But the Sunday evenings were the saddest of all, because of the relative gaiety in other homes on that day, for there are joyful evenings even among those forgotten hamlets of the coast; here and there, from some closed-up hut, beaten about by the inky rains, ponderous songs issued. Within, tables were spread for drinkers; sailors sat before the smoking fire, the old ones drinking brandy and the young ones flirting with the girls; all more or less intoxicated and singing to deaden thought. Close to them, the great sea, their tomb on the morrow, sang also, filling the vacant night with its immense profound voice.
On some Sundays, parties of young fellows who came out of the taverns or back from Paimpol, passed along the road, near the door of the Moans; they were such as lived at the land’s end of Pors-Even way. They passed very late, caring little for the cold and wet, accustomed as they were to frost and tempests. Gaud lent her ear to the medley of their songs and shouts—soon lost in the uproar of the squalls or the breakers—trying to distinguish Yann’s voice, and then feeling strangely perplexed if she thought she had heard it.
It really was too unkind of Yann not to have returned to see them again, and to lead so gay a life so soon after the death of Sylvestre; all this was unlike him. No, she really could not understand him now, but in spite of all she could not forget him or believe him to be without heart.
The fact was that since his return he had been leading a most dissipated life indeed. Three or four times, on the Ploubazlanec road, she had seen him coming towards her, but she was always quick enough to shun him; and he, too, in those cases, took the opposite direction over the heath. As if by mutual understanding, now, they fled from each other.
At Paimpol lives a large, stout woman named Madame Tressoleur. In one of the streets that lead to the harbour she keeps a tavern, well known to all the Icelanders, where captains and ship-owners come to engage their sailors, and choose the strongest among them, men and masters all drinking together.
At one time she had been beautiful, and was still jolly with the fishers; she has a mustache, is as broad built as a Dutchman, and as bold and ready of speech as a Levantine. There is a look of the daughter of the regiment about her, notwithstanding her ample nun-like muslin headgear; for all that, a religious halo of its sort floats around her, for the simple reason that she is a Breton born.
The names of all the sailors of the country are written in her head as in a register; she knows them all, good or bad, and knows exactly, too, what they earn and what they are worth.
One January day, Gaud, who had been called in to make a dress, sat down to work in a room behind the tap-room.