Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose

By Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

The House across the Way

J. O. Williams

It stands there now, as it has always done, straight in front of me.

Here I am, back once more today on the hearth where I grew up, having spent many long years away from my old home. I feel as if everything is strange to me. But as I look now through the windows of the front living-room, my eyes alight upon the stony face of the house opposite, just as they used to do before I knew that the great world is wider than this room's limits and the wall of the house across the way.

How many hundreds of times have I gazed at it? Since it was on its bare stones that my eyes fell when first I looked out through the living-room window, that wall slowly became part of my life. That house over there was never my home, and few are the times I've been within its walls, but I am sure that no one is better acquainted with its facade than I am.

There are several other houses in the same row — some better, some not as good, some more and others less interesting in appearance; but I am not familiar with them. An old friend of mine used to live in one of those houses. I went inside it hundreds of times. But my friend's house was strange to me in comparison with the one standing immediately opposite the four windows of my own home.

There's nothing extraordinary about the way it looks, nor any great skill in its masonry, nor great excellence or oddity of any kind. No ivy creeps across its facade to break up the chill and rough edge of stone upon stone. It is bare from its foundations to its eaves under the slate roof. Yet I gaze at its stones today as if at an old acquaintance.

There it is! I recall how I used to compare the small, brownish, oval stone there just above the door to a knot in wood, when first I came to know about such things. That turned out to be bitter knowledge, as the scar on my thumb bears witness to this day. I had not imagined at that time how much strength there was in my right hand until the knife's blade sank into the soft flesh of my left. A knot in the wood, and the knife slipping. I remember it well. And I have been able to make out that knot ever since in the stone yonder. I can see it still, and feel the blade of my father's knife in my thumb this very moment.

-21-

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Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • The Village School 1
  • Fear of the Sea 7
  • A Windy Night 9
  • The Late Lemuel Parry, Esq., J.P., O.B.E. 12
  • On Drowning a Cat 18
  • The House Across the Way 21
  • Weobley and St. Emilion 25
  • The Man in the Street 28
  • Old Dent 31
  • On Collecting Roads 34
  • 'their Land They Shall Lose' 42
  • The Red Flag 46
  • Strolling Players 50
  • One Sunday Afternoon 57
  • Salem 61
  • A Trip to the Circus 63
  • Thoughts on Coronation Day, 1953 68
  • From the Pulpit 72
  • How to Choose and Treat a Wife 77
  • To the Mountain 83
  • The Imperative Upon Me 88
  • Disenchantment 92
  • The Hiring Fair 94
  • The Man at Chapel House 97
  • Question and Answer 102
  • The Little Llandeilo Boots 105
  • My Last Day in Prison 108
  • A Discovery 118
  • A Land of Romance 121
  • Hi-Ho! 129
  • Ancestors 133
  • While Shaving 138
  • Of Time and Distance 141
  • A Methodist Deacon's Advice 146
  • Of Violets and Bells 148
  • Remembering Mrs Newbould 151
  • Good Morning, Lloyd 156
  • In Modesty and Trembling 162
  • Christmasn in the Valley 166
  • On Stammering 169
  • Butlins 172
  • A Millionaire 176
  • A Scene from Military Life 178
  • An Exile 180
  • The Fox Under Glass 183
  • A Doctor's Medicine 186
  • The Little Huts 189
  • Three Heads 191
  • On Memory 198
  • Uncle John's Boots 202
  • The Fur Coat 207
  • An Holy Kiss 214
  • Notes on Authors and Texts 217
  • Acknowledgements 238
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