“I have come, you see,”
said Artois that evening, as he entered Hermione’s
room, “to have the first of our quiet, happy
evenings, about which you were so doubtful.”
She smiled at him from her seat between the big windows.
Outside the door he had, almost with
a sudden passion, dismissed the vague doubts and apprehensions
that beset him. He came with a definite brightness,
a strong intimacy, holding out his hands, intent really
on forcing Fate to weave her web in accordance with
“We women are full of little
fears, even the bravest of us. Chase mine away,
He sat down.
“What are they?”
She shook her head.
“Formless or almost.
But perhaps that adds to the uneasiness they inspire.
To put them into words would be impossible.”
“Away with them!”
Her eyes seemed to be asking him questions,
to be not quite satisfied, not quite sure of something.
“What is it?” he asked.
“I wonder if you have it in you to be angry
“Make your confession.”
“I have Peppina here.”
“You knew ?”
“I have known you as an impulsive
for how many years? Why should you
He looked at her in silence for a moment. Then
“Sometimes you remind me in spots,
as it were of George Sand.”
She laughed, not quite without bitterness.
“In spots, indeed!”
“She described herself once
in a book as having ‘a great facility’
for illusions, a blind benevolence of judgment, a
tenderness of heart that was inexhaustible ”
“Wait! From these qualities,
she said, came hurry, mistakes innumerable, heroic
devotion to objects that were worthless, much weakness,
Hermione said nothing, but sat still looking grave.
“Well? Don’t you
recognize something of yourself in the catalogue, my
“Have I a great facility for
illusions? Am I capable of heroic devotion to
Suddenly Artois remembered all he
knew and she did not know.
“At least you act hastily often,”
he said evasively. “And I think you are
often so concentrated upon the person who stands, perhaps
suffering, immediately before you, that you forget
who is on the right, who is on the left.”
“Emile, I asked your advice
yesterday, and you would not give it me.”
“A fair hit!” he said.
“And so Peppina is here. How did the servants
“I think they were rather surprised.
Of course they don’t know the truth.”
“They will within shall
we say twenty-four hours, or less?”
“How can they? Peppina won’t tell
“You are sure? And when Gaspare goes into
Naples to ’fare la spesa’?”
“I told Gaspare last night.”
“That was wisdom. You understand your watch-dog’s
“You grant that Gaspare is not
an instance of a worthless object made the recipient
of my heroic devotion?”
“Give him all you like,”
said Artois, with warmth. “You will never
repent of that. Was he angry when you told him?”
“I think he was.”
“I heard him saying ‘Testa della
Madonna!’ as he was leaving me.”
Artois could not help smiling.
“And Vere?” he said, looking directly
“I have not told Vere anything
about Peppina’s past,” Hermione said,
rather hastily. “I do not intend to.
I explained that Peppina had had a sad life and had
been attacked by a man who had fallen in love with
her, and for whom she didn’t care.”
“And Vere was all sympathy and pity?”
said Artois, gently.
“She didn’t seem much
interested, I thought. She scarcely seemed to
be listening. I don’t believe she has seen
Peppina yet. When we arrived she was shut up
in her room.”
As she spoke she was looking at him,
and she saw a slight change come over his face.
“Do you think ”
she began, and paused. “I wonder if she
was reading,” she added, slowly, after a moment.
“Even the children have their
secrets,” he answered. As he spoke he turned
his head and looked out of the window towards Ischia.
“How clear it is to-night! There will be
“No. We can dine outside.
I have told them.” Her voice sounded slightly
constrained. “I will go and call Vere,”
“She is in the house?”
“I think so.”
She went out, shutting the door behind her.
So Vere was working. Artois felt
sure that her conversation with him had given to her
mind, perhaps to her heart, too, an impulse that had
caused an outburst of young energy. Ah! the blessed
ardors of youth! How beautiful they are, and,
even in their occasional absurdity, how sacred.
What Hermione had said had made him realize acutely
the influence which his celebrity and its cause the
self that had made it must have upon a
girl who was striving as Vere was. He felt a thrill
of pleasure, even of triumph, that startled him, so
seldom now, jealous and careful as he was of his literary
reputation, did he draw any definite joy from it.
Would Vere ever do something really good? He
found himself longing that she might, as the proud
godparent longs for his godchild to gain prizes.
