Once upon a time, a farmer and his wife lived in a ramshackle farmhouse. The outside worn-down, but furnished inside with antique heirlooms. Ancient armchairs that coughed up dust, a mahogany dresser that displayed patterned china plates, and handwoven rugs that needed beating, along with jugs of wild flowers in every room and windows framed with red gingham curtains. The pantry had shelves of neatly labelled preserves and the cellar had hooks of hung meats and a supply of bottled whisky. In the kitchen, the Farmer's Wife's domain, the wood fired range had to be fed constantly.
Farmer's Wife worked her carving knife expertly. Its sharp blade
glinted mischievously, as she butchered fresh meat. Her cheeks
flushed and her sleeves pushed up to reveal her plump arms; she
sliced intently, but with dexterity. Some cuts were floured, some
were minced, and some were jellied and canned. Villagers praised the
quality of the meat and her corned beef hash. The creamy mash and the
grainy meat when combined and fried had a delicious fatty texture.
Everyone assumed the meat was from the farm, and the Farmer, if he
was suspicious, dared not question her, for although his wife was
known to be quiet, she had a quick tongue and an even fiercer temper.
Displeased, the Farmer's Wife's employed her beloved carving knife as
a scolding weapon: she shrilled as its tip plunged erratically.
Farmer was hen-pecked and occasionally he did regret the day he
married her, yet he knew he couldn't have found a better cook or a
more moral woman. The Farmer's Wife saw her husband as a means to an
end: a cover to punish ill-reputed men, but as her piety increased
she grew reckless.
Summer when the corned beef hash had never tasted so good, three of
his hired farmhands went missing. As foreigners to these parts, their
sudden disappearance set tongues wagging, but the Farmer said they
got up in the night and left, as they arrived, together. That would
have been the end of it had not the Farmer's Wife boasted of her
meat's Devonshire quality and some eye witnesses that said she had
seen acting strangely: scrubbing her carving knife under the village
pump religiously. At country fairs where she sold her wares, she had
begun given rousing speeches on man's indecency. By Autumn, her
carving knife stained and she still feverish, she served up her
corned beef hash and said: “Get your gums round man-flesh!”
then went on to brag how she delivered men from evil and brandished
her bloodstained carving knife in their faces. The three farmhands,
she said, were worst of the lot for their wantonness: a thief, a
drunk, and a cheater. One she caught thieving food from the pantry,
the other drunk far too much whisky, and the married one she
repeatedly found in the barn with a milkmaid. Incensed by this
behaviour, she coquettishly invited them to her chamber and to a game
of Blind Man's Buff. The Farmer's Wife said she never saw such a
sight in her life as these three, now blindfolded, nakedly followed
her. Men were mice she said.
murders confessed, she was put under house arrest and denied her
right, as a Farmer's Wife, to ever cut meat with a carving knife.