"Aunt Kitty," Jenny began, dropping a curtsy, "I feel terribly restless. I have taken the liberty of dressing already, but I have come to ask if I might take out one of the ponies."
"Well, I suppose if you feel that might work a cure," Aunt Kitty said, looking up from her embroidery. Upon her round florid face, framed in an old fashioned outsized cap, was a look which seemed to say that she couldn't imagine anything even remotely connected with "restless."
After Mr. Desbrosses' proposal, after what Nelia had said, Jenny felt choked, like a dog at the end of a chain. It was a sensation that came with some frequency here.
"Nevertheless, Dear," Aunt Kitty said, turning her slow gaze to the windy gray outside the window, "There will certainly be rain. You could take cold."
"I shall keep close; I promise. Please. The air would do me so much good."
Did her Aunt really think a little rain would hurt? Why, on Oriskany, she'd been drenched to the skin many a time, caught out in the fields when a black western storm roared...
Cornelia, who had kept her promise and not said a word, looked up from her handwork. "She's cross as two sticks," she explained to her mother, "and so she shall remain until she gets some exercise."
"Very well. Jenny, my dear, don't go too far. We shall fret if you aren't back for tea."
As Jenny dropped a curtsy, Aunt Kitty's china blue eyes returned to the embroidery. Her artistry, worked exactingly upon a chemise, would be seen and admired by only the wearer–and the laundress.
Jenny's passion for exercise was understood by her Albany relatives as an aspect of her 'breeding' and was treated with a certain amused indulgence. Doubtless, it was the Indian side that had this unladylike taste for roaming.
It was already much colder than during her interview with Mr. Desbrosses. A raw wind gusted from the north.
She had kept on the serviceable brown skirt and plain white shirt, but the apron was gone. Over all was a long green caraco jacket. Instead of the matching green tricorn ornamented with a feather, she had plaited her dark hair into a single braid and chosen a warm and wind proof cap which tied beneath the chin.
At the barn a groom saddled a brown and white pony. Echoing Aunt Kitty, he cautioned about the weather.
"Now, Miss, don't stay out too long and take cold." His black face was as circumspect as a father's.
"A little rain won't melt me," she said with a smile, availing herself of his cupped hands to mount. In Albany she had, of course, to ride sidesaddle instead of astride.
After settling her skirts, she took the short crop he offered and trotted out of the yard, a neat little figure in green and brown.
The stableman watched. Not likely, I s'pose," he mused, that a little cold water will melt that girl. She's no fine lump o' white sugar, after all."
Down the road Jenny went, bobbing in the choppy rhythm of a trot, along a cow path leading south into the wide public pastures. The upturned belly of the river reflected clouds of slate...
Her cheeks and fingers were soon tingling, bitten by the frigid wind. As she approached the big house that housed the General and his military family, she felt icy splatters.
Slowing the pony, she began the planned circumnavigation of the house. Not rain, but sleet now, harder every minute.
A groan came from the north. The trees, thinly leafed, leaned before the wind. The indistinct chaos of a squall, like a high-shouldered animal, bounded over the hill, blotting out the view. An upstate May, even after the lovely weather they'd been having, was not exempt from a wintry sortie.
"Damn," Jenny muttered, enjoying the feel of a country curse on her lips as she reined the pony around.
The squall struck with a roaring, hissing blast. Cross, disappointed, and now shivering fiercely in the wind, she trotted away along the main road, a road which passed by tumble down cabins which had once housed slaves...
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