He remembered the line at the close of Maeterlinck’s
“Pelleas and Melisande,” a line that had
gone like a silver shaft into this soul when he first
heard it “Maintenant c’est
au tour de la pauvre petite”
(Now it’s the child’s turn.)
“Now it’s the child’s
turn,” he said it to himself, forming the words
with his lips. At that moment he was freed entirely
from the selfishness of age, and warm with a generous
and noble sympathy with youth, its aspirations, its
strivings, its winged hopes. He got up from his
chair. He had a longing to go to Vere and tell
her all he was feeling, a longing to pour into her as
just then he could have poured it inspiration
molten in a long-tried furnace. He had no need
of any one but Vere.
The doors opened and Hermione came back.
“Vere is coming, Emile,” she said.
“You told her I was here?”
She looked at him swiftly, as if the
ringing sound in his voice had startled her.
“Yes. She is glad, I know. Dear little
Her voice was dull, and she spoke or
he fancied so rather mechanically.
He remembered all she did not know and was conscious
of her false position. In their intercourse she
had so often, so generally, been the enthusiastic
sympathizer. More than she knew she had inspired
“Dear Hermione! How good
it is to be here with you!” he said, turning
towards her the current of his sympathy. “As
one grows old one clings to the known, the proved.
That passion at least increases while so many others
fade away, the passion for all that is faithful in
a shifting world, for all that is real, that does
not suffer corruption, disintegration! How adorable
is Time where Time is powerless!”
“Is Time ever powerless?” she said.
“Ah, here is Vere!”
They dined outside upon the terrace
facing Vesuvius. Artois sat between mother and
child. Vere was very quiet. Her excitement,
her almost feverish gayety of the evening of the storm
had vanished. To-night dreams hung in her eyes.
And the sea was quiet as she was, repentant surely
of its former furies. There seemed something humble,
something pleading in its murmur, as if it asked forgiveness
and promised amendment.
The talk was chiefly between Hermione
and Artois. It was not very animated. Perhaps
the wide peace of the evening influenced their minds.
When coffee was carried out Artois lit his pipe, and
fell into complete silence, watching the sea.
Giulia brought to Hermione a bit of embroidery on
which she was working, cleared away the dessert and
quietly disappeared. From the house now and then
came a sound of voices, of laughter. It died
away, and the calm of the coming night, the calm of
the silent trio that faced it, seemed to deepen as
if in delicate protest against the interference.
The stillness of Nature to-night was very natural.
But was the human stillness natural? Presently
Artois, suddenly roused, he knew not why, to self-consciousness,
found himself wondering. Vere lay back in her
wicker chair like one at ease. Hermione was leaning
forward over her work with her eyes bent steadily upon
it. Far off across the sea the smoke from the
summit of Vesuvius was dyed at regular intervals by
the red fire that issued from the entrails of the
mountain. Silently it rose from its hidden world,
glowed angrily, menacingly, faded, then glowed again.
And the life that is in fire, and that seems to some
the most intense of all the forces of life, stirred
Artois from his peace. The pulse of the mountain,
whose regular beating was surely indicated by the
regularly recurring glow of the rising flame, seemed
for a moment to be sounding in his ears, and, with
it, all the pulses that were beating through the world.
And he thought of the calm of their bodies, of Hermione’s,
of Vere’s, of his own, as he had thought of
the calm of the steely sky, the steely sea, that had
preceded the bursting of the storm that came from
Ischia. He thought of it as something unnatural,
something almost menacing, a sort of combined lie
that strove to conceal, to deny, the leaping fires
of the soul.
Suddenly Vere got up and went quietly
away. While she had been with them silence had
been easy. Directly she was gone Artois felt that
it was difficult, in another moment that it was no
“Am I to see Peppina to-night?” he asked.
“Do you wish to?”
Hermione’s hands moved a little faster about
their work when he spoke.
“I feel a certain interest in
her, as I should in any new inhabitant of the island.
A very confined space seems always to heighten the
influence of human personality, I think. On your
rock everybody must mean a good deal, perhaps more
than you realize, Hermione.”
“I am beginning to realize that,”
she answered, quietly. “Perhaps they mean
too much. I wonder if it is wise to live as we
“In such comparative isolation, you mean?”
She laid her work down in her lap.
