The Marchesino had really been unwell,
as he had told Hermione. The Panacci disposition,
of which he had once spoken to Artois, was certainly
not a calm one, and Isidoro, was, perhaps, the most
excitable member of an abundantly excitable family.
Although changeable, he was vehement. He knew
not the meaning of the word patience, and had always
been accustomed to get what he wanted exactly when
he wanted it. Delay in the gratification of his
desires, opposition to his demands, rendered him as
indignant as if he were a spoiled child unable to understand
the fixed position and function of the moon.
And since the night of his vain singing along the
shore to the Nisida he had been ill with fever, brought
on by jealousy and disappointment, brought on partly
also by the busy workings of a heated imagination
which painted his friend Emilio in colors of inky
The Marchesino had not the faintest
doubt that Artois was in love with Vere. He believed
this not from any evidence of his eyes, for, even now,
in not very lucid moments, he could not recall any
occasion on which he had seen Emilio paying court
to the pretty English girl. But, then, he had
only seen them together twice on the night
of his first visit to the island and on the night
of the storm. It was the general conduct of his
friend that convinced him, conduct in connection not
with Vere, but with himself apart from
that one occasion when Emilio must have lain hidden
with Vere among the shadows of the grotto of Virgil.
He had been deceived by Emilio. He had thought
of him as an intellectual, who was also a bon vivant
and interested in Neapolitan life. But he had
not thought of him as a libertine. Yet that was
what he certainly was. The interview with Maria
Fortunata in the alley beyond the Via Roma had
quite convinced the Marchesino. He had no objection
whatever to loose conduct, but he had a contempt for
hypocrisy which was strong and genuine. He had
trusted Emilio. Now he distrusted him, and was
ready to see subtlety, deceit, and guile in all his
Emilio had been trying to play with
him. Emilio looked upon him as a boy who knew
nothing of the world. The difference in their
respective ages, so long ignored by him, now glared
perpetually upon the Marchesino, even roused within
him a certain condemnatory something that was almost
akin to moral sense, a rare enough bird in Naples.
He said to himself that Emilio was a wicked old man,
“un vecchio briccone.”
The delights of sin were the prerogative of youth.
Abruptly this illuminating fact swam, like a new comet,
within the ken of the Marchesino. He towered towards
the heights of virtuous indignation. As he lay
upon his fevered pillow, drinking a tisane prepared
by his anxious mamma, he understood the inner beauty
of settling down for the old, and white-haired
age, still intent upon having its fling, appeared
to him so truly pitiable and disgusting that he could
almost have wept for Emilio had he not feared to make
himself more feverish by such an act of enlightened
And the sense and appreciation of
the true morality, ravishing in its utter novelty
for the young barbarian, was cherished by the Marchesino
until he began almost to swell with virtue, and to
start on stilts to heaven, big with the message that
wickedness was for the young and must not be meddled
with by any one over thirty the age at which,
till now, he had always proposed to himself to marry
some rich girl and settle down to the rigid asceticism
of Neapolitan wedded life.
And as the Marchesino had lain in
bed tingling with morality, so did he get up and issue
forth to the world, and even set sail upon the following
day for the island. Morality was thick upon him,
as upon that “briccone” Emilio, something
else was thick. About mediaeval chivalry he knew
precisely nothing. Yet, as the white wings of
his pretty yacht caught the light breeze of morning,
he felt like a most virtuous knight sans peur et
sans reproche. He even felt like a steady-going
person with a mission.
But he wished he thoroughly understood
the English nation. Towards the English he felt
friendly, as do most Italians; but he knew little of
them, except that they were very rich, lived in a perpetual
fog, and were “un poco pazzi.” But
the question was how mad in other words,
how different from Neapolitans they were!
He wished he knew. It would make things easier
for him in his campaign against Emilio.
Till he met the ladies of the island
he had never said a hundred words to any English person.
The Neapolitan aristocracy is a very conservative
body, and by no means disposed to cosmopolitanism.
