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Voyage To The Sea

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"We must come up with a plan. The Swallows will be here soon and expecting one," Nancy said, putting down her empty mug on the grass. "How about farthest South? We haven't done that yet. South to the end of the lake – set up a basecamp somewhere, although that end of the lake is right by the station and so beastly civilised, leave the boats - if there is somewhere suitable, then canoe down the river to the sea, shooting the rapids and bridges where possible, and carrying the canoes over the others. It'll be more of a trek on the way back against the current, though we could probably use the tide for the first bit, depending on the timing."

"The sea! It really would be exploration - coming down to an unknown ocean, ready to set out on a voyage to find the other side," Dorothea said.

"Right, the only problem is that I don't think Mrs Walker will let Bridget come and Captain John said she was to be allowed to camp with us so long as their mother was satisfied that she had learnt to swim well enough. Jib-booms and bobstays! It's not as if we can waste the rest of the holidays tamely."

Nancy jumped to her feet, calling for Cook, who bustled out.

"What time is Mother's train due? Let’s all sail across and meet her, and give her the GA's letter to read, before she hears anything from anyone."

"Eleven thirty," Cook replying as soon as Nancy paused long enough for her to get a word in.

"Shiver my timbers! Just time to check everything is ship-shape, and then set off if we are to make the bus. Show a leg, everyone. Peggy - you look upstairs, I'll take downstairs. You two check outside and start getting Scarab ready."

Nancy hurried off inside. Dorothea and the others got to their feet. Peggy gathered up their mugs, then followed Nancy. Dorothea could hear the stamping of her feet on the stairs.

"Come on, Dick. We can't let them down," Dorothea said.

"I ought to check Captain Flint's study. The GA and the police must have made a mess of it looking for the missing items and Nancy wouldn't know where everything belongs to tidy properly."

Dorothea nodded, as he hurried off through the door into the house. She looked across the lawn - it was all clear now, although trampled; it was almost as bad as it had been last summer after they had camped there, although there was more mud and grass now than dust. She looked around, spotted a few dropped matches and scraps of paper. She gathered them up, thinking of Mrs Blackett returning. Would the porter at the station mention the excitement? Dorothea pictured her fear at the thought of the GA missing, hurt, then her horror at the fact that Nancy and Peggy would have been in so much trouble, how she would have reacted to the Ds being there; her fear for the letter the GA was sure to have left.

Dorothea dragged her mind back and glanced around, but could see no other litter on the lawn, so she returned to the house.

"Well done, Professor! Uncle Jim will be really pleased to know that everything is in order once he hears about the disruption - no point in trying to keep any of it secret - too many people know! Anyway, to the boats."

Dorothea followed Nancy as she raced down across the lawn down to the boathouse. Peggy quickly overtook Dorothea. By the time that she reached the boathouse they had Amazon and Scarab out and moored to the edge of the lawn.

"Need any help?"

"No," Dick said. "Now, Dot, you get the halliards. Do we want the centreboard down?"

"Not in the river, but you'll want to lower it as soon as we are out into the lake." Nancy replied.

Dorothea hurried, feeling the eyes of the Amazons on them, but they managed to get the sail up reasonably quickly without any mistakes. Dorothea reached out to cast off, glad that Nancy was not commenting on how slow they were. Scarab caught the wind well and sailed straight away with Amazon following.

"Aim straight across to Rio, down this side of the islands. Luckily the wind is astern - we need to be quick to catch the bus."

 

***

 

Dorothea took the tiller as they sailed into Rio bay, trying to keep her mind on the native craft all around her and avoid being rammed by rowing boats. Ahead Amazon moored at the pier.

"Do you want to bring her in?" Dorothea asked, hoping that he would, unsure that she would manage to do so without scratching their new paint.

"No. You can do it!" he replied. "I'll get the sail down."

Dorothea tried not to watch him, looking past him at the approaching pier - were they coming in too fast, or at the wrong angle? She corrected the course, then realised that they would be a little too far out, and corrected it again, wishing that the Amazons were not there to watch. She glanced at Dick, who was busy with the sail, trying to get it stowed tidily. He picked up the painter, ready to jump ashore with it, then seemed to change his mind and threw it to Peggy, who made Scarab fast.

They scrambled out onto the pier and ran for the bus - it was already there at the end, loading up with passengers from the steamer. They made it, climbing in just before the door closed.

The bus arrived at the station just as the train was pulling in. The Amazons barged their way through the crowds to the train, looking in at the windows as they passed, looking for their mother. Dick and Dorothea hung back, unwilling to push their way through so forcefully.

"Dick! It's the Swallows," Dorothea cried out pointing towards the end of the train and waving.

Titty waved back but the others seemed too busy getting everyone and everything off the train.

"Come on, let's go across and meet them," she said, heading off.

However, they first reached the carriage that Mrs Blackett and Captain Flint were in. He was handing down their baggage to Nancy and Peggy. Then Mrs Blackett climbed down, followed by Captain Flint. There were greetings all round. Dorothea noticed that Mrs Blackett still did not look as well as the summer before, but at least she didn't look ill.

"What have you all been up to?" she asked slightly breathlessly. "I can see that you are all all right."

"Lots! It was nearly a disaster but we, or rather the Ds, averted it. Come over here and sit down." Nancy ushered her mother over to a bench.

"Oh Nancy, what have you done?" she said, sounding worried.

Once she had sat down, Nancy handed over the letter. "Read this first, then we'll explain."

Mrs Blackett paled at the writing on the envelope, then quickly got out the letter, just as the Swallows joined them. She started to read the letter half aloud and half to herself.

"I felt it my duty to take charge of them in your absence... I have been pleasantly surprised by the notable improvement in both Ruth and Margaret... most attentive and obedient... make my visit pleasant... showed that she possesses much of the tact that was characteristic of your grandfather..." She looked up from the letter at her daughters in amazement, "Whatever happened?"

Nancy started explaining about the GA and the man hunt, her words on the lawn, back tracking to the burglary and the Ds staying in the Dog's House. By the time she had finished all of the others were staring at her.

"By Gum, I'm amazed you managed it!" Captain Flint said. "You two really behaved the whole time?"

"Well, there was one row when she went on about how much of a bad influence the Swallows were, and Cook nearly quit," Peggy added. "But she took back her notice in her relief when the GA was found. Also, Nancy left out..."

Dorothea stopped listening to Peggy and looked at the Swallows - Susan was looking astounded, as did Titty and Roger, but she couldn't work out the expression on John's face.