“I’m afraid that by nature
I am a monopolist,” she said. “And
as I could never descend into the arena of life to
struggle to keep what I have, if others desired to
take it from me, I am inclined jealously to guard it.”
She took up her work again.
“I’ve been thinking that
I am rather like the dog that buries his bone,”
she added, bending once more over the embroidery.
“Are you thinking of of your husband?”
“Yes, and of Vere. I isolated
myself with Maurice. Now I am isolating myself
with Vere. Perhaps it is unwise, weak, this instinct
to keep out the world.”
“Are you thinking of changing your mode of life,
then?” he asked.
In his voice there was a sound of anxiety which she
“Perhaps. I don’t know.”
She glanced at him and away, and he
thought that there was something strange in her eyes.
After a pause, she said:
“What would you advise?”
“Surely you are happy here. And and
Vere is happy.”
“Vere is happy yes.”
He realized the thoughtlessness of his first sentence.
“But I must think of Vere’s
development. Lately, in these last days, I have
been realizing that Vere is moving, is beginning to
move very fast. Perhaps it is time to bring her
into contact with more people. Perhaps ”
“You once asked my advice,”
he interrupted. “I give it now. Leave
Vere alone. What she needs she will obtain.
Have no fear of that.”
“You are sure?”
“Quite sure. Sometimes,
often, the children know instinctively more than their
elders know by experience.”
Hermione’s lips trembled.
“Sometimes,” she said,
in a low voice, “I think Vere knows far more
than I do. But but I often feel that
I am very blind, very stupid. You called me an
impulsive I suppose I am one. But if
I don’t follow my impulses, what am I to follow?
One must have a guide.”
“Yes, and reason is often such
a dull one, like a verger throwing one over a cathedral
and destroying its mystery and its beauty with every
word he speaks. When one is young one does not
feel that one needs a guide at all.”
“Sometimes often I feel
very helpless now,” she said.
He was acutely conscious of the passionate
longing for sympathy that was alive within her, and
more faintly aware of a peculiar depression that companioned
her to-night. Yet, for some reason unknown to
him, he could not issue from a certain reserve that
checked him, could not speak to her as he had spoken
not long ago in the cave. Indeed, as she came
in her last words a little towards him, as one with
hands tremblingly and a little doubtfully held out,
he felt that he drew back.
“I think we all feel helpless
often when we have passed our first youth,”
He got up and stretched himself, towering above her.
“Shall we stroll about a little?”
he added. “I feel quite cramped with sitting.”
“You go. I’ll finish this flower.”
“I’ll take a turn and come back.”
As he went she dropped her embroidery
and sat staring straight before her at the sea.
Artois heard voices in the house,
and listened for a new one, the voice of Peppina.
But he could not distinguish it. He went down
into the tiny garden. No one was there, and he
returned, and passing through the house came out on
its farther side. Here he met Gaspare coming up
from the sea.
“Good-evening, Gaspare,” he said.
“I hear there’s a new-comer in the house.”
“A new servant.”
Gaspare lifted his large eyes towards heaven.
“Testa della Madonna?” said
“Have a cigar, Gaspare?”
“Is she a good sort of girl, do you think?”
“She is in the kitchen, Signore. I have
nothing to do with her.”
Evidently Gaspare did not mean to
talk. Artois decided to change the subject.
“I hear you had that boy, Ruffo,
sleeping in the house the other night,” he said.
“Si, Signore; the Signorina wished it.”
Gaspare’s voice sounded rather more promising.
“He seems popular on the island.”
“He had been ill, Signore, and
it was raining hard. Poveretto! He had
had the fever. It was bad for him to be out in
“So Ruffo’s getting hold of you too!”
He pulled at his cigar once or twice. Then he
“Do you think he looks like a Sicilian?”
Gaspare’s eyes met his steadily.
“A Sicilian, Signore?”
“Signore, he is a Sicilian. How should
he not look like one?”
Gaspare’s voice sounded rebellious.
“Va bene, Gaspare, va bene.
Have you seen the Signorina?”
“I think she is at the wooden
seat, Signore. The Signorina likes to look at
the sea from there.”
“I will go and see if I can find her.”
“Va bene, Signore. And I will
go to speak with the Signora.”
He took off his hat and went into
the house. Artois stood for a moment looking
after him and pulling at his beard. There was
something very forcible in Gaspare’s personality.
