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A Spirit in Prison by Robert Hichens

Part 9 out of 13

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his Padrona. That look went to Hermione's heart; she thought, "Am I
going to quarrel with the one true and absolutely loyal friend I
have?" She remembered Vere's words in the garden about Gaspare's
devotion to her, a devotion which she felt like a warmth round about
her life.

"I'll come with you, Gaspare," she said, with a revulsion of feeling.
"Good-night, Ruffo."

"Good-night, Signora."

"Perhaps we shall see you to-morrow."

She was just going to turn away when Ruffo bent down to kiss her hand.
Since she had given charity to his mother it was evident that his
feeling for her had changed. The Sicilian in him rose up to honor her
like a Padrona.

"Signora," he said, letting go her hand. "Benedicite e buon riposo."

He was being a little whimsical, was showing to her and to Gaspare
that he knew how to be a Sicilian. And now he looked from one to the
other to see how they took his salutation; looked gently,
confidentially, with a smile dawning in his eyes under the deference
and the boyish affection and gratitude.

And again it seemed to Hermione for a moment that Maurice stood there
before her in the night. Her impulse was to catch Gaspare's arm, to
say to him, "Look! Don't you see your Padrone?"

She did not do this, but she did turn impulsively to Gaspare. And as
she turned she saw tears start into his eyes. The blood rushed to his
temples, his forehead. He put up his hand to his face.

"Signora," he said, "are you not coming?"

He cleared his throat violently. "I have taken a cold," he muttered.

He caught hold of his throat with his left hand, and again cleared his
throat.

"Madre di Dio!"

He spoke very roughly.

But his roughness did not hurt Hermione; for suddenly she felt far
less lonely and deserted. Gaspare had seen what she had seen--she knew
it.

As they went back to the house it seemed to her that she and Gaspare
talked together.

And yet they spoke no words.

CHAPTER XXVII

Neither Artois nor the Marchesino visited the island during the days
that elapsed before the Festa of the Madonna del Carmine. But Artois
wrote to tell Hermione that the Marchesino had accepted his
invitation, and that he hoped she and Vere would be at the Hotel des
Etrangers punctually by eight o'clock on the night of the sixteenth.
He wrote cordially, but a little formally, and did not add any gossip
or any remarks about his work to the few sentences connected with the
projected expedition. And Hermione replied as briefly to his note.
Usually, when she wrote to Artois, her pen flew, and eager thoughts,
born of the thought of him, floated into her mind. But this time it
was not so. The energies of her mind in connection with his mind were
surely failing. As she put the note into its envelope, she had the
feeling of one who had been trying to "make" conversation with an
acquaintance, and who had not been successful, and she found herself
almost dreading to talk with Emile.

Yet for years her talks with him had been her greatest pleasure,
outside of her intercourse with Vere and her relations with Gaspare.

The change that had come over their friendship, like a mist over the
sea, was subtle, yet startling in its completeness. She wondered if he
saw and felt this mist as definitely as she did, if he regretted the
fair prospect it had blotted out, if he marvelled at its coming.

He was so acute that he must be aware of the drooping of their
intimacy. To what could he attribute it? And would he care to fight
against the change?

She remembered the days when she had nursed him in Kairouan. She felt
again the hot dry atmosphere. She heard the ceaseless buzzing of the
flies. How pale his face had been, how weak his body! He had returned
to the weakness of a child. He had depended upon her. That fact, that
he had for a time utterly depended upon her, had forged a new link in
their friendship, the strongest link of all. At least she had felt it
to be so. For she was very much of a woman, and full of a secret
motherliness.

But perhaps he had forgotten all that.

In these days she often felt as if she did not understand men at all,
as if their natures were hidden from her, and perhaps, of necessity,
from all women.

"We can't understand each other."

She often said that to herself, and partly to comfort herself a
little. She did not want to be only one of a class of women from whom
men's natures were hidden.

And yet it was not true.

For Maurice, at least, she had understood. She had not feared his
gayeties, his boyish love of pleasure, his passion for the sun, his
joy in the peasant life, his almost fierce happiness in the life of
the body. She had feared nothing in him, because she had felt that she
understood him thoroughly. She had read the gay innocence of his
temperament rightly, and so she had never tried to hold him back from
his pleasures, to keep him always with her, as many women would have
done.

And she clung to the memory of her understanding of Maurice as she
faced the mist that had swept up softly and silently over that sea and
sky which had been clear. He had been simple. There was nothing to
dread in cleverness, in complexity. One got lost in a nature that was
full of winding paths. Just then, and for the time, she forgot her
love of, even her passion for, mental things. The beauty of the
straight white road appealed to her. She saw it leading one onward to
the glory of the sun.

Vere and she did not see very much of each other during these days.
They met, of course, at meals, and often for a few minutes at other
times. But it seemed as if each tacitly, and almost instinctively,
sought to avoid any prolonged intercourse with the other. Hermione was
a great deal in her sitting-room, reading, or pretending to read. And
Vere made several long expeditions upon the sea in the sailing-boat
with Gaspare and a boy from the nearest village, who was hired as an
extra hand.

Hermione had a strange feeling of desertion sometimes, when the white
sail of the boat faded on the blue and she saw the empty sea. She
would watch the boat go out, standing at the window and looking
through the blinds. The sailor-boy pulled at the oars. Vere was at the
helm, Gaspare busy with the ropes. They passed quite close beneath
her. She saw Vere's bright and eager face looking the way they were
going, anticipating the voyage; Gaspare's brown hands moving swiftly
and deftly. She saw the sail run up, the boat bend over. The oars were
laid in their places now. The boat went faster through the water. The
forms in it dwindled. Was that Vere's head, or Gaspare's? Who was that
standing up? The fisher-boy? What were they now, they and the boat
that held them? Only a white sail on the blue, going towards the sun.

And how deep was the silence that fell about the house, how deep and
hollow! She saw her life then like a cavern that was empty. No waters
flowed into it. No lights played in its recesses. No sounds echoed
through it.

She looked up into the blue, and remembered her thought, that Maurice
had been taken by the blue. Hark! Was there not in the air the thin
sound of a reed flute playing a tarantella? She shut her eyes, and saw
the gray rocks of Sicily. But the blue was too vast. Maurice was lost
in it, lost to her forever. And she gazed up into it again, with the
effort to travel through it, to go on and on and on. And it seemed as
if her soul ached from that journey.

The sail had dipped down below the horizon. She let fall the blind.
She sat down in the silence.

Vere was greatly perplexed about her mother. One day in the boat she
followed her instinct and spoke to Gaspare about her. Hermione and she
between them had taught Gaspare some English. He understood it fairly
well, and could speak it, though not correctly, and he was very proud
of his knowledge. Because of the fisher-boy, Vere said what she had to
say slowly in English. Gaspare listened with the grave look of
learning that betokened his secret sensation of being glorified by his
capacities. But when he grasped the exact meaning of his Padroncina's
words, his expression changed. He shook his head vigorously.

"Not true!" he said. "Not true! No matter--there is no matter with my
Padrona."

"But Gaspare--"

Vere protested, explained, strong in her conviction of the change in
her mother.

But Gaspare would not have it. With energetic gestures he affirmed
that his Padrona was just as usual. But Vere surprised a look in his
eyes which told her he was watching her to see if he had deceived her.
Then she realized that for some reason of his own Gaspare did not wish
her to know that he had seen the change, wished also to detach her
observation from her mother.

She wondered why this was.

Her busy mind could not arrive at any conclusion in the matter, but
she knew her mother was secretly sad. And she knew that she and her
mother were no longer at ease with each other. This pained her, and
the pain was beginning to increase. Sometimes she felt as if her
mother disliked something in her, and did not choose to say so, and
was irritated by the silence that she kept. But what could it be? She
searched among her doings carefully. Had she failed in anything?
Certainly she had not been lacking in love. And her knowledge of that
seemed simply to exclude any possibility of serious shortcomings. And
her mother?

Vere remembered how her mother had once longed to have a son, how she
had felt certain she was going to have a son. Could it be that? Could
her mother be dogged by that disappointment? She felt chilled to the
heart at that idea. Her warm nature protested against it. The love she
gave to her mother was so complete that it had always assumed the
completeness of that which it was given in return. But it might be so,
Vere supposed. It was possible. She pondered over this deeply, and
when she was with her mother watched for signs that might confirm or
dispel her fears. And thus she opposed to the mother's new
watchfulness the watchfulness of the child. And Hermione noticed it,
and wondered whether Vere had any suspicion of the surreptitious
reading of her poems.

But that was scarcely possible.

Hermione had not said a word to Vere of her discovery that Peppina had
done what she had been told not to do--related the story of her fate.
Almost all delicate-minded mothers and daughters find certain subjects
difficult, if not impossible of discussion, even when an apparent
necessity of their discussion arrives in the course of life. The
present reserve between Hermione and Vere rendered even the idea of
any plain speaking about the revelation of Peppina quite insupportable
to the mother. She could only pretend to ignore that it had ever been
made. And this she did. But now that she knew of it she felt very
acutely the difference it had made in Vere. That difference was owing
to her own impulsive action. And Emile knew the whole truth. She
understood now what he had been going to say about Peppina and Vere
when they had talked about the books.