"But none of that matters now! Mother, do you want to come back across in Amazon?" Nancy's voice cut across her thoughts.

"No, thank you. You lot can sail; I'll go in the car. Now, let's get moving."

Everyone grabbed some of the assorted luggage, and carried it off the platform. Mr Jackson from Holly Howe was there with his cart for the Swallows' luggage and Billy Lewthwaite with Rattletrap. All the bags and cases were quickly loaded.

"Who is sailing? You'll have to hurry to catch the bus." Captain Flint pointed out.

"Coming?" Nancy asked the Swallows.

"Go on," said Mrs Walker.

They all quickly ran down and jumped on the bus.

"So you got your ship?" Titty asked Dorothea.

"Yes - she is called Scarab. Do you and Roger want to sail with us?"

"Yes."

"Can I too?" asked Bridget.

"No, you should come in Amazon," Susan said quickly.

"We wouldn't capsize," Dick said. "Neither of us has even fallen in."

The bus stopped and they piled out onto the shore of the lake. Dorothea noticed the growing smiles on all the faces of the Swallows as they hurried down to the jetty where Amazon and Scarab were moored. Very soon they were all in the boats for the short sail to Holly Howe, Bridget having jumped into the Scarab as they were setting out. Dick had the tiller, leaving Dorothea free to talk to the others.

"So, Captain Nancy, what plans for this summer?" John asked.

Dorothea could hear clearly from Scarab. She looked at the others, who were all waiting for the reply.

"Expedition to the Furthest South, going down to the sea in canoes. It will be a two day voyage from the lake, if we do it properly, including the portage of the canoes over the rapids."

"Bridget can't go in a canoe. She can't swim well enough, although she is improving," Capitan John said quickly

"We could leave her in charge of at the basecamp, although we've not thought of a good place for that yet."

"Mother said she has to learn to swim before she can come camping with us," Susan said. "If we do this without setting up the camp on Wild Cat Island first, then we can all make camp there on our return."

Nancy opened her mouth, but didn't say anything for a minute. "That sounds like a plan - starting off from civilisation into the unexplored wilds, then a triumphant return to our camp. Do you want to map the river as we go, Captain John?"

Dorothea wondered at why Nancy saying this as she had not mentioned it before, and so missed the reply if there was one. The next thing she heard was Peggy's voice,

"Yes, they're doing jolly well at it! You must get them to tell you about their adventures... learnt to tickle trout and cooked a rabbit."

Dorothea could hear the concern in Susan's reply but not the words.

"Really?" Titty asked. "How did you get a rabbit?"

"One of the farm boys - he brings the milk to Beckfoot and brought ours as well - gave it to us."

"Whole?"

"Yes, we had to prepare it! That was the scary and rather disgusting part-" Dorothea said.

"I'm sure we could do it better and more scientifically next time," said Dick.

"Can I see where you lived?" Bridget asked.

Dorothea glanced at Titty, as a substitute for Susan.

"I don't see why not. Possibly tomorrow, after we've unpacked and got settled. We can't set out on an adventure before stores are arranged."

"Are you here for the rest of the holidays?" Dorothea asked.

"Yes. Daddy won't have any more leave and so Mother said there was no reason for us not be be here. Then the plan is for the Amazons to come south for some of the winter holidays; Daddy wants to meet them properly when there isn't such a rush. I'm sure she'd invite you too - I know she was going to write to your parents, but I suppose it depends on what they say."

"And teach the Ds how to sail, although they seem to have been doing fine on their own." Nancy's voice rang out again, cutting over their conversation. "Another houseboat raid would be good, but rather unbalanced as Timothy isn't much use and last time we managed to get them no trouble, even without your help. Maybe another corroboree – hey, Bridget, want to be a human sacrifice again?"

Bridget nodded, with a huge smile.

"Really, we shouldn't - you'll scare her, Nancy!" Susan protested. "No one is going to hurt you, Bridgie."

Titty quickly said, "Don't listen to her now, Bridget. She'll come round if we make plans, like last time."

Bridget nodded, then said, "I do want to be a sacrifice or something. I don't want to be left out of everything. I'm old enough!"

"Well, you can be in charge of the basecamp if we go to the sea, then we'll show you everything once Mother thinks you can swim properly."

Bridget nodded happily and Titty started pointing out the landmarks of their voyage to her, but too quickly they were at Holly Howe. John and Susan were already out of Amazon as Dick brought Scarab alongside the jetty. Titty and Roger climbed out, then Dick gave Bridget a leg up, while Dorothea held on, not thinking it was worth mooring properly. Amazon was already sailing away, as Dorothea pushed off and Dick brought Scarab round, tacking across the narrow bay.

"Tomorrow, council on Wild Cat Island?" Nancy yelled back.

"Yes," John called out, before they were taken beyond the range of conversation.

"Back to Beckfoot now? We need to talk to Mother, or would you prefer to sail more?"

"We don't have any food with us and Cook will be expecting us back for lunch."

Nancy nodded and the two boats tacked back across the lake.

 

***

 

Straight after breakfast the next morning, they set out and were soon sailing to Wild Cat Island. Dorothea was looking forward to seeing the island again, remembering camping there the previous summer.

"Scarab, ahoy! Time to lower sails, then scull into the harbour following us closely to avoid the rocks - you can manage that? Remember we showed you the secret marks last year," Nancy called out.

Peggy was already lowering Amazon's sail.

"Yes," said Dick. "Dot, can you manage the sail?"

Dorothea nodded, then thinking carefully, lowered the sail, trying not to rush or get flustered by it.

"You need to raise the centreboard once you have the sail down," Peggy called.

Nancy started sculling slowly, Peggy at the bows, looking out for rocks. Dick brought Scarab around behind Amazon, sculling slowly and carefully. Dorothea anxiously watching rocks, scared that they would hit one. However, they got in safely.

Soon they had landed and were setting up a fire in the fireplace, which Peggy stayed near to watch over, and unloading the supplies from the boats, while waiting for the Swallows to arrive. Dorothea went up to the lookout point to keep watch while Nancy tidied the paths, cutting back the overgrowth of bushes, and Dick gathered firewood, although she suspected he would get distracted from that by all the possibilities of the island.

She sat down under the lookout tree and got out her exercise book to start the next chapter of her story.

A few minutes later she looked up to see Swallow just vanish into the harbour. She jumped to her feet and ran back down to the camp.

"They're coming!"

She looked around at the huge fire and the kettle sitting on the edge, already steaming slightly.

