‘Falconer’s Lure’, Part Five

Chapter VII: Jael in the Evening

Honestly, Peter is the absolute limit! First, he agrees to go cliff-climbing with Patrick and Nicola, even though he’s terrified of heights and knows he has panic attacks. Of course, he freezes on the cliff face, so Nicola has to go off for help and Patrick has to stay with Peter and try to calm him down and stop him falling off. I’m no fan of Patrick, but he behaves very sensibly when the crisis hits. He does call Peter a “famous clot of a lily-livered loon”, but Patrick says worse to the hawks and Nicola. The coastguard eventually rescues them and Nicola feels everything’s fine now:

“…they’d had all they needed in the way of a row from the coastguards; there was no reason to tell their parents, just for the fun of another; there they all were, safe and sound, and the fewer people who knew, the better.”

Nicola has reckoned without the local newspaper, which only a few hours later is screaming “LOCAL M.P.’S SON IN CLIFF DRAMA”! (Almost as fast as Twitter, that newspaper.) Captain Marlow hits the roof, which is not unreasonable given that the three children could have been killed. Patrick very nearly was killed on that same cliff a couple of years earlier. But Captain Marlow’s not just furious at Peter – “he blamed Nicola quite as much for not telling Patrick Peter simply wasn’t safe on heights”. How is that Nicola’s fault? Certainly she should have told her parents what had happened afterwards, but it’s understandable that she didn’t, given she’s been brought up not to complain or make any fuss or talk about traumatic experiences. The real blame, in my opinion, lies with Peter, Patrick and Captain Marlow, in that order. Peter is fourteen (I think?), certainly old enough to take responsibility for his own actions and to be able to come up with some face-saving excuse when asked to do something he’s incapable of doing. Patrick is even older and knows the dangers of that cliff. And Captain Marlow is the reason Peter is so determined to prove himself in ridiculous displays of manly courage and is so unable to admit to any weakness. Nicola, being the youngest and a girl, had no real influence on Patrick and Peter’s decisions, even if she’d wanted to tell Patrick about Peter’s fear of heights.

Anyway, Nicola goes off to meet Patrick the next morning and discovers his father had gone off “like an A-bomb”. Mr Merrick doesn’t seem to hold it against Nicola, though, and says The Boke of Falconerie is valuable, perhaps even worth five pounds, and he offers to sell it for her.

But then, a few days later, Patrick and Nicola take Jael rabbiting and Peter happens to be there, being irresponsible with his shotgun as usual, and he KILLS JAEL. That beautiful hawk, ready to be released into the wild, dead! And Peter doesn’t even apologise! He just loudly insists that he didn’t do it deliberately.

“Patrick said nothing. He did believe him, really. But he felt so hurt and sorry over Jael’s death, he wanted to make sure someone else was hurt too. And it couldn’t be Nicola, with that white, quivering look on her face.”

At least poor Jael was killed instantly, so she didn’t suffer. But I think Patrick would be well within his rights never to speak to Peter again.

Chapter VIII: Lawrie’s Sort of Day

Lawrie is just as ridiculous as Peter, but at least her ridiculousness is much less likely to be lethal. She does have some sympathy for Peter, telling Nicola he’s having a “fairly mouldy holiday”:

“Seeing Cousin Jon’s plane thing. Getting stuck on that cliff. Shooting Patrick’s hawk. I expect he minds, don’t you?”

Well, the last two of those were Peter’s fault. He’d better do something worthwhile by the end of the book, or I’ve had it with him.

Anyway, Lawrie, Nicola and Ann go to Colebridge for their festival competitions. Ann and Nicola have stage-fright, but Lawrie is her usual egomaniacal self, so much so that even placid Ann snaps at her. None of the Marlows seems to like Ann much. She’s just there in the background, being quietly helpful and kind and good, while they make fun of her. Her mother doesn’t want her to be a nurse and makes vague noises about Ann being a music teacher and Lawrie suggests being a concert pianist, but Ann says she’d hate being famous:

“I could understand it if what you wanted was to give pleasure, and–and interpret really great work. I think that would be a reason for being a concert pianist. But even then, I think being a nurse, if it’s a thing you can do, is better.”

This makes Nicola want to be sick from the sentimentality of it, but I don’t see what’s wrong with wanting to do good in the world. (Also, it turns out Ann is religious. Maybe she’ll end up a missionary. Or a nun, except I don’t think the Marlows are Catholic.)

Nicola goes off alone to her singing competition and is suddenly shaken by her song’s lyrics about death, because they remind her of Jael. Even then, with all that bottled-up grief, she tries to be sensible:

“You couldn’t, you simply couldn’t go in for a singing comp, and begin to cry in the middle of it because of the sadness of your own song; in spite of herself, Nicola gave a little shiver of laughter; because it was funny, the notion of Nicola Marlow boo-hooing loudly while everyone waited respectfully for her to go on.”

