when I am with you I always see you smiling or laughing. As to the Marchese, he is as lively as a boy. Viviano -- "

"Oh, Viviano is a buffone. Have you ever seen him imitate a monkey from whom another monkey has snatched a nut?"

"No."

"It is like this -- "

With extraordinary suddenness he distorted his whole face into the likeness of an angry ape, hunching his shoulders and uttering fierce simian cries.

"No, I can't do it."

With equal suddenness and self-possession he became his smiling self again.

"Viviano has studied in the monkey-house. And the monk looking the other way when he passes along the Marina where the women are bathing in the summer! He shall do that for you on Sunday afternoon when you come to Capodimonte. It makes even mamma die of laughing, and you know how religious she is. But then, of course, men -- that does not matter. Religion is for women, and they understand that quite well."

The Marchesino never made any pretence of piety. One virtue he had in the fullest abundance. He was perfectly sincere with those whom he considered his friends. That there could be any need for hypocrisy never occurred to him.

"Mamma would hate it if we were saints," he continued.

"I am sure the Marchesa can be under no apprehension on that score," said Artois.

"No, I don't think so," returned the Marchesino, quite seriously.

He had a sense of humor, but it did not always serve him. Occasionally it was fitful, and when summoned by irony remained at a distance.

"It is true, Emilio, you have never seen me angry," he continued, reverting to the remark of Artois; "you ought to. Till you have seen a Panacci angry you do not really know him. With you, of course, I could never be angry -- never, never. You are my friend, my comrade. To you I tell everything."

A sudden remembrance seemed to come to him. Evidently a new thought had started into his active mind, for his face suddenly changed, and became serious, even sentimental.

"What is it?" asked Artois.

"To-day, just now in the sea, I have seen a girl -- Madonna! Emilio, she had a little nose that was perfect -- perfect. How she was simpatica! What a beautiful girl!"

His whole face assumed a melting expression, and he pursed his lips in the form of a kiss.

"She was in the sea, too?" asked Artois.

"No. If she had been! But I was with papa. It was just after we had been serenading you. She had heard us, I am sure, for she was laughing. I dived under the boat in which she was. I did all my tricks for her. I did the mermaid and the seal. She was delighted. She never took her eyes from me. As to papa -- she never glanced at him. Poor papa! He was angry. She had her mother with her, I think -- a Signora, tall, flat, ugly, but she was simpatica, too. She had nice eyes, and when I did the seal she could not help laughing, though I think she was rather sad."

"What sort of boat were they in?" Artois asked, with sudden interest.

"A white boat with a green line."

"And they were coming from the direction of Posilipo?"

"Ma si! Emilio, do you know them? Do you know the perfect little nose?"

The Marchesino laid one hand eagerly on the arm of his friend.

"I believe you do! I am sure of it! The mother -- she is flat as a Carabiniere, and quite old, but with nice eyes, sympathetic, intelligent. And the girl is a little brown -- from the sun -- with eyes full of fun and fire, dark eyes. She may be Italian, and yet -- there is something English, too. But she is not blonde, she is not cold. And when she laughs! Her teeth are not like the keys of a piano from Bordicelli's. And she is full of passion, of flame, of sentiment, as I am. And she is young, perhaps sixteen. Do you know her? Present me, Emilio! I have presented you to all my friends."

"Mio caro, you have made me your debtor for life."

"It isn't true!"

"Indeed it is true. But I do not know who these ladies are. They may be Italians. They may be tourists. Perhaps to-morrow they will have left Naples. Or they may come from Sorrento, Capri. How can I tell who they are?"

The Marchesino suddenly changed. His ardor vanished. His gesticulating hands fell to his sides. His expressive face grew melancholy.

"Of course. How can you tell? Directly I was out of the sea and dressed, I went to Santa Lucia. I examined every boat, but the white boat with the green line was not there, Basta!"

He lit a fresh cigarette and was silent for a moment. Then he said:

"Emilio caro, will you come out with me to-night?"

"With pleasure."

"In the boat. There will be a moon. We will dine at the Antico Giuseppone."

"So far off as that?" Artois said, rather abruptly.

"Why not? To-day I hate the town. I want tranquility. At the Antico Giuseppone there will be scarcely any one. It is early in the season. And afterwards we will fish for sarde, or saraglie. Take me away from Naples, Emilio; take me away! For to-night, if I stay -- well, I feel that I shall not be santo."

Artois burst into his big roaring laugh.

"And why do you want to be santo to-night?" he asked.

"The beautiful girl! I wish to keep her memory, if only for one night."

"Very well, then. We will fish, and you shall be a saint."

"Caro Emilio! Perhaps Viviano will come, too. But I think he will be with Lidia. She is singing to-night at the Teatro Nuovo. Be ready at half-past seven. I will call for you. And now I shall leave you."

He got up, went over to a mirror, carefully arranged his tie, and put on his straw hat at exactly the most impudent angle.

"I shall leave you to write your book while I meet papa at the villa. Do you know why papa is so careful to be always at the villa at four o'clock just now?"

"No!"

"Nor does mamma! If she did! Povera mamma! But she can always go to Mass. A rivederci, Emilio."

He moved his hat a little more to one side and went out, swinging his walking-stick gently to and fro in a manner that was pensive and almost sentimental.

Chapter VI

 

The Marchesino Panacci was generally very sincere with his friends, and the boyish expression in his eyes was not altogether deceptive, for despite his wide knowledge of certain aspects of life, not wholly admirable, there was really something of the simplicity of a child -- of a child that could be very naughty -- in his disposition. But if he could be naive he could also be mischievous and even subtle, and he was very swift in grasping a situation, very sharp in reading character, very cunning in the pursuit of his pleasure, very adroit in deception, if he thought that publicity of pursuit would be likely to lead to the frustration of his purpose.