Very soon they were all sitting around the fire with mugs of tea, ready to discuss the plans.

"So our natives are arranging canoes for tomorrow – Captain Flint knows where he can get some on short notice, and other supplies shouldn't be a problem."

"Mother says Bridget can't come, but that she will know how to swim in time to camp here afterwards," said Susan.

"So we will be starting from the basecamp at Holly Howe," said Peggy. "Then down to the native trading port at the mouth of the river."

"We could have passed over the watershed, carrying the canoes with us, and now be travelling down the the Pacific Ocean," said John.

"Or escaping attacks by natives on our camps – then we would know the river, but be trying to get along it in secret," said Titty.

"We can have come overland and stolen some of their canoes to escape in," said Nancy

"Polly was captured there with Bridget, he squawked at the wrong moment and give away their hiding place."

"I can keep him safe," said Bridget. "Have I been captured by the natives?"

"Yes, and we need to get reinforcements before we can rescue you."

"Now for supplies, we'd not have room for tents, but the weather is set to be fine. We'll need sleeping bags," Peggy started off.

"Food for two days, kettle, dishes," Susan started out, getting out paper and starting the list.

"Chocolate," added Roger.

 

***

 

After the council the whole fleet sailed down to Beckfoot. They left the boats there, and climbed up to the Dogs’ Home. Dick paused to show the others their postbox in the wall, but Dorothea hurried ahead. She wanted to be ready to show it all to them, worried about what Susan would think of it.

She turned into the clearing and smiled, feeling right at home. Everything was just as they had left it – a few days, or a hundred years, ago. She untied the door, opening it on the empty room. She closed her eyes remembering what it had looked it.

"Dot?" Titty called out.

She turned and saw the others entering the clearing. They exclaimed at it – how near to the road to be so secret, how convenient the stream was. Dot hurried over to show Susan where they had hidden the milk. While she was doing this Dick had hung up one of the hammocks, and the others took it in turn to try lying in it. Bridget needed to be lifted right in, but said how she wished that she could have slept there.

Too soon it was time to return to Beckfoot for tea - Mrs Blackett had insisted on everyone staying for the meal, although Captain Flint was absent, apparently busily organising the supplies for their trek. Afterwards the Swallows sailed back, having arranged that everyone would meet at Holly Howe the next morning to set off to the sea!

Dorothea wavered between excitement and worry, aware that neither she nor Dick had ever canoed, and all this talk of portage and so on was new to them - were they going to be being taught by the others again and would they resent it? However, she once again found herself swept along on in all the preparations and had no more time to think until the next morning as they were sailing over to Holly Howe in Scarab.

As they approached, Dorothea could see that the jetty was piled with the belongings of the Swallows, and saw Captain Flint rowing in towing the last of the canoes. They quickly moored and furled the sails, before lowering the masts. There wasn't enough space in the boathouse for their ships, but no harm would come to them outside.

Captain Flint looked around. "Everyone here. Now listen carefully - I want to make sure that you know what you are doing. Canoes are easy to use so long as you are sensible - pay attention, keep the bow pointing down the river, and do not stand up."

They all nodded.

"Now all of you have a go with these, before you load up with your gear."

They climbed down, naturally splitting up into pairs, although Dorothea noticed Susan grabbing Roger - presumably to keep him out of mischief. She climbed in carefully, following Dick, then cast off. Paddling took practice, partly not to run into any of the other canoes and partly to ensure that they didn't hit each other's paddles, but after a while they seemed to get the hang of it, and Dorothea felt that she could look away to see what the others were doing. It seemed that all of them had got the hang of it, and were paddling around the bay carefully. No one seemed to have fallen in.

 

After a while, Mrs Walker came down the field and called out, "All ashore for lunch!"

Slowly they all managed to bring in and tie up the canoes and scramble out of them without falling in the water. There was a good meal laid out on the lawn, everyone flopped down to eat it. While they ate they discussed how to pack and what they needed.

Afterwards, Nancy and John took over organising the gear, putting the heaviest stuff into the Amazon's canoe and splitting the rest around the other three. Dorothea watched anxiously, but after a while the story of the expedition took over in her mind. They were fugitives - fleeing from their burning settlement, escaping down the river to the sea the only way home with their lives in ruin behind them.

"Dot! Are you ready?" Titty asked.

She blinked and looked around. Everything was stowed away. The lawn was empty.

"Yes."

"Come on then," Titty gently pulled her onto the jetty. She scrambled into the canoe in front of Dick and they set off.

"Aren't we waiting for the others?"

"Only if they don't catch up quickly, so as to leave space for manoeuvring around the jetty, and we need to get away even if the native capture the others, like they have Bridget. We are to be the forerunners – scouting for danger ahead, while the Amazons hold off the natives long enough for the rest of us to get the gear loaded and away."

Within a few minutes all four canoes were paddling along carefully, hugging the shoreline without going into all the coves. By the time they passed Wild Cat Island everyone seemed to be paddling confidently. Dorothea wondered how long it would take them to reach the end of the lake and where their camp would be. She imagined them paddling through the night, searching for a safe place to come ashore where the hunting natives would not be able to find them. It would have to be safely hidden from all the trails, out of sight, somewhere to hide the boats in case of a river patrol.

"Dot, we are coming to the river." Dick's voice startled her out of the story.

"Remember currents, keep the bows pointing down river. We'll go first and keep a watch for hazards," Nancy called out.

The others followed the Amazons' canoe down the river. They seemed to be moving faster and faster, as the river flowed out of the lake. Again and again came calls from Nancy or John pointing out rocks and other dangers. Dorothea struggled to keep her attention on the boat, not her story and not the countryside flying by.

"Rapids ahead," Nancy called out. "Come in to the port bank and we'll carry the canoes down them."

She was already angling their canoe into the shore. Peggy jumped ashore and made fast. As the others reached the shore they helped to moor the other boats, and everyone climbed out.

"Tea while we are here," Susan said firmly. "Able Seamen to gather wood."

She started making the fireplace, while the Ds, Titty and Roger started gathering wood. Peggy unpacked the kettle, and supplies from Susan's canoe, while Nancy and John started getting the first one out of the water. As she was gathering wood Dorothea noticed Peggy join them to carry it down the edge of the river to below the rapids.

"Is that enough wood?" Roger asked.

Susan looked at the pile. "Plenty."

She got the fire going and started organising cake and bread for them to eat. Meanwhile the others carried the remaining boats down. Dorothea found it quite awkward, but between them the four Able Seamen managed to get the Ds' canoe down while the others managed the other three. They all sat down round the fire to eat tea.

