Her unrest was greater than ever,
and the desire that consumed her remained ungratified,
although Emile had come to the island as if in obedience
to her fierce mental summons. But she had not
seen him even for a moment with Vere. Why had
she let him go? When would he come again?
She might ask him to come for a long day, or she might
get Vere to ask him.
Vere must surely be longing to have
a talk with her secret mentor, with her admirer and
inspirer. And then Hermione remembered how often
she had encouraged Emile, how they had discussed his
work together, how he had claimed her sympathy in
difficult moments, how by her enthusiasm she had even
inspired him so at least he had told her.
And now he was fulfilling in her child’s life
an office akin to hers in his life.
The knowledge made her feel desolate,
driven out. Yes, she felt as if this secret shared
by child and friend had expelled her from their lives.
Was that unreasonable? She wished to be reasonable,
to be calm.
Calm? She thought of the old
Oriental, and of his theory of resignation. Surely
it was not for her, that theory. She was of different
blood. She did not issue from the loins of the
immutable East. And yet how much better it was
to be resigned, to sit enthroned above the chances
of life, to have conquered fate by absolute submission
to its decrees!
Why was her heart so youthful in her
middle-aged body? Why did it still instinctively
clamor for sympathy, like a child’s? Why
could she be so easily and so cruelly wounded?
It was weak. It was contemptible. She hated
herself. But she could only be the thing she at
that moment hated.
Her surreptitious act of the afternoon
seemed to have altered her irrevocably, to have twisted
her out of shape yet she could not wish
it undone, the knowledge gained by it withheld.
She had needed to know what Emile knew, and chance
had led her to learn it, as she had learned it, with
her eyes instead of from the lips of her child.
She wondered what Vere would have
said if she had been asked to reveal the secret.
She would never know that now. But there were
other things that she felt she must know: why
Vere had never told her and something else.
Her act of that day had twisted her
out of shape. She was awry, and she felt that
she must continue to be as she was, that her fearless
honesty was no longer needed by her, could no longer
rightly serve her in the new circumstances that others
had created for her. They had been secret.
She could not be open. She was constrained to
watch, to conceal to be awry, in fact.
Yet she felt guilty even while she
said this to herself, guilty and ashamed, and then
doubtful. She doubted her new capacity to be furtive.
She could watch, but she did not know whether she could
watch without showing what she was doing. And
Emile was terribly observant.
This thought, of his subtlety and
her desire to conceal, made her suddenly realize their
altered relations with a vividness that frightened
her. Where was the beautiful friendship that had
been the comfort, the prop of her bereaved life?
It seemed already to have sunk away into the past.
She wondered what was in store for her, if there were
new sorrows being forged for her in the cruel smithy
of the great Ruler, sorrows that would hang like chains
about her till she could go no farther. The Egyptian
had said: “What is to come will come, and
what is to go will go, at the time appointed.”
And Vere had said she felt as if perhaps there was
a cross that must be borne by some one on the island,
by “one of us.” Was she, Hermione,
picked out to bear that cross? Surely God mistook
the measure of her strength. If He had He would
soon know how feeble she was. When Maurice had
died, somehow she had endured it. She had staggered
under the weight laid upon her, but she had upheld
it. But now she was much older, and she felt as
if suffering, instead of strengthening, had weakened
her character, as if she had not much “fight”
left in her.
“I don’t believe I could
endure another great sorrow,” she said to herself.
“I’m sure I couldn’t.”
Just then Vere came in to bid her good-night.
“Good-night, Vere,” Hermione said.
She kissed the girl gently on the
forehead, and the touch of the cool skin suddenly
made her long to sob, and to say many things.
She took her lips away.
“Emile has been here,” she said.
Vere looked round.
“He has gone.”
“Gone! But I haven’t seen him!”
Her voice seemed thoroughly surprised.
“He only stayed five minutes or so.”
“Oh, Madre, I wish I had known!”
There was a touch of reproach in Vere’s
tone, and there was something so transparently natural,
so transparently innocent and girlish in her disappointment,
that it told her mother something she was glad to know.
Not that she had doubted it but she was
glad to know.
