“that is right,” gertrude replied.
“what is right?”
“you are right that i do not know what you are talking about.”
the young woman’s eyes narrowed. “and i suppose you do not know what it means to be saved, either.”
“i know what it is means to be saved,” gertrude told her.
“it means - if a sheep is wandering away, or looks like it is going to step over a ridge or somewhere it should not, you stop it .”
“ha, ha! so it is only sheep who need to be saved?”
gertrude considered this. “i have never seen a person needing to be saved, but i suppose one could be.”
“what a ninny! do you know nothing but sheep?”
“no. sheep is what i know.”
gertrude did not know what to say. she remained silent.
the bright light in which the young woman in blue had appeared had now faded. but gertrude’s eyes had adjusted to the darkness.
gertrude stole another look at denise. she still appeared sound asleep.
“don’t look at her,” the woman told her, but in a softer voice than before. “go and look out the door.”
gertrude pushed at the door. it opened easily.
the rain had stopped, but it was very dark.
there was something in front of gertrude’s feet and she almost stepped on it.
it was the dog denise had obtained for her - she had forgotten all about it.
the dog opened its eyes and looked at gertrude and made one little yip, but did not move.
gertrude stepped over at it. she could feel the young woman in blue following her.
or hear them.
she moved further down the path. she still could not see the sheep.
they were gone!
with all the things that had happened to gertrude the previous day and now at night, this was the first one that shocked her.
she whirled on the young woman in blue. “the sheep are gone!”
“but - but - where are they? who has taken them. are they all right?”
“yes, yes, they are all right. they will be well taken care of.”
gertrude had never been so confused, not even by the visions of the “saint” and the “angel”.
“but what am i to do? where am i to go? should i go back to the mountain - without my sheep?”
“no,” replied the young woman, “you will not go back to the mountain. when dawn comes, you will begin a journey. a long journey.”
“no, denise will go with you. and the dog. denise is an even greater sinner than you, and more in need of the journey.”
“and the dog - is it a sinner too?”
“no, the dog is not a sinner,” the young woman answered, with a slight trace of exasperation. “it is just a dog.”
gertrude ran past the young woman back to the hut. the dog was awake and looked up at her but made no sound.
gertrude looked into the hut. denise was, or seemed to be, still sound asleep.
“no.” the young woman was right behind her. “she is not dead. she is receiving the same message from me that you are. to her, it is you who are asleep.”
gertrude stood in the doorway, bewildered, looking at denise and then back at the young woman, who seemed to be fading into the night.
“do you have any questions?” the young woman asked.
“yes. where are we going, on this journey?”
gertrude sat up in the bed. she could see daylight under the door. she remembered everything that had happened and everything the young woman in blue had said.
she stepped over denise and went outside.
the day was bright and the sky was blue. the little dog was awake and sniffing around the walls of the hut.
gertrude ran down the path to the pen.
the sheep were gone.