The Linnet's Wings The Winter´s Tale, Ravens and Robins - Page 36

The Winter´s Tale disembodied voice speaking, and realised with surprise that it must be his. He wanted to move away and back into his house as fast as the de- vice would allow, but this person with the voice wasn’t prepared to go off and leave an agitated boy just a few yards away from a old wooden cliff edge fence which wouldn’t have provided any great obstacle to a child half his age. ‘Ben, I would appreciate it very much if you could cycle to the school and tell Mr. Prentice that I won’t be coming in today’. ‘Of course, sir’. The boy, rescued by his errand, was away with the startling rapidity of his age. Richard didn’t doubt that Prentice al- ready knew; the grapevine was quick and accurate. Prentice was com- petent enough; in recent months, that was probably just as well. Alice was standing at the open door; she must have been watching from a window. He stood at the end of the path; she looked from him to the envelope and back again. ‘I’ve told Prentice I’m not going in today’, he said, and the voice still seemed far away. She moved to him and took his arm. ‘Good’, she said. ‘Come inside, Richard’. As Ben glanced back at a pause in the traffic, the front door was closing behind them. Thursday December 12th 1918. The local decision was that Lieutenant Perowne, R.N., would be welcomed home in style and it was forward the Myers Wolseley again. Richard heard of the time of arrival and felt a need to be somewhere near the station himself. He had a horse-drawn trap of his own, a gentler form of travel, and he timed his pause near the station exit perfectly. Even the station had a decorated tree standing outside; this was to be a very special Christmas. Mr. and Mrs. Perowne were climbing into the Wolseley; Ben’s younger brother Simon was already bumping up and down on the back seat and being quietly admonished by Myers. Lieutenant Perowne, uniformed no more, a tall, authoritative man with a carefully cropped beard, had Simon on his knee and Ben chattering eagerly beside him; Annie Perowne was smiling in a way which made her drawn face al- most unrecognisable, even at this distance. 36