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O sings the Nursery ballad. A very sweet and charming creature was Little Bo-peep. Such a fresh, healthy girl, with long silken curls, and laughing blue eyes! Her cheeks were round and full, with a bloom on them such as is seen nowhere else than on the lovely peach. On her plump arms and on her long taper fingers there was the rose-blush of beauty! Her teeth were whiter than the plumage of the swan, and when she spoke her voice was so low, yet so full
of music, that it was like nothing in the world so much as the tinkling of the sweetest silver bell. She was altogether a most lovely little maiden, and a more beautiful little shepherdess never yet tended sheep.
But though Little Bo-peep was as good as she was fair to look upon, she was sometimes made very sad by the ill fortune that even such gentle creatures as herself may sometimes meet with. Once, when, as the ballad tells us, she lost her sheep, she was very doleful indeed. And this is how it was. One summer evening, when the sun was setting, and the sky was all green and gold, Little Bo-peep, who had to get out of bed very early in the morning, feeling tired, sat herself down on a bank covered with roses. Being very weary, she soon fell fast asleep. Now, the bell-wether of Bo-peep's flock was a most stupid and stubborn fellow.
You have heard, I have no doubt, that all the sheep in a flock will follow the bell-wether; perhaps you also know that he always wears a bell tied round his neck. It was a great pity, but the bell-wether, or leader of Bo-peep's flock, was very wild, and much given to wander through brake and briar, and far off into the wood, where of course the rest of the sheep would follow him.
Finding Little Bo-peep asleep, the naughty fellow began to dance madly. He commenced by standing on his hind legs and making a great bow to his shadow before him on the grass. After which he whirled himself round and round 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 likewise. And when they had for a time wheeled and circled round their leader, they ran off after him with a bound into the wood. Away, away they went through hedge and ditch, and over green meadow, till quite tired out; then they came to a standstill, staring at their leader with very solemn faces. But the bell-wether looked very stupid 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! ”