the mountain had turned upside down in the rain, like a branch floating in a swollen stream, and gertrude was walking through the clouds with her favorite sheep, the one which had been carried off by a wolf the previous winter.
the old woman was a rock and was waiting for her on the other side of the mountain.
the rain was not getting them wet, but they had to stay on the clouds to keep it from doing so.
suddenly the sheep turned into a gray cat and the clouds disappeared.
saint james and the archangel and a third person - a young woman in a long blue dress - appeared out of the rain. saint james pointed to gertrude and the other two laughed.
gertrude woke up. she immediately forgot the dream, as she always did. nor did she wonder "was it a dream?" she never did.
something was pressed up against her - not a sheep or a dog.
it was dark - pitch dark. she was in a hut, and could hear a very light rain beating on the roof of the hut.
she remembered she had accepted the offer of denise, the sheep-shearing girl, to spend the night in her hut. it was denise who was pressed up against her, with her left arm across gertrude's back. they were both lying on a straw pallet in the middle of the hut.
there were no windows in the hut, and only one door, which must have been shut tightly as no light was coming in from the edges of it.
gertrude gently pushed denise's arm off of herself, and sat up in the darkness.
she had never slept so close to another person, when the old woman was alive they would sometime sleep together in the hut on winter nights but with gertrude in a corner and the old woman in front of the door.
she remembered denise giving her some food on a plate and herself eating more than she had ever eaten at one time in her life before. and denise laughing at her because she ate so little.
and denise had given her a little cup of what she called wine. gertrude had heard of wine before, but had never tasted it.
she remembered denise talking. and talking and talking and talking.
and then something else had happened. she could not remember exactly what.
gertrude either remembered things or she did not.
denise had kissed her a couple of times, she remembered that much.
something strange had happened. life was strange - gertrude accepted that. but what had happened, whatever it was, was really strange.
stranger than the old woman dying. or her favorite sheep being carried off by the wolf. stranger than meeting st james, or the archangel.
suddenly the room was filled with bright light. gertrude was blinded, and threw her hands up in front of her face.
when she was able to adjust her eyes to the light and lower her hands she saw someone standing before her. for a second she thought it must be denise, but then she saw it was the young woman with the blue dress from the dream, who had laughed when st james had pointed to gertrude.
denise had not awakened. this frightened gertrude, much more than the appearance of the young woman in blue.
was she dead? gertrude reached back and touched denise's arm.
"why are you touching her?" the young woman asked her in a sharp voice - the sharpest and clearest voice gertrude had ever heard.
gertrude stared up at her. "i wanted to see if she was alive."
"she is alive. do not worry about her. pay attention to me."
"who are you?"
"you do not know who i am?"
the young woman laughed. "so what they told me was true. but you do know, do you not, that you are wicked?"
"no, i do not. i do not know what that means."
"it means that you are damned."
gertrude did not know what that meant either. she looked back at denise again. how could she not wake up?
"i told you to look at me, not her."
dorine put her pencil down. she was well ahead of schedule, so she felt no pressure to keep on. but she did not feel like continuing.
it was late. she knew she was not going to get to sleep.
she got up and went to the window and looked out into the darkness.
"anything out there?" marisa, lying on the bed, asked. dorine could never tell if marisa was trying to be humorous.
"no," dorine answered seriously. "i just wish i had asked to go out when i had the chance today."
marisa had become her regular night guard. she and dorine did not have a lot to say to each other. she was one of the youngest guards and claimed she had never been away from the village. and did not show any great interest in the world beyond it. but she was cheerful enough, and dorine usually let her make herself comfortable in the room instead of having to sit outside in the corridor.
"i don't see why we can't be let out for walks when it is dark," dorine said. "how is it that different from the daylight? where are we going to go?"
"i told you before, sugar plum, take it up with prue. i can't help you."
"i already did."
"she wasn't very receptive."
marisa laughed. "i can just picture one of you getting lost or running off and the whole staff running around in the dark trying to find you. prue would love that."
"i wonder if miss prue could even make the decision herself to change the rule."
"i don't know. i can't help you there either." marisa sat up on the bed. "you want to sleep?"
"no, not for a while."
"you want the bed?"
"no thanks. i'll let you know if i do." dorine continued to look out the window.
dorine liked marisa but was frustrated by her imperturbability. she wanted to draw her out, try to get a hint - just the barest, tiniest hint - that she might be receptive to helping her, not necessarily to escape, but to bend the rules in little ways that might lead to something that might lead to something…
almost three weeks had gone by. three weeks! dorine felt that she was getting nowhere, either with the staff or the other girls.