Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

rope

away from it, with his eyes half out of their sockets; but suddenly tearing his arm with a violent effort from the that bound him, he seized the pannikin and bit clean through the tin; after which, throwing back his head, he swallowed the whole draught dashed the pannikin down, his face turned black and he fell dead on the deck.

The big sailor sprung aside with an oath, forced from him by his terror; and from every looker-on there broke a groan. They all shrunk away and stood staring with blanched faces. Such a piteous sight as it was, lying doubled up, with the rope pinioning the miserable limbs, the teeth locked, and the right arm uptossed!

"Aft here and get the quarter-boat hoisted up!" shouted Duckling, advancing on the poop; and seeing the man dead on the deck, he added, "Get a tarpaulin and cover him up, and let him lie on the fore-hatch."

"Shall I tell the steward to serve out grog to the men who went with me?" I asked him.

He stared at me contemptuously, and walked away without answering.

THE SAILOR'S WIFE

From "An Iceland Fisherman," BY PIERRE Loti

T

HE Icelanders were all returning now. Two ships

came in the second day, four the next, and twelve during the following week. And all through the country joy returned with them; and there was happiness for the wives and mothers, and junkets in the taverns where the beautiful barmaids of Paimpol served out drink to the fishers.

The Léopoldine was among the belated; there were yet another ten expected. They would not be long now; and allowing a week's delay so as not to be disappointed, Gaud waited in happy, passionate joy for Yann, keeping their home bright and tidy for his return. When everything was in good order there was nothing left for her to do; and besides, in her impatience, she could think of nothing else but her husband.

Three more ships appeared; then another five. There were only two lacking now.

"Come, come," they said to her cheerily, "this year the Léopoldine and the Marie-Jeanne will be the last, to pick up all the brooms fallen overboard from the other craft."

Gaud laughed also. She was more animated and beautiful than ever, in her great joy of expectancy.

But the days succeeded one another without result.

She still dressed up every day, and with a joyful look went down to the harbor to gossip with the other wives. She said that this delay was but natural: was it not the

same event every year? These were such safe boats, and had such capital sailors.

But when at home alone, at night, a nervous anxious shiver of apprehension would run through her whole frame.

Was it right to be frightened already? Was there even a single reason to be so? but she began to tremble at the mere idea of grounds for being afraid.

The 10th of September came. How swiftly the days flew by!

One morning-a true autumn morning, with cold mist falling over the earth in the rising sun-she sat under the porch of the chapel of the shipwrecked mariners, where the widows go to pray; with eyes fixed and glassy, and throbbing temples tightened as by an iron band.

These sad morning mists had begun two days before; and on this particular day Gaud had awakened with a still more bitter uneasiness, caused by the forecast of advancing winter. Why did this day, this hour, this very moment, seem to her more painful than the preceding? Often ships are delayed a fortnight; even a month, for that mat

ter.

But surely there was something different about this particular morning; for she had come to-day for the first time to sit in the porch of this chapel and read the names of the dead sailors, perished in their prime.

IN MEMORY OF

GAOS YVON

Lost at Sea

NEAR THE NORDEN-FJORD

Like a great shudder, a gust of wind rose from the sea, and at the same time something fell like rain upon the

roof above. It was only the dead leaves, though;—many were blown in at the porch; the old wind-tossed trees of the graveyard were losing their foliage in this rising gale, and winter was marching nearer.

Lost at Sea

NEAR THE NORDEN-FJORD

In the storm of the 4th and 5th of August, 1880

She read mechanically under the arch of the doorway; her eyes sought to pierce the distance over the sea. That morning it was untraceable under the gray mist, and a dragging drapery of clouds overhung the horizon like a mourning veil.

Another gust of wind, and other leaves danced in whirls. A stronger gust still; as if the western storm which had strewn those dead over the sea wished to deface the very inscriptions which kept their names in memory with the living.

Gaud looked with involuntary persistency at an empty space upon the wall which seemed to yawn expectant. By a terrible impression, she was pursued by the thought of a fresh slab which might soon perhaps be placed there, -with another name which she did not even dare think of in such a spot.

She felt cold, and remained seated on the granite bench, her head reclining against the stone wall.

NEAR THE NORDEN-FJORD

In the storm of the 4th and 5th of August, 1880
t the age of 23 years
Requiescat in pace!

Then Iceland loomed up before her, with its little cemetery lighted up from below the sea-line by the midnight

sun. Suddenly, in the same empty space on the wall, with horrifying clearness she saw the fresh slab she was thinking of; a clear white one, with a skull and crossbones, and in a flash of foresight a name,-the worshiped name of "Yann Gaos"! Then she suddenly and fearfully drew herself up straight and stiff, with a hoarse wild cry in her throat like a mad creature.

Outside, the gray mist of the dawn fell over the land, and the dead leaves were again blown dancingly into the porch.

Steps on the footpath! Somebody was coming? She rose, and quickly smoothed down her cap and composed her face. Nearer drew the steps. She assumed the air of one who might be there by chance; for above all, she did not wish to appear yet like the widow of a shipwrecked mariner.

It happened to be Fante Floury, the wife of the second mate of the Léopoldine. She understood immediately what Gaud was doing there: it was useless to dissemble with her. At first each woman stood speechless before the other. They were angry and almost hated each other for having met holding a like sentiment of apprehension.

"All the men of Tréguier and Saint-Brieuc have been back for a week," said Fante at last, in an unfeeling, muffled, half-irritated voice.

She carried a blessed taper in her hand, to offer up a prayer. Gaud did not wish yet to resort to that extreme resource of despairing wives. Yet silently she entered the chapel behind Fante, and they knelt down together side by side like two sisters.

To the Star of the Sea they offered ardent imploring prayers, with their whole soul in them. A sound of sobbing was alone heard, as their rapid tears swiftly fell upon the floor. They rose together, more confident and softened.

« ForrigeFortsæt »