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Part 2 In The Breton Land Chapter 12

The sea, the gray sea once more, where Yann was gently gliding alongits broad, trackless road, that leads the fishermen every year to theLand of Ice.

  The day before, when they all had set off to the music of the oldhymns, there blew a brisk breeze from the south, and all the shipswith their outspread sails had dispersed like so many gulls; but thatbreeze had suddenly subsided, and speed had diminished; great fog-banks covered the watery surface.

  Yann was perhaps quieter than usual. He said that the weather was toocalm, and appeared to excite himself, as if he would drive away somecare that weighed upon him. But he had nothing to do but be carriedserenely in the midst of serene things; only to breathe and lethimself live. On looking out, only the deep gray masses around couldbe seen; on listening, only silence.

  Suddenly there was an almost imperceptible rumbling, which came frombelow, accompanied by a grinding sensation, as when a brake comes harddown on carriage wheels. The /Marie/ ceased all movement. They hadstruck. Where, and on what? Some bank off the English coast probably.

  For since overnight they had been able to see nothing, with thosecurtains of mist.

  The men ran and rushed about, their bustle contrasting strongly withthe sudden rigidity of their ship. How had the /Marie/ come to a stopin that spot? In the midst of that immensity of fluid in this dullweather, seeming to be almost without consistence, she had been seizedby some resistless immovable power hidden beneath the waves; she wastight in its grasp, and might perish there.

  Who has not seen poor birds caught by their feet in the lime? At firstthey can scarcely believe they are caught; it changes nothing in theiraspect; but they soon are sure that they are held fast, and in dangerof never getting free again. And when they struggle to get free, andthe sticky stuff soils their wings and heads, they gradually assumethat pitiful look of a dumb creature in distress, about to die. Suchwas the case with the /Marie/. At first it did not seem much to beconcerned about; she certainly was careened a little on one side, butit was broad morning, and the weather was fair and calm; one had toknow such things by experience to become uneasy, and understand thatit was a serious matter.

  The captain was to be pitied. It was his fault, as he had notunderstood exactly where they were. He wrung his hands, saying: "Godhelp us! God help us!" in a voice of despair.

  Close to them, during a lifting of the fog, they could distinguish aheadland, but not recognize it. But the mists covered it anew, andthey saw it no longer.

  There was no sail or smoke in sight. They all jostled about, hurryingand knocking the deck lumber over. Their dog Turc, who did not usuallymind the movement of the sea, was greatly affected too by thisincident, these sounds from down below, these heavy wallowings whenthe low swell passed under, and the sudden calm that afterwardsfollowed; he understood that all this was unusual, and hid himselfaway in corners, with his tail between his legs. They got out theboats to carry the kedges and set them firm, and tried to row her outof it by uniting all their forces together upon the tow-lines--a heavypiece of work this, which lasted ten successive hours. So, whenevening came, the poor bark, which had only that morning been so freshand light, looked almost swamped, fouled, and good for nothing. Shehad fought hard, floundered about on all sides, but still remainedthere, fixed as in a dock.

  Night was overtaking them; the wind and the waves were rising; thingswere growing worse, when, all of a sudden, towards six o'clock, theywere let go clear, and could be off again, tearing asunder the tow-lines, which they had left to keep her head steady. The men wept,rushing about like madmen, cheering from stem to stern--"We're afloat,boys!"They were afloat, with a joy that cannot be described; what it was tofeel themselves going forwards on a buoyant craft again, instead of onthe semi-wreck it was before, none but a seaman feels, and few of themcan tell.

  Yann's sadness had disappeared too. Like his ship, he became livelyonce more, cured by the healthy manual labour; he had found hisreckless look again, and had thrown off his glum thoughts.

  Next morning, when the kedges were fished up, the /Marie/ went on herway to Iceland, and Yann's heart, to all appearance, was as free as inhis early years.



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