He had seen at once that Artois either knew, or suspected, who were the occupants of the white boat with the green line, and he had also seen that, influenced perhaps by one of those second thoughts which lead men into caution, Artois desired to conceal his knowledge, or suspicion. Instantly the Marchesino had, therefore, dropped the subject, and as instantly he had devised a little plan to clear the matter up.

The Marchesino knew that when Artois had arrived in Naples he had had no friends in the town or neighborhood. But he also knew that recently an Englishwoman, an old friend of the novelist, had come upon the scene, that she was living somewhere not far off, and that Artois had been to visit her once or twice by sea. Artois had spoken of her very casually, and the Marchesino's interest in her had not been awakened. He was not an inquisitive man by nature, and was always very busy with his own pursuit of pleasure. But he remembered now that once he had seen his friend being rowed in the direction of Posilipo, and that in the evening of the same day Artois had mentioned having been to visit his English friend. This fact had suggested to the Marchesino that if his suspicion were correct, and the ladies in the white boat with the green line were this English friend and a daughter, they probably lived in some villa as easily reached by sea as by land. Such villas are more numerous towards the point of the Capo di Posilipo than nearer Naples, as the high road, after the Mergellina, mounts the hill and diverges farther and farther from the sea. The Antico Giuseppone is a small waterside ristorante at the point of the Capo di Posilipo, a little below the Villa Rosebery.

The Marchesino's suggestion of a dinner there that evening had been prompted by the desire to draw his friend into the neighborhood of his charmer of the sea. Once there he might either find some pretext for making her acquaintance through Artois -- if Artois did know her -- or, if that were impossible, he might at least find out where she lived. By the manner of Artois when the Antico Giuseppone was mentioned, he knew at once that he was playing his cards well. The occupants of the white boat were known to the novelist. They did live somewhere near the Antico Giuseppone. And certainly Artois had no desire to bring about his -- the Marchesino's -- acquaintance with them.

That this was so, neither surprised nor seriously vexed the Marchesino. He knew a good deal of his friend's character, knew that Artois, despite his geniality and friendliness, was often reserved -- even with him. During their short intimacy he had certainly told Artois a great deal more about his affairs with women than had been told to him in return. This fact was borne in upon him now. But he did not feel angry. A careless good-nature was an essential part of his character. He did not feel angry at his friend's secrecy, but he did feel mischievous. His lively desire to know the girl with "the perfect little nose" was backed up now by another desire -- to teach "Caro Emilio" that it was better to meet complete frankness with complete frankness.

He had strolled out of his friend's room pensively, acting the melancholy youth who had lost all hope of succeeding in his desire; but directly the door was shut his manner changed. Disregarding the lift, he ran lightly down the stairs, made his way swiftly by the revolving door into the street, crossed it, and walked towards the harbor of Santa Lucia, where quantities of pleasure-boats lie waiting for hire, and the boatmen are gathered in knots smoking and gossiping, or are strolling singly up and down near the water's edge, keeping a sharp look-out for possible customers.

As the Marchesino turned on the bridge that leads towards Castel dell' Ovo one of these boatmen met him and saluted him.

"Good-day, Giuseppe," said the Marchesino, addressing him familiarly with a broad Neapolitan accent.

"Good-day, Signorino Marchesino," replied the man. "Do you want a boat? I will take you for -- "

The Marchesino drew out his cigarette case.

"I don't want a boat. But perhaps you can tell me something."

"What is it, Signorino Marchesino?" said the man, looking eagerly at the cigarette case which was now open, and which displayed two tempting rows of fat Egyptian cigarettes reposing side by side.

"Do you know a boat -- white with a green line -- which sometimes comes into the harbor from the direction of Posilipo? It was here this afternoon, or it passed here. I don't know whether it went on to the Arsenal."

"White with a green line?" said the man. "That might be -- who was there in it, Signorino Marchesino?"

"Two ladies, one old and one very young. The young lady -- "

"Those must be the ladies from the island," interrupted the man. "The English ladies who come in the summer to the Casa del Mare as they call it, on the island close to the Grotto of Virgilio by San Francesco's Pool. They were here this afternoon, but they're gone back. Their boat is white with a green line, Signorino Marchesino."

"Grazie, Giuseppe," said the Marchesino, with an immovable countenance. "Do you smoke cigarettes?'

"Signorino Marchesino, I do when I have any soldi to buy them with."

"Take these."

The Marchesino emptied one side of his cigarette case into the boatman's hand, called a hired carriage, and drove off towards the Villa -- the horse going at a frantic trot, while the coachman, holding a rein in each hand, ejaculated, "A -- ah!" every ten seconds, in a voice that was fiercely hortatory.

Artois, from his window, saw the carriage rattle past, and saw his friend leaning back in it, with alert eyes, to scan every woman passing by. He stood on the balcony for a moment till the noise of the wheels on the stone pavement died away. When he returned to his writing-table the mood for work was gone. He sat down in his chair. He took up his pen. But he found himself thinking of two people, the extraordinary difference between whom was the cause of his now linking them together in his mind. He found himself thinking of the Marchesino and of Vere.

Not for a moment did he doubt the identity of the two women in the white boat. They were Hermione and Vere. The Marchesino had read him rightly, but Artois was not aware of it. His friend had deceived him, as almost any sharp-witted Neapolitan can deceive even a clever forestiere. Certainly he did not particularly wish to introduce his friend to Vere. Yet now he was thinking of the two in connection, and not without amusement. What would they be like together? How would Vere's divine innocence receive the amiable seductions of the Marchesino? Artois, in fancy, could see his friend Doro for once completely disarmed by a child. Vere's innocence did not spring from folly, but was backed up by excellent brains. It was that fact which made it so beautiful. The innocence and the brains together might well read Doro a pretty little lesson. And Vere after the lesson -- would she be changed? Would she lose by giving, even if the gift were a lesson?

