As Benj and Peter prepare to return to the valley for the winter, they find that Biddy, the lead sheep, refuses to go down the road. Benj, a wise old shepherd, decides young Peter must fool Biddy so that she’ll lead the flock home.
Peter knew that sheep disliked going over a hilltop, fearing the unknown other side, but the plan to fool Biddy would come to nothing if they didn’t go over the hilltop and swing down from it to the gate.
“Come along,” Peter said, stamping his foot impatiently, a thing Benj had told him he must never do. The sheep stepped backward toward the fence, their hooves slipping on the sharp rocks. A ram lamb baaed arrogantly.
“You’re just silly sheep,” Peter retorted and, acting as if he didn’t care what they did, started up the hillside.
There were boulders at the top and he picked his way carefully among them. Suddenly he stopped still, gripping a rock and flattening himself against it. Not ten paces from him was a gray wolf and around her four well-grown cubs were playing—prettily, if anything that spelt such horror could be pretty. His hands felt like ice on the rock. Water coming from a spout would have had more strength to it than his legs had then.
A tuft of flowers, growing in a cleft in the rock beside him, was bending in the wind—bending away from the wolf family so heedless of their visitor. Peter was glad the wind was blowing against him. He inched himself back along the rock, through the tangled boulders, then turned and raced down the rough slope. There was no need now to call the sheep to follow him, for they had already taken themselves down to the fence and were standing there waiting. One lamb had even squeezed himself through and the ewe was standing with the wire between them, baaing plaintively.
“Silly sheep, indeed,” Peter said to them, “you’ve got more sense than a boy who goes to school.”
His fingers were trembling, but he undid the wire quickly and made an opening. The sheep crawled through first, following the one who was impatient to reach her lamb. Peter wriggled himself through. There was a rending sound, but he was in too much of a hurry to reach the other side to notice it. He raced across the grass, onto the road. Benj saw him and the six sheep coming from the opposite direction than he expected them.
[Excerpt adapted from Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates (Chapter 6, pp. 63–65).]
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