More than an hour had passed.
To Vere it had seemed like five minutes. Her
cheeks were hotly flushed. Her eyes shone.
With hands that were slightly trembling she gathered
together her manuscripts, and carefully arranged them
in a neat packet and put a piece of ribbon round them,
tying it in a little bow. Meanwhile Artois, standing
up, was knocking the shreds of tobacco out of his
pipe against the chimney-piece into his hand.
He carried them over to the window, dropped them out,
then stood for a minute looking at the sea.
“The evening calm is coming,
Vere,” he said, “bringing with it the
wonder of this world.”
He heard a soft sigh behind him, and turned round.
“Why was that? Has dejection set in, then?”
“You know the Latin saying:
‘Festina lente’? If you
want to understand how slowly you must hasten, look
He had been going to add, “Look
at these gray hairs,” but he did not. Just
then he felt suddenly an invincible reluctance to call
Vere’s attention to the signs of age apparent
“I spoke to you about the admirable
incentive of ambition,” he continued, after
a moment. “But you must understand that
I meant the ambition for perfection, not at all the
ambition for celebrity. The satisfaction of the
former may be a deep and exquisite joy the
partial satisfaction, for I suppose it can never be
anything more than that. But the satisfaction
of the other will certainly be Dead-sea fruit fruit
of the sea unlike that brought up by Ruffo, without
lasting savor, without any real value. One should
never live for that.”
The last words he spoke as if to himself,
almost like a warning addressed to himself.
“I don’t believe I ever
should,” Vere said quickly. “I never
thought of such a thing.”
“The thought will come, though, inevitably.”
“How dreadful it must be to know so much about
human nature as you do!”
“And yet how little I really know!”
There came up a distant cry from the sea. Vere
“There is Madre! Of course,
Monsieur Emile, I don’t want but you
She hurried out of the room, carrying the packet with
Artois felt that the girl was strongly
excited. She was revealing more of herself to
him, this little Vere whom he had known, and not known,
ever since she had been a baby. The gradual revelation
interested him intensely so intensely that
in him, too, there was excitement now. So many
truths go to make up the whole round truth of every
human soul. Hermione saw some of these truths
of Vere, Gaspare others, perhaps; he again others.
And even Ruffo and the Marchesino he put
the Marchesino most definitely last even
they saw still other truths of Vere, he supposed.
To whom did she reveal the most?
The mother ought to know most, and during the years
of childhood had doubtless known most. But those
years were nearly over. Certainly Vere was approaching,
or was on, the threshold of the second period of her
And she and he had a secret from Hermione.
This secret was a very innocent one. Still, of
course, it had the two attributes that belong to every
secret: of drawing together those who share it,
of setting apart from them those who know it not.
And there was another secret, too, connected with
it, and known only to Artois: the fact that the
child, Vere, possessed the very small but quite definite
beginnings, the seed, as it were, of something that
had been denied to the mother, Hermione.
“Emile, you have come back! I am glad!”
Hermione came into the room with her
eager manner and rather slow gait, holding out both
her hands, her hot face and prominent eyes showing
forth with ardor the sincerity of her surprise and
“Gaspare told me. I nearly
gave him a hug. You know his sly look when he
has something delightful up his sleeve for one!
She shook both his hands.
“And I had come back in such bad spirits!
But now ”
She took off her hat and put it on a table.
“Why were you in bad spirits, my friend?”
“I had been with Madame Alliani,
seeing something of the intense misery and wickedness
of Naples. I have seen a girl such
a tragedy! What devils men can be in these Southern
places! What hideous things they will do under
the pretence of being driven by love! But no,
don’t let us spoil your arrival. Where
is Vere? I thought she was entertaining you.”
“We have been having tea together.
She has this moment gone out of the room.”
She seemed to expect some further
explanation. As he gave none she sat down.
“Wasn’t she very surprised to see you?”
“I think she was. She had
just been bathing, and came running in with her hair
all about her, looking like an Undine with a dash of
Sicilian blood in her. Here she is!”