Artois had certainly felt that his instinct told him not to do what Doro wanted. He had been moved, he supposed now, by a protective sentiment. Vere was delicious as she was. And Doro -- he was delightful as he was. The girl was enchanting in her ignorance. The youth -- to Artois the Marchesino seemed almost a boy, indeed, often quite a boy -- was admirable in his precocity. He embodied Naples, its gay furberia, and yet that was hardly the word -- perhaps rather one should say its sunny naughtiness, its reckless devotion to life purged of thought. And Vere -- what did she embody? Not Sicily, though she was in some ways so Sicilian. Not England; certainly not that!

Suddenly Artois was conscious that he knew Doro much better than he knew Vere. He remembered the statement of an Austrian psychologist, that men are far more mysterious than women, and shook his head over it now. He felt strongly the mystery that lay hidden deep down in the innocence of Vere, in the innocence of every girl-child of Vere's age who had brains, temperament and perfect purity. What a marvellous combination they made! He imagined the clear flame of them burning in the night of the world of men. Vere must be happy.

When he said this to himself he knew that, perhaps for the first time, he was despairing of something that he ardently desired. He was transferring a wish, that was something like a prayer in the heart of one who had seldom prayed. He was giving up hope for Hermione and fastening hope on Vere. For a moment that seemed like treachery, like an abandoning of Hermione. Since their interview on the sea Artois had felt that, for Hermione, all possibility of real happiness was over. She could not detach her love. It had been fastened irrevocably on Maurice. It was now fastened irrevocably on Maurice's memory. Long ago, had she, while he was alive, found out what he had done, her passion for him might have died, and in the course of years she might have been able to love again. But now it was surely too late. She had lived with her memory too long. It was her blessing -- to remember, to recall, how love had blessed her life for a time. And if that memory were desecrated now she would be as one wrecked in the storm of life. Yet with that memory how she suffered!

What could he do for her? His chivalry must exercise itself. He must remain in the lists, if only to fight for Hermione in Vere. And the Marchesino? Artois seemed to divine that he might be an enemy in certain circumstances.

A warmth of sentiment, not very common in Artois, generated within him by such thoughts as these, thoughts that detained him from work, still glowed in his heart when evening fell and the Marchesino came gayly in to take him out upon the sea.

"There's a little wind, Emilio," he said, as they got into the boat in the harbor of Santa Lucia; "we can sail to the Antico Giuseppone. And after dinner we'll fish for sarde. Isn't it warm? One could sleep out on such a night."

They had two men with them. When they got beyond the breakwater the sail was set, the Marchesino took the helm, and the boat slipped through the smooth sea, rounded the rocks on which the old fort stands to stare at Capri, radiant now as a magic isle in the curiously ethereal light of evening, and headed for the distant point of land which hid Ischia from their eyes. The freedom of the Bay of Naples was granted them -- the freedom of the sea. As they ran out into the open water, and Artois saw the round gray eyes of the Marchesino dancing to the merry music of a complete bodily pleasure, he felt like a man escaping. He looked back at the city almost as at a sad life over, and despite his deep and persistent interest in men he understood the joy of the hermit who casts them from him and escapes into the wilds. The radiance of the Bay, one of the most radiant of all the inlets of the sea, bold and glaring in the brilliant daytime, becomes exquisitely delicate towards night. Vesuvius, its fiery watcher, looks like a kindly guardian, until perhaps the darkness shows the flame upon its flanks, the flame bursting forth from the mouth it opens to the sky; and the coast-line by Sorrento, the lifted crest of Capri, even the hill of Posilipo, appear romantic and enticing, calling lands holding wonderful pleasures for men, joys in their rocks and trees, joys in their dim recesses, joys and soft realities fulfilling every dream upon their coasts washed by the whispering waves.

The eyes of the Marchesino were dancing with physical pleasure. Artois wondered how much he felt the beauty of the evening, and how. His friend evidently saw the question in his eyes, for he said:

"The man who knows not Naples knows not pleasure."

"Is that a Neapolitan saying?" asked Artois.

"Yes, and it is true. There is no town like Naples for pleasure. Even your Paris, Emilio, with all its theatres, its cocottes, its restaurants -- no, it is not Naples. No wonder the forestiere come here. In Naples they are free. They can do what they will. They know we shall not mind. We are never shocked."

"And do you think we are easily shocked in Paris?"

"No, but it is not the same. You have not Vesuvius there. You have not the sea, you have not the sun."

Artois began laughingly to protest against the last statement, but the Marchesino would not have it.

"No, no, it shines -- I know that, -- but it is not the sun we have here."

He spoke to the seamen in the Neapolitan dialect. They were brown, muscular fellows. In their eyes were the extraordinary boldness and directness of the sea. Neither of them looked gay. Many of the Neapolitans who are much upon the sea have serious, even grave faces. These were intensely, almost overpoweringly male. They seemed to partake of the essence of the elements of nature, as if blood of the sea ran in their veins, as if they were hot with the grim and inner fires of the sun. When they spoke their faces showed a certain changefulness that denoted intelligence, but never lost the look of force, of an almost tense masculinity ready to battle, perpetually alive to hold its own.

The Marchesino was also very masculine, but in a different way and more consciously than they were. He was not cultured, but such civilization as he had endowed him with a power to catch the moods of others not possessed by these men, in whom persistence was more visible than adroitness, unless indeed any question of money was to the fore.

"We shall get to the Giuseppone by eight, Emilio," the Marchesino said, dropping his conversation with the men, which had been about the best hour and place for their fishing. "Are you hungry?"

"I shall be," said Artois. "This wind brings an appetite with it. How well you steer!"

The Marchesino nodded carelessly.

As the boat drew ever nearer to the point, running swiftly before the light breeze, its occupants were silent. Artois was watching the evening, with the eyes of a lover of nature, but also with the eyes of one who takes notes. The Marchesino seemed to be intent on his occupation of pilot. As to the two sailors, they sat in the accustomed calm and staring silence of seafaring men, with wide eyes looking out over the element that ministered to their wants. They saw it differently, perhaps, from Artois, to whom it gave now an intense aesthetic pleasure, differently from the Marchesino, to whom it was just a path to possible excitement, possible gratification of a new and dancing desire. They connected it with strange superstitions, with gifts, with deprivations, with death. Familiar and mysterious it was purely to them as to all seamen, like a woman possessed whose soul is far away.

