They pulled all the useless defences on board. The Reine-Berthe, melting away into the thick fog, had disappeared as suddenly as a painted ship in a dissolving view. They tried to hail her, but the only response was a sort of mocking clamour—as of many voices—ending in a moan, that made them all stare at each other in surprise.
This Reine-Berthe did not come back with the other Icelandic fishers; and as the men of the Samuel-Azenide afterward picked up in some fjord an unmistakable waif (part of her taffrail with a bit of her keel), all ceased to hope; in the month of October the names of all her crew were inscribed upon black slabs in the church.
From the very time of that apparition—the date of which was well remembered by the men of the Marie—until the time of their return, there had been no really dangerous weather on the Icelandic seas, but a great storm from the west had, three weeks before, swept several sailors overboard, and swallowed up two vessels. The men remembered Larvoer’s peculiar smile, and putting things together many strange conjectures were made. In the dead of night, Yann, more than once, dreamed that he again saw the sailor who blinked like an ape, and some of the men of the Marie wondered if, on that remembered morning, they had not been talking with ghosts.
CHAPTER XII—THE STRANGE COUPLE
Summer advanced, and, at the end of August, with the first autumnal mists, the Icelanders came home.
For the last three months the two lone women had lived together at Ploubazlanec in the Moan’s cottage. Gaud filled a daughter’s place in the poor birthplace of so many dead sailors. She had sent hither all that remained from the sale of her father’s house; her grand bed in the town fashion, and her fine, different coloured dresses. She had made herself a plainer black dress, and like old Yvonne, wore a mourning cap, of thick white muslin, adorned merely with simple plaits. Every day she went out sewing at the houses of the rich people in the town, and returned every evening without being detained on her way home by any sweetheart. She had remained as proud as ever, and was still respected as a fine lady; and as the lads bade her good-night, they always raised a hand to their caps.
Through the sweet evening twilight, she walked home from Paimpol, all along the cliff road inhaling the fresh, comforting sea air. Constant sitting at needlework had not deformed her like many others, who are always bent in two over their work—and she drew up her beautiful supple form perfectly erect in looking over the sea, fairly across to where Yann was it seemed.
The same road led to his home. Had she walked on much farther, towards a well-known rocky windswept nook, she would come to that hamlet of Pors-Even, where the trees, covered with gray moss, grew crampedly between the stones, and are slanted over lowly by the western gales. Perhaps she might never more return there, although it was only a league away; but once in her lifetime she had been there, and that was enough to cast a charm over the whole road; and, besides, Yann would certainly often pass that way, and she could fancy seeing him upon the bare moor, stepping between the stumpy reeds.