Chapter Four [VI]

Sir Humphrey fell fast asleep in the midst of his musings, and so we will return to the card-players, who, I might add, were tiring fast.

“Is it always this hot?” complained Blaise as she fanned herself with her cards.

“I think it’s probably a one-off day,” Aoife said with a sigh.

“The atmosphere’s kind of heavy,” commented Daniel. “One of my friends says oppressive heat is when there’s a storm coming.” He yawned, ungreatly disturbed. “But I don’t really believe him, even though he’s supposed to be the clever one.”

Aoife’s eyes widened, though she said nothing. Instead she laid her cards on the grass, stood up and wandered to the lakeside, scanning every horizon. The lake was perfectly still and calm at that moment, and the sky clear and blue. But as she thought about it, turning over the options in her mind and debating the possible outcomes, she realised her cousin was right. There was a heavy haziness in the air, and she wished she could see past the Barenbad to check for clouds. She could see nothing now. That was certain. But perhaps it would be better to start walking back.

Sauntering back to the others, she noted that Sir Humphrey was fast asleep in the shade. It would not do to wake him right now. She must just keep an eye on the surroundings.

“Let’s finish our game,” she told them calmly.

“What do you think, Aoife? Is there a storm?”

“Not right now,” Aoife replied shortly, glancing at her hand and drawing a card from the pile.

“Then Dan must be wrong,” Blaise said contentedly. “Anyway, how can a storm blow up on such a day as this?”

Daniel opened his mouth to answer that it had not been his opinion at all, but Aoife gave him a look, and he shut it again and played his card.

They finished fairly soon, and Rob collected the pile together and shuffled it deftly. “What do you think?” he asked Aoife in a low tone when the others were out of earshot. “Is there a storm coming up?”

“I think there’ll be a mighty one this evening,” Aoife said. “I know what Dan’s friend was getting at, and I’ve heard of it myself. I’m going to wake up Uncle Humph right now and demand that we pack up and go. It’s just the right atmosphere for the king of storms. Dan was right about that. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. The girls both hate thunder – I do, for that matter. Weakness of the Thimble females, unfortunately. What about Serena?”

“She’s never been in a really big storm, I must say, but when there was a little thunder last April she wasn’t fussed at all,” Rob replied with a grin. “And Lindy’s a trooper as well. I know about the girls, of course. Talk about hounds howling to the moon! When it comes to thunder, leaving home was the best move I ever made! Well, if we’re off, I’d better be helping you with my young brothers and sisters. Lindy can deal adequately with my young daughter. Shall I wake Dad or will you?”

Aoife gave him a thoughtful glance. Rob was proving more responsible than she had ever known him to be. Rob was not observant or considerate by nature, and often if he didn’t help it was simply because he didn’t think of it, or notice that there was a problem. He was generally of the opinion that other people could manage by themselves without any prompting, and that there was no assistance to be given if not asked for it, always having been that sort of person. He had never helped much with the family, though he would obey any request on command without a single query. He had always been much the oldest, apart from Geoffrey, getting on with his own concerns and not being at all interested in any others.

“You can, if I round up the kids,” Aoife said. She did not entirely trust Rob to remember everything that was necessary when dealing with a lively mob of forgetful children. “If I let him round them up, we’ll end up leaving our towels behind, or something equally ridiculous,” she thought to herself, more truthfully than unkindly. “You might call Apollo, too,” she added aloud.

Rob was very little like his brother Daniel in many ways. Rob was of medium height, dark-locked, with a laughing smile and cheerful ways. He never gave anything consideration enough to be mentioned, but he was honest and loyal and kept his promises, and was devoted to his pretty wife and bonny daughter.

Daniel was red-haired and tall for his thirteen years, handsome and with an attractive, friendly character. He liked to fake laziness, but really he was observant and quick-witted.

Similarly, the pair were each blessed with average academic abilities and green eyes, legacy of Sir Humphrey and to be found in every one of the Thimble children except clever Blaise. And though Sir Humphrey always protested that it was too early to tell, Aoife was convinced that small Nathaniel was Rob over again. “I’ll just have to make it my business to make him wake up and think from an early age,” she thought to herself.

The End

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