In the long run though, this became tiresome, an unceasing fury, which always promised a worse visitation. The fury of men and beasts soon falls and dies away; but the fury of lifeless things, without cause or object, is as mysterious as life and death, and has to be borne for very long.
“Jean Francois de Nantes;
Through their pale lips still came the refrain of the old song, but as from a speaking automaton, unconsciously taken up from time to time. The excess of motion and uproar had made them dumb, and despite their youth their smiles were insincere, and their teeth chattered with cold; their eyes, half-closed under their raw, throbbing eyelids, remained glazed in terror. Lashed to the helm, like marble caryatides, they only moved their numbed blue hands, almost without thinking, by sheer muscular habit. With their hair streaming and mouths contracted, they had become changed, all the primitive wildness in man appearing again. They could not see one another truly, but still were aware of being companioned. In the instants of greatest danger, each time that a fresh mountain of water rose behind them, came to overtower them, and crash horribly against their boat, one of their hands would move as if involuntarily, to form the sign of the cross. They no more thought of Gaud than of any other woman, or any marrying. The travail was lasting too long, and they had no thoughts left. The intoxication of noise, cold, and fatigue drowned all in their brain. They were merely two pillars of stiffened human flesh, held up by the helm; two strong beasts, cowering, but determined they would not be overwhelmed.
CHAPTER II—A PARDONABLE RUSE
In Brittany, towards the end of September, on an already chilly day, Gaud was walking alone across the common of Ploubazlanec, in the direction of Pors-Even.
The Icelanders had returned a month back, except two, which had perished in that June gale. But the Marie had held her own, and Yann and all her crew were peacefully at home.
Gaud felt very troubled at the idea of going to Yann’s house. She had seen him once since the return from Iceland, when they had all gone together to see poor little Sylvestre off to the navy. They accompanied him to the coaching-house, he blubbering a little and his grandmother weeping, and he had started to join the fleet at Brest.
Yann, who had come also to bid good-bye to his little friend, had feigned to look aside when Gaud looked at him, and as there were many people round the coach to see the other sailors off, and parents assembled to say good-bye, the pair had not a chance to speak. So, at last, she had formed a strong resolution, and rather timidly wended her way towards the Gaos’s home.
Her father had formerly had mutual interests with Yann’s father (complicated business, which, with peasants and fishers alike, seems to be endless), and owed him a hundred francs for the sale of a boat, which had just taken place in a raffle.