The first day she had seen him, this Yann, was the day after his arrival, at the “Pardon des Islandais,” which is on the eighth of December, the fete-day of Our Lady of Bonne-Nouvelle, the patroness of fishers—a little before the procession, with the gray streets, still draped in white sheets, on which were strewn ivy and holly and wintry blossoms with their leaves.
At this Pardon the rejoicing was heavy and wild under the sad sky. Joy without merriment, composed chiefly of insouciance and contempt; of physical strength and alcohol; above which floated, less disguised than elsewhere, the universal warning of death.
A great clamour in Paimpol; sounds of bells mingled with the chants of the priests. Rough and monotonous songs in the taverns—old sailor lullabies—songs of woe, arisen from the sea, drawn from the deep night of bygone ages. Groups of sailors, arm-in-arm, zigzagging through the streets, from their habit of rolling, and because they were half-drunk. Groups of girls in their nun-like white caps. Old granite houses sheltering these seething crowds; antiquated roofs telling of their struggles, through many centuries, against the western winds, the mist, and the rain; and relating, too, many stories of love and adventure that had passed under their protection.