The Linnet's Wings The Winter´s Tale, Ravens and Robins - Page 35

The Linnet´s Wings his bike and occasionally waving. The dreaded telegrams were, for the moment, rarer, perhaps partly because the supply of local men in the services not accounted for had dwindled. Then, on a late October day when the air was full of impending winter and the tide stirred itself to pound away at the bottom of the cliffs, Richard’s walk to school was arrested by a small figure sit- ting only a few feet from the cliff edge, bike and bag in the grass be- side him. His arms were wrapped round his calves, and he was gaz- ing fixedly towards the edge. Sometimes the ‘device’ was particularly annoying, and Richard cursed under his breath in a manner ill-suited to a senior schoolteacher as he attempted to summon up something resem- bling speed. Very soon it became clear that the boy was Ben Per- owne, and his absolute stillness was intimidating – schoolboys, in Richard’s long and varied experi- ence, were totally immobile very rarely indeed. Even when Rich- ard had come to within ten yards, there was still no turn or hint of recognition. ‘Benjamin?’ Richard said, and at last a face turned towards him, a face which seemed to be returning from some very differ- ent place. The reaction was star- tling. The boy grabbed across at the bag and pulled it towards him. ‘What is it, Ben?’ Richard reached across to the bag at the same time, and they managed be- tween them to tip half the contents of the bag over the grass. The yel- low telegram envelope was clear enough. He reached down to it. If it was as he thought and dreaded, someone needed to stay with the boy and help him work out a way to break things to his mother – and keep him away from the cliff, where the monstrous waves were roaring up at them as if claiming their own. ‘No, sir, no please, you mustn’t –‘ Ben shouted, reaching for the envelope. But Richard had already seen the address, and he needed no more than the first two lines -Mr and Mrs R. Nicholson, Mus- bury Lodge. Ben was on his feet. ‘I wanted to think of the words, a way to tell you – every- one was hoping it wouldn’t hap- pen to you, sir –‘ He fell silent, and for some seconds, there was nothing but wind and waves. ‘That was very thoughtful of you, Ben’. Richard heard some 35