The captain was to be pitied. It was his fault, as he had not understood exactly where they were. He wrung his hands, saying: “God help us! God help us!” in a voice of despair.
Close to them, during a lifting of the fog, they could distinguish a headland, but not recognize it. But the mists covered it anew, and they saw it no longer.
There was no sail or smoke in sight. They all jostled about, hurrying and knocking the deck lumber over. Their dog Turc, who did not usually mind the movement of the sea, was greatly affected too by this incident, these sounds from down below, these heavy wallowings when the low swell passed under, and the sudden calm that afterwards followed; he understood that all this was unusual, and hid himself away in corners, with his tail between his legs. They got out the boats to carry the kedges and set them firm, and tried to row her out of it by uniting all their forces together upon the tow-lines—a heavy piece of work this, which lasted ten successive hours. So, when evening came, the poor bark, which had only that morning been so fresh and light, looked almost swamped, fouled, and good for nothing. She had fought hard, floundered about on all sides, but still remained there, fixed as in a dock.
Night was overtaking them; the wind and the waves were rising; things were growing worse, when, all of a sudden, towards six o’clock, they were let go clear, and could be off again, tearing asunder the tow-lines, which they had left to keep her head steady. The men wept, rushing about like madmen, cheering from stem to stern—“We’re afloat, boys!”
They were afloat, with a joy that cannot be described; what it was to feel themselves going forwards on a buoyant craft again, instead of on the semi-wreck it was before, none but a seaman feels, and few of them can tell.
Yann’s sadness had disappeared too. Like his ship, he became lively once more, cured by the healthy manual labour; he had found his reckless look again, and had thrown off his glum thoughts.
Next morning, when the kedges were fished up, the Marie went on her way to Iceland, and Yann’s heart, to all appearance, was as free as in his early years.
The home letters were being distributed on board the Circe, at anchor at Ha-Long, over on the other side of the earth. In the midst of a group of sailors, the purser called out, in a loud voice, the names of the fortunate men who had letters to receive. This went on at evening, on the ship’s side, all crushing round a funnel.
“Moan, Sylvestre!” There was one for him, postmarked “Paimpol,” but it was not Gaud’s writing. What did that mean? from whom did it come else?
After having turned and flourished it about, he opened it fearingly, and read:
“PLOUBAZLANEC, March 5th, 1884.
“MY DEAR GRANDSON:”