He did condemn her in his heart. He thought she was not a neglectful,
but a mistaken mother. He thought her so impulsive as to be dangerous,
perhaps, even to those she loved best. Almost she divined that curious
desire of his to protect Vere against her. And yet without her
impulsive nature he himself might long ago have died.

She could not help at this time dwelling secretly on one or two
actions of hers, could not help saying to herself now and then: "I
have been some good in the world. I am capable of unselfishness
sometimes. I did leave my happiness for Emile's sake, because I had a
great deal of friendship and was determined to live up to it. My
impulses are not always crazy and ridiculous."

She did this, she was obliged to do it, to prevent the feeling of
impotence from overwhelming her. She had to do it to give herself
strength to get up out of the dust. The human creature dares not say
to itself, "You are nothing." And now Hermione, feeling the withdrawal
from her of her friend, believing in the withdrawal from her of her
child, spoke to herself, pleading her own cause to her own soul
against invisible detractors.

One visitor the island had at this time. Each evening, when the
darkness fell, the boat of Ruffo's employer glided into the Pool of
San Francesco. And the boy always came ashore while his companions
slept. Since Hermione had been charitable to his mother, and since he
had explained to her about his Patrigno and Peppina, he evidently had
something of the ready feeling that springs up in Sicilians in whom
real interest has been shown--the feeling of partly belonging to his
benefactor. There is something dog-like in this feeling. And it is
touching and attractive because of the animalism of its frankness and
simplicity. And as the dog who has been kindly, tenderly treated has
no hesitation in claiming attention with a paw, or in laying its
muzzle upon the knee of its benefactor, so Ruffo had no hesitation in
relating to Hermione all the little intimate incidents of his daily
life, in crediting her with an active interest in his concerns. There
was no conceit in this, only a very complete boyish simplicity.

Hermione found in this new attitude of Ruffo's a curious solace for
the sudden loneliness of soul that had come upon her. Originally
Ruffo's chief friendship had obviously been for Vere, but now Vere,
seeing her mother's new and deep interest in the boy, gave way a
little to it, yet without doing anything ostentatious, or showing any
pique. Simply she would stay in the garden, or on the terrace, later
than usual, till after Ruffo was sure to be at the island, and let her
mother stroll to the cliff top. Or, if she were there with him first,
she would soon make an excuse to go away, and casually tell her mother
that he was there alone or with Gaspare. And all this was done so
naturally that Hermione did not know it was deliberate, but merely
fancied that perhaps Vere's first enthusiasm for the fisher-boy was
wearing off, that it had been a child's sudden fancy, and that it was
lightly passing away.

Vere rather wondered at her mother's liking for Ruffo, although she
herself had found him so attractive, and had drawn her mother's
attention to his handsome face and bold, yet simple bearing. She
wondered, because she felt in it something peculiar, a sort of heat
and anxiety, a restlessness, a watchfulness; attributes which sprang
from the observation of that resemblance to the dead man which drew
her mother to Ruffo, but of which her mother had never spoken to her.

Nor did Hermione speak of it again to Gaspare. He had almost angrily
denied it, but since the night of Artois' visit she knew that he had
seen it, been startled, moved by it, almost as she had been.

She knew that quite well. Yet Gaspare puzzled her. He had become
moody, nervous, and full of changes. She seemed to discern sometimes a
latent excitement in him. His temper was uneven. Giulia had said that
one could not speak with him. Since that day she had grumbled about
him again, but discreetly, with a certain vagueness. For all the
servants thoroughly appreciated his special position in the household
as the "cameriere di confidenza" of the Padrona. One thing which drew
Hermione's special attention was his extraordinary watchfulness of
her. When they were together she frequently surprised him looking at
her with a sort of penetrating and almost severe scrutiny which
startled her. Once or twice, indeed, she showed that she was startled.

"What's the matter, Gaspare?" she said, one day. "Do I look ill
again?"

For she had remembered his looking at her in the boat.

"No, Signora," he answered, this time, quickly. "You are not looking
ill to-day."

And he moved off, as if anxious to avoid further questioning.

Another time she thought that there was something wrong with her
dress, or her hair, and said so.

"Is there anything wrong with me?" she exclaimed. "What is it?" And
she instinctively glanced down at her gown, and put up her hands to
her head.

And this time he had turned it off with a laugh, and had said:

"Signora, you are like the Signorina! Once she told me I was--I was"--
he shook his head--"I forget the word. But I am sure it was something
that a man could never be. Per dio!"

And then he had gone off into a rambling conversation that had led
Hermione's attention far away from the starting-point of their talk.

Vere, too, noticed the variations of his demeanor.

"Gaspare was very 'jumpy' to-day in the boat," she said, one evening,
after returning from a sail; "I wonder what's the matter with him. Do
you think he can be in love, Madre?"

"I don't know. But he is /fidanzato/, Vere, with a girl in Marechiaro,
you remember?"

"Yes, but that lasts forever. When I speak of it he always says:
'There is plenty of time, Signorina. If one marries in a hurry, one
makes two faces ugly!' I should think the girl must be sick of
waiting."

Hermione was sure that there was some very definite reason for
Gaspare's curious behavior, but she could not imagine what it was.
That it was not anything to do with his health she had speedily
ascertained. Any small discipline of Providence in the guise of a cold
in the head, or a pain in the stomach, despatched him promptly to the
depths. But he had told her that he was perfectly well and "made of
iron," when she had questioned him on the subject.

She supposed time would elucidate the mystery, and meanwhile she knew
it was no use troubling about it. Years had taught her that when
Gaspare chose to be silent not heaven nor earth could make him speak.

Although Vere could not know why Ruffo attracted her mother, Hermione
knew that Gaspare must understand, at any rate partially, why she
cared so much to be with him. During the days between the last visit
of Artois and the Festa of the Madonna del Carmine her acquaintance
with the boy had progressed so rapidly that sometimes she found
herself wondering what the days had been like before she knew him, the
evenings before his boat slipped into the Saint's Pool, and his light
feet ran up from the water's edge to the cliff top. Possibly, had
Ruffo come into her life when she was comparatively happy and at ease,
she would never have drawn so closely to him, despite the resemblance
that stirred her to the heart. But he came when she was feeling
specially lonely and sad; and when he, too, was in trouble. Both
wanted sympathy. Hermione gave Ruffo hers in full measure. She could
not ask for his. But giving had always been her pleasure. It was her
pleasure now. And she drew happiness from the obvious and growing
affection of the boy. Perfectly natural at all times, he kept back
little from the kind lady of the island. He told her the smallest
details of his daily life, his simple hopes and fears, his friendships
and quarrels, his relations with the other fishermen of Mergellina,
his intentions in the present, his ambitions for the future. Some day
he hoped to be the Padrone of a boat of his own. That seemed to be the
ultimate aim of his life. Hermione smiled as she heard it, and saw his
eyes shining with the excitement of anticipation. When he spoke the
word "Padrone," his little form seemed to expand with authority and
conscious pride. He squared his shoulders. He looked almost a man. The
pleasures of command dressed all his person, as flags dress a ship on
a festival day. He stood before Hermione a boy exuberant.

And she thought of Maurice bounding down the mountain-side to the
fishing, and rousing the night with his "Ciao, Ciao, Ciao, Morettina
bella--Ciao!"

But Ruffo was sometimes reserved. Hermione could not make him speak of
his father. All she knew of him was that he was dead. Sometimes she
gave Ruffo good advice. She divined the dangers of Naples for a lad
with the blood bounding in his veins, and she dwelt upon the pride of
man's strength, and how he should be careful to preserve it, and not
dissipate it before it came to maturity. She did not speak very
plainly, but Ruffo understood, and answered her with the unconscious
frankness that is characteristic of the people of the South. And at
the end of his remarks he added:

"Don Gaspare has talked to me about that. Don Gaspare knows much,
Signora."

He spoke with deep respect. Hermione was surprised by this little
revelation. Was Gaspare secretly watching over the boy? Did he concern
himself seriously with Ruffo's fate? She longed to question Gaspare.
But she knew that to do so would be useless. Even with her Gaspare
would only speak freely of things when he chose. At other times he was
calmly mute. He wrapped himself in a cloud. She wondered whether he
had ever given Ruffo any hints or instructions as to suitable conduct
when with her.

Although Ruffo was so frank and garrulous about most things, she
noticed that if she began to speak of his mother or his Patrigno, his
manner changed, and he became uncommunicative. Was this owing to
Gaspare's rather rough rebuke upon the cliff before Artois and Vere?
Or had Gaspare emphasized that by further directions when alone with
Ruffo? She tried deftly to find out, but the boy baffled her. But
perhaps he was delicate about money, unlike Neapolitans, and feared
that if he talked too much of his mother the lady of the island would
think he was "making misery," was hoping for another twenty francs. As
to his Patrigno, the fact that Peppina was living on the island made
that subject rather a difficult one. Nevertheless, Hermione could not
help suspecting that Gaspare had told the boy not to bother her with
any family troubles.

