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Little Bo Peep.

From Mother Goose in Prose by Frank Baum.
Age Rating 6 to 8.

Start of Story

On the beautiful, undulating hills of Sussex feed many flocks of sheep, which are tended by many shepherds and shepherdesses, and one of these flocks used to be cared for by a poor woman who supported herself and her little girl by this means. They lived in a small cottage nestled at the foot of one of the hills, and each morning the mother took her crook and started out with her sheep, that they might feed upon the tender, juicy grasses with which the hills abounded. The little girl usually accompanied her mother and sat by her side upon the grassy mounds and watched her care for the ewes and lambs, so that in time she herself grew to be a very proficient shepherdess. So when the mother became too old and feeble to leave her cottage, Little Bo-Peep (as she was called) decided that she was fully able to manage the flocks herself. She was a little mite of a child, with flowing nut-brown locks and big gray eyes that charmed all who gazed into their innocent depths. She wore a light gray frock, fastened about the waist with a pretty pink sash, and there were white ruffles around her neck and pink ribbons in her hair. All the shepherds and shepherdesses upon the hills, both young and old, soon came to know Little Bo-Peep very well indeed, and there were many willing hands to aid her if (which was not often) she needed their assistance.



Bo-Peep usually took her sheep to the side of a high hill above the cottage, and allowed them to eat the rich grass while she herself sat upon a mound and, laying aside her crook and her broad straw hat with its pink ribbons, devoted her time to sewing and mending stockings for her aged mother. One day, while thus occupied, she heard a voice beside her say: "Good morning, Little Bo-Peep!" and looking up the girl saw a woman standing near her and leaning upon a short stick. She was bent nearly double by weight of many years, her hair was white as snow and her eyes as black as coals. Deep wrinkles seamed her face and hands, while her nose and chin were so pointed that they nearly met. She was not pleasant to look upon, but Bo-Peep had learned to be polite to the aged, so she answered, sweetly, "Good morning, mother. Can I do anything for you?" "No, dearie," returned the woman, in a cracked voice, "but I will sit by your side and rest for a time." The girl made room on the mound beside her, and the stranger sat down and watched in silence the busy fingers sew up the seams of the new frock she was making. By and by the woman asked, "Why do you come out here to sew?" "Because I am a shepherdess," replied the girl. "But where is your crook?" "On the grass beside me." "And where are your sheep?"



Bo-Peep looked up and could not see them. "They must have strayed over the top of the hill," she said, "and I will go and seek them." "Do not be in a hurry," croaked the old woman; "they will return presently without your troubling to find them." "Do you think so?" asked Bo-Peep. "Of course; do not the sheep know you?" "Oh, yes; they know me every one." "And do not you know the sheep?" "I can call every one by name," said Bo-Peep, confidently; "for though I am so young a shepherdess I am fond of my sheep and know all about them." The old woman chuckled softly, as if the answer amused her, and replied, "No one knows all about anything, my dear." "But I know all about my sheep," protested Little Bo-Peep. "Do you, indeed? Then you are wiser that most people. And if you know all about them, you also know they will come home of their own accord, and I have no doubt they will all be wagging their tails behind them, as usual." "Oh," said Little Bo-Peep, in surprise, "do they wag their tails? I never noticed that!" "Indeed!" exclaimed the old woman, "then you are not very observing for one who knows all about sheep. Perhaps you have never noticed their tails at all." "No," answered Bo-Peep, thoughtfully, "I do n't know that I ever have." The woman laughed so hard at this reply that she began to cough, and this made the girl remember that her flock had strayed away.



"I really must go and find my sheep," she said, rising to her feet, "and then I shall be sure to notice their tails, and see if they wag them." "Sit still, my child," said the old woman, "I am going over the hill-top myself, and I will send the sheep back to you." So she got upon her feet and began climbing the hill, and the girl heard her saying, as she walked away, "Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep,
And does n't know where to find 'em.
But leave 'em alone, and they 'll come home,
All wagging their tails behind 'em."

Little Bo-Peep sat still and watched the old woman toil slowly up the hill-side and disappear over the top. By and by she thought, "very soon I shall see the sheep coming back;" but time passed away and still the errant flock failed to make its appearance. Soon the head of the little shepherdess began to nod, and presently, still thinking of her sheep,

Little Bo-Peep fell fast asleep,
And dreamt she heard them bleating;
But when she awoke she found it a joke,
For still they were a-fleeting.

The girl now became quite anxious, and wondered why the old woman had not driven her flock over the hill. But as it was now time for luncheon she opened her little basket and ate of the bread and cheese and cookies she had brought with her. After she had finished her meal and taken a drink of cool water from a spring near by, she decided she would not wait any longer.

       



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