There was something in Vere that puzzled him, that had kept him strangely discreet upon the terrace, that made him silent and thoughtful now. Had she been a typical English girl he might have discerned something of the truth of her. But Vere was lively, daring, passionate, and not without some traces of half-humorous and wholly innocent coquetry. She was not at all what the Neapolitan calls "a lump of snow to cool the wine." In her innocence there was fire. That was what confused the Marchesino.
He stared at the cabin door by which Vere had gone out, and his round eyes became almost pathetic for a moment. Then it occurred to him that perhaps this exit was a second ruse, like Vere's departure to the terrace, and he made a movement as if to go out and brave the storm. But Hermione stopped him decisively.
"No, Marchese," she said, "really I cannot let you expose yourself to the rain and the sea in that airy costume. I might be your mother."
"No, compliments apart, I really might be, and you must let me use a mother's authority. Till we reach the island stay here and make the best of me."
Hermione had touched the right note. Metaphorically, the Marchesino cast himself at her feet. With a gallant assumption of undivided adoration he burst into conversation, and, though his eyes often wandered to the blurred glass, against which pressed and swayed a blackness that told of those outside, his sense of his duty as a host gradually prevailed, and he and Hermione were soon talking quite cheerfully together.
Vere had forgotten him as utterly as she had forgotten Naples, swallowed up by the night. Just then only the sea, the night, Gaspare, and the two sailors who were managing the launch were real to her-- besides herself. For a moment even her mother had ceased to exist in her consciousness. As the sea swept the deck of the little craft it swept her mind clear to make more room for itself.
She stood by Gaspare, touching him, and clinging on, as he did, to the rail. Impenetrably black was the night. Only here and there, at distances she could not begin to judge of, shone vaguely lights that seemed to dance and fade and reappear like marsh lights in a world of mist. Were they on sea or land? She could not tell and did not ask. The sailors doubtless knew, but she respected them and their duty too much to speak to them, though she had given them a smile as she came out to join them, and had received two admiring salutes in reply. Gaspare, too, had smiled at her with a pleasure which swiftly conquered the faint reproach in his eloquent eyes. He liked his Padroncina's courage, liked the sailors of the Signor Marchese to see it. He was soaked to the skin, but he, too, was enjoying the adventure, a rare one on this summer sea, which had slept through so many shining days and starry nights like a "bambino in dolce letargo."
To-night it was awake, and woke up others, Vere's nature and his.