The Story of a Little Lamb

Timothy Shay Arthur, 1852
 

"Please get a book and read a pretty story to me," said little Anna to her sister.

"Shall I read to you about the lamb that was lost, and came near to dying?"

"And heard the tinkling of a distant sheep-bell?"

"Oh yes, sister Jane, read me that pretty story. I love to hear it."

So Jane took up a book in which the story was printed, and read to Anna about the little lamb.

"It was on a soft morning in May, when a certain little lamb was called from sleep by the tinkling of the sheep-bell. Slowly he raised his head, still keeping his forefeet bent under his bosom, and looked with a sleepy eye after his mother, who had just trotted away from his side. Again the bell sounded, and the pretty little lamb rose upon his feet, and was soon leaping by his mother's side. Now, the field in which these sheep dwelt was a place of great beauty; the verdant hill, the sparkling streamlet, the shady tree, the green pasture, were all there; it seemed a quiet fold apart from the rest of the world a pleasant place on purpose for that happy little flock. Now, the little lamb of which I have been speaking was the darling of the flock; no other had so white a fleece, so mild an eye, so gentle a nature.

One day, as this little lamb was playing by himself, at a short distance from the fold, he was spotted by an eagle, who no sooner beheld him than he darted down, and, seizing him in his talons, bore him far away from the little flock. Oh! it was sad to see the sheep look after their darling lamb.

Now, as the eagle was flying over a valley, an archer shot an arrow which went into its heart, and it fell with the lamb at the archer's feet. Then the archer took the lamb home to his child, and bade him take care of the poor little creature. Now the child had a tender heart, and he took the lamb, and bathed its wounds, and washed the blood from its snowy fleece, and wept. But the lamb began to revive, and the child was glad; and he took a silken cord and placed it about his neck, and led the lamb about with him wherever he went; and in the joy of his heart he thought the lamb must be as happy as himself. But it pined for the loss of its mother's love, and the peace it had known amid the happy little flock in the far-off fold.

One summer day, the child, being weary with long rambling, fell asleep on a bank of flowers, still holding the silken cord tightly in his hand; but looser and looser it became, till it slipped away from his grasp, and the little lamb fled away from him forever.

Onward and onward went the lamb, not knowing where. After a time it began to rain, and the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed. The poor little lamb trembled; but when the thunder was not heard for a moment, he forgot his sorrows, and stopped to nibble a daisy; then, startled by a sudden flash, he looked up in terror, and was again driven onward by the loud-pealing thunder. On he went, over a wide canyon, till he came to the foot of a steep hill, which, with weary feet, he climbed; but when he had gained the summit, weak and trembling, he laid down to die; his eyes became dim, and his heart beat faintly in his bosom. But the thought of his mother and the peaceful fold, the sweet flowers, and all things he had loved in the first happy moments of his little life, were present to his eye and the poor lamb closed his eyes in sorrow.

But as his heart grew more faint, he was startled by the tinkling of a distant bell; and slowly raising his head, he beheld his own little flock in their own happy fold; and new life awoke in his heart, and new light shone from his eyes, and new strength came to his feet and in a moment more the lost lamb was by his mother's side, telling how he had been called back to life by the tinkling of that sweet sheep-bell."