Jenny: The Lord's Day

Rain was hushing softly against the window overhead. A cool, evening sort of light filled the room when the Guttersnipe opened her eyes, but she knew that it was morning; it smelled like morning. From some warm place the scent of baking came to her, and for a few moments, lying in her rugs on her bed, she felt like a child waking on the first morning of a holiday, and she remembered that it was the Lord's day. It was hard to believe that only a week ago, a week and a few days, she had come down the Beacon-road to rejoin her people, that her people had nearly all been killed. It seemed so distant and surreal. The only thing that kept it real to her was the knowledge of the men in the hypocaust, waiting - though they probably did not realize it - for Artos to be well enough to sit in judgment over them, as was right.

Artos. She shifted, pulling the rugs close around her shoulders to shut out the chill. There would be no fire in the hypocaust until he was better. The fever had gone down, and he was well enough to sit up in bed and in his chair, and he could move about his room with the help of Gaius' shoulder. He told his uncle that in a few days he would be well enough to sit out in the atrium, and it would not tire him. The Guttersnipe was not sure anything tired Artos. It had only been the fever that had sapped his strength, and she understood that. "God bless Gaius and Jason," she murmured, picking at the threads in her rug.

They had worked to bring in the apple harvest, which had been a good one. They had buried the boy the evening after his death under one of the apple trees, and the Guttersnipe had thought that fitting. He would be with the apple trees forever, drenched in their silvery, loving shade. She hoped he liked that. Only yesterday the droving of sheep up from the cotswolds had come in. Soon it would be slaughtering time, and the valley would be full of the smell of roasting, smoking meat. The thought of it made her warm inside, and in no hurry to plunge out into the cold of her room. The boys had been catching fish and the little thin, silver bodies were all strung up out of reach of the dogs, and they had been out hunting for wild fowl in the hills. The Guttersnipe had spent the evenings either shelling beans from the cloister garden or plucking grouse, carefully saving each feather in sacks for later use. Domitia had helped, and she seemed to enjoy the work. Other times, when Caleb was not playing, she had played for them on her new harp. The Guttersnipe thought Domitia had become a better bard for having her father's harp under her hands. It was the spirit of the thing, the chit reasoned. Domitia was feeling the potency of her father's memory in the harp.

Jason had plied her hard through the week, trying to learn what was in her new trunk. He was too fine a fellow to look in it himself, but he badgered her mercilessly, laughingly, sometimes guessing far closer than the Guttersnipe liked.

"Is it Maximus' family money?"

"No, of course not."

"Is it a body?"

"It might be yours."

"Is it your dowry?"

"Not...really, no."

"Oh ho! Look at those cheeks. Is it jewellery? Is it a dress?"

"Brute! I promised not to tell and I won't!"

He had told her she was gloriously pretty when she was angry, and she had told him he was a brute, and he had stayed lounging on one of the kitchen stools snitching from her pastry mix until he could dawdle no longer and had to return to work. She purred, rolling over, well bound in her rugs, warm with the thoughts and the smell of breakfast. She ought to get up, soon, eventually. If only she could reach her slippers without getting out of bed.

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