The Little Lamb
CHRISTINA, a poor little girl of about ten years, was in the woods gathering strawberries. It was a very hot afternoon; and in the open, sunny part of the wood, where there was not a breath of air, the heat was very great. Her light straw bonnet scarcely protected her from the burning rays of the sun.
The clear drops stood upon her forehead, and her cheeks glowed like fire; still she con-tinued diligently to gather the strawberries, without ever looking up. "For," said she, cheerfully, as she wiped her forehead with her handkerchief, "they are for my poor, sick mother. The money for which I shall sell my berries, will procure some little things to do her good, I will buy her some nice tea and an orange,"
Towards evening, with her basket full of strawberries, she went through the woods back home. It began to grow very dark. The drops of rain fell faster and faster, and the heavy peals of thunder resounded in the distance. As she came out of the woods a tempest arose, the rain beat furiously against her, and black clouds arose in the fiery evening sky, towering over one another like mountains.
Christina knew that the lightning most frequently strikes the highest trees, and there-fore she sought shelter at a distance from them, beneath some hazel-bushes; and here she stood waiting until the storm should pass away. But suddenly she heard among the bushes close at hand, a mournful cry, almost like that of a little child.
The storm and rain and thunder and lightning did not prevent this good little girl from going to see what it was. She went, and lo! there was a tender little lamb, all dripping with rain and shivering in the storm, "Ah, you poor little creature!" said Christina; "you must not perish—come, I will take you home with me."
And she took the lamb carefully in her arms, and as soon as the rain ceased, she hur-ried home with it to her little cottage. "Oh, dear mother!" said she, as soon as she entered their clean, tidy little room, "look what I have found! Look what a beautiful little sheep! Oh, how lucky I was ! What care I shall take of it. It shall be my only pleasure."
"Child," said the sick mother, raising herself up in bed, and supporting her head on her hand, "in your joy you forget that this lamb must have an owner. It has only strayed away, and, therefore, we must give it back again. It probably belongs to the rich farmer over the hill. It is not right to keep other people's property a single night in the house. So you had better carry it home tonight."
"What nonsense!" cried a rough voice through the open window. "It is folly to be so particular!" The man who said this was a mason, who, while outside repairing the wall of their cottage, had overheard their conversation. The mother and daughter looked at him in alarm; but he continued: "Why do you make such strange faces?” I only speak for your good. We will cut up the lamb and divide it.
" We shall have a couple of little roasting pieces from the flesh, and the skin, too, is worth something. The rich farmer has more than a hundred fine large sheep; and, doubtless, he will never feel the loss of this poor little thing. So I will kill it immediately. And you need not be afraid. No one sees us, and you may trust me; I can be as silent," said he, flinging a trowel full of mortar on the wall—" as silent as a wall."
Christina was shocked at what the mason said. The thought how wicked it would be to keep the lamb, now became clear to her. " You are wrong," said she to the mason. " Though no man sees us, yet God does ! But you, dearest mother, are right—and I only wonder that what you said did not occur to myself. Gladly, in-deed," continued she, while the tears started into her eyes, "gladly would I have kept the little lamb! Yet we ought to be willing to obey our good God."
She wrapped the lamb in her apron, and went with it towards the farmer's, though the rain had not yet quite ceased, and the sun had almost set.
To be continued next week....
From the Metropolitan Second Reader 1883
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