The lady from Alabama joined in the tribute to the singer.
“’Core, ’core,” cried Ole Sahara, raising her glass in the dim vapour. “Here’s to Denis Donohoe!”
The white goat stood in a little clearing closed in by a ring of whins on the hillside. Her head swayed from side to side like the slow motion of the pendulum of a great clock. The legs were a little spread, the knees bent, the sides slack, the snout grey and dry, the udder limp.
The Herd knew the white goat was in great agony. She had refused the share of bran he had brought her, had turned away from the armful of fresh ivy leaves his little daughter held out to her. He had desisted from the milking, she had moaned so continuously.
Some days before the Herd had found the animal injured on the hill; the previous night he had heard the labourers making a noise, shouting and singing, as they crossed from the tillage fields. He knew what had happened when he had seen the marks of their hob-nailed boots on her body. She was always a sensitive brute, of a breed that came from the lowlands. The sombre eyes of the Herd glowed in a smouldering passion as he stood helplessly by while the white goat swung her head from side to side.
He gathered some dry bracken and spread a bed of it near the white goat. It would be unkind to allow her to lie on the wet grass when the time came that she could no longer stand. He looked up at the sky and marked the direction of the wind. It had gone round to the west. Clouds were beginning to move across the sky. There was a vivid light behind the mountains. The air was still. It would rain in the night. He had thought for the white goat standing there in the darkness, swaying her head in agony, the bracken growing sodden at her feet, the rain beating into her eyes. It was a cold place and wind-swept. Whenever the white goat had broken her tether she had flown from it to the lowlands. He remembered how, while leading her across a field once, she had drawn back in some terror when they had come to a pool of water.
The Herd looked at his little daughter. The child had drawn some distance away, the ivy leaves fallen from her bare arms. He was conscious that some fear had made her eyes round and bright. What was it that the child feared? He guessed, and marvelled that a child should understand the strange thing that was about to happen up there on the hill. The knowledge of Death was shining instinctively in the child’s eyes. She was part of the stillness and greyness that was creeping over the hillside.
“We will take the white goat to the shelter of the stable,” the Herd said.
The child nodded, the fear still lingering in her eyes. He untied the tether and laid his hand on the horn of the goat. She answered to the touch, walking patiently but unsteadily beside him.