“So, who has the instructions?” said Delia as the hum of the car faded into the trees, but Dan waved her words aside.
“I’ve set up tents plenty of times. You and Vinzent, Aoife, can get the water from the Gasthaus and we’ll set the tent up,” he said confidently. “We’ll be fine.”
“We’ll go quickly, though,” Aoife said. “The light’s weakening already, especially in this secluded spot. We’re ringed by mountains, so the light will fade quicker here. And it is nearly a quarter to seven. Sunset is about this time.”
“Will you just stay just outside and keep an eye on them?” Aoife said when she and Vinzent had reached the Gasthaus. He stayed outside with admirable obedience, and when she emerged from the chalet he hadn’t much to report.
“They seem to be getting into a bit of a mess,” he said. “It looks rather like a pantomime dragon at Chinese New Year. Let’s go and sort it out.”
Meanwhile, left to themselves, the trio emptied the bag and gazed in confusion upon the mass of bolts, poles, pegs, hammers and canvas that rolled out into a heap on the rough ground.
Eventually they got the tent standing with most of the poles at least half in, some of the pegs stuffed into the ground at various intervals. Most of the bolts shoved in somewhere, and with puffs of exertion they stood back to admire their handiwork.
Somehow it didn’t seem to be as impressive as a tent is usually, when an experienced hand has erected it in a matter of minutes. Apollo howled his displeasure.
“Maybe it’s a strange kind of tent,” concluded Blaise, hands on hips. “Oh, here’s Aoife. Aoife, what do you think?”
Together Aoife and Vinzent ruthlessly destroyed their work of art and rendered it to a shape worthy of a respectable tent, and even Blaise was forced to admit that it was an improvement.
They placed mats and sleeping bags, hired alongside the famous tent, beneath the green canvas, and arranged their compartments while the dew was coming down. Strangely enough, the boys’ side was much tidier than the girls’ side; a fact which the girls had difficulty in justifying.
“We have much less stuff, and fewer extra blankets,” explained Daniel with a gradual increase in cruelty, “being men. And we don’t have teddybears or millions of changes of clothes or make-up or loads of toiletries.”
The girls, needless to say, were extremely indignant at this statement, and ignored Daniel unanimously for ten minutes flat. It was Aoife who ended the silence, by the simple means of making them forget that Dan had ever been rude in his life.
“The dew should be gone by now. Let’s put our fire up.”
They placed it at the mouth of the tent, and sat down in the wet grass on macs, singing all the songs they knew and others besides, from nursery rhymes to pop songs. They sang in the even orange light of their homemade fire till the sky was pitch black and they were cold and exhausted with the labours of the day.
The three younger members retired to bed with a grand chorus of yawns worthy of an army, leaving Aoife and Vinzent outside.
“We’re just going a little way off so we don’t disturb you,” Aoife raised her voice a little. “We’ll put our fire out when we come back to bed.”
“Half an hour,” Blaise warned with genuine severity.
“You’re generous today,” Dan’s voice remarked dryly.
“Goodnight,” Aoife said, a soft smile in her voice.
“Goodnight,” echoed Vinzent. “Sleep well.”
“Goodnight,” the three murmured, and there was a short whine of the same parting salutation from Apollo, who guarded the fire and tent entrance like a lion. There were a few scuffles of wriggling from Blaise’s corner; then silence.