The town-hall clock struck eleven, with that peculiar resonance that bells have during the quiet spring nights. At Paimpol eleven o’clock is very late; so Gaud closed her window and lit her lamp, to go to bed.
Perhaps it was only shyness in Yann, after all, or was it because, being proud also, he was afraid of a refusal, as she was so rich? She wanted to ask him this herself straightforwardly, but Sylvestre thought that it would not be the right thing, and it would not look well for her to appear so bold. In Paimpol already her manners and dress were sufficiently criticised.
She undressed slowly as if in a dream; first her muslin cap, then her town-cut dress, which she threw carelessly on a chair. The little lamp, alone to burn at this late hour, bathed her shoulders and bosom in its mysterious light, her perfect form, which no eye ever had contemplated, and never could contemplate if Yann did not marry her. She knew her face was beautiful, but she was unconscious of the beauty of her figure. In this remote land, among daughters of fishers, beauty of shape is almost part of the race; it is scarcely ever noticed, and even the least respectable women are ashamed to parade it.
Gaud began to unbraid her tresses, coiled in the shape of a snail-shell and rolled round her ears, and two plaits fell upon her shoulders like weighty serpents. She drew them up into a crown on the top of her head—this was comfortable for sleeping—so that, by reason of her straight profile, she looked like a Roman vestal.
She still held up her arms, and biting her lip, she slowly ran her fingers through the golden mass, like a child playing with a toy, while thinking of something else; and again letting it fall, she quickly unplaited it to spread it out; soon she was covered with her own locks, which fell to her knees, looking like some Druidess.
And sleep having come, notwithstanding love and an impulse to weep, she threw herself roughly in her bed, hiding her face in the silken masses floating round her outspread like a veil.
In her hut in Ploubazlanec, Granny Moan, who was on the other and darker side of her life, had also fallen to sleep—the frozen sleep of old age—dreaming of her grandson and of death.
And at this same hour, on board the Marie, on the Northern Sea, which was very heavy on this particular evening, Yann and Sylvestre—the two longed-for rovers—sang ditties to one another, and went on gaily with their fishing in the everlasting daylight.
CHAPTER VI—NEWS FROM HOME
About a month later, around Iceland, the weather was of that rare kind that the sailors call a dead calm; in other words, in the air nothing moved, as if all the breezes were exhausted and their task done.