When he attained a position of responsibility he had had no time for anything else. And so, of his own experience, he knew little of women and their ways.
Less, indeed, than Nance knew of men and their ways. And that was not very much and tended chiefly to scorn and dissatisfaction, seeing that her knowledge was gleaned almost entirely from her experiences of Tom and Peter Mauger. Her father was, of course, her father, and on somewhat of a different plane from other men.
And so, if Nance was a wonder and a revelation to Gard, Gard was no less of, at all events, a novelty in the way of mankind to Nance.
His quiet bearing and good manners, after a life-long course of Tom, had a distinct attraction for her.
That he could burst into flame if occasion required, she was convinced. For, more than once, out of the corner of her eye and round the edge of her sun-bonnet, she had caught his thunderous looks of disgust at some of Tom’s carryings-on.
She would, perhaps, have been ashamed to confess it but, somewhere down in her heart, she rather hoped, sooner or later, to see his lightning as well. It would be worth seeing, and she was inclined to think it would be good for Tom—and the rest of the family.
For Gard looked as if he could give a good account of himself in case of need. His well-built, tight-knit figure gave one the impression that he was even stronger than he looked.
If only he had been a Sark man and had nothing to do with those horrid mines! But all her greatest dislikes met in him, and she could not bring herself to the point of relaxing one iota in these matters of which he was unfortunately and unconsciously guilty.
The state of affairs at the mines improved not one whit as the months dragged on. There was a smouldering core of discontent which might break into flame at any moment—or into disastrous explosion if the necessary element were added.
Old Tom did his best, and stood loyally by the new captain and the interests of the mine and himself. But he was in a minority and could so far do no more than oppose vehement talk to vehement talk, and that, as a rule, is much like pouring oil on roaring flames.
Not many of those who were shareholders in the mine were also workers in it, and the workers met constantly at the house of a neighbour, who had turned his kitchen to an undomestic but profitable purpose by supplying drink to the miners at what seemed to the English and Welshmen ridiculously low prices.
In that kitchen the new captain and his new methods were vehemently discussed and handled roughly enough—in words. And hot words and the thoughts they excite, and wild thoughts and the words they find vent in, are at times the breeders of deeds that were better left undone.
To all financially interested in the mines the need for strictest economy and fullest efficiency was patent enough. It was still a case of faith and hope—a case of continual putting in of work and money, and, so far, of getting little out—except the dross which intervened between them and their highest hopes.