"Oh," Kat says, "theyre always fighting. Boys. Down by the river."
"So let me be sure I have this right," Morgan says. "He comes home yesterday with his clothes torn and his knuckles skinned, and the old man says, whats this, been fighting? He waits a day, then hits him with a bottle. Then he knocks him down in the yard, kicks him all over, beats up and down his length with a plank of wood that comes to hand . . ."
"Did he do that?"
"Its all over the parish! They were lining up on the wharf to tell me, they were shouting at me before the boat tied up. Morgan Williams, listen now, your wifes father has beaten Thomas and hes crawled dying to his sisters house, theyve called the priest... Did you call the priest?"
"Oh, you Williamses!" Kat says. "You think youre such big people around here. People are lining up to tell you things. But why is that? Its because you believe anything."
"But its right!" Morgan yells. "As good as right! Eh? If you leave out the priest. And that hes not dead yet."
"Youll make that magistrates bench for sure," Kat says, "with your close study of the difference between a corpse and my brother."
"When Im a magistrate, Ill have your father in the stocks. Fine him? You cant fine him enough. Whats the point of fining a person who will only go and rob or swindle monies to the same value out of some innocent who crosses his path?"
He moans: tries to do it without intruding.
"There, there, there," Kat whispers.
"Id say the magistrates have had their bellyful," Morgan says. "If hes not watering his ale hes running illegal beasts on the common, if hes not despoiling the common hes assaulting an officer of the peace, if hes not drunk hes dead drunk, and if hes not dead before his time theres no justice in this world."
"Finished?" Kat says. She turns back to him. "Tom, youd better stay with us now. Morgan Williams, what do you say? Hell be good to do the heavy work, when hes healed up. He can do the figures for you, he can add and . . . whats the other thing? All right, dont laugh at me, how much time do you think I had for learning figures, with a father like that? If I can write my name, its because Tom here taught me."
"He wont," he says, "like it." He can only manage like this: short, simple, declarative sentences.
"Like? He should be ashamed," Morgan says.
Kat says, "Shame was left out when God made my dad."
He says, "Because. Just a mile away. He can easily."
"Come after you? Just let him." Morgan demonstrates his fist again: his little nervy Welsh punch.
After Kat had finished swabbing him and Morgan Williams had ceased boasting and reconstructing the assault, he lay up for an hour or two, to recover from it. During this time, Walter came to the door, with some of his acquaintance, and there was a certain amount of shouting and kicking of doors, though it came to him in a muffled way and he thought he might have dreamed it. The question in his mind is, what am I going to do, I cant stay in Putney. Partly this is because his memory is coming back, for the day before yesterday and the earlier fight, and he thinks there might have been a knife in it somewhere; and whoever it was stuck in, it wasnt him, so was it by him? All this is unclear in his mind. What is clear is his thought about Walter: Ive had enough of this. If he gets after me again Im going to kill him, and if I kill him theyll hang me, and if theyre going to hang me I want a better reason.
Below, the rise and fall of their voices. He cant pick out every word. Morgan says hes burned his boats. Kat is repenting of her first offer, a post as pot- boy, general factotum and chucker-out; because, Morgans saying, "Walter will always be coming round here, wont he? And Wheres Tom, send him home, who paid the bloody priest to teach him to read and write, I did, and youre reaping the bloody benefit now, you leek- eating cunt. "
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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