“Excuse me,” said Millie quickly, striding over and positioning herself next to him. Charlie was in the corner organising with Augusta and David which of them should go to the Sanatorium, and John was sat at another table, pale faced, watching Sphinx but not making any attempt to stop him. “What on earth do you think you're doing? You can't just stride around and bellow like a savage with children involved!”
As if to prove her point, she indicated Poppy, who had promptly dissolved into tears at the idea that not only John but also her beloved Sphinx were cross with her. Really, she hadn't understood the mummification idea, had simply watched in a kind of fascinated fear as the older children plotted. She would have been happier to stay and listen to Sphinx talk, even if she didn't really understand what he was saying either, but Ashley had grabbed her hand and so she's had no choice but to join them.
“Then I shall answer my own question,” said Sphinx grandly, drawing himself up to his full height and meeting Millie's eyes, the fire in his own dimming slightly. “As far as I can tell, this lot – though mainly Ricky and Randa, I'm sure – were trying to mummify Hilda. If not then I'll be damned.”
The only response to this was rather limp compared to the dramatic way in which he managed to deliver it, evidently hoping to cause a shock. A quiet had descended over the rest of the room, and the rest of the party heard exactly what he had to say. Before anybody could muster up a decent response, however, Augusta said sternly,
“Language! It's all your father's fault really, I do keep reminding him not to swear around you. Is it true that you lot were going to try mummification?”
The bizarre pride in her voice caused Phoebe to snort and turn away to indulge in a very odd sounding coughing fit. Poppy was still crying quietly to herself, though Stacia had grudgingly thrown an arm around her, and Ashley stared around at them all in a scared defiance. When faced with their brother, Ricky and Randa had been doing their best not to show their fear, but now they turned hopefully to their mother.
“We thought that we'd practice the technique,” explained Randa. “We were telling the rest about it, and then we found the dead body and it seemed like too good a chance.”
“Wouldn't you have done the same?” added Ricky knowingly. To save Augusta replying to that, wary of the truth, Sphinx hastily intervened.
“The sensible thing would have been to have found an adult at once. Evidently you aren't to be trusted alone for a second, and I'll be watching you all very closely for the rest of the holiday, do you understand?”
“We can go back to Freudesheim now,” Millie suggested to him, a warmth creeping into her voice that hadn't been there before. Despite herself she was impressed by the way that Sphinx had handled everything, and also determined to get her siblings alone as soon as possible and let them know exactly what she thought of them. Not that day, though, there had been far too much drama already for that. “The adults will want to go to the San., I know, and the younger ones should be going to bed. Do you want to come? We can put you up for the night, I'm sure.”
Charlie, seeing that her eldest daughter had effectively taken over as host, turned back to David and Augusta and suggested that they leave for the San. Hilda would have arrived there long enough ago now that there should be a clearer indication of what was wrong with her, and they were all keen to make sure that she was all right.
Having seen the children on the path to Freudesheim, escorted carefully by Sphinx, Millie, John and Phoebe, the three adults turned and started to walk. There was silence between them, until Augusta started to ask Charlie something of the history of the region. Her responses were rather limp, but it at least kept her mind off of Hilda, and all the possible trouble arising from the current situation.
At the San., Charlie quickly located Hilda's room by a few choice words reminding them of her connection to Doctor Maynard and the founding family of the venture. It was supposed to be a guarded secret, but on the Platz, as Augusta was soon to find out, having the surname Maynard could get you just about anything you wanted.
What they hadn't banked on, however, was the presence of two burly security guards outside the hospital room, arms folded and clearly with no intention of letting the group in any time soon. At first Charlie tried to explain, but she was at a disadvantage having not been aware that their family holiday was being guarded by MI5. In the end, David got bored of diplomacy and simply snapped,
“Oh, hell's teeth, just let us in. We do know that she's really Margaret Thatcher!”