Just as the clocks of Posilipo were striking eight the Marchesino steered the boat into the quay of the Antico Guiseppone.

Although it was early in the season a few deal tables were set out by the waterside, and a swarthy waiter, with huge mustaches and a napkin over his arm, came delicately over the stones to ask their wishes.

"Will you let me order dinner, Emilio?" said the Marchesino: "I know what they do best here."

Artois agreed, and while the waiter shuffled to carry out the Marchesino's directions the two friends strolled near the edge of the sea.

The breeze had been kindly. Having served them well it was now dying down to its repose, leaving the evening that was near to night profoundly calm. As Artois walked along the quay he felt the approach of calm like the approach of a potentate, serene in the vast consciousness of power. Peace was invading the sea, irresistible peace. The night was at hand. Already Naples uncoiled its chain of lamps along the Bay. In the gardens of Posilipo the lights of the houses gleamed. Opposite, but very far off across the sea, shone the tiny flames of the houses of Portici, of Torre del Greco, of Torre Annunziata, of Castellamare. Against the gathering darkness Vesuvius belched slowly soft clouds of rose-colored vapor, which went up like a menace into the dim vault of the sky. The sea was without waves. The boats by the wharf, where the road ascends past the villa Rosebery to the village of Posilipo, scarcely moved. Near them, in a group, lounging against the wall and talking rapidly, stood the two sailors from Naples with the boatmen of the Guiseppone. Oil lamps glimmered upon two or three of the deal tables, round one of which was gathered a party consisting of seven large women, three children, and two very thin middle-aged men with bright eyes, all of whom were eating oysters. Farther on, from a small arbor that gave access to a fisherman's house, which seemed to be constructed partially in a cave of the rock, and which was gained by a steep and crumbling stairway of stone, a mother called shrilly to some half-naked little boys who were fishing with tiny hand-nets in the sea. By the table which was destined to the Marchesino and Artois three ambulant musicians were hovering, holding in their broad and dirty hands two shabby mandolins and a guitar. In the distance a cook with a white cap on his head and bare arms was visible, as he moved to and fro in the lighted kitchen of the old ristorante, preparing a "zuppa di pesce" for the gentlemen from Naples.

"Che bella notte!" said the Marchesino, suddenly.

His voice sounded sentimental. He twisted his mustaches and added:

"Emilio, we ought to have brought two beautiful women with us to-night. What are the moon and the sea to men without beautiful women?"

"And the fishing?" said Artois.

"To the devil with the fishing," replied the young man. "Ecco! Our dinner is ready, with thanks to the Madonna!"

They sat down, one on each side of the small table, with a smoking lamp between them.

"I have ordered vino bianco," said the Marchesino, who still looked sentimental. "Cameriere, take away the lamp. Put it on the next table. Va bene. We are going to have 'zuppa di pesce,' gamberi and veal cutlets. The wine is Capri. Now then," he added, with sudden violence and the coarsest imaginable Neapolitan accent, "if you fellows play 'Santa Lucia,' 'Napoli Bella,' or 'Sole mio' you'll have my knife in you. I am not an Inglese. I am a Neapolitan. Remember that!"

He proved it with a string of gutter words and oaths, at which the musicians smiled with pleasure. Then, turning again to Artois, he continued:

"If one doesn't tell them they think one is an imbecile. Emilio caro, do you not love to see the moon with a beautiful girl?"

His curious assumption that Artois and he were contemporaries because they were friends, and his apparently absolute blindness to the fact that a man of sixty and a man of twenty-four are hardly likely to regard the other sex with an exactly similar enthusiasm, always secretly entertained the novelist, who made it his business with this friend to be accommodating, and who seldom, if ever, showed himself authoritative, or revealed any part of his real inner self.

"Ma si!" he replied; "the night and the moon are made for love."

"Everything is made for love," returned the Marchesino. "Take plenty of soaked bread, Emilio. They know how to make this zuppa here. Everything is made for love. -- Look! There is a boat coming with women in it!"

At a short distance from the shore a rowing boat was visible; and from it now came shrill sounds of very common voices, followed by shouts of male laughter.

"Perhaps they are beautiful," said the Marchesino, at once on the alert.

The boat drew in to the quay, and from it there sprang, with much noise and many gesticulations, two over-dressed women -- probably, indeed almost certainly, canzonettiste -- and the two large young men, whose brown fingers and whose chests gleamed with false diamonds. As they passed the table where the two friends were sitting, the Marchesino raked the women with his bold gray eyes. One of them was large and artificially blonde, with a spreading bust, immense hips, a small waist, and a quantity of pale dyed hair, on which was perched a bright blue hat. The other was fiercely dark, with masses of coarse black hair, big, blatant eyes that looked quite black in the dim lamplight, and a figure that suggested a self-conscious snake. Both were young. They returned the Marchesino's stare with vigorous impudence as they swung by.

"What sympathetic creatures!" he murmured. "They are two angels. I believe I have seen one of them at the Margherita. What was her name -- Maria Leoni, I fancy."

He looked enviously at the young men. The arrival of the lobster distracted his attention for the moment; but it was obvious that the appearance of these women had increased the feeling of sentimentality already generated in him by the softness and stillness of the night.

The three musicians, rendered greedy rather than inspired by the presence of more clients, now began to pluck a lively street tune from their instruments; and the waiter, whose mustaches seemed if possible bigger now that night was truly come, poured the white wine into the glasses with the air of one making a libation.

As the Marchesino ate, he frequently looked towards the party at the neighboring table. He was evidently filled with envy of the two men whose jewels glittered as they gesticulated with their big brown hands. But presently their pleasure and success recalled to him something which he had momentarily forgotten, the reason why he had planned this expedition. He was in pursuit. The recollection cheered him up, restored to him the strength of his manhood, put him right with himself. The envy and the almost sickly sentimentality vanished from him, and he broke into the usual gay conversation which seldom failed him, either by day or night.

