“We’ve made it,” Aoife told Delia, who revived herself sufficiently to stagger a few more steps and pass under the doorframe. “Now, let’s order some Kaiserschmarr’n. That’ll pick you up, Dee. Two plates between us, I reckon, because they really are huge, if my memory serves me correctly.”
“How about Apollo? He loves pancakes, so why not pancakes and icing sugar?” Daniel suggested as the large hairy party in question nudged his knee with an imploring whine.
“Three plates of Kaiserschmarr’n coming up,” Aoife responded, fumbling in her backpack for her purse. “I’ll just check that Apollo is actually allowed in here. It might be that he isn’t and then we’d be…”
“In the soup,” finished Blaise with a grin. “Let’s find a table. Come on, Dee.”
The trio, with Apollo in close pursuit, found a small table out of the way, and settled themselves comfortably. Delia immediately put her head down and closed her eyes, and Daniel looked at her with a sad tinge in his greenish eyes.
“I hope she isn’t ill again,” he murmured to nobody in particular.
“She’s dull when she’s ill,” agreed Blaise, crinkling her small nose. “Anyway, Aoife won’t let it happen again. She brought us through the fog fine. Now she’s ordering us all nice food. Aoife’s the best.”
“Aoife’s the best, but she’s not superwoman,” Daniel replied with a cough.
It was true that the Thimble family poured every ounce of trust into the girl who had brought them through so much, with almost the unconditional instinct of a child, who makes a parent responsible without realisation of their actions or reconsideration of the justice in these actions. Blaise and Delia thought the world of their big cousin, and Daniel did too, though nothing could have dragged it from him. Nevertheless, as Daniel shrewdly said, Aoife was not superwoman, and she could not contrive the impossible, nor prevent the inevitable.
“No, she’s Aoife,” Blaise responded contentedly, also lowering her head down to the table. “And I hope her parents never come back from wherever they are now. She’ll stay with us forever. She promised.”
“I dunno. Not in words. But she means it. Aoife will be with us for always. Of course she will. She’s Aoife.”
Aoife, undoubtedly, was the heart and the soul of the Thimble family. In fact, each one of them wished, with that unconditional expectation of those who cannot recall any other circumstances, that she would always be there in the family. Of course, if they had taken the trouble to think carefully about the matter – a matter which they did not have any reason to ponder, for any other state of affairs was made inconceivable by the very value and love they all felt for the girl – her eternal presence and support was scarcely assured forever, and yet Sir Humphrey, at least, had difficulty in imagining his life was Aoife’s presence not assured. He was not trying to keep her in the family against her will. He had not wanted to intervene upon the question of university which had troubled his niece just two years ago.
But Aoife had known, even while she visited the most attractive universities in the country, that she could not find inside her the willingness or the zeal to go. She could not leave her dear family, as I’m sure you will have no difficulty in understanding at this point. Perhaps she felt it to be a debt she owed to her dead aunt. Perhaps she really loved to be there in the midst of them all. Or perhaps she felt sore that her parents had never once visited her in a full ten years, and she wanted to show them that she was quite happy and contented with her uncle’s family. They were all likely reasons, but together they sealed Aoife’s resolve to stay with the Thimbles as long as that call compelled her to do so.
Daniel grunted. He could somehow sense that the day was not far off when Aoife would be waving goodbye to life in the Thimble household forever, and that feeling, to offer you a possible foresight of the future, was destined to become stronger throughout the long Austrian holiday.