It was the third moonrise since the elation of the first arrival. The seas had remained calm, the large shoals of fish had moved back out of the bay to continue their journeys along the Eastern coast. The return of the first three boats had brought joy but this was replaced by sadness at the realisation there may not be a fourth. There was now only sadness mixed with hope for the watchers on the shore. Women, their heads covered with woollen scarves, shawls wrapped over their shoulders, their once gaily decorated smocks replaced by the black clothes of mourning. Sadly they turned away from the falling tide, retiring to their tiny whitewashed cottages to sit in front of of the open fire in sadness and contemplation. Two with babies slung at their sides felt a worse pain for the children who would never know their fathers. Already the families had known hunger, the times when the shoals of pilchards had bypassed their small cove and other boats had been able to reap the harvest leaving little for the inhabitants of this one remote village, where crops in the field were scarce and prices in the markets high.
One young woman, childless, stayed on the beach in hope, her eyes, though salty with tears, scanning the blue, darkening horizon for any sign of the boats’ return. With no husband or parents to care for she could only wait for her fiancée, the crewman on the smack Louisa. They were betrothed but had decided that marriage could wait until he was able to be master of his own vessel. Then they could hope to move from his parents home into their own property without the expense of paying rent to the Lord of the Manor who owned all of the houses which doubled as the fish-processing works. Gathering all the driftwood and rapidly drying seaweed at the top of the beach she started to make up the fire in preparation for her lonely vigil.