Back in the forest, the atmosphere was tense as the others tried to occupy themselves as best they could until Jack and Gottfried returned. Still angry with Evadne for her earlier comments, Joey sat in silence, the Robin curled up asleep by her side and Miss Wilson’s foot propped up on her legs. For her part, Evadne remained seated a little way away, her back to the others, drawing pictures in the dirt with her index finger and brooding on how her morning had turned out. The rest of the party were keeping as busy as they could. Trying to keep her mind off her pain, Miss Wilson was telling Hilary and Jeanne all about the Channel Islands, where she had holidayed once as a young girl, and Lorenz and Cornelia were playing tic-tac-toe, using pine needles, twigs and stones.
Just as Lorenz completed a line of crosses, beating Cornelia for the sixth time in a row, they heard the sound of a noisy engine from the direction of the road. Forgetting all about the game, Cornelia jumped to her feet, scattering their ‘board’ and ‘counters’ as she did so.
“I reckon that’s them!” she cried, peering through the pines as the sound of the engine stopped and they heard a door open and then slam.
The next moment, a familiar cry of “Ahoy there” came in their direction and Lorenz, Jeanne, and Hilary all scrambled up and ran to join Corney at the edge of the clearing. Even Joey woke from her reverie and turned suddenly in the direction from which the cry had come.
“Jack!” As she twisted round, a strangled yelp came from Miss Wilson, as a sharp pain shot up her leg, and Joey turned back, remorse on her face. “Oh, Nell I’m sorry!”
Miss Wilson winced and shook her head, but before she could reply, they all heard the sound of twigs cracking underfoot and suddenly Jack and Gottfried came into view.
“Everybody ready to go?” Jack asked, a wide smile on his face as he reached them.
Cornelia grinned back at him. “Ready as we’ll ever be! I’ll go fetch Evvy.”
As Gottfried made his way across to Miss Wilson to examine her ankle, Jack frowned as he watched the American girl run across to her compatriot, calling for Evadne with a shout of “Buck up, Evvy! They’re here!”
“What’s going on there?” he asked, in low tones, as he watched Evadne turn, stand up and walk towards them, her mouth still set in a straight line.
“Just Evvy being an ass, as usual!” Joey put in, before Hilary, to whom this question had been directed, could give a reply.
She had not bothered to keep her voice down and Evadne, who heard the comment loud and clear, flushed red and scowled at her friend. Thankfully, before she could utter the retort that was on the tip of her tongue, Gottfried intervened.
“Joey, you go on to the road,” he stated, or rather, ordered, as he got to his feet. “The farmer is waiting there with his vehicle. Take Robin and Lorenz with you, please, and tell Herr Böller that we will be along shortly. No, leave the bags,” he added, as Joey bent to pick up the one nearest to her. “We will bring those on behind.”
Ignoring the glare that Evadne shot in her direction, Joey gathered the two youngsters together and did as he asked, giving her fiancé’s arm a squeeze as she passed him. Then, as the three of them disappeared into the pine trees, Gottfried turned to the others.
“Hilary, you and Jeanne go on ahead too. Evvy and Corney, if you could please help with all the belongings? There are not so many, you should easily manage with two of you. Dr. Jack and I must see to Miss Wilson.”
“Don’t talk nonsense, you don’t have to see to me!”
At the sound of the stern voice behind them, Gottfried and Jack left the two Americans gathering up the bags and turned back to Nell Wilson.
“I can see to myself perfectly well, thank you!” that lady announced as they stared at her. “You’ve carried me more than enough already.”
True to her word, she set her hands on the floor either side of her and tried to heave herself to her feet. The next second, she let out a muffled squawk of pain and collapsed back onto the ground again.
“You were saying?” Jack asked, eyebrows raised as she leant back against the pine behind her and took a deep breath. Nell opened her eyes, glared up at him and muttered something under her breath. “Now,” Jack continued, ignoring her, “either we carry you or leave you here. Your choice.”
“You’ll get what’s coming to you, Jack Maynard!” Nell retorted, but her relief was evident in her face as the two doctors bent down and on the count of three, lifted her up in their strong arms. Then, after checking that she was as comfortable as could be, they followed the two Americans out of the clearing, paying no attention to her continued mutterings as they went.