Oh! those long winter evenings when there was not enough wood for their fire; to work in the bitter cold for one’s daily bread, sewing hard to finish the clothes brought over from Paimpol.
Granny Yvonne, sitting by the hearth, remained quiet enough, her feet stuck in among the smouldering embers, and her hands clasped beneath her apron. But at the beginning of the evening, Gaud always had to talk to her to cheer her a little.
“Why don’t ye speak to me, my good girl? In my time I’ve known many girls who had plenty to say for themselves. I don’t think it ’ud seem so lonesome, if ye’d only talk a bit.”
So Gaud would tell her chit-chat she had heard in town, or spoke of the people she had met on her way home, talking of things that were quite indifferent to her, as indeed all things were now; and stopping in the midst of her stories when she saw the poor old woman was falling asleep.
There seemed nothing lively or youthful around her, whose fresh youth yearned for youth. Her beauty would fade away, lonely and barren. The wind from the sea came in from all sides, blowing her lamp about, and the roar of the waves could be heard as in a ship. Listening, the ever-present sad memory of Yann came to her, the man whose dominion was these battling elements; through the long terrible nights, when all things were unbridled and howling in the outer darkness, she thought of him with agony.
Always alone as she was, with the sleeping old granny, she sometimes grew frightened and looked in all dark corners, thinking of the sailors, her ancestors, who had lived in these nooks, but perished in the sea on such nights as these. Their spirits might possibly return; and she did not feel assured against the visit of the dead by the presence of the poor old woman, who was almost as one of them herself.
Suddenly she shivered from head to foot, as she heard a thin, cracked voice, as if stifled under the earth, proceed from the chimney corner.
In a chirping tone, which chilled her very soul, the voice sang:
“Pour la peche d’Islande, mon mari vient de partir, Il m’a laissee sans le sou, Mais—trala, trala la lou!”
Then she was seized with that peculiar terror that one has of mad people.
The rain fell with an unceasing, fountain-like gush, and streamed down the walls outside. There were oozings of water from the old moss-grown roof, which continued dropping on the self-same spots with a monotonous sad splash. They even soaked through into the floor inside, which was of hardened earth studded with pebbles and shells.
Dampness was felt on all sides, wrapping them up in its chill masses; an uneven, buffeting dampness, misty and dark, and seeming to isolate the scattered huts of Ploubazlanec still more.