Oh, the lake! The smooth blue lake nestled in its cosy nook, cradled by the pine-clothed mountain slopes rising above to majestic heights. On flat shelves smiled colourful chalets and flower-sprinkled meadows of incredible greenness.
“Achensee! It’s just as I remember it!” cried Aoife.
“We could almost be driving on the lake!” breathed Blaise, leaning across Delia’s lap in her most annoying way.
“It’s so beautiful!” said Lindy. “Look at the mountains, Serena. Aren’t they pretty?”
“Ve’y nice. Ve’y pretty,” obliged Serena, gazing out of the window with enraptured blue eyes.
“Huh!” commented Daniel expressively.
Delia said nothing, not noticeably, as she seldom spoke, but when Aoife glanced back idly she gave a cry of horror.
“Uncle! Help! Delia’s fainted!” As soon as the words were out of Aoife’s mouth she regretted them.
There was instant pandemonium. Rob had not heard her in the general chorus of raptures, and he continued driving smoothly till the melee broke out. But Sir Humphrey had heard and was leaning backwards in a dangerous way. Lindy also glanced over her shoulder with the eyes of a frightened rabbit, and Serena, resenting this small gesture and sway of attention from herself, started to howl. Daniel made a few unhelpful ejaculations, and Blaise looked about her in a way that everyone declared later made her look quite simple. Apollo joined in with a series of ear-splitting falsetto barks, and Nathaniel, using a unique trick of his specially designed for occasions on which noise levels reached a particular pitch, started to sing the theme tune to one of his favourite TV programmes – very loudly, and it was all Aoife could do to remain sane. She grasped at her reason with a wild leap, and made contact.
Clapping a hand over Nathaniel’s mouth and resisting his defensive skills, she turned her head to yell instructions to Blaise and Daniel over Serena’s noise.
“Blaise! Stop looking around as if you were demented! Didn’t you realise that she’d fainted?”
“I thought she was asleep.”
“Daniel, don’t cluck and moon! Give her a prod in case she is only asleep.”
“I don’t know how she could manage to sleep with all this racket,” muttered Daniel, nevertheless doing as he was told and poking Delia’s elbow very definitely.
“The rest of you, cease the hullabaloo – Nat included!” bellowed Aoife, and there was instant silence, with a small whimper from poor afflicted Serena. “Now,” she continued, raising her voice, “could Rob please stop the car?”
Rob had grasped the situation now, and he pulled by the path at the lakeside. Between them they lifted Delia from the car and lay her down on a nearby bench with her legs raised, where she speedily came back to herself.
“Oh. What nice air this is. It’s so easy to breathe,” she remarked in a voice refreshed from its previous coarseness, and it was not just Sir Humphrey who heaved a sigh of relief.
“Are you alright?” Aoife asked from her uncomfortable kneeling point beside the bench.
“I’m okay. I just felt so hot and clammy and sick,” Delia said softly.
“Why didn’t you tell someone? Or at least ask for a travel sickness tablet?”
“I didn’t think of it,” Delia replied, and Aoife, who occasionally suffered from travel sickness herself, readily believed her.
“Well, I suppose we’d better get back in the car and go on to this chalet,” she said at last. “You seem fine now. Water, please, Daniel.”
Daniel produced a chewed-looking bottle, and Delia sipped at it. Then they helped her to stand, but she dropped down again promptly.
“I feel quite giddy,” she owned, and Blaise rolled her eyes from behind. Delia was good fun sometimes, but lately she had been really boring. Lively Blaise hated it when her only sister was ill.
After the third attempt, Delia was able to stand without a wobble, but she begged off getting back into the stuffy car.
“Oh, please can’t I walk the rest of the way? It’s so hot and crowded in there. I can walk – really I can.”
“It’s not far. I reckon I can see the chalet from here. Ten minutes maximum,” Rob estimated.
“I’ll walk with her. I’d like to stretch my legs,” Daniel said.
“Anyone else?” Aoife inquired, standing up with a smile.
“Oh, me! I can’t possibly sit still there all alone!” Blaise cried. “It would be too dull!”
“Oh, no. I’d better wait with Serena. I shouldn’t take her walking anywhere without the buggy. It mightn’t be a good idea,” Lindy smiled. Lindy was very practiced at smiling.
“How about Apollo?”
“We’d have to look for his lead, and besides, he’d go berserk if you let him out now,” Daniel pointed out with the matter-of-fact sense peculiar to his character.
“We can all go walking together in the evening. It’s too hot right now, and I just want to get to this chalet and put my feet up,” Sir Humphrey said honestly. “Good hunting, and we’ll meet you there.”