At home, with the door tightly closed, she gave vent to the deep scream of despair that choked her, and fell down in a corner, her head against the wall. Her cap had fallen over her eyes; she threw off roughly what formerly had been so well taken care of. Her Sunday dress was soiled, and a thin mesh of yellowish white hair strayed from beneath her cap, completing her pitiful, poverty-stricken disorder.
CHAPTER VII—THE COMFORTER
Thus did Gaud, coming in for news in the evening, find her; her hair dishevelled, her arms hanging down, and her head resting against the stone wall, with a falling jaw grinning, and the plaintive whimper of a little child; she scarcely could weep any more; these grandmothers, grown too old, have no tears left in their dried-up eyes.
“My grandson is dead!” She threw the letters, papers, and medal into her caller’s lap.
Gaud quickly scanned the whole, saw the news was true, and fell on her knees to pray. The two women remained there together almost dumb, through the June gloaming, which in Brittany is long but in Iceland is never-ending. On the hearth the cricket that brings joy was chirping his shrill music.
The dim dusk entered through the narrow window into the dwelling of those Moans, who had all been devoured by the sea, and whose family was now extinguished.
At last Gaud said: “I’ll come to you, good granny, to live with you; I’ll bring my bed that they’ve left me, and I’ll take care of you and nurse you—you shan’t be all alone.”
She wept, too, for her little friend Sylvestre, but in her sorrow she was led involuntarily to think of another—he who had gone back to the deep-sea fishery.
They would have to write to Yann and tell him Sylvestre was dead; it was just now that the fishers were starting. Would he, too, weep for him? Mayhap he would, for he had loved him dearly. In the midst of her own tears, Gaud thought a great deal of him; now and again waxing wroth against the hard-hearted fellow, and then pitying him at the thought of that pain which would strike him also, and which would be as a link between them both—one way and another, her heart was full of him.
CHAPTER VIII—THE BROTHER’S GRIEF
One pale August evening, the letter that announced Yann’s brother’s death, at length arrived on board the Marie, upon the Iceland seas; it was after a day of hard work and excessive fatigue, just as they were going down to sup and to rest. With eyes heavy with sleep, he read it in their dark nook below deck, lit by the yellow beam of the small lamp; at the first moment he became stunned and giddy, like one dazed out of fair understanding. Very proud and reticent in all things concerning the feelings was Yann, and he hid the letter in his blue jersey, next his breast, without saying anything, as sailors do. But he did not feel the courage to sit down with the others to supper, and disdaining even to explain why, he threw himself into his berth and fell asleep. Soon he dreamed of Sylvestre dead, and of his funeral going by.