CHAPTER TEN: Kristiane
The following Tuesday Vinzent arrived briefly to say goodbye. He was to travel to Vienna that day to attend to ‘business’. Aoife knew he was sorting out the affairs of his late mother, and she was grave when he left. She knew he might not return for some weeks, and he was a fantastic companion for her as well as the children, keeping her well-deserved company on their rather more unusual plights.
The washing up song, which had proceeded to brighten up the mornings after breakfast, was a little flat that day, the children being disheartened by the deprival of an important member of their gang.
Aoife saw it and wondered what she could do to clear their despondency and enhance the mood.
Finding no inspiration at the chalet, she rounded up her three cousins and Apollo and took them on a leisurely stroll to the lakeside on the pretence of buying postcards. Actually she was keeping every sense open to inspiration, desperate for some muse on the subject of how to occupy themselves without indulging in uncomely depression. For she, too, felt oddly gloomy and empty.
Aoife found the inspiration she had been seeking, and it was not far away. In fact, it came to her as she was scanning the lake. At the opposite side of the lake was a yacht. It was being handled very well, to her inexpert eyes, and was tacking successfully towards Gaisalm.
“Look at that yacht,” she said aloud, and three pairs of green eyes fixed on the yacht. “Would you like to go on one?”
“That’s good sailing,” Dan commented with interest.
But it was Delia who spotted the second thing with a gasp.
“It’s the Atkins sisters,” she cried, hopping on one foot and pointing.
Aoife, wondering how on earth the girl could tell that from such a distance, squinted her eyes at the yacht. Then she heard a guffaw of laughter from Daniel, and glanced at Delia to see that she was gazing down the small golden telescope she had bought at Seespitz a while ago.
She laughed good-naturedly. “Well, I’m glad you found a use for that junk,” she said.
“It’s not junk,” defended Delia in an injured voice. “It’s posh and made of gold.”
Aoife said no more, but she knew the little telescope was just a toy, however good-looking it was.
“Can we get a yacht?” Blaise demanded.
“Whoa! That’s a bit expensive, don’t you think?”
“No!” Blaise was rebellious.
“Well, you leave it to me, but we will not be able to buy a yacht and that I promise you now this moment.”
“If we had one,” Daniel said, “we could practice loads when they weren’t around, and then have a race and beat them. Wouldn’t that be awesome?”
“Oh yes! Please get us a yacht, Aoife!” implored Delia with shining eyes.
“No promises, but you must leave it to me,” Aoife said. “No jumping in and saying anything, Blaise. We know what you’re like.”
“I suppose I’ll try, Aoife. I can’t help it if it falls out my mouth, though.”
“You must learn to contain it,” Aoife said calmly.
“Don’t you really have a big enough mouth to contain it?” Dan looked shocked. “Or don’t you have enough self-control?”
“Well your mouth is bigger than mine, which would make sense, seeing as you are four years older. And yet no one will believe it if you say stupid things like that.”
“Well!” Dan said expressively, and another of their everlasting arguments began.
The following day Aoife took her lot for another walk to the lakeside, and though they asked questions almost incessantly until they reached the shore she did not deign to answer, and simply smiled tantalisingly. But they all guessed, and none were surprised when she was hailed by a strong-looking man of about thirty who had a plastic dingy pulled up the small slipway.
“Hallo. You are Fraulein Thimble, nein?”