Soon enough they were heading directly for the lake, and were approaching the Barenbad again. That fact improved Daniel’s mood and lessened his dreads. Basilie didn’t look too good. Her long hair was curling with windswept beauty, but it stood in knots around her head and her startling violet eyes had adopted an anxious, wistful look. Their determination only did not wane, even as the wind turned against them with increasing violence, seeming to drive them further from safety and the chalet.
Soon enough, voices were wafting on the wind’s long tail. Dan, who had been wondering how long he could stay away from Aoife, and what she would say to him when he did find his sisters and return, was revived instantly, and charged off in the direction of the voices without waiting to see if Basilie would follow him or not.
She did, and it was just half a minute later that they erupted into a clearing of the pines, where a pale dark girl, a tall dark girl and a giggling red-headed girl were stepping through the undergrowth, accompanied by a large and depressingly cheerful dog.
“You’re in mountains of trouble, girls!” Daniel announced, yelling across the clearing. The three turned and saw him. The red-haired girl seemed to contemplate running away. She decided against it at a touch from Delia, and the runaway trio trudged towards Dan and Basilie with obvious reluctance.
“Why did you run away?” Daniel said sternly.
“We didn’t think Aoife would let us go out, and then Blaise opened the gate and Apollo vanished,” Delia explained, her head drooping.
“Why did you open the gate?” Daniel addressed Blaise.
Blaise shot a furious glance at her sister, and met her brother’s grave eyes with a defiant glare.
“I wanted to see what he was whining about,” she said steadily.
“And you could have lost us our dog. Anyway, Delia, you’re the oldest. What made you go off without telling anyone?”
“Oh, Basilie knew. I wasn’t worrying,” Coralie said sweetly, quite oblivious of what Dan might think of this unwise reply.
In answer, Basilie herself blew up in a stream of fluent French, quite infuriated by her sister’s raw impertinence, and driven by the unpleasantness of her long walk in the wind, and she towed Coralie away to treat her to an intense and definite lecture.
Daniel watched the two girls as they continued in the direction of the chalet.
“What have you to say for yourselves?”
“Sorry,” Delia said immediately, a quiver in her voice. “Will Aoife be very angry?”
“What do you think? We’ve been gone nearly an hour,” Daniel said unsettlingly. “I’ll leave that to your consciences.”
“If Aoife knew you were out and we were gone then she’d be with you,” Blaise pointed out shrewdly. “I’ll leave that to your conscience.”
Daniel nearly let loose a stream of language a good boy of his age should not even have known, but he bit his lip just in time. He had been well and truly caught out. Why did Blaise have to be the rebel? And why did the rebel want to be a lawyer? She never missed an opening like that. You had to be exactly on the spot when talking to Blaise, and she would not waste a good comeback for the sake of civility. Aoife had obviously mastered the skill of putting Blaise in her place. Dan wished he possessed it. It would have been helpful in playing the older brother on a number of occasions.
“Watch your step,” he said grimly in a tone that made Blaise shiver, and she subsided.
They reached the chalet at only about half past four. “Strange,” thought Daniel. It had seemed like hours, their long walk in the cold wind.