She had not offered him money again. The giving of the twenty francs
had been a sudden impulse to help a suffering woman, less because she
was probably in poverty than because she was undoubtedly made unhappy
by her husband. Since she had suffered at the hands of death, Hermione
felt very pitiful for women. She would gladly have gone to see Ruffo's
mother, have striven to help her more, both materially and morally.
But as to a visit--Peppina seemed to bar the way. And as to more money
help--she remembered Gaspare's warning. Perhaps he knew something of
the mother that she did not know. Perhaps the mother was an
objectionable, or even a wicked woman.

But when she looked at Ruffo she could not believe that. And then
several times he had spoken with great affection of his mother.

She left things as they were, taking her cue from the boy in despite
of her desire. And here, as in some other directions, she was secretly
governed by Gaspare.

Only sometimes did she see in Ruffo's face the look that had drawn her
to him. The resemblance to Maurice was startling, but it was nearly
always fleeting. She could not tell when it was coming, nor retain it
when it came. But she noticed that it was generally when Ruffo was
moved by affection, by a sudden sympathy, by a warm and deferent
impulse that the look came in him. And again she thought of the
beautiful obedience that springs directly from love, of Mercury poised
for flight to the gods, his mission happily accomplished.

She wondered if Artois had ever thought of it when he was with Ruffo.
But she felt now that she could never ask him.

And, indeed, she cherished her knowledge, her recognition, as
something almost sacred, silently shared with Gaspare.

To no one could that look mean what it meant to her. To no other heart
could it make the same appeal.

And so in those few days between Hermione and the fisher-boy a firm
friendship was established.

And to Hermione this friendship came like a small ray of brightly
golden light, falling gently in a place that was very dark.

CHAPTER XXVIII

When the Marchesino received the invitation of Artois to dine with him
and the ladies from the island on the night of the Festa of the
Madonna del Carmine he was again ill in bed with fever. But
nevertheless he returned an immediate acceptance. Then he called in
the family doctor, and violently demanded to be made well, "perfectly
well," by the evening of the sixteenth. The doctor, who guessed at
once that some amorous adventure was on foot, promised to do his best,
and so ingeniously plied his patient with drugs and potions that on
the sixteenth Doro was out of bed, and busily doing gymnastics to test
his strength for the coming campaign.

Artois' invitation had surprised him. He had lost all faith in his
friend, and at first almost suspected an ambush. Emilio had not
invited him out of love--that was certain. But perhaps the ladies of
the island had desired his presence, his escort. He was a Neapolitan.
He knew the ways of the city. That was probably the truth. They wanted
him, and Emilio had been obliged to ask him.

He saw his opportunity. His fever, coming at such a time, had almost
maddened him, and during the days of forced inaction the Panacci
temper had been vigorously displayed in the home circle. As he lay in
bed his imagination ran riot. The day and the night were filled with
thoughts and dreams of Vere. And always Emilio was near her, presiding
over her doings with a false imitation of the paternal manner.

But now at the last the Marchesino saw his opportunity to strike a
blow at Emilio. Every year of his life since he was a child he had
been to the festa in honor of the Madonna del Carmine. He knew the
crowd that assembled under the prison walls and beneath Nuvolo's tall
belfry, the crowds that overflowed into the gaunt Square of the
Mercato and streamed down the avenues of fire into the narrow side
streets. In those crowds it would be easy to get lost. Emilio, when he
heard his friend's voice singing, had hidden with the Signorina in the
darkness of a cave. He might be alone with the Signorina when he
would. The English ladies trusted his white hairs. Or the English
ladies did not care for the /convenances/. Since he had found Peppina
in the Casa del Mare, the Marchesino did not know what to think of its
Padrona. And now he was too reckless to care. He only knew that he was
in love, and that circumstances so far had fought against him. He only
knew that he had been tricked, and that he meant to trick Emilio in
return. His anxiety to revenge himself on Emilio was quite as keen as
his desire to be alone with Vere. The natural devilry of his
temperament, a boy's devilry, not really wicked, but compounded of
sensuality, vanity, the passion for conquest, and the determination to
hold his own against other males and to shine in his world's esteem,
was augmented by the abstinence from his usual life. The few days in
the house seemed to him a lifetime already wasted. He meant to make up
for it, and he did not care at whose expense, so long as some of the
debt was paid by Emilio.

On the sixteenth he issued forth into life again in a mood that was
dangerous. The fever that had abandoned his body was raging in his
mind. He was in the temper which had governed his papa on the day of
the slapping of Signora Merani's face in the Chiaia.

The Marchesino always thought a great deal about his personal
appearance, but his toilet on the night of the sixteenth was unusually
prolonged. On several matters connected with it he was undecided.
Should he wear a waistcoat of white pique or one of black silk? Should
he put on a white tie, or a black? And what about rings?

He loved jewelry, as do most Neapolitans, both male and female, and
had quantities of gaudy rings, studs, sleeve links, and waistcoat
buttons. In his present mood he was inclined to adorn himself with as
many of them as possible. But he was not sure whether the English
liked diamonds and rubies on a man. He hesitated long, made many
changes, and looked many times in the glass. At last he decided on a
black tie, a white waistcoat with pearl buttons, a pearl shirt-stud
surrounded with diamonds, pearl and diamond sleeve-links, and only
three rings--a gold snake, a seal ring, and a ring set with
turquoises. This was a modest toilet, suited, surely to the taste to
the English, which he remembered to have heard of as sober.

He stood long before the mirror when he was ready, and had poured over
his handkerchief a libation of "Rose d'amour."

Certainly he was a fine-looking fellow--his natural sincerity obliged
him to acknowledge it. Possibly his nose stuck out too much to balance
perfectly the low forehead and the rather square chin. Possibly his
cheek-bones were too prominent. But what of that? Women always looked
at a man's figure, his eyes, his teeth, his mustaches. And he had a
splendid figure, enormous gray eyes, large and perfectly even white
teeth between lips that were very full and very red, and blond
mustaches whose turned-up points were like a cry of victory.

He drew himself up from the hips, enlarged his eyes by opening them
exaggeratedly, stretched his lips till his teeth were well exposed,
and vehemently twisted the ends of his mustaches.

Yes, he was a very handsome fellow, and boyish-looking, too--but not
too boyish.

It really was absurd of Emilio to think of cutting him out with a girl
--Emilio, an old man, all beard and brains! As if any living woman
really cared for brains! Impertinence, gayety, agility, muscle--that
was what women loved in men. And he had all they wanted.

He filled his case with cigarettes, slipped on a very smart fawn-
colored coat, cocked a small-brimmed black bowler hat over his left
ear, picked up a pair of white gloves and a cane surmounted by a bunch
of golden grapes, and hurried down-stairs, humming "Lili Kangy," the
"canzonetta birichina" that was then the rage in Naples.

The dinner was to be at the Hotel des Etrangers. On consideration,
Artois had decided against the Galleria. He had thought of those who
wander there, of Peppina's aunt, of certain others. And then he had
thought of Vere. And his decision was quickly taken. When the
Marchesino arrived, Artois was alone in his sitting-room. The two men
looked into each other's eyes as they met, and Artois saw at once that
Doro was in a state of suppressed excitement and not in a gentle mood.
Although Doro generally seemed full of good-humor, and readiness to
please and to be pleased, he could look very cruel. And when, in rare
moments, he did so, his face seemed almost to change its shape: the
cheek-bones to become more salient, the nose sharper, the eyes
catlike, the large but well-shaped mouth venomous instead of
passionate. He looked older and also commoner directly his insouciance
departed from him, and one could divine a great deal of primitive
savagery beneath his lively grace and boyish charm.

But to-night, directly he spoke to Artois, his natural humor seemed to
return. He explained his illness, which accounted for his not having
come as usual to see his friend, and drew a humorous picture of a
Panacci in a bed surrounded by terror-stricken nurses.

"And you, Emilio, what have you been doing?" he concluded.

"Working," said Artois.

He pointed to the writing-table, on which lay a pile of manuscript.

The Marchesino glanced at it carelessly, but the two vertical lines
suddenly appeared in his forehead just above the inside corners of his
eyes.

"Work! work!" he said. "You make me feel quite guilty, amico mio. I
live for happiness, for love, but you--you live for duty."

He put his arm through his friend's with a laugh, and drew him towards
the balcony.

"Nevertheless," he added, "even you have your moments of pleasure,
haven't you?"

He pressed Artois' arm gently, but in the touch of his fingers there
was something that seemed to hint a longing to close them violently
and cause a shudder of pain.

"Even you have moments when the brain goes to sleep and--and the body
wakes up. Eh, Emilio? Isn't it true?"

"My dear Doro, when have I claimed to be unlike other men?"

