There once lived a poor widow who supported herself
and her only son
by gleaning in the fields the stalks of grain that had been missed
the reapers. Her little cottage was at the foot of a beautiful
upon the edge of the river that wound in and out among the green
hills; and although poor, she was contented with her lot, for
was pleasant and her lovely boy was a constant delight to her.
He had big blue eyes, and fair golden curls, and he loved his
mother very dearly, and was never more pleased than when she allowed
him to help her with her work.
And so the years passed happily away till the boy was eight years
but then the widow fell sick, and their little store of money
"I do n't know what we shall do for bread," she said,
kissing her boy
with tears in her eyes, "for I am not yet strong enough to
we have no money left."
"But I can work," answered the boy; "and I 'm
sure if I go to the
Squire up at the Hall he will give me something to do."
At first the widow was reluctant to consent to this, since she
to keep her child at her side, but finally, as nothing else could
done, she decided to let him go to see the Squire.
Being too proud to allow her son to go to the great house in
ragged clothes, she made him a new suit out of a pretty blue dress
had herself worn in happier times, and when it was finished and
boy dressed in it, he looked as pretty as a prince in a fairy
For the bright blue jacket set off his curls to good advantage,
the color just matched the blue of his eyes. His trousers were
also, and she took the silver buckles from her own shoes and put
on his, that he might appear the finer. And then she brushed his
and placed his big straw hat upon them and sent him away with
to see the Squire.
It so happened that the great man was walking in his garden with
daughter Madge that morning, and was feeling in an especially
mood, so that when he suddenly looked up and saw a little boy
him, he said, kindly,
"Well, my child, what can I do for you?"
"If you please, sir," said the boy, bravely, although
frightened at meeting the Squire face to face, "I want you
to give me
some work to do, so that I can earn money."
"Earn money!" repeated the Squire, "why do you
wish to earn money?"
"To buy food for my mother, sir. We are very poor, and since
no longer able to work for me I wish to work for her."
"But what can you do?" asked the Squire; "you
are too small to work in
"I could earn something, sir, could n't I?"
His tone was so pleading that mistress Madge was unable to resist
and even the Squire was touched. The young lady came forward and
the boy's hand in her own, and pressing back his curls, she kissed
"You shall be our shepherd," she said, pleasantly,
"and keep the sheep
out of the meadows and the cows from getting in to the corn. You
father," she continued, turning to the Squire, "it was
you said you must get a boy to tend the sheep, and this little
do it nicely."
"Very well," replied the Squire, "it shall be
as you say, and if he is
attentive and watchful he will be able to save me a good bit of
trouble and so really earn his money."
Then he turned to the child and said,
"Come to me in the morning, my little man, and I will give
silver horn to blow, that you may call the sheep and the cows
they go astray. What is your name?"
"Oh, never mind his name, papa!" broke in the Squire's
shall call him Little Boy Blue, since he is dressed in blue from
to foot, and his dress but matches his eyes. And you must give
good wage, also, for surely no Squire before ever had a prettier
shepherd boy than this."
"Very good," said the Squire, cheerfully, as he pinched
rosy cheek; "be watchful, Little Boy Blue, and you shall
Then Little Boy Blue thanked them both very sweetly and ran back
the hill and into the valley where his home lay nestled by the
riverside, to tell the good news to his mother.
The poor widow wept tears of joy when she heard his story, and
when he told her that his name was to be Little Boy Blue. She
Squire was a kind master and would be good to her darling son.
Early the next morning Little Boy Blue was at the Hall, and the
Squire's steward gave him a new silver horn, that glistened brightly
in the sunshine, and a golden cord to fasten it around his neck.
then he was given charge of the sheep and the cows, and told to
them from straying into the meadowlands and the fields of grain.
It was not hard work, but just suited to Little Boy Blue's age,
was watchful and vigilant and made a very good shepherd boy indeed.
