The Linnet's Wings The Winter´s Tale, Ravens and Robins - Page 33

The Linnet´s Wings ‘Well, Annie Perowne’s sister, who was helping her, is do- ing a factory job now – ordinance – so Ben is the only help she has with the other children. But I can’t do anything about that, Richard. It’s this damn war, as it always is. I can’t be telling you anything about war, of course, but it does mean make do and mend, all the time’. Richard got to his feet. Alice made allowances for after school, but too long would worry her. She felt he should have re- tired by now, and she was right. But then, so should John Green. ‘Your business is your business, John. But bear in mind the possibility that the boy could receive a telegram about his own father –‘ ‘Oh, yes, he mentioned that. If it happens, he wants to in- tercept it. He wants to be able to tell his mother in his own way, not from a telegram. Then, as soon as he gets to be old enough, he says, he’s going to go and kill Germans’. The two men looked at each other, momentarily speechless. Green went on. ‘He’s a boy, yes. But he’s not only in- telligent and able, Richard - he’s full of courage. Real courage, for a fourteen year old boy. And you are one of his idols, let me say. If you told him you thought he was doing wrong, he would probably stop. But as I said, Richard, our choices are limited’. Not for the first time, the headmaster had a thoughtful walk home. As he shut the front door gratefully against the dete- riorating weather, he saw Alice standing just outside the kitchen. Alice could express herself with great eloquence without words, and the apparent contradiction berween her animated blue eyes and the awkward, unsettled way she was standing signalled to him that, while James was home on leave, everything was not as well as it might be. A few seconds later, the boy himself, if a man of thirty years old who was rapidly becoming a veteran soldier could be de- scribed as such, appeared beside her. A wan smile crossed James’ face and seemed to be the best he could manage, and Richard saw by the uniform insignia that ‘the boy’ had been promoted. ‘Captain Nicholson, I see. Congratulations, James. Wel- come home. How long this time?’ ‘Just two weeks, I’m afraid, Dad, and then, yes, I will be in charge of sending even greater numbers of men to the slaughter’. A clumsy lead in to a homecoming handshake, and the 33