Jenny: Loftiest Hopes

He had thought he would find her in the apple-orchard. Without paying heed to his steps Jason found himself climbing the hillside under the wash of moon, and in the frisky shadows he could see the Guttersnipe in her old seat in one of the trees, overlooking the valley.

She looked up as he approached, smiled, and moved aside to give him room. But this time, he noticed, she did not move very far. It was a squeeze to fit in beside her. They were quiet for a moment, listening to the wind in the trees. Fripp lay down at their feet. Then Jason said, "It's hard to believe it's nearly been six months."

"I know," she breathed. "It seems like just yesterday I went away. Everything seems so peaceful."

Truly he could not agree more. The lights had nearly all gone out below them, leaving the silver of the moon to light the landscape, and between the soft gusts of wind, it was very peaceful. And there was the Guttersnipe, curled up on the branch beside him, which was a new and warm thing that he found himself liking very much.

Presently she stirred. Reaching into the front of her gown, she pulled out a sturdy leather thong on which swung, sparkling silver, his old family ring. She cast up her eyes from it to his face. "I still have it," she said, as though he could not see that she had it.

But when she made to take it off the thong, he put out his hand and stopped her. "No, you keep it. I gave it to you."

And she gave an odd sort of laugh, almost like a purr, which he had never heard before, but found himself also liking, and she put the ring back inside the front of her gown and laced her fingers inside his. He sat contentedly watching her and the way the moonlight blurred her features into a feather-soft paleness, who the light refracted off her eyes and made them almost uncannily perceiving. The wind washed her untidy mane across his shoulders: it smelled of heather and honeysuckle. He wanted to tell her is smelled so, and that he liked it, and that he particularly liked the gown she wore, but at the moment he thought it best not to speak.

In a little while the quiet was broken by a flurry of hard, bare feet on the earth running up to meet them, and they both looked round to see a boy with a cast arm leaping through the dark grasses to them.

"Oughtn't you be in bed," Jason said reproachfully as the boy joined them, awkwardly trying to fit on the branch and ending up on the ground by Fripp.

"Yes," the boy said truthfully.

"Well, why aren't you?" asked the Guttersnipe.

The boy looked at her, head to one side. "Oh! I almost didn't recognize you," he exclaimed. "You look prettier in that dress. You've been gone an awful long time," he added. "Master Jason has been worried about you."

The Guttersnipe purred, "Has he? And have you been looking after him?"

"Oh yes!" The boy flung up his head and beamed. "I've broken my arms three times to keep his mind off of you."

"You little redshank," Jason growled. He buffeted the boy's head about with the heel of his hand. "Now why aren't you in bed and not disturbing us?"

Instead of answering at once, the boy folded up his legs, arms around Fripp's thick, shaggy neck, and looked about himself. A particularly heavily-laden bough bobbed its leaves through his wind-tossed hair. "Because it reminds me of the Land of Summer," he said presently.

For a moment Jason thought it was nonsense, but he had said it so seriously, and the Guttersnipe had inclined her head in her thoughtful way, that he said nothing. She asked, "What do you mean, the Land of Summer?"

The boy looked round. "You know, that place Master Gaius says Adam and Eve lived. The Land of Summer."

"You mean the Garden of Eden," the Guttersnipe corrected gently.

"No, I mean the Land of Summer. It's always summer there, isn't it? And they have apple-trees twice the size of ours, and the colts are born tame. And you can't break your arms falling out of the trees there." His tone became suddenly achingly wistful. "I want to go there someday, when I have my own pony and I'm a man. I suppose Adam and Eve will still be there. How odd!"

For a moment Jason was aware of the Guttersnipe struggling to answer the boy gently, and failing, he prompted, "Eden...the Land of can't get there. It's gone."

But the boy did not seem affronted. He rose, shaking his head. "Oh no, I know it's there. And when I'm all grown up, I'm going to go there myself. Good night!" And without a backward glance he ran off down the hillside, an awkward, broken-winged figure in the moonlight.

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