It was past nine before they had finished their coffee. The two boatmen had been regaled and had drunk a bottle of wine, and the moon was rising and making the oil lamps of the Guiseppone look pitiful. From the table where the canzonettiste were established came peals of laughter, which obviously upset the seven large and respectable women who had been eating oysters, and who now sat staring heavily at the gay revellers, while the two thin middle-aged men with bright eyes began to look furtively cheerful, and even rather younger than they were. The musicians passed round a small leaden tray for soldi, and the waiter brought the Marchesino the bill, and looked inquiringly at Artois, aware that he at least was not a Neapolitan. Artois gave him something and satisfied the musicians, while the Marchesino disputed the bill, not because he minded paying, but merely to prove that he was a Neapolitan and not an imbecile. The matter was settled at last, and they went towards the boat; the Marchesino casting many backward glances towards the two angels, who, with their lovers, were becoming riotous in their gayety as the moon came up.

"Are we going out into the Bay?" said Artois, as they stepped into the boat, and were pushed off.

"Where is the best fishing-ground?" asked the Marchesino of the elder of the two men.

"Towards the islet, Signorino Marchesino," he replied at once, looking his interlocutor full in the face with steady eyes, but remaining perfectly grave.

Artois glanced at the man sharply. For the first time it occurred to him that possibly his friend had arranged this expedition with a purpose other than that which he had put forward. It was not the fisherman's voice which had made Artois wonder, but the voice of the Marchesino.

"There are generally plenty of sarde round the islet," continued the fisherman, "but if the Signori would not be too tired it would be best to stay out the night. We shall get many more fish towards morning, and we can run the boat into the Pool of San Francesco, and have some sleep there, if the Signori like. We others generally take a nap there, and go to work further on in the night. But of course it is as the Signori prefer."

"They want to keep us out all night to get more pay," said the Marchesino to Artois, in bad French.

He had divined the suspicion that had suddenly risen up in his friend, and was resolved to lay it to rest, without, however, abandoning his purpose, which had become much more ardent with the coming of the night. The voices of the laughing women were ringing in his ears. He felt adventurous. The youth in him was rioting, and he was longing to be gay, as the men with those women were being gay.

"What do you think, Emilio caro?" he asked.

Then before Artois could reply, he said:

"After all, what do a few soldi matter? Who could sleep in a room on such a night? It might be August, when one bathes at midnight, and sings canzoni till dawn. Let us do as he says. Let us rest in the -- what is the pool?" he asked of the fishermen, pretending not to know the name.

"The pool of San Francesco, Signorino Marchesino."

"Pool of San Francesco. I remember now. That is the place where all the fishermen along the coast towards Nisida go to sleep. I have slept there many times when I was a boy, and so has Viviano. To-night shall we do as the fishermen, Emilio?"

There was no pressure in his careless voice. His eyes for the moment looked so simple, though as eager as a child's.

"Anything you like, mon ami," said Artois.

He did not want to go to San Francesco's Pool with the Marchesino, but he did not wish to seem reluctant to go. And he said to himself now that his interior hesitation was absurd. Night had fallen. By the time they reached the Pool the inmates of the Case del Mare would probably be asleep. Even if they were not, what did it matter? The boat would lie among the vessels of the fishermen. The Marchesino and he would share the fishermen's repose. And even if Hermione and Vere should chance to be out of doors they would not see him, or, if they did, would not recognize him in the night.

His slight uneasiness, prompted by a vague idea that the Marchesino was secretly mischievous, had possibly some plan in his mind connected with the islet, was surely without foundation.

He told himself so as the fisherman laid hold of their oars and set the boat's prow towards the point of land which conceals the small harbor of the Villa Rosebery.

The shrill voices of the two singers died away from their ears, but lingered in the memory of the Marchesino, as the silence of the sea took the boat to itself, the sea silence and the magic of the moon.

He turned his face towards the silver, beyond which, hidden as yet, was the islet where dwelt the child he meant to know.

Chapter VII

 

Although Hermione had told Artois that she could not find complete rest and happiness in her child, that she could not live again in Vere fully and intensely as she had lived once, as she still had it in her surely to live, she and Vere were in a singularly close relationship. They had never yet been separated for more than a few days. Vere had not been to school, and much of her education had been undertaken by her mother. In Florence she had been to classes and lectures. She had had lessons in languages, French, German, and Italian, in music and drawing. But Hermione had been her only permanent teacher, and until her sixteenth birthday she had never been enthusiastic about anything without carrying her enthusiasm to her mother, for sympathy, explanation, or encouragement.

Sorrow had not quenched the elan of Hermione's nature. What she had told Artois had been true -- she was not a finished woman, nor would she ever be, so long as she was alive and conscious. Her hunger for love, her passionate remembrance of the past, her incapacity to sink herself in any one since her husband's death, her persistent, though concealed, worship of his memory, all these things proved her vitality. Artois was right when he said that she was a force. There was something in her that was red-hot, although she was now a middle- aged woman. She needed much more than most people, because she had much more than most people have to give.

Her failure to express herself in an art had been a tragedy. From this tragedy she turned, not with bitterness, but perhaps with an almost fiercer energy, to Vere. Her intellect, released from fruitless toil, was running loose demanding some employment. She sought that employment in developing the powers of her child. Vere was not specially studious. Such an out-of-door temperament as hers could never belong to a bookworm or a recluse. But she was naturally clever, as her father had not been, and she was enthusiastic not only in pleasure but in work. Long ago Hermione, trying with loving anxiety to educate her boyish husband, to make him understand certain subtleties of her own, had found herself frustrated. When she made such attempts with Vere she was met half way. The girl understood with swiftness even those things with which she was not specially in sympathy. Her father's mind had slipped away, ever so gracefully, from all which it did not love. Vere's could grasp even an unloved subject. There was mental grit in her -- Artois knew it. In all her work until her sixteenth year Vere had consulted her mother. Nothing of her child till then was ever hidden from Hermione, except those things which the human being cannot reveal, and sometimes scarcely knows of. The child drew very much from her mother, responded to her enthusiasm, yet preserved instinctively, and quite without self-consciousness, her own individuality.

