As the rest of the family were in complete agreement with this dictum, Augusta gave in. They didn’t have to wait long, for David, spurred on by fear for his wife, made excellent time round the Pyramid and by the time Sphinx was lowering Randa to the ground he rounded the final corner and came to a halt beside them. Indeed, he would have arrived sooner had he not been using a considerable quantity of his breath for bellowing Augusta’s name at regular intervals. As soon as he arrived at her side he grabbed her shoulders and began to shake her violently.
“You damned lunatic!” he shouted. “What the hell do you think you were doing?” He stopped shaking her, instead crushing her in his arms and kissing her. “What were you doing?” he demanded again when he had finished.
“I don’t know how you think I can answer you when you’re shaking me and kissing me,” said Augusta, rather breathlessly. “I just fell over and slid a few feet. What did you go dashing off like that for?”
“I thought you’d fallen down and killed yourself. Or been kidnapped, like you were two years ago.” David seized her and kissed her again. “I wish I’d never introduced you to Egyptology.”
“It’s not half so dangerous as my other job. Though that time when your Grandmother was kidnapped just after we’d first met did come close.”
“I wish you’d give that bloody job up.”
“Don’t swear in front of the children, David. And you know I don’t look like being asked to do anything else for a while to come as things have calmed down a bit, apparently. Still, if they do ask me I’ll probably agree. I like it.”
“Bah,” said David, and began to stride across the sand, Augusta trotting to keep up with him and their offspring trailing behind like a row of ducklings, not noticeably perturbed by the argument, which was part of everyday life in the Emerson household.
“We were just discussing whether we’re going on holiday this year,” said Amy as they approached the Shepheard Hotel, where they always stayed when they passed through Cairo. “Have you thought about it, even?”
“We’re not going anywhere,” said David, who professed to loathe the idea of any holiday that did not involve items at least two thousand years old, though he invariably enjoyed them when they came.
“I thought we might go to Switzerland,” said Augusta.
“That’d be new for us,” said Amy. “Any particular reason, or did it just take your fancy?”
“Isn’t that where the girl lived who I’m named after?” said Constance Rose.
“Yes, although she doesn’t live there any more. As a matter of fact, I thought we might potter up to the Gornetz Platz and drop in on the Maynards. When I heard last from Con Jack and Jo were still living at Freudesheim. It’d be fun to see them again, and I don’t suppose they travel much now; they must be getting on.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Phoebe. “Isn’t there supposed to be some rather good skiing up there?”
“So I’ve heard,” said John. “Damn. Why did I sign up for next week? If I’d known there’d be skiing I’d never have done it.”
“Is there really?” said Augusta. “I’ve always wanted to try skiing. I was up at the Platz in the summer, so I never got the chance.”
There was a brief pause, as more than one member of the family quailed at the prospect of teaching Augusta to ski. Then John shrugged his shoulders.
“Oh well, I daresay I’ll survive missing the skiing. Anyway, it’s the summer now, so I don’t suppose you’ll have any more chance than you did before. So, when are you off?”
“I got tickets this morning for the day after tomorrow.”
“What?” David swung round on the threshold of their room. “We’ve still got too much to do – we can’t possibly pack up and leave in two days’ time.”
“Yes we can. I’ve already done a good bit of our packing and it won’t take long to do the children’s. We’ll even have time left over for – other things.” She pushed him into the room and closed the door firmly on her children. They hastily retreated, knowing from the look on their mother’s face that she was about to demonstrate to her husband one of the activities for which they would have plenty of time.
Two days later they arrived, late, at the chalet Augusta had taken on the Görnetz Platz. John and Lottie had made their own way back to England, where John was to join his company and Lottie her friends from university, where she was reading medicine. Augusta extracted herself from the car and performed a hasty head-count, just in case anyone had been misplaced on the journey. Sphinx, tall, dark and taciturn, closely resembling his handsome grandfather. His twin, Amy, plain and ordinary looking like her mother. Elegant Phoebe, who looked as though she had just stepped from the bathroom after an hour long toilette. Constance Rose, small, blonde and tired after the long journey, and finally Ricky and Randa, who had leapt from the car and were already prancing away across the springy turf in celebration of their release from the tedious confinement they had suffered for the last few hours.
“Hey! Come back, you two,” called Amy as they vanished into the darkness. “We’ve got to get all the stuff in and sort out beds.”
“Here, Randa, you take your case. Ricky, here’s the hamper for you.” Augusta seized a selection of knapsacks, slung them over her shoulders and grabbed an enormous suitcase which she began to drag up the short path to the front door. “We’ll do as little as possible tonight, and tomorrow morning we’ll go and give Joey a surprise.”
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