"How much further is it to our camp?" Captain John asked.

"About as far again down the river, then it is an easy stretch to the coast - although it comes out in a native settlement, so we won't want to spend much time there, but there is a beach where we can have breakfast looking at the sea while waiting for the tide."

"We should keep going through the night – they are sure to be natives lying in ambush for us at all the possible landing places," said Titty.

John got out the paper, and with help from the others started recording the course of the river – he had the bearing that he had taken for each turn, but they were arguing over the exact shapes.

"We should really make a proper map of the lake as well," Titty said. "We haven't put everything on it since the first summer and we have explored so much more since then."

"We must go to see the mine. Captain Flint promised to show me how the blasting is done," Roger added.

"Washing up, then let's get going," Susan said, getting to her feet and starting to put out the fire.

Dorothea and Titty jumped up and gathered the cups, while Roger fetched the saucepan of hot water from the fire.

As they washed up, Dorothea glanced across at Nancy and John who were talking about something, looking at the map that John was making. She wondered what they were talking about - it seemed to be such a private conversation - were they making further plans to be a surprise to all of the others... or was it something totally different? A romance possibly... maybe one of the had been badly injured in the escape and was hiding it from the rest of them...

"Dot! That plate is clean now." Roger's voice dragged her out of the story that she had been starting in her mind.

She looked down at her hands, the plate was indeed clean, she must have been washing it the whole time, while the others had finished the rest.

The whole area was clear, no sign that anyone had stopped there As they went down to the canoes, Dorothea heard Titty say,

"We must be careful, or the natives will be able to track us."

"They know that we'd have to stop here to carry our vessels over the rapids if we came this way, but as we escaped under cover of dark they don't know we came this way for sure," Roger added.

"Escaping down to the sea, where our ship is waiting to carry us to safety," Dorothea added as she got into the canoe. This time John and Titty took the lead, with the Amazons bringing up the rear. They shot through a small village, under the bridge over the river, having to be careful to stay away from the banks, and down, through the woods, the land slowly becoming more cultivated, then down through a set of rapids, not quite too strong to shoot.

"The place for our camp is just before the next set of rapids, Captain John," Nancy called out. "Let us take the lead, I know where to stop."

The Amazons propelled their canoe past the others. Dorothea realised that none of them were paddling very hard. She hadn't really thought about it, but it made sense that Nancy and Peggy would be able to go faster, although they might all be able to, but there probably wasn't much point, as they only had so far to get this day, and it was a better expedition if it took longer.

It seemed to be hardly any time later that they were mooring on the side of the river - under the shelter of a copse of trees. The small beach was clear, though surrounded by woods that were shady and quite overgrown, but there was a clear space on the bank - and marks that it had been used before, probably by other people avoiding the rapids. It was hidden from the road that had run along the edge of the river since the village.

"Here! if it starts to rain heavily we need to pack up quickly as this can flood, but otherwise it should be fine. These rapids are the hardest, but we can unpack most of the gear here overnight and carry the canoes down them tonight, then pack up in the morning," Nancy said as they unloaded the canoes."It is still within sight of the camp and well hidden from natives, unless they come down the river."

Susan and Peggy started to organise dinner while the others gathered firewood and sorted out sleeping bags - it was not bedtime yet, but it would be relatively soon after they had eaten - as both their meals were rather later than normal. Dot helped sort out Dick's sleeping bag while he looked for birds that he could hear calling from the woods.

"Come on, Dot, let's help with the canoes," Titty called.

Dorothea hurried across to help. She bent to take the end of the canoe. She had expected it to be heavy but without their gear she and Titty couls carry it easily. They walked down carefully taking small steps to try and avoid tripping. They lowered it back into the water and made it fast to the tree, floating next to the other two. Nancy and John brought down the final canoe.

"Good job, you two," she said with a smile as she and John walked back up to the camp.

Dorothea looked at the current in the river.

"Will it be very hard getting back up the river tomorrow?" she said, dropping bits of leaves into the river and watching them swirling down.

"Possibly - I don't really know," Titty said, sitting down on the bank. "I suppose if it is we can always switch around pairs, or carry the canoes more of the way; at least we'll have less weight going back, having eaten most of the food."

Dorothea nodded and sat down beside her.

"How's your story going?"

"Almost done. I really want to finish it this summer."

"Will you let me read it? I can draw you some more pictures for it if you want?" Titty asked eagerly .

"You really want to?" Dorothea asked, wondering if she was being polite or not.

"Yes - it seems much more real that just drawing pictures in the back of my school books. My teachers keep complaining about it."

Dorothea hesitated, then said, "Do you want to be an artist when you grow up?"

"Well, it would be nice, but I'll probably get married, and just draw for fun, although maybe I'd like to teach art for a while first." Titty stopped and looked away.

Dorothea reached out and touched her shoulder. "You've really thought about this."

"How can I not have? After all I know the decisions I keep making will have consequences for my future - and seeing John and Roger planning, well, I want to have plans as well."

"I'd like to be a writer," Dorothea said slowly. "My parents encourage it - they say that it is good for me to have a career if I want to; after all mother went to university and helps father with his work." Dorothea stopped, worrying that she was saying something that Titty would take offence at.

"Mother married young - and then had all of us, and moving around as a navy wife - I haven't dared to ask her if she ever regrets her decisions."

Dorothea nodded. Titty looked across at her. Dot thought she was about to say something more, but Susan's whistle sounded.

"Come on, we should go back to camp." Titty jumped to her feet, seemingly glad for the excuse to end the conversation.

It was a fairly simple dinner - fried pemmican with bread, to be followed by bread and marmalade, then seedcake and apples, washed down with plenty of tea.

"You two can wash up," Susan said to Titty and Dorothea as they arrived back in camp. "As you didn't help to prepare the dinner." She looked at the milk can. "We've nearly finished the milk. Did you arrange to get more before breakfast?"

"Yes," Peggy said, "I'll go and get it first thing."

"Another round of cocoa, then, before bed." Susan refilled the mugs.

"Anyone still hungry? Roger?" she asked.

"Only for chocolate," he replied with a smile.

Everyone laughed, and Susan passed round a few pieces.

***

The next morning, they all woke early, with the sun on their faces.

"Show a leg everyone! Stir your stumps, Peggy, we need that milk. Let's get packed up – we can have breakfast at the river mouth, waiting for the tide."

"We shouldn't start on empty stomachs," Susan said, handing round apples.

