Jenny: Euripides

A flurry of movement started Master Lucius out of his poetry. Blinking like an owl he surfaced, confused, in time to see Domitia scuttle off blindly for the trees, and the Guttersnipe on her feet on the far side of the fire, staring after the other girl with an oddly pale and stony face, hands clenched into fists at her sides.

"What was that?" he asked her.

For a moment she made no move, then she slowly shook her head as if to clear it. "I forget things, sometimes," she said absently. "I've lived so long in my valley, I forget there is a world outside."

"Are you going after her?" he wanted to know.

But she gave a harsh bark of laughter that minded him, even in its harshness, of Gwenhywfar. "No, I would box her on the ear - and would that make things better? No, then, I wouldn't know how to begin to comfort her girlish sobbing. And anyway," she added in a softer tone, almost under her breath, "it is a thing between her and the sobbing, not me."

She dropped back down onto her heels, her eyes oddly potent as they cupped the wild reflection of the fire. Wulf loomed in the ring of firelight, slapping his hands clean on his thighs. Wordlessly he took his share of the food, and as the other moved to eat, Master Lucius hunched forward on his own rock. The Guttersnipe's face flickered back to the present out of wherever she had gone for a moment, and she handed him his supper. It was watered and spiceless, but wholesome. And rich foods, he considered, had never been good for him.

Without preamble, she told him, "You will like it there, at the villa."

He smiled. "I am sure I will."

"But no." She tucked her legs crosswise underneath herself and settled her chin in her palms. "You will like it. You will like Gaius - perhaps you are twins - and my Lord Ambrosius, and Artos will be fond of you - he is fond of most people who are willing to use their minds, and be friendly in return; he does so hate stupid people. And it is sunny there, too. I remember it being sunny so often; more often, perhaps, than is normal."

It must have been Euripides that did it, for he heard his own voice saying gently, "It must be your people who make it sunny."

Her head flew up, eyes wide with surprise. And then her face softened into a blossom of a smile and she nodded. "I think you must be right. You see? You understand, and I am sure you will like it. And your horses will be put to the best of training. You must see, too, when the time comes what things we can make our horses do. Artos will not let me - he boxed me when I tried - do the tricks, because they are a little dangerous, and you must go through training, you and the horse, before it can all be done. But what a show to see!" She flung back her head just as a branch shattered and fell into the heart of the fire, flinging up a great shower of sparks into the air so that, for just a moment - he thought it must have been Euripides that did it - he wondered if it had been her witchery. "What a show! The horses and the riders, and the drums and the old cavalry trumpets calling out maneuvers..."

Her voice dropped away into a soft rush, and he knew because he had felt it before that the happiness of it all had choked her off. He felt that way when he was describing Paul's epistles, or when he read a certain passage in Xenophon. The happiness would choke him off and he would be left wordless in the midst of a thousand words, no one word adequate to convey his joy.

And like the tiny bloom of fire that was beginning on a long branch extended toward him, small and orange, white at its centre, a little pain of homecoming sprang up in his breast and began to glow.

No comments:

Post a Comment