CHAPTER FIVE: Storm Afoot the Sonnjoch
Spurred to action, though she felt an obscure sense of loss at the departure of the young man, Aoife stirred her long legs and sprinted back to where the family had just completed packing up. Every bag was slung upon a willing shoulder, and Aoife repeated her findings to her fellow adults.
“There’s a huge storm brewing just behind the Sonnjoch. A man said we have about half an hour or so to get back to Pertisau. Do you think we’d better get the bus, Uncle?”
“I’m sure we can manage it in half an hour,” Sir Humphrey said. “And personally I’d rather we walked. I don’t know the bus timetable and I don’t want to be waiting for ten minutes.”
“A storm?” Lindy said anxiously, oblivious to their earlier concerns. “Serena doesn’t mind thunder, but I can’t hurry with the buggy. Besides, I’m not as fit as I used to be.”
“And Nathaniel might protest if we try to rush him on his small legs,” Sir Humphrey agreed. “Very well. Aoife, will you and Lindy catch the bus with the younger children. The rest of us can make it. Delia probably ought to go on the bus too. She mustn’t get wet.”
Aoife blanched for no apparent reason, but she nodded her head. “What if the buses aren’t running for any reason?”
“You’ll be quite safe and dry under a bus shelter or something,” her uncle replied. “Delia!” he raised his voice, and his daughter came running.
“Go with Aoife and Lindy on the bus. There’s a storm in the offing, and we might have to run home.”
“Why not all catch the bus?”
“Well, we aren’t sure if they’re running, or where the stop is in Pertisau, and we don’t have a clue about the timetables,” Sir Humphrey said dismissively.
“Oh, please, Dad! I’m terrified of thunder, and I’d much rather have the run. Why, it’s cooler already, and the sky is cloudy now. It feels like rain, and that would be nice to be honest. But I won’t wait in a lonely bus shelter for an hour or so while the world is getting soaked. It’s not even like we have coats.”
“If you’re sure you’d rather,” Sir Humphrey began slowly.
“I would, and Aoife hates thunder, too. She’d rather run back as well, wouldn’t you, Aoife? Send Rob with Lindy, or go yourself, but Aoife is coming with us.”
Sir Humphrey had no wish to upset his daughter, and he realised the urgency of the situation, so he quickly told Rob and Aoife to take Daniel, Delia, Blaise and Apollo off. He didn’t like not going with them, but it couldn’t be helped, and besides, he wasn’t as young as he used to be, and was having a little trouble with his knees, and now he thought of it, he wasn’t sure himself that he could manage the run home. He decided to take the chance and go on the bus, but he made Rob promise first that if the bus party weren’t home by the time the walking party were, he would go back in the car to fetch the rest.
“We’ll be at the closest bus-stop to here,” Sir Humphrey said, and then Rob jogged away to catch up with the others, who were walking at a fast pace Aoife knew they could keep up for some time.
Apollo lolloped along, sensing the change in atmosphere with the knack of most perceptive animals. It took just ten minutes for them to round the corner, when the clouds came full into view. All three of the girls turned pearly white at the sight of the rolling clouds, now black and blocking out all view of the Sonnjoch.
“I hope that stranger was right when he gave us half an hour,” Aoife thought to herself, keeping a close watch on Delia, who looked like she was struggling to keep up with the rest of them. But Aoife dared not slacken her pace. It would take them all of fifteen minutes to get near the chalet.