"No, no! But you workers inspire reverence, you know. We, who do not
work, we see your pale faces, your earnest eyes, and we think--mon
Dieu, Emilio!--we think you are saints. And then, if, by chance, one
evening we go to the Galleria, and find it is not so, that you are
like ourselves, we are glad."

He began to laugh.

"We are glad; we feel no longer at a disadvantage."

Again he pressed Artois' arm gently.

"But, amico mio, you are deceptive, you workers," he said. "You take
us all in. We are children beside you, we who say all we feel, who
show when we hate and when we love. We are babies. If I ever want to
become really birbante, I shall become a worker."

He spoke always lightly, laughingly; but Artois understood the malice
at his heart, and hesitated for a moment whether to challenge it
quietly and firmly, or whether laughingly, to accept the sly
imputations of secrecy, of hypocrisy, in a "not-worth-while" temper.
If things developed--and Artois felt that they must with such a
protagonist as the Marchesino--a situation might arise in which Doro's
enmity must come out into the open and be dealt with drastically. Till
then was it not best to ignore it, to fall in with his apparent
frivolity? Before Artois could decide--for his natural temper and an
under-sense of prudence and contempt pulled different ways--the
Marchesino suddenly released his arm, leaned over the balcony rail,
and looked eagerly down the road. A carriage had just rattled up from
the harbor of Santa Lucia only a few yards away.

"Ecco!" he exclaimed. "Ecco! But--but who is with them?"

"Only Gaspare," replied Artois.

"Gaspare! That servant who came to the Guiseppone? Oh, no doubt he has
rowed the ladies over and will return to the boat?"

"No, I think not. I think the Signora will bring him to the Carmine."

"Why?" said the Marchesino, sharply.

"Why not? He is a strong fellow, and might be useful in a crowd."

"Are we not strong? Are we not useful?"

"My dear Doro, what's the matter?"

"Niente--niente!"

He tugged at his mustaches.

"Only I think the Signora might trust to us."

"Tell her so, if you like. Here she is."

At this moment the door opened and Hermione came in, followed by Vere.

As Artois went to welcome them he was aware of a strange mixture of
sensations, which made these two dear and close friends, these
intimates of his life, seem almost new. He was acutely conscious of
the mist of which Hermione had thought. He wondered about her, as she
about him. He saw again that face in the night under the trellis. He
heard the voice that had called to him and Vere in the garden. And he
knew that enmity, mysterious yet definite, might arise even between
Hermione and him; that even they two--inexorably under the law that
has made all human beings separate entities, and incapable of perfect
fusion--might be victims of misunderstanding, of ignorance of the
absolute truth of personality. Even now he was companioned by the
sudden and horrible doubt which had attacked him in the garden: that
perhaps she had been always playing a part when she had seemed to be
deeply interested in his work, that perhaps there was within her some
one whom he did not know, had never even caught a glimpse of until
lately, once when she was in the tram going to the Scoglio di Frisio,
and once the last time they had met. And yet this was the woman who
had nursed him in Africa--and this was the woman against whose
impulsive actions he had had the instinct to protect Vere--the
Hermione Delarey whom he had known for so many years.

Never before had he looked at Hermione quite as he looked at her
to-night. His sense of her strangeness woke up in him something that
was ill at ease, doubtful, almost even suspicious, but also something
that was quivering with interest.

For years this woman had been to him "dear Hermione," "ma pauvre
amie," comrade, sympathizer, nurse, mother of Vere.

Now--what else was she? A human creature with a heart and brain
capable of mystery; a soul with room in it for secret things; a temple
whose outside he had seen, but whose god, perhaps, he had never seen.

And Vere was involved in her mother's strangeness, and had her own
strangeness too. Of that he had been conscious before to-night. For
Vere was being formed. The plastic fingers were at work about her,
moulding her into what she must be as a woman.

But Hermione! She had been a woman so long.

Perhaps, too, she was standing on the brink of a precipice. That
suspicion, that fear, not to be banished by action, added to the
curiosity, as about an unknown land, that she aroused.

And the new and vital sense of Hermione's strangeness which was alive
in Artois was met by a feeling in her that was akin to it, only of the
feminine sex.

Their eyes encountered like eyes that say, "What are you?"

After swift greeting they went down-stairs to dine in the public room.
As there were but few people in the house, the large dining-room was
not in use, and their table was laid in the small restaurant that
looks out on the Marina, and was placed close to the window.

"At last we are repeating our /partie carree/ of the Guiseppone," said
Artois, as they sat down.

He felt that as host he must release himself from subtleties and
under-feelings, must stamp down his consciousness of secret inquiries
and of desires or hatreds half-concealed. He spoke cheerfully, even
conventionally.

"Yes, but without the storm," said Hermione, in the same tone. "There
is no feeling of electricity in the air to-night."

Even while she spoke she felt as if she were telling a lie which was
obvious to them all. And she could not help glancing hastily round.
She met the large round eyes of the Marchesino, eyes without subtlety
though often expressive.

"No, Signora," he said, smiling at her, rather obviously to captivate
her by the sudden vision of his superb teeth--"La Bruna is safe
to-night."

"La Bruna?"

"The Madonna del Carmine."

They talked of the coming festa.

Vere was rather quiet, much less vehement in appearance and lively in
manner than she had been at the Marchesino's dinner. Artois thought
she looked definitely older than she had then, though even then she
had played quite well the part of a little woman of the world. There
was something subdued in her eyes to-night which touched him, because
it made him imagine Vere sad. He wondered if she were still troubled
about her mother, if she had fulfilled her intention and asked Gaspare
what he thought. And he longed to ask her, to know what Gaspare had
said. The remembrance of Gaspare made him say to Hermione:

"I gave orders that Gaspare was to have a meal here. Did they tell
you?"

"Yes. He has gone to the servants' room."

The Marchesino's face changed.

"Your Gaspare seems indispensable, Signora," he said to Hermione in
his lightest, most boyish manner--a manner that the determination in
his eyes contradicted rather crudely. "Do you take him everywhere,
like a little dog?"

"I often take him,--but not like a little dog, Marchese," Hermione
said, quietly.

"Signora, I did not mean-- Here in Naples, we use that expression for
anything, or any one, we like to have always with us."

"I see. Well, call Gaspare a watch-dog if you like," she answered,
with a smile; "he watches over me carefully."

"A watch-dog, Signora! But do you like to be watched? Is it not
unpleasant?"

He was speaking now to get rid of the impression his first remark had
evidently made upon her.

"I think it depends how," she replied. "If Gaspare watches me it is
only to protect me--I am sure of that."

"But, Signora, do you not trust Don Emilio, do you not trust me, to be
your watch-dogs to-night at the festa?"

There was a little pressure in his voice, but he still preserved his
light and boyish manner. And now he turned to Vere.

"Speak for us, Signorina! Tell the Signora that we will take care of
her to-night, that there is no need of the faithful Gaspare."

Vere looked at him gravely. She had wondered a little why her mother
had brought Gaspare, why, at least, she had not left him free till
they returned to the boat at Santa Lucia. But her mother wanted him to
come with them, and that was enough for her. She opened her lips, and
Artois thought she was going to snub her companion. But perhaps she
suddenly changed her mind, for she only said:

"Who would trust you, Marchese?"

She met his eyes with a sort of child's impertinence. She had abruptly
become the Vere of the Scoglio di Frisio.

"Who would take you for a watch-dog?"

"Ma--Signorina!"

"As a seal--yes, you are all very well! But--"

The young man was immediately in the seventh Heaven. The Signorina
remembered his feats in the water. All his self-confidence returned,
all his former certainty that the Signorina was secretly devoted to
him. His days of doubt and fury were forgotten. His jealousy of Emilio
vanished in a cloud of happy contempt for the disabilities of age, and
he began to talk to Vere with a vivacity that was truly Neapolitan.
When the Marchesino was joyous he had charm, the charm that emanates
from the bounding life that flows in the veins of youth. Even the
Puritan feels, and fears, the grace that is Pagan. The Marchesino had
a Pagan grace. And now it returned to him and fell about him like a
garment, clothing body and soul. And Vere seemed to respond to it. She
began to chatter, too. She talked lightly, flicking him with little
whips of sarcasm that did not hurt, but only urged him on. The humor
of a festa might begin to flow from these two.

And again, instead of infecting Artois, it seemed to set him apart, to
rebuke silently his gifts, his fame--to tell him that they were
useless, that they could do nothing for him.

The Marchesino was not troubled with an intellect. Yet with what ease
he found words to play with the words of Vere! His Latin vivacity
seemed a perfect substitute for thought, for imagination, for every
subtlety. He bubbled like champagne. And when champagne winks and
foams at the edge of the shining glass, do the young think of, or care
for, the sober gravity, the lingering bouquet of claret, even if it be
Chateau Margaux?

As Artois half listened to the young people, while he talked quietly
with Hermione, playing the host with discretion, he felt the peculiar
cruelty which ordains that the weapons of youth, even if taken up and
used by age with vigor and competence, shall be only reeds in those
hands whose lines tell of the life behind.

