Safe at last! I can’t wait to see you and tell you about the journey we had! Suffice it to say, it was thoroughly exciting and I’m glad we all got here in one piece - more or less...but that’s a story for later.
Paris is sunny this morning, so we’re off for an explore. More tomorrow!
“Now, my little maid,” said Tristan Denny, crouching down so that he was on a level with Evelyn, “the train will be here very soon. Are you sure that you will manage? If you are at all uncertain, Madame will be quite happy to take you back to the Chalet and look after you while we are away.”
“Of course,” said Madge Bettany, who was standing nearby holding the Robin by the hand. “We don’t in the least mind having you with us, Evelyn.”
Evelyn’s frightened blue eyes met those of her headmistress, but she shook her head.
“N-no,” she stammered. “I...I want to come. I’ll be brave, Mr Denny, really I will.”
“Good on you,” said Matty Smith, laying a hand upon her shoulder and flashing her a grin. “You’re a plucky kid, Evelyn. Not everyone can face their fears like this.”
Evelyn flushed with pleasure as she looked up at Matty, wondering if he knew any fears himself. Little did Matty know it, but Evelyn stood rather in awe of him. Miss Smith had talked often of her bold journalist brother, impressing upon them his daring in facing up to rich men and corporations who could so easily have him silenced, and Evelyn regarded him now with admiration and not a little reverence. And he was praising her for bravery! She stood a little prouder, gave him a small, shy smile, and Matty was inwardly pleased to see the effects his words had had on the girl. He exchanged glances with Tristan, who had risen again to his full height, and was gladdened to read approval in Tristan’s eyes at this treatment of his little favourite. In spite of his words, however, he was concerned about the girl. He hoped Evelyn could keep her nerve. It was a long train journey to Paris.
He looked about the little platform. It was a mild afternoon and the sun was struggling through the thin clouds. Tristan’s sister Sarah was fiddling with a strap on her bag, Matty’s own sister was talking animatedly to Madame, telling her of all the things they would do in Paris. Evelyn and the Robin were standing together, stumbling through a conversation. Matty took the opportunity to shuffle a little closer to Tristan, who was peering down the track seeking the train, and gave him a conspiratorial grin.
“Looking forward to it?” he asked, and inwardly cursed himself for such an inane opening. But Tristan had turned to him, a beaming smile on his open face, and Matty tried not to look like a pathetic puppy as he basked in that smile.
Get a grip, man, he told himself. You’ve got ten days with him yet! Stop behaving like a mushy eighteen-year-old girl!
“Very much so,” Tristan was saying in reply to his question. “I have never been to Paris.”
“Do you know France at all?” Matty asked him, wondering internally if all his questions were going to be this stupid today. He was surprised, however, at the slight shadow that flickered across Tristan’s face as he replied swiftly, “Not very well,” and looked rapidly away, straining to see the drift of steam that came from the distant train, just out of sight along the line. Matty frowned in consternation at his friend’s response, wondering what it could mean. He had no time to ask, however, for Tristan turned and announced to the party that the train was coming in and there was a general rush to gather cases and prepare themselves for the journey.
Evelyn had looked up with terrified eyes at the news that the train was approaching and now she sidled close to Tristan, eyes fixed on the black engine that was coming rapidly along the tracks, pushing its red and white carriages before it, spewing steam behind it and making such frantic noises that it seemed to shudder right through her body and down through her shoes. In her fear she instinctively reached out and clutched convulsively at Mr Denny’s hand, and he let her hold on to him, though he refrained from making a fuss of her. Instead he bent and picked up his case with his spare hand and followed after his sister, who had also refused to acknowledge Evelyn’s fear and was mounting into the train with her own loads. He passed the case up to her, then caught the child up in his arms and lifted her briskly into the train. A mute shudder passed through her and she went quite rigid with fear, but then Tristan had climbed up beside her and had her hand again and was leading her to where Sarah had taken a seat beside the window.
“Now where would you like to sit, Evelyn?” asked Sarah. “Here beside me, or by the window, so you can look out?”
