He carried with him—as a delightful memory of her, though not without its cloud—the pretty picture she made when he came upon her one day in the orchard, milking—for, strictly as the Sabbath may be observed, cows must still be milked on a Sunday, not being endowed manna-like, with the gift of miraculous double production on a Saturday.
Her head was pressed into her favourite beast’s side, and she was crooning soothingly to it as the white jets ping-panged into the frothing pail, and he stood for a moment watching her unseen.
Then the cow slowly turned her head towards him, considered him gravely for a moment, decided he was unnecessary and whisked her tail impatiently. Nance’s lullaby stopped, she looked round with a reproving frown, and he went silently on his way.
It was another Sunday afternoon that, as he lay in the bracken on the slope of a headland, he saw two slim figures racing down a bare slope on the opposite side of a wide blue gulf, with joyous chatter, and recognized Nance and Bernel.
They disappeared and he felt lonely. Then they came picking their way round a black spur below, and stood for a minute or two looking down at something beneath them. Which something he presently discovered must be a pool of size among the rocks, for after a brief retiral, Nance behind a boulder and Bernel into a black hollow, they came out again, she lightly clad in fluttering white and Bernel in nothing at all, and with a shout of delight dived out of sight into the pool below.
He could hear their shouts and laughter echoed back by the huge overhanging rocks. He saw them climb out again and sit sunning themselves on the grey ledge like a pair of sea-birds, and Nance’s exiguous white garment no longer fluttered in the breeze.
Then in they went again, and again, and again, till, tiring of the limits of the pool—huge as he afterwards found it to be—they crept over the barnacled rocks to the sea, and flung themselves fearlessly in, and came ploughing through it towards his headland. And he shrank still lower among the bracken, for though he had watched the distant little figure in white with a slight sense of sacrilege, and absolutely no sense of impropriety but only of enjoyment, he would not for all he was worth have had her know that he had watched at all, since he could imagine how she would resent it.
Nevertheless, these unconscious revelations of her real self were to him as jewels of price, and he treasured the memory of them accordingly.
He watched them swim back and disappear among the rocks, and presently go merrily up the bare slope again; and he lay long in the bracken, scarce daring to move, and when he did, he crept away warily, as one guilty of a trespass.
And glad he was that he had done so, for he had proof of her feeling that same night at supper.
Peter Mauger came sheepishly in again with Tom, and Tom, when he had satisfied the edge of his hunger, must wax facetious in his brotherly way.