Saved by Sheep
The night had become very cold. There was a fringe of bronze-coloured clouds around the moon; stars glittered icily and frost crackled around us. Where to go for shelter? We could see no buildings, likely or