The Wish House

Format: Single

‘I ’eard a cheer, like, pushed back on de floor o’ the kitchen. Then I ’eard feet on de kitchen-stairs, like it might ha’ been a heavy woman in slippers. They come up to de stairhead, acrost the hall—I ’eard the bare boards creak under ’em—an’ at de front door dey stopped. I stooped me to the letter-box slit, an’ I says: “Let me take everythin’ bad that’s in store for my man, ’Arry Mockler, for love’s sake.”



This is from “The Wish House” (1924) collected in Debits and Credits, about a woman’s overpowering passion for a man.

Two old Sussex women, friends since childhood, are talking about the past and the present. Grace, Mrs Ashcroft, is mortally ill with a painful cancerous ulcer on her leg.

A strong determined woman, she recalls how she had fallen desperately in love with Harry Mockler, the love of her life, whom she knew to be her ‘master’. After a time he had rejected her. Then he had an accident and was gravely ill. She had heard of a “Wish House’’ where one could ask to bear another’s  trouble, she goes there, and in this passage asks to bear Harry’s. Soon he recovers and she suffers a cancer, which will kill her.

The knowledge of her sacrifice, in bearing his pain, has sustained her through many hard  years. Though he does not know it, it has made him – and kept him – hers.