“Nancy? Are you awake?” Peggy asked quietly, looking across their tent to the lump in the sleeping bag on the other side.
“Mhm,” Nancy mumbled sleepily. “What is it?”
“Are you very disappointed it wasn’t gold?” Peggy had seen her sister’s face as Dick gave the news, and she’d rarely seen Nancy look so miserable, even if she did seem to have cheered up by the time they came back from showing Uncle Jim their mine.
Nancy considered for a moment. “It was pretty awful at first, especially with it all happening together with the fire and Mrs Tyson thinking we’d started it… But as long as it keeps Uncle Jim here it doesn’t really matter what it is.”
Peggy nodded in agreement, then realised Nancy couldn’t see her. “You’re right, that’s what really matters… I’m glad we didn’t know sooner though, we’d probably just have given up, and we wouldn’t have had all the fun of the mining and charcoal-making and trying to make an ingot.”
“I wonder if you can make ingots from copper?” Nancy said thoughtfully. “I know you can make jewelry, I’m sure I’ve seen some in museums - we could make Uncle Jim those earrings Titty wanted!” Both the Amazons laughed softly at that, then Nancy went on, “I don’t know about ingots, though.”
“If you can shouldn’t it have worked anyway?”
“Maybe we heated it too fast, or too much… We’ll have to ask Uncle Jim or Slater Bob.”
“Or Squashy - I mean Timothy - I say, what do we call him? We can’t keep calling him Squashy Hat now we know who he is, and he might think it rude if we call him Timothy like Uncle Jim does, but I don’t know his other name.”
“Seems funny to call someone mister and then make them walk the plank, though,” Nancy replied with a quiet chuckle. “Maybe he should have a pirate name too… Squashy Hat’s not much of one though. Do you think he’d like to be Billy Bones? Or Long John Silver?”
“We should probably ask Uncle Jim and see what he thinks we should call him,” Peggy said dubitatively. She couldn’t quite picture anyone as shy as Squa - Timothy seemed to be really wanting to be called by either of Nancy’s suggestions. Or defending the houseboat from attack, come to that… “Do you think Uncle Jim really meant it about the battle?”
“We won’t let them join the S.A.D.M.C. if he didn’t,” Nancy retorted. “Shiver my timbers! What’s the point of him being home if he’s holed up in a cave all the time? We’ll all come up if they do blasting or anything like that, of course, but there’s no point wasting the lake and the houseboat.”
“I know that, of course we’ll have a battle with him - or disown him if he won’t,” Peggy said. “I meant did he really mean he’d have Squashy - Timothy - oh bother, you know who I mean! Did Uncle Jim really mean it about him joining in too?”
Now Peggy had asked the question, Nancy could see where she was coming from. It was hard to imagine him repelling boarders when they had fended him off High Topps so successfully… But then there was the way he’d taken charge during the fire. “I don’t know… He might have, anyone who’s a friend of Uncle Jim’s is probably a pretty good sport. I hope he did, it’ll be a much better battle with two people defending against the eight of us instead of just one! We’ll have to wait and see, I suppose.”
Peggy nodded, then was off on another train of thought. “I wonder if there ever really was a young man who found gold and then went off to war and never came back?”
“I expect there was, the story must have come from somewhere… Are you thinking maybe there’s gold in our mine as well as copper?”
“Or in another old working, we hadn’t combed nearly all the Topps when we found ours. Of course all the heather’s burnt now so it won’t be so easy to find it - ” she broke off suddenly as Nancy sat bolt upright, a dark shadow against the tent canvas.
“Galoots we are, mutton-headed galoots!” she said, starting almost at a shout, then dropping her voice again as Peggy hissed at her to be quiet and not wake the camp. “This can’t be the only time High Topps has been burnt, the heather could easily not be there any more! Especially if it was hundreds of years ago… We may have walked right past it!”
“We looked at all the workings we saw, even if there wasn’t heather,” Peggy reminded her. “If it’s there to be seen it must be in a part we didn’t cover… Or it might not exist at all.”
“Well, we can look for it another holiday,” Nancy said more calmly, lying back down. “No point starting now, it’ll be awful with everything burnt and we’ll have both ships any day. We’ll get Uncle Jim to show us what it should look like, too, so we can be sure if we’ve found the right thing.”
“Good idea-a-a-ah.” Peggy’s words ended in a yawn, making Nancy yawn in turn.
“Look here, Peg, we’d better get some sleep, or we’ll be dead tomorrow,” Nancy decided, remembering they had had two nights with little sleep, between the charcoal-burning and the furnace, and fire-fighting to round it all off.
“All right,” Peggy agreed. “I’m jolly glad we found copper, anyway, if it’ll keep Uncle Jim here.”
Nancy smiled. “So am I.”