T HERE was once a Shepherd who had a flock of an hundred sheep to care for. There were the old sheep, and the tiny baby lambs with such weak legs that the Shepherd was obliged to carry them over the rough places in the road. There were black sheep and white sheep—a very large flock to tend; but the Shepherd was always patient, and kind, and good.
Each morning he opened the sheep-fold and led the flock over the mountain roads and beyond the hills to a wonderful green pasture where the sun shone brighter, and the grass grew thicker, and the brook ran clearer than anywhere else. All day the sheep grazed, and drank in the brook, and lay under the shade of the olive trees; and the little lambs frolicked and played in the sunshine with no fear, for the Shepherd was quite close by, always, to keep away the wild beasts who hid in the mountain passes. When night came he led them home and watched through the dark while the sheep slept.
But one day that I am going to tell you about, the sun forgot to shine. Thick, black clouds covered the sky, and when the Shepherd gathered his flock to start for home in the evening the thunder began to rumble, a cold wind blew, and the blinding rain fell, until it was hard to see the road at all. But the Shepherd wrapped his cloak closely about him and pushed from the road with his crook the branches which the wind had torn off; and he called softly to the sheep, each one by its name, for he knew them all.
They were nearly home when the Shepherd heard a low "baa, baa" close at his side, and he stooped down to listen. A mother sheep was looking up into his eyes, and trying to say something which he could not understand. And the mother sheep kept tugging at the Shepherd's crook and running back a little way and bleating again, to tell him that something was wrong.
"Are not my sheep all here?" asked the Shepherd, and
then he went up and down the path, touching each one
gently, and speaking its name, and counting: "One,
So the Shepherd turned back, leaving the ninety and nine sheep in the wilderness, and he hastened through the dark and the storm to find the lamb that was lost; for he was a good Shepherd, and he knew that he could never lock the door of the sheep-fold with one of the flock outside.
The rain beat into his face, and the stones and the branches caught at his feet, but on and on he went, up the mountain side, looking under every bush and in every hollow for the little lamb. There were no stars to light his way, and the wolves came out of their dens to snarl and growl as he went past. But he whispered to himself in the dark: "What man, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness and go after that which is lost until he find it?"
At last, when he had gone a long, long way, he found the smallest lamb of the whole flock, caught in some brambles by the side of the road and crying most pitifully, for one of its legs was cut and bleeding. And when the Shepherd had found it he laid it tenderly on his shoulder and covered it close with his warm cloak, and "he went his way, rejoicing."
The sheep were waiting for him, and they hastened together down the road, the Shepherd carrying the little lamb all the way. They were weary, and wet with the rain, before they reached home, but just as the fold was in sight the storm ceased and the stars shone out in the sky.
Then the good Shepherd opened the door of the fold and led in his flock, and he called his friends and neighbors, saying to them: "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!"