Author's notes: Third in my 50x500 Swallows and Amazons challenge.
Captain Nancy, the terror of the seas, walks determinedly down the garden path to the flagstaff. She's horrified by how weak her legs feel; anyone would think she'd been in bed for months, and on the brink of death, not for a couple of weeks with mumps. It's just absurd... she's an Amazon pirate, a Lake girl, not a soft town child. She's going to get her strength back if it kills her.
Mother's watching, she realises, and looking very much as if she'd like to tell her to go back to bed. She doesn't, though, and Nancy keeps moving.
"Softly, Margaret, softly! Play that bar again, Margaret."
Teeth gritted, Peggy obeys, barely touching the keys. She'd liked this piece until the GA had made her play it. How did she spoil everything?
"Gently, now, Peggy... yes, that's perfect. Well done!"
Peggy grins at Miss Greene. She'd always liked music, but had never realised just how wonderful playing it could be until Miss Greene came to the school. Peggy loves being part of the new orchestra. She refused to play the piano, but she's enjoying mastering the flute, while Nancy wreaks havoc with the accordion no-one knew the school possessed.
"Mother? Do you think I'm too soft on the children?"
Mary looks at Susan thoughtfully, but doesn't press for the story - not yet, anyway. She can guess it.
"I used to ask myself that... It's a hard balance to strike. Looking at my wonderful children, though, I don't think I did too badly. And you're much better at it than I was."
Susan's surprised; when she was a child, Mother seemed all-knowing, and never doubtful.
But it's likely she'd have faced the same "helpful" comments and criticism Susan does today. She hugs her silently, grateful to have her help.
Titty moves her pencil carefully, intent on her drawing. Slowly, a scene begins to take shape on the blank page. The soft, rolling slopes of hills are sketched first, and are swept gracefully down to the lakeside. Then comes the Lake itself, a vast watery expanse, and in the foreground, the harbour on Wild Cat Island. She looks it over, then lightly pencils in the Swallow and the Amazon in the distance. Titty knows they're doing landscapes today, and the art teacher wouldn't approve of a ship featured too prominently, but the Lake would seem wrong without the two sails.
Washing her hands for dinner, Dot looks at them with pride. They'd spent long hours getting acquainted with the ropes and wood of the Teasel, and it showed.
She saw Tom's surprised look when she wished Nancy could see their horny hands. Of course, he's never met Nancy... the idea delights Dot, and she's distracted imagining a meeting between her Lakes and Broads friends.
Mrs Barrable is calling. With a final scrub at an ink stain, Dot dries her hands. 'All the same', she reflects, 'it's wonderful that horny hands are just as good as soft ones at writing novels.'