In the original novel, “The Yearling,” Ms. Rawlings suggested a number of possible exciting plot twists that she then declined to pursue. I couldn’t resist writing them myself. Here is one such possibility.
Mill-wheel finally kept the promise that he’d made to Jody, while he’d helped him to search for the fawn, after Penny’s snakebite. He’d said, “I’ll git word to you one day when mebbe Lem’s gone off,” with the implication that he’d fetch Jody to visit with his little friend, Fodder-wing, at that time.
Jody ran to greet Mill-wheel as he rode up to the Baxter cabin. “Howdy, Mill-wheel!”
“Hey, boy. I come to fetch you to Fodder-wing. Let’s go tell your ma first, so’s she’ll not fret none,” he said, dismounting.
Jody’s eyes shone with gratitude. He raced ahead of the big man, practically bouncing with joy. They entered the kitchen to see Ory and Buck at the table, finishing breakfast. Buck and Mill-wheel greeted each other amiably. Then, Mill-wheel explained his errand to Ory.
“I come to borry the boy, Miss Ory. Fodder-wing craves to see him, and I aim to fetch him back with me for a leetle visit.”
Her eyes darted fearfully between Buck and Mill-wheel. “What ‘bout Lem?”
“He’s goed off for awhiles. That’s how come I’m doin’ this today.”
“He might come back.” Her tone was ominous.
“Now Miss Ory,” Buck reassured her, “iffen he do, Mill-wheel’ll protect Jody.”
She was not convinced. “You-all sure hit’s safe?”
“Oh, Ma.” Jody was anxious to be going.
“Don’t you ‘oh, Ma’ me!” she fussed at him. Turning back to the men, she said hesitantly, “I mean no offense, but you sure one o’ you kin handle another one o’ you?”
The Forresters grinned at each other.
“That’s a good point, Miss Ory,” Mill-wheel admitted, “but Arch and Pack and Gabby’s with me. And I reckon that tilts the odds a mite.”
“I reckon hit do, at that,” she acquiesced, “so long as you’re sure all them’s with you.”
“They said so.” Mill-wheel nodded.
“All right then,” she reluctantly agreed.
Jody eagerly danced out ahead of Mill-wheel.
When they were once again alone, Buck laid a comforting hand on Ory’s arm. “Hit’ll be all right, Miss Ory.”
She smiled feebly at him.
A short time later, there was a knock at the door. Puzzled, Ory rose to answer. She opened the door and was stunned to see Oliver Hutto. She stared at him, speechless.
“Hey, Miss Ory.” Oliver pushed past her. “Where’s Penny?”
Oliver’s eyes met Buck’s, and Oliver fell back against the wall in shock. Buck rose and regarded Oliver solemnly.
“What the…!” Oliver managed to
croak, certainly not expecting to find a Forrester there at Baxters’
Buck explained in a low voice, “Penny’s been snake-bit. He’ll mend, but I been stayin’ here awhiles to he’p out.”
Oliver struggled to find his voice. “I…I jest come to visit. I had no idea you was here. I ain’t tryin’ to start nothin’.”
Buck looked him over curiously.
Oliver was still badly bruised from his beating. It was evident that he
probably hadn’t been ambulatory for very long. A man in Oliver’s battered
condition was taking a chance under any circumstances coming alone into the
scrub. Not to mention the further testing of his courage by risking the
proximity of Forresters’
Oliver winced under Buck’s penetrating scrutiny. He backed carefully toward the now-closed door and fumbled at the knob. “I’ll…be goin’. Ory, tell Penny I said howdy.”
“No.” Buck started toward him. “Don’t leave.”
Oliver misunderstood, flattened himself against the door, closed his eyes, and waited fatalistically for Buck to strike him.
Realizing how he’d been misinterpreted, Buck tried to conceal his amusement. “I mean,” he emphasized, “stay and have your visit. Hit should cheer Penny up a mite. Miss Ory, I’ll be out workin’ out in the fields.”
The sailor’s eyes flew open in astonishment. He slid aside, granting Buck access to the door.
Buck opened it, started through, stopped abruptly, and turned back to the others. “Now, none of us ain’t gonna tell Lem ‘bout this here,” he ordered. “He’d never forgive me for leavin’ you go, Oliver.” With that, he strode out and shut the door.
Oliver slumped in relief against the wall.
“Oh my!” Ory leaned on the table.
“You git right outen here!” Mrs. Hutto bellowed, flailing her broom at her very unwanted visitor.
“Where is he?!” Lem Forrester demanded.
“Cain’t you jest leave my poor boy recover in peace?? Ain’t you done enough to him???”
“Move, woman!” He attempted to push past her, to enter her cozy cottage. He grabbed her offending broom and grappled with her.
She would have preferred to stand firm, and not knuckle-under to the bully. But, utterly astonished at his strength, which was every bit as awesome as Oliver had said, she finally admitted, “He ain’t here! Damn you; he ain’t even here!!”
A worried Easy Ozell appeared behind the offender. “Lem, please! She’s tellin’ the truth. Oliver ain’t here. I seed him ride out, awhiles ago.”
“I’ll see ‘bout that.” Lem forced his way past Oliver’s mother. For all of her resolve, she hadn’t a chance of preventing him.
Still feisty by nature, she made as if to pursue. “Now listen here, you dratted varmint!”
Easy restrained her, for her own safety. “Leave him go find out. Hit’ll not do no harm,” he whispered to her nervously, intently.
Presently, a sullen Lem returned. “He ain’t here,” the surly giant grudgingly admitted. But he threatened, “Do I find him, he’ll be fearful sorry.” Lem Forrester left.
Mrs. Hutto sighed, and for the only time in her life, leaned into Easy Ozell’s comforting embrace.
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