“From Flores” by Ethel Wilson tells the story of a fishing boat which sinks destroyed by reefs during a storm. The characters run the gamut of life from a ne’er do well crew member, the captain and family man, a young man, and injured little boy. Except for Ed, the crew man, the others had families or ones that loved and needed them.
The author toward the end of the book leaves the wife of the captain standing on the pier waiting for her husband to do as he promised: be home for Christmas.
People had to stop asking because they could not bear to speak to Mrs. Crabbe standing and waiting on the busy wharf, paying the exorbitant price of love.
The word exorbitant is key to the meaning of the phrase. Exorbitant means exceeding the bounds of custom, propriety, or reason; highly excessive; or beyond the customary limits of intensity or amount.
What is the price of love for this sea captain? He leaves his family often, always promising to return as soon as possible. His boat was named after his wife, and he often brought her gifts like baskets from his trips. She and the children wait continually for him to return.
Obviously, a good man, the captain’s loss was devastating to his wife and family. They probably depended on him for money and for his love as a husband and a father.
When someone loves another person, the one who loves knows that there is a chance that the other person will be lost to them. In a marriage, it is accepted that one or the other spouse will go first and the other person will be left to mourn.
In the kind of life that the sea captain lived, it was always a possibility that he would be lost at sea; yet, that makes it no easier for Mrs. Crabbe to accept. She has paid for her love because she will have him as her husband no more.
Was the cost of her love excessive? I do not think that she would say so---yes, the loss of her love comes at the unreasoning price of knowing what she had with the captain and knowing that she will never have it again. She did pay an “exorbitant price” for her loss of the captain’s love.