She soon proved herself to be a splendid boatwoman, and although her delicate and shapely arms were as mere pipe-stems to the great brawny limbs of her companion, yet she had a deft, mysterious way of handling the sculls that sent the cockleshell faster over the lagoon than before.
"Sarah looks like a milkmaid, my love," said the old lady, who did not choose to be interrupted, "And when she can hunt as much as she wishes, and live the outdoor life she prefers, she will get the complexion of a boatwoman." She turned to Lady Mary with a gracious nod. "But you may live out of doors with impunity.
By counsel, I take off my shoes and put on a pair of zori, or straw sandals provided for me, as the rock is extremely slippery. The others land barefoot. But how to proceed soon becomes a puzzle: the countless stone-piles stand so close together that no space for the foot seems to be left between them. 'Mada michiga arimasu! the boatwoman announces, leading the way. There is a path.
How she and a young girl handled our trunks, carrying them over intervening boats and then coming back for us, giving us her hand to convey us to her craft! No mistaking her business capacity, nor her ability to cope with the strongest and most active man and capture two passengers to his one. John is no match for a Canton boatwoman on water, whatever he may be on land.
Had we come earlier, the boatwoman says, we should have seen many more. For 'tis at night, when the soil of the cavern is moist with dews and drippings from the roof, that They leave Their footprints upon it; but when the heat of the day comes, and the sand and the rocks dry up, the prints of the little feet vanish away. There are only three footprints visible, but these are singularly distinct.
On the other hand, when we got out on the lagoon and were struck by another heavy wind-squall, the cutter became liliputian, while the Snark, in our imagination, seemed to promise all the stability and permanence of a continent. They were good boatmen. Tehei and Bihaura had come along to see us home, and the latter proved a good boatwoman herself.
To atone therefore, we must build six new towers, or double the number of those which we have cast down. And while we are thus busied, the boatwoman tells of two fishermen who remained in the cavern through all one night, and heard the humming of the viewless gathering, and sounds of speech, like the speech of children murmuring in multitude.
But we did not want an ordinary boatwoman for us five, for we were not very like the rest of the world. We wanted something unexpected, funny, ready for everything, something, in short, which it would be almost impossible to find.
There was an exaggerated earnestness about the action which gave me an uncanny sensation something like that which moves a man while walking at night upon a lonesome road, full of queer shadows, to sing at the top of his voice. The boatwoman at first declares that the rapping was made only for the sake of the singular echo.
The day is clear blue to the end of the world, with a faint wind from the east, barely enough to wrinkle the sea, certainly more than enough to 'move three hairs. Nevertheless the boatwoman and the boatman do not seem anxious; and I begin to wonder whether the famous prohibition is not a myth.