“Are you pleased, Madre? You poor, hot
Vere sat down by her mother and put
one arm round her. Subtly she was trying to make
up to her mother for the little secret she was keeping
from her for a time.
“Are you very, very pleased?”
“Yes, I think I am.”
“Think! You mischievous Madre!”
“But I feel almost jealous of
you two sitting here in the cool, and having a quiet
tea and a lovely talk while Never mind.
Here is my tea. And there’s another thing.
Oh, Emile, I do wish I had known you would arrive
“I’ve committed an unusual
crime. I’ve made actually an
engagement for this evening.”
Artois and Vere held up their hands in exaggerated
“Are you mad, my dear Hermione?” asked
“I believe I am. It’s dangerous to
go to Naples. I met a young man.”
“The Marchesino!” cried
Vere. “The Marchesino! I see him in
your eye, Madre.”
“C’est cela!” said Artois,
“and you mean to say !”
“That I accepted an invitation
to dine with him to-night, at nine, at the Scoglio
di Frisio. There! Why did I? I
have no idea. I was hot from a horrible vicolo.
He was cool from the sea. What chance had I against
him? And then he is through and through Neapolitan,
and gives no quarter to a woman, even when she is
As she finished Hermione broke into
a laugh, evidently at some recollection.
“Doro made his eyes very round.
I can see that,” said Artois.
“Like this!” cried Vere.
And suddenly there appeared in her
face a reminiscence of the face of the Marchesino.
“Vere, you must not! Some
day you will do it by accident when he is here.”
“Is he coming here?”
“In a launch to fetch me us.”
“Am I invited?” said Vere. “What
“I could not get out of it,”
Hermione said to Artois. “But now I insist
on your staying here till the Marchesino comes.
Then he will ask you, and we shall be a quartet.”
“I will stay,” said Artois,
with a sudden return of his authoritative manner.
“It seems that I am woefully
ignorant of the Bay,” continued Hermione.
“I have never dined at Frisio’s. Everybody
goes there at least once. Everybody has been
there. Emperors, kings, queens, writers, singers,
politicians, generals they all eat fish
“You have done it?”
“Yes. The Padrone is worth
knowing. He but to-night you will know
him. Yes, Frisio’s is characteristic.
Vere will be amused.”
With a light tone he hid a faint chagrin.
“What fun!” repeated Vere. “If
I had diamonds I should put them on.”
She too was hiding something, one
sentiment with another very different. But her
youth came to her aid, and very soon the second excitement
really took the place of the first, and she was joyously
alive to the prospect of a novel gayety.
“I must not eat anything more,”
said Hermione. “I believe the Marchesino
is ordering something marvellous for us, all the treasures
of the sea. We must be up to the mark. He
really is a good fellow.”
“Yes,” said Artois.
“He is. I have a genuine liking for him.”
He said it with obvious sincerity.
“I am going,” said Vere.
“I must think about clothes. And I must
undo my hair again and get Maria to dry it thoroughly,
or I shall look frightening.”
She went out quickly, her eyes sparkling.
“Vere is delighted,” said Hermione.
“Yes, indeed she is.”
“And you are not. Would
you rather avoid the Marchesino to-night, Emile, and
not come with us? Perhaps I am selfish. I
would so very much rather have you with us.”
“If Doro asks me I shall certainly
come. It’s true that I wish you were not
engaged to-night I should have enjoyed a
quiet evening here. But we shall have many quiet,
happy evenings together this summer, I hope.”
“I wonder if we shall?” said Hermione,
“I don’t know. Oh,
I am absurd, probably. One has such strange ideas,
houses based on sand, or on air, or perhaps on nothing
She got up, went to her writing-table,
opened a drawer, and took out of it a letter.
“Emile,” she said, coming
back to him with it in her hand, “would you
like to explain this to me?”
“What is it?”
“The letter I found from you when I came back
“But does it need explanation?”
“It seemed to me as if it did. Read it
He took it from her, opened it and read it.
“Well?” he said.
“Isn’t the real meaning between the lines?”
“If it is, cannot you decipher it?”