“We came to look for you.”
“Well, but I was only on the
cliff, where I always go. I was there having
a little talk with Ruffo.”
“And you never called me, Madre!”
Vere looked openly hurt. “Why didn’t
In truth, Hermione hardly knew.
Surely it had been Emile who had led them away from
the singing voice of Ruffo.
“Ruffo was singing.”
“A song about Mergellina.
Did you hear it? I do like it and the way he
The annoyance had gone from her face at the thought
of the song.
“And when he sings he looks so careless and
gay. Did you listen?”
“Yes, for a moment, and then
we went away. I think it was Emile who made us
go. He didn’t want to disturb you, I think.”
Vere’s face softened. Again
Hermione felt a creeping jealousy at her heart.
Vere had surely been annoyed with her, but now she
knew that it was Emile who had not wished to disturb
the tete-a-tete on the cliff she did not mind.
She even looked as if she were almost touched.
Could the mother be wrong where the mere friend was
right? She felt, when Vere spoke and her expression
changed, the secret understanding from which she was
“What is the matter, Madre?”
“The matter! Nothing. Why?”
“You looked so odd for a minute. I thought ”
But she did not express what she had
thought, for Hermione interrupted her by saying:
“We must get Emile to come for
a long day. I wish you would write him a note
to-morrow morning, Vere. Write for me and ask
him to come on Thursday. I have a lot to do in
the morning. Will you save me the trouble?”
She tried to speak, carelessly. “I’ve
a long letter to send to Evelyn Townley,” she
“Of course, Madre. And
I’ll tell Monsieur Emile all I think of him for
neglecting us as he has. Ah! But I remember;
he’s been working.”
“Yes, he’s been working;
and one must forgive everything to the worker, mustn’t
“To such a worker as Monsieur
Emile is, yes. I do wish you’d let me read
his books, Madre.”
For a moment Hermione hesitated, looking at her child.
“Why are you so anxious to read them all of
a sudden?” she asked.
“Well, I’m growing up
and and I understand things I used not to
Her eyes fell for a moment before
her mother’s, and there was a silence, in which
the mother felt some truth withheld. Vere looked
“And I want to appreciate Monsieur
Emile properly as you do, Madre. It
seems almost ridiculous to know him so well, and not
to know him really at all.”
“But you do know him really.”
“I’m sure he puts most of his real self
into his work.”
Hermione remembered her conception
of Emile Artois long ago, when she only knew him through
two books; that she had believed him to be cruel,
that she had thought her nature must be in opposition
to his. Vere did not know that side of “Monsieur
“Vere, it is true you are growing
up,” she said, speaking rather slowly, as if
to give herself time for something. “Perhaps
I was wrong the other day in what I said. You
may read Emile’s books if you like.”
Vere’s face flushed with eager pleasure.
“Thank you, Madre!”
She went up to bed radiant.
When she had gone Hermione stood where
she was. She had just done a thing that was mean,
or at least she had done a thing from a mean, a despicable
motive. She knew it as the door shut behind her
child, and she was frightened of herself. Never
before had she been governed by so contemptible a
feeling as that which had just prompted her. If
Emile ever knew, or even suspected what it was, she
felt that she could never look into his face again
with clear, unfaltering eyes. What madness was
upon her? What change was working within her?
Repulsion came, and with it the desire to combat at
once, strongly, the new, the hateful self which had
She hastened after Vere, and in a
moment was knocking at the child’s door.
“Who’s there? Who is it?”
“Vere!” called the mother.
As she called she tried the door, and found it locked.
“Madre! It’s you!”
“Yes. May I come in?”
“One tiny moment.”
The voice within sounded surely a
little startled and uneven, certainly not welcoming.
There was a pause. Hermione heard the rustling
of paper, then a drawer shut sharply.
Vere was hiding away her poems!
When Hermione understood that she
felt the strong, good impulse suddenly shrivel within
her, and a bitter jealousy take its place. Vere
came to the door and opened it.
“Oh, come in, Madre! What is it?”
In her bright eyes there was the look
of one unexpectedly disturbed. Hermione glanced
quickly at the writing-table.
