Little Bo-Peep

Little Bo-Peep

“Little Bo-Peep, she lost her sheep
     And didn’t know where to find them.
Let them alone, and they’ll come home,
     And bring their tails behind them!”

So runs the Nursery Rhyme. Little Bo-Peep was a very nice little girl. Her cheeks had

a bloom on them like a lovely peach, and her voice sounded like a sweet silver bell.

But though Little Bo-Peep was as good as she was beautiful, she sometimes met with

misfortunes that made her very sad. Once, when she lost her sheep, she was very

doleful indeed. And this is how it happened.

One summer evening, when the sun was setting, Little Bo-Peep, who had to rise very

early in the morning, felt tired and sat down on a bank covered with daisies.

Being very weary, she soon fell fast asleep. Now the Bell-wether of Bo-Peep’s flock

was a most stupid and stubborn fellow. I dare say you know that all the sheep

in a flock will follow the Bell-wether and that he always wears a bell around his neck.

It was a great pity, but the Bell-wether of Bo-Peep’s flock was very wild and was much

given to wandering far away into the wood, where of course, the rest of the sheep

would follow him.

Finding Little Bo-Peep asleep, the tiresome fellow began by standing on his hind legs

and making a great bow to his shadow before him on the grass. After this, he whirled

himself around like a top, shaking his head all the time and ringing his bell.

Very soon, the rest of the flock began to dance and caper too. And when they had

wheeled round their leader for a time, they ran off after him with a bound into

the wood.

Away they went till they were quite tired out, and then they came to a stand-still,

staring at their leader with very blank faces. But the Bell-wether looked foolish enough

now and did nothing but shake his head slowly and ring his bell, which seemed to say

quite clearly, “You are lost, you are lost!”

When Little Bo-Peep awoke, she found her sheep gone, and hardly knowing what

she did; she walked on and on, far into the wood. She met some people with hoes

and rakes in their hands and asked them if they had seen her sheep. But they only

laughed at her and said, No. One man was very cross and threatened to beat her.

At last, she came to a stile on which an old Raven was perched. He looked so wise

that Little Bo-Peep asked him whether he had seen a flock of sheep. But he only cried,

“Caw, caw, caw,” so Bo-Peep ran on again across the fields.

She wandered on till nightfall and, being faint with hunger, was very glad to see a light

just before her. As she went on, she saw that it shone from a cottage window.

But when she came to the door, it looked so dark and dismal that she was afraid to go

in and was just going to run away when a cross-looking old woman came out

and dragged her into the cottage. She made her sit by the side of her son, a very ugly

youth with a great red face and red hair.

The old woman told him that she had brought Bo-Peep to be his wife, so Bo-Peep,

who did not like him at all, ran away while they were asleep. But she did not know

where to go and gave herself up for lost when she heard something cry,

“tu-whit—tu-whoo,” in the tree above her. It was a great owl, which began flapping

its wings with joy. Bo-Peep was frightened at first, but as the owl seemed very kind,

she followed it. It took her to a cottage where there was plenty to eat and drink,

and then, to Bo-Peep’s great surprise, it began to speak and told her this story:—

“Know, dear Maiden,” said the owl, “that I am the daughter of a King and was a lovely Princess, but I was changed into an owl by the old woman at the cottage because
I would not marry her ugly son. But I have heard the fairies say that one day a lovely maiden, who would come into this wood to find her lost sheep, should be the means
of my gaining my form again. You are that pretty maid, and I will take you to a spot where you will find your sheep without their tails. The elves will play with them for this night, but in the morning, every sheep will have its tail again, except the stupid bellwether. You must then wave his tail three times over my head, and I shall resume my shape again.”

The owl flew off, led Bo-Peep into the wood, and said, “Sleep, maiden; I will watch.”

How long she was asleep, she could not tell, but the charmed spot was suddenly

lighted up, and she saw the Queen of the Fairies seated on a bank. The Queen said

the sheep should be punished for running away. She then saw all her sheep come

trooping into the place, and on every sheep, there was an Elf who held in his hand

a sheep’s tail.

After riding them about for some time, and having great fun with them, the mad sport

ceased, and each Elf restored the tail to his sheep—all but the Bell-wether’s, which their

leader hid in a tree. When Bo-Peep awoke, she saw the owl flapping its wings as if

to remind her of her promise, so she fetched the tail and waved it three times over

Its head when up started the most charming Princess that ever was seen.

The princess gave Bo-Peep a beautiful cottage, and her sheep never ran away from

their kind mistress again.

The End