Artois had noticed this, and this had led him to say that Vere also was a force.

But when she was sixteen Vere woke up to something. Until now no one but herself knew to what. Sometimes she shut herself up alone in her room for long periods. When she came out she looked lazy, her mother thought, and she liked to go then to some nook of the rocks and sit alone, or to push a boat out into the centre of the Saint's Pool, and lie in it with her hands clasped behind her head looking up at the passing clouds or at the radiance of the blue.

Hermione knew how fond Vere was of reading, and supposed that this love was increasing as the child grew older. She sometimes felt a little lonely, but she was unselfish. Vere's freedom was quite innocent. She, the mother, would not seek to interfere with it. Soon after dinner on the evening of the Marchesino's expedition with Artois, Vere had got up from the sofa, on which she had been sitting with a book of Rossetti's poems in her hand, had gone over to one of the windows, and had stood for two or three minutes looking out over the sea. Then she had turned round, come up to her mother and kissed her tenderly -- more tenderly, Hermione thought, even than usual.

"Good-night, Madre mia," she had said.

And then, without another word, she had gone swiftly out of the room.

After Vere had gone the room seemed very silent. In the evening, if they stayed in the house, they usually sat in Hermione's room up- stairs. They had been sitting there to-night. The shutters were not closed. The window that faced the sea towards Capri was open. A little moonlight began to mingle subtly with the light from the two lamps, to make it whiter, cleaner, suggestive of outdoor things and large spaces. Hermione had been reading when Vere was reading. She did not read now Vere was gone. Laying down her book she sat listening to the silence, realizing the world without. Almost at her feet was the sea, before her a wide-stretching expanse, behind her, confronted by the desolate rocks, the hollow and mysterious caverns. In the night, the Saint, unwearied, watched his Pool. Not very far off, yet delightfully remote, lay Naples with its furious activities, its gayeties, its intensities of sin, of misery, of pleasure. In the Galleria, tourists from the hotels and from the ships were wandering rather vaguely, watched and followed by newspaper sellers, by touts, by greedy, pale- faced boys, and old, worn-out men, all hungry for money and indifferent how it was gained. Along the Marina, with its huge serpent of lights, the street singers and players were making their nightly pilgrimage, pausing, wherever they saw a lighted window or a dark figure on a balcony, to play and sing the tunes of which they were weary long ago. On the wall, high above the sea, were dotted the dilettante fishermen with their long rods and lines. And below, before each stone staircase that descended to the water, was a waiting boat, and in the moonlight rose up the loud cry of "Barca! Barca!" to attract the attention of any casual passer-by.

And here, on this more truly sea-like sea, distant from the great crowd and from the thronging houses, the real fishermen who live by the sea were alert and at work, or were plunged in the quiet sleep that is a preparation for long hours of nocturnal wakefulness.

Hermione thought of it all, was aware of it, felt it, as she sat there opposite to the open window. Then she looked over to her writing- table, on which stood a large photograph of her dead husband, then to the sofa where Vere had been. She saw the volume of Rossetti lying beside the cushion that still showed a shallow dent where the child's head had been resting.

And then she shut her eyes, and asked her imagination to take her away for a moment, over the sea to Messina, and along the curving shore, and up by winding paths to a mountain, and into a little room in a tiny, whitewashed house, not the house of the sea, but of the priest. It still stood there, and the terrace was still before it. And the olive-trees rustled, perhaps, just now in the wind beneath the stars.

Yes, she was there. Lucrezia and Gaspare were in bed. But she and Maurice were sitting in the straw chairs on each side of the table, facing the open French window and the flight of shallow steps that led down to the terrace.

Faintly she heard the whisper of the sea about the islet, but she would not let it hinder her imagination: she translated it by means of her imagination into the whisper of the wind low down there, in the ravine among the trees. And that act made her think of the ravine, seemed presently to set her in the ravine. She was there in the night with Gaspare. They were hurrying down towards the sea. He was behind her, and she could hear his footsteps -- longing to go faster. But she was breathless, her heart was beating, there was terror in her soul. What was that? A rattle of stones in the darkness, and then an old voice muttering "Benedicite!"

She opened her eyes and moved suddenly, like one intolerably stirred. What a foe the imagination can be -- what a foe! She got up and went to the window. She must drive away that memory of the ravine, of all that followed after. Often she lingered with it, but to-night, somehow, she could not, she dared not. She was less brave than usual to-night.

She leaned out of the window.

"Am I a fool?"

That was what she was saying to herself. And she was comparing herself now with other people, other women. Did she know one who could not uproot an old memory, who could suffer, and desire, and internally weep, after more than sixteen years?

"I suppose it is preposterous."

She deliberately chose that ugly word to describe her own condition of soul. But instantly it seemed to her as if far down in that soul something rose up and answered:

"No, it is not. It is beautiful. It is divine. It is more -- it is due. He gave you the greatest gift. He gave you what the whole world is always seeking; even in blindness, even in ignorance, even in terrible vice. He gave you love. How should you forget him?"

Far away on the sea that was faintly silvered by the moon there was a black speck. It was, or seemed from the distance to be, motionless. Hermione's eyes were attracted to it, and again her imagination carried her to Sicily. She stood on the shore by the inlet, she saw the boat coming in from the open sea. Then it stopped midway -- like that boat.

She heard Gaspare furiously weeping.

But the boat moved, and the sound that was in her imagination died away, and she said to herself, "All that was long ago."

The boat out there was no doubt occupied by Neapolitan fishermen, and she was here on the islet in the Sea of Naples, and Sicily was far away across the moonlit waters. As to Gaspare -- she was sure he was not weeping, faithful though he was to the memory of the dead Padrone.

