Harmer John

Harmer John

by Hugh Walpole

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Harmer John by Hugh Walpole

There was nothing unusual in this: in Southern Glebeshire the
winter is so often mild that the sea (impatient at the lassitude of
the air) seems suddenly to rise, and to wish to beat its way across
the narrow peninsula, to sweep the fields and hedges with its salt
water: it calls the heavens to its assistance, the skies open,
water pours out in torrents, the wind screams, shrieks, bellows--
suddenly it knows that all is vanity, shrugs its hoary shoulders,
creeps back muttering, lifts its hand to the sky in a gesture of
cynical farewell, and lies, heaving, hoping for a more victorious

In the weeks around Christmas there is often such a storm, and,
when other parts of England are showing gratitude sentimentally for
the traditional snow, we recover from our torrents of rain to find
the air warm, our skies mildly blue, the tower of our Cathedral
stretching pearl-grey to heaven, and the Pol rumpled with sunshine
sliding to the sea.

But the storm while it lasts seems to shake our town to its very
roots; you can almost feel wild hands tearing at the stones beneath
your feet, rocking, rocking, rocking, hoping that at least one
house may tumble. . . .

On this especial evening, December 22, 1906, Mrs. Penethen, a well-
known and respected widow, was sitting in front of her kitchen
fire, her skirt drawn up to her knees, her toes resting on a wool-
worked cushion, in her old old house in Canon's Yard. The houses
in Canon's Yard are, as every one knows, the oldest in Polchester,
and Mrs. Penethen's was possibly the oldest in Canon's Yard, so you
can guess from that how old it was.

Mrs. Penethen had lived in that house for forty years: she had come
into that same kitchen with the brown splashes on the ceiling and
the two big warming-pans on the right of the oven when she was a
blushing bride of twenty; she had borne two children in the four-
poster upstairs, she had nursed her husband in the weeks of his
fever, had seen him laid in his coffin, had seen the coffin carried
down the crooked black oak staircase--and now there she sat with
her feet upon the fender reading Thelma, by Miss Marie Corelli, and
wondering whether she would hear the Cathedral clock strike ten
through the storm.

She was not alone in the kitchen. There were also with her a cat,
a dog and a sharp-eyed girl. The cat and the dog were asleep, one
on either side of the fire; the girl was sitting-staring straight
before her. Her hands were clasped, not tightly, on her lap.

Mrs. Penethen was accustomed that her daughter Judy, who was now
twenty-one and should know better, should sit for hours, saying
nothing, doing nothing, only her eyes and her rising, falling
breasts moving.

Through the icy cold and black waters of Thelma's theatrical lumber
her mind moved searching for her children. She was always carried
away by anything that she read--that was why she liked novels,
especially did they lead her into loves and countries that were
strange to her. So she had, during the last two hours, been
wandering with Thelma; her daughter's eyes now dragged her back.
Fifteen years of married life and no child! All thought of one
abandoned--and then Maude. Four more years and then Judy. One
more year and the sudden fever, and poor old John with his brown
eyes, his side-whiskers and the slight hunch on his left shoulder,
shoved down into the ground!

The book slipped on to her lap. She stared into the crimson
crystal coals. John! . . . His hand was on her arm, his soft
voice like a lazy cat's begging her pardon for one of his so many
infidelities. He always confessed to her. At first she had been
unhappy; once she had run away for two nights, but he always told
her that he loved her far the best, that she would outlast all the
others. And she did. He was her lover to the very end, and kind
and tender. . . . His brown eyes and the slight hunch on his

Product Details

BN ID: 2940013746138
Publisher: WDS Publishing
Publication date: 01/13/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 348 KB

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