Annie’s Pet Lamb; or, Kindness Brings Its Own Reward
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Introductory Note: Included in the March issue of The Children’s Friend, “Annie’s Pet Lamb” is a typical story of moralistic children’s literature, a popular genre of Victorian literature. In this story, Annie decides to take care of a little lamb and is rewarded for her unfailing kindness and good behavior.
Annie Percy went to spend the day with a kind gentleman and lady, called Mr. and Mrs. Fortescue, and in order to give her pleasure, they took her to see some young lambs fed, who had lost their mothers.
“See, my dear,” said Mrs. Fortescue, “these poor little creatures are quite helpless, and unless we feed them, they must die, for their mothers are either dead, or will not take care of them ; so we have been obliged to bring them to the house. Look at George, how cleverly he manages ; he dips his hand in the warm milk, and they suck it off, till they at last have a good meal.”
Annie looked at them earnestly, then asked why one of them was so thin? “Is it much younger, or is it not given so much food as the rest?”
“Well,” said Mr. Fortescue, “I hardly think it does get its share ; for the fact is, the rest can partly feed themselves, while this poor one requires much help and patience to manage a meal at all. I believe it will die, for it strikes me as looking worse every time I see it.”
George (who was feeding the lamb in question) now stood up and said, “Begging your pardon, Sir, I don’t think it gets worse, but the others grow faster, and makes it seem so ; if I could only give it a bit more attention, I dare say it would get on nicely, but I have not time.”
Annie for a moment was silent, sad, and thoughtful, then suddenly brightening up, exclaimed with energy, “I have thought of something ; oh, Sir, don’t you think you could trust it to me? do say yes ; I am sure I shall love to take care of it, and shall not care any thing at all about the trouble.”
She waited breathlessly for the answer. Mr. Fortescue pondered, then said slowly, “Yes, Annie my child, I believe you mean what you say, and if your mamma has no objection, the lamb shall be yours ; but on one condition, you must promise not to starve it.”
“Starve it!” said Annie, in astonishment at such a remark, after all she had expressed.
“I mean what I say,” repeated he, “and again I say so ; for I know many children who are given pets, rabbits, birds, &c., on which at first they lavish so much attention, and feed them so often, that the fear may be, lest they should kill them by over love, and yet, strange to say, the novelty once over, these very pets are left to die of hunger, and would more frequently meet with this cruel fate, if others with more thought and kindness, did not come to their aid ; so I think have reason to say, if I give you this lamb, don’t starve it. If you will take especial care of it for a few weeks, and keep it warm, I should not be surprised if it will soon be able to take care of itself.”
Annie feelingly promised all that was required, and soon afterwards, her nurse coming for her, she warmly thanked her dear friends for their gift, and returned home as rapidly as she could, with her lamb. Annie’s mamma came to meet them, and was asked to guess what the basket contained ; but before she had spent much time in thinking, the lamb, becoming impatient of confinement, told its own name by uttering a loud Ba, to the great amusement of its hearers. Mamma’s permission to retain it was soon obtained. The pet from this time was honoured by the name of “Belle” and to make the title still more suitable, Annie tied around its neck, fastened to blue ribbon, a pretty brass bell she had been previously given. A comfortable and warm out-house was devoted to Belle’s service, and each morning, about six o’clock, Annie superintended the morning meal, and then took her favourite, if the weather permitted, to a sunny field, where, if not otherwise required, she would spend much time fondling and playing with it. So tame did Belle become, that it would follow her about like a dog, and it became actually a matter of difficulty to keep it out of the house, if its young mistress were within. Annie could not help becoming very much attached to one who showed such love and devotion to her. Belle so rapidly improved under Annie’s care, that Mr. Fortescue, when next he called upon her papa, and was taken to see the lamb, did not even recognise it. Belle was an instance of what care and attention will do, and certainly was a credit to its mistress in every way. The following year the sheep, for it was no longer a lamb, but a noble looking sheep, had two little lambs of its own, much to Annie’s delight ; these received as much care as their mother, and were as tame. About this time it was considered well to send Annie to school. It was a severe grief to part from her dear papa and mamma, for she loved them devotedly, but she saw the necessity, and tried to make the best of it : it was also not a little trial to leave her three pets, but that most certainly must be done, as they could not accompany her ; so, with many a caution to the servants not to neglect them, and many a request to her dear mamma to let her know how they got on, she left home for the first time.
Belle and its young ones had met with no drawback, but, on the contrary, each had had two fat lambs ; these grew up, and their wool being sold, money was given in exchange, and after a few years of careful management, even after a sufficient sum was paid for their food, and wages given to the man who attended to the little flock, sufficient remained to become of the greatest service to Annie ; for the money in hand, the fruits of her former kindness, now permitted her to study as she so anxiously desired, enabling her to purchase all necessary books, paints, and drawing materials, &c. Then some of the sheep were sold, by her papa’s advice, and now she purchased herself a piano, suitable for keeping up the music she had learnt at school ; but I must not allow you to think Annie spent the proceeds of her sheep only on herself ; far from it: many poor persons had to thank her for the little comforts they enjoyed, and often have I heard them say, “Miss Annie gave me this or that ; may God bless her!” And God did bless her ; He has promised to bless all who love Him, and pray for His guidance to act rightly in all things, and this Annie did. She was so kind, gentle, and thoughtful for everybody, that no wonder she was a favourite. The last few times I saw her, I was glad to notice she was just the selfsame unselfish girl as before, trying to give pleasure to all around her.
There may not be a lamb to cherish in any of your cases, dear young friends, but all have, in a life-time, some opportunity of showing love and kindness—some more than others. Never allow yourselves to feel you have lost such opportunities ; they may bring their reward, as in Annie’s case ; but whether they do or not, they will always bring the one reward, of leaving you with a good conscience and a happy and contented mind ; for the more we make others happy, the more in reality do we make ourselves happy.
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6 June 2020
27 June 2020
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