She pulls herself together, sings beautifully and would have come first if she hadn’t had to stop in the middle of her song. Well done, Nicola (although it’s okay to cry about death, even if you are a Marlow).

Then Lawrie, who hasn’t bothered to rehearse her poem, accidentally imitates her previous competitor and is disqualified by the semi-famous actress judge, who thinks Lawrie was being facetious. Lawrie runs off crying and poor identical Nicola is told off by the judge. At least this makes her father think Nicola’s been punished enough, so things are friendly again and he gives her ten bob as a reward for her singing. Which makes Lawrie cry again, although later Lawrie does have “one of her unexpected moments of looking at herself objectively, and finding the sight awfully funny”.

Then Lawrie hatches a ridiculous scheme to make things better – she will track down the actress-judge, so Lawrie can recite her poem properly and thus be discovered as an exciting new theatrical talent. Nicola, feeling “unusually helpless”, is dragged along. Unfortunately, the scheme works and Lawrie is not only driven back to Trennels (with Nicola invisible in the front seat), but invited to tea with the actress. Lawrie will be unbearable now…

8 thoughts on “‘Falconer’s Lure’, Part Five”

  1. Poor Peter. I’m with Lawrie on this one.
    As a falconer flying his hawk over someone else’s land, it was Patrick’s responsibility to find out if and when anybody would be shooting over that land; and both Patrick and Nicola knew Peter was spending his summer wandering around with a shotgun. The flip-side of that is that it would have been sensible of Peter, who knew hawks were being flown around the place, to check where Patrick and Nicola were planning to fly – but given the previous events, he probably didn’t feel capable of talking to either of them. The chain of events can be followed right back to the moment at the start of the book where Patrick decides he wants Nicola to be his Best Friend this holiday and Peter isn’t allowed to play with them. Not that I’m trying to let Peter off the hook for the catastrophes he creates for himself and everyone around, but I think the writing is masterful – that all the physical action and happenings unfold from emotional or psychological moments.
    ‘Lawrie’s Sort Of Day’ is my favourite chapter – I love every bit of it. AF at her best.
    Oh, and Mr Merrick. He’s a shame he has to be a Tory MP, because he’s probably the nicest adult in the books.

    1. I’m not sure whose land it was – it might have been Merrick land? I still think the responsibility is the shooter’s, to make sure they’re shooting away from people (and hawks). And Peter was wandering around aiming his gun at birds at the BEACH, so he clearly has no sense whatsoever about gun safety! That’s another thing Captain Marlow should have done – if Peter was going to be allowed to have a gun, his father should have made sure Peter understood the rules and responsibilities. Instead Captain Marlow was fussing about Peter addressing elders with the proper respect.

      I wonder why Patrick was so adamant at the start about keeping away from Peter? Maybe they didn’t really get on very well before, but were just thrown together because they were two boys of similar age living next-door to each other. I agree, Antonia Forest sets up the situation beautifully. It’s all so plausible and the catastrophe is inevitable.

      Mr Merrick does seem nice. He’s always pleasant to Nicola and seems to get on fairly well with the Marlow parents. He IS a politician, though – social charm is part of the job description!

  2. Patrick seems to be the sort of person who can only have one friend at a time. He is terrible anti-social, which should endear him to me… but doesn’t! He is better than usual in these chapters, I must admit.

    And Lawrie *seems* to be turning into the sort of person for whom everything will always turn out right in the end (“Lawrie is lucky, but Nicola is nicer” as someone says in a later book). She is beginning to drink her own bathwater, as the AFL commentators love to say…

    I am longing for you to get onto End of Term, which is where the series really starts to hit its stride! These early books do set the foundations for later events very effectively, though.

    1. Patrick sounds a lot like T. H. White, wanting to go off and live as a hermit with his hawks. I wonder if Antonia Forest was thinking of White?

      “Drink her own bathwater”! See what fascinating idiom I miss out on by ignoring all sport…

      I have ordered End of Term from Girls Gone By and their website says it’ll be released in a few weeks! I’m really looking forward to it – I suspect I’ll end up liking the school books the most.

  3. I really like Peter. Admittedly not especially on the basis of this book…but he’s still a lot more human than Patrick.

    Agree with Kate C- End of Term is where the series really takes off – keep with it!

    1. Peter is better than Patrick (which, admittedly, isn’t saying much) and he’s certainly human and realistically flawed. But he’s so frustrating! He doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes, he just keeps on doing stupid things to prove how brave he is!

  4. The four most favourite AF books (according to a not-very-scientific survey on Trennels) are End Of Term, Peter’s Room, Ready Made Family and Cricket Term. You’ve got the best ones still to come!
    I think what the school books have that the home ones don’t is a more varied cast of characters; and some of those characters are there to prick that Marlow bubble. So there’s less of the ‘Boys are the best / the Navy is the best / the Marlows are the best- a Marlow boy in the Navy is the best thing ever – attitude’.

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