Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo
Book IV. Pitfalls in the Way.
VII. The Appeal is Heard.
SOME hours passed.
The sun rose in an unclouded sky.
Its first ray shone upon a motionless form upon the Great Douvre. It was Gilliatt.
He was still outstretched upon the rock.
He was naked, cold, and stiff; but he did not shiver. His closed eyelids were wan. It would have been difficult for a beholder to say whether the form before him was not a corpse.
The sun seemed to look upon him.
If he were not dead, he was already so near death that the slightest cold wind would have sufficed to extinguish life.
The wind began to breathe, warm and animating: it was the opening breath of May.
Meanwhile the sun ascended in the deep blue sky; its rays, less horizontal, flushed the sky. Its light became warmth. It enveloped the slumbering form.
Gilliatt moved not. If he breathed, it was only that feeble respiration which could scarcely tarnish the surface of a mirror.
The sun continued its ascent, its rays striking less and less obliquely upon the naked man. The gentle breeze which had been merely tepid became hot.
The rigid and naked body remained still without movement; but the skin seemed less livid.
The sun, approaching the zenith, shone almost perpendicularly upon the plateau of the Douvres. A flood of light descended from the heavens; the vast reflection from the glassy sea increased its splendour; the rock itself imbibed the rays and warmed the sleeper.
A sigh raised his breast.
The sun continued its gentle offices. The wind, which was already the breath of summer and of noon, approached him like loving lips that breathed upon him softly.
The peaceful calm upon the sea was perfect. Its murmur was like the droning of the nurse beside the sleeping infant. The rock seemed cradled in the waves.
The sea-birds, who knew that form, fluttered above it; not with their old wild astonishment, but with a sort of fraternal tenderness. They uttered plaintive cries: they seemed to be calling to him. A seamew, who no doubt knew him, was tame enough to come near him. It began to caw as if speaking to him. The sleeper seemed not to hear. The bird hopped upon his shoulder, and pecked his lip softly.
Gilliatt opened his eyes.
The birds dispersed, chattering wildly.
Gilliatt arose, stretched himself like a roused lion, ran to the edge of the platform, and looked down into the space between the two Douvres.
The sloop was there, intact; the stoppage had held out; the sea had probably disturbed it but little.
All was saved.
He was no longer weary. His powers had returned. His swoon had ended in a deep sleep.
He descended and bailed out the sloop, emptied the hold, raised the leakage above the water-line, dressed himself, ate, drank some water, and was joyful.
The gap in the side of his vessel, examined in broad daylight, proved to require more labour than he had thought. It was a serious fracture. The entire day was not too much for its repair.
At daybreak on the morrow, after removing the barrier and reopening the entrance to the defile, dressed in the tattered clothing which had served to stop the leak, having about him Clubin's girdle and the seventy-five thousand francs, standing erect in the sloop, now repaired, by the side of the machinery which he had rescued, with a favourable breeze and a good sea, Gilliatt pushed off from the Douvres.
He put the sloop's head for Guernsey.
At the moment of his departure from the rocks, any one who had been there might have heard him singing, in an undertone, the air of "Bonnie Dundee "