Man for man, I was prepared to compete with him any time for Mother’s attention, but when he had it all made up for him by other people it left me no chance. Several times I tried to change the subject without success.
“You must be quiet while Daddy is reading, Larry,” Mother said impatiently.
It was clear that she either genuinely liked talking to Father better than talking to me, or else he had some terrible hold on her which made her afraid to admit the truth.
“Mummy,” I said that night when she was tucking me up, “do you think that if I prayed hard God would send Daddy back to war?”
She seemed to think about that for a moment.
“No, dear,” she said with a smile. “I don’t think he would. “
“Why wouldn’t he, Mummy?”
“Because there isn’t a war any longer, dear. “
“But, Mummy, couldn’t God make another war, if He liked?”
“He wouldn’t like to, dear. It’s not God who makes wars, but bad people. “
“Oh!” I said.
I was disappointed about that. I began to think that God wasn’t quite what he was cracked up to be.
Next morning I woke at my u
sual hour, feeling like a bottle of champagne. I put out my feet and invented a long conversation in which Mrs. Right talked of the trouble she had with her own father till she put him in the Home. I didn’t quite know what the Home was but it sounded the right place for Father. Then I got my chair and stuck my head out of the attic window. Dawn was just breaking, with a guilty air that made me feel I had caught it in the act. My head bursting with stories and schemes, I stumbled in next door, and in the half-darkness scrambled into the big bed. There was no room at Mother’s side so I had to get between her and Father. For the time being I had forgotten about him, and for several minutes I sat bolt upright, racking my brains to know what I could do with him. He was taking up more than his fair share of the bed, and I couldn’t get comfortable, so I gave him several kicks that made him grunt and stretch. He made room all right, though. Mother waked and felt for me.
I settled back comfortably in the warmth of the bed with my thumb in my mouth.
“Mummy!” I hummed, loudly and contentedly.
“Sssh! dear,” she whispered. “Don’t wake Daddy!”
This was a new development, which threatened to be more serious than “talking to Daddy. ” Life without my early-morning conferences was unthinkable.
“Why?” I asked severely.
“Because poor Daddy is tired. “
This seemed to me a quite inadequate reason, and I was sickened by the sentimentality of her “poor Daddy. ” I never liked that sort of gush; it always struck me as insincere.
“Oh!” I said lightly. Then in my most winning tone: “Do you know where I want to go with you today, Mummy?”
“No, dear,” she sighed.
“I want to go down the Glen and fish for thornybacks with my new net, and then I want to go out to the Fox and Hounds, and—”
“Don’t-wake-Daddy!” she hissed angrily, clapping her hand across my mouth.
But it was too late. He was awake, or nearly so. He grunted and reached for the matches. Then he stared incredulously at his watch.
“Like a cup of tea, dear?” asked Mother in a meek, hushed voice I had never heard her use before. It sounded almost as though she were afraid.
“Tea?” he exclaimed indignantly. “Do you know what the time is?”
“And after that I want to go up the Rathcooney Road,” I said loudly, afraid I’d forget something in all those interruptions.