In which we learn about centre boards, pilot books (I had to look them up), and the proper way to carry a heavy barrel.
One of the things I love about this chapter is that even though this is the point where hierarchies are being established, there are huge amounts of respect in both directions.
Mostly, we see John being a bit in awe of the Amazon pirates. He spends most of the chapter trying to work out how he can ask about the harbour markings without seeming ignorant, and in the end he just swallows his pride:
“At last John said, “Look here, Captain Nancy. I wish you’d tell me about the marking of the harbour.”‘
And Nancy immediately trusts him to navigate her precious Amazon.
Meanwhile, while Peggy is enthusiastically celebrating everything the two families have in common:
– “‘We’ve got flagons in our ship,’ said Peggy. ‘They are just like these.'” –
Nancy is lost in her own internal reverie.
“‘Right, I’ve got it. Swallows and Amazons for ever, and death to Captain Flint.'”
I mean – it’s catchy and everything, but if that’s what has been preoccupying her for so long, she should probably leave the wordy stuff to Titty. I don’t think that is it, though – she is also giving a lot of thought to how she can include these new friends in her long-running game-reality without jeopardising the bits that are most important to her. She’s working out how much control she’s willing to relinquish for the sake of making new connections. This is important stuff, and Nancy is not a talker, so it all happens inside her head.
We also get a lot of Captain Flint’s back story. Peggy is very good at exposition, and she shows us something about the naivety of these pirates who ‘know everything’. They are essentially well-meaning kids, and I’m fairly sure that I completely bought into her story when I was a child. Now, as an adult who is actually trying to write something right now (even if it is just a tiny personal blog), I have considerably more sympathy with poor Jim, who can’t get a minute’s peace.
“‘But we thought it wasn’t his fault to be writing a book, and that we would show him we didn’t think any worse of him for it. But he wasn’t pleased at all'”.
I wonder what Titty makes of this casual disregard for writing. She seems to be completely caught up in weaving her story of Captain Flint – probably that’s all that matters to her at this moment. I guess, for her, writing books is entirely compatible with going to war and walking the plank, so Captain Flint is at fault for creating the dichotomy.
And going to war there will be. They’ve eaten their sardines and levelled the playing field; now they can fight.