In Jackanapes, the antics of a harum-scarum child who grows to manhood and heroically lays down his life for his friend on the battlefield are framed by the voices of the characters from his home village: the neighbors; the postman; his aunt, Miss Jessamine; the Grey Goose, who still waddles on Goose Green, where Jackanapes first learned to ride his red pony, Lollo. But though for the village, "Jackanapes' death was sad news ..., a sorrow just qualified by honourable pride in his gallantry and devotion," his is not, Mrs. Ewing insists, "a sorrowful story, and ending badly ... [of] a life wasted that might have been useful." For "there is a heritage of heroic example and noble obligation, not reckoned in the Wealth of Nations, but essential to a nation's life ... ; there be things ... which are beyond all calculation of worldly goods and earthly uses: things such as Love, and Honour, and the Soul of Man, which cannot be bought with a price, and which do not die with death." And the memory of Jackanapes remains to sweeten the lives of those he loved and who loved him. "Lollo ... very aged, draws Miss Jessamine's bath-chair slowly up and down the Goose Green"; Captain Tony John son--the man for whom Jackanapes died--and his brother officer lovingly bend over the old woman as she speaks of her gay-hearted, valiant nephew. "The sun, setting gently to his rest, embroiders the sombre foliage of the oak tree with threads of gold. The Grey Goose is sensible of an atmosphere of repose, and puts up one leg for the night. The grass glows with a more vivid green, and, in answer to a ringing call from Tony, his sisters, fluttering over the daisies in pale-hued muslins, come out of their ever-open door, like pretty pigeons from a dovecote. And if the good gossips' eyes do not deceivethem, all the Miss Johnsons, and both the officers, go wandering off into the lanes, where bryony wreaths still twine about the brambles."
Brought as a foster child to live with the miller's family when he is an infant, gentle and good-natured Jan shows an early interest and talent in the arts; but only after tragedy and cruelty fail to thwart his love of nature and art is he able to learn of his past and become united with his real father.
In a 19th century English village, the high-spirited boy, orphaned at the Battle of Waterloo, rode his pony across the green, obedient to his aunt but creating scrapes she never thought to forbid him. He later joined the British Army and gave his life in battle to save his best friend.
Brought as a foster child to live with the miller's family when he is an infant, Jan early shows interest and talent in the arts, exercises a good and gentle spirit with all people, and only after tragedy and cruelty fail to thwart his love of nature and art, is he able to learn of his past and become united with his real father.