CHAPTER EIGHT: Camping on the Alm
Aoife conducted a small German lesson in the chalet sitting room, helped ably by Vinzent, seeing as she could not recall much of her German and made mistakes enough to make him tear his hair and massage his temples. They soon gave up, and while they read German books and watched German TV, Aoife slipped away to inquire about the campfire.
She returned with a long face, but bright eyes.
“What news?” Daniel put forward, thankfully abandoning his dictionary, which had already suffered several beatings of dislike and frustration.
“I’ve hired a tent for the night. It has two adequate compartments, so it will fit us all very comfortably, and they will deliver it here to us at about six o’clock. Then Rob will drive Vinzent back to his hotel to get his things, and after that he’ll run all of us, tent and Apollo included, to the Falzthurnalm, where we will camp for the night. I have permission for that, at least.”
“Ooh, it sounds wonderful,” squealed Delia excitedly. “And the campfire?”
“We aren’t allowed to light our fire. I’d need a license, among other things,” Aoife said shortly, a slight smile tickling her lips.
There were long groans of disappointment at their misfortune.
“They don’t think we’d set the place on fire, do they?” scoffed Blaise crossly. “There’s a lake, isn’t there?”
“Yes, but this place is heavily wooded. The chalets are built largely of wood, and the forests are protected to a high degree. Besides, this is the summer, and you can’t expect there to be a thunderstorm and torrential rain every day. We haven’t had a whiff of cloud all day today, but there’s been an evil breeze which could potentially spread a fire more quickly than it would spread without. It’s no use complaining, Blaise.” Aoife was grinning widely, and Vinzent tried in vain to direct the children’s attention away from her and her secret, whatever it might be.
“I suspected that they’d refuse,” he said. “I know they’re very cautious. When it snows…”
“Aoife!” shrieked Delia, completely unduped. “What is it? You’re hiding something!”
Aoife surrendered. “We aren’t allowed a real campfire,” she stated blandly, though the inevitable ‘but’ was plain to be heard in the ensuing pause. “But no one said we weren’t allowed a fake one. I’ve bought red, yellow and orange tissue paper, and some wire, and we’re going to make a stand-up cage for Dan’s torch-lantern!”
“Aoife – you’re the best!”
“Nice one,” said Vinzent warmly, and Aoife blushed.
Daniel, though he did not look nearly so thrilled as his sisters, obligingly stood up to fetch the said lantern, and they set to work with the wire and tissue paper, manufacturing a counterfeit but startlingly realistic campfire.
At five o’clock they cooked dinner for everyone together – battered fish and chips, and imitated their earlier performance regarding the washing up. Vinzent was taught the song, and he enjoyed it too, despite his great age of twenty-one years. In fact, Blaise asked him rather anxiously at the end whether he had enjoyed it, and he assured her most serenely that yes, he had enjoyed it very much.
The tent was delivered with no difficulty, and shortly after it had been bundled into the car, the five exhibited their fake campfire in the sitting room with the curtains drawn and the lights switched off.
“It’s effective,” summed up Rob as he rose to fetch the car keys, “but it will be better in the real dark.” And with that they were forced to be content.
Rob dropped the quintet, complete with Apollo, at the Falzthurnalm within the half hour, and departed almost as soon as he had arrived, having been assured that they would prefer to erect the tent in its entirety themselves.
“I hope you have torch batteries!” he called from the car window, and with that exceedingly helpful parting shot, he presented the maroons with his shrinking number plate.