Yet how Vere and he had laughed together on the day of his return from
Paris! One gust of such mutual laughter is worth how many days of
earnest talk!

Vere was gleaming with fun to-night.

The waiters, as they went softly about the table, looked at her with
kind eyes. Secretly they were enjoying her gayety because it was so
pretty. Her merriment was as airy as the flight of a bird.

The Marchesino was entranced. Did she care for that?

Artois wondered secretly, and was not sure. He had a theory that all
women like to feel their power over men. Few men have not this theory.
But there was in Vere something immensely independent, that seemed
without sex, and that hinted at a reserve not vestal, but very pure--
too pure, perhaps, to desire an empire which is founded certainly upon
desire.

And the Marchesino was essentially and completely the young animal;
not the heavy, sleek, and self-contented young animal that the
northern countries breed, but the frolicsome, playful, fiery young
animal that has been many times warmed by the sun.

Hermione felt that Artois' mood to-night echoed his mood at Frisio's,
and suddenly she thought once more of the visitors' book and of what
he had written there, surely in a moment of almost heated impulse. And
as she thought of it she was moved to speak of her thought. She had so
many secret reserves from Emile now that this one she could dispense
with.

"You remember that night when I met you on the sea?" she said to him.

He looked away from Vere and answered:

"Yes. What about it?"

"When I was at the Scoglio di Frisio I looked again over that
wonderful visitors' book."

"Did you?"

"Yes. And I saw what you had written."

Their eyes met. She wondered if by the expression in hers he divined
why she had made that expedition, moved by what expectation, by what
curiosity. She could tell nothing by his face, which was calm and
inscrutable.

After an instant's pause he said:

"Do you know from whom those words come?"

"No. Are they your own?"

"Victor Hugo's. Do you like them?"

But her eyes were asking him a question, and he saw it.

"What is it?" he said.

"Why did you write them?" she said.

"I had to write something. You made me."

"Vere suggested it first."

He looked again at Vere, but only for a moment. She was laughing at
something the Marchesino was saying.

"Did she?--Oh! Take some of that salade a la Russe. I gave the chef
the recipe for it.--Did she?"

"Don't you remember?"

"Those words were in my head. I put them down."

"Are you fond of them?"

Her restless curiosity was still quite unsatisfied.

"I don't know. But one has puzzled about conscience. Hasn't one?"

He glanced at the Marchesino, who was bending forward to Vere, and
illustrating something he was telling her by curious undulating
gestures with both hands that suggested a flight.

"At least some of us have," he continued. "And some never have, and
never will."

Hermione understood the comment on their fellow-guest.

"Do you think that saying explains it satisfactorily?" she said.

"I believe sometimes we know a great deal more than we know we know,"
he answered. "That sounds like some nonsense game with words, but it's
the best way to put it. Conscience seems to speak out of the silence.
But there may be some one in the prompter's box--our secret
knowledge."

"But is it knowledge of ourselves, or of others?"

"Which do you think?"

"Of ourselves, I suppose. I think we generally know far less of others
than we believe ourselves to know."

She expressed his thought of her earlier in the evening.

"Probably. And nevertheless we may know things of them that we are not
aware we know--till after we have instinctively acted on our
knowledge."

Their eyes met again. Hermione felt in that moment as if he knew why
she had given Vere the permission to read his books.

But still she did not know whether he had written that sentence in the
book at Frisio's carelessly, or prompted by some violent impulse to
express a secret thought or feeling of the moment.

"Things good or evil?" she said, slowly.

"Perhaps both."

The Marchesino burst into a laugh. He leaned back in his chair,
shaking his head, and holding the table with his two hands. His white
teeth gleamed.

"What is the joke?" asked Artois.

Vere turned her head.

"Oh, nothing. It's too silly. I can't imagine why the Marchesino is so
much amused by it."

Artois felt shut out. But when Vere and he had laughed over the tea-
table in a blessed community of happy foolishness, who could have
understood their mirth? He remembered how he had pitied the imagined
outsider.

He turned again to Hermione, but such conversation as theirs, and
indeed all serious conversation, now seemed to him heavy, portentous,
almost ludicrous. The young alone knew how to deal with life, chasing
it as a child chases a colored air-ball, and when it would sink, and
fall and be inert, sending it with a gay blow soaring once more
towards the blue.

Perhaps Hermione had a similar thought, or perhaps she knew of it in
him. At any rate, for a moment she had nothing to say. Nor had he. And
so, tacitly excluded, as it seemed, from the merriment of the young
ones, the two elders remained looking towards each other in silence,
sunk in a joint exile.

Presently Artois began to fidget with his bread. He pulled out some of
the crumb from his roll, and pressed it softly between his large
fingers, and scattered the tiny fragments mechanically over the table-
cloth near his plate. Hermione watched his moving hand. The Marchesino
was talking now. He was telling Vere about a paper-chase at
Capodimonte, which had started from the Royal Palace. His vivacity,
his excitement made a paper-chase seem one of the most brilliant and
remarkable events in a brilliant and remarkable world. He had been the
hare. And such a hare! Since hares were first created and placed in
the Garden of Eden there had been none like unto him. He told of his
cunning exploits.

The fingers of Artois moved faster. Hermione glanced at his face. Its
massiveness looked heavy. The large eyes were fixed upon the table-
cloth. His hand just then was more expressive. And as she glanced at
it again something very pitiful awoke in her, something pitiful for
him and for herself. She felt that very often lately she had
misunderstood him--she had been confused about him. But now, in this
moment, she understood him perfectly.

He pulled some more crumb out of his roll.

She was fascinated by his hand. Much as it had written, it had never
written more clearly on paper than it was writing now.

But suddenly she felt as if she could not look at it any more, as if
it was intolerable to look at it. And she turned towards the open
window.

"What is it?" Artois asked her. "Is there too much air for you?"

"Oh no. It isn't that. I was only thinking what a quantity of people
pass by, and wondering where they were all going, and what they were
all thinking and hoping. I don't know why they should have come into
my head just then. I suppose it will soon be time for us to start for
the festa."

"Yes. We'll have coffee in my sitting-room--when they are ready." He
looked again at Vere and the Marchesino.

"Have we all finished? I thought we would go and have coffee up-
stairs. What do you say, Vere?"

He spoke cheerfully.

"Yes; do let us."

They all got up. As Hermione and Vere moved towards the door Artois
leaned out of the window for a moment.

"You needn't be afraid. There will be no storm to-night, Emilio!" said
the Marchesino, gayly--almost satirically.

"No--it's quite fine."

Artois drew in. "We ought to have a perfect evening," he added,
quietly.

CHAPTER XXIX

"How are we going to drive to the Carmine?" said Artois to Hermione,
when she had taken her cloak and was ready to go down.

"We must have two carriages."

"Yes."

"Vere and I will go in one, with Gaspare on the box, and you and the
Marchese can follow in the other."

"Signora," said the Marchesino, drawing on his white gloves, "you
still do not trust us? You are still determined to take the watch-dog?
It is cruel of you. It shows a great want of faith in Emilio and in
me."

"Gaspare must come."

The Marchesino said no more, only shrugged his shoulders with an air
of humorous resignation which hid a real chagrin. He knew how watchful
a Sicilian can be, how unyielding in attention to his mistresses, if
he thinks they need protection.

But perhaps this Gaspare was to be bribed.

Instinctively the Marchesino put his hand into his waistcoat pocket,
and began to feel the money there.

Yes, there was a gold piece.

"Come, Panacci!"

Emilio's hand touched his shoulder, and he followed the ladies out of
the room.

Emilio had called him "Panacci." That sounded almost like a
declaration of war. Well, he was ready. At dinner his had been the
triumph, and Emilio knew it. He meant his triumph to be a greater one
before the evening was over. The reappearance of the gay child in
Vere, grafted upon the comprehending woman whom he had seen looking
out of her eyes on the day of his last visit to the island, had put
the finishing touch to the amorous madness of the Marchesino. He
dreamed Vere an accomplished coquette. He believed that her cruelty on
the night of his serenade, that her coldness and avoidance of him on
the day of the lunch, were means devised to increase his ardor. She
had been using Emilio merely as an instrument. He had been a weapon in
her girlish hands. That was the suitable fate of the old--usefulness.

The Marchesino was in a fever of anticipation. Possibly Vere would
play into his hands when they got to the festa. If not, he must manage
things for himself. The Signora, of course, would make Emilio her
escort. Vere would naturally fall to him, the Marchesino.

But there was the fifth--this Gaspare.

When they came out to the pavement the Marchesino cast a searching
glance at the Sicilian, who was taking the cloaks, while the two
carriages which had been summoned by the hotel porter were rattling up
from the opposite side of the way. Gaspare had saluted him, but did
not look at him again. When Hermione and Vere were in the first
carriage, Gaspare sprang on to the box as a matter of course. The
Marchesino went to tell the coachman which way to drive to the
Carmine. When he had finished he looked at Gaspare and said:

"There will be a big crowd. Take care the Signora does not get hurt in
it."

