Excerpt from Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Wolf Hall

A Novel

By Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2009,
    560 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2010,
    592 pages.

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Morgan gives her a look: which says, eloquently, do you mean there are a lot of people would like to be on the wrong side of Walter Cromwell? Have him breaking their doors down? And she says, as if hearing his thought out loud, "No. Maybe. Maybe, Tom, it would be for the best, do you think?"

He stands up. She says, "Morgan, look at him, he shouldn’t go tonight."

"I should. An hour from now he’ll have had a skinful and he’ll be back. He’d set the place on fire if he thought I were in it."

Morgan says, "Have you got what you need for the road?"

He wants to turn to Kat and say, no.

But she’s turned her face away and she’s crying. She’s not crying for him, because nobody, he thinks, will ever cry for him, God didn’t cut him out that way. She’s crying for her idea of what life should be like: Sunday after church, all the sisters, sisters- in- law, wives kissing and patting, swatting at each other’s children and at the same time loving them and rubbing their little round heads, women comparing and swapping babies, and all the men gathering and talking business, wool, yarn, lengths, shipping, bloody Flemings, fishing rights, brewing, annual turnover, nice timely information, favor-for- favor, little sweeteners, little retainers, my attorney says . . . That’s what it should be like, married to Morgan Williams, with the Williamses being a big family in Putney... But somehow it’s not been like that. Walter has spoiled it all.

Carefully, stiffly, he straightens up. Every part of him hurts now. Not as badly as it will hurt tomorrow; on the third day the bruises come out and you have to start answering people’s questions about why you’ve got them. By then he will be far from here, and presumably no one will hold him to account, because no one will know him or care. They’ll think it’s usual for him to have his face beaten in.

He picks up the money. He says, "Hwyl, Morgan Williams. Diolch am yr arian." Thank you for the money. "Gofalwch am Katheryn. Gofalwch am eich busnes. Wela i chi eto rhywbryd. Poblwc."

Look after my sister. Look after your business. See you again sometime.

Morgan Williams stares.

He almost grins; would do, if it wouldn’t split his face open. All those days he’d spent hanging around the Williamses’ house holds: did they think he’d just come for his dinner?

"Poblwc," Morgan says slowly. Good luck.

He says, "If I follow the river, is that as good as anything?"

"Where are you trying to get?"

"To the sea."

For a moment, Morgan Williams looks sorry it has come to this. He says, "You’ll be all right, Tom? I tell you, if Bella comes looking for you, I won’t send her home hungry. Kat will give her a pie."

He has to make the money last. He could work his way downriver; but he is afraid that if he is seen, Walter will catch him, through his contacts and his friends, those kinds of men who will do anything for a drink. What he thinks of, first, is slipping on to one of the smugglers’ ships that go out of Barking, Tilbury. But then he thinks, France is where they have wars. A few people he talks to— he talks to strangers very easily— are of the same belief. Dover then. He gets on the road.

If you help load a cart you get a ride in it, as often as not. It gives him to think, how bad people are at loading carts. Men trying to walk straight ahead through a narrow gateway with a wide wooden chest. A simple rotation of the object solves a great many problems. And then horses, he’s always been around horses, frightened horses too, because when in the morning Walter wasn’t sleeping off the effects of the strong brew he kept for himself and his friends, he would turn to his second trade, farrier and blacksmith; and whether it was his sour breath, or his loud voice, or his general way of going on, even horses that were good to shoe would start to shake their heads and back away from the heat. Their hooves gripped in Walter’s hands, they’d tremble; it was his job to hold their heads and talk to them, rubbing the velvet space between their ears, telling them how their mothers love them and talk about them still, and how Walter will soon be over.

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.

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