“Marw eo!” (He is dead.)
She repeated the words after him, in her aged tremulous voice, as a poor cracked echo would send back some indifferent phrase. So what she had partly foreseen was true; but it only made her tremble; now that it was certain, it seemed to affect her no more. To begin with, her faculty to suffer was slightly dulled by old age, especially since this last winter. Pain did not strike her immediately. Something seemed to fall upside down in her brain, and somehow or another she mixed this death up with others. She had lost so many of them before. She needed a moment to grasp that this was her very last one, her darling, the object of all her prayers, life, and waiting, and of all her thoughts, already darkened by the sombre approach of second childhood.
She felt a sort of shame at showing her despair before this little gentleman who horrified her. Was that the way to tell a grandmother of her darling’s death? She remained standing before the desk, stiffened, and tearing the fringes of her brown shawl with her poor aged hands, sore and chapped with washing.
How far away she felt from home! Goodness! what a long walk back to be gone through, and steadily, too, before nearing the whitewashed hut in which she longed to shut herself up, like a wounded beast who hides in its hole to die. And so she tried not to think too much and not to understand yet, frightened above all at the long home-journey.
They gave her an order to go and take, as the heiress, the thirty francs that came from the sale of Sylvestre’s bag; and then the letters, the certificates, and the box containing the military medal.
She took the whole parcel awkwardly with open fingers, unable to find pockets to put them in.
She went straight through Paimpol, looking at no one, her body bent slightly like one about to fall, with a rushing of blood in her ears; pressing and hurrying along like some poor old machine, which could not be wound up, at a great pressure, for the last time, without fear of breaking its springs.
At the third mile she went along quite bent in two and exhausted; from time to time her foot struck against the stones, giving her a painful shock up to the very head. She hurried to bury herself in her home, for fear of falling and having to be carried there.
“Old Yvonne’s tipsy!” was the cry.
She had fallen, and the street children ran after her. It was just at the boundary of the parish of Ploubazlanec, where many houses straggle along the roadside. But she had the strength to rise and hobble along on her stick.
“Old Yvonne’s tipsy!”
The bold little creatures stared her full in the face, laughing. Her coiffe was all awry. Some of these little ones were not really wicked, and these, when they scanned her closer and saw the senile grimace of bitter despair, turned aside, surprised and saddened, daring to say nothing more.