And Vere? Hermione wondered what Vere was doing. She felt sure, though she did not know why, that Vere had not gone to bed. She realized to-night that her child was growing up rapidly, was passing from the stage of childhood to the stage of girlhood, was on the threshold of all the mysterious experiences that life holds for those who have ardent temperaments and eager interests, and passionate desires and fearless hearts.

To-night Hermione felt very strongly the difference between the father and the daughter. There was a gravity in Vere, a firmness that Maurice had lacked. Full of life and warmth as she was, she was not the pure spirit of joy that he had been in those first days in Sicily. She was not irresponsible. She was more keenly aware of others, of just how they were feeling, of just how they were thinking, than Maurice had been.

Vere was very individual.

With that thought there came to Hermione a deeper sense of loneliness. She was conscious now in this moment, as she had never been conscious before, of the independence of her child's character. The knowledge of this independence seemed to come upon her suddenly -- she could not tell why; and she saw Vere apart from her, detached, like a column in a lonely place.

Vere must not escape from her. She must accompany her child step by step. She must not be left alone. She had told Emile that she could not live again in Vere. And that was true. Vere was not enough. But Vere was very much. Without Vere, what would her life be?

A wave of melancholy flowed over her to-night, a tide come from she knew not where. Making an effort to stem it, she recalled her happiness with Maurice after that day of the Tarantella. How groundless had really been her melancholy then! She had imagined him escaping from her, but he had remained with her, and loved her. He had been good to her until the end, tender and faithful. If she had ever had a rival, that rival had been Sicily. Always her imagination was her torturer.

Her failure in art had been a tragedy because of this. If she could have set her imagination free in an art she would have been far safer than she was. Emile Artois was really lonelier than she, for he had not a child. But his art surely saved him securely from her sense of desolation. And then he was a man, and men must need far less than women do. Hermione felt that it was so. She thought of Emile in his most helpless moment, in that period when he was ill in Kairouan before she came. Even then she believed that he could not have felt quite so much alone as she did now; for men never long to be taken care of as women do. And yet she was well, in this tranquil house which was her own -- with Vere, her child, and Gaspare, her devoted servant.

As mentally she recounted her benefits, the strength there was in her arose, protesting. She called herself harsh names: egoist, craven, faineant. But it was no use to attack herself. In the deeps of her poor, eager, passionate, hungry woman's nature something wept, and needed, and could not be comforted, and could not be schooled. It complained as one feeble, but really it must be strong; for it was pitilessly persistent in its grieving. It had a strange endurance. Life, the passing of the years, could not change it, could not still it. Those eternal hungers of which Hermione had spoken to Artois -- they must have their meaning. Somewhere, surely, there are the happy hunting-grounds, dreamed of by the red man -- there are the Elysian Fields where the souls that have longed and suffered will find the ultimate peace.

There came a tap at the door.

Hermione started up from the cushion against which she had pressed her head, and opened her eyes, instinctively laying her hand on Vere's volume of Rossetti, and pretending to read it.

"Avanti!" she said.

The door opened and Gaspare appeared. Hermione felt an immediate sensation of comfort.

"Gaspare," she said, "what is it? I thought you were in bed."

"Ha bisogna Lei?" he said.

It was a most familiar phrase to Hermione. It had been often on Gaspare's lips when he was a boy in Sicily, and she had always loved it, feeling as if it sprang from a nature pleasantly ready to do anything in her service. But to-night it had an almost startling appropriateness, breaking in as if in direct response to her gnawing hunger of the heart. As she looked at Gaspare, standing by the door in his dark-blue clothes, with an earnest expression on his strong, handsome face, she felt as if he must have come just then because he was conscious that she had so much need of help and consolation. And she could not answer "no" to his simple question.

"Come in, Gaspare," she said, "and shut the door. I'm all alone. I should like to have a little talk with you."

He obeyed her, shut the door gently, and came up to her with the comfortable confidence of one safe in his welcome, desired not merely as a servant but as a friend by his Padrona.

"Did you want to say anything particular, Gaspare?" Hermione asked him. "Here -- take a cigarette."

She gave him one. He took it gently, twitching his nose as he did so. This was a little trick he had when he was pleased.

"You can smoke it here, if you like."

"Grazie, Signora."

He lit it gravely and took a whiff. Then he said:

"The Signorina is outside."

"Is she?"

Hermione looked towards the window.

"It is a lovely night."

"Si, Signora."

He took another whiff, and turned his great eyes here and there, looking about the room. Hermione began to wonder what he had to say to her. She was certain that he had come to her for some reason other than just to ask if she had need of him.

"It does the Signorina good to get a breath of air before she goes to bed," Hermione added, after a moment of silence. "It makes her sleep."

"Si, Signora."

He still stood calmly beside her, but now he looked at her with the odd directness which had been characteristic of him as a boy, and which he had not lost as a man.

"The Signorina is getting quite big, Signora," he said. "Have you noticed? Per Dio! In Sicily, if the Signorina was a Sicilian, the giovinotti would be asking to marry her."

"Ah, but, Gaspare, the Signorina is not a Sicilian," she said. "She is English, you know, and English girls do not generally think of such things till they are much older than Sicilians."

"But, Signora," said Gaspare, with the bluntness which in him was never rudeness, but merely the sincerity which he considered due to his Padrona -- due also to himself, "my Padrone was like a real Sicilian, and the Signorina is his daughter. She must be like a Sicilian too, by force."

"Your Padrone, yes, he was a real Sicilian," Hermione said softly. "But, well, the Signorina has much more English blood in her veins than Sicilian. She has only a little Sicilian blood."

"But the Signorina thinks she is almost a Sicilian. She wishes to be a Sicilian."

"How do you know that, Gaspare?" she asked, smiling a little at his firmness and persistence.

