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hour this nothing moved us, the place where it happened, and that mirage whose properties have not yet been explained by physicians, but which 'so often plays over the objects that surround us at moments when life is light, and when our hearts are full. Sites the most lovely are but what we make them.
What man, ever so little a poet, finds not in his souvenirs some mass of rock that holds a place more cherished there than the most celebrated landscape, sought at great expense.
Near this rock, tumultuous thoughts; there, a whole life employed. There fears were dissipated, and rays of hope descended into the soul. At this moment, the Sun, sympathizing with these thoughts of love, or of the future, has cast on the tawny sides of this rock, an ardent light; some mountain flowers called attention, the calm and the silence enlarged this anfractuosity, sombre in reality, colored by the dreamer; then it was beautiful with its scant vegetation, its warm chamomillas, its hair of Venus with the velvet leaves; a festival prolonged, magnificent decorations, happy exaltation of human forces! Once already the Lake of Brienne, seen from the isle of Saint Peter, had thus spoken to me; the rock of Croisic will perhaps be the last of these joys! But then what will become of Pauline?
"You have had good luck this morning, my brave fellow?" said I, to the fisherman.
"Yes, sir,” replied he, as he stood and turned upon us a face sunburned by habitual exposure to the reverberation of light from the water. This countenance expressed habitual resignation, the patience and gentleness of the true fisherman, his voice had no coarseness, his lips were well turned; no ambition in the face, but its whole expression enlisted compassion without forfeiting respect. "Where are you going to sell that?"
"C In town."
"How much will they give you for the lobster?"
"For the sea-spider?"
Why such a difference between the lobster and the spider?"
The spider is much more delicate! besides, it is as cunning as a
monkey, and does not often get caught."
"Will you give us all for a dollar?" said Pauline. The man looked petrified.
"You shall not have it!" said I, laughing. "I will give two dollars. We ought to pay a fair price for our emotions."
"Well," replied she, "I will have it; I give two dollars, two cents."
I bowed; we were not at this moment rich enough to bid higher. Our poor fisherman knew not whether he ought to be vexed at a mystification, or to rejoice. We drew him out of his trouble by giving him the name of our hostess, and recommending him to carry her the lobster and the spider.
"Do you earn your living?" I asked, wishing to know the cause of his destitution.
"With trouble and misery enough," said he. "This fishing on the sea shore, without either boat or net, is an uncertain trade. We must await the fish or shell-fish there, while the big fishermen go after them in the open sea. It is such a hard life, that I am the only man who fishes on this shore. I pass whole days without getting anything, unless some sea-spider oversleeps itself, like this one, or some lobster be careless enough to remain on the rocks. Sometimes after heavy gales the seas strand large fish, and I grab them."
"Well, on the whole, taking luck as it comes, how much do you make by your day's work?"
"From a dime to a shilling. I could get along so if I were alone, but I have my father to feed, and the good man can not help me he is blind."
At these words, simply uttered, Pauline and I looked at each other without speaking.
"You have a wife or a sweetheart?"
He raised his eyes on us with one of the most deploring expressions I have ever seen, answering, "If I had a wife, I should have to forsake my father; I could not feed him and a wife and children besides."
"Well! my poor boy, why do you not try to earn more by carrying salt at the port, or in working at the salt-marshes?"
Ah! sir, I should not hold out three months. I am not strong enough; and if I died, my father would be left a beggar. must keep to a business that requires only a little skill and much patience."
"And how can two persons live on twelve cents a day?"
Oh, sir, we eat cakes of buckwheat, and barnacles that I break off from the rocks."
How old are you?"
"Have you ever been abroad?”
"Once I went to Guérande, to draw my lot for the army; and went to Savenay, to show myself before those gentlemen who measured me. If I had been an inch taller, I should have been a soldier. I should have broken down at the first fatigue and my poor father would now be begging his bread."
We walked on a little way in silence, both of us sounding the mute depth of this unknown life, admiring the nobility of that devotion which ignored itself. The strength of this feebleness astonished us; this generous poverty dwarfed our fairer fortunes beside it. I beheld this purely instinctive creature chained to his rock like a galley-slave, watching these twenty years for the shellfish that nourished him, and sustained in the patience of his soul by one sentiment. How many hours wasted on the beach, how many hopes baffled by a flaw of wind, by a change of weather! Hanging to the corner of a granite ledge, his arm stretched out like a Hindoo fakir's, while his father, seated on a stool, awaited in silence and darkness the coarsest of shell-fish and bread, if so pleased the sea.
