"I wonder," the girl said, "whether to-night San Francesco will not be beaten by the waves, whether his light will be burning when we reach the island."
She paused, then she added, in a lower voice:
"I do hope it will--don't you, Madre?"
Something in her mother's voice made the girl look up at her swiftly, then put a hand into hers, a hand that was all sympathy. She felt that just then her mother's imagination was almost, or quite, one with hers. The lights of Naples were gone, swallowed by the blackness of the storm. And the tiny light at the feet of the Saint, of San Francesco, who protected the men of the sea, and the boys--Ruffo, too! --would it greet them, star of the sea to their pool, star of the sea to their island, their Casa del Mare, when they had battled through the storm to San Francesco's feet?
Why did Hermione's heart echo Vere's words with such a strenuous and sudden passion, such a deep desire? She scarcely knew then. But she knew that she wanted a light to be shining for her when she neared home--longed for it, needed it specially that night. If San Francesco's lamp were burning quietly amid the fury of the sea in such a blackness as this about them--well, it would seem like an omen. She would take it as an omen of happiness.
She, too, longed to be outside with Gaspare and the sailors, staring into the darkness with eyes keen as those of a seaman, looking for the light. Since Vere's last words and her reply they had sat in silence. Even the Marchesino's vivacity was suddenly abated, either by the increasing violence of the storm or by the change in Vere. It would have been difficult to say by which. The lightning flashed. The thunder at moments seemed to split the sky asunder as a charge of gunpowder splits asunder a rock. The head wind rushed by, yet had never passed them, but was forever coming furiously to meet them. On the roof of the little cabin the rain made a noise that was no longer like the rustle of silk, but was like the crackle of musketry.
There was something oppressive, something even almost terrible, in being closely confined, shut in by low roof and narrow walls from such sweeping turbulence, such a clamor of wind and water and the sky.
Hermione looked at her diamond brooch, then at her cloak.