The Road Not Taken

Ezra Azra

Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Image by Cristian Marcantognini from Pixabay
Image by Cristian Marcantognini from Pixabay 

Ruhan, walking along the side of a hill, on his way home, paused to look at the road at the foot of the hill. At this location, the road was its narrowest, running between two hills.

Ruhan was sad. This country road served his small town for, at least, a thousand years before his time. Without this road, the family farm, run by his parents, would never had been a market success. He had walked along it countless times. He had driven their farm wagon-load of produce, pulled by the family's one horse, many, many times along this road.

He had playfully, on foot, chased small wild animals along it, countless times. He had always failed to catch any.

He spent time enjoying thoughts of a time in the future when he will walk and play along this road with his children. And, hopefully, with the help of his children, catch a small wild animal on this road, to let it go; just to show it who is king of this road.

And now the Government, far away in a big modern City, had announced its plan to make all roads in the country capable of accommodating the new invention that was taking the world by storm, automobiles.

Ruhan had not seen even a picture of a real automobile. Dad and Mom, along with other farmers were planning a trip to the nearest City that announced the arrival of the first automobile.

From the little information he had so far, it seemed that when this road eventually was modified, it would look very, very different. That saddened Ruhan.

He heard the trot of a horse approaching. He expected a horse-drawn wagon to come into view. If from his left, it would be coming from the town market; if from his right, the wagon would be loaded with farm produce on its way to the town market.

It approached from his right. A magnificent stallion, mounted by an important-looking young woman, gloriously accoutred: scarlet riding gloves; scarlet long-sleeved tight-fitting waist-length jacket; riding trousers, its leggings tucked into shining highly polished black high-boots.

Ruhan instinctively took cover behind some bushes. He did not know who she was. He knew the nation had a royal family. He had never seen any members this close-up. He dismissed the fleeting thought of the presence of royalty on a wild country road, this far from dignified Civilization.

A wild small animal scurried across the horse's path. The horse reared. The rider was thrown backward to the ground. She lay motionless. The horse bolted away down the road. Ruhan hurried down, somewhat untidily, to help the unconscious rider.

He sat on the ground near her. He resisted touching her because he guessed from her clothing that she was far wealthier than a farmer.

She slowly regained consciousness, and sat up on her own. She saw Ruhan sitting near her on the ground.

"Hello." "Hello." "Where am I?" "Your horse was spooked by some small animal, and threw you." "I was on a horse?" "Yes." "Who are you?" "A farmer. I just happened to be here on my way home." Ruhan stood up. "If you are not injured, I will be on my way." She stood, unsteadily, "I will come with you."

Ruhan hesitated. She did not look like someone who would be comfortable in a farm home. "Perhaps it would better if you walked along the road after your horse. He looks like one that will come back."

"My horse?" "Yes. It galloped that way." "I do not remember being on a horse. I do not think I can ride a horse."

Ruhan realized, she must have bumped her head when she fell off her horse. He was now frightened. She looked at him, and saw he was frightened. "What is the matter, sir? You are not thinking I will harm you, are you?" "No, no, not at all." "Good. Then let's go to your home and find out just who I am. Okay?" Ruhan nodded. "Good. Lead the way, please."

Within minutes, they were on the farm. Ruhan's Dad and Mom were sitting on the verandah. They readily and pleasantly greeted the woman. "Welcome to our home." "Dad, Mom, she does not know her name. She fell off her horse. It ran off. She bumped her head when she fell to the ground." Mom got up and spoke to the woman.

"Come with me, dear. We will have some tea. That will bring back your memory." They went inside the home.

When they were alone, Dad jumped up and addressed Ruhan in a near whisper, urgently, "Ruhan, you should not have brought her here. In clothes like that, she is too wealthy to be associating with poor farmers!" In matching voice level, "Dad, I did not bring her here; she insisted. She said we could help her find out who she is."

"Whoever she is, we will find out by taking her back to where she was last on her horse." "Dad, how is that going to help?" "She would have been riding a well-trained horse, Ruhan. After it recovers from its initial spook, it will return to where she fell off. Had she not bumped her head when she fell, she would have known that, and remained on the spot. Besides, if we do not get her off our hands before someone comes looking for her, we will be in a lot of trouble."

"Okay, Dad. I'll take her back." "Let's use the wagon. We will take Mom along. If we meet anyone looking for her, let them see it's a family that is involved."

Dad was not taking chances. He persuaded the woman to accompany the family on a tour of the farm, by wagon. The woman was as excited as a teenager to explore the farm.

When the wagon came into sight of the spot on the road where the horse had been spooked, there it was, on its belly, with a number of wild small animals climbing all over it.

When the horse saw the woman, it eagerly got to its feet, and went up to her. While she was glad when the horse came up to her and nuzzled, she was reluctant to mount it. It was Mom who coaxed the woman to give it a shot since the horse liked her.

The woman mounted the horse. She nervously took hold of the reigns. The horse trotted off along the road. The wild small animals followed it. The woman was too nervous to remember to say farewell to the farm family, waving at her.

The family remained there in their wagon a minute or two after horse and rider and wild small animals had passed out of sight.

Dad spoke softly and wistfully, "Ruhan, had you walked her along the road to her returning horse, in the first place, there might have been a reward large enough for us buy a second wagon horse." They sat in silence.

Mom spoke softly. "That could still happen. When we were chatting in the kitchen, she gave me keepsake." 

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