At regular hours the sea retreated, and great spaces were left uncovered everywhere, as if the Channel was slowly drying up; then with the same lazy slowness, the waters rose again, and continued their everlasting coming and going, without any heed of the dead.
At the foot of the cross, Gaud remained, surrounded by these tranquil mysteries, gazing ever before her, until the night fell and she could see no more.
CHAPTER VII—THE MOURNER’S VISION
September had passed. The sorrowing wife took scarcely any nourishment, and could no longer sleep. She remained at home now, crouching low with her hands between her knees, her head thrown back and resting against the wall behind. What was the good of getting up or going to bed now? When she was thoroughly exhausted she threw herself, dressed, upon her bed. Otherwise she remained in the same position, chilled and benumbed; in her quiescent state, only her teeth chattered with the cold; she had that continual impression of a band of iron round her brows; her cheeks looked wasted; her mouth was dry, with a feverish taste, and at times a painful hoarse cry rose from her throat, and was repeated in spasms, while her head beat backward against the granite wall. Or else she called Yann by his name in a low, tender voice, as if he were quiet close to her, whispering words of love to her.
Sometimes she occupied her brain with thoughts of quite insignificant things; for instance, she amused herself by watching the shadow of the china Virgin lengthen slowly over the high woodwork of the bed, as the sun went down. And then the agonized thoughts returned more horrible, and her wailing cry broke out again as she beat her head against the wall.
All the hours of the day passed, and all the hours of evening, and of night, and then the hours of the morning. When she reckoned the time he ought to have been back, she was seized with a still greater terror; she wished to forget all dates and the very names of the days.
Usually there is some information concerning the wrecks off Iceland; those who return have seen the tragedy from afar, or else have found some wreckage or bodies, or have an indication to guess the rest. But of the Leopoldine nothing had been seen, and nothing was known. The Marie-Jeanne men, the last to have seen her, on the 2d of August, said that she was to have gone on fishing farther towards the north, and, beyond that, the secret was unfathomable.
Waiting, always waiting, and knowing nothing! When would the time come when she need wait no longer? She did not even know that; and, now, she almost wished that it might be soon.
Oh! if he were dead; let them at least have pity enough to tell her so! Oh! to see her darling, as he was at this very moment, that is, what was left him! If only the much-implored Virgin, or some other power, would do her the blessing to show her, by second-sight, her beloved! either living and working hard to return a rich man, or else as a corpse, surrendered by the sea, so that she might at least know a certainty.