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Excerpt from Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Ellie and the Harpmaker

by Hazel Prior

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior X
Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior
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    Aug 2019, 336 pages

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I sprang to his defense. "He's definitely not insane. But he's a little . . . unusual."

"That's a cert! What could have possessed him? A woman he doesn't know from Adam comes waltzing into his workshop one day and, on the spur of the moment, he decides to give her—to give her—nothing less than a harp. A handmade harp that took him God knows how long to construct. Sell, fair enough, I could understand sell, but give? Even the materials must have set him back a bit. Come on, hon, get real! You must have misunderstood. He must have meant you to pay."

"No, he didn't. He made that quite clear."

Clive frowned, unable to comprehend such a concept. "Well then, I guess he gave it to you to try out, hoping for a sale, and you completely got the wrong end of the stick."

"I didn't! Look, I told him about fifteen times I couldn't possibly accept it. He just didn't get it. He kept asking why not—and he was so . . . I don't know, so open, so well-meaning, that I felt stupid and couldn't think of an answer. Then he said, 'Don't you like the harp?' He sounded really hurt."

"He sounded hurt? El, I think you're pushing it a bit."

"No, I swear it's true! And then he started pacing through the barn, hunting for another, better one to give me! So I had to tell him it was a lovely harp. I had to tell him I loved the harp. And it's true. How could I not? But I said again and again I'd never be able to play it and it would be wasted on me, and I kept on protesting." I leaned over and gazed lovingly at my gift. "While I was protesting he just carried it to the car and put it in."

My mind leaped back again. I had felt so touched by the man's extraordinary gesture. I had not been able to resist plucking a few strings, as the harp lay there on its side in my car. I did it badly, of course, never having done such a thing in my life before, but the sound was rich, wild and resonant. It had a strange effect, like a shower of golden sparks soaring inside me.

"Good," Dan had said. "You can cross it off your list now." He had walked quickly back into the barn and shut the door behind him.

I had stared at the door for a long time.

Today, of all days. After all my wandering and crying and remembering.

Clive's voice jolted me back to the present. "Look, El, I'm afraid it's going to have to go back."

The words bore down on me with their dull weight of common sense. Of course he hadn't realized what day it was today, and what that meant for me. I probably should have reminded him, but my stubborn streak wouldn't let me.

"I know. You're right," I said, trying to sound as if I didn't care.

He was rubbing a hand over his brow. "I'd love to buy it for you, hon, really I would. But it would be way too pricey. And you'd get bored of it pretty soon anyway. You've never shown any interest in playing a musical instrument before, after all."

"I suppose not."

"And we can't be in this man's debt. It would be taking advantage."

I put my hand on his arm. "I know it would. I never should have accepted. I'm sorry I was so stupid. It was one of those crazy moments. I don't know what came over me."

"I don't either!" he said.

Then I made myself say: "Well, do you want to come with me to return it? I think you'd be interested to see the place. It's a converted barn at the end of a long lane, right out in the wilds, and it's full, totally full of harps—and bits of harps. You can see them at every stage in their creation. It's really fascinating."

Clive scanned my face as if there was something there he didn't recognize. "How did you find it?"

"I just discovered it by chance. It's not signposted or anything, but I thought I'd go up the lane and see where it led. I had an idea there might be a nice view or something. I never expected to find a harp workshop. I certainly never dreamed I'd come back home with a harp."

Excerpted from Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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