dimarts, 9 d’agost de 2016

There they were, five huge, square-built seamen, drinking away together in the dismal cabin, which reeked of fish-pickle and bilge-water. The overhead beams came down too low for their tall statures, and rounded off at one end so as to resemble a gull's breast, seen from within. The whole rolled gently with a monotonous wail, inclining one slowly to drowsiness. Outside, beyond doubt, lay the sea and the night; but one could not be quite sure of that, for a single opening in the deck was closed by its weather-hatch, and the only light came from an old hanging-lamp, swinging to and fro. A fire shone in the stove, at which their saturated clothes were drying, and giving out steam that mingled with the smoke from their clay pipes. Their massive table, fitted exactly to its shape, occupied the whole space; and there was just enough room for moving around and sitting upon the narrow lockers fastened to the sides. Thick beams ran above them, very nearly touching their heads, and behind them yawned the berths, apparently hollowed out of the solid timbers, like recesses of a vault wherein to place the dead. All the wainscoting was rough and worn, impregnated with damp and salt, defaced and polished by the continual rubbings of their hands. They had been drinking wine and cider in their pannikins, and the sheer enjoyment of life lit up their frank, honest faces. Now, they lingered at table chatting, in Breton tongue, on women and marriage. A china statuette of the Virgin Mary was fastened on a bracket against the midship partition, in the place of honour. This patron saint of our sailors was rather antiquated, and painted with very simple art; yet these porcelain images live much longer than real men, and her red and blue robe still seemed very fresh in the midst of the sombre greys of the poor wooden box. She must have listened to many an ardent prayer in deadly hours; at her feet were nailed two nosegays of artificial flowers and a rosary. These half-dozen men were dressed alike; a thick blue woollen jersey clung to the body, drawn in by the waist-belt; on the head was worn the waterproof helmet, known as the sou'-wester. These men were of different ages. The skipper might have been about forty; the three others between twenty-five and thirty. The youngest, whom they called Sylvestre or "Lurlu," was only seventeen, yet already a man for height and strength; a fine curly black beard covered his cheeks; still he had childlike eyes, bluish-grey in hue, and sweet and tender in expression. Huddled against one another, for want of space, they seemed to feel downright comfort, snugly packed in their dark home. Outside spread the ocean and night—the infinite solitude of dark fathomless waters. A brass watch, hung on the wall, pointed to eleven o'clock—doubtless eleven at night—and upon the deck pattered the drizzling rain. Among themselves, they treated these questions of marriage very merrily; but without saying anything indecent. No, indeed, they only sketched plans for those who were still bachelors, or related funny stories happening at home at wedding-feasts. Sometimes with a happy laugh they made some rather too free remarks about the fun in love-making. But love-making, as these men understand it, is always a healthy sensation, and for all its coarseness remains tolerably chaste. But Sylvestre was worried, because a mate called Jean (which Bretons pronounce "Yann") did not come down below. Where could Yann be, by the way? was he lashed to his work on deck? Why did he not come below to take his share in their feast? "It's close on midnight, hows'ever," observed the captain; and drawing himself up he raised the scuttle with his head, so as to call Yann that way. Then a weird glimmer fell from above. "Yann! Yann! Look alive, matey!" "Matey" answered roughly from outside while through the half-opened hatchway the faint light kept entering like that of dawn. Nearly midnight, yet it looked like a peep of day, or the light of the starry gloaming, sent from afar through mystic lenses of magicians. When the aperture closed, night reigned again, save for the small lamp, "sended" now and again aside, which shed its yellow light. A man in clogs was heard coming down the wooden steps. He entered bent in two like a big bear, for he was a giant. At first he made a wry face, holding his nose, because of the acrid smell of the souse. He exceeded a little too much the ordinary proportions of man, especially in breadth, though he was straight as a poplar. When he faced you the muscles of his shoulders, moulded under his blue jersey, stood out like great globes at the tops of his arms. His large brown eyes were very mobile, with a grand, wild expression. Sylvestre threw his arms round Yann, and drew him towards him tenderly, after the fashion of children. Sylvestre was betrothed to Yann's sister, and he treated him as an elder brother, of course. And Yann allowed himself to be pulled about like a young lion, answering by a kind smile that showed his white teeth. These were somewhat far apart, and appeared quite small. His fair moustache was rather short, although never cut. It was tightly curled in small rolls above his lips, which were most exquisitely and delicately modelled, and then frizzed off at the ends on either side of the deep corners of his mouth. The remainder of his beard was shaven, and his highly coloured cheeks retained a fresh bloom like that of fruit never yet handled. When Yann was seated, the mugs were filled up anew. The lighting of all the pipes was an excuse for the cabin boy to smoke a few wiffs himself. He was a robust little fellow, with round cheeks—a kind of little brother to them all, more or less

Cap comentari:

Publica un comentari a l'entrada