So she calmly walked up to him, and he allowed himself to be won over.
“Send Moan to change his clothes, to go out,” said he.
All in hot haste Moan had gone to rig up in his best attire, while the good old lady, to make him laugh, of course, made a most inimitably droll face and a mock curtsey at the adjutant behind his back.
But when the grandson appeared in his full uniform, with the inevitable turned-down collar, leaving his throat bare, she was quite struck with his beauty; his black beard was cut into a seamanly fashionable point by the barber, and his cap was decked out with long floating ribbons, with a golden anchor at each end. For the moment she almost saw in him her son Pierre, who, twenty years before, had also been a sailor in the navy, and the remembrance of the far past, with all its dead, stealthily shadowed the present hour.
But the sadness soon passed away. Arm-in-arm they strolled on, happy to be together; and it was then that the others had pretended to see in her his sweetheart, and voted her “a trifle old.”
She had taken him, for a treat, to dine in an inn kept by some people from Paimpol, which had been recommended to her as rather cheap. And then, still arm-in-arm, they had sauntered through Brest, looking at the shop-windows. There never were such funny stories told as those she told her grandson to make him laugh; of course all in Paimpol Breton, so that the passers-by might not understand.
CHAPTER VIII—OLD AND YOUNG
She stayed three days with him, three happy days, though over them hung a dark and ominous forecast; one might as well call them three days of respite.
At last she was forced to return to Ploubazlanec, for she had come to the end of her little savings, and Sylvestre was to embark the day afterward. The sailors are always inexorably kept in barracks the day before foreign cruises (a custom that seems rather barbarous at first, but which is a necessary precaution against the “flings” they would have before leaving definitely).
Oh that last day! She had done her very best to hatch up some more funny stories in her head, to tell her boy just at the parting; but she had remembered nothing—no; only tears had welled up, and at every moment sobs choked her. Hanging on his arm, she reminded him of a thousand things he was not to forget to do, and he also tried hard to repress his tears. They had ended by going into a church to say their prayers together.
It was by the night train that she went. To save a few pence, they had gone on foot to the station; he carrying her box, and holding her on his strong arm, upon which she weighed heavily.
She was so very, very tired—poor old lady! She had scarcely any strength left after the exertion of the last three or four days. Her shoulders were bent under her brown shawl, and she had no force to bear herself up; her youngish look was gone, and she felt the weight of her seventy-six years.