The Sailor's Wife



The Icelanders were all returning now. Two ships came in the second

day, four the next, and twelve during the following week. And all

through the country joy returned with them; and there was happiness for

the wives and mothers, and junkets in the taverns where the beautiful

barmaids of Paimpol served out drink to the fishers.



The _Leopoldine_ was among the belated; there were yet another ten

expected. They would not be long now; and allowing a week's delay so

as not to be disappointed, Gaud waited in happy, passionate joy for

Yann, keeping their home bright and tidy for his return. When

everything was in good order there was nothing left for her to do; and

besides, in her impatience, she could think of nothing else but her

husband.



Three more ships appeared; then another five. There were only two

lacking now.



"Come, come," they said to her cheerily, "this year the _Leopoldine_

and the _Marie-Jeanne_ will be the last, to pick up all the brooms

fallen overboard from the other craft."



Gaud laughed also. She was more animated and beautiful than ever, in

her great joy of expectancy.



But the days succeeded one another without result.



She still dressed up every day, and with a joyful look went down to the

harbor to gossip with the other wives. She said that this delay was

but natural: was it not the same event every year? These were such

safe boats, and had such capital sailors.



But when at home alone, at night, a nervous anxious shiver of

apprehension would run through her whole frame.



Was it right to be frightened already? Was there even a single reason

to be so? but she began to tremble at the mere idea of grounds for

being afraid.



The 10th of September came. How swiftly the days flew by!



One morning--a true autumn morning, with cold mist falling over the

earth in the rising sun--she sat under the porch of the chapel of the

shipwrecked mariners, where the widows go to pray; with eyes fixed and

glassy, and throbbing temples tightened as by an iron band.



These sad morning mists had begun two days before; and on this

particular day Gaud had awakened with a still more bitter uneasiness,

caused by the forecast of advancing winter. Why did this day, this

hour, this very moment, seem to her more painful than the preceding?

Often ships are delayed a fortnight; even a month, for that matter.



But surely there was something different about this particular morning;

for she had come to-day for the first time to sit in the porch of this

chapel and read the names of the dead sailors, perished in their prime.





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