Evelyn was so stricken with terror that she could not speak, but Tristan guided her gently forward, stowed the cases away and sat down beside his sister. He took Evelyn into his arms and lifted her onto his knee, and she leaned against him and buried her face against his jacket, hiding from the great black engine that was the terror of her life. Sarah gave a slight smile, amused by how thoughtful her usually absent-minded brother was being, but said nothing, not wishing to draw attention to Evelyn’s fear.
“And we’re off!” said Susie merrily at that juncture, settling down into the seat opposite Sarah while Matty squeezed in beside her.
“Evelyn, are you going to wave to Madame and the Robin and the others?” asked Sarah, but Evelyn was too frightened to raise her head and it was left to the four adults to lean out of the open sides to the coaches and wave back at the group they were leaving behind.
Robin sighed wistfully as the train began to move out of the station.
“I wish zat I could go,” she said.
“Another time, dear,” said Madge and, taking her hand, drew her away from the platform and back to the school.
The wild joltings of the mountain railway down to Spärtz did nothing to alleviate Evelyn’s fears and she remained clinging to Tristan for the entire journey, much to the amusement of the four local boys sitting opposite, whose whispers and sniggers would have mortified the little girl had she known about them. They did, however, subside hastily when Sarah leaned over and uttered a rebuke in sharp, rapid German which made the large lady with the shopping basket behind them chuckle with laughter as she sat there in the rocking train.
“What did you say?” asked Susie, leaning forward eagerly.
“Oh, nothing much,” replied Sarah. “Just warned them against being nasty, if they don’t want to feel my wrath. I suppose they thought they could get away with it because we’re foreign.” She gave a chuckle. “It’s always funny, startling people by knowing their language!”
By the time they pulled into the station in Spärtz, Evelyn had been coaxed to sit up and look around her a little, and this was when they discovered that she’d been crying silently all the way down from Seespitz.
“Didn’t you notice?” Sarah demanded of her brother, who shrugged helplessly. Susie had her handkerchief out and was leaning over to dry Evelyn’s face while the child sat pale and exhausted upon Tristan’s knee, trying to make herself inconspicuous.
“I’m alright,” she murmured so that only Tristan could hear her. “It just...bumps so…”
“It is an unsteady ride, yes,” agreed Tristan, “but we are here now, see, and can have a rest until the next part of our journey.”
“Actually, Denny, I don’t think we’ll have time for a rest,” said Matty quietly. “In fact, we’ll have a bit of a push to make the next Innsbruck train.”
He was right. The train down from the valley had been somewhat delayed and as they climbed down from its open carriages they found themselves fighting with a mass of people all hurrying for the Innsbruck train. Sarah, carrying Evelyn for the child was too uncertain on her legs to walk in this crowd, led the way and Tristan and Susie followed with the cases. It was only once they had scrambled up into a compartment, stowed away the cases and settled a once more tearful Evelyn in a corner seat that Susie took a look around and noticed what was missing.
“Matty! Where is he?”
A quick search of the compartment revealed that Matty was indeed not there. Susie hastened out into the corridor but found no trace of him. Growing anxious now she leaned out of the door and looked along the platform, but yet again this proved unfruitful. She waved to the guard and he came slowly over, portly and officious, to hear what she had to say.
“Have you seen a young man, a fair man, getting on the train?” she asked in her broken German, but the guard gave a scornful laugh; many men were young, many were fair - could the gnädiges Fräulein not give more particulars?
“He was wearing...oh, what was he wearing? Grey? And he has a broken nose!” she added, remembering the time when her brother had been beaten up by some hired muscle for looking too closely into a certain businessman’s affairs.
But the guard shrugged and gestured that he had noticed no such man, either getting on or off the train, and added that the train was about to leave, so the gnädiges Fräulein might like to put her head back into the carriage now.
“But you can’t go!” she cried in English, aghast. “Not without my brother!”
The guard shrugged once more, then he blew his whistle and the train began to move out.
Susie, horrified, ran back to the compartment and declared dramatically to its occupants,
“We’ve lost Matty!”