The other day Bert asked me if I’d noticed the everlasting sweet pea that grows through the hedge next door. I certainly had spotted it for I look out for it every summer and this year it is especially gorgeous. Bert continued,
Sam Hamilton hated it, tried to cut it away. Then he tried to dig it out but it always defeated him. He said it was a weed.
Did he? I think it is beautiful. Who was Sam Hamilton anyway?
Sam and Lizzie Hamilton lived in that house after Clint’s granny died. The McKays lived next door.
There were two houses?
Aye. They were both wee places. That’s why Clint’s ma and da moved out.
Is Sam Hamilton dead?
He would be. He was a good bit older than my father.
I’ve been thinking about Sam Hamilton and his battle with lathyrus grandiflorus ever since. It didn’t escape me that he had the same name as Adam Trask’s good friend and neighbour in East of Eden. Our road would have been a lot quieter then and Sam wouldn’t have been in fear of his life as he stood on the verge hacking at that terrible sweet pea that he hated so much. He must have been a neat Presbyterian sort of a man, a good Ulster-Scot who would not have wanted such a flamboyant weed rambling through his tidy hedges.
The house that stands there now was built on the site of those two small cottages that had previously belonged to Bert’s father. Sometimes I wonder if it is an unlucky place for it has been lying near derelict for many years, the family that lived there long gone and scattered.
Clint was the boy next door when Bert was a child. He was a bit older than Bert but company was scarce in the countryside and they spent long hours playing together, sometimes getting into trouble such as the time they broke down Johnny’s chicken shed. When Bert’s very cross parent arrived on the scene Clint quickly disappeared down the lane to the safety of the house next door. Truth is, he had little to fear as Johnny was a mild-tempered man.
Eventually the family moved to a bigger house and their place was taken by Clint’s Granny, a slight widow woman who lived there until she came to a very strange end. One morning Bert’s father was passing the place and saw that the windows were discoloured. He discovered the old woman lying on the floor beside fireplace, all that remained of her, her lower legs still clad in little slippers. She must have ‘taken a turn’ and fallen too close to the fire. The room was undamaged and the fireside chair intact. The only thing was that the interior walls and windows were covered with a dark sooty grease.
I believe I have a packet of everlasting sweet pea somewhere around but as it’s at least a year old it might not take. So I must try to remember to collect some seed from the bane of Sam Hamilton’s life for that must be a very vigorous strain. Where I should put it I don’t know as our hedges are under planted with tropaeolum speciosum, the gorgeous Scottish flame creeper and I think they’d clash with the pinks and purples of lathyrus grandiflorus. If I can get it started I’ll plant it somewhere and it will remind me of all the people who lived on this road before me and mine ever stepped foot upon it.