gertrude and denise continued to shear the sheep. denise gradually grew quieter as gertrude made few replies except nods and grunts to her flow of talk.
they were almost done. denise stopped and stared at the methodically working gertrude.
"well, i must say you do an excellent job. fast, and right down to the hide too! and look how quiet they hold for you! how you do it?"
"they are my sheep."
"they are used to me."
"i suppose so. but - ha, ha! if sister louise saw you she would say you were bewitching them! what do you think of that?"
"i am not a witch."
"oh, i should hope not! but at least you know what a witch is, eh? i half expected you to say you did not know what a witch is. that is your answer to half the things i say to you, ha ha."
"i know what a witch is."
"who told you what a witch was?"
"the old woman talked about witches sometimes."
"oh, she did, did she! i do not suppose she was a witch herself, was she? ha, ha!"
gertrude thought a bit before answering. "she was not a witch."
"oh? how do you know? that is what sister louise or brother august would ask you."
"she could not do anything," gertrude answered.
"she could not do anything?"
"she could not do anything witch-like. she could not stop or start the rain or the sun. or make the grass grow faster."
"hmm. did the sheep always obey her? did she have a way with the sheep?"
"she was a shepherdess."
"ha, ha! you do not have to make a face at me! i am only telling you what sister louise or brother august would say."
gertrude scowled and did not answer.
"ha, ha. well, that is enough about that, if it makes you make faces. look here, we are almost done, are we not. i see that you are done, and i only have to finish this fellow."
gertrude put her shears down and began picking up the wool from her last sheep and stuffing it in a bag.
"do you know what?" denise asked.
"you are a funny little thing, even though you are a terrible heathen. and do you know what else?"
"i like you."
gertrude just grunted.
"do you want to be my friend?"
"what is a friend?"
"ha, ha! there you go again. so you do not know what a friend is?"
"a friend is someone one likes to talk to, and just be around. what do you think of that?"
gertrude thought before answering. "but i am up on the mountain, and you are down here."
"yes, but not all the time! i could visit you, and you could visit me some time. when we are not terribly busy."
"mmm." gertrude looked up at the sky, which was now almost completely dark.
denise finished with her last sheep, and began putting its wool in a bag. gertrude started to help her.
"you see! you help me without even being asked. the lout of a boy never does. i have to tell him to do everything. and kick him most of the time too. so you are half way to being my friend already."
gertrude just nodded.
"look here. look how dark it is. and the rain will not hold off forever. stay here with me and you can go back up the mountain in the morning. my hut is right over there - see it - and you will be nice and warm. and that worthless rascal caesar is not back with the dog yet. " denise sighed . "i will have to go looking for him, and who knows how long that will take. you do not want to leave without the dog - after driving such a hard bargain to get him, ha ha!"
gertrude looked at the hut denise had indicated and stared at it. "what about the sheep?"
"they can stay right here in this pen. they will get a nice rest after being shorn."
"i only brought a little piece of bread, and i have eaten it already."
"silly! you will be my guest and i will give you something to eat. there you go making a face again ! you do not know what a guest is, do you?"
"ha ha! you have so much to learn. i know we are going to be good friends - like sisters. even sister louise could not object." denise put her arm around gertrude's shoulder. "here, let me give you a kiss."
gertrude was startled. she rubbed her cheek where denise had kissed it.
"ha, ha! that was very rude! here, i will kiss you again - don't rub it this time." denise kissed her again, a little harder. gertrude refrained from rubbing her cheek again, and denise let her go.
"come", denise cried happily, "let us gather up these bags and bring them over to the hut. no, we do not have to take them all at once. take three or four and we will come back for the others - and for the shears too, so they will not be out in the rain. and then you can rest while i go find caesar and the dog. when i come back we can eat and then we can have a jolly time talking."
denise gathered two bags in each hand, shouldered aside the gate of the pen and set off for the hut. gertrude took four bags herself, a little awkwardly as her hands were smaller, and followed her. it was now completely dark.
gertrude felt bewildered, and tired. she had never spent a night off the mountain before.
suddenly the sky cleared a little, and a bright star appeared in the sky. both girls stopped and looked at it.
"look, " shouted denise, "a lucky star. what a good omen! oh, how jolly!"
gertrude followed her down the road to the hut. she glanced back at the sheep, but they were quiet enough.