Excerpt from “The Widow of Pale Harbor” by Hester Fox

As part of the blog tour for Hester Fox’s The Widow of Pale Harbor, I’m pleased to present an excerpt for you to read today. This atmospheric read releases tomorrow, and I’ll have a review up then. For now, here’s an excerpt.

Widow of Pale Harbor Excerpt

Excerpt, THE WIDOW OF PALE HARBOR  by Hester Fox

Fanny put a plate piled high with buttered bread, sausage, and potatoes in front of Gabriel. “There we are, a proper meal. You haven’t been eating enough, Mr. Stone,” she said with a censorious frown. He gave her the most of a smile he could muster. “I’m lucky to have you to take care of me.”

This made her blush and duck her head. “It’s only sausage and potatoes, the easiest thing in the world to make.” That might have been the case, but good, homecooked food that was made with love, that was made for him, never ceased being something of a novelty.

She made up a plate for herself and joined him. Reaching for one of the magazines that Fanny kept in a stack on the rough wood table, Gabriel began to flick through it as he ate.

It was a copy of a Carver’s Monthly. Fanny had told him that Mrs. Carver always gave her the old issues to take home and read. She caught him looking at it and nodded toward the table of contents. “Mrs. Carver gave me this one because it’s got a Poe story in it. Have you ever read anything by him? He writes so beautifully, so full of pain and heartbreak. His stories are romantic beyond anything.”

“One or two, I think,” he said. They were a little overly sensational for Gabriel’s taste—he preferred adventure stories about men conquering mountains, or sketches of life in tiny tribal villages on the other side of the world—but they were entertaining and had a particular kind of dark appeal.

“Oh, well, you would like this one,” she said excitedly. “Mrs. Carver told me that Mr. Carver was proud beyond anything to get it in his magazine. It’s about a man who has a black cat and he kills it. First he gauges out the cat’s eye because it won’t stop staring at him. But then he can’t stand the guilt he feels and he kills it. Takes a rope and strangles it, he does. He—”

“Wait, what did you say?”

Frowning, Fanny pushed the paper closer toward him, tapping her finger at the illustration of a bedraggled, one-eyed cat. “The cat. The man hangs it from a tree.”

Gabriel stopped chewing, sausage curdling in his mouth. Reaching for the magazine, he hurriedly scanned the lines of the story. There it was, the scene he’d witnessed not an hour before, sketched out neatly in black and white.

When he looked up, he found Fanny studying him, her brow furrowed in puzzlement. “What is it?”

He hesitated. Should he tell her about what he’d seen that morning? It wasn’t exactly the kind of thing one shared with young ladies, even if the young lady in question seemed to be morbidly fascinated by ghoulish stories. But she would hear about it eventually, whether he told her or not. Pale Harbor was small and word traveled fast.

“There was a dummy of a cat found near the center of town today. Just like this one, with one eye and a rope around its neck.”

Her green eyes widened as she absorbed the significance of this. “What, just like in the story?”

“Just like in the story.”

She considered this. Then her face suddenly brightened. “Do you think any newspaper men will come to write about it? Just think of it, a Poe story come to life!”

Gabriel frowned. He hadn’t thought of that. “I’m not sure. I suppose if word gets around they might.”

“Wouldn’t that be something? It could put Pale Harbor on the map. Why, they might even print our names! Maybe Mrs. Carver can ask someone from the magazine to come up from Portland and write a piece on it.”

Gabriel wasn’t sure what was more disturbing: the crudely constructed cat, its eerie similarity to the story, or Fanny’s excitement at the press it might generate.

If you’d like to read the Edgar Allen Poe story mentioned in the excerpt, here’s a link.

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