Chapter IX: ‘Swallow has gone’

No cryptically whimisical title for this chapter. This is Serious Bizniss.

Poor John wakes up all of a muddle. I can’t quite tell whether he’s wishing that his story had stayed pottersome or hoping that it will turn into a thriller, and I’m not sure that he knows, either. So he goes for a swim (always good for clearing the head, I find), and imagines hitching a ride on a seagull. John has a tendency to come across as a bit grown-up and sensible, so it’s nice to see that he can be plenty fanciful when he’s on his own.

Then he nips across to see Mrs Dixon, who has made toffee for the funny children on the island:

“‘I fettled you up a baking.'”

Oh, this chapter is delightful!

Only then it all turns a bit miserable, as John is accused of messing around with the houseboat. I think it’s lovely that his first thought, when he starts to feel threatened and unwelcome, is that he should have woken Susan – and he is reassured by the sight of her smoke. I do have a soft spot for Supportive Siblings, and they’re a good team.

“‘Do you know how to make rum punch?’ said Titty. ‘That’s made out of molasses, isn’t it?’
‘I expect so,’ said the mate. ‘I’ve never tried.'”

I like to think that ‘I expect so’ refers to her ability to make rum punch from a bag of toffee. That would symbolise Susan’s approach to life quite beautifully.

John manages to wait until after breakfast before he tells the others about the native’s warning, and nobody nags him about it, which I think shows enviable self control all round. They hold a council on that beautiful frontier between reality (we might get kicked off) and fantasy (pirate treasure! let’s sink his boat!), and are suddenly interrupted by a very real actual arrow hitting their saucepan. My, this chapter is an emotional rollercoaster!

No time to deal with mundane grown-up stuff – the real play is beginning in earnest.

You’d think that the disappearance of their boat would be a cause for concern, but it fits so well into the adventure that they want to be having that it just seems to spur them on. There’s teamwork and tracking and weaponry and skulking, all done very inexpertly but with great enthusiasm. There’s the immediate refusal to surrender.  And then there are mysterious shadowy shapes in their very own tents.

And there we leave them, but will crack on very soon, I think. The suspense is palpable.

In the meantime, I have discovered this lovely Tumblr blog, to sate your Swallows and Amazon cravings if I’m too slow.


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