She awoke the next afternoon at just past one o’clock to the welcome sounds of the Thimble party returning from a boat-trip around the lake. She struggled to sit up on her elbows, and checked her bedside clock with squinting eyes not quite used to the radiant light that poured in through the curtains.
Aoife’s next action was to fling the bedclothes back and swing her feet onto the primrose-yellow rug matching the curtains perfectly, and tried to stand. She swayed a little at first, and the world was pricked with millions of green and pink dots of fairydust, but she recovered in a moment and stood straight. Well aware that she was a little unsteady, legacy of yesterday’s performance in the hall, Aoife caught up her clothes and towels and departed to take a quick refreshing shower.
When she emerged she could smell the pleasing aroma of pancakes, and realised that the pit called her stomach felt extremely empty. After all, she hadn’t eaten in twenty-four hours. She drew the curtains and opened the double doors leading onto the balcony. Drawn by the coercive cool of the air, Aoife went out onto the wooden balcony and gazed at the imposing Sonnjoch at the foot of the valley. But Sonnjoch seemed to be more of a friend than a hideous monster, as all of the mountains seemed to be now. In fact, the least friendly-looking now was Tristenkopf, with its four battle-scars streaked across the summit, and the timid pines growing round and up its cylindrical pedestal. They had seen many views of the Tristenkopf from the walk down the Barenbad, and Aoife thought it even more mighty than the Sonnjoch in some ways, as it dominated another huge valley hidden now behind the Barenbad.
She was startled at the freshness of the air. No mugginess was to be detected, and the storm had truly brightened everything up. Even the grass seemed greener. Aoife felt fully revived, excluding the nag of her vacant stomach.
She dismounted the stairs to find the whole family lunching on pancakes in the sitting room. They greeted her with a volley of shouts and cheers, and Aoife was surprised and pleased at the enthusiasm in their faces.
“Aoife! Aoife!” cried Serena and Nathaniel, bouncing up and down in their chairs.
“Are you alright now?” Delia said quietly.
“Don’t you think fainting at your age is a disgrace?” reproved Blaise.
“Not at all, thank you very much, Blaise. In fact, I feel better than I have done in a while, all things considered.”
“Really? I might try it,” Blaise said cheekily, and Aoife, shaking her head and wagging her finger, sat down and turned to Daniel, who was grinning wordlessly.
“Any pancakes for me?” Aoife said hopefully. “I’m so hungry I could eat ten of them!”
“Dan’s already beaten you,” Blaise intervened. “He’s on his eleventh.”
“Daniel Kester Thimble! Eleven pancakes all smothered in golden syrup! I wonder why you aren’t shockingly obese!”
“I thank my stars I can eat anything I like and never get any broader round the middle,” Dan replied, taking a mammoth mouthful of syrupy pancake and cramming it into the great void of his trap.
“And I wonder what happened to my careful training of good manners,” Aoife said, widening her eyes in horror at her cousin’s antics.
“What kind of training of good manners was it? In a positive or negative way?” Daniel said with his mouth full.
Aoife ignored this. “A nice advertisement to me you are, Dan. Where you get it from I don’t know. I’m certain your mother never scoffed vast amounts of food and stuffed it down her own throat. Nor did she perform such a hideous operation as to talk in the middle of a mouthful.”
“Oh, I get it from Dad,” Daniel said easily, casting a wicked glance at his father, who was having a blameless conversation with Rob. “At least I’m not too polite – or ladylike,” he finished.
Blaise snorted. “You couldn’t be ladylike if you tried,” she said between giggles.
“I’d be worried if he did,” Delia put in calmly.
Aoife burst out laughing. “What complete nutters you all are,” she commented.
“Well, so are you,” said Daniel as he held out his plate for his twelfth pancake. “It’s your influence, and you can’t deny it!”