A Spirit in Prison is a web novel produced by Robert Hichens.
This webnovel is currently completed.
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She laid her hand on his arm.
There was a sound of reproach in her voice. She took her hand away from Artois.
“Gaspare?” she repeated, interrogatively.
“Signora!” he answered, doggedly.
He did not lift his eyes to hers.
“You have lost the Signorina?”
He attempted no excuse, he expressed no regret.
“Gaspare!” Hermione said.
Suddenly Artois put his hand on Gaspare’s shoulder. He said nothing, but his touch told the Sicilian much–told him how he was understood, how he was respected, by this man who had shared his silence.
“We thought they might be here,” Artois said.
“They are not here.”
Her voice was almost hard, almost rebuking. She was still standing in the door-s.p.a.ce.
“I will go back and look again, Signora.”
“Si,” she said.
She turned back into the room. Artois held out his hand to Gaspare:
Gaspare looked surprised, hesitating, then moved. He took the out-stretched hand, grasped it violently, and went away.
Artois shut the sitting-room door and went towards Hermione.
“You are staying?” she said.
By her intonation he could not tell whether she was glad or almost angrily astonished.
“They may come here immediately,” he said. “I wish to see Panacci–when he comes.”
She looked at him quickly.
“It must be an accident,” she said. “I can’t–I won’t believe that–no one could hurt Vere.”
He said nothing.
“No one could hurt Vere,” she repeated.
He went out on to the balcony and stood there for two or three minutes, looking down at the sea and at the empty road. She did not follow him, but sat down upon the sofa near the writing-table. Presently he turned round.
“Gaspare has gone.”
“It would have been better if he had never come!”
“Hermione,” he said, “has it come to this, that I must defend Gaspare to you?”
“I think Gaspare might have kept with Vere, ought to have kept with Vere.”
Artois felt a burning desire to make Hermione understand the Sicilian, but he only said, gently:
“Some day, perhaps, you will know Gaspare’s character better, you will understand all this.”
“I can’t understand it now. But–oh, if Vere–No, that’s impossible, impossible!”
She spoke with intense vehemence.
“Some things cannot happen,” she exclaimed, with a force that seemed to be commanding destiny.
Artois said nothing. And his apparent calm seemed to punish her, almost as if he struck her with a whip.
“Why don’t you speak?” she said.
She felt almost confused by his silence.
He went out again to the balcony, leaned on the railing and looked over.
She felt that he was listening with his whole nature for the sound of wheels. She felt that she heard him listening, that she heard him demanding the sound. And as she looked at his dark figure, beyond which she saw the vagueness of night and some stars, she was conscious of the life in him as she had never been conscious of it before, she was conscious of all his manhood terribly awake.
That was for Vere.
A quarter of an hour went by. Artois remained always on the balcony, and scarcely moved. Hermione watched him, and tried to learn a lesson; tried to realize without bitterness and horror that in the heart of man everything has been planted, and that therefore nothing which grows there should cause too great amazement, too great condemnation, or the absolute withdrawal of pity; tried to face something which must completely change her life, sweeping away more than mere illusions, sweeping away a long reverence which had been well founded, and which she had kept very secret in her heart, replacing its vital substance with a pale shadow of compa.s.sion.
She watched him, and she listened for the sound of wheels, until at last she could bear it no longer.
“Emile, what are we to do? What can we do?” she said, desperately.
“Hush!” he said.
He held up his hand. They both listened and heard far off the noise of a carriage rapidly approaching. He looked over the road. The carriage rattled up. She heard it stop, and saw him bend down. Then suddenly he drew himself up, turned, and came into the room.
“They have come,” he said.
He went to the door and opened it, and stood by it.
And his face was terrible.
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