Then the pathway rose again, and they found themselves commanding the view of immense horizons—and breathed the bracing air of sea-heights once more.
He, to match her, spoke of Iceland, its pale, nightless summers and sun that never set. Gaud did not understand and asked him to explain.
“The sun goes all round,” said he, waving his arm in the direction of the distant circle of the blue waters. “It always remains very low, because it has no strength to rise; at midnight, it drags a bit through the water, but soon gets up and begins its journey round again. Sometimes the moon appears too, at the other side of the sky; then they move together, and you can’t very well tell one from t’other, for they are much alike in that queer country.”
To see the sun at midnight! How very far off Iceland must be for such marvels to happen! And the fjords? Gaud had read that word several times written among the names of the dead in the chapel of the shipwrecked, and it seemed to portend some grisly thing.
“The fjords,” said Yann, “they are not broad bays, like Paimpol, for instance; only they are surrounded by high mountains—so high that they seem endless, because of the clouds upon their tops. It’s a sorry country, I can tell you, darling. Nothing but stones. The people of Iceland know of no such things as trees. In the middle of August, when our fishery is over, it’s quite time to return, for the nights begin again then, and they lengthen out very quickly; the sun falls below the earth without being able to get up, and that night lasts all the winter through. Talking of night,” he continued, “there’s a little burying-ground on the coast in one of the fjords, for Paimpol men who have died during the season or went down at sea; it’s consecrated earth, just like at Pors-Even, and the dead have wooden crosses just like ours here, with their names painted on them. The two Goazdious from Ploubazlanec lie there, and Guillaume Moan, Sylvestre’s grandfather.”
She could almost see the little churchyard at the foot of the solitary capes, under the pale rose-coloured light of those never-ending days, and she thought of those distant dead, under the ice and dark winding sheets of the long night-like winters.
“Do you fish the whole time?” she asked, “without ever stopping?”
“The whole time, though we somehow get on with work on deck, for the sea isn’t always fine out there. Well! of course we’re dead beat when the night comes, but it gives a man an appetite—bless you, dearest, we regularly gobble down our meals.”
“Do you never feel sick of it?”
“Never,” returned he, with an air of unshaken faith which pained her; “on deck, on the open sea, the time never seems long to a man—never!”
She hung her head, feeling sadder than ever, and more and more vanquished by her only enemy, the sea.