John is John no Longer

It would be hard for me to tell the state of mind in which I lived for a long time after this. I put away from me all torment, and the thought of future cares, and the sight of difficulty; and to myself appeared, which means that I became the luckiest of lucky fellows, since the world itself began. I thought not of the harvest even, nor of the men who would get their wages without having earned them, nor of my mother’s anxiety and worry about John Fry’s great fatness (which was growing upon him), and how she would cry fifty times in a day, ‘Ah, if our John would only come home, how different everything would look!’

Although there were no soldiers now quartered at Plover’s Barrows, all being busied in harassing the country, and hanging the people where the rebellion had thriven most, my mother, having received from me a message containing my place of abode, contrived to send me, by the pack-horses, as fine a maund as need be of provisions, and money, and other comforts. Therein I found addressed to Colonel Jeremiah Stickles, in Lizzie’s best handwriting, half a side of the dried deer’s flesh, in which he rejoiced so greatly. Also, for Lorna, a fine green goose, with a little salt towards the tail, and new-laid eggs inside it, as well as a bottle of brandied cherries, and seven, or it may have been eight pounds of fresh homemade butter. Moreover, to myself there was a letter full of good advice, excellently well expressed, and would have been of the greatest value, if I had cared to read it. But I read all about the farm affairs, and the man whe had offered himself to our Betty for the five pounds in her stocking; as well as the antics of Sally Snowe, and how she had almost thrown herself at Parson Bowden’s head (old enough to be her grandfather), because on the Sunday after the hanging of a Countisbury man, he had preached a beautiful sermon about Christian love; which Lizzie, with her sharp eyes, found to be the work of good Bishop Ken. Also I read that the Doones were quiet; the parishes round about having united to feed them well through the harvest time, so that after the day’s hard work, the farmers might go to bed at night. And this plan had been found to answer well, and to save much trouble on both sides, so that everybody wondered it had not been done before. But Lizzie thought that the Doones could hardly be expected much longer to put up with it, and probably would not have done so now, but for a little adversity; to wit, that the famous Colonel Kirke had, in the most outrageous manner, hanged no less than six of them, who were captured among the rebels; for he said that men of their rank and breeding, and above all of their religion, should have known better than to join plough-boys, and carters, and pickaxemen, against our Lord the King, and his Holiness the Pope. This hanging of so many Doones caused some indignation among people who were used to them; and it seemed for a while to check the rest from any spirit of enterprise.

Moreover, I found from this same letter (which was pinned upon the knuckle of a leg of mutton, for fear of being lost in straw) that good Tom Faggus was at home again, and nearly cured of his dreadful wound; but intended to go to war no more, only to mind his family. And it grieved him more than anything he ever could have imagined, that his duty to his family, and the strong power of his conscience, so totally forbade him to come up and see after me. For now his design was to lead a new life, and be in charity with all men. Many better men than he had been hanged, he saw no cause to doubt; but by the grace of God he hoped himself to cheat the gallows.

There was no further news of moment in this very clever letter, except that the price of horses’ shoes was gone up again, though already twopence-farthing each; and that Betty had broken her lover’s head with the stocking full of money; and then in the corner it was written that the distinguished man of war, and worshipful scholar, Master Bloxham, was now promoted to take the tolls, and catch all the rebels around our part.

Lorna was greatly pleased with the goose, and the butter, and the brandied cherries; and the Earl Brandir himself declared that he never tasted better than those last, and would beg the young man from the country to procure him instructions for making them. This nobleman, being as deaf as a post, and of a very solid mind, could never be brought to understand the nature of my thoughts towards Lorna. He looked upon me as an excellent youth, who had rescued the maiden from the Doones, whom he cordially detested; and learning that I had thrown two of them out of window (as the story was told him), he patted me on the back, and declared that his doors would ever be open to me, and that I could not come too often.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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