Dorothea carefully rolled up her sleeping bag and added it back to the rest of their gear in the canoe. She looked around and picked up Dick's pen and handed it back to him. Susan was busy taking the fireplace apart and the the others were stowing the final bits of their gear. Peggy hurried back carrying the milk can.

"To the sea!" Nancy shouted, as she pushed off the other canoes. "We should be there very soon. Only a few minutes. Be careful of the currents. We can't be pulled out to sea as it is very nearly low tide. We should have time for breakfast before it turns, then have it helping us back up the first bit of the river. Keep going through the explorer's camp, then we'll land on the port shore – there is a beach a little further down."

Dorothea noticed how easily she could talk, even while paddling.

"Are we going to stop at the explorer's base?" Susan asked.

"Do we want anything from the natives?" Titty said. "We could get postcards for mother and Bridgie."

"And for our parents," Dick suggested to Dorothea.

"Good idea - they'd like to know about our voyage of discovery," Dorothea replied. "Also, the Coots and the Admiral."

"We could get some grog and ices," Roger suggested.

"It will be too soon after breakfast for ices," Susan said firmly. "However postcards are a good idea, although it might be better to write them on the way back, so as not to delay here, and grog would save us boiling a kettle for tea."

"Buildings and a bridge ahead," John called out. "Keep to the centre of the river."

They shot through the bridge.

"The sea!" Roger called out.

Dot looked outwards at the sails of the fishing boats far away in the bay. There was mud as far as she could see – with the river channels winding through it.

"Landing close on the port here."

They brought the canoes into the beach, scrambling ashore without falling in the mud.

"Why are there people out there in the mud?" Dot asked, vaguely disappointed at the sea.

"Natives looking for cockles, and other sea food," Nancy replied.

"Is it safe to be on the mud? The mud in Eel territory wouldn't hold people that far out without spatulas," Roger asked.

"You're not going to try," Susan said firmly.

"It is only safe if you know where to go – there are quicksands out there. Every summer people die in them," Peggy said. "Let's gather wood for the fire, and breakfast."

They split up, scouring the shoreline for wood – there wasn't a lot, but it was enough to boil a kettle. Back at the boats Susan had a small fire burning and the kettle on, while Peggy was buttering bread.

"Wash you hands, then help yourselves to cornflakes," Susan said, adding some of their wood to the fire.

They did so, and all sat around the fire, looking out to sea.

"The sea! We've reached it without casualties!" said Peggy.

"Although they came very close – arrows flying through our hair as we escaped, an attack at the rapids, trying to stop us landing," said Nancy.

"One hit my arm," said Titty. "But it wasn’t poisoned."

"Our ships are waiting, with the crew that we left to guard them, we can sail back to England with news, or resupply and head back up river to fight or treat with the natives!" said John.

"We've escaped safely, so we should leave and bring the news." Dorethea paused. "So will we be exploring on the way back up the river or what?"

"Well, we could be leading our way back to fight the natives and reclaim out settlements and rescue the captives," Nancy said.

"Or explorers, but it is harder to be explorers when we already know the way," Titty said.

"Or going back to treat with the natives?" suggested John.

"But then why would they have been hunting us?" replied Dot.

"We have rejoined forces and got trading goods, now they will treat with us?" Titty suggested.

After they had eaten, they launched the boats and paddled back towards the town.

"Is the landing point before or after the bridge?" John called back.

"Before - just on the port side before the bridge," Nancy replied.

"Ready to jump ashore, Roger?"

"Aye, aye, sir," Roger called out.

Dorothea kept her eyes on the bridge but could see Roger jump ashore, and tie up his canoe, then he said, "Throw over your painter, Dot."

She did so and he caught it, and tied their canoe up. Dorothea scrambled out onto the jetty. Soon they were all on the shore, with the boats moored.

"Someone should stay with the boats," Peggy said. "Anyone want to volunteer?"

"I will," Susan said, after a minute. "Do you have money for the grog?"

"Yes, plenty," Nancy replied, "Mother and Uncle Jim both gave us extra for dealing with the GA so well."

They walked down the narrow street, past all the of the holiday makers, looking for the general stores. The whole area seems crowded and the shops were busy with native traders.

"They don't think it is too early for ices..." Roger pointed out as a family passed them, eating.

"Maybe they'll have cream buns or something," Titty suggested. "Susan wouldn't object to those - we could eat them later, when we have to stop at the rapids."

"There is a bakery there," Roger pointed. "Can we go and look?"

"I'll come with you," Peggy said. "The rest of them can choose postcards, and get grog."

Peggy and Roger hurried away, Dorothea and Titty turned to follow the others into the store. Dorothea looked at the available postcards, picking out a picture of the sea and fishing boats.

"Dick, do you think we should send one card or several to the Coots?"

Dick took off his glasses and rubbed them. "Might as well send one to the whole Coot Club - after all there is only one good card with boats."

Dorothea nodded. "How about this one for the Admiral? Look at the view on it!"

"Yes." Dick took them from her. "Is there anything else that you want?"

"No, but should we contribute to the buying of supplies?"

"Are you two nearly ready?" Captain John asked.

Dorothea turned, surprised, to see the others carrying the bottles of grog.

"Yes, just need to pay for these," Dick replied. "We'll catch you up."

He crossed to the counter as the others left, Dorothea kept a worried eye on him - it would not do to keep the others waiting - as they would miss the tide helping them up the first part of the river.

"Ready, Dot?"

"Yes, come on."

They hurried out of the shop and back down to the jetty. The others were already there, Titty and Roger were just untying their canoes. As the Ds approached, they jumped in.

"Hurry up," Nancy called across, "The tide is starting to turn - we want to get going."

Peggy was standing by to untie them as well. Dick and Dorothea quickly climbed in and Dorothea took a moment to put away the postcards where they hopefully wouldn't get wet or bent.

"Ready," she called out.

Peggy unfastened their canoe and threw her the painter. She quickly stowed it, then started paddling. She could feel the current of the river - the tide wasn't yet pushing them forward, but at least it was countering the current trying to send them down to the sea. She looked up and could see the first two canoes in front of them, but they did not seem to be getting much further away. She glanced round and saw the Amazons' boat behind them - presumably they were deliberately staying there in case of trouble, after all Nancy and Peggy were both strong swimmers.

"Dot, the tide is going to hit us soon - we need to be ready, because as it starts us moving faster we will need to be avoiding obstacles with less warning."