His mother needed food no longer, for the Squire paid her son
liberally, and the Squire's daughter made a favorite of the small
shepherd and loved to hear the call of his silver horn echoing
the hills. Even the sheep and the cows were fond of him, and always
obeyed the sound of his horn; therefore the Squire's corn thrived
finely, and was never trampled.
Little Boy Blue was now very happy, and his mother was proud
contented and began to improve in health. After a few weeks she
strong enough to leave the cottage and walk a little in the fields
each day; but she could not go far, because her limbs were too
to support her long, so the most she could attempt was to walk
as the stile to meet Little Boy Blue as he came home from work
evening. Then she would lean on his shoulder and return to the
with him, and the boy was very glad he could thus support his
mother and assist her faltering steps.
But one day a great misfortune came upon them, since it is true
no life can be so happy but that sorrow will creep in to temper
Little Boy Blue came homeward one evening very light of heart
whistled merrily as he walked, for he thought he should find his
mother awaiting him at the stile and a good supper spread upon
table in the little cottage. But when he came to the stile his
was not in sight, and in answer to his call a low moan of pain
Little Boy Blue sprang over the stile and found lying upon the
his dear mother, her face white and drawn with suffering, and
anguish running down her cheeks. For she had slipped upon the
and fallen, and her leg was broken!
Little Boy Blue ran to the cottage for water and bathed the poor
woman's face, and raised her head that she might drink. There
neighbors, for the cottage stood all alone by the river, so the
was obliged to support his mother in his arms as best he could
she crawled painfully back to the cottage. Fortunately, it was
far, and at last she was safely laid upon her bed. Then Little
Blue began to think what he should do next.
"Can I leave you alone while I go for the doctor, mamma?"
anxiously, as he held her clasped hands tightly in his two little
ones. His mother drew him towards her and kissed him.
"Take the boat, dear," she said, "and fetch the
doctor from the
village. I shall be patient till you return."
Little Boy Blue rushed away to the river bank and unfastened
little boat; and then he pulled sturdily down the river until
passed the bend and came to the pretty village below. When he
found the doctor and told of his mother's misfortune, the good
promised to attend him at once, and very soon they were seated
boat and on their way to the cottage.
It was very dark by this time, but Little Boy Blue knew every
bend in the river, and the doctor helped him pull at the oars,
at last they came to the place where a faint light twinkled through
the cottage window. They found the poor woman in much pain, but
doctor quickly set and bandaged her leg, and gave her some medicine
ease her suffering. It was nearly midnight when all was finished
the doctor was ready to start back to the village.
"Take good care of your mother," he said to the boy,
"and do n't worry
about her, for it is not a bad break and the leg will mend nicely
time; but she will be in bed many days, and you must nurse her
as you are able."
All through the night the boy sat by the bedside, bathing his
fevered brow and ministering to her wants. And when the day broke
was resting easily and the pain had left her, and she told Little
Blue he must go to his work.
"For," said she, "more than ever now we need the
money you earn from
the Squire, as my misfortune will add to the expenses of living,
we have the doctor to pay. Do not fear to leave me, for I shall
quietly and sleep most of the time while you are away."
Little Boy Blue did not like to leave his mother all alone, but
knew of no one he could ask to stay with her; so he placed food
water by her bedside, and ate a little breakfast himself, and
off to tend his sheep.
The sun was shining brightly, and the birds sang sweetly in the
and the crickets chirped just as merrily as if this great trouble
not come to Little Boy Blue to make him sad.
But he went bravely to his work, and for several hours he watched
carefully; and the men at work in the fields, and the Squire's
daughter, who sat embroidering upon the porch of the great house,
heard often the sound of his horn as he called the straying sheep
But he had not slept the whole night, and he was tired with his
watch at his mother's bedside, and so in spite of himself the
would droop occasionally over his blue eyes, for he was only a
and children feel the loss of sleep more than older people.
Still, Little Boy Blue had no intention of sleeping while he
duty, and bravely fought against the drowsiness that was creeping
him. The sun shone very hot that day, and he walked to the shady
of a big haystack and sat down upon the ground, leaning his back
against the stack.