He laid a slight emphasis on the word "Signora," and put his hand
significantly into his waistcoat-pocket.

Gaspare regarded him calmly.

"Va bene, Signor Marchese," he replied. "I will take care of the
Signora and the Signorina."

The Marchesino turned away and jumped into the second carriage with
Emilio, realizing angrily that his gold piece would avail him nothing.

As they drove off Artois drew out some small square bits of paper.

"Here's your ticket for the enclosure," he said, giving one to the
Marchesino.

"Grazie. But we must walk about. We must show the ladies the fun in
the Mercato. It is very dull to stay all the evening in the
enclosure."

"We will do whatever they like, of course."

"Keep close to the other carriage! Do you hear?" roared the Marchesino
to the coachman.

The man jerked his head, cracked his whip, pulled at his horse's
mouth. They shot forward at a tremendous pace, keeping close by the
sea at first, then turning to the left up the hill towards the Piazza
del Plebiscito. The Marchesino crossed his legs, folded his arms, and
instinctively assumed the devil-may-care look characteristic of the
young Neapolitan when driving through his city.

"Emilio," he said, after a moment, looking at Artois out of the
corners of his eyes without moving his head, "when I was at the island
the other day, do you know whom I saw in the house?"

"No."

"A girl of the town. A bad girl. You understand?"

"Do you mean a girl with a wounded cheek?"

"Yes. How can the Signora have her there?"

"The Signora knows all about her," said Artois, dryly.

"She thinks so!"

"What do you mean?"

"If the Signora really knew, could she take such a girl to live with
the Signorina?"

The conversation was rapidly becoming insupportable to Artois.

"This is not our affair," he said.

"I do not say it is. But still, as I am a Neapolitan, I think it a
pity that some one does not explain to the Signora how impossible--"

"Caro mio!" Artois exclaimed, unable to endure his companion's obvious
inclination to pose as a protector of Vere's innocence. "English
ladies do not care to be governed. They are not like your charming
women. They are independent and do as they choose. You had much better
not bother your head about what happens on the island. Very soon the
Signora may be leaving it and going away from Naples."

"Davvero?"

The Marchesino turned right round in the little carriage, forgetting
his pose.

"Davvero? No. I don't believe it. You play with me. You wish to
frighten me."

"To frighten you! I don't understand what you mean. What can it matter
to you? You scarcely know these ladies."

The Marchesino pursed his lips together. But he only said, "Si, si."
He did not mean to quarrel with Emilio yet. To do so might complicate
matters with the ladies.

As they entered the Via del Popolo, and drew near to the Piazza di
Masaniello, his excitement increased, stirred by the sight of the
crowds of people, who were all streaming in the same direction past
the iron rails of the port, beyond which, above the long and ghostly
sheds that skirt the sea, rose the tapering masts of vessels lying at
anchor. Plans buzzed in his head. He called upon all his shrewdness,
all his trickiness of the South. He had little doubt of his capacity
to out-manoeuvre Emilio and the Signora. And if the Signorina were
favorable to him, he believed that he might even get the better of
Gaspare, in whom he divined a watchful hostility. But would the
Signorina help him? He could not tell. How can one ever tell what a
girl will do at a given moment?

With a jerk the carriage drew up beneath the walls of the prison that
frowns upon the Piazza di Masaniello, and the Marchesino roused
himself to the battle and sprang out. The hum of the great crowd
already assembled, the brilliance of the illuminations that lit up the
houses, Nuvolo's tower, the fašade of the Church of the Carmine, and
the adjoining monastery, the loud music of the band that was stationed
in the Kiosk before the enclosure, stirred his young blood. As he went
quickly to help Hermione and Vere, he shot a glance almost of contempt
at the gray hairs of Emilio, who was getting out of the carriage
slowly. Artois saw the glance and understood it. For a moment he stood
still. Then he paid the coachman and moved on, encompassed by the
masses of people who were struggling gayly towards the centre of the
square, intent upon seeing the big doll that was enthroned there
dressed as Masaniello.

"We had better go into the enclosure. Don't you think so?" he said to
Hermione.

"If you like. I am ready for anything."

"We can walk about afterwards. Perhaps the crush will be less when the
fire-balloon has gone up."

The Marchesino said nothing, and they gained the enclosure, where rows
of little chairs stood on the short grass that edges the side of the
prison that looks upon the Piazza. Gaspare, who on such occasions was
full of energy and singularly adroit, found them good places in a
moment.

"Ecco, Signora! Ecco, Signorina!"

"Madre, may I stand on my chair?"

"Of course, Signorina. Look! Others are standing!"

Gaspare helped his Padroncina up, then took his place beside her, and
stood like a sentinel. Artois had never liked him better than at that
moment. Hermione, who looked rather tired, sat down on her chair. The
loud music of the band, the lines of fire that brought the discolored
houses into sharp relief, and that showed her with a distinctness that
was fanciful and lurid the moving faces of hundreds of strangers, the
dull roar of voices, and the heat that flowed from the human bodies,
seemed to mingle, to become concrete, to lie upon her spirit like a
weight. Artois stood by her, leaning on his stick and watching the
crowd with his steady eyes. The Marchesino was looking up at Vere,
standing in a position that seemed to indicate a longing that she
should rest her hand upon his shoulder.

"You will fall, Signorina!" he said. "Be careful. Let me--"

"I am quite safe."

But she dropped one hand to the shoulder of Gaspare.

The Marchesino moved, almost as if he were about to go away. Then he
lit a cigarette and spoke to Hermione.

"You look tired, Signora. You feel the heat. It is much fresher
outside, when one is walking. Here, under the prison walls, it is
always like a furnace in summer. It is unwholesome. It puts one into a
fever."

Hermione looked at him, and saw a red spot burning on each side of his
face near his cheek-bones.

"Perhaps it would be better to walk," she said, doubtfully.

Her inclination was for movement, for her fatigue was combined with a
sensation of great restlessness.

"What do you say, Vere?" she added.

"Oh, I should love to go among the people and see everything," she
answered, eagerly.

The Marchesino's brow cleared.

"Let us go, Emilio! You hear what the Signorina says."

"Very well," said Artois.

His voice was reluctant, even cold. Vere glanced at him quickly.

"Would you rather stay here, Monsieur Emile?" she said.

"No, Vere, no. Let us go and see the fun."

He smiled at her.

"We must keep close together," he added, looking at the Marchesino.
"The crowd is tremendous."

"But they are all in good humor," he answered, carelessly. "We
Neapolitans, we are very gay, that is true, but we do not forget our
manners when we have a festa. There is nothing to fear. This is the
best way out. We must cross the Mercato. The illuminations of the
streets beyond are always magnificent. The Signorina shall walk down
paths of fire, but she shall not be burned."

He led the way with Vere, going in front to disarm the suspicion which
he saw plainly lurking in Emilio's eyes. Artois followed with
Hermione, and Gaspare came last. The exit from the enclosure was
difficult, as many people were pouring in through the narrow opening,
and others, massed together outside the wooden barrier, were gazing at
the seated women within; but at length they reached the end of the
Piazza, and caught a glimpse of the Masaniello doll, which faced a
portrait of the Madonna del Carmine framed in fire. Beyond, to the
right, above the heads of the excited multitude, rose the pale-pink
globe of the fire-balloon, and as for a moment they stood still to
look at it the band struck up a sonorous march, the balloon moved
sideways, swayed, heeled over slightly like a sailing-yacht catching
the breeze beyond the harbor bar, recovered itself, and lifted the
blazing car above the gesticulating arms of the people. A long murmur
followed it as it glided gently away, skirting the prodigious belfry
with the apparent precaution of a living thing that longed for, and
sought, the dim freedom of the sky. The children instinctively
stretched out their arms to it. All faces were lifted towards the
stars, as if a common aspiration at that moment infected the throng, a
universal, though passing desire to be free of the earth, to mount, to
travel, to be lost in the great spaces that encircle terrestrial
things. At the doors of the trattorie the people, who had forsaken
their snails, stood to gaze, many of them holding glasses of white
wine in their hands. The spighe arrosto, the watermelons, were for a
moment forgotten on the stalls of their vendors, who ceased from
shouting to the passers-by. There was a silence in which was almost
audible the human wish for wings. Presently the balloon, caught by
some vagrant current of air, began to travel abruptly, and more
swiftly, sideways, passing over the city towards its centre. At once
the crowd moved in the same direction. Aspiration was gone. A violence
of children took its place, and the instinct to follow where the
blazing toy led. The silence was broken. People called and
gesticulated, laughed and chattered. Then the balloon caught fire from
the brazier beneath it. A mass of flames shot up. A roar broke from
the crowd and it pressed more fiercely onward, each unit of it longing
to see where the wreck would fall. Already the flames were sinking
towards the city.

"Where are Vere and the Marchesino?"

Hermione had spoken. Artois, whose imagination had been fascinated by
the instincts of the crowd, and whose intellect had been chained to
watchfulness during its strange excitement, looked sharply round.

