Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall

By Hilary Mantel

Chapter 1

“So now get up.”

Felled(fel), dazed(dāzd), silent, he has fallen; knocked(näk) full length on the cobbles(ˈkäbəl) of the yard(yärd). His head turns sideways; his eyes are turned toward the gate, as if someone might arrive to help him out. One blow(blō), properly placed, could kill him now.

Blood from the gash(ɡaSH) on his head—which was his father’s first effort—is trickling(ˈtrik(ə)l) across his face. Add to this, his left eye is blinded(blīnd); but if he squints(skwint) sideways, with his right eye he can see that the stitching(ˈstiCHiNG) of his father’s boot is unraveling(ˌənˈravəl). The twine(twīn) has sprung(sprəNG) clear of the leather(ˈleT͟Hər), and a hard knot(nät) in it has caught his eyebrow(ˈīˌbrou) and opened another cut.

“So now get up!” Walter is roaring(ˈrôriNG) down at him, working out where to kick him next. He lifts his head an inch or two, and moves forward, on his belly(ˈbelē), trying to do it without exposing his hands, on which Walter enjoys stamping. “What are you, an eel(ēl)?” his parent asks. He trots(trät) backward, gathers(ˈɡaT͟Hər) pace(pās), and aims another kick.

It knocks the last breath out of him; he thinks it may be his last. His forehead returns to the ground; he lies waiting, for Walter to jump on him. The dog, Bella, is barking, shut away in an outhouse. I’ll miss my dog, he thinks. The yard smells of beer and blood. Someone is shouting, down on the riverbank. Nothing hurts, or perhaps it’s that everything hurts, because there is no separate pain that he can pick out. But the cold strikes(strīk) him, just in one place: just through his cheekbone(ˈCHēkˌbōn) as it rests(rest) on the cobbles.

“Look now, look now,” Walter bellows(ˈbelōz). He hops on one foot, as if he’s dancing. “Look what I’ve done. Burst my boot, kicking your head.”

Inch by inch. Inch by inch forward. Never mind if he calls you an eel or a worm(wərm) or a snake(snāk). Head down, don’t provoke him. His nose is clotted(klät) with blood and he has to open his mouth to breathe. His father’s momentary(ˈmōmənˌterē) distraction at the loss of his good boot allows him the leisure(ˈlēZHər) to vomit(ˈvämət). “That’s right,” Walter yells. “Spew(spyo͞o) everywhere.” Spew everywhere, on my good cobbles(ˈkäbəl). “Come on, boy, get up. Let’s see you get up. By the blood of creeping(ˈkrēpiNG) Christ(krīst), stand on your feet.”