Honeymoon on wild cat island
John carried her ashore.
"Special occasion." he said.
They walked up to the look-out point and stood there together for a while.
"You see where that duck just landed?"
"That's about where you were the first time I ever saw you."
There was another silence, long but not empty or in the least bit awkward. The path back to the camp was narrow, but they managed to walk along it hand in hand.
"Who actually owns Wildcat Island?" he asked once they had kindled the fire again next morning. They had forgotten to bank it up in Susan-approved fashion last night.
"We do." Nancy replied, snuggling up next to him on the log bench
He wrapped his arms round her.
"I actually meant legally."
"So do I." she said. "Father bought it when he bought Beckfoot. He made a will when he married mother and left the island to me. He didn't know it was going to be me of course; it just said "eldest surviving child." I only found out about it when I was twenty-one. Mother and Uncle Jim knew all along of course, but I'm quite glad they didn't tell me before then. It would have ruined it somehow if I knew."
It was so calm that even Nancy and John had to admit that rowing across to the Dixon's farm for milk was the sensible option. Dick was already loading camping gear into Scarab.
"I thought you weren't going to Swallowdale until tomorrow." said John, once Amazon was next to Scarab.
"My parents thought, the way things are going, they had better get back to London sooner rather than later. So they're going back today, even if it is a Sunday service on the railway. There are all sorts of irreplaceable artefacts that need packing up and labelling and evacuating to the cellars of a stately home somewhere. Dot thought we ought to go with them but they were dead set against either of us going back to London. So we decided last night to set up camp today. I think your parents had decided to go a day earlier too."
"Maybe we had better go along to Holly Howe before we pick up the milk." Nancy suggested. "It would be just as quick to go by road, quicker really, because of saying good-bye to the Callums as well."
"Unless they row to Wild-Cat and we miss them." said John.
"I'll see and signal them if they do." said Dick.
Nancy hurried them through the good byes with the Callum parents and they set off briskly to Holly Howe.
Bridget greeted them as they arrived at Holly Howe.
"I might not be going back to school at the start of term, depending on what happens." she announced. "Mother and Daddy are going back today instead of tomorrow. They were going to row across to say good-bye, but Roger and Daddy saw you rowing across to Dixon's from Darien, I mean, Daddy and Roger were on Darien and saw you rowing to Dixon's. And guess what? Mrs Blackett says if there is going to be an evacuation, she's written to see if Elspeth and Colin want to come to Beckfoot and Mac and Mrs Mac said yes, but they won't send them yet unless things get lot worse. Isn't that a brilliant?"
Nancy managed not to say, "I know" and instead offered "I suppose Glasgow would be a target for bombing."
"Where is everyone else?" asked John.
"Mother and Daddy are upstairs, talking to Titty. She's not very happy because they won't let her go and sign up for anything and say she's got to stay here until we see what happens."
John went upstairs to find his parents and sister.
"I say, you don't have to go dashing off somewhere do you?" Bridget continued.
"Until I get some kind of further orders, I'm not even sure where I would report to at the moment." Nancy replied, "and I'm not expecting anything to arrive until the end of the week at least. Where are Roger and Susan?"
"Susan's already packed. She was going today, anyway. She's in the kitchen with Roger, sorting out stores for the camp. I think we should leave a secret store of supplies in Peter Duck's cave in case of invasion. We might have to be outlaws like Robin Hood."
"Put them in a tin-box and hide it well if you do. Better ask Titty what she thinks first. The cave is really her discovery." Nancy was suddenly finding it hard work to maintain her usual air of cheerful confidence.
"Titty said not to tell Elspeth and Colin about Peter Duck's cave." Bridget sounded a little disappointed.
"Then she's right. Titty usually is right about that sort of thing." Nancy saw Bridget's face and carried on. "I'm not saying they would deliberately say anything, but the more people know a thing the easier it is for accidents to happen. If war does break out, there will probably be lots of things that I shouldn't tell John and lots that he shouldn't tell me. It doesn't mean we don't trust each other."
Bridget's expression was no longer rebellious. Nancy felt she had said enough.
"Let's go and help Susan and Roger." she suggested.
"Well I was right to delay making up my mind. I mean it's obvious that university would be the wrong thing now. Dad agrees with me. He doesn't even mind that it's not the Navy that I want to join." Roger was saying as they entered.
"I'm not saying you're doing the wrong thing. And I don't think he ever did mind about the RAF; you just thought he did." Susan said. She had seen Nancy and Bridget enter, but continued, "I'm just saying don't keep talking about it to such an extent that Titty feels she has to rush off and do something without telling anybody. You know how she gets wound up about things."
Nothing else Susan could have done would have made it quite so clear that she now regarded Nancy as family.
"I hope Bridget didn't bounce your mother into making an offer she's going to regret." Susan continued, speaking to Nancy now.
"I think it was mainly Peggy's idea. She'll be around to keep an eye on them. They won't let her just drop the post-office job like that, whatever happens." Nancy replied. "And I'd just as soon Mother and Cook had someone near at hand to fuss over. It'll be rotten for them listening to the news and remembering the last one. Cook's husband died in the last war, Bridget. You don't need to mention it unless she does, but I'd rather you knew."
There was a pause.
"Shiver my timbers," Nancy said quite in her old fashion. "We don't even know if there is going to be a war." She tried not to catch Susan's eyes.
"Prepare for the worst and hope for the best, Mrs Walker." Mrs Jackson said as she entered the kitchen and joined in the laughter with the other three as Nancy looked around for her mother –in-law then blushed furiously as she realised her mistake.
