Yes, she gets two chapters named after her. She is That Good.
This chapter is peculiarly alien in culture, and at the same time I feel closer to John than ever before.
He doesn’t know how to write a letter – and neither does Susan. And they are both nice, apparently quite clever, and go to fancy boarding schools. This boggled my young mind. With the benefit of maturity, I am of course now aware that intelligence and virtue don’t necessarily correlate with literacy, but somehow I suspect it might be more that his standards for formal letter writing are considerably higher than mine. Conscious incompetence.
But his antedote to Nasty Stressful Experience is to go for a challenging swim. Here I can relate. I love the way his siblings all cheer him on, and Susan even thinks to heat up a towel (which she manages without setting fire to it – kudos!). That’s a nice touch.
And then mother arrives, and it all turns weird again. These kids are… well, how old are they? Do they even know? They don’t know when their own birthdays are! You’d think they might think ‘hmm, who had a birthday during the summer holidays last year? Well, what a coincidence!’
I have to call a continuity error where I sees it. The birthday cake says ‘Victoria’ on top. This makes total sense while their little sister is called Vicky, but doesn’t really fit with the later books, where she becomes Bridget and ‘Vicky’ is written off as a nickname. It’s fairly clear to me that the whole ‘she just looked a bit like Queen Victoria’ explanation was a retcon – she was obviously intended to be Vicky, and Ransome just changed his mind later. (Apparently she was modelled on an actual child called Brijit.)
And… nurse arrives in the boat, yes? It says so. She waves. And then she disappears for the rest of the chapter. Either Mr Ransome is to be accused of classism, or the whole society of his time is to blame for the expectation that the Help will not participate in family interactions. I don’t know. I don’t like it at all, though. Somebody’s looking after your kid for you, you include them in conversation from time to time.
Blatant elitism aside though, the Best of All Natives really is quite fab. I like the banana tree a lot, and she is extremely wise in respect of Captain Flint:
“‘It doesn’t matter what people think or say if they don’t know you. They may think anything.'”
I’m very pleased that she trusts John so completely. She manages to show some empathy for poor beleaguered Captain Flint without for one second suggesting that John has done anything wrong, either leading up to the accusations levelled at him or in his response to them. And she backs off when she can see that her children are uncomfortable – divided loyalties are a tricky thing, and she trusts them to deal with that, too.
Also – she calls the Amazons ‘little girls’.