“I don’t know. I
don’t think so. Somehow it depressed me.
Perhaps it was my mood just then. Was it?”
“Perhaps it was merely mine.”
“But why ’I
feel specially this summer I should like to be near
you’? What does that mean exactly?”
“I did feel that.”
“I don’t think I can tell
you now. I am not sure that I could even have
told you at the time I wrote that letter.”
She took it from him and put it away again in the
“Perhaps we shall both know
later on,” she said, quietly. “I believe
He did not say anything.
“I saw that boy, Ruffo, this
afternoon,” she said, after a moment of silence.
“Did you?” said Artois,
with a change of tone, a greater animation. “I
forgot to ask Vere about him. I suppose he has
been to the island again while I have been away?”
“Not once. Poor boy, I
find he has been ill. He has had fever. He
was out to-day for the first time after it. We
met him close to Mergellina. He was in a boat,
but he looked very thin and pulled down. He seemed
so delighted to see me. I was quite touched.”
“Hasn’t Vere been wondering
very much why he did not come again?”
“She has never once mentioned
him. Vere is a strange child sometimes.”
“But you haven’t you spoken
of him to her?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Vere’s silence made you silent?”
“I suppose so. I must tell her. She
likes the boy very much.”
“What is it that attracts her to this boy, do
The question was ordinary enough,
but there was a peculiar intonation in Artois’
voice as he asked it, an intonation that awakened surprise
“I don’t know. He is an attractive
“You think so too?”
“Why, yes. What do you mean, Emile?”
“I was only wondering.
The sea breeds a great many boys like Ruffo, you know.
But they don’t all get Khali Targa cigarettes
given to them, for all that.”
“That’s true. I have
never seen Vere pay any particular attention to the
fishermen who come to the island. In a way she
loves them all because they belong to the sea, she
loves them as a decor. But Ruffo is different.
I felt it myself.”
He looked at her, then looked out
of the window and pulled his beard slowly.
“Yes. In my case, perhaps,
the interest was roused partly by what Vere told me.
The boy is a Sicilian, you see, and just Vere’s
“Vere’s interest perhaps comes from the
“Very likely it does.”
Hermione spoke the last words without
conviction. Perhaps they both felt that they
were not talking very frankly were not expressing
their thoughts to each other with their accustomed
sincerity. At any rate, Artois suddenly introduced
another topic of conversation, the reason of his hurried
visit to Paris, and for the next hour they discussed
literary affairs with a gradually increasing vivacity
and open-heartedness. The little difficulty between
them of which both had been sensitive and
fully conscious passed away, and when at
length Hermione got up to go to her bedroom and change
her dress for the evening, there was no cloud about
When Hermione had gone Artois took
up a book, but he sat till the evening was falling
and Giulia came smiling to light the lamp, without
reading a word of it. Her entry roused him from
his reverie, and he took out his watch. It was
already past eight. The Marchesino would soon
be coming. And then the dinner at
He got up and moved about the room,
picking up a book here and there, glancing at some
pages, then putting it down. He felt restless
“I am tired from the journey,”
he thought. “Or I wonder what
the weather is this evening. The heat seems to
have become suffocating since Hermione went away.”
He went to one of the windows and
looked out. Twilight was stealing over the sea,
which was so calm that it resembled a huge sheet of
steel. The sky over the island was clear.
He turned and went to the opposite window. Above
Ischia there was a great blackness like a pall.
He stood looking at it for some minutes. His
erring thoughts, which wandered like things fatigued
that cannot rest, went to a mountain village in Sicily,
through which he had once ridden at night during a
terrific thunder-storm. In a sudden, fierce glare
of lightning he had seen upon the great door of a
gaunt Palazzo, which looked abandoned, a strip of
black cloth. Above it were the words, “Lutto
That was years ago. Yet now he
saw again the palace door, the strip of cloth soaked
by the pouring rain, the dreary, almost sinister words
which he had read by lightning:
“Lutto in famiglia.”
He repeated them as he gazed at the blackness above
The girl came towards him, a white
contrast to what he had been watching.
