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The Fisherwoman
by [?]

There came a time when Peggy needed no more to look out for the sail.
Her husband went stolidly down to the boat one evening, and her three
sons followed with their weighty tread. The father was a big, rugged man
with a dark face; the lads were yellow-haired, taking after their
mother. Some of the fishermen did not like the look of the evening sky,
but Peggy’s husband never much heeded the weather.

Next day the wind came away very strong, and the cobles had to cower
southward under a bare strip of mainsail. The men ashore did not like to
be asked whether they thought the weather would get worse; and the women
stood anxiously at their doors. A little later and they gathered all
together on the rock-edge. One coble, finely handled, was working
steadily up to the bend where the boats ran in for the smooth water, and
Peggy followed every yard that the little craft gained. All the world
for her depended on the chance of weathering that perilous turn. The
sail was hardly to be seen for the drift that was plucked off the crests
of the waves. Too soon Peggy saw a great roller double over and fold
itself heavily into the boat. Then there was the long wallowing lurch,
and the rudder came up, while the mast and the sodden sail went under.
It was bad enough for a woman to read in some cold official list about
the death of her father, her husband, her son; but very much worse it is
for the woman who sees her dearest drowning–standing safe ashore to
watch every hopeless struggle for life. One of the fishers said to
Peggy, “Come thy ways in, my woman; and we’ll away and seek them.” But
Peggy walked fast across the sand and down to the place where she knew
the set of the tide would carry the dead lads in. The father came first
ashore. She wiped the froth from his lips and closed his eyes, and then
hastened further northward where her eldest son was flung on the beach.
Peggy saw in an instant that his face was bruised, and moaned at the
sight of the bruises; his father looked as though he were sleeping. The
other lads did not come ashore till next day, and Peggy would not go
home all the night through. In the dark she got away from the kind
fellows who stayed by her; and when they sought her she was kneeling in
the hollow of a sand-hill where another of her boys lay–her face
pressed against the grass.

These bold fellows were laid in the ground, and next day Peggy started
silently to work. The grandfather–that is, her husband’s father, an old
man, quite broken by the loss of his son–was brought home to his son’s
fireside, where the two may be seen to-day: their thoughts divided
between their dead and the business of getting bread for to-morrow.