First Story – ‘THE WHITE DOE‘
The first visitation occurred in January, very early one morning.
They came from the Seven-acre, which still bristled with the ruined stalks of last year’s barley, up the grass bank and through the patch of scrubby fruit trees that Fran’s mother had referred to as ‘the orchard’, before joining the track beyond the cottage and heading out to cross the road and regain the woods. In summer, the deer rarely ventured out beyond the cover of the woodland, sticking to the secret, shady places to raise their dappled young. But in the winter months, hard ground and sparse fodder forced them out into wider orbits, crossing field and farmland along well-trodden pathways – the same old ways followed, no doubt, by their mothers and grandmothers.
At the top of the bank, each animal in turn crested the ridge with an identical movement, half lurch and half leap, head lowered and withers high. Five of them, six, eight, dark shapes on a pale canvas, and then there she was towards the back, not much more than a gap in the line, a movement, a reflection. There was a low mist, and in the bleached half-light of the winter predawn she was almost invisible, white upon white …
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