Then I threw open the window and leant out. I could hear the murmur of the sea. I felt as if it were calling to me, though I could not interpret its voice. The salt air was damp and it refreshed my eyelids.
At length I got into bed, shivering with cold. When I had put out the light I noticed that the moon, which was near the full, had a big yellow ring of luminous vapour around it.
My sleep that night was much troubled by dreams. It was the same dream as before, again and again repeated—the dream of frozen regions and of the great ice barrier, and then of the broken pen.
When I awoke in the hazy light of the dawn I thought of what the Pope had said about beginning my wedding-day with penance and communion, so I rose at once to go to church.
The dawn was broadening, but the household was still asleep, only the servants in the kitchen stirring when I stepped through a side door, and set out across the fields.
The dew was thick on the grass, and under the gloom of a heavy sky the day looked cold and cheerless. A wind from the south-east had risen during the night, the sea was white with breakers, and from St. Mary’s Rock there came the far-off moaning of surging waves.
The church, too, when I reached it, looked empty and chill. The sacristan in the dim choir was arranging lilies and marguerites about the high altar, and only one poor woman, with a little red and black shawl over her head and shoulders, was kneeling in the side chapel where Father Dan was saying Mass, with a sleepy little boy in clogs to serve him.
The woman was quite young, almost as young as myself, but she was already a widow, having lately lost her husband “at the herrings” somewhere up by Stornoway, where he had gone down in a gale, leaving her with one child, a year old, and another soon to come.
All this she told me the moment I knelt near her. The poor thing seemed to think I ought to have remembered her, for she had been at school with me in the village.
“I’m Bella Quark that was,” she whispered. “I married Willie Shimmin of the Lhen, you recollect. It’s only a month this morning since he was lost, but it seems like years and years. There isn’t nothing in the world like it.”
She knew about my marriage, and said she wished me joy, though the world was “so dark and lonely for some.” Then she said something about her “lil Willie.” She had left him asleep in her cottage on the Curragh, and he might awake and cry before she got back, so she hoped Father Dan wouldn’t keep her long.
I was so touched by the poor thing’s trouble that I almost forgot my own, and creeping up to her side I put my arm through hers as we knelt together, and that was how the Father found us when he turned to put the holy wafer on our tongues.
The wind must have risen higher while I was in the church, for when I was returning across the fields it lashed my skirts about my legs so that I could scarcely walk. A mist had come down and made a sort of monotonous movement in the mountains where they touched the vague line of the heavy sky.