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Signposts (part 3)

"There!" Mike cried and made me jump.

He was pointing at a boulder right by the edge of the landslide about twenty metres in front of us. It was just possible to make out the delicate white flowers and lichen-green leaves.

As Mike hastened towards the plant, another peal of laughter made me spin around. Only a few metres away, a girl was balancing precariously on a rock. She was about eight years old and wearing a dress of some rough-looking material that was so wet it clung to her body. And, golly, was she dirty! Her golden plaits, her face, the dress, everything was caked with mud.

"Careful, child, you're going to fall!" I shouted, making towards her.

"Hey! Where do you think you're going?" Mike yelled after me. "Get back here at once!"

"She's going to hurt herself."

"So what. She'll be a local. She knows what she's doing."

"She's also a witness."

That persuaded Mike to come closer and whisper through the corner of his mouth,

"Let's get her off that rock and on her way home, so we can finish here."

"Come on, darling. Get down there," I coaxed.

"As if she understood English," I heard Mike grumble.

Slowly we went closer until, suddenly, the girl slid down her high post like a weasel and skipped up another massive boulder. Mike sighed over-loudly, shooting me an annoyed look. Nevertheless, he followed me after the child. She stood on her treacherous lookout like
the Queen of the Castle. Her slightly tilted head and flustered appearance reminded me of a
bird, but her constant laughing and mocking eyes amid the dirt belied that impression.

We were close now. Mike reached up to try and catch one of her ankles and then - she
(To be continued)