Artois felt it the more because of his knowledge of
Gaspare’s power of prolonged, perhaps of eternal
silence. The Sicilian was both blunt and subtle,
therefore not always easily read. To-night he
puzzled Artois because he impressed him strongly,
yet vaguely. He seemed to be quietly concealing
something that was not small. What it was Artois
could not divine. Only he felt positive that
there was something. In Gaspare’s eyes that
evening he had seen an expression such as had been
in them long ago in Sicily, when Artois rode up after
Maurice’s death to see Hermione, and Gaspare
turned from him and looked over the wall of the ravine:
an expression of dogged and impenetrable reserve,
that was like a door closing upon unseen, just not
“Che Diavolo!” muttered Artois.
Then he went up to look for Vere.
A little wind met him on the crest
of the cliff, the definite caress of the night, which
had now fallen ever so softly. The troop of the
stars was posted in the immeasurable deeps of the
firmament. There was, there would be, no moon,
yet it was not black darkness, but rather a dimly
purple twilight which lifted into its breast the wayward
songs of the sea. And the songs and the stars
seemed twin children of the wedded wave and night.
Divinely soft was the wind, divinely dreamy the hour,
and bearing something of youth as a galley from the
East bears odors. Over the spirit of Artois a
magical essence seemed scattered. And the youngness
that lives forever, however deeply buried, in the man
who is an artist, stirred, lifted itself up, stood
erect to salute the night. As he came towards
Vere he forgot. The poppy draught was at his lips.
The extreme consciousness, which was both his strength
and his curse, sank down for a moment and profoundly
“Vere!” he said. “Vere, do
I disturb you?”
The girl turned softly on the bench and looked at
“No. I often come here.
I like to be here at nightfall. Madre knows that.
Did she tell you?”
“I met Gaspare.”
He stood near her.
“Where is Madre?”
“On the terrace. She preferred
to stay quietly there. And so you have been working
He spoke gently, half smilingly, but not at all derisively.
“Yes. But how did you know?”
“I gathered it from something
your mother said. Do you know, Vere, I think
soon she will begin to wonder what you do when you
are shut up for so long in your room.”
The girl’s face looked troubled for a moment.
“She doesn’t she has no idea.”
Vere was silent for a while.
“I wonder if I ought to tell her, Monsieur Emile,”
she said at length.
“Tell her!” Artois said, hastily.
“But I thought ”
He checked himself, suddenly surprised
at the keenness of his own desire to keep their little
“I know. You mean what
I said the other day. But if Madre
should be hurt. I don’t think I have ever
had a secret from her before, a real secret.
But it’s like this. If Madre
knows I shall feel horribly self-conscious, because
of what I told you her having tried and
given it up. I shall feel guilty. Is it
“And and I
don’t believe I shall be able to go on.
Of course some day, if it turns out that I ever can
do anything, I must tell. But that would be different.
If it’s certain that you can do a thing well
it seems to me that you have a right to do it.
But till then I’m a little
She ended with a laugh that was almost deprecating.
“Don’t tell your mother
yet, Vere,” said Artois, decisively. “It
is as you say: if you told her before you have
thoroughly tried your wings you might be paralyzed.
When, if ever, you can show her something really good
she will be the first to encourage you. But till
then I think with you that her influence
in that direction would probably be discouraging.
Indeed, I feel sure of it.”
“But if she should really begin
to wonder! Perhaps she will ask. It’s
absurd, but I can’t help feeling as if we, you
and I, were conspirators, Monsieur Emile.”
He laughed happily.
“What a blessed place this is!”
he said. “One is made free of the ocean
here. What is that far-away light?”
“Low down? Oh, that must
be the light of a fisherman, one of those who seek
in the rocks for shell-fish.”
“How mysterious it looks, moving
to and fro! One feels life there, the doings
of unknown men in the darkness.”
“I wonder if would
you hate to go out a little way in the boat? The
men look so strange when one is near them, almost
“Hate! Let us go.”
“And we’ll get Madre to come too.”
Vere got up and they went into the
house. As they came out upon the terrace Hermione
took up her embroidery, and Gaspare, who was standing
beside her, picked up the tray with the coffee-cups
and went off with it towards the kitchen.
“Madre, we are going out a little
way in the boat, and we want you to come with us.”
“Where are you going?”
