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.
“Lem’s rarin’. He says do he meet Twink and Oliver, he’ll kill ‘em all two.”
Jody drifted into a fitful sleep minutes after hearing his father tell that to his mother. He wouldn’t care what the Forresters did to Twink; he hated and resented her. But Oliver….
…Jody was sprawled out comfortably on the grass at the Glen. Oliver was stretched out next to him. The flutter-mill that they had built turned nearby. Jody drifted lazily in and out of sleep, at peace with himself, his friend, and the beautiful world around them.
Oliver stirred and rolled over on his back. He tensed instantly and came to his elbows, exclaiming, “Jeez…!”
Jody blinked awake and regarded him questioningly. Oliver’s face was stricken. Jody followed his gaze.
All six of the Forresters ranged in a wide semicircle behind them, on the opposite side of them from the stream.
Jody gave a little gasp, and then muttered, “Uh oh.”
“Oh no,” Oliver mumbled.
“This time, you’ll face all six of us, Oliver,” Lem stated with relish, from his fairly central position, directly across from Oliver.
“I ain’t gonna face you. I’ll not git up.”
“Then we’ll force you,” Buck informed him simply, from his place to the left of Lem.
“We’ll drag you up iffen we have to,” Mill-wheel agreed from the other side of Buck. “But you really want Jody should see you make us do it that-a-way?”
“Jody!” Oliver turned to the boy urgently, as if just remembering his presence, and laid a hand on his arm. He turned back to the Forresters in alarm. “Leave Jody outen this, please! Don’t hurt Jody!”
Buck nodded agreeably. “We’ll not hurt Jody so long as he behaves.” He turned to the child. “Come ‘ere, boy.”
Tears were streaming down Jody’s face. “No!” he choked. “Please don’t hurt Oliver!”
“Shhh!” Oliver warned. He regarded the Forresters fearfully. “Give us a minute. Please.” He gathered Jody up and drew the boy close in his arms. “Now listen to me, Jody. You do jest what they tell you….”
“Hush! Listen to me! I need to know you’re safe. Iffen I got to die, at least give me that much.”
Jody collapsed into Oliver’s arms issuing heartrending sobs.
Oliver rocked him. “Shh.”
At last, Oliver held Jody out at arm’s length and forced him to meet his eyes. “Do you trust Buck? Jody, do you trust him not to hurt you?”
The boy managed a nod between spasms.
“Good. Go to him. And do jest what he tells you.”
“Now!” He set Jody on his feet, and gave him a little push toward Buck.
Jody approached Buck haltingly, with glazed eyes, tears streaming, and kept glancing back at Oliver.
Buck eyed him sympathetically. “Come ‘ere.” He reached down and lifted the boy gently into his arms. Jody leaned his head onto Buck’s shoulder, wracked with sobs. Buck put a soothing hand on Jody’s head.
Oliver had been watching Buck steadily, and relaxed somewhat at this caring gesture. “You gonna let him go now?”
“To go home and fetch his pa? So’s they’d feel like they had to try to stop us, and we’d be forced to kill them, too? No.”
Oliver’s panic returned. “What’re you gonna do with him?”
“Tie him. So’s he cain’t interfere nor run away ‘til we’re done. For his own good.”
“You ain’t gonna make him watch??”
Lem grinned. “Whatsa matter, Oliver? You afeered he’ll finally see you lose your nerve?”
“No. That he kin handle. I’m afeered he’ll see somethin’ else he’ll never git over.”
Shock crossed Lem’s face at Oliver’s apparent admission that he might indeed lose his nerve.
Buck nodded acquiescence to Oliver. “I’ll take him a leetle ways off and tie him to a tree. He’ll not see what we do.”
Oliver closed his eyes in gratitude.
Buck told his brothers, “I’ll jest be a minute.”
After Buck disappeared with the crying child, Oliver nervously regarded each Forrester in turn. He saw no pity in any of them. Oliver lowered his eyes to his lap then, and sat trembling. After a moment, he put up a hand to shield his eyes, and leaned his elbow on his knee.
When Buck returned, Oliver felt his presence, more than heard or saw it. Realizing that the moment had come, he apprehensively raised his eyes to Buck. Buck did not seem surprised to see Oliver’s eyes shining with tears of his own. The tears were not falling, but they were there, intensifying the blueness of Oliver’s eyes.
When the Forresters started toward him, Oliver writhed once, and turned his back on them. A single spasm shook him. He looked back at them in dread. The tears were falling now. “I reckon hit’d be a disgrace for me to admit I’m afeered?”
Buck shook his head almost kindly. “Hit’s natural.”
They stood before him now. Oliver made no move to rise. Buck and Mill-wheel exchanged a glance, and then reached to raise him up, one on each side. Oliver briefly considered going limp on them, but decided that it would accomplish nothing. Lem was granted the first punch. Then all six joined in on the beating. Somewhere near the end, Oliver cried out for his mother.
Sometime later, Buck finished untying Jody. The boy watched him with barely-restrained loathing. The instant that Jody was loose, he broke away from Buck and ran. The Forresters let him go and followed slowly. Jody ran back to Oliver’s side. Mercifully, Oliver was lying face down. The grass all around his body was stained crimson. The gaudy green and red together were obscene. Just in front of Oliver, the little flutter-mill still turned. Jody threw himself onto Oliver’s body, heedless of the pools of blood in which he lay. He screamed and cried as the Glen spun crazily around him. The Forresters made no attempt to pull Jody away; they just watched….
…Now awake in his own bed, Jody cried convulsively into his pillow.
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