The Story Book of Science  by Jean Henri Fabre

The Fleece

A S was agreed upon the day before, Jacques made ready for the performance. To keep the patients from moving, they were obliged to make them lie down, their feet tied, between the two inclined planks of a rack. Steel knives shone on the ground. As for them, innocent victims of the needs of man, they were already bound and lying on their sides. With gentle resignation they awaited their sad fate. Were they going to be slain? Oh, no: they were to be shorn. Jacques took a sheep by its feet, placed it between the two planks of the rack, and, with large scissors, began, cra-cra-cra,  to cut off the wool. Little by little, the fleece fell all in one piece. When the sheep had been despoiled, it ran free to one side, ashamed and chilly. It had just given its covering to clothe man. Jacques put another one on the rack, and the scissors began to move.

"Tell me, Jacques," said Jules, "are not the sheep very cold when they have had their wool cut off? See how that one trembles that you have just shorn."

"Never mind that: I have chosen a fine day for it. The sun is warm. By to-morrow they won't feel the need of their wool. And besides, ought not the sheep to suffer a little cold so that we may be warm?"

"We warm? How?"

"You astonish me. You do not know that, you who read so many books? Well, with this wool they will make you stockings and knitted things for this winter; they will even make cloth, fine cloth for clothes."



"Peuh!" exclaimed Emile. "This wool is too dirty and ugly to make stockings, knitted things, and cloth."

"Dirty at present," Jacques agreed, "but it will be washed in the river, and when it has become very white Mother Ambroisine will work it on her spinning-wheel and make yarn of it. This yarn knitted with needles will become stockings that one is very glad to have on one's feet when obliged to run in the snow."

"I have never seen red, green, blue sheep; and yet there are red, green, blue, and other colored wools," said Emile.

"They dye the white wool that the sheep gives us; they put it into boiling water with drugs and coloring matter, and it comes out of that water with a color that stays."

"And cloth?"

"And cloth is made with threads of wool like those of stockings; but in order to weave these threads, make them cross each other regularly, and convert them into fabric, you must have complicated machines, weaving looms that cannot be had in our houses. These are only found in large factories used for manufacturing woolen goods."

"Then these trousers that I have on come from the sheep; this vest; my cravat, stockings too. I am dressed in the spoils of the sheep?" This from Jules.

"Yes, to defend ourselves from the cold, we take the sheep's wool. The poor beast furnishes its fleece for our clothes, its milk and flesh for our nourishment, its skin for our gloves. We live on the life of our domestic animals. The ox gives us his strength, flesh, hide; the cow, besides, gives us milk. The donkey, mule, horse, work for us. As soon as they are dead they leave us their skin, of which we make leather for our shoes. The hen gives us eggs, the dog puts his intelligence at our service. And yet there are people who, without any motive, maltreat these animals without which we should be so poor; who let them suffer hunger and beat them unmercifully! Never imitate those heartless ones; it would be an insult to God, who has given us the donkey, ox, sheep, and other animals. When I think that these valuable creatures give us all, even to their very life, I would share my last crust with them."

And the shears meanwhile continued their cra-cra-cra;  and the fleece fell.