"Nay, that's something we all take a bit of time to get used to." Mrs Jackson reassured her.
John and Nancy waited to say goodbye to his parents and somehow found themselves stopping for Sunday dinner at Holly Howe.
"I was planning to feed two more. You may as well." said Mrs Jackson.
"The Callums aren't setting out until after dinner either." said Titty, "because Mrs Dixon thought their parents would still be here."
"Peggy won't be able to come until the afternoon." said Susan. "Because of the Great-Aunt being there."
After they had eaten and thanked Mrs Jackson, John and Nancy went back to collect Amazon.
"Give us the knapsacks and we'll take them along to Horseshoe Cove in Amazon." said John. "And anything else you think we can carry. It's still calm and you won't want to make two trips rowing."
John and Nancy found they were the last to arrive at Horseshoe Cove. Scarab and Swallow were emptied out and pulled up well. Peggy was sitting on a convenient rock waiting for them, next to the pile of things to be taken up on the second trip. The others were already carrying things to Swallowdale.
"How is it going at home?" Nancy asked.
"Cook was so chuffed that Dorothea moved the Great- Aunt back a row and not her that she hasn't threatened to give notice once yet. Aunt Helen and her friend came for lunch and the Great-Aunt was so busy rubbing it in that she was staying at Beckfoot and Aunt Helen wasn't that, she forgot to ask any awkward questions. Mother is getting a bit worried that Elspeth and Colin will get lost on the way here if there is a big evacuation so she rang and asked the Mac's to send them tomorrow."
"How did the Great-Aunt take that?" John asked.
"Well you know how she does that thing where she invites herself and then when she's here decides she's enjoying herself so she'll stay just a bit more? It turns out that the 28th was the day she mentioned in her letter as the day she would go home. Just by luck, mother had kept the letter and actually knew where it was. So she looks all wide eyed and innocent"
"The Great Aunt?" Nancy interrupted.
"No, you galoot, Mother did. So Mother looks all wide-eyed and innocent and fishes the letter out from a pocket where she just happens to have it and says but Aunt Maria I'm sure it said here.. And then Aunt Helen piped up and said that of course they would be going back to town tomorrow to be ready for anything they could do to help. And the Great-Aunt isn't quite sure who Aunt Helen's friend is, and that mistake she made with Father's friend who came to the wedding is uppermost in her mind what with seeing him only yesterday. So the Great Aunt says Of course you must do your duty, Molly, as if it was her idea in the first place and let the matter drop. Cook is helping her pack now – she said she was glad to do it, Sunday or no Sunday, luckily not where the Great-Aunt could hear her." Peggy finished her story.
"So Elspeth and Colin are arriving tomorrow? At least they get to camp. Titty said they never had." John remarked.
"Mother wants them to spend the first night actually at Beckfoot. She's asked for Titty and Bridget to come back and spend tomorrow night at Beckfoot, and then they can go and camping Swallowdale if they want to."
After the clear, still day, the evening was quite chilly and they abandoned the log bench and sat next to the fire. They had reached the tea and apples and biscuits stage of the meal when Nancy whispered,
"Don't move suddenly, but look slowly to your right and down."
There, standing with its front paws on the enamel plate was a hedgehog, licking the chocolate off the top of a biscuit.
The next morning there was enough wind to sail. They got up late. They swam around the island (John won but it was close.) They sailed up to the Arctic and down to the Antarctic.
If it wasn't for what they read in the newspaper they bought at the head of the lake, it would have been the perfect day.
"It is still a perfect day, really." Nancy pointed out.
"We'll just have to make the most of it – I don't think we've got until the end of the week, somehow." John replied.
They saw the others sailing Scarab and Swallow and waved, but were not close enough to exchange even shouts. Neither of them wanted to spend time with anyone else.
The sunlight was filtering through the canvas, but it was still early when he woke up. Nancy was snuggled against his chest with her back to him, breathing softly and evenly. Gently, he kissed the back of her neck which was warm and her bare shoulder which was cooler where her nightdress had slipped to one side. He felt rather than heard her breathing speed up slightly.
"You don't fool me, Nancy Walker," he murmured quietly in her ear, "I know perfectly well that you're awake."
"I didn't want you to stop doing that." she whispered, but she rolled over in his arms so that she could see the expression in his eyes and kissed him.
"Ahoy! Ahoy!" Titty's shout came from the landing place.
John groaned. "We told them to stay away unless invited." he said. "Shall we just ignore them?"
"Titty wouldn't intrude unless it was urgent. We'd better see what she wants. She sounds as if she's still afloat."
"I think I can guess what it is." John said grimly. "You go, I'll have to find some clothes first."
"Yes." Nancy grinned at him, pulling a jumper over her nightdress.
"If you smile at me like that, poor Titty will be sitting out on the lake for the rest of the day."
Nancy went down to the landing place and John found a pair of shorts and a jumper and followed her. Titty was looking grave. Nancy was reading a letter intently. Titty handed him an envelope.
"Peggy said, if it is to say you've got to go, don't bother tidying up here – we'll do it when you have gone. There's a train about half past eleven you can both catch if you hurry. Mrs Blackett's got both your uniforms hanging up and waiting for you at Beckfoot."
John nodded, handing his letter to Nancy and looking at her letter.
"At least we'll be travelling together as far as London."
Notes: This really is the end of this story.
The hedgehog was real, and none the worse for the chocolate.
I know lots of other fanfiction authors see Roger as joining the RAF. I'm afraid I have always (for the last 30 something years) thought it likely too. Sorry to be so un-original.