Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Farmer's Wife

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.
The 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.
The 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.
In the 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!”
She 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.
These 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.