Winter Song

Winter Song by James Hanley

Book: Winter Song by James Hanley Read Free Book Online
Authors: James Hanley
times—he saw endless roads stretching, feet stamping them, tall buildings, swinging doors, inside of which sat, high up, walled in—silent, the sea’s agents. In her face he saw himself as a boy, swinging the incense in the silver censer. He saw his brother’s face, his sister’s. He saw them all stamped on this one face, whose hard bent mouth was turned now as though biting upon the impossible words. He thought at one moment she would shout, shout loud and long, shattering the silence of this room.
    â€˜You did see him?’
    â€˜I saw him.’
    â€˜He’s coming here?’
    â€˜Yes. I said so, mother.’
    â€˜He’s alive—Denny’s alive.’
    â€˜Yes, mother.’
    â€˜Alive in my arms—oh, God, I can’t believe it.’
    He turned his back on her, he let her continue, quietly sobbing.
    â€˜So this is how it is,’ he thought, ‘this is what can happen to people.’
    He went over to the window again, he gently moved aside the curtain and looked out. He watched a mad, swirling flight of gulls. Their very movements gave him a feeling of inertia, he came away and took his seat by his mother.
    â€˜What do you think you’ll do now?’ he asked. He thought: ‘I have to say something, even in these awful moments, tongue-tied, a feeling of utter dumbness,’ but it was better than nothing. ‘What will you do now, mother?’ he asked, imagining her answer, ‘Why should what I do interest you, who have always been so indifferent to us?’
    Then he heard her say quietly, ‘We shall leave Gelton, as soon as you father’s better, God spare him, and will never come back again.’
    There was something fierce in her utterance. She got up from the chair, she went to the window and looked out, ‘ Never ’ she said, and into this single word she seemed to put all her hatred, all her bitter anger against what the eye saw, what the heart remembered.
    â€˜Gelton,’ she said, ‘I’ve had enough of it to last a lifetime.’
    Desmond was only half listening, his mind wandered, he suddenly thought of how she had received him. He had gone off to London—he had written his mother, but nothing could force him to see her. Her reception had been what he expected.
    â€˜Oh!’ she said, ‘so it’s you.’
    He had smiled.
    â€˜You felt you had to come, I expect.’
    She had not said ‘sit down.’ She had not said ‘how is your wife?’ She had not asked him if he would like to share tea with her. This had come and gone. She had drunk a little tea by herself, but somehow it had choked her. She watched him all the while, this first son, this huge, healthy, arrogant, determined person. He had smashed his way upwards. The thrusting Union leader, the potential member of Parliament stood by the little bed, and after a few minutes he saw his mother return and sit down.
    â€˜Desmond.’
    The exclamation surprised him, he swung round.
    She was seated, her hands in her lap, looking up at her son. ‘Have I been very hard?’
    â€˜You did your best, what you thought was your best. That’s all,’ he said, which meant in effect ‘that’s enough.’ No crawling over old ground. This really is the end of something and the beginning of something. There’s to-morrow. Yesterday is dead and done with.
    â€˜What time are they bringing him to me?’
    â€˜He will come within the hour. The priests are seeing to that,’ and the tone of his voice made her say, ‘They’re still as bad as that then, are they?’ and he said, measuring his words, ‘They’re as bad as that. I like them no better for it. I’m sorry for you, though, mother. I’ve always been sorry for you.’
    â€˜That was very kind of you.’
    â€˜Do you wish me to go?’
    â€˜I’m not asking you and again I’m not stopping you. I know you

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