At the approach of the familiar green triangle of Pertisau, Aoife had the grace to invite all four of the added members of the party to dinner, but all declined, having previous engagements. But the three elder ‘young people’ promised to keep in touch. Indeed, it was not unlikely that they would meet again soon enough.
The four boarded the ferry, and Coralie and Basilie soon strayed to the outer deck to watch the changing scenery as the sun fell behind the mountains and the evening mists rose into existence. Élodie preferred to rest her tired legs inside, and Vinzent sat nearby.
“You do speak English, don’t you?” Élodie said in that tongue as the ferry moved out of port.
Vinzent opened his eyes, as his lids had fallen unconsciously. Élodie thought how tired and sad he looked in the unnatural lighting. Perhaps it was because the overhead lights were dim and indistinct.
“Of course I do. My name is not Watersheen for nothing,” Vinzent replied in the same language. He hesitated. “I have a German mother. I…we live in Vienna now, and that’s where I was at university, but after an attack of influenza I decided to come here to walk it off. I’ve always loved walking holidays,” he mused. “And meeting the Thimbles has been great, too.”
“I am sorry if I do not follow everything,” Élodie said. “Do the family Thimble know you also speak English? I noticed Aoife was very careful to speak German to you.”
“That is only Aoife.”
“I find it strange. But ah, Aoife! She is an amazing person, is she not? To have to keep house and bring up four young hooligans. It amazes me. She will make a fantastic housewife,” prophesised Élodie. “Why does she not know you are English?”
Vinzent nodded gravely, but disdained to give what most people would call a ‘straight answer’. Surely by her question Elodie meant, ‘If she does not know that you are English, why do you not tell her?’ Maybe our Vinzent was tired, or maybe his English was only coming back to him sufficiently to understand her meaning. Or maybe his intelligent abilities were blurred by a looming event which had an all-encompassing hold over him. “I helped her and her cousin Delia home in a storm, and she collapsed after from the strain of it. I didn’t see her again, and I presume the family didn’t tell her I was half-English. After all, I was schooled in England for seven years. I’d be ashamed if I didn’t know the language. But my family came back here when my…when my Gran died, as there were no links left in English country, and I could scarcely speak my mother’s language.”
“My sister Coralie is schooled in England, while Basilie and I stay with Tante Amélie and are schooled in France. In September I go to university where I study mathematics. I hope to be a teacher at the primary school when I have my degree. Coralie wants to be a children’s doctor, even so early as it is for her age, and Basilie an accountant. What did you study?”
“History. I regret it. It won’t help me in my years to come. I would have liked to have done law, but I feel it to be too late for that. I will apply for a job in a bank in Vienna in October, when I should find work. I have to go back sooner though. It’s a case of leaving your business behind when you come on holiday, and the later you go back the more of a nightmare it is sorting it out. But I’d like to go back to England when I have enough money. It’s a wonderful place, with wonderful people, and a wonderful culture.”
“I agree, although I prefer my France,” Élodie replied. “I was actually thinking what a beautiful place this Tirol is. Aha! We are coming into port. I must find my good sisters, wherever they may be. Goodbye, Vinzent. I will see you again soon.”
“Same to you.” The serious-faced young man grinned as he stepped off the boat, very suddenly and without warning. He seemed to be very preoccupied, but that grin gave Élodie a quick flash of insight into his mind.
“He has some worry or sorrow on the brain,” thought Élodie wisely as she turned away. “And he also has a certain person on the brain.”