But, after the ball, why had he not returned? What change had come over him? Meeting him by chance, he seemed to avoid her, turning aside his look, which was always fleeting, by the way. She had often debated this with Sylvestre, who could not understand either.
“But still, he’s the lad for you to marry, Gaud,” said Sylvestre, “if your father allowed ye. In the whole country round you’d not find his like. First, let me tell ’ee, he’s a rare good one, though he mayn’t look it. He seldom gets tipsy. He sometimes is stubborn, but is very pliable for all that. No, I can’t tell ’ee how good he is! And such an A.B. seaman! Every new fishing season the skippers regularly fight to have him.”
She was quite sure of her father’s permission, for she never had been thwarted in any of her whims. And it mattered little to her whether Yann were rich or not. To begin with, a sailor like him would need but a little money in advance to attend the classes of the coast navigation school, and might shortly become a captain whom all shipowners would gladly intrust with their vessels. It also mattered little to her that he was such a giant; great strength may become a defect in a woman, but in a man is not prejudicial to good looks.
Without seeming to care much, she had questioned the girls of the country round about, who knew all the love stories going; but he had no recognized engagement with any one, he paid no more attention to one than another, but roved from right to left, to Lezardrieux as well as to Paimpol, to all the beauties who cared to receive his address.
One Sunday evening, very late, she had seen him pass under her windows, in company with one Jeannie Caroff, whom he tucked under his wing very closely; she was pretty, certainly, but had a very bad reputation. This had pained Gaud very much indeed. She had been told that he was very quick-tempered: one night being rather tipsy in a tavern of Paimpol, where the Icelanders held their revels, he had thrown a great marble table through a door that they would not open to him. But she forgave him all that; we all know what sailors are sometimes when the fit takes them. But if his heart were good, why had he sought one out who never had thought of him, to leave her afterward; what reason had he had to look at her for a whole evening with his fair, open smile, and to use his softest, tenderest voice to speak to her of his affairs as to a betrothed? Now, it was impossible for her to become attached to another, or to change. In this same country, when quite a child, she was used to being scolded when naughty and called more stubborn than any other child in her ideas; and she had not altered. Fine lady as she was now, rather serious and proud in her ways, none had refashioned her, and she remained always the same.
After this ball, the past winter had been spent in waiting to see him again, but he had not even come to say good-bye before his departure for Iceland. Since he was no longer by, nothing else existed in her eyes; slowly time seemed to drag until the return in autumn, when she had made up her mind to put an end to her doubts.