“To see the fishermen, just
beyond the grotto of Virgilio. You will come?”
“Do come, my friend,” added Artois.
But Hermione sat still.
“I’m a little tired to-night,”
she answered. “I think I would rather stay
quietly here. You won’t be long, will you?”
“Oh no, Madre. Only a few
minutes. But, really, won’t you?”
Vere laid her hand on her mother’s. “It’s
so lovely on the sea to-night.”
“I know. But honestly, I’m lazy to-night.”
Vere looked disappointed. She took away her hand
“Then we’ll stay with you, won’t
we, Monsieur Emile?”
“No, Vere,” said her mother
quickly, before he could answer. “You two
go. I sha’n’t be dull. You won’t
be very long?”
“No, of course. But ”
“Go, dearest, go. Are you going to row,
“I could. Or shall we take Gaspare?”
“It’s Gaspare’s supper-time,”
“Hush, then!” said Artois,
putting his finger to his lips. “Let us
creep down softly, or he will think it his duty to
come with us, starving, and that would spoil everything.
Au revoir, Hermione,” he whispered.
“Good-bye, Madre,” whispered Vere.
They glided away, the big man and
the light-footed child, going on tiptoe with elaborate
As Hermione looked after them, she said to herself:
“How young Emile is to-night!”
At that moment she felt as if she were much older
than he was.
They slipped down to the sea without
attracting the attention of Gaspare, got into the
little boat, and rowed gently out towards Nisida.
“I feel like a contrabandista,”
said Artois, as they stole under the lee of the island
towards the open sea “as if Gaspare
would fire upon us if he heard the sound of oars.”
“Quick! Quick! Let
us get away. Pull harder, Monsieur Emile!
How slow you are!”
Laughingly Artois bent to the oars.
“Vere, you are a baby!” he said.
“And what are you, then, I should
like to know?” she answered, with dignity.
“I! I am an old fellow playing the fool.”
Suddenly his gayety had evaporated,
and he was conscious of his years. He let the
boat drift for a moment.
“Check me another time, Vere,
if you see me inclined to be buffo,” he said.
“Indeed I won’t.
Why should I? I like you best when you are quite
“Yes. Look! There
are the lights! Oh, how strange they are.
Go a little nearer, but not too near.”
“Tell me, then. Remember, I can’t
“Yes. One, two, three ”
She counted. Each time she said
a number he pulled. And she, like a little coxswain,
bent towards him with each word, giving him a bodily
signal for the stroke. Presently she stretched
out her hand.
He stopped at once. For a minute
the boat glided on. Then the impetus he had given
died away from it, and it floated quietly without perceptible
movement upon the bosom of the sea.
“Now, Monsieur Emile, you must come and sit
Treading softly he obeyed her, and
sat down near her, facing the shadowy coast.
They sat in silence, while the boat
drifted on the smooth and oily water almost in the
shadow of the cliffs. At some distance beyond
them the cliffs sank, and the shore curved sharply
in the direction of the island with its fort.
There was the enigmatic dimness, though not dense
darkness, of the night. Nearer at hand the walls
of rock made the night seem more mysterious, more
profound, and at their base flickered the flames which
had attracted Artois’ attention. Fitfully
now these flames, rising from some invisible brazier,
or from some torch fed by it, fell upon half-naked
forms of creatures mysteriously busy about some hidden
task. Men they were, yet hardly men they seemed,
but rather unknown denizens of rock, or wave, or underworld;
now red-bodied against the gleam, now ethereally black
as are shadows, and whimsical and shifty, yet always
full of meaning that could not be divined. They
bent, they crouched. They seemed to die down
like a wave that is, then is not. Then rising
they towered, lifting brawny arms towards the stars.
Silence seemed to flow from them, to exude from their
labors. And in the swiftness of their movements
there was something that was sad. Or was it,
perhaps, only pathetic, wistful with the wistfulness
of the sea and of all nocturnal things? Artois
did not ask, but his attention, the attention of mind
and soul, was held by these distant voiceless beings
as by a magic. And Vere was still as he was, tense
as he was. All the poetry that lay beneath his
realism, all the credulity that slept below his scepticism,
all the ignorance that his knowledge strove to dominate,
had its wild moment of liberty under the smiling stars.
