CHAPTER SIX: Three Sisters
“What shall we do today?” the dark-haired girl turned to her sister. The two were lying languorously on the lawn in the shade of a small cherry tree.
“I thought we might go to Scholastika and walk to Pertisau,” her sister replied. “Did you hear that, Basilie?” as a third girl emerged from the cottage behind them.
“Yes, but we must buy butter and apples from Jenbach this morning. There are none.”
“That’s annoying!” said the youngest of the trio. “I’ve been wanting to walk from Scholastika for ages, ever since we got here nearly, and that was two weeks ago.”
“You were lucky your English school was building on,” said Élodie carefully. “Or we wouldn’t be here yet.”
“There is no thing that is luck,” reproved Basilie, and Coralie giggled. Even if her sister’s stilted way of pronouncing the foreign words had not been an ever-present source of amusement to the youngest girl, the favourite reproof was an old teaser.
“Yes, and your French schools get longer holidays than us and I don’t think it’s fair to rub it in,” Coralie grumbled even as she coughed her giggles away. “And your timetables are ridiculous too.”
“But I have ended school now. And I will be entering the Sorbonne in September to study mathematics,” Élodie said. “We French girls work much harder than you lazy English.”
“Be quiet, you two,” Basilie interrupted in the easier language. “We’ll miss the train if we’re not careful. We can do Scholastika later.”
They turned out of the cottage garden and walked briskly along the path to Seespitz in strict file so as to allow other tourists to pass: Élodie first, then Coralie, then Basilie.
“There is that tall dark handsome man again,” hissed Basilie, who, aged nearly fourteen, was bound to notice any ‘lookers’ in the area.
Coralie giggled over her shoulder. “Do you still think he talks Dutch?” she inquired loudly.
Basilie blushed. “That’s over and done with, Coralie. No need to bring it up.”
“What happened?” Élodie inquired, turning briefly. She had not been present at the incident to which the younger girls had evidently been referring.
“Basilie can’t tell the difference between English and Dutch,” explained Coralie, sweetly oblivious to the deathly looks her sister was bestowing on her back. “I’m younger, but I know so much more.”
“Basilie can’t really appreciate the fact that you’re so perfectly bilingual,” Élodie said. “You have to make allowances, Coralie.”
“Right, that really is enough now,” Basilie interrupted, peaceably, despite her sharp words. “Look – there’s the train. We’d better run to catch it.”
The train was quite full at this time, with a growing number of tourists coming to the lake, and the three sisters had to run to catch the train. Even then they were directed to the only empty seats, squashed next to a large party of English people whom the girls eyed with inquisitive interest.
“Do you think they understand French?” Basilie said, leaning forward and making no attempt to moderate her tones.
“Probably,” Coralie said. “They have a lovely dog. I didn’t know dogs were allowed on the train.”
“Apparently they are,” Basilie replied. “What do you say, Élodie?”
Élodie disdained to reply. She was wondering how much of the conversation the English people understood. Indeed, a small girl of ten or so looked to be listening to something or other, her ears perked up and pointed to the highest degree.
“How old do you think that girl is?” suggested Coralie, nodding in the direction of the English party. “The red-haired one with the high ponytail just next to me. Do you reckon she’s my age?”
“She’s very pretty,” commented Basilie.
Suddenly, without warning, the red-headed girl swung her legs round and turned to face them.
“Bonjour,” she said without a trace of shyness, but with an accent quite appalling to the French-speaking girls. “Je m’appelle Blaise Thimble. J’ai neuf ans. Et toi? Hey, qu’est-ce que c’est tes vacances aussi?”