For the introduction and chapter one, click here.
For chapter four, click here.
Word spread through town as would have a tidal wave, were the oceans anything but a story of distant and unimaginable waters. On this occasion, the announcements were made more clearly, and as Littledonians were all aware of the trial undertaken, the hearing of distant celebration rendered certainty that the mission was a success.
Every minute passing brought more eyes to widen when vision settled over the travois now set up against the porch of the inn before the town square. Congratulations thick as a bale of wool were wreathed upon every man. No amount of it was enough to satiate the crowd, and after all, those who had not gone felt it their duty to lay upon the praise for those who had attended in their stead.
Several chose not to look at the wolf, either for fear of it or to avoid the image of blood, which for some is intolerable. However, all others made a show of their reaction to the carcass. Some mocked it while others marveled. A few laughed at it, though no one else could conceive why they should do that. Still more estimated what sort of fight the hunters must have experienced.
Such was the celebration, the baker Mr. Lawson approached Mr. Hartfield who was the butcher of Littledon, and after consultation, the pair volunteered some of their goods for an impromptu festival. The mayor pretended to sponsor the idea, but the cheering of the crowd deafened all to his pandering.
Tables were carried out of every residence, along with chairs. Clothes were hung from every window, ropes strung across buildings with all manner of glittering trinkets hung beneath, and a set of planks were nailed together with stone supports for the greatest of all festivities; dancing.
And dance they did. A pair of fiddlers sawed away, driving the feet which kicked about with the merriment of the Littledonians. Mr. Lawson and Mr. Hartfield were not alone in their generosity. Food came from every pantry and kitchen and piled upon the tables and from there onto plates where it rested not long. Children played games and shouted and peeked at the desserts brought out, some even sneaking tastes before liberty to those dishes was given by the adults.
Vincent Conn was a particular center of attention, which he very much enjoyed. Though he did not cast the fatal arrow, his vigilance and willingness to lead the party were beheld as the deeds of a hero. Vincent danced with all the girls of the town, received a dozen gifts and also a fine cut of the best lamb from Mr. Hartfield.
Now the mayor was a man who enjoyed good wine and as well had a broad fancy of ale. So when he climbed up to his balcony to make a speech, the townsfolk noted his tottering steps. At his raised hand, the music faded in politeness to the official. He gave a speech that lauded the men, with especial praise for Vincent, who “could’na better man be.”
At such praise, the town made known its concurrence, and the mayor was unable to quiet the crowd again with his dizzy attempts. The fiddling renewed with a fervor sure to start a fire upon those strings. And the dancers tested the workmanship of the carpentry on the dancing platform.
Joy and the spirit of the occasion mixed with brew to numb the passage of time, and soon the sun had nearly set, drawing long shadows across the square. A rush was made to retrieve torches which were attached to poles and spaced throughout to permit festivity into the night.
And why not? After all, the last time a wolf had been brought down was in the living memory of only two Littledonians. And this victory had been perfect.
As Mr. Merritt stated, plate in hand, “Come to it straight on, there’s been only such as many lambs carried off what might ‘a been done by this here blighter alone!”
A cobbler by trade Mr. Tunstall swigged and refilled his tankard from a cask of cider. “Him alone? Could’na been only one, Merritt!”
“It could’ve, though!” Mr. Merritt contended. “It could’ve, indeed! T’were only a handful of sheep these past few weeks, and most mere lambs.”
Jane, who was married to the elder Warwick agreed, “Aye, tis no trouble for a swift’n such as ‘e to make snatchin’ up a lamb what’s been separated from ‘is flock.”
Mr. Tunstall made his protest once more, “Right and true as that may be, at least one of them sheep as gone missin’ were no tiny lamb. John Silas Ruskin had a full-grown ewe taken. Not a ram, I’ll lay that to you, but no small stock such a creature is, all the same!”
A spirit making way about the square would hear many such exchanges. Only merriment followed Vincent Conn about, however. He could scarcely take a step in any direction but to shove through Littledonians admiring him.
Question after question came his way, as though his brush with the wolf made him an expert on them. Perhaps it did, in comparison to those other people who’d not seen one alive. Vincent tried to answer what questions he could. And at first he attempted to reject the gifts bestowed upon him.
Soon, though he settled into his celebrity and ceased attempting to evacuate from those surrounding him. Bourne by the exhilaration of their worship, Vincent began to stretch the truth, as was always the way of discussing wolves in Littledon.
Even as the beast still hanged in the travois, a silhouette in the firelight, Vincent raised his hand higher and higher upon his chest each time he spoke of its size. Furthermore, instead of the wolf making flight, it was making to flank the party. Hardly anyone batted an eye at these revisions in Vincent’s testimony. No notice was taken when he stated the first arrow merely enraged the wolf who meant to charge them, had not Vincent himself commanded Mr. Lawson to loose another arrow!
Who could blame the lad for shaping events more to his liking and more to everyone’s liking of him? In sleepy Littledon, so rare was there occasion to brag about something of dire importance, and thus, hardly a thought was given to the incongruities which now must have crept upon a detailed mind.
Alas, with so many Littledonians expressing such joviality, details were the least of anyone’s concern. The festival stretched on into the night without a care in the world.