Sometimes on their stone seat he lay down, resting his head in Gaud’s lap like a caressing child, till, suddenly remembering propriety, he would draw himself up erect. He would have liked to lie on the very ground at her feet, and remain there with his brow pressed to the hem of her garments. Excepting the brotherly kiss he gave her when he came and went, he did not dare to embrace her. He adored that invisible spirit in her, which appeared in the very sound of her pure, tranquil voice, the expression of her smile, and in her clear eye.
One rainy evening they were sitting side by side near the hearth, and Granny Moan was asleep opposite them. The fire flames, dancing over the branches on the hearth, projected their magnified shadows on the beams overhead.
They spoke to one another in that low voice of all lovers. But upon this particular evening their conversation was now and again broken by long troubled silence. He, in particular, said very little and lowered his head with a faint smile, avoiding Gaud’s inquiring eyes. For she had been pressing him with questions all the evening concerning that mystery that he positively would not divulge; and this time he felt himself cornered. She was too quick for him, and had fully made up her mind to learn; no possible shifts could get him out of telling her now.
“Was it any bad tales told about me?” she asked.
He tried to answer “yes,” and faltered: “Oh! there was always plenty of rubbish babbled in Paimpol and Ploubazlanec.”
She asked what, but he could not answer her; so then she thought of something else. “Was it about my style of dress, Yann?”
Yes, of course, that had had something to do with it; at one time she had dressed too grandly to be the wife of a simple fisherman. But he was obliged to acknowledge that that was not all.
“Was it because at that time we passed for very rich people, and you were afraid of being refused?”
“Oh, no! not that.” He said this with such simple confidence that Gaud was amused.
Then fell another silence, during which the moaning of the sea-winds was heard outside. Looking attentively at him, a fresh idea struck her, and her expression changed.
“If not anything of that sort, Yann, what was it?” demanded she, suddenly, looking at him fair in the eyes, with the irresistible questioning look of one who guesses the truth, and could dispense with confirmation.
He turned aside, laughing outright.
So at last she had, indeed, guessed aright; he never could give her a real reason, because there was none to give. He had simply “played the mule” (as Sylvestre had said long ago). But everybody had teased him so much about that Gaud, his parents, Sylvestre, his Iceland mates, and even Gaud herself. Hence he had stubbornly said “no,” but knew well enough in the bottom of his heart that when nobody thought any more about the hollow mystery it would become “yes.”