“I’m all ready. It
seems so strange to be going out to a sort of party.
I’ve had such a bother with my hair.”
“You have conquered,” he said. “Undine
“Come quite close to the lamp.”
She came obediently.
“Vere transformed!” he
said. “I have seen three Veres to-day already.
How many more will greet me to-night?”
She laughed gently, standing quite
still. Her dress and her gloves were white, but
she had on a small black hat, very French, and at the
back of her hair there was a broad black ribbon tied
in a big bow. This ribbon marked her exact age
clearly, he thought.
“This is a new frock, and my
very smartest,” she said; “and you dared
to abuse Paris!”
“Being a man. I must retract
now. You are right, we cannot do without it.
But have you an umbrella?”
She moved and laughed again, much more gayly.
“I am serious. Come here and look at Ischia.”
She went with him quickly to the window.
“That blackness does look wicked. But it’s
a long way off.”
“I think it is coming this way.”
“Oh, but” and
she went to the opposite window “the
sky is perfectly clear towards Naples. And look
how still the sea is.”
“Too still. It is like steel.”
She held up her hand. They both
heard a far-off sound of busy panting on the sea.
“That must be the launch!” she said.
Her eyes were gay and expectant.
It was evident that she was in high spirits, that
she was looking forward to this unusual gayety.
“Doesn’t it sound in a
hurry, as if the Marchesino was terribly afraid of
“Get your umbrella, Vere, and a waterproof.
You will want them both.”
At that moment Hermione came in.
“Madre, the launch is coming
in a frightful hurry, and Monsieur Emile says we must
“Surely it isn’t going to rain?”
“There is a thunder-storm coming
up from Ischia, I believe,” said Artois.
“Then we will take our cloaks
in case. It is fearfully hot. I thought so
when I was dressing. No doubt the launch will
have a cabin.”
A siren hooted.
“That is the Marchesino saluting
us!” cried Vere. “Come along, Madre!
She ran out, calling for the cloaks.
“Do you like Vere’s frock, Emile?”
said Hermione, as they followed.
“Yes. She looks delicious but
quite like a little woman of the world.”
“Ah, you like her best as the Island child.
So do I. Oh, Emile!”
“What is it?”
“I can’t help it. I hate Vere’s
“Few things can remain unchanged
for long. This sea will be unrecognizable before
Gaspare met them on the landing with solemn eyes.
“There is going to be a great
storm, Signora,” he said. “It is coming
“So Don Emilio thinks.
But we will take wraps, and we are going in a launch.
It will be all right, Gaspare.”
“Shall I come with you, Signora?”
“Well, Gaspare, you see it is the Marchese’s
“If you would like me to come, I will ask the
“We’ll see how much room there is.”
He went down to receive the launch.
“Emile,” Hermione said,
as he disappeared, “can you understand what a
comfort to me Gaspare is? Ah, if people knew how
women love those who are ready to protect them!
It’s quite absurd, but just because Gaspare
said that, I’d fifty times rather have him with
us than go without him.”
“I understand. I love your watch-dog, too.”
She touched his arm.
“No one could ever understand
the merits of a watch-dog better than you. That’s
right, Maria; we shall be safer with these.”
The Marchesino stood at the foot of
the cliff, bare-headed, to receive them. He was
in evening dress, what he called “smoking,”
with a flower in his button-hole, and a straw hat,
and held a pair of white kid gloves in his hand.
He looked in rapturous spirits, but ceremonial.
When he caught sight of Artois on the steps behind
Hermione and Vere, however, he could not repress an
exclamation of “Emilio!”
He took Hermione’s and Vere’s
hands, bowed over them and kissed them. Then
he turned to his friend.
“Caro Emilio! You are back!
You must come with us! You must dine at Frisio’s.”
“May I?” said Artois.
“You must. This is delightful.
See, Madame,” he added to Hermione, suddenly
breaking into awful French, “we have the English
flag! Your Jack! Voila, the great, the only
Jack! I salute him! Let me help you!”
As Hermione stepped into the launch she said:
“I see there is plenty of room.
