It was a bright spring day, and the sun shone very warm and pleasant over the pastures, where the new grass was growing so juicy and tender that all the sheep thought they had never tasted anything so delicious.
The sheep had had a strange experience that morning, for the farmer had taken them down to the brook and washed them, and then he tied their legs together and laid them on the grass and clipped all the heavy, soft wool from their bodies with a great pair of shears.
The sheep did not like this very well, for every once in a while the shears would pull the wool and hurt them; and when they were sheared they felt very strange, for it was almost as if someone took off all your clothes and let you run around naked. None of them were in a very good temper this morning, although the sun shone so warmly and the grass was so sweet, and as they watched the farmer and his man carry their wool up to the house in great bags, the old ram said, crossly,
"I hope they are satisfied, now that they have stolen from us all our soft, warm fleece."
"What are they going to do with it?" asked one of the sheep.
"Oh, they will spin it into threads and make coats for the men and dresses for the women. For men are such strange creatures that no wool grows on them at all, and that is why they selfishly rob us of our fleece that they may cover their own skinny bodies!"
"It must be horrid to be a man," said the Black Sheep, "and not to have any wool grow on you at all. I 'm sorry for that little boy that lives in the lane, for he will never be able to keep warm unless we give him some of our wool."
"But what a shame it is," continued the ram, "for the farmer to steal all the wool from us when we have taken all the trouble to grow it!"
"I do n't mind," bleated a young lamb named Frisky, as it kicked up its heels and gambolled about upon the grass; "it 's nice to have all that heavy wool cut off my back, for I sha' n't have to carry it around wherever I go."
"Oh, indeed!" sneered the ram, "you like it, do you? Have you any idea what you look like, all sheared down to your skin? How would you like to have someone come along and see you, now that you are all head and legs?"
"Oh, I would n't mind," said the lamb again; "I shall grow more wool by wintertime, and I 'm sure I do n't look any worse than you do."
Some of the sheep looked at the ram and began to titter, for he was old and thin, and looked very comical indeed without any wool. And this made him so angry that he went off by himself and began eating grass, and would not speak to the others at all.
"I do n't know why sheep should feel badly about having their fleeces cut," remarked the Black Sheep, thoughtfully, "for the farmer is very kind to us, and so is his dame, and I am glad my wool serves to keep them warm in the winter. For before the snow comes our wool will grow out again, and we shall not be any the worse for our loss."
"What do those people who have n't any sheep do for clothes?" asked the lamb.
"I 'm sure I do n't know. They must nearly freeze in the winter. Perhaps the ram can tell us."
But the ram was still angry, and refused to say anything, so the sheep stopped talking and began to scatter over the pasture and eat the tender, new grass.
By and by the Black Sheep wandered near the lane, and looking up, saw the little boy watching it through the bars.
"Good morning, Black Sheep," said the boy; "why do you look so funny this morning?"
"They have cut off my wool," answered the sheep.
"What will they do with it, Black Sheep?" enquired the little boy.
"They will make coats of it, to keep themselves warm."
"I wish I had some wool," said the boy," for I need a new coat very badly, and mamma is so poor she cannot buy me one."
"That is too bad," replied the Black Sheep; "but I shall have more wool by and by, and then I will give you a bagful to make a new coat from."
"Will you really?" asked the boy, looking very much pleased.
"Indeed I will," answered the sheep, "for you are always kind and have a pleasant word for me.