Excerpt of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
(Page 4 of 7)
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He comes downstairs. Morgan says cheerily, "Youre looking well, considering."
The truth is about Morgan Williams and he doesnt like him any the less for it the truth is, this idea he has that one day hell beat up his father-in- law, its solely in his mind. In fact, hes frightened of Walter, like a good many people in Putney and, for that matter, Mortlake and Wimbledon.
He says, "Im on my way, then."
Kat says, "You have to stay tonight. You know the second day is the worst."
"Whos he going to hit when Im gone?"
"Not our affair," Kat says. "Bet is married and got out of it, thank God."
Morgan Williams says, "If Walter was my father, I tell you, Id take to the road." He waits. "As it happens, weve gathered some ready money."
"Ill pay you back."
Morgan says, laughing, relieved, "And how will you do that, Tom?"
He doesnt know. Breathing is difficult, but that doesnt mean anything, its only because of the clotting inside his nose. It doesnt seem to be broken; he touches it, speculatively, and Kat says, careful, this is a clean apron. Shes smiling a pained smile, she doesnt want him to go, and yet shes not going to contradict Morgan Williams, is she? The Williamses are big people, in Putney, in Wimbledon. Morgan dotes on her; he reminds her shes got girls to do the baking and mind the brewing, why doesnt she sit upstairs sewing like a lady, and praying for his success when he goes off to London to do a few deals in his town coat? Twice a day she could sweep through the Pegasus in a good dress and set in order anything thats wrong: thats his idea. And though as far as he can see she works as hard as ever she did when she was a child, he can see how she might like it, that Morgan would exhort her to sit down and be a lady.
"Ill pay you back," he says. "I might go and be a soldier. I could send you a fraction of my pay and I might get loot."
Morgan says, "But there isnt a war."
"Therell be one somewhere," Kat says.
"Or I could be a ships boy. But, you know, Bella do you think I should go back for her? She was screaming. He had her shut up."
"So she wouldnt nip his toes?" Morgan says. Hes satirical about Bella.
"Id like her to come away with me."
"Ive heard of a ships cat. Not of a ships dog."
"Shes very small."
"Shell not pass for a cat." Morgan laughs. "Anyway, youre too big all round for a ships boy. They have to run up the rigging like little monkeys have you ever seen a monkey, Tom? Soldier is more like it. Be honest, like father like son you werent last in line when God gave out fists."
"Right," Kat said. "Shall we see if we understand this? One day my brother Tom goes out fighting. As punishment, his father creeps up behind and hits him with a whatever, but heavy, and probably sharp, and then, when he falls down, almost takes out his eye, exerts himself to kick in his ribs, beats him with a plank of wood that stands ready to hand, knocks in his face so that if I were not his own sister Id barely recognize him: and my husband says, the answer to this, Thomas, is go for a soldier, go and find somebody you dont know, take out his eye and kick in his ribs, actually kill him, I suppose, and get paid for it."
"May as well," Morgan says, "as go fighting by the river, without profit to anybody. Look at him if it were up to me, Id have a war just to employ him."
Morgan takes out his purse. He puts down coins: chink, chink, chink, with enticing slowness.
He touches his cheekbone. It is bruised, intact: but so cold.
"Listen," Kat says, "we grew up here, theres probably people that would help Tom out"
Excerpted from Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel. Copyright © 2009 by Hilary Mantel.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.