Chapter Eight [IV]

Delia woke early next morning with a healthy suddenness she had never known before. She sensed the heavy dew on the canvas above her head, and as her eyes rolled in their sockets she saw that the tent was quite light. Blaise was curled up in a hump halfway down her sleeping bag, asleep, and Aoife was sleeping sweetly on her other side. Delia thought how pretty Aoife was, face flushed with sleep and the fresh air, long fair lashes curling over her cheeks, rosy lips parted.

Delia sat up quickly, and suddenly realised that her nose was uncannily cold. Rubbing it vigorously, she slid from her sleeping bag, pulled on her shoes and wrapped her blanket around her. In the passageway between the two compartments Delia nearly tripped over the ‘fire’, neatly pulled inside by Vinzent last night, who, with great prescience, remembered that the dew would certainly damage it badly.

Outside, the mountains were grey and shadowed, but the sky was very blue, lending promise of a beautiful day. Delia wandered further from the tent, a snuffling Apollo at her heels, admiring the beauty of the day and the scenery, which, when seen in the early morning, by one alone, was full of a quiet still splendour Delia had not yet felt for the majestic giants, the mountains.

She had been staring for some minutes when a rustling sound betrayed someone else behind her, and she swung round to reveal a tall red-haired boy emerging from the tent, looking heavy-eyed.

“I hate sleeping in tents,” he growled in a ‘morning voice’ hitherto untested that day. “It makes you feel really grotty and tired.”

Delia smiled. “I feel refreshed,” she declared. “There’s something so perfect and natural about camping in a place like this, and waking up to find it like this.”

Daniel grunted. “It’s only six o’clock,” he said. “And my watch isn’t slow, before you ask. Everyone else is asleep.”

“Are they?” a third voice floated from half a hundred yards away, and a tall dark person made his way across the wet grass. He was already dressed, and was swinging his arms as if he had been up for ages.

“I thought you were asleep,” Dan said.

“No; I woke up an hour ago and dressed. I was snoozing till someone else decided to materialise. I like to call myself an early riser.”

“I don’t,” retorted Daniel shortly. “And Delia isn’t up this early usually. Aoife’s always up first, and then Blaise who finds herself a book or writes a speech on the manners and morals of all of us. Dead dull, she is.”

Delia giggled. “She wants to be a lawyer,” she explained.

“Mm.” Vinzent had heard this before, and his mind was otherwise engaged. “Your brother will collect us at eight, won’t he? Will he take me back to my hotel?”

“Oh, no. We’re not that inhospitable,” Delia assured him fearlessly. Shy with strangers, she was completely comfortable with the new family friend. “Someone will cook pancakes for breakfast and then we’ll all wash up and Dan will probably have a nap.”

“Since when did I last have a nap?” Daniel scorned. “Now if it were you, I wouldn’t be surprised. But me?!”

Since Dee was not in the habit of arguing with her brother, she said no more, and it was left to Vinzent to make the first move.

“Shall we wake the sleepyheads? Or shall we let them lie?”

“Let’s draw moustaches on them,” suggested Daniel. “That’s what we did at my friend’s birthday sleepover. Guys don’t often have sleepovers, but when they do, they like to do that kind of thing.”

Vinzent shook with silent laughter. “I remember doing just that at your age,” he admitted, holding his chin quizzically. “I also remember playing blind man’s bluff, which involved knocking liquid paint onto the floor from a rocky cupboard, and thereby ruining the carpet. Good times, good times.”

“What shall we do till eight?” Delia queried. Reminisces of the other sex did not interest her.

“Play games. What about we wake them up and have a round of hide and seek. There’s plenty places to hide, even though we are the in middle of a big meadow.”

Daniel half-grinned. “Okay. The tent can be Base. Off you go, Dee.”

“What?”

“Wake them up, of course.”

“Don’t see why I must,” grumbled Delia, nevertheless entering the tent and rousing her sister and cousin, who were still fast asleep. The four Thimbles dressed in small number of minutes, and the five were soon standing outside the tent together, Apollo eyeing them with curiosity.

“Who’s ‘on’?” Blaise asked eagerly.

“You,” Daniel said swiftly.

Blaise glowered.

They exchanged glances.

“I’ll be on,” Vinzent offered. “The tent is Base. You have to get back to Base before I catch you. No hiding behind the tent. I’ll give you twenty seconds to hide. Ready? One, two, three…”

He turned his back on them and they scampered away in different directions, intent on the game, which filled entirely the immediate thoughts of the three younger parties.

The End

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