"The Signorina said so the other day to the giovinotto who had the cigarettes, Signora. I talked to him, and he told me. He said the Signorina had said to him that she was partly a Sicilian, and that he had said 'no,' that she was English. And when he said that -- he said to me -- the Signorina was quite angry. He could see that she was angry by her face."

"I suppose that is the Sicilian blood, Gaspare. There is some in the Signorina's veins, of course. And then, you know, both her father and I loved your country. I think the Signorina must often long to see Sicily."

"Does she say so?" asked Gaspare, looking rather less calm.

"She has not lately. I think she is very happy here. Don't you?"

"Si, Signora. But the Signorina is growing up now, and she is a little Sicilian anyhow, Signora."

He paused, looking steadily at his Padrona.

"What is it, Gaspare? What do you want to say to me?"

"Signora, perhaps you will say it is not my business, but in my country we do not let girls go about by themselves after they are sixteen. We know it is better not. Ecco!"

Hermione had some difficulty in not smiling. But she knew that if she smiled he might be offended. So she kept her countenance and said:

"What do you mean, Gaspare? The Signorina is nearly always with me."

"No, Signora. The Signorina can go wherever she likes. She can speak to any one she pleases. She is free as a boy is free."

"Certainly she is free. I wish her to be free."

"Va bene, Signora, va bene."

A cloud came over his face, and he moved as if to go. But Hermione stopped him.

"Wait a minute, Gaspare. I want you to understand. I like your care for the Signorina. You know I trust you and depend on you more than on almost any one. But you must remember that I am English, and in England, you know, things in some ways are very different from what they are in Sicily. Any English girl would be allowed the freedom of the Signorina."

"Why?"

"Why not? What harm does it do? The Signorina does not go to Naples alone."

"Per Dio!" he interrupted, in a tone almost of horror.

"Of course I should never allow that. But here on the island -- why, what could happen to her here? Come, Gaspare, tell me what it is you are thinking of. You haven't told me yet. I knew directly you came in that you had something you wanted to say. What is it?"

"I know it is not my business," he said. "And I should never speak to the Signorina, but -- "

"Well, Gaspare?"

"Signora, all sorts of people come here to the island -- men from Naples. We do not know them. We cannot tell who they are. And they can all see the Signorina. And they can even talk to her."

"The fishermen, you mean?"

"Any one who comes in a boat."

"Well, but scarcely any one ever comes but the fishermen. You know that."

"Oh, it was all very well when the Signorina was a little girl, a child, Signora," he said, almost hotly. "But now it is different. It is quite different."

Suddenly Hermione understood. She remembered what Vere had said about Gaspare being jealous. He must certainly be thinking of the boy-diver, of Ruffo.

"You think the Signorina oughtn't to talk to the fishermen?" she said.

"What do we know of the fishermen of Naples, Signora? We are not Neapolitans. We are strangers here. We do not know their habits. We do not know what they think. They are different from us. If we were in Sicily! I am a Sicilian. I can tell. But when men come from Naples saying they are Sicilians, how can I tell whether they are ruffiani or not?"

Gaspare's inner thought stood revealed.

"I see, Gaspare," Hermione said, quietly. "You think I should not have let the Signorina talk to that boy the other day. But I saw him myself, and I gave the Signorina leave to take him some cigarettes. And he dived for her. She told me all about it. She always tells me everything."

"I do not doubt the Signorina," said Gaspare. "But I thought it was my duty to tell you what I thought, Signora. Why should people come here saying they are of my country, saying they are Sicilians, and talking as the Neapolitans talk?"

"Well, but at the time, you didn't doubt that boy was what he said he was, did you?"

"Signora, I did not know. I could not know. But since then I have been thinking."

"Well, Gaspare, you are quite right to tell me. I prefer that. I have much faith in you, and always shall have. But we must not say anything like this to the Signorina. She would not understand what we meant."

"No, Signora. The Signorina is too good."

"She would not understand, and I think she would be hurt" -- Hermione used the word "offesa," -- "as you would be if you fancied I thought something strange about you."

"Si, Signora."

"Good-night, Gaspare."

"Good-night, Signora. Buon riposo."

He moved towards the door. When he reached it he stopped and added:

"I am going to bed, Signora."

"Go. Sleep well."

"Grazie, Signora. The Signorina is still outside, I am sure."

"She goes out for a minute nearly every evening, Gaspare. She likes the air and to look at the sea."

"Si, Signora; in a minute I shall go to bed. Buon riposo."

And he went out.

When he had gone Hermione remained at first where she was. But Gaspare had effectually changed her mood, had driven away what she chose to call her egoism, had concentrated all her thoughts on Vere. He had never before spoken like this about the child. It was a sudden waking up on his part to the fact that Vere was growing up to womanhood.

When he chose, Gaspare could always, or nearly always, make his Padrona catch his mood, there was something so definite about him that he made an impression. And, though he was easily inclined to be suspicious of those whom he did not know well, Hermione knew him to be both intelligent and shrewd, especially about those for whom he had affection. She wondered now whether it were possible that Gaspare saw, understood, or even divined intuitively, more clearly than she did -- she, a mother!

It was surely very unlikely.

She remembered that Gaspare had a jealous nature, like most of his countrymen.

Nevertheless he had suddenly made the islet seem different to her. She had thought of it as remote, as pleasantly far away from Naples, isolated in the quiet sea. But it was very easy to reach from Naples, and, as Gaspare had said, what did they know, or understand, of the Neapolitans, they who were strangers in the land?

She wondered whether Vere was still outside. To-night she certainly envisaged Vere newly. Never till to-night had she thought of her as anything but a child; as characteristic, as ardent, as determined sometimes, perhaps as forceful even, but always with a child's mind behind it all.

But to the people of the South Vere was already a woman -- even to Gaspare, who had held her in his arms when she was in long clothes. At least Hermione supposed so now, after wh

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  Blog créé le 10-04-2009 à 16h36 | Mis à jour le 09-10-2011 à 14h55 | Note : 9.04/10