The lights moved and swayed. Now the seamed rock,
with its cold veins and slimy crevices was gilded,
its nudity clothed with fire. Now on the water
a trail of glory fell, and travelled and died.
Now the red men were utterly revealed, one watching
with an ardor that was surely not of this world, some
secret in the blackness, another turning as if to strike
in defence of his companion. Then both fell back
and were taken by the night. And out of the night
came a strong voice across the water.
“Madre di Dio, che splendore!”
Artois got up, turned the boat, and
began to row gently away, keeping near the base of
the cliffs. He meant to take Vere back at once
to the island, leaving the impression made upon her
by the men of the fire vivid, and undisturbed by speech.
But when they came to the huge mouth of the Grotto
of Virgil, Vere said:
“Go in for a moment, please, Monsieur Emile.”
He obeyed, thinking that the mother’s
love for this dark place was echoed by the child.
Since his conversation with Hermione on the day of
scirocco he had not been here, and as the boat glided
under the hollow blackness of the vault, and there
lay still, he remembered their conversation, the unloosing
of her passion, the strength and tenacity of the nature
she had shown to him, gripping the past with hands
almost as unyielding as the tragic hands of death.
And he waited in silence, and with
a deep expectation, for the revelation of the child.
It seemed to him that Vere had her purpose in coming
here, as Hermione had had hers. And once more
the words of the old man in “Pelleas and Melisande”
haunted him. Once more he heard them in his heart.
“Now it’s the child’s turn.”
Vere dropped her right hand over the
gunwale till it touched the sea, making a tiny splash.
“Monsieur Emile!” she said.
“Do you believe in the evil eye?”
Artois did not know what he had expected
Vere to say, but her question seemed to strike his
mind like a soft blow, it was so unforeseen.
“No,” he answered.
She was silent. It was too dark
for him to see her face at all clearly. He had
only a vague general impression of her, of her slightness,
vitality, youth, and half-dreamy excitement.
“Why do you ask me?”
“Giulia said to me this evening
that she was sure the new servant had the evil eye.”
“Yes, that is her name.”
“Have you seen her?”
“No, not yet. It’s odd, but I feel
as if I would rather not.”
“Have you any reason for such a feeling?”
“I don’t think so.
Poor thing! I know she has a dreadful scar.
But I don’t believe it’s that. It’s
just a feeling I have.”
“I dare say it will have gone by the time we
get back to the island.”
“Perhaps. It’s nice and dark here.”
“Do you like darkness, Vere?”
“Sometimes. I do now.”
“Because I can talk better and be less afraid
“Vere! What nonsense! You are incapable
She laughed, but the laugh sounded serious, he thought.
“Real fear perhaps.
But you don’t know” she paused “you
don’t know how I respect you.”
There was a slight pressure on the last words.
“For all you’ve done,
what you are. I never felt it as I have just
lately, since since you know.”
Artois was conscious of a movement of his blood.
“I should be a liar if I said
I am not pleased. Tell me about the work, Vere now
we are in the dark.”
And then he heard the revelation of
the child, there under the weary rock, as he had heard
the revelation of the mother. How different it
was! Yet in it, too, there was the beating of
the pulse of life. But there was no regret, no
looking back into the past, no sombre exhibition of
force seeking as a thing groping, desperately
in a gulf an object on which to exercise
itself. Instead there was aspiration, there was
expectation, there was the wonder of bright eyes lifted
to the sun. And there was a reverence that for
a moment recalled to Artois the reverence of the dead
man from whose loins this child had sprung. But
Vere’s was the reverence of understanding, not
of a dim amazement more beautiful than
Maurice’s. When he had been with Hermione
under the brooding rock Artois had been impregnated
with the passionate despair of humanity, and had seen
for a moment the world with out-stretched hands, seeking,
surely, for the nonexistent, striving to hold fast
the mirage. Now he was impregnated with humanity’s
passionate hope. He saw life light-footed in
a sweet chase for things ideal. And all the blackness
of the rock and of the silent sea was irradiated with
the light that streamed from a growing soul.
A voice an inquiring, searching
voice, surely, rose quivering from some distance on
the sea, startling Vere and Artois. It was untrained
but unshy, and the singer forced it with resolute hardihood
that was indifferent to the future. Artois had
never heard the Marchesino sing before, but he knew
at once that it was he. Some one at the island
must surely have told the determined youth that Vere
was voyaging, and he was now in quest of her, sending
her an amorous summons couched in the dialect of Naples.
