The walk took rather longer than Rob had anticipated, but Aoife enjoyed it immensely. The scenery was beautiful, and she began to wish she had brought all her paints and canvas from her bedroom back at the manor. The artistic instinct was brewing inside her, begging her to capture the wonderful images looming up before her eyes and pin them down to permanent memory plates, as she had liked to call them when she was small. Once, she had roamed her parents’ studio for hours on end – when she was allowed, which wasn’t often. Now, her parents were away, shadows of some past existence before the interest and animation of life with her cousins.
At last they reached the chalet, and strolled casually up the short drive, in through a white wicker gate and across the garden. Rob and Sir Humphrey were unloading cases from the van, which had arrived shortly before. Already nearly a dozen bulging specimens littered the vivid lawn.
“Where is everyone?” was Aoife’s first question.
“Lindy et cetera…gone somewhere. Nathaniel’s exploring the sitting room, and Apollo’s having a run around the back, doing some investigating of his own. You may as well have a look. It’s a lovely place. Daniel – Rob and I could use some assistance here.”
The three girls entered the airy hall, which was painted white, clean, with wooden floors. A large shoe-chest was up against one wall, and the wooden stairs curved around to the left. There were three doors on the final wall.
“I’ve found the bathroom,” Blaise grinned, indicating the middle door, and kicking off her shoes at once. “Ooh, look. The kitchen’s in here.”
Aoife and Delia followed her, and found themselves in a stone-floored kitchen with double-doors leading outside. Another door led into the sun-dappled dining room in the right wing of the chalet.
Blaise made straight for the double-doors, and had danced all over the patio before she found some more double-doors further along, and came into a huge sitting room which would comfortably fit all nine of the family on sofas and chairs. Nathaniel was crawling around, inspecting the underneaths of the sofas with great care, presumably on the hunt for stray matchbox cars and the like. A desk sat under the stairs, and Blaise made a point of swinging round on the ‘wheelie’ chair until she felt giddy.
Aoife, meanwhile, stepped through another door, and was back in the hall.
“Let’s be curious, shall we?” she said to Delia, who had followed her. “I wonder what’s up here.”
They mounted the stairs with caution, for the wood was very slippery in their socks, and there was a sunny indoor balcony looking over the hall that Aoife guessed would be Apollo territory as soon as he came in. A big clear window looked out towards the lake, and Aoife made a face as she saw it.
“That’ll be a pain to clean,” the domestic side of her mind observed.
There was a corridor on either side of the landing. Delia chose the left-hand corridor, and passed through the first door frame on the right.
A long twin bedroom had double doors at the back leading onto a long balcony running from side to side of the chalet, and gazing down the valley before it. The mighty Sonnjoch rose at the back of the view, looming and menacing, and on each side were the pine-clad Tristenkopf with its parade of scars and the massive but friendly-looking Falzthurnjoch. The Feilalm, small and green, rose on the other side of the Falzthurnjoch, and on the left of the Tristenkopf rose what they could see of the Barenbadalm, thickly coated with dark pines.
Aoife stared at the familiar view with a tender flame of love in her eyes, but Delia scarcely paused.
Down the corridor they found two more bedrooms – a double room and a small single room. Each of the rooms led out onto the balcony through a set of double doors. A spacey bathroom was situated at the end of the corridor.
On the right there were three bedrooms and a bathroom, symmetrical to those on the left corridor, and Delia picked out that twin bedroom for herself and Blaise. It had rose-covered curtains and matching eiderdowns, and Delia thought it was the loveliest room she had ever seen. Aoife decided on the single bedroom on the same corridor, and as the double room also held a cot-type bed, they gathered that this room would be dedicated to Rob and his family.
“I expect Dan will have the single and Nat the twin on the other corridor, and if Serena is good she may share with Nat,” Aoife said. “Now, shall we go and find our cases?”
But Delia had other ideas. With a sigh of sheer weariness, she collapsed onto her own bed near the window, whispering, “I just want to go to bed.”