Dorothea nodded, and tried to focus on what they were doing. She paddled carefully, noticing that they were starting to move faster. The distance that they had paddled that morning seemed to shrink and very soon she could see the others pulling into the bank.

"First rapids!" she called to Dick and helped to aim their boat into the shore. She got the painter ready and threw it to Roger. He quickly made them fast. Dorothea and Dick scrambled ashore as Susan, John, and Titty returned from carrying up the first canoe.

Susan handed them each a bottle of grog and a cream bun from the supplies. Dorothea noticed that Roger had cream on his face from where he had eaten his already.

"Don't take too long - we want to get going again quickly if we are to get as far as possible on the tide - it will only take us up to the next rapids," John said. "Come on and help, Roger."

"Aye, aye, sir," Roger said, scrabbling to help Susan take the stern.

Titty helped moor the Amazons' canoe, then fetched her bottle and bun.

"We've got a long way already," she said to Nancy.

"Yes. Come on, Peggy, let's get ours up, then for a breather."

They took their boat out easily, carrying it along the edge of the river. Dorothea finished her bun, then said,

"Come on, Dick. We don't want to be holding everyone else up."

"Wait for the others - it would be too hard for us to carry it up loaded," said Titty.

Dorothea wondered at that, thinking that they had managed it the previous day. Nancy and John came back down while Peggy and Susan rested at the top. The others followed them up.

"We'll start again in a minute. Ds, do you remember the river well enough to lead?"

"I think so," Dick said.

Dorothea wondered if it was a good idea, but liked the fact that they were being asked.

"Right, when you are ready, set off, then Roger and Susan," Nancy said, glancing across at Susan who was just finishing her bun. "Then the rest of us. We can catch you up before the next rapids."

"Ready to start, Dot?" Dick asked.

"Yes," she said.

They crossed to their canoe and got in, Roger came across to throw them the painter. Dorothea could feel the tide tugging at the boat, throwing it forwards. She heard the others talking and the splash of paddles behind them, but was lost in the adventure of it - they were leading the expedition into unknown territory - who knew what could be around the next bend of the river, or further ahead?

"Rapids ahead, Dot. I think with the tide we'll be able to get through without stopping," Dick said, jolting her out of it.

"We came down on the starboard side of the river," she replied.

Together they aimed the canoe, round each of the rocks and up the rough water.

"We seem to be out of the tidal pull here," Dick said. "It is going to be harder from here paddling against the current."

Dorothea could already feel that - it was harder to keep the boat moving. She could feel it slowing down and tried to paddle harder.

"Don't strain, Dot. Keep an even pace," Dick said, and started counting it so that they were paddling in time.

They had still slowed down but were still getting up the river. Once she had got back into the rhythm and didn't have to pay much attention to it, Dorothea watched the banks. They were passing fields and farms, then the river flowed through a forest.

"There is a village after this - with a bridge?"

"Yes," Dick replied, "We need to stay in the middle of the river."

Dorothea glanced back to see if the others were with them. The canoes were all in sight, spread out along the length of the river. However, looking ahead it seemed that they were alone, lost, separated from their expedition. They passed through the village and slowly the country turned wild again. Dorothea glanced back and saw that John and Titty's canoe was now fairly close behind them.

"Stop just below the next rapids for lunch," he called out to them.

Dorothea nodded. She could see the rough water ahead, and the spot where they had had tea the previous day. Dorothea took hold of the painter and jumped ashore, making it fast to a tree. She breathed a sigh of relief when it was done and they were both safely ashore.

"Let's start gathering wood and stones for a fireplace, Dick."

He nodded and hurried off towards the trees. Dorothea gathered stones on the bank, and started making a fireplace. She knew it was not as good as Susan would have made it, but it was finished by the time that Dick came back with a few twigs and branches.

"I though you might want a little to start the fire with. Do you have matches?"

Dorothea felt in her pockets. "No." She looked away, embarrassed.

"I do," Titty said. "Here." She held out a pack.

Dorothea started setting up the fire and got the fire burning.

"Who has the kettle?"

"Susan," John said, "but never mind, getting the fire going will help and they should be here soon."

"Or now," said Susan, putting the kettle onto the fire. "All hands to preparing lunch or getting the canoes up the rapids. Buttered eggs, then the remains of the seedcake and apples."

***

After they had eaten, Dick offered to lead the way again. Nancy glanced across at John and shrugged.

"Certainly, if you want to," she said. "Peggy and I will bring up the rear again."

They paddled off, clearing the rapids. Dorothea relaxed, and started watching the banks more, knowing that this was a relatively clear stretch, through the last big area of woods that stretched most of the way to the lake.

Dorothea looked across at the bank and her breath caught.

"Dick, there's a pony there! Look! Its reins seem to be caught in that tree and there is no one there. We must help!"

"Head into that bank."

They soon had the canoe against the bank. Dorothea jumped out with the painter and moored it before hurrying across to the pony. It moved away as she approached, but its reins were caught on the branches of the trees. She reached out and grabbed the reins.

"Look at its legs, Dot," Dick said as he approached. "It seems to be bleeding."

"What do we do?" Dorothea asked.

"Find someone to help - its owner or a veterinarian, or a farmer," replied Dick.

"Ds ahoy," came a shout from Roger.

The pony jerked its head back and tried to run away, but did not seem to have much energy.

"We've found an injured steed," Dorothea called out. "Dick, you go back and explain. Don't let them rush up here and scare it more."

He nodded and hurried away. Dorothea looked at the pony. She needed to get it to calm down, if it was not to hurt itself more. She remembered reading somewhere that you were supposed to talk to horses in a calm voice.

"Hello pony. No reason to be scared. We are going to try and help you," she said softly, and as gently and calmly as she could. It seemed to relax slightly. Dorothea took a slow step closer to it. It did not seem to mind. She took another one and reached out to touch the side of its head, then neck. She rubbed its neck in long slow strokes, and continued to talk.

"We don't know where you are from, let us help you."

It seemed to relax more as she stroked it. Dorothea wondered where the others were and whether any of them knew what to do. She noticed the saddle and the flapping stirrups. Keeping hold of the reins she tried to catch hold of the left one, but the pony swung away. She stopped, afraid to scare it.

She heard someone walking towards her, and looked around to see Titty, who put her figure to her lips as she crossed to stand next to Dorothea.

"The others are discussing what to do. I said I'd come and help you as I've ridden a few times from school."

"I think there might have been a rider. The stirrups are down."