To the Panacci Villa at Capodimonte came only Italians,
except Emilio. The Marchesino had inquired of
Emilio if his mother should call upon the Signora Delarey,
but Artois, knowing Hermione’s hatred of social
formalities, had hastened to say that it was not necessary,
that it would even be a surprising departure from
the English fashion of life, which ordained some knowledge
of each other by the ladies of two families, or at
least some formal introduction by a mutual woman friend,
before an acquaintance could be properly cemented.
Hitherto the Marchesino had felt quite at ease with
his new friends. But hitherto he had been, as
it were, merely at play with them. The interlude
of fever had changed his views and enlarged his consciousness.
And Emilio was no longer at hand to be explanatory
The Marchesino wished very much that
he thoroughly understood the inner workings of the
minds of English ladies.
How mad were the English? How
mad exactly, for instance, was the Signora Delarey?
And how mad exactly was the Signorina? It would
be very valuable to know. He realized that his
accurate knowledge of Neapolitan women, hitherto considered
by him as amply sufficient to conduct him without
a false step through all the intricacies of the world
feminine, might not serve him perfectly with the ladies
of the island. His fever had, it seemed, struck
a little blow on his self-confidence, and rendered
him so feeble as to be almost thoughtful.
And then, what exactly did he want?
To discomfit Emilio utterly? That, of course,
did not need saying, even to himself. And afterwards?
There were two perpendicular lines above his eyebrows
as the boat drew near to the island.
But when he came into the little drawing-room,
where Hermione was waiting to receive him, he looked
young and debonair, though still pale from his recent
touch of illness.
Vere was secretly irritated by his
coming. Her interview with Peppina had opened
her eyes to many things, among others to a good deal
that was latent in the Marchesino. She could
never again meet him, or any man of his type, with
the complete and masterful simplicity of ignorant
childhood that can innocently coquet by instinct, that
can manage by heredity from Eve, but that does not
understand thoroughly, either, what it is doing or
why it is doing it.
Vere was not in the mood for the Marchesino.
She had been working, and she had
been dreaming, and she wanted to have another talk
with Monsieur Emile. Pretty, delicate, yet strong-fibred
ambitions were stirring within her, and the curious
passion to use life as a material, but not all of
life that presented itself to her. With the desire
to use that might be greedy arose the fastidious prerogative
And that very morning, mentally, Vere
had rejected the Marchesino as something not interesting
in life, something that was only lively, like the
very shallow stream. What a bore it would be having
to entertain him, to listen to his compliments, to
avoid his glances, to pretend to be at ease with him.
“But Madre can have him for
a little first,” she said to herself, as she
looked into the glass to see that her hair was presentable.
“Madre asked him to come. I didn’t.
I shall have nothing to say to him.”
She had quite forgotten her eagerness
on the night of the storm, when she heard the cry
of the siren that betokened his approach. Again
she looked in the glass and gave a pat to her hair.
And just as she was doing it she thought of that day
after the bathe, when Gaspare had come to tell her
that Monsieur Emile was waiting for her. She had
run down, then, just as she was, and now
“Mamma mia! Am I getting vain!”
she said to herself.
And she turned from the glass, and reluctantly went
to meet their guest.
She had said to herself that it was
a bore having the Marchesino to lunch, that he was
uninteresting, frivolous, empty-headed. But directly
she set eyes upon him, as he stood in the drawing-room
by her mother, she felt a change in him. What
had happened to him? She could not tell.
But she was conscious that he seemed much more definite,
much more of a personage, than he had seemed to her
before. Even his face looked different, though
paler, stronger. She was aware of surprise.
The Marchesino, too, though much less
instinctively observant than Vere, noted a change
in her. She looked more developed, more grown
up. And he said to himself:
“When I told Emile she was a woman I was right.”
Their meeting was rather grave and
formal, even a little stiff. The Marchesino paid
Vere two or three compliments, and she inquired perfunctorily
after his health, and expressed regret for his slight
“It was only a chill, Signorina. It was
“Perhaps you caught it that night,” Vere
“What night, Signorina?”