The cows and sheep were quietly browsing near him, and he watched
earnestly for a time, listening to the singing of the birds, and
gentle tinkling of the bells upon the wethers, and the faraway
of the reapers that the breeze brought to his ears.
And before he knew it the blue eyes had closed fast, and the
head lay back upon the hay, and Little Boy Blue was fast asleep
dreaming that his mother was well again and had come to the stile
The sheep strayed near the edge of the meadow and paused, waiting
the warning sound of the horn. And the breeze carried the fragrance
the growing corn to the nostrils of the browsing cows and tempted
nearer and nearer to the forbidden feast. But the silver horn
silent, and before long the cows were feeding upon the Squire's
cornfield and the sheep were enjoying themselves amidst the juicy
grasses of the meadows.
The Squire himself was returning from a long, weary ride over
farms, and when he came to the cornfield and saw the cows trampling
down the grain and feeding upon the golden stalks he was very
"Little Boy Blue!" he cried; "ho! Little Boy Blue,
come blow your
horn!" But there was no reply. He rode on a way and now discovered
that the sheep were deep within the meadows, and that made him
"Here, Isaac," he said to a farmer's lad who chanced
to pass by,
"where is Little Boy Blue?"
"He 's under the haystack, your honor, fast asleep!"
with a grin, for he had passed that way and seen that the boy
"Will you go and wake him?" asked the Squire; "for
he must drive out
the sheep and the cows before they do more damage."
"Not I," replied Isaac, "if I wake him he 'll
surely cry, for he is
but a baby, and not fit to mind the sheep. But I myself will drive
them out for your honor," and away he ran to do so, thinking
the Squire would give him Little Boy Blue's place, and make him
shepherd boy, for Isaac had long coveted the position.
The Squire's daughter, hearing the angry tones of her father's
now came out to see what was amiss, and when she heard that Little
Blue had failed in his trust she was deeply grieved, for she had
the child for his pretty ways.
The Squire dismounted from his horse and came to where the boy
"Awake!" said he, shaking him by the shoulder, "and
depart from my
lands, for you have betrayed my trust, and let the sheep and the
stray into the fields and meadows!"
Little Boy Blue started up at once and rubbed his eyes; and then
did as Isaac prophesied, and began to weep bitterly, for his heart
sore that he had failed in his duty to the good Squire and so
forfeited his confidence.
But the Squire's daughter was moved by the child's tears, so
him upon her lap and comforted him, asking,
"Why did you sleep, Little Boy Blue, when you should have
cows and the sheep?"
"My mother has broken her leg," answered the boy, between
"and I did not sleep all last night, but sat by her bedside
her. And I tried hard not to fall asleep, but could not help myself;
and oh, Squire! I hope you will forgive me this once, for my poor
"Where does your mother live?" asked the Squire, in
a kindly tone,
for he had already forgiven Little Boy Blue.
"In the cottage down by the river," answered the child;
"and she is
all alone, for there is no one near to help us in our trouble."
"Come," said Mistress Madge, rising to her feet and
taking his hand;
"lead us to your home, and we will see if we cannot assist
So the Squire and his daughter and Little Boy Blue all walked
the little cottage, and the Squire had a long talk with the poor
widow. And that same day a big basket of dainties was sent to
cottage, and Mistress Madge bade her own maid go to the widow
nurse her carefully until she recovered.
So that after all Little Boy Blue did more for his dear mother
falling asleep than he could had he kept wide awake; for after
mother was well again the Squire gave them a pretty cottage to
very near to the great house itself, and the Squire's daughter
ever afterward their good friend, and saw that they wanted for
comforts of life.
And Little Boy Blue did not fall asleep again at his post, but
the cows and the sheep faithfully for many years, until he grew
manhood and had a farm of his own.
He always said his mother's accident had brought him good luck,
think it was rather his own loving heart and his devotion to his
mother that made him friends. For no one is afraid to trust a
loves to serve and care for his mother.