Excerpt: A Figure from the Common Lot (The House of Everard)
He tried, unsuccessfully, to face her, as she had tried to face him. “Feels that at last she may do some good, where she has brought about so much harm. Peggy says to herself, ‘I will ask the family lawyer to go over to Louisville’―and what good, we ask ourself, is a lawyer in the family, if he cannot be bidden to recover our stolen property? Richard may perhaps have learned something about the law, while he loitered about the rooms of Mr. Harkness. And here we discover him, loitering on the front porch of his father’s house. Richard is a man of twenty-eight years, and Richard has no profession to occupy his hours, and Richard will not be a farmer. Why will he not go to Louisville? Peggy wishes that he would. Madame Marguerite Sartain wished her son Lawrence would go to New Orleans, and we have seen the fine harvest of his mother’s sowing.”
Having arrived at this height, in the upward levitation of his philippic, Old Everard paused. The night teemed impenetrable in its blackness. Peggy was at a disadvantage now, too heavy and too old to walk away from him. Old Everard reeled from his hold on the pillar. He lurched at Peggy, grappled onto his stick with both hands and wrenched―
But his wife had no mind to resist him. She let go of the stick at once.
His backwards momentum careered him towards Richard; and Richard, enraged already, felt this ire flame, as a foot, clad in its stinking sock, stumbled over his shoe. He shoved his father, not in the direction of the house, but onwards in the way he’d been heading. Old Everard, boosted by a further dislocation of his center of gravity, sailed from the porch, over Peggy’s camellia bushes and onto the patch of grass dusty in August, dry as straw.
This accident, while unprecedented, did not chasten Old Everard. He remembered what he had been about doing, the jug he’d intended fetching, when the open door caught his attention, and he had made for the parlor.
He did not either forget where he’d left off in his narrative, and meant taking up his theme again. He took up his stick in the meantime. Soon a sweet, oily perfume, a green scent of bruised leaves, a mild spice intermingled with acridity, filled the air. He was pummeling Peggy’s camellias. If his rage were not consumed by the physicality of this act, he would beat the stairs, the pillars, the porch planks. He wheezed as he worked, malign breaths, fragments of curses which had yet to become articulate.
He climbed the steps…and in his arthritic condition, his ligaments twisted further askew by his fall, Old Everard climbed, pulling himself by the handrail, pantingly, with painful effort. When he reached Peggy in her rocker, he bowed, and handed her the stick. She did not flinch.
It hadn’t crossed her mind he would strike her. He had never done so.
But he said to her, “It will come full circle. Peggy.”
Richard found Gideon Haws, the man, to be practical and capable of straightforward speech. The overconstructed, florid sentences in which he had written to Richard’s parents, and in particular those letters pertaining to funeral arrangements exchanged with the man of God, McCrary, had been calculations; Haws was, Richard observed, of a calculating nature.
The House of Everard
(2017, Stephanie Foster)