Vere had been thinking of the night
when he sang for her in vain. Suddenly remembering
how she and Monsieur Emile had lain in hiding and
slipped surreptitiously home under cover of the darkness,
she flushed and said:
“The night of the storm you got wet,
“But that was long ago, Signorina,”
he answered, looking steadily at her, with an expression
that was searching and almost hard.
Had he guessed her inadvertence?
She feared so, and felt rather guilty, and glad when
Giulia came in to announce that lunch was ready.
Hermione, when they sat down, feeling
a certain constraint, but not knowing what it sprang
from, came to the rescue with an effort. She was
really disinclined for talk, and was perpetually remembering
that the presence of the Marchesino had prevented
Emile from coming to spend a long day. But she
remembered also her guest’s hospitality at Frisio’s,
and her social instinct defied her natural reluctance
to be lively. She said to herself that she was
rapidly developing into a fogey, and must rigorously
combat the grievous tendency. By a sheer exertion
of will-power she drove herself into a different,
and conversational, mood. The Marchesino politely
responded. He was perfectly self-possessed, but
he was not light-hearted. The unusual effort of
being thoughtful had, perhaps, distressed or even
outraged his brain. And the worst of it was that
he was still thinking for him quite profoundly.
However, they talked about risotto,
they talked about Vesuvius, they spoke of the delights
of summer in the South and of the advantages of living
on an island.
“Does it not bore you, Signora,
having the sea all round?” asked the Marchesino.
“Do you not feel in a prison and that you cannot
“We don’t want to escape,
do we, Madre?” said Vere, quickly, before Hermione
“I am very fond of the island,
certainly,” said Hermione. “Still,
of course, we are rather isolated here.”
She was thinking of what she had said
to Artois that perhaps her instinct to
shut out the world was morbid, was bad for Vere.
The girl at once caught the sound of hesitation in
her mother’s voice.
“Madre!” she exclaimed.
“You don’t mean to say that you are tired
of our island life?”
“I do not say that. And you, Vere?”
“I love being here. I dread the thought
of the autumn.”
“In what month do you go away, Signora?”
asked the Marchesino.
“By the end of October we shall have made our
flitting, I suppose.”
“You will come in to Naples for the winter?”
Hermione hesitated. Then she said:
“I almost think I shall take
my daughter to Rome. What do you say, Vere?”
The girls face had become grave, even almost troubled.
“I can’t look forward
in this weather,” she said. “I think
it’s almost wicked to. Oh, let us live
in the moment, Madre, and pretend it will be always
summer, and that we shall always be living in our Casa
There was a sound of eager youth in
her voice as she spoke, and her eyes suddenly shone.
The Marchesino looked at her with an admiration he
did not try to conceal.
“You love the sea, Signorina?” he asked.
But Vere’s enthusiasm abruptly
vanished, as if she feared that he might destroy its
completeness by trying to share it.
“Oh yes,” she said.
“We all do here; Madre, Gaspare, Monsieur Emile everybody.”
It was the first time the name of
Artois had been mentioned among them that day.
The Marchesino’s full red lips tightened over
his large white teeth.
“I have not seen Signor Emilio for some days,”
“Nor have we,” said Vere, with a touch
of childish discontent.
He looked at her closely.
Emilio he knew all about
Emilio. But the Signorina? What were her
feelings towards the “vecchio briccone”?
He did not understand the situation, because he did
not understand precisely the nature of madness of
the English. Had the ladies been Neapolitans,
Emilio an Italian, he would have felt on sure ground.
But in England, so he had heard, there is a fantastic,
cold, sexless something called friendship that can
exist between unrelated man and woman.
“Don Emilio writes much,”
he said, with less than his usual alacrity. “When
one goes to see him he has always a pen in his hand.”
He tried to speak of Emilio with complete
detachment, but could not resist adding:
“When one is an old man one
likes to sit, one cannot be forever running to and
fro. One gets tired, I suppose.”
There was marked satire in the accent
with which he said the last words. And the shrug
of his shoulders was an almost audible “What
can I know of that?”
“Monsieur Emile writes because
he has a great brain, not because he has a tired body,”
said Vere, with sudden warmth.
Her mother was looking at her earnestly.
