So you watch until my wool grows again, and then you shall have your share of it."

"Oh, thank you!" said the boy, and he ran away to tell his mother what the Black Sheep had said.

When the farmer came into the field again the Black Sheep said to him, "Master, how many bags of wool did you cut from my back?"

"Two bags full," replied the farmer; "and it was very nice wool indeed."

"If I grow three bags full the next time, may I have one bag for myself?" asked the sheep.

"Why, what could you do with a bag of wool?" questioned the farmer.

"I want to give it to the little boy that lives in the lane. He is very poor and needs a new coat."

"Very well," answered the master; "if you can grow three bags full I will give one to the little boy."

So the Black Sheep began to grow wool, and tried in every way to grow the finest and heaviest fleece in all the flock. She always lay in the sunniest part of the pastures, and drank from the clearest part of the brook, and ate only the young and juicy shoots of grass and the tenderest of the sheep-sorrel. And each day the little boy came to the bars and looked at the sheep and enquired how the wool was growing.

"I am getting along finely," the Black Sheep would answer, "for not one sheep in the pasture has so much wool as I have grown already."

"Can I do anything to help you?" asked the little boy.

"Not that I think of," replied the sheep, "unless you could get me a little salt. I believe salt helps the wool to grow."

So the boy ran to the house and begged his mother for a handful of salt, and then he came back to the bars, where the Black Sheep licked it out of his hand.

Day by day the wool on the sheep grew longer and longer, and even the old ram noticed it and said, "You are foolish to grow so much wool, for the farmer will cut it all off, and it will do you no good. Now I am growing just as little as possible, for since he steals what I have I am determined he shall get very little wool from my back."

The Black Sheep did not reply to this, for she thought the old ram very ill-tempered and selfish, and believed he was doing wrong not to grow more wool. Finally the time came to shear the sheep again, and the farmer and his man came into the pasture to look at them, and were surprised to see what a fine, big fleece the Black Sheep had grown.

"There will be three bagsful at the least," said the master, "and I will keep my promise and give one to the little boy in the lane. But, my goodness! how scraggly and poor the old ram looks. There is scarcely any wool on him at all. I think I must sell him to the butcher!"

And, in truth, although the ram kicked and struggled and bleated with rage, they tied his legs and put him into the cart and carried him away to the butcher. And that was the last the sheep ever saw of him.

But the Black Sheep ran up to the bars by the lane and waited with a glad heart till the little boy came. When he saw the sheep waiting for him he asked,

"Black Sheep, Black Sheep, have you any wool?"

And the sheep replied,

"Yes my little master, three bags full!"

"That is fine!" said the boy; "but who are the three bags for?"

"One for my master, one for his dame, And one for the little boy that lives in the lane."

"Thank you, Black Sheep," said the little boy; "you are very kind, and I shall always think of you when I wear my new coat."

The next day the sheep were all sheared, and the Black Sheep's fleece made three big bagsful. The farmer kept his promise and carried one bag to the little boy that lived in the lane, and the wool was so soft and so heavy that there was enough not only for the new coat, but to make his mother a warm dress as well.

The Black Sheep was very proud and happy when the mother and her little boy came down to the bars and showed the new clothes that had been made from the wool.

"This pays me for all my trouble," said the Black Sheep, and the little boy reached his hand through the bars and patted her gently upon the head.

Old King Cole

Old King Cole

Old King Cole was a merry old soul, And a merry old soul was he; He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl And he called for his fiddlers three.

Mother Goose in Prose Page 14

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