"Yes." Titty moved gently around the horse and tied up the stirrups and checked the straps on the saddle. She bent down and looked at the legs. The pony shook its head up and down as she touched it. "I can't do anything. I don't know whether it is too hurt to move even. Look, Dot, you go and talk to the others - tell them that the rider may have fallen off. I'll stay here and look after her. If Susan has any carrots or sugar or anything spare, bring some here, if you can."

Dorothea nodded. "I'll come right back to tell you what is going on."

She hurried back towards the sound of the voices of the others.

"We must go on soon. Mother is expecting us tonight and she'll worry if we aren't back in time." Susan's voice sounded anxious.

"It won't take long. We can walk back to the village, it isn't far - the river curves a lot - and find out who it belongs to," Nancy said.

"There could an injured rider in the woods somewhere," Dorothea said quickly, "Titty isn't sure that it is safe to move it and we think the rider must have fallen off and hurt themselves, as they have not come looking for their pony."

"Well, that settles it. We have to look," Nancy said firmly. "We can't go on and leave someone injured in the woods."

"But Mother will be worried..."

"Is Holly Howe on the telephone?" Peggy asked.

"No."

"The best thing would be for you to go on up the river and tell them. You can tell your mother that we are perfectly all right and will be back this evening or tomorrow morning. We can either phone Beckfoot from the village or you can go across there afterwards," Nancy decided.

"You don't have enough food for dinner."

"We can buy more, or get back up river in time - there was some slack in the schedule," said Peggy

"You should phone from the village, and someone should go up river to tell Mother."

"Well, you and Roger can go? Titty needs to stay if she knows about horses, and Peggy and I should stay because we know the terrain and first aid."

"That makes sense, Susan. Empty out the gear here, and we can camp. I think we have enough food, even if there is no way to get more. Don't fuss," John said quickly. "Roger, go and help her."

"Peggy, you go straight to the village and ask about telephoning and if anyone knows who the pony belongs to. If you can't find out, phone the vet - tell him that Mother will pay if necessary. Dot, go and tell Titty what is going on and see if she wants you to remain with her," said Nancy

"I should go too. I might be able to track the way that the pony came from where it is," Dick said.

"Jolly good idea, Professor. Take Peggy's whistle so that we can find you. We know that we didn't see a wounded rider from the river. John, you head along the shore up from here. I'll go through to the road and go along it away from the village. Keep calling out - hopefully they will be able to reply."

Peggy handed the whistle to Dick and they all spread out.

"Wait," Peggy said. "Should we leave the canoes unguarded?"

"Good point," John said. "Nancy, we can move them along so that they are in sight of Titty."

They all split up, hurrying off in different directions.

Dorothea followed Dick back towards the pony. He stopped when they were within sight of it.

"I won't come closer. Dot, look at the ground and point the direction of the tracks, I'll circle round and follow them."

"Wait until I've talked to Titty, then I'll come with you if she doesn't want me to stay."

Dorothea walked as slowly as she could over to Titty and explained the plan.

She nodded. "I'll be fine here. I hope it won't take long, she seems to be in a lot of pain."

"Do you want me to wait?"

"No, go with Dick. I hope that you can find her rider quickly. I'm worried that they haven't come looking for her."

Dorothea nodded. She looked around and picked out the tracks in the soft ground. She walked around to the track and Dick met her a few yards away from the pony.

"At least there is a clear track," he said.

They hurried along, keeping looking from side to side and calling out.

"We are going towards the road. If the tracks lead there, we won't know which way to go," Dick said.

Dorothea hurried on, thinking of the rider, who was probably younger than them, lying on the bleeding to death. They came to the road. Dorothea looked one way then the other. There were no tracks that she could see.

"What do we do now?" she asked, blinking back tears.

"Look! There is a bridle path over there; I expect they rode down it."

Dorothea hurried across the road and looked at the ground - it was covered in hoof prints.

"I'm not certain," said Dorothea.

"Well, it makes sense for us to go along it, given that the others were looking along the road. Come on, Dot."

Dick hurried along the path and Dorothea followed. After a few minutes she saw someone further along. She broke into a run. There was a young girl - possibly ten or eleven years old - sitting on a fence. She was holding her arm as if it hurt.

"Hello. Were you riding along here?"

"I'm not sure - I think so, I can't remember," she said, shakily.

Dick blew the whistle.

"Is your pony brown?" Dorothea asked, "Are you hurt?"

"Yes. My head hurts, and my arm."

"She is probably concussed. We need to get her to see the doctor," Dick said.

"Can you walk?" Dorothea asked.

"I'm not sure."

She got to her feet slowly and seemed very unsteady. Dorothea put an arm round her for support.

"What is your name?"

"Sally Ross."

"I'm Dorothea Callum, Dot, and this is my brother Dick. Do you live near here?"

"Yes, in the village."

Dick hurried on ahead, back towards the road, and Dorothea and Sally followed.

"I think I was riding, then I fell off. But I can't remember it properly."

"Don't worry. We'll get you home and then a doctor can look at your head."

Nancy hurried up the path towards them. "Well done! You found her. Is she all right?"

"Probably concussed and her arm hurts."

Nancy looked her over, presumably looking for other injuries, then gave her some chocolate from her knapsack before handed it to Dorothea, who had left hers with the canoes.

"Would you like me to carry you?" Nancy asked.

Sally nodded. Dorothea helped boost her onto Nancy's back and she held on with her good arm.

"Tell me if it makes the pain worse," Nancy said as she started to hurry towards the road.

As they came out of the path they saw Peggy and a woman hurrying toward them.

"Sally!" the stranger yelled, and broke into a run.

Nancy put her down as the woman approached.

"Are you all right, dear?"

"My head hurts and I don't know what happened, and Tiger is probably hurt," she said in a rush.

"We think she is concussed," Nancy said calmly. "Her pony is down by the river."

"We telephoned the vet," Peggy said. "He is on the way. I was going to wait where the tracks go into the wood so that he knew when to stop."

"Yes, you do that. You do that. We'll help get Sally back home."

"Thank you," her mother said, she had been looking Sally over. "Are you able to carry her further?"

"Yes."

Nancy and Dorothea got Sally back onto Nancy's back and they hurried into the village. Sally's mother led them to her house at the edge of the village.

"Where is the telephone?" Dick asked. "Should I go ahead and phone the doctor?"

"Yes. That is a good idea," Sally's mother said. "The telephone is in the pub - tell them that I sent you and they won't make you pay."

Dick ran ahead. Dorothea followed helping to keep Sally on Nancy's back.