“Oh, Signorina, I do not mean But
for a man to be always shut up,” began the Marchesino,
“it is not life.”
“You don’t understand,
Marchese. One can live in a little room with the
door shut as one can never live ”
Abruptly she stopped. A flush
ran over her face and down to her neck. Hermione
turned away her eyes. But they had read Vere’s
secret. She knew what her child was doing in
those hours of seclusion. And she remembered
her own passionate attempts to stave off despair by
work. She remembered her own failure.
“Poor little Vere!” That
was her first thought. “But what is Emile
doing?” That was the second. He had discouraged
her. He had told her the truth. What was
he telling Vere? A flood of bitter curiosity seemed
to rise in her, drowning many things.
“What I like is life, Signorina,”
said the Marchesino. “Driving, riding,
swimming, sport, fencing, being with beautiful ladies that
“Yes, of course, that is life,” she said.
What was the good of trying to explain
to him the inner life? He had no imagination.
Her youth made her very drastic, very
sweeping, in her secret mental assertions.
She labelled the Marchesino “Philistine,”
and popped him into his drawer.
Lunch was over, and they got up.
“Are you afraid of the heat
out-of-doors, Marchese?” Hermione asked, “or
shall we have coffee in the garden? There is a
trellis, and we shall be out of the sun.”
“Signora, I am delighted to go out.”
He got his straw hat, and they went
into the tiny garden and sat down on basket-work chairs
under a trellis, set in the shadow of some fig-trees.
Giulia brought them coffee, and the Marchesino lighted
He said to himself that he had never been in love
Vere wore a white dress. She
had no hat on, but held rather carelessly over her
small, dark head a red parasol. It was evident
that she was not afraid even of the midday sun.
That new look in her face, soft womanhood at the windows
gazing at a world more fully, if more sadly, understood,
fascinated him, sent the blood up to his head.
There was a great change in her. To-day she knew
what before she had not known.
As he stared at Vere with adoring
eyes suddenly there came into his mind the question:
“Who has taught her?”
And then he thought of the night when
all in vain he had sung upon the sea, while the Signorina
and “un Signore” were hidden somewhere
The blood sang in his head, and something
seemed to expand in his brain, to press violently
against his temples, as if striving to force its way
out. He put down his coffee cup, and the two perpendicular
lines appeared above his eyebrows, giving him an odd
look, cruel and rather catlike.
“If Emilio ”
At that moment he longed to put a knife into his friend.
But he was not sure. He only suspected.
Hermione’s rôle in this summer
existence puzzled him exceedingly. The natural
supposition in a Neapolitan would, of course, have
been that Artois was her lover. But when the
Marchesino looked at Hermione’s eyes he could
What did it all mean? He felt
furious at being puzzled, as if he were deliberately
“Your cigarette has gone out,
Marchese,” said Hermione. “Have another.”
The young man started.
“Vere, run in and get the Marchese a Khali Targa.”
The girl got up quickly.
“No, no! I cannot permit I have
He opened his case. It was empty.
She went off before he could say another
word, and the Marchesino was alone for a moment with
“You are fortunate, Signora,
in having such a daughter,” he said, with a
sigh that was boyish.
“Yes,” Hermione said.
That bitter curiosity was still with
her, and her voice sounded listless, almost cold.
The Marchesino looked up. Ah! Was there something
here that he could understand? Something really
feminine? A creeping jealousy? He was on
the qui vive at once.
“And such a good friend as Don
Emilio,” he added. “You have known
Emilio for a long time, Signora?”
“Oh yes, for a very long time.”
“He is a strange man,”
said the Marchesino, with rather elaborate carelessness.
“Do you think so? In what way?”
“He likes to know, but he does not like to be
There was a great deal of truth in
the remark. Its acuteness surprised Hermione,
who thought the Marchesino quick witted but very superficial.
“As he is a writer, I suppose
he has to study people a good deal,” she said,
“I do not think I can understand
these great people. I think they are too grand
“Oh, but Emile likes you very much. He
told me so.”
“It is very good of him,” said the Marchesino,
pulling at his mustaches.
