The watchman guarding the gate--in between drinking and dicing with his friends--told me horses were forbidden the city. And then denied I had a place at the officers' school.
I showed him the letter, and he smeared it with greasy palms. While he puzzled, head bent, over the words, a youth in uniform, and leading two bay horses, approached. Where had he sprung from? I'd checked everyone leaving the Hippolita train to see if Della were among them; I couldn't have overlooked those covetable horses. They scented the air and stepped out lively. My horse's head hung low in defeat. Travel had begrimed the colours of the Aquilla in its mane, and they dangled like the flaccid fingers of drowned men.
The watchman shoved the letter back at me. "S'pose it's all right."
Why should anyone's word count for more than mine? Let the fellow mind the gate; that was his business.
"Till your brother finds out," the watchman added, with a snort.
“What’s all this?” A huge barrel of a man rolled up to us, his finger almost to the second knuckle inside his nose; only Zeus knows what he was mining for. Behind him trotted a wizened little runt with a short man’s scowl.
“Fella has a place at the officers’ school. Has papers.”
The barrel snatched the letter from my hands, smearing it with runny snot. “I don’t know,” he said. “Writing’s smudged bad, paper's greasy. Could be forged.” He turned to the scowl. “What do you think?”
Scowl took hold of the sheet and muttered, “Looks all right.”
I turned back to the watchman. “Then can I--”
“Be right back.” Scowl began to walk toward the gate.
“My letter!” I took a step toward him, but barrel blocked my way.
“I need it,” Scowl said. "You'll get it back."
“Where are you taking it?”
“Right over there," he sniffed. "I got to take a crap.”
Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: ril