Having arrived at the kitchen threshold, Aoife bestowed a sparkling smile upon Lindy, who had already cooked breakfast. French toast again. It smelled delicious, stacked up on two plates and steaming beguilingly.
“I thought I’d cook breakfast today, seeing as you have to pack for five scoundrels besides yourself and your uncle,” Lindy said with her warm sparkling smile. “Though I dare say you’ll make them help.”
“Oh, I will,” Aoife assured her definitely. “They can’t slip out of it.”
“Well, I could do Nathaniel’s if you like. He’s a dear boy, and he gets on so well with Serena. After all, he is going to be living with us back in Pentingdon, to give your uncle and you a rest.”
“That would be wonderful, Lindy. I can’t tell you what a help that would be,” Aoife said, tears springing to her eyes for some obscure reason. She turned away. “I’ll call the children.”
Ten places were now set at the table, and a few minutes later each one was occupied. Ten smiling people were chattering eagerly as they downed French toast smothered with jam, ice cream, golden syrup and chocolate sauce.
“When you’re married, will you live near us?” Lionel addressed Aoife. He was no longer shy. He was having the time of his life with his cousins.
Aoife blushed. “Truthfully, I don’t have a clue where the house will be, Lion. You’ll have to ask Uncle Humph that.”
“Where’s Aoife going to live, Uncle Humph?” said Lion without hesitation.
The man with thinning dark hair turned his whole body towards his nephew and cleared his throat. “Aha! There’s going to be some altered arrangements,” he said cryptically.
“You said the house was right next to Rob and Lindy and Serena’s,” prompted Blaise. “Very near our house. Is it in the old cow field where Farmer Jacob used to keep his cows?”
“No, no,” he suppressed a laugh. “Do you know the lake just behind the rose garden at our manor? I always told you that we owned the island there. I’ve never thought of taking you out, although it would’ve been a very easy expedition.”
“Of course we remember!” cried Blaise. “And Aoife took us last summer in Farmer Jacob’s dinghy. Except it leaked and we couldn’t bail out quick enough and then it sank so we never actually got there.”
“You said once we owned the whole way round the lake and several miles beyond,” Daniel said, his voice, which almost always stayed on exactly the same level, making a notable contrast with Blaise’s excitable tones.
“We did. That was the estate a hundred and fifty years ago. Since we have gradually sold off most of the land including the lake. We don’t really need it. We still own the island, though. The lake purchaser didn’t seem to think it worth buying. We have built up a good proportion of money over the past century, as a family. And earlier this year I decided to build on the island.”