"Do you ever drink wine?" I asked him.
"Three or four times a year."
"Well, you shall drink some to-day- you and your father; and we will send you a loaf of white bread."
"You are very kind, sir."
"You shall dine with us, if you will guide us along the beach to Batz, where we go to see the tower that overlooks the basin on the coast between Batz and the Croisic."
“With pleasure, sir. Continue straight along; I will rejoin you after I have put away my fish and le."
We gave a sign of assent, and he sprang forward, lighter of heart, towards the town.
-This meeting sustained the passional altitude that we had reached, yet sobered its gaiety.
'Poor man," said Pauline, with that accent which extracts from a woman's compassion the venom of pity; are we not ashamed to be happy in sight of such misery?"
"No cruelty like that of impotent desire," I replied. "These two unfortunate beings will no more know the keenness of our sympathy than the world knows the beauty of their life, for they lay up treasures in heaven."
"Poor country!" said she, pointing to the piles of dung laid symmetrically along a wall built of stones without mortar. "I was asking what they did that for; a peasant woman answered me that she was making wood. Can you imagine, my friend, that this is all these poor folks have to cook and warm themselves by? In the winter-time they are sold like motts of turf. And then what do you think the best seamstress is paid here for her day's work? Five cents," said she, after a pause; "but she has her meals."
"These sea-winds, you observe," I answered, “ dry up or overturn everything; there are no trees; the wrecks of condemned vessels are sold to the rich; for the price of transportation doubtless prevents them from burning here the wood with which Brittany still abounds. This country is only good for great souls; the heartless crowd can not subsist here it can only be inhabited by poets or by barnacles. They had to establish the salt mart here, in order to fix a population at all. Before us, the sea-here, the sands above, space."
We had already passed the town, and were in that sort of desert which separates the Croisic from the Bourg of Batz. Imagine a level of six miles filled with the glittering sands of the sea-shore. Here and there a few rocks raised their tops, looking like some gigantic animals reposing on the beach. Others below, around which played the billows, broke great white roses from their crests and crowned themselves with foam. Beholding this sea-girt savannah, the ocean to its right, and forming again to the left a lake between the Croisic and the sandy heights of Guérande, below which lie barren salt-marshes, I turned to Pauline, asking her if her courage could rise to the glow of this noon and her patience not sink in these sands.
"I have good gaiter boots on. Come, then," said she, point
ing to the tower of Batz, which stood warder of the landscape like a pyramida pyramid withal so carved and tastefully ornate, that fancy was seduced to picture there the earliest ruin of some great city of the East. We soon gained a seat beside a rock, in the shade that ebbed towards noon-tide at our feet.
"How fine this silence is," said she; "how it deepens beneath the regular pulse of the sea on this beach!"
"If you surrender your mind to the three immensities which encircle us the water, the air, and the sands,-listening exclusively to the repeated sounds of the flux and the reflux," I replied, "you will not be able to bear its language: you will seem to discern there a thought that overpowers you. It is Nature ignoring the personality of Man. It seized me yesterday at sunset-this sensation,and it broke my spirit within me.”
"Oh! yes, let us talk," said she, after a long pause. "No orator is more terrible. I seem to discover the causes of the harmonies that ensphere us," she resumed. "This landscape, which has but three decided colors the shining yellow sands, the blue sky, and the smooth green of the sea, is grand, without being wild-immense, yet not a desert—a monotone, yet not fatiguing. It has but three elements; it is varied.”
"A woman only thus interprets Nature. You would be the despair of a poet, in dissipating that veil of mystery behind which he shapes his creations; yet you are worth them all, and in divining you, have I not robbed the Sphynx of all her terrors?"
"The glow of noon now casts on these three expressions of the infinite a fierceness of color," said she, laughing, "that renders the poetry and the passions of the East.'
With despair for their background,” said I.
Yes, this beach is a sublime cloister."
We heard the hurried steps of our guide. He had put on his Sunday's best. We addressed a few insignificant words to him. He perceived our change of mood, and with the natural delicacy of solitude and misfortune, forbore to break upon it. We proceeded then in silence, holding each other by the hand like two children; for under that heat and in those deep sands we could not have made a dozen paces arm in arm. There was no road to Batz; the wind effaced all tracks from day to day. Only the practiced eye of our guide could follow its windings, now seaward, now landward, or turning around rocks. At noon we were only half way.