On the granite wall hung a photograph of Sylvestre in his sailor clothes. His grandmother had fixed his military medal to it, with his own pair of those red cloth anchors that French men-of-wars-men wear on their right sleeve; Gaud had also brought one of those funereal crowns, of black and white beads, placed round the portraits of the dead in Brittany. This represented Sylvestre’s mausoleum, and was all that remained to consecrate his memory in his own land.
On summer evenings they did not sit up late, to save the lights; when the weather was fine, they sat out a while on a stone bench before the door, and looked at passers-by in the road, a little over their heads. Then old Yvonne would lie down on her cupboard shelf; and Gaud on her fine bed, would fall asleep pretty soon, being tired out with her day’s work, and walking, and dreaming of the return of the Icelanders. Like a wise, resolute girl, she was not too greatly apprehensive.
But one day in Paimpol, hearing that La Marie had just got in, Gaud felt possessed with a kind of fever. All her quiet composure disappeared; she abruptly finished up her work, without quite knowing why, and set off home sooner than usual.
Upon the road, as she hurried on, she recognised him, at some distance off, coming towards her. She trembled and felt her strength giving way. He was now quite close, only about twenty steps off, his head erect and his hair curling out from beneath his fisher’s cap. She was so taken by surprise at this meeting, that she was afraid she might fall, and then he would understand all; she would die of very shame at it. She thought, too, she was not looking well, but wearied by the hurried work. She would have done anything to be hidden away under the reeds or in one of the ferret-holes.
He also had taken a backward step, as if to turn in another direction. But it was too late now. Both met in the narrow path. Not to touch her, he drew up against the bank, with a side swerve like a skittish horse, looking at her in a wild, stealthy way.
She, too, for one half second looked up, and in spite of herself mutely implored him, with an agonized prayer. In that involuntary meeting of their eyes, swift as the firing of a gun, these gray pupils of hers had appeared to dilate and light up with some grand noble thought, which flashed forth in a blue flame, while the blood rushed crimson even to her temples beneath her golden tresses.
As he touched his cap he faltered. “Wish you good-day, Mademoiselle Gaud.”
“Good-day, Monsieur Yann,” she answered.
That was all. He passed on. She went on her way, still quivering, but feeling, as he disappeared, that her blood was slowly circulating again and her strength returning.
At home, she found Granny Moan crouching in a corner with her head held between her hands, sobbing with her childish “he, he!” her hair dishevelled and falling from beneath her cap like thin skeins of gray hemp.