She coaxed him doubtfully to the descent of the rounded headland facing L’Etat, picking out an easy circuitous way for him, and so got him safely down to her own special pool, hollowed out of the solid granite by centuries of patient grinding on the part of the great boulders within.
It was there, peering down at the fishes below, that she expressed a wish to imitate them; and he agreeing, she ran up to the farm for a bit of rope and was back before he had half comprehended all the beauties of the pool. And he had no sooner explained the necessary movements to her and she had tried them, than she cast off the rope, shouting, “I can swim! I can swim!” and to his amazement swam across the pool and back—a good fifty feet each way—chirping with delight in this new-found faculty and the tonic kiss of the finest water in the world. But after all it was not so very amazing, for she was absolutely without fear, and in that water it is difficult to sink.
They were often down there together after that, for close alongside were wonderful channels and basins whorled out of the rock in the most fantastic ways, and to sit and watch the tide rush up them was a never-failing entertainment.
And not far away was a blow-hole of the most extraordinary which shot its spray a hundred feet into the air, and if you didn’t mind getting wet you could sit quite alongside it, so close that you could put your hand into it as it came rocketing out of the hole, and then, if the sun was right, you sat in the midst of rainbows—a thing Nance had always longed to do since she clapped her baby hands at her first one. But the Vicar never did that.
And once, in quest of the how and the why, Nance swam into the blow-hole’s cave at a very low tide, and its size and the dome of its roof, compared with the narrowness of its entrance, amazed her, but she did not stay long for it gave her the creeps.
These were some of the ways by which little Nance grew to a larger estate than most of her fellows, and all these things helped to make her what she came to be.
When she grew old enough to assist in the farm, new realms of delight opened to her. Chickens, calves, lambs, piglets—she foster-mothered them all and knew no weariness in all such duties which were rather pleasures.
It was a wounded rabbit, limping into cover under a tangle of gorse and blackberry bashes, that discovered to her the entrance to the series of little chambers and passages that led right through the headland to the side looking into Port Gorey. Which most satisfactory hiding-place she and Bernel turned to good account on many an occasion when brother Tom’s oppression passed endurance.
It had taken time, and much screwing up of childish courage, to explore the whole of that extraordinary little burrow, and it was not the work of a day.
When Nance crept along the little run made by many generations of rabbits, she found that it led finally into a dark crack in the rock, and, squeezing through that, she was in a small dark chamber which smelt strongly of her friends.