“Oh, my kind Gaud! I’ve just met young Gaos down by Plouherzel as I came back from my wood-gathering; we spoke of our poor lad, of course. They arrived this morning from Iceland, and in the afternoon he came over to see me while I was out. Poor lad, he had tears in his eyes, too. He came right up to my door, my kind Gaud, to carry my little fagot.”
She listened, standing, while her heart seemed almost to break; so this visit of Yann’s, upon which she had so much relied for saying so many things, was already over, and would doubtless not occur again. It was all done. Her poor heart seemed more lonely than ever. Her misery harder, and the world more empty; and she hung her head with a wild desire to die.
Slowly the winter drew nigh, and spread over all like a shroud leisurely drawn. Gray days followed one another, but Yann appeared no more, and the two women lived on in their loneliness. With the cold, their daily existence became harder and more expensive.
Old Yvonne was difficult to tend, too; her poor mind was going. She got into fits of temper now, and spoke wicked, insulting speeches once or twice every week; it took her so, like a child, about mere nothings.
Poor old granny! She was still so sweet in her lucid days, that Gaud did not cease to respect and cherish her. To have always been so good and to end by being bad, and show towards the close a depth of malice and spitefulness that had slumbered during her whole life, to use a whole vocabulary of coarse words that she had hidden; what mockery of the soul! what a derisive mystery! She began to sing, too, which was still more painful to hear than her angry words, for she mixed everything up together—the oremus of a mass with refrains of loose songs heard in the harbour from wandering sailors. Sometimes she sang “Les Fillettes de Paimpol” (The Lasses of Paimpol), or, nodding her head and beating time with her foot, she would mutter:
“Mon mari vient de partir; Pour la peche d’Islande, mon mari vient de partir, Il m’a laissee sans le sou, Mais—trala, trala la lou, J’en gagne, j’en gagne.”
(My husband went off sailing Upon the Iceland cruise, But never left me money, Not e’en a couple sous. But—ri too loo! ri tooral loo! I know what to do!)
She always stopped short, while her eyes opened wide with a lifeless expression, like those dying flames that suddenly flash out before fading away. She hung her head and remained speechless for a great length of time, her lower jaw dropping as in the dead.
One day she could remember nothing of her grandson. “Sylvestre? Sylvestre?” repeated she, wondering whom Gaud meant; “oh! my dear, d’ye see, I’ve so many of them, that now I can’t remember their names!”
So saying she threw up her poor wrinkled hands, with a careless, almost contemptuous toss. But the next day she remembered him quite well; mentioning several things he had said or done, and that whole day long she wept.