Jenny: Young Things

Ambrosius heard the girl out, working with her accent as she worked with his Latin. Gone was the girl of last evening, though the faint shyness was still there, replaced with a brittle, tempestuous soul. She might have been like the Guttersnipe if she had her own legs under her.

When she finished, he bent down and scooped up one of the pups that was still rolling about with its fellows at his feet. As he held it up between himself and the girl, the pup's legs pumped in the air, and it tried to bit his fingers for him to put it down. "Take a look at this little thing," he told Domitia. "It is all fat and fur at present, but it has some notion that it is meant to be of use. If you watch the pups in the yard, you will see them work and herding the chickens. They have very little grace, and no form, but they understand instinctively, by breeding and by watching their elders, that they are meant to protect and guide other animals."

The pup calmed a little as he set it on his knee and rubbed his thumbs behind its ears. "The chickens will be a bit misunderstanding at first," he went on with a quirk of a smile. "Chickens are not God's brightest of creatures. But nevertheless the pups understand that they are to herd and guard the fowl, regardless of what God's less fortunate creatures suppose for themselves. And, in time, the pups will learn to do their jobs with more grace, and they will be given larger and larger stock to tend. Boys," he assured her, "our boys, are the same way."

The pups spilled away from his chair in a flurry of barking as at that moment someone came ducking in through the vestibule, shaking the cold wind out of his cloak. He saw it was Gaius, dressed for the day in his familiar old gear. But as the young man approached, going to join Artos, Ambrosius saw he held his hand somewhat gingerly, and he broke off from Domitia a moment as the other passed by.

"Is something amiss, Gaius?" he inquired.

The young man paused; something flickered behind his eyes, as though a veil had come between them when his gaze fell on Domitia. "Just a scuffle with a dog and a boy, sir," he said in an off-hand way. "It got a little rowdy, and - " he gestured with his bloodied hand.

At a glance, Ambrosius knew it was little more than a passing graze: the dog had caught itself before it had sunk its fangs in. Gaius was already passing it off, so he said, "Best have the Guttersnipe run a cloth over it, if you have time. You don't know what that dog has been in to."

And Gaius flashed him a sudden smile. "No need to tell me that, Sir." He nodded and stepped off, and Ambrosius was alone again with Domitia.

"They are good, honest boys, too," he told her, as though Gaius had not interrupted.

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