Wiping their eyes, and smoothing their dishevelled hair, they brushed off the salt dust from the flagstones, soiling their gowns, and they went away in opposite directions, without another word.
This end of September was like another summer, only a little less lively. The weather was so beautiful, that had it not been for the dead leaves that fell upon the roads, one might have thought that June had come back again. Husbands and sweethearts had all returned, and everywhere was the joy of a second spring-time of love.
At last, one day, one of the missing ships was signalled. Which one was it?
The groups of speechless and anxious women had rapidly formed on the cliff. Gaud, pale and trembling, was there, by the side of her Yann’s father.
“I’m almost sure,” said the old fisher, “I’m almost sure it’s them! A red rail and a topsail that clews up—it’s very like them anyhow. What do you make it, Gaud?
“No, it isn’t,” he went on, with sudden discouragement; “we’ve made a mistake again, the boom isn’t the same, and ours has a jigger sail. Well, well, it isn’t our boat this time, it’s only the Marie-Jeanne. Never mind, my lass, surely they’ll not be long now.”
But day followed day, and night succeeded night, with uninterrupted serenity.
Gaud continued to dress every day like a poor crazed woman, always in fear of being taken for the widow of a shipwrecked sailor, feeling exasperated when others looked furtively and compassionately at her, and glancing aside so that she might not meet those glances that froze her very blood.
She had fallen into the habit of going in the early morning right to the end of the headland, on the high cliffs of Pors-Even, passing behind Yann’s old home, so as not to be seen by his mother or little sisters. She went to the extreme point of the Ploubazlanec land, which is outlined in the shape of a reindeer’s horn upon the gray waters of the channel, and sat there all day long at the foot of the lonely cross, which rises high above the immense waste of the ocean. There are many of these crosses hereabout; they are set up on the most advanced cliffs of the seabound land, as if to implore mercy and to calm that restless mysterious power that draws men away, never to give them back, and in preference retains the bravest and noblest.
Around this cross stretches the ever-green waste, strewn with short rushes. At this great height the sea air was very pure; it scarcely retained the briny odour of the weeds, but was perfumed with all the exquisite ripeness of September flowers.
Far away, all the bays and inlets of the coast were firmly outlined, rising one above another; the land of Brittany terminated in ragged edges, which spread out far into the tranquil surface.
Near at hand the reefs were numerous, but out beyond nothing broke its polished mirror, from which arose a soft, caressing ripple, light and intensified from the depths of its many bays. Its horizon seemed so calm, and its depths so soft! The great blue sepulchre of many Gaoses hid its inscrutable mystery, while the breezes, faint as human breath, wafted to and fro the perfume of the stunted gorse, which had bloomed again in the lastest autumn sun.