He was longing to warn Hermione against
Emilio to hint that Emilio was not to be
trusted. He believed that Hermione must be very
blind, very unfitted to look after a lovely daughter.
But when he glanced at her face he did not quite know
how to hint what was in his mind. And just then
Vere came back and the opportunity was gone. She
held out a box to the Marchesino. As he thanked
her and took a cigarette he tried to look into her
eyes. But she would not let him. And when
he struck his match she returned once more to the
house, carrying the box with her. Her movement
was so swift and unexpected that Hermione had not time
to speak before she was gone.
“I should not smoke another, Signora,”
said the Marchesino, quickly.
“You are sure?”
“Still, Vere might have left the box. She
is inhospitable to-day.”
Hermione spoke lightly.
“Oh, it is bad for cigarettes to lie in the
sun. It ruins them.”
“But you should have filled your case.
You must do so before you go.”
His head was buzzing again. The
touch of fever had really weakened him. He knew
it now. Never gifted with much self-control, he
felt to-day that, with a very slight incentive, he
might lose his head. The new atmosphere which
Vere diffused around her excited him strangely.
He was certain that she was able to understand something
of what he was feeling, that on the night of the storm
she would not have been able to understand. Again
he thought of Emilio, and moved restlessly in his
chair, looking sideways at Hermione, then dropping
his eyes. Vere did not come back.
Hermione exerted herself to talk,
but the task became really a difficult one, for the
Marchesino looked perpetually towards the house, and
so far forgot himself as to show scarcely even a wavering
interest in anything his hostess said. As the
minutes ran by a hot sensation of anger began to overcome
him. A spot of red appeared on each cheek.
Suddenly he got up.
“Signora, you will want to make the siesta.
I must not keep you longer.”
“No, really; I love sitting
out in the garden, and you will find the glare of
the sun intolerable if you go so early.”
“On the sea there is always
a breeze. Indeed, I must not detain you.
All our ladies sleep after the colazione until
the bathing hour. Do not you?”
“Yes, we lie down. But to-day ”
“You must not break the habit.
It is a necessity. My boat will be ready, and
I must thank you for a delightful entertainment.”
His round eyes were fierce, but he commanded his voice.
“A rive ”
“I will come with you to the
house if you really will not stay a little longer.”
“Perhaps I may come again?”
he said, quickly, with a sudden hardness, a fighting
sound in his voice. “One evening in the
cool. Or do I bore you?”
“No; do come.”
Hermione felt rather guilty, as if
they had been inhospitable, she and Vere; though,
indeed, only Vere was in fault.
“Come and dine one night, and I shall ask Don
As she spoke she looked steadily at her guest.
“He was good enough to introduce
us to each other, wasn’t he?” she added.
“We must all have an evening together, as we
did at Frisio’s.”
The Marchesino bowed.
“With pleasure, Signora.”
They came into the house.
As they did so Peppina came down the
stairs. When she saw them she murmured a respectful
salutation and passed quickly by, averting her wounded
cheek. Almost immediately behind her was Vere.
The Marchesino looked openly amazed for a moment,
then even confused. He stared first at Hermione,
then at Vere.
“I am sorry, Madre; I was kept
for a moment,” the girl said. “Are
you coming up-stairs?”
“The Marchese says he must go,
Vere. He is determined not to deprive us of our
“One needs to sleep at this
hour in the hot weather,” said the Marchesino.
The expression of wonder and confusion
was still upon his face, and he spoke slowly.
“Good-bye, Marchese,” Vere said, holding
out her hand.
He took it and bowed over it and let
it go. The girl turned and ran lightly up-stairs.
Directly she was gone the Marchesino said to Hermione:
“Pardon me, Signora, I I ”
He hesitated. His self-possession
seemed to have deserted him for the moment. He
looked at Hermione swiftly, searchingly, then dropped
“What is it, Marchese?”
she asked, wondering what was the matter with him.
He still hesitated. Evidently
he was much disturbed. At last he said again:
“Pardon me, Signora. I as
you know, I am Neapolitan. I have always lived
“Yes, I know.”
