Jenny: Beyond the Farther Hill

Coming down a gorge with the hawthorn in foamy bloom all around them, the air cool and quiet, the world seemed at peace. The surrounding woods were full of the soft murmur of the birds looking to roost and, farther away, the tumble of white water. The sky was burnished faintly yellow as it began to grow late. It had been a good day, and the Guttersnipe felt she could go on riding forever if only the beauty of the moment would last.

Perhaps inspired by the evening, ahead of her Domitia began to sing. She did not recognize the lyrics at the outset, but as the song progressed she found herself back in a familiar walled garden, little legs banging against the underside of a wooden bench, reading aloud to Gaius as he whittled a spade's shaft beside her. But then she was seeing not herself, not Gaius, but a wind-tossed shock of reddish hair and a headland overlooking the sea. The ash-blooms became the cream of waves on the shore, dashing up in flecks on the rocks; she heard the soft tinkle of amber beads. In a moment she could see clearly the figure on the headland, the wind and the pale sinking sun on the face, in the eyes, making the amber sparkle. Her arm began to throb. The figure, which she took at first to be lonesome, unfolded its arms and cupped its hands over the eyes, looking far into the west with a faint smile about the lips. The shoulders relaxed, the figure seemed at ease as one would standing on one's doorstep.

In the distance she heard the soft splutter of hooves on the turf and the figure turned and smiled. A lithe little horse was sweeping across the level grasses toward her, the coral-studs flashing on the headstall. The woman moved to meet it. It all took on a wavering aspect, as though someone had dropped a pebble into her dream, and she caught the faintest glimpse of a rider, and then she was jerking round to find a branch had stuck into her tunic and was causing the pain.

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