They had a relatively quiet day out. The children didn’t seem to want to do anything strenuous. They were quite comfortable just to sit and look out over the lake towards Pertisau, the place where they had spent nearly two months, happy and united.
This blessed peace gave Aoife the chance to sketch uninterrupted, while they sat and talked in a relaxed way, and she was perfectly content to sit and draw charcoal drawings of each of her cousins.
Her speciality was not portraits, but she could be cleverly accurate sometimes with her frank lines and thick shading. The eagerness on Blaise’s face as she argued animatedly about vivisection was obvious, the delicate prettiness of Delia’s quite tangible, and the straightforward honesty of Daniel’s red-topped head was caught to the life. Aoife portrayed the twinkle and smile in Lindy’s sparkling blue eyes, drew Rob’s good heart all over his face, and captured her brother Lionel’s nine-year-old delight as he saw the yachts from Seespitz gliding swiftly along the lake. She etched the now relaxed anxiety of her uncle on paper, and pinned down the picture of a happy chuckling two-year-old girl, adding to Nathaniel’s portrait the mischief that was his trademark.
Then she drew them all together. All nine of them in a group standing at the lakeside, Pertisau behind them, the great mountains Tristenkopf, Falzthurnjoch and the mighty Sonnjoch rising above and beyond into the clear blue sky. Uncle Humph, Rob, Lindy, Serena, Daniel, Delia, Blaise, and Lionel, her brother, bending down to rub Apollo behind the ears.
She knew she would treasure this picture for ever. She would treasure this holiday, this moment, being part of this family, for the rest of her life. Soon she would be part of another branch of the family. Perhaps she would never feel as part of the Thimble circle again as she did now. That made her sad, but she was very happy. She couldn’t wait to be married to Vinzent, in a new life with a new future and a new destiny, and perhaps along the way, a new family of her own created with her someone special.
Aoife took her sketch pad up again, and through her tears drew two more faces. One began as Daniel’s. But Aoife added a few more lines, and the picture became Dan aged seventeen or eighteen, obviously a little older than he was now, and with a couple of quick feature changes that stole the face’s identity away from Daniel, it became somebody else. Aoife labelled it with the words ‘Geoffrey Thimble, the cousin I never knew’.
Then, although the tears were pouring down her cheeks now, soaking the pad and dissolving her pencils, Aoife drew a kind face full of love, youthful although the woman had been past her prime, which seemed to look right out at her with a warm sympathy and the tender affection only given by the woman who had helped her through the difficult stages of early teenhood and beyond.
“I’m very proud of you, Aoife, dear,” said her Auntie ‘Nymph’. “You are a good girl, and you have helped my children amazingly. I am so glad you were there for them.”
“I still am,” Aoife protested, her lips wet and salted with tears. “And so are you.”
“I am always here for them, and for you, and you know that. But you have helped them directly through a difficult time. I want to thank you for all you have done. And I wish you good luck and love in your new life. Thank you, Aoife.”
Aoife wept alone for what seemed like hours. Everyone else seemed to melt into nothingness, and it was just her, those words ringing in her head. She had felt so close to her aunt for just a moment. But there was nothing there. Just her and her sketchpad and a small pile of crumbled black charcoal. She cried long and silently at the shore of the lake, for all she had lost and gained, alone but with a happy lump in her throat.