Vere moved impatiently.
“Really!” she began.
But she did not continue. The
quivering voice began another verse. Artois had
said nothing, but, as he sat listening to this fervid
protestation, a message illuminated as it were by the
vibrato, he began to hate the terrible frankness of
the Italian nature which, till now, he had thought
he loved. The beauty of reticence appealed to
him in a new way. There was savagery in a bellowed
passion. The voice was travelling. They
heard it moving onward towards Nisida. Artois
wondered if Vere knew who was the singer. She
did not leave him long in doubt.
“Now’s our chance, Monsieur
Emile!” she said, suddenly, leaning towards
him. “Row to the island for your life, or
the Marchesino will catch us!”
Without a word he bent to the oars.
“How absurd the Marchesino is!”
Vere spoke aloud, released from fear.
“Absurd? He is Neapolitan.”
“Very well, then! The Neapolitans
are absurd!” said Vere, with decision.
“And what a voice! Ruffo doesn’t sing
like that. That shaking sounds sounds
“And yet I dare say he is very much in earnest.”
Artois was almost pleading a cause against his will.
The girl gave almost a little puff
that suggested a rather childish indignation.
“I like the people best,”
she added. “They say what they feel simply,
and it means ever so much more. Am I a democrat?”
He could not help laughing.
“Chi lo sa? An Anarchist
She laughed too.
“Bella tu si Bella
tu si! It’s too absurd! One
would think ”
“Never mind. Don’t be inquisitive,
He rowed on meekly.
“There is San Francesco’s
light,” she said, in a moment. “I
wonder if it is late. Have we been away long?
I have no idea.”
“No more have I.”
Nor had he.
When they reached land he made the
boat fast and turned to walk up to the house with
her. He found her standing very still just behind
him at the edge of the sea, with a startled look on
“What is it, Vere?” he asked.
She held up her hand and bent her
head a little to one side, as one listening intently.
“I thought I heard I did hear something ”
“Yes so strange I can’t
hear it now.”
“What was it like?”
She looked fixedly at him.
“Like some one crying horribly.”
“Where? Near us?”
“Not far. Listen again.”
He obeyed, holding his breath.
But he heard nothing except the very faint lapping
of the sea at their feet.
“Perhaps I imagined it,” she said at length.
“Let us go up to the house,” he said.
He had a sudden wish to take her into
the house. But she remained where she was.
“Could it have been fancy, Monsieur Emile?”
Her eyes were intensely grave, almost frightened.
“But just look, will you? Perhaps
there really is somebody.”
“Where? It’s so dark.”
Artois hesitated; but Vere’s
face was full of resolution, and he turned reluctantly
to obey her. As he did so there came to them both
through the dark the sound of a woman crying and sobbing
“What is it? Oh, who can it be?”
Vere cried out.
She went swiftly towards the sound.
Artois followed, and found her bending
down over the figure of a girl who was crouching against
the cliff, and touching her shoulder.
“What is it? What is the matter? Tell
The girl looked up, startled, and
showed a passionate face that was horribly disfigured.
Upon the right cheek, extending from the temple almost
to the line of the jaw, a razor had cut a sign, a brutal
sign of the cross. As Vere saw it, showing redly
through the darkness, she recoiled. The girl
read the meaning of her movement, and shrank backward,
putting up her hand to cover the wound. But Vere
recovered instantly, and bent down once more, intent
only on trying to comfort this sorrow, whose violence
seemed to open to her a door into a new and frightful
“Vere!” said Artois. “Vere,
you had better ”
The girl turned round to him.
“It must be Peppina!” she said.
“Yes. But ”
“Please go up to the house, Monsieur Emile.
I will come in a moment.”
“But I can’t leave you ”
“Please go. Just tell Madre I’m soon
There was something inexorable in
her voice. She turned away from him and began
to speak softly to Peppina.
Artois obeyed and left her.
He knew that just then she would not
acknowledge his authority. As he went slowly
up the steps he wondered he feared.
Peppina had cried with the fury of despair, and the
Neapolitan who is desperate knows no reticence.
Was the red sign of passion to be
scored already upon Vere’s white life?
Was she to pass even now, in this night, from her beautiful
ignorance to knowledge?