“I know Naples like my pocket ”
He broke off.
Hermione waited for him to go on. She had no
idea what was coming.
“Yes?” she said, at length to help him.
“Excuse me, Signora! But that girl that
girl who passed by just now ”
“My servant, Peppina.”
He stared at her.
“Your servant, Signora?”
“Do you know what she is, where
she comes from? But no, it is impossible.”
“I know all about Peppina, Marchese,”
Hermione replied, quietly.
His large round eyes were still fixedly staring at
“Good-bye, Signora!” he
said. “Thank you for a very charming colazione.
And I shall look forward with all my heart to the evening
you have kindly suggested.”
“I shall write directly I have arranged with
“Thank you! Thank you! A rivederci,
He cast upon her one more gravely staring look, and
When he was outside and alone, he
threw up his hands and talked to himself for a moment,
uttering many exclamations. In truth, he was
utterly amazed. Maria Fortunata had
spread abroad diligently the fame of her niece’s
beauty, and the Marchesino, like the rest of the gay
young men of Naples, had known of and had misjudged
her. He had read in the papers of the violence
done to her, and had at once dismissed her from his
mind with a muttered “Povera Ragazza!”
She was no longer beautiful.
And now he discovered her living as
a servant with the ladies of the island. Who
could have put her there? He thought of Emilio’s
colloquy with Maria Fortunata. But
the Signora? A mother? What did it all mean?
Even the madness of the English could scarcely be so
pronounced as to make such a proceeding as this quite
a commonplace manifestation of the national life and
eccentricity. He could not believe that.
He stepped into his boat. As
the sailors rowed it out from the Pool the
wind had gone down and the sails were useless he
looked earnestly up to the windows of the Casa
del Mare, longing to pierce its secrets.
What was Emilio in that house? A lover, a friend,
a bad genius? And the
Signora? What was she?
The Marchesino was no believer in
the virtue of women. But the lack of beauty in
Hermione, and her age, rendered him very doubtful as
to her rôle in the life on the island. Vere’s
gay simplicity had jumped to the eyes. But now
she, too, was becoming something of a mystery.
He traced it all to Emilio, and was
hot with a curiosity that was linked closely with
Should he go to see Emilio? He
considered the question and resolved not to do so.
He would try to be patient until the night of the dinner
on the island. He would be birbante, would
play the fox, as Emilio surely had done. The
Panacci temper should find out that one member of the
family could control it, when such control served his
He was on fire with a lust for action
as he made his resolutions. Vere’s coolness
to him, even avoidance of him, had struck hammer-like
blows upon his amour propre. He saw her
now yes, he saw her coming down
the stairs behind Peppina. Had they been together?
Did they talk together, the cold, the prudish Signorina
Inglese so he called Vere now in his anger and
the former decoy of Maria Fortunata?
And then a horrible conception of
Emilio’s rôle in all this darted into his mind,
and for a moment he thought of Hermione as a blind
innocent, like his subservient mother, of Vere as
a preordained victim. Then the blood coursed
through his veins like fire, and he felt as if he could
no longer sit still in the boat.
he cried to the sailors. “Dio mio!
There is enough breeze to sail. Run up the sail!
Madonna Santissima! We shall not be
to Naples till it is night. Avanti! avanti!”
Then he lay back, crossed his arms
behind his head, and, with an effort, closed his eyes.
He was determined to be calm, not
to let himself go. He put his fingers on his
“That cursed fever! I believe
it is coming back,” he said to himself.
He wondered how soon the Signora would
arrange that dinner on the island. He did not
feel as if he could wait long without seeing Vere
again. But would it ever be possible to see her
alone? Emilio saw her alone. His white hairs
brought him privileges. He might take her out
upon the sea.
The Marchesino still had his fingers
on his pulse. Surely it was fluttering very strangely.
Like many young Italians he was a mixture of fearlessness
and weakness, of boldness and childishness.
“I must go to mamma! I
must have medicine the doctor,” he
thought, anxiously. “There is something
wrong with me. Perhaps I have been looked on
by the evil eye.”
And down he went to the bottom of a gulf of depression.