I wonder if you would mind my taking my servant, Gaspare,
to look after the cloaks and umbrellas. It seems
absurd, but he says a storm is coming, and ”
“A storm!” cried the Marchesino.
“Of course your Gaspare must come. Which
The Marchesino spoke to Gaspare in
Italian, telling him to join the two sailors in the
stern of the launch. A minute afterwards he went
to him and gave him some cigarettes. Then he
brought from the cabin two bouquets of flowers, and
offered them to Hermione and Vere, who, with Artois,
were settling themselves in the bows. The siren
sounded. They were off, cutting swiftly through
the oily sea.
“A storm, Signora. Cloaks
and umbrellas!” said the Marchesino, shooting
a glance of triumph at “Cara Emilio,” whose
presence to witness his success completed his enjoyment
of it. “But it is a perfect night.
Look at the sea. Signorina, let me put the cushion
a little higher behind you. It is not right.
You are not perfectly comfortable. And everything
must be perfect for you to-night everything.”
He arranged the cushion tenderly. “The
weather, too! Why, where is the storm?”
“Over Ischia,” said Artois.
“It will stay there. Ischia!
It is a volcano. Anything terrible may happen
“And Vesuvius?” said Hermione, laughing.
The Marchesino threw up his chin.
“We are not going to Vesuvius.
I know Naples, Signora, and I promise you fine weather.
We shall take our coffee after dinner outside upon
the terrace at the one and only Frisio’s.”
He chattered on gayly. His eyes
were always on Vere, but he talked chiefly to Hermione,
with the obvious intention of fascinating the mother
in order that she might be favorably disposed towards
him, and later on smile indulgently upon his flirtation
with the daughter. His proceedings were carried
on with a frankness that should have been disarming,
and that evidently did disarm Hermione and Vere, who
seemed to regard the Marchesino as a very lively boy.
But Artois was almost immediately conscious of a secret
irritation that threatened to spoil his evening.
The Marchesino was triumphant.
Emilio had wished to prevent him from knowing these
ladies. Why? Evidently because Emilio considered
him dangerous. Now he knew the ladies. He
was actually their host. And he meant to prove
to Emilio how dangerous he could be. His eyes
shot a lively defiance at his friend, then melted
as they turned to Hermione, melted still more as they
gazed with unwinking sentimentality into the eyes
of Vere. He had no inward shyness to contend against,
and was perfectly at his ease; and Artois perceived
that his gayety and sheer animal spirits were communicating
themselves to his companions. Vere said little,
but she frequently laughed, and her face lit up with
eager animation. And she, too, was quite at her
ease. The direct, and desirous, glances of the
Marchesino did not upset her innocent self-possession
at all, although they began to upset the self-possession
of Artois. As he sat, generally in silence, listening
to the frivolous and cheerful chatter that never stopped,
while the launch cut its way through the solemn, steel-like
sea towards the lights of Posilipo. He felt that
he was apart because he was clever, as if his cleverness
They travelled fast. Soon the
prow of the launch was directed to a darkness that
lay below, and to the right of a line of brilliant
lights that shone close to the sea; and a boy dressed
in white, holding a swinging lantern, and standing,
like a statue, in a small niche of rock almost flush
with the water, hailed them, caught the gunwale of
the launch with one hand, and brought it close in
to the wall that towered above them.
“Do we get out here? But where do we go?”
“There is a staircase. Let me ”
The Marchesino was out in a moment
and helped them all to land. He called to the
sailors that he would send down food and wine to them
and Gaspare. Then, piloted by the boy with the
lantern, they walked up carefully through dark passages
and over crumbling stairs, turned to the left, and
came out upon a small terrace above the sea and facing
the curving lamps of Naples. Just beyond was
a long restaurant, lined with great windows on one
side and with mirrors on the other, and blazing with
“Ecco!” cried the Marchesino.
“Ecco lo Scoglio di Frisio!
And here is the Padrone!” he added, as a small,
bright-eyed man, with a military figure and fierce
mustaches, came briskly forward to receive them.