They were quiet, farmer-fisher folk who lived there, having nothing to do with the mines and little beyond a general interest in them.
When not at work, he was thrown much upon himself, and if in his rambles he chanced upon Bernel Hamon it was a treat, and if, as happened all too seldom, upon Nance as well, an enjoyment beyond words.
But Nance was a busy maid, with hens and chickens, and cows and calves, and pigs and piglets claiming her constant attention, and it was only now and again that she could so arrange her duties as to allow of a flight with Bernel—a flight which always took the way to the sea and developed presently into a bathing revel wherein she flung cares and clothes to the winds, or into a fishing excursion, in which pleasure and profit and somewhat of pain were evenly mixed.
For, though she loved the sea and ate fresh-caught fish with as much gusto as any, she hated seeing them caught—almost as much as she hated having her fowls or piglets slaughtered for eating purposes, and never would touch them—a delicacy of feeling at which Bernel openly scoffed but could not laugh her out of.
She had sentiments also regarding the rabbits Bernel shot on the cliffs, but being wild, and she herself having had no hand in their upbringing and not having known them intimately, she accepted them as natural provision, though not without compunctions at times concerning possible families of orphans left totally unprovided for.
When she did permit herself a few hours off duty she did it with a whole-hearted enjoyment—approaching the naive abandon of childhood—which, to Gard’s sober restraint, when he was graciously permitted to witness it, was wholly charming.
By degrees, and especially after her father’s tragic death, Nance’s feelings towards the stranger had perceptibly changed.
He might be an alien, an Englishman; but he was at all events a Cornishman, and she had heard say that the men of Cornwall and of the Islands and of the Bretagne had much in common, just as their rugged coasts had. And England, after all, was allied to the Islands, belonged to them in fact, and was indeed quite as essential a part of the Queen’s dominions as the Islands themselves, and to harbour unfriendly feeling towards your own relations—unless indeed, as in the case of Tom, they had given you ample cause—would be surely the mark of a small and narrow mind.
And he might be a miner; and mines, and most miners, were naturally hateful to her. But he had been a sailor, and was miner only by accident as it were, and she knew that he loved the sea. Allowance, she supposed, must be made for men getting twists in their brains—like her father. He had gone crazy over these mines though he had been sensible enough in other matters.
What her careful, surreptitious observation of him, from the depths and round the wings of her sun-bonnet, told her was that he was an upright man, and true, and bold, with a spirit which he kept well in hand but which could blaze like lightning on occasion, and a strength which he could turn to excellent purpose when the need arose.