A SHEPHERD was feeding his flock on the hills; and as they were going home again in the evening, one of the goats lagged behind. Now, this Goat was very old, and goats are not like men, for the older they grow the wiser they become. So this Goat, being very old indeed, was also very wise. There was a very nice clump of grass by the wayside, and the wise old Goat said to herself, "Here is the nicest grass I have seen for a long time. I'm not hungry, because I have been eating all day; but I daresay I shall soon be hungry again, so I had better eat it while I can get it." And accordingly she set to work, and very soon she had eaten it all up. Then she trotted off homeward.
As the old Goat went merrily trotting along, with her eyes on the ground, suddenly she looked up--and lo and behold! a huge Wolf sitting on a stump, and staring at her hungrily! What was she to do? To escape was impossible. She pulled her wits together, and began--
"Oh, my dear Mr. Wolf!" cried she, "how delighted I am to see you. I have been looking for you all day, and now I've found you at last."
The Wolf was so utterly astonished that he had not a word to say at first. But after a while, he found his tongue, and thus said he--
"My good Goat, you must be out of your senses. Why, I'm accustomed to feed on goats, and here you say you are glad to see me. Who ever heard of a creature so foolish as to throw itself into the jaws of death of its own free will?"
"Ah," replied the Goat, "you don't know my Shepherd, that's quite clear. He is the kindest man in the world, and he has a special weakness for you. He was talking of you only this morning, and saying that he owes you a good turn for not gobbling up any of his sheep, though it is ever so long since he began to feed them in your forest. So he has sent me to you as a token of his esteem. I'm an old Goat, you see, and not much use to him now. 'No ifs and buts,' says he to me--'off with you, and let kind Mr. Wolf eat you for his dinner.' And so here I am. And indeed, you must not suppose I am here against my will; not at all. I could not think of disobeying our good Shepherd. And, if I did, he could sell me to the butcher, to have my throat cut, and be eaten by horrid beasts of men, who have only two legs to bless themselves with. I assure you, I much prefer being eaten by a noble four-legged gentleman like yourself."
Our Wolf was still so surprised that he could find nothing to say; and the Goat went on--
"Do not think, dear sir, that I am flattering you. Look at me and judge if a respectable old Goat of my age, and at the point of death--for I see you licking your chops--whether, I say, such a one would dare to tell lies. But, Mr. Wolf, there is one reason why I shall be sorry to die. You may not have heard of it, but it is true nevertheless that I am a famous songster, and it will be indeed a pity that a gift so rare should be lost. Will you do me one last favour, and let me sing you a song before I die? I am sure it will delight you, and you will enjoy eating me all the more afterwards."
The Wolf was very much pleased at the Goat's politeness. "Well," said he, "since you are so kind as to offer, I should like to hear what you can do in the way of music."
"All right," said our Goat, "just sit down on that hillock yonder, and I'll stay here; it won't sound so nice if I am too near you."
The Wolf trotted off to the hillock, and sat down, and waited for the Goat to begin her song.
The Goat opened her mouth, and uttered a loud "Baa-baa-baa!"
"Is that all?" asked the Wolf. He was rather disappointed, but he did not say so, for fear of being thought an ignorant lout.
"Oh no," said the Goat, "that was only tuning up, to get the pitch." Then she cried again, "Baa-baa-baa," louder than before.
Meanwhile the Shepherd was not far off, and he
heard this loud Baa-baa of one of his goats. "Hullo,"
thought he, "what's up, I wonder?" and set off
running in the direction of the sound. Just as the
Wolf was getting impatient, and the Goat was opening
her mouth for another Baa-baa, up came the Shepherd,
behind the Wolf. Thwack, thwack, thwack! came his
stick on the stupid Wolf, and with a groan the Wolf
turned over and died on the spot. The Shepherd
and his wise old Goat trudged happily home
to the sheepfold, and after that the Goat
took good care to keep
with the flock.