"Vere--isn't she here?"

He saw at once that she was gone. But he saw, too, that Gaspare was no
longer with them. The watch-dog had been more faithful than he.

"They must be close by," he added. "The sudden movement separated us,
no doubt."

"Yes. Gaspare has vanished too!"

"With them," Artois said.

He spoke with an emphasis that was almost violent.

"But--you didn't see--" began Hermione.

"Don't you know Gaspare yet?" he asked.

Their eyes met. She was startled by the expression in his.

"You don't think--" she began.

She broke off.

"I think Gaspare knows his Southerner," Artois replied. "We must look
for them. They are certain to have gone with the crowd."

They followed the people into the Mercato. The burning balloon dropped
down and disappeared.

"It has fallen into the Rettifilo!" cried a young man close to them.

"Macche!" exclaimed his companion.

"I will bet you five lire--"

He gesticulated furiously.

"We shall never find them," Hermione said.

"We will try to find them."

His voice startled her now, as his eyes had startled her. A man in the
crowd pressed against her roughly. Instinctively she caught hold of
Artois' arm.

"Yes, you had better take it," he said.

"Oh, it was only--"

"No, take it."

And he drew her hand under his arm.

The number of people in the Mercato was immense, but it was possible
to walk on steadily, though slowly. Now that the balloon had vanished
the crowd had forgotten it, and was devoting itself eagerly to the
pleasures of the bar. In the tall and barrack-like houses candles
gleamed in honor of Masaniello. The streets that led away towards the
city's heart were decorated with arches of little lamps, with columns
and chains of lights, and the pedestrians passing through them looked
strangely black in this great frame of fire. From the Piazza before
the Carmine the first rocket rose, and, exploding, showered its golden
rain upon the picture of the Virgin.

"Perhaps they have gone back into the Piazza."

Hermione spoke after a long silence, during which they had searched in
vain. Artois stood still and looked down at her. His face was very
stern.

"We sha'n't find them," he said.

"In this crowd, of course, it is difficult, but--"

"We sha'n't find them."

"At any rate, Gaspare is with them."

"How do you know that?"

The expression in his face frightened her.

"But you said you were sure--"

"Panacci was too clever for us; he may have been too clever for
Gaspare."

Hermione was silent for a moment. Then she said:

"You surely don't think the Marchese is wicked?"

"He is young, he is Neapolitan, and to-night he is mad. Vere has made
him mad."

"But Vere was only gay at dinner as any child--"

"Don't think I am blaming Vere. If she has fascination, she cannot
help it."

"What shall we do?"

"Will you let me put you into a cab? Will you wait in my room at the
hotel until I come back with Vere? I can search for her better alone.
I will find her--if she is here."

Their eyes met steadily as he finished speaking, and he saw, or
thought he saw, in hers a creeping menace, as if she had the intention
to attack or to defy him.

"I am Vere's mother," she said.

"Let me take you to a cab, Hermione."

He spoke coldly, inexorably. This moment of enforced inactivity was a
very difficult one for him. And the violence that was blazing within
him made him fear that if Hermione did not yield to his wish he might
lose his self-control.

"You can do nothing," he added.

Her eyes left his, her lips quivered. Then she said:

"Take me, then."

She did not look at him again until she was in a cab and Artois had
told the driver to go to the Hotel Royal. Then she glanced at him with
a strange expression of acute self-consciousness which he had never
before seen on her face.

"You don't believe that--that there is any danger to Vere?" she said,
in a low voice. "You cannot believe that."

"I don't know."

She leaned forward, and her face changed.

"Go and bring her back to me."

The cabman drove off, and Artois was lost in the crowd.

He never knew how long his search lasted, how long he heard the swish
and the bang of rockets, the vehement music of the band, the cries and
laughter of the people, the sound of footsteps as if a world were
starting on some pilgrimage; how long he saw the dazzling avenues of
fire stretching away into the city's heart; how long he looked at the
faces of strangers, seeking Vere's face. He was excessively conscious
of almost everything except of time. It might have been two hours
later, or much less, when he felt a hand upon his arm, turned round,
and saw Gaspare beside him.

"Where is the Signora?"

"Gone to the hotel? And the Signorina?"

Gaspare looked at Artois with a sort of heavy gloom, then looked down
to the ground.

"You have lost her?"

"Si."

There was a dulness of fatalism in his voice.

Artois did not reproach him.

"Did you lose them when the balloon went up?" he asked.

"Macche! It was not the balloon!" Gaspare said, fiercely.

"What was it?"

Artois felt suddenly that Gaspare had some perfect excuse for his
inattention.

"Some one spoke to me. When I--when I had finished the Signorina and
that Signore were gone."

"Some one spoke to you. Who was it?"

"It was Ruffo."

Artois stared at Gaspare.

"Ruffo! Was he alone?"

"No, Signore."

"Who was with him?"

"His mother was with him."

"His mother. Did you speak to her?"

"Si, Signore."

There was a silence between them. It was broken by a sound of bells.

"Signore, it is midnight."

Artois drew out his watch quickly. The hands pointed to twelve
o'clock. The crowd was growing thinner, was surely melting away.

"We had better go to the hotel," Artois said. "Perhaps they are there.
If they are not there--"

He did not finish the sentence. They found a cab and drove swiftly
towards the Marina. All the time the little carriage rattled over the
stony streets Artois expected Gaspare to speak to him, to tell him
more, to tell him something tremendous. He felt as if the Sicilian
were beset by an imperious need to break a long reserve. But, if it
were so, this reserve was too strong for its enemy. Gaspare's lips
were closed. He did not say a word till the cabman drew up before the
hotel.

As Artois got out he knew that he was terribly excited. The hall was
almost dark, and the night concierge came from his little room on the
right of the door to turn on the light and accompany Artois to the
lift.

"There is a lady waiting in your room, Signore," he said.

Artois, who was walking quickly towards the lift, stopped. He looked
at Gaspare.

"A lady!" he said.

"Shall I go back to the Piazza, Signore?"

He half turned towards the swing door.

"Wait a minute. Come up-stairs first and see the Signora."

The lift ascended. As Artois opened the door of his sitting-room he
heard a woman's dress rustle, and Hermione stood before them.

"Vere?" she said.

She laid her hand on his arm.

"Gaspare!"

There was a sound of reproach in her voice. She took her hand away
from Artois.

"Gaspare?" she repeated, interrogatively.

"Signora!" he answered, doggedly.

He did not lift his eyes to hers.

"You have lost the Signorina?"

"Si, Signora."

He attempted no excuse, he expressed no regret.

"Gaspare!" Hermione said.

Suddenly Artois put his hand on Gaspare's shoulder. He said nothing,
but his touch told the Sicilian much--told him how he was understood,
how he was respected, by this man who had shared his silence.

"We thought they might be here," Artois said.

"They are not here."

Her voice was almost hard, almost rebuking. She was still standing in
the door-space.

"I will go back and look again, Signora."

"Si," she said.

She turned back into the room. Artois held out his hand to Gaspare:

"Signore?"

Gaspare looked surprised, hesitating, then moved. He took the out-
stretched hand, grasped it violently, and went away.

Artois shut the sitting-room door and went towards Hermione.

"You are staying?" she said.

By her intonation he could not tell whether she was glad or almost
angrily astonished.

"They may come here immediately," he said. "I wish to see Panacci--
when he comes."

She looked at him quickly.

"It must be an accident," she said. "I can't--I won't believe that--no
one could hurt Vere."

He said nothing.

"No one could hurt Vere," she repeated.

He went out on to the balcony and stood there for two or three
minutes, looking down at the sea and at the empty road. She did not
follow him, but sat down upon the sofa near the writing-table.
Presently he turned round.

"Gaspare has gone."

"It would have been better if he had never come!"

"Hermione," he said, "has it come to this, that I must defend Gaspare
to you?"

"I think Gaspare might have kept with Vere, ought to have kept with
Vere."

Artois felt a burning desire to make Hermione understand the Sicilian,
but he only said, gently:

"Some day, perhaps, you will know Gaspare's character better, you will
understand all this."

"I can't understand it now. But--oh, if Vere-- No, that's impossible,
impossible!"

She spoke with intense vehemence.

"Some things cannot happen," she exclaimed, with a force that seemed
to be commanding destiny.

Artois said nothing. And his apparent calm seemed to punish her,
almost as if he struck her with a whip.

"Why don't you speak?" she said.

She felt almost confused by his silence.

He went out again to the balcony, leaned on the railing and looked
over. She felt that he was listening with his whole nature for the
sound of wheels. She felt that she heard him listening, that she heard
him demanding the sound. And as she looked at his dark figure, beyond
which she saw the vagueness of night and some stars, she was conscious
of the life in him as she had never been conscious of it before, she
was conscious of all his manhood terribly awake.

That was for Vere.