"In here," Sally's mother said, leading them through the open door, and into the living room. Nancy knelt down and Dorothea helped Sally off her back. They laid her down on the sofa.

"What should we do now?" Sally's mother asked.

"Get her a blanket if she is cold, and hot tea or milk with sugar - that's good for shock. And don't let her sleep."

She nodded and hurried away.

"Do you hear that, Sally?" Dorothea asked. "Try to be brave, the doctor will be here soon."

Sally nodded slightly and sat up more. "I'll be all right. Mummy seems to be very worried. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cause all this trouble." Her voice quavered.

Dorothea glanced at Nancy, unsure of what to say.

"Don't start crying! You've been very brave. If you cry it will only worry your mother more," Nancy said. She reached into her knapsack. "Here - have some chocolate." Sally took the piece held out to her. "Suck that."

Nancy handed a piece to Dorothea as well, but did not eat one herself, Dorothea noticed.

Dick hurried in. "The doctor is on the way. He says to keep her warm and not to let her sleep until he gets here."

Sally's mother came back in carrying a tray of cups.

"Here." She gave one to Sally. "Drink that, dear. I know you don't like tea, but it will warm you up." She passed cups around to the others. "I thought you might all like some tea."

"Would you like me to stay here until the doctor comes?" Dorothea asked.

"Yes, please." Sally's mum's hands seemed to be shaking as she held the cup of tea.

"We had better go and find the others. You stay, then, Dot. Meet us at the canoes later."

Nancy turned to leave.

"What are they going to do? Do you think that they will be able to help Tiger?"

Peggy came into the room.

"The vet has inspected the pony. Titty is walking her back here now. She should be fine - more upset than badly hurt, the vet says."

Sally looked up at that. "Good. I'm glad. I promise I'll take better care."

"Wait. Why don't you all stay here and have tea? I was baking this afternoon for tomorrow, but I can do more later. Really, I'd like to look after you - it is only fair," Sally's mother said.

They nodded.

"Peggy, do you know where John is?"

"Yes, he's with Titty. He came back along the road while I was waiting for the vet."

"I should go and tell them what to do with that pony." Sally's mother hurried out.

Dorothea said down next to Sally, Peggy and Dick sat down on some of the other chairs, and Nancy sat on the window seat, looking out at the road.

"Did you telephone Mother?" Nancy asked.

"No, I hadn't. I think we should wait until after tea, after all she won't worry about us for ages."

"Yes. Although probably sooner than normal because of the Ds."

Peggy nodded.

"Do you know what food we have left?"

"Pemmican, apples, buns, tea, sugar, grog."

"So we should see if we can get some bread or potatoes or something."

"Otherwise it will be a rather strange dinner!"

"It doesn't matter," Dorothea said. "Much better that we had when we were stranded on the mud in the Teasel and there was no food."

"Well, anyway, it doesn't look like it is going to rain tonight, so we should be fine camping in the woods," Peggy said.

"Here are the others," Nancy said.

A few moments later, John and Titty joined them in the room, sitting down.

"How is the pony?" Dorothea asked.

"The vet says it is nothing to worry about. He cleaned the wounds on her legs and says she needs rest, but should be fine apart from possibly a little scarring," Titty said.

Sally breathed out deeply. "Thank you! I was so afraid that she would be really hurt or hit by a car."

***

It was early evening before they managed to get away. Nancy hurried off to telephone her mother while the rest of them walked back to the river, having decided that they did not need to look for more food as Sally's mother had insisted on feeding them properly before she would consider letting them go. Dorothea walked back next to Titty.

"I'm glad that we noticed the pony, and so Sally and Tiger are both going to be fine," she said.

Titty nodded. "I just keep thinking what would have happened if we hadn't noticed. How long would it have taken for them to be found?"

"Well, Sally would have probably started walking towards the road... if she thought of it, anyway, her mother would have noticed in a little, when she wasn't back in time for tea." Dorothea tried to sound comforting.

"I know - it just makes me think of all the things that we've done - could something like this have happened to us?"

"Not easily. Susan or the others would have known what to do. And it's not as if they wouldn't have gone to natives for help at once if we really needed it."

Titty nodded. "But I remember crossing the moors in fog the summer before last, or us going into that cave last summer - remember when it caved in..." Titty seemed close to tears.

Dorothea glanced around, but the others were far enough ahead not to hear them. "We've done some stupid things, but we've been lucky and not made the same mistakes again."

"I know that, but sometimes I remember the look on John's face when he came out of the cave. He must have seen what we saw from the other side - the string going under the fall. I should have known better."

"It wasn't your fault. You tried to get us to go back as soon as you found us."

Titty nodded, but Dorothea could see the tears on her cheeks. "It is like going to sea last year - we got through it but it was so dangerous. It makes me worry about what we are doing the rest of the time, and wish I'd learned some first aid."

"Well, get Susan to teach you - I'll learn some as well."

Titty got out her handkerchief and wiped her face. "We should try and catch up with the others. Bridget will be sorry that she has missed this - she would have loved the adventure."

"Yes, but it is probably for the best that we didn't have her to look after as well."

"Lagging, you two?" Nancy's voice came cheerfully from behind them. "Come on, let's catch up the others. We can get the boats loaded and get a bit further up the river before dark. Mother is going to arrange for milk for tomorrow from one of the farms, but it is a couple of miles away, so we want to get closer."

"She didn't mind that we wouldn't get back today?" Dorothea asked.

"Not at all. She understood that we had to stay. We'll get back tomorrow, and then be able to move the camp to the island, either then or the next day, depending on what Mrs Walker says."

"Mother won't cause problems if she knows we are all safe. She certainly wouldn't have wanted us to leave an injured and lost child just to get back in time."

Nancy nodded.

They hurried after the others and got there as they were redistributing the load from Susan's canoe.

They paddled hard up the river, reaching the first rapids just as it was starting to get towards dusk.

"We might as well camp here - the farm is about ten minutes walk that way." Nancy gestured. "They should be expecting us tomorrow, but would probably let us have some milk anyway."

John nodded. Peggy handed round a ration of grog and chocolate to eat as they set up the camp, including sorting out the fireplace and gathering wood for the morning.

As they were falling asleep, Dorothea whispered to Titty,

"So Wild Cat Island tomorrow. I wonder if the rest of the summer is going to be calm compared to this?"

"Possibly - although I'm sure Captain Nancy will make things lively, and hopefully some sort of adventure for Bridgie."

"Yes."

Dorothea stared up at the stars, and slowly fell asleep, looking forward to the rest of the summer.