The Linnet's Wings The Winter´s Tale, Ravens and Robins - Page 34

The Winter´s Tale firm soldier to soldier handshake suddenly turned to something else when James laid his head on his fa- ther’s shoulder, as he had done in childhood. A fleeting moment, no more, but Richard could see that tears had not been far away. The leave blundered on, the three of them edging careful- ly around each other like a fami- ly suppressing bad news. On the third night, Richard woke in the early morning, with enough light to see Alice lying fully awake in the adjoining bed. The mechanics of his ‘device’ and Alice’s insom- nia had caused them to take sepa- rate beds some time ago. Alice had already lost a nephew and a cous- in, and the idea that her next loss might be her only son, conceived late in life when it had seemed no children would be had, made the whole business of sleep fraught with hurdles. ‘Alice’, he whispered. ‘Are you alright?’ ‘Listen, Richard. Oh, God. Listen’. A succession of noises emerged from James’ room, a mixture of recognisable words, ‘Down’, ‘get down, you bastards’, ‘now, right now’, odd strangled gasps and sounds not far from sobs. The blue eyes turned towards him, and their anguish in the half light wrenched his heart. you?’ ‘Go to him, Richard. Will ‘To do what?’ he said. She stared on into the morn- ing, and he joined her, the dawn rising against the noises, suddenly and thankfully resolving into thick, heavy snores. They fought politely on through the leave, and worked hard to conceal from each other the treacherous sense of relief on the last day. An ex-pupil, Robert My- ers, a friend of James, possessed a big Wolseley which he liked using on every available occasion, and he drove James and his kit to the station; James insisted that neither parent should go with him. ‘I prefer goodbye to be private rather than public’, he said, ‘especially when everything else I do now is public’. The car drew up, chugging and heaving like a predatory beast, and James turned back to them. Al- ice got something like a hug, Rich- ard a handshake without the head on his shoulder. ‘Goodbye, Dad’, James said, and something like panic resound- ed through Richard at the too vale- dictory nature of the words and the face. As weeks went by, Ben Pe- rowne’s problems tiredness prob- lems seemed resolved, because Richard only ever saw him riding 34