Then the mysterious consort would depart, the bellowing of her trumpet fading away in the distance, and they would remain again in the deep hush, amid the infinity of stagnant vapour. Everything was drenched with salt water; the cold became more penetrating; each day the sun took longer to sink below the horizon; there were now real nights one or two hours long, and their gray gloaming was chilly and weird.
Every morning they heaved the lead, through fear that the Marie might have run too near the Icelandic coast. But all the lines on board, fastened end to end, were paid out in vain—the bottom could not be touched. So they knew that they were well out in blue water.
Life on board was rough and wholesome; the comfort in the snug strong oaken cabin below was enhanced by the impression of the piercing cold outside, when they went down to supper or for rest.
In the daytime, these men, who were as secluded as monks, spoke but little among themselves. Each held his line, remaining for hours and hours in the same immovable position. They were separated by some three yards of space, but it ended in not even seeing one another.
The calm of the fog dulled the mind. Fishing so lonely, they hummed home songs, so as not to scare the fish away. Ideas came more slowly and seldom; they seemed to expand, filling in the space of time, without leaving any vacuum. They dreamed of incoherent and mysterious things, as if in slumber, and the woof of their dreams was as airy as fog itself.
This misty month of August usually terminated the Iceland season, in a quiet, mournful way. Otherwise the full physical life was the same, filling the sailors’ lungs with rustling air and hardening their already strong muscles.
Yann’s usual manner had returned, as if his great grief had not continued; watchful and active, quick at his fishing work, a happy-go-lucky temper, like one who had no troubles; communicative at times, but very rarely—and always carrying his head up high, with his old indifferent, domineering look.
At supper in the rough retreat, when they were all seated at table, with their knives busy on their hot plates, he occasionally laughed out as he used to do at droll remarks of his mates. In his inner self he perhaps thought of Gaud, to whom, doubtless, Sylvestre had plighted him in his last hours; and she had become a poor girl now, alone in the world. And above all, perhaps, the mourning for his beloved brother still preyed upon his heart. But this heart of his was a virgin wilderness, difficult to explore and little known, where many things took place unrevealed on the exterior.
One morning, going on three o’clock, while all were dreaming quietly under their winding-sheet of fog, they heard something like a clamour of voices—voices whose tones seemed strange and unfamiliar. Those on deck looked at each other questioningly.