“You you weren’t writing my
note to Monsieur Emile?” she said.
She stepped into the room. She
wished she could force Vere to tell her about the
poems, but without asking. She felt as if she
could not continue in her present condition, excluded
from Vere’s confidence. Yet she knew now
that she could never plead for it.
“No, Madre. I can do it to-morrow.”
Vere looked and sounded surprised,
and the mother felt more than ever like an intruder.
Yet something dogged kept her there.
“Are you tired, Vere?” she asked.
“Not a bit.”
“Then let us have a little talk.”
Vere shut the door. Hermione
knew by the way she shut it that she wanted to be
alone, to go on with her secret occupation. She
came back slowly to her mother, who was sitting on
a chair by the bedside. Hermione took her hand,
and Vere pushed up the edge of the mosquito-curtain
and sat down on the bed.
“About those books of Emile’s ”
“Oh, Madre, you’re not going to But
“Then I may?”
“Why should you wish to read
such books? They will probably make you sad,
and and they may even make you afraid of
“I remember long ago, before
I knew him, I had a very wrong conception of him,
gained from his books.”
“Oh, but I know him beforehand. That makes
all the difference.”
“A man like Emile has many sides.”
“I think we all have, Madre. Don’t
Vere looked straight at her mother.
Hermione felt that a moment had come in which, perhaps,
she could force the telling of that truth which already
“I suppose so, Vere; but we
need not surely keep any side hidden from those we
love, those who are nearest to us.”
Vere looked a little doubtful even, for
a moment, slightly confused.
“N o?” she said.
She seemed to consider something. Then she added:
“But I think it depends.
If something in us might give pain to any one we love,
I think we ought to try to hide that. I am sure
Hermione felt that each of them was
thinking of the same thing, even speaking of it without
mentioning it. But whereas she knew that Vere
was doing so, Vere could not know that she was.
So Vere was at a disadvantage. Vere’s last
words had opened the mother’s eyes. What
she had guessed was true. This secret of the
poems was kept from her because of her own attempt
to create and its failure. Abruptly she wondered
if Vere and Emile had ever talked that failure over.
At the mere thought of such a conversation her whole
body tingled. She got up from her chair.
“Well, good-night, Vere,” she said.
And she left the room, leaving her child amazed.
Vere did not understand why her mother
had come, nor why, having come, she abruptly went
away. There was something the matter with her
mother. She had felt that for some time.
She was more conscious than ever of it now. Around
her mother there was an atmosphere of uneasiness in
which she felt herself involved. And she was
vaguely conscious of the new distance between them,
a distance daily growing wider. Now and then,
lately, she had felt almost uncomfortable with her
mother, in the sitting-room when she was saying good-night,
and just now when she sat on the bed. Youth is
terribly quick to feel hostility, however subtle.
The thought that her mother could be hostile to her
had never entered Vere’s head. Nevertheless,
the mother’s faint and creeping hostility for
at times Hermione’s feeling was really that,
thought she would doubtless have denied it even to
herself disagreeably affected the child.
“What can be the matter with Madre?” she
She went over to the writing-table,
where she had hastily shut up her poems on hearing
the knock at the door, but she did not take them out
again. Instead she sat down and wrote the note
to Monsieur Emile. As she wrote the sense of
mystery, of uneasiness, departed from her, chased
away, perhaps, by the memory of Monsieur Emile’s
kindness to her and warm encouragement, by the thought
of having a long talk with him again, of showing him
certain corrections and developments carried out by
her since she had seen him. The sympathy of the
big man meant a great deal to her, more even than
he was aware of. It lifted up her eager young
heart. It sent the blood coursing through her
veins with a new and ardent strength. Hermione’s
enthusiasm had been inherited by Vere, and with it
something else that gave it a peculiar vitality, a
power of lasting the secret consciousness
Now, as she wrote her letter, she
forgot all her uneasiness, and her pen flew.
At last she sighed her name “Vere.”
She was just going to put the letter
into its envelope when something struck her, and she
paused. The she added:
“P.S. Just now Madre gave me leave
to read your books.”