Well now, boys and girls, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Once upon a time, there was a little English shepherdess who lost all her sheep.
Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
And doesn’t know where to find them.
Leave them alone and they’ll come home,
Bringing their tails behind them.
Little Bo Peep fell fast asleep
And dreamt she heard them bleating,
But when she awoke, she found it a joke,
For they were all still fleeting.
Then up she took her little crook
Determined for to find them.
She found them indeed, but it made her heart bleed,
For they left their tails behind them.
It happened one day, as Bo Peep did stray
Into a meadow hard by,
There she espied their tails side by side
All hung on a tree to dry.
She heaved a sigh, and wiped her eye,
And over the hillocks went rambling,
And tried what she could,
As a shepherdess should,
To tack again each to its lambkin.
If you imagine the tale ends there, oh, my dears, think again!
The Lady of the Manor, Evangelina, is trying to help Little Bo Peep and goes searching far and wide across her husband’s estate, humming a tuneless little ditty to herself. Evangelina is tone-deaf, a failing her husband tries to ignore when she attempts to entertain guests at one of their sumptuous parties.
“Oh, how charming,” exclaims Evangelina on discovering one of the rams beside her favourite tree. “Come here, my little thing. I wish to stroke you,” she says, pointing a finger at him in an imperious manner.
The ram, Josiah, is feeling miserable for he has had a frustrating morning trying to persuade his sweetheart, Minty, to give him the attention he thinks he deserves. ‘I’m not your little thing,’ he thinks, glaring at Evangelina. ‘I belong to Bo Peep, if anyone, and I very much want to belong to Minty. So there.’
His mood is not helped by this stranger standing in his shadow and he snaps. Launching himself at her, he follows his head butt with a bite of her thumb.
The word that explodes from Evangelina’s lips has hitherto only been uttered by the workers in the meadows on whom she has so often spied, intrigued and excited by the shape of their bodies and the curve of their muscles, of which her husband has none.
It is not until after Little Bo Peep has found the tails and replaced them on her lambkins, that the Lady of the Manor is found by one Snotty Smethwick, a cow-hand on the estate. He carries her almost lifeless body to the main house where the housekeeper takes it upon herself to tend to her mistress. Little Bo Peep is called upon to mix up one of her refreshing potions to revive Evangelina.
It is too late. That evening, the Lady of the Manor succumbs to the Hereafter.
There is much weeping and wailing on the estate. A lavish funeral takes place, after which life goes on much as it always has. Except for one thing.
The Lord of the Manor falls in love with Little Bo Peep and marries her. Their happiness is short-lived. Snotty Smethwick, who was secretly in love with the Lady of the Manor, is highly suspicious and decides that the ram is not to blame, rather that Little Bo Peep’s potion had been laced with poison.
One thing leads to another until the new Lady of the Manor is charged with murder and imprisoned at Newgate.
Little Bo Peep dies of heartbreak and starvation.
Some say it was the housekeeper who did the dirty deed. Only Josiah knew the truth for he died not long after of a nasty disease and was mourned by Minty alone, and extravagantly at that.
© Sarah Vernon
Ingredients for Pastoral Lady
Take care and keep laughing!