one morning, before he went to sleep (for he dutifully spent his nights awake at the lighthouse window), he thought, today is the day.
he slept lightly - the sleep of lizards, monarchs, the old, and the desperate grasping at their last chance.
he awoke at noon, and went to the window.
the tide was high.
but a rowboat was setting out from shore.
he put on his coat and took his beret from the hook. he dug a small money bag out from the cushion of one of the two chairs in the main room, and put it in the pocket of his coat.
he took his cane from beside the door and went down the stairs.
the boat was approaching.
two people were in the boat. a ragamuffin girl about eleven years old sat in the prow, and a runtish boy of about fifteen, just emerging from ragamuffinhood into full rascalhood, with what seemed a permanent leer on his sunbrowned face, was pulling the oars.
morneau moved to the edge of the water, to the spot he knew was best for a small boat.
the sun, though high in the sky, burned coldly through the almost permanent mist. and a stiffer breeze than usual ruffled the old man's threadbare coat.
"hey, hey!" the boy shouted. "papa morneau! you are papa morneau, are you not? eh?"
morneau waved in assent. the boy steered the boat to him skillfully enough, swinging it around at the last second so that the old man could climb onto the rear bench without stepping into the water.
"so, old man, this is your lucky day, eh?" the boy asked, and the girl guffawed.
"indeed," morneau replied affably, and the boy pushed the boat back into the water and quickly left the waterline, then settled into a more measured pace of rowing.
"not in any hurry, are you?" he asked morneau, and the girl exploded in laughter. she sat in the front of the boat, on the right gunwale, and stared at morneau as the little boat crossed the few hundred yards to shore, giggling and sniggering the whole time. she kept it up even as the boat reached shore, and the boy finally smacked her across the head.
"stop acting like a monkey." they all got out of the boat.
"don't follow us," the boy told the girl. "go ahead, drag the boat up on shore, where the tide won't get it." he made a motion to smack her again, but held up.
morneau followed the boy up the beach toward the village.
"well, old fellow," said the boy, in a friendlier voice than before, " you have had it nice and quiet in your lighthouse, eh? not having to listen to woman's jabbering , eh? but now your peace is about to be shattered ! ha, ha! but that is the way of it."
morneau smiled good-naturedly at this morsel of ancient wisdom from the mouth of one so young. "perhaps she will be the quiet one."
"perhaps the devil will shave his own tail with holy water."
"one never knows."
they proceeded in silence to mother jeanne's, morneau kept up with the boy's rapid pace, looking neither to the right nor the left. they passed no one in the lanes.
the boy rapped loudly on the door, and after about twenty seconds, mother jeanne peered out at them.
"come in, come in." she gestured at the boy and he went and sat under a stunted tree by the side of the house. "he will wait there to take you back - both of you."
"you have my fee - what we agreed on?" she asked when the door closed behind morneau. although it was now high noon, only a little light from the outside filtered into the room.
morneau took the bag from his pocket and handed it to her. she slipped the coins out of it without seeming to open it, hefted them briefly in her palm and put them in an invisible pocket of her dress without looking at them. she handed the little bag back to him. "very good." she stared up at him. "you have kept your part of the bargain. i trust you will find i have kept mine."
"she is in the next room."
morneau made no response.
"she is no beauty."
"i did not bargain for one."
"but she is not so old. younger, perhaps, than you expected."
"she is in the next room, waiting for you. i will leave you, make my errands. the boy will take you back, if the tide still requires it."
the old woman left. the front door closed behind her. morneau heard her say something sharply to the boy.