there are stretches of coast in the north of brittany so desolate that lighthouses seem almost superfluous, as it can hardly be imagined that any vessel other than those blown there by the deadliest storms would ever come near them. and yet so vast and unyielding are the bureaucracies governing france that dozens of these edifices are still to be found, that have not warned away a ship for generations. lighthouse keepers have been born and died, and had their humble stipends - barely enough to sustain life even in the best of times - delivered to them by that most admirable of our bureaucracies - the postal service (a subject dear to our hearts, but which we will give the attention it deserves elsewhere), without ever seeing the ocean disturbed, except by the wind and rain.
old morneau had been the sole occupant of one of these lighthouses, in the barely populated province of c---------, for longer than anyone, including himself, could remember. on the second day of every month, when the tide was low, he would descend the steps of the lighthouse and, leaning on his stout wooden stick, make his way across the rocky beach and down the twisted path to the village of f------------, thence to the postmistress's to receive his pay from the department of coastal defense ( a sub-department of the war office, established by m carnot himself).
he would then have a half a glass of wine at the local pub and arrange to have a months supplies delivered from the general store, which was located not in the village itself but in a slightly larger village some leagues away. he would linger over his half glass of wine, giving himself just time to return to the lighthouse before dusk.