A quarter of an hour went by. Artois remained always on the balcony,
and scarcely moved. Hermione watched him, and tried to learn a lesson;
tried to realize without bitterness and horror that in the heart of
man everything has been planted, and that therefore nothing which
grows there should cause too great amazement, too great condemnation,
or the absolute withdrawal of pity; tried to face something which must
completely change her life, sweeping away more than mere illusions,
sweeping away a long reverence which had been well founded, and which
she had kept very secret in her heart, replacing its vital substance
with a pale shadow of compassion.

She watched him, and she listened for the sound of wheels, until at
last she could bear it no longer.

"Emile, what are we to do? What can we do?" she said, desperately.

"Hush!" he said.

He held up his hand. They both listened and heard far off the noise of
a carriage rapidly approaching. He looked over the road. The carriage
rattled up. She heard it stop, and saw him bend down. Then suddenly he
drew himself up, turned, and came into the room.

"They have come," he said.

He went to the door and opened it, and stood by it.

And his face was terrible.

CHAPTER XXX

Two minutes later there was the sound of steps coming quickly down the
uncarpeted corridor, and Vere entered, followed, but not closely, by
the Marchesino. Vere went up at once to her mother, without even
glancing at Artois.

"I am so sorry, Madre," she said, quietly. "But--but it was not my
fault."

The Marchesino had paused near the door, as if doubtful of Vere's
intentions. Now he approached Hermione, pulling off his white gloves.

"Signora," he said, in a hard and steady voice, but smiling boyishly,
"I fear I am the guilty one. When the balloon went up we were
separated from you by the crowd, and could not find you immediately.
The Signorina wished to go back to the enclosure. Unfortunately I had
lost the tickets, so that we should not have been readmitted. Under
these circumstances I thought the best thing was to show the Signorina
the illuminations, and then to come straight back to the hotel. I hope
you have not been distressed. The Signorina was of course perfectly
safe with me."

"Thank you, Marchese," said Hermione, coldly. "Emile, what are we to
do about Gaspare?"

"Gaspare?" asked Vere.

"He has gone back to the Piazza to search for you again."

"Oh!"

She flushed, turned away, and went up to the window. Then she
hesitated, and finally stepped out on to the balcony.

"You had better spend the night in the hotel," said Artois.

"But we have nothing!"

"The housemaid can find you what is necessary in the morning."

"As to our clothes--that doesn't matter. Perhaps it will be the best
plan."

Artois rang the bell. They waited in silence till the night porter
came.

"Can you give these two ladies rooms for the night?" said Artois. "It
is too late for them to go home by boat, and their servant has not
come back yet."

"Yes, sir. The ladies can have two very good rooms."

"Good-night, Emile," said Hermione. "Good-night, Marchese. Vere!"

Vere came in from the balcony.

"We are going to sleep here, Vere. Come!"

She went out.

"Good-night, Monsieur Emile," Vere said to Artois, without looking at
him.

She followed her mother without saying another word.

Artois looked after them as they went down the corridor, watched
Vere's thin and girlish figure until she turned the corner near the
staircase, walking slowly and, he thought, as if she were tired and
depressed. During this moment he was trying to get hold of his own
violence, to make sure of his self-control. When the sound of the
footsteps had died completely away he drew back into the room and shut
the door.

The Marchesino was standing near the window. When he saw the face of
Artois he sat down in an arm-chair and put his hat on the floor.

"You don't mind if I stay for a few minutes, Emilio?" he said. "Have
you anything to drink? I am thirsty after all this walking in the
crowd."

Artois brought him some Nocera and lemons.

"Do you want brandy, whiskey?"

"No, no. Grazie."

He poured out the Nocera gently, and began carefully to squeeze some
lemon-juice into it, holding the fruit lightly in his strong fingers,
and watching the drops fall with a quiet attention.

"Where have you been to-night?"

The Marchesino looked up.

"In the Piazza di Masaniello."

"Where have you been?"

"I tell you--the Piazza, the Mercato, down one or two streets to see
the illuminations. What's the matter, caro mio? Are you angry because
we lost you in the crowd?"

"You intended to lose us in the crowd before we left the hotel
to-night."

"Not at all, amico mio. Not at all."

His voice hardened again, the furrows appeared on his forehead.

"Now you are lying," said Artois.

The Marchesino got up and stood in front of Artois. The ugly, cat-like
look had come into his face, changing it from its usual boyish
impudence to a hardness that suggested age. At that moment he looked
much older than he was.

"Be careful, Emilio!" he said. "I am Neapolitan, and I do not allow
myself to be insulted."

His gray eyes contracted.

"You did not mean to get lost with the Signorina?" said Artois.

"One leaves such things to destiny."

"Destiny! Well, to-night it is your destiny to go out of the
Signorina's life forever."

"How dare you command me? How dare you speak for these ladies?"

Suddenly Artois went quite white, and laid his hand on the
Marchesino's arm.

"Where have you been? What have you been doing all this time?" he
said.

Questions blazed in his eyes. His hand closed more firmly on the
Marchesino.

"Where did you take that child? What did you say to her? What did you
dare to say?"

"I! And you?" said the Marchesino, sharply.

He threw out his hand towards the face of Artois. "And you--you!" he
repeated.

"I?"

"Yes--you! What have you said to her? Where have you taken her? I at
least am young. My blood speaks to me. I am natural, I am passionate.
I know what I am, what I want; I know it; I say it; I am sincere. I--I
am ready to go naked into the sun before the whole world, and say,
'There! There! This is Isidoro Panacci; and he is this--and this--and
this! Like it or hate it--that does not matter! It is not his fault.
He is like that. He is made like that. He is meant to be like that,
and he is that--he is that!' Do you hear? That is what I am ready to
do. But you--you--! Ah, Madonna! Ah, Madre benedetta!"

He threw up both his hands suddenly, looked at the ceiling and shook
his head sharply from side to side. Then he slapped his hands gently
and repeatedly against his knees, and a grim and almost venerable look
came into his mobile face.

"The great worker! The man of intellect! The man who is above the
follies of that little Isidoro Panacci, who loves a beautiful girl,
and who is proud of loving her, and who knows that he loves her, that
he wants her, that he wishes to take her! Stand still!"--he suddenly
hissed out the words. "The man with the white hairs who might have had
many children of his own, but who prefers to play papa--caro papa,
Babbo bello!--to the child of another on a certain little island. Ah,
buon Dio! The wonderful writer, respected and admired by all; by whose
side the little Isidoro seems only a small boy from college, about
whom nobody need bother! How he is loved, and how he is trusted on the
island! Nobody must come there but he and those whom he wishes. He is
to order, to arrange all. The little Isidoro--he must not come there.
He must not know the ladies. He is nothing; but he is wicked. He loves
pleasure. He loves beautiful girls! Wicked, wicked Isidoro! Keep him
out! Keep him away! But the great writer--with the white hairs--
everything is allowed to him because he is Caro Papa. He may teach the
Signorina. He may be alone with her. He may take her out at night in
the boat."--His cheeks were stained with red and his eyes glittered.--
"And when the voice of that wicked little Isidoro is heard-- Quick!
Quick! To the cave! Let us escape! Let us hide where it is dark, and
he will never find us! Let us make him think we are at Nisida! Hush!
the boat is passing. He is deceived! He will search all night till he
is tired! Ah--ah--ah! That is good! And now back to the island--quick!
--before he finds out!"--He thrust out his arm towards Artois.--"And
that is my friend!" he exclaimed. "He who calls himself the friend of
the little wicked Isidoro. P--!"--He turned his head and spat on to
the balcony.--"Gran Dio! And this white-haired Babbo! He steals into
the Galleria at night to meet Maria Fortunata! He puts a girl of the
town to live with the Signorina upon the island, to teach her--"

"Stop!" said Artois.

"I will not stop!" said the Marchesino, furiously. "To teach the
Signorina all the--"

Artois lifted his hand.

"Do you want me to strike you on the mouth?" he said.

"Strike me!"

Artois looked at him with a steadiness that seemed to pierce.

"Then--take care, Panacci. You are losing your head."

"And you have lost yours!" cried the Marchesino. "You, with your white
hairs, you are mad. You are mad about the 'child.' You play papa, and
all the time you are mad, and you think nobody sees it. But every one
sees it, every one knows it. Every one knows that you are madly in
love with the Signorina."

Artois had stepped back.

"I--in love!" he said.

His voice was contemptuous, but his face had become flushed, and his
hands suddenly clinched themselves.

"What! you play the hypocrite even with yourself! Ah, we Neapolitans,
we may be shocking; but at least we are sincere! You do not know!--
then I will tell you. You love the Signorina madly, and you hate me
because you are jealous of me--because I am young and you are old. I
know it; the Signora knows it; that Sicilian--Gaspare--he knows it!
And now you--you know it!"

He suddenly flung himself down on the sofa that was behind him.
Perspiration was running down his face, and even his hands were wet
with it.

Artois said nothing, but stood where he was, looking at the
Marchesino, as if he were waiting for something more which must
inevitably come. The Marchesino took out his handkerchief, passed it
several times quickly over his lips, then rolled it up into a ball and
shut it up in his left hand.

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