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 she could think of nothing else but her husband in her impatience.
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 herself every day, and with a joyful look, went down to the harbour 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 anguish 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 tenth 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, throbbing temples tightened as by an iron hand.
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.
“In memory of GAOS, YVON, Lost at sea Near the Norden-Fjord.”
Like a great shudder, a gust of wind rose from the sea, and at the same time something fell like rain upon the roof above. It was only the dead leaves though; many were blown in at the porch; the old wind-tossed trees of the graveyard were losing their foliage in this rising gale, and winter was marching nearer.