When the full light of day appeared, Yann abruptly wiped his eyes with his sleeve and ceased weeping. That grief was over now. He seemed completely absorbed by the work of the fishery, and by the monotonous routine of substantial deeds, as if he never had thought of anything else.
The catching went on apace, and there were scant hands for the work. Around about the fishers, in the immense depths, a transformation scene was taking place. The grand opening out of the infinitude, that great wonder of the morning, had finished, and the distance seemed to diminish and close in around them. How was it that before the sea had seemed so boundless!
The horizon was quite clear now, and more space seemed necessary. The void filled in with flecks and streamers that floated above, some vague as mist, others with visibly jagged edges. They fell softly amid an utter silence, like snowy gauze, but fell on all sides together, so that below them suffocation set in swiftly; it took away the breath to see the air so thickened.
It was the first of the August fogs that was rising. In a few moments the winding-sheet became universally dense; all around the Marie a white damp lay under the light, and in it the mast faded and disappeared.
“Here’s the cursed fog now, for sure,” grumbled the men. They had long ago made the acquaintance of that compulsory companion of the second part of the fishing season; but it also announced its end and the time for returning to Brittany.
It condensed into fine, sparkling drops in their beards, and shone upon their weather-beaten faces. Looking athwart ship to one another, they appeared dim as ghosts; and by comparison, nearer objects were seen more clearly under the colourless light. They took care not to inhale the air too deeply, for a feeling of chill and wet penetrated the lungs.
But the fishing was going on briskly, so that they had no time left to chatter, and they only thought of their lines. Every moment big heavy fish were drawn in on deck, and slapped down with a smack like a whip-crack; there they wriggled about angrily, flapping their tails on the deck, scattering plenty of sea-water about, and silvery scales too, in the course of their death-struggle. The sailor who split them open with his long knife, sometimes cut his own fingers, in his haste, so that his warm blood mingled with the brine.
Caught in the fog, they remained ten days in succession without being able to see anything. The fishing went on handsomely the while, and with so much to do there was no time for weariness. At regular intervals one of them blew a long fog-horn, whence issued a sound like the howling of a wild beast.
Sometimes, out of the depths of white fog, another bellowing answered their call. Then a sharper watch was kept. If the blasts were approaching, all ears were turned in the direction of that unknown neighbour, whom they might perhaps never see, but whose presence was nevertheless a danger. Conjectures were made about the strange vessel; it became a subject of conversation, a sort of company for them; all longing to see her, strained their eyes in vain efforts to pierce those impalpable white shrouds.