CHAPTER XVII—THE ESPOUSAL
It was manifest that Yann meant to accompany them; perhaps all the way home. They walked on, all three together, as if following the cat’s funeral procession; it was almost comical to watch them pass; and the old folks on the doorsteps grinned at the sight. Old Yvonne, in the middle, carried the dead pet; Gaud walked on her right, trembling and blushing, and tall Yann on the left, grave and haughty.
The aged woman had become quiet now; she had tidied her hair up herself and walked silently, looking alternately at them both from the tail of her eyes, which had become clear again.
Gaud said nothing for fear of giving Yann the opportunity of taking his leave; she would have liked to feel his kind, tender eyes eternally on her, and to walk along with her own closed so as to think of nothing else; to wander along thus by his side in the dream she was weaving, instead of arriving so soon at their lonely, dark cottage, where all must fade away.
At the door occurred one of those moments of indecision when the heart seems to stop beating. The grandam went in without turning round, then Gaud, hesitating, and Yann, behind, entered, too.
He was in their house for the first time in his life—probably without any reason. What could he want? As he passed over the threshold he touched his hat, and then his eyes fell and dwelt upon Sylvestre’s portrait in its small black-beaded frame. He went slowly up to it, as to a tomb.
Gaud remained standing with her hands resting on the table. He looked around him; she watched him take a silent inspection of their poverty. Very poor looked this cottage of the two forsaken women. At least he might feel some pity for her, seeing her reduced to this misery inside its plain granite and whitewash. Only the fine white bed remained of all past splendour, and involuntarily Yann’s eyes rested there.
He said nothing. Why did he not go? The old grandmother, although still so sharp in her lucid intervals, appeared not to notice him. How odd! So they remained over against one another, seeming respectively to question with a yearning desire. But the moments were flitting, and each second seemed to emphasize the silence between them. They gazed at one another more and more searchingly, as if in solemn expectation of some wonderful, exquisite event, which was too long in coming.
“Gaud,” he began, in a low grave voice, “if you’re still of a mind now——”
What was he going to say? She felt instinctively that he had suddenly taken a mighty resolution—rapidly as he always did, but hardly dared word it.
“If you be still of a mind—d’ye see, the fish has sold well this year, and I’ve a little money ahead——”
“If she were still of a mind!” What was he asking of her? Had she heard aright? She felt almost crushed under the immensity of what she thought she premised.