Then the quartermaster who held up the things to be sold drew out two small buddhas, taken in some pagoda to give to Gaud, and so funny were they that they were greeted with a general burst of laughter, when they appeared as the last lot. But the sailors laughed, not for want of heart, but only through thoughtlessness.
To conclude, the bags were sold, and the buyer immediately struck out the name on them to substitute his own.
A careful sweep of the broom was afterward given to clear the scrupulously clean deck of the dust and odds and ends, while the sailors returned merrily to play with their parrots and monkeys.
CHAPTER V—THE DEATH-BLOW
One day, in the first fortnight of June, as old Yvonne was returning home, some neighbours told her that she had been sent for by the Commissioner from the Naval Registry Office. Of course it concerned her grandson, but that did not frighten her in the least. The families of seafarers are used to the Naval Registry, and she, the daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother of seamen, had known that office for the past sixty years.
Doubtless it had to do with his “delegation”; or perhaps there was a small prize-money account from La Circe to take through her proxy. As she knew what respect was due to “Monsieur le Commissaire,” she put on her best gown and a clean white cap, and set out about two o’clock.
Trotting along swiftly on the pathways of the cliff, she neared Paimpol; and musing upon these two months without letters, she grew a bit anxious.
She met her old sweetheart sitting out at his door. He had greatly aged since the appearance of the winter cold.
“Eh, eh! When you’re ready, you know, don’t make any ceremony, my beauty!” That “suit of deal” still haunted his mind.
The joyous brightness of June smiled around her. On the rocky heights there still grew the stunted reeds with their yellow blossoms; but passing into the hollow nooks sheltered against the bitter sea winds, one met with high sweet-smelling grass. But the poor old woman did not see all this, over whose head so many rapid seasons had passed, which now seemed as short as days.
Around the crumbling hamlet with its gloomy walls grew roses, pinks, and stocks; and even up on the tops of the whitewashed and mossy roofs, sprang the flowerets that attracted the first “miller” butterflies of the season.
This spring-time was almost without love in the land of Icelanders, and the beautiful lasses of proud race, who sat out dreaming on their doorsteps, seemed to look far beyond the visible things with their blue or brown eyes. The young men, who were the objects of their melancholy and desires, were remote, fishing on the northern seas.
But it was a spring-time for all that—warm, sweet, and troubling, with its buzzing of flies and perfume of young plants.