Coralie came just behind her, and her eyes followed those of her sister. “Can you recognise that tongue, Basilie?” she said in French, passing her sister and beginning on the same slope. She was quite confident that the two at the top could not understand her, as usual.
“English, of course, idiot,” Basilie said. “And don’t bring the Dutch up again, please.”
Coralie giggled delightedly. “You’re the idiot,” she cried. “That’s German, of course!”
Basilie’s face turned purple, and she set herself the task of climbing on without heeding her sister’s unfair taunts. They passed the pair at the top, and she was embarrassed to note that the tongue they were speaking in was indeed German. She frowned at her still-giggling sister as they started on a flattish path. A line of other tourists stretched out in front of them, and the two sisters paused to rest against the rock wall to wait for Élodie, who had been saying the customary “Gruss Gott” to the two speaking German, who now continued along.
“What are you giggling at?” she said as she joined them.
“Basilie,” Coralie spoke in English. “She couldn’t tell the difference between Dutch and English a few days ago, but now she can’t tell the difference between English and German!”
Élodie chuckled too. “Well they are all Germanic languages,” she said in the French which they usually used amongst themselves. “But I can’t deny the humour of your folly, Basilie.”
Basilie frowned blackly as they rounded another corner, and found themselves looking at a bay carved in the rock wall where a cascade of water slid down the steep rock. A little shelter had been erected so that the water passed over the path, but the tourists now passing through it were still squealing. This landmark Coralie had heard called ‘the Dripping Rock’, and this phrase she was turning over in her mind as she surveyed the tourists. Suddenly she gave a small shout.
“Blaise!” She hailed her new friend of that morning, who, at the other side of the small bay, had turned round and was now waving frantically from a rocky pedestal.
“Coralie!” called the red-headed girl back across the gorge, and over the roaring of the water. “I didn’t think I’d see you this soon.”
“Blaise!” reproved the tall fair woman coming up behind the Atkins girls and startling them thereby. “Don’t shout or we’ll all go deaf, and I’m sure that is quite undesirable at this present moment, especially for you, with so much to say at every second of the day.”
“That’s a libel,” a slightly older dark-haired girl said from beside Blaise. “She doesn’t talk half as much as you do.”
“Now that’s a libel,” the fair woman said, “and rude into the bargain, young Dee. Besides, as you are in my care, it is my duty to talk myself hoarse if the occasion demands it. I may be bossy, but you will obey.”
The girls giggled, as did a red-headed boy coming up behind Blaise, the shouting having piqued his curiosity.
“Well, come on, then, Coralie! I haven’t seen you since this morning!” cried Blaise heartily, moving back to let a dark woman and a grey-haired man pass.
Coralie passed under the shelter with a squall, as the spray leapt up and damped her shirt with refreshing coolness. She got to her friend with her two sisters close on her heels, the fair woman and the handsome man just a short distance behind.
“This is my family,” Blaise said importantly. “My sister Dee, my brother Dan, my dad is just there in the checked jacket. That’s my brother’s wife Lindy next to him. My brother Rob is looking after Nathaniel and Serena, the small children, today, back at the chalet. But behind you lot is our cousin Aoife. She’s at the height of epicness. Then that is Vinzent behind her, and I don’t know where he came from. He must’ve appeared behind us, because I swear he wasn’t there half an hour ago.”
“You’ve met my sisters, haven’t you?” Coralie said. “Let’s keep walking, or you’ll get left behind. How old are you, Dee?”
“Eleven,” Delia said quietly. “I know you’re ten because Blaise has been talking about her new friend all morning. You seem to have made an impression on her, but her talking isn’t much to go by – excuse my rudeness; I don’t mean it! Don’t let her wear you out with her talking.”
“Quite a speech from Delia Thimble, there,” said Blaise. “She hardly ever talks at all, but it looks like we’ve swapped roles for today. How old are you, Basilie?”
“Fourteen on the twentieth.”
“Ah, Dan’s age or thereabouts. He’s not fourteen till the end of November, but never mind. You can talk to boys without bluffing, can’t you?” Blaise said with a wicked look at her brother. “He tried to bluff to some teenage girls that he was nearly fifteen last summer, didn’t you, Dan? And then as soon as he walked away Aoife revealed all to them, and Dan is thankful he’ll never see them again.”
Basilie assured Blaise that she could talk to boys without bluffing, and she and Daniel got on very well, all things considered (if I don’t stop using that phrase I shall go insane – note to self: remove on next edit). As for Élodie, Aoife and Vinzent, they were talking together in careful German. Élodie could talk German as well as English, which was fairly well, and as Aoife only knew the dark man as a German tourist who had happened to be helpful on one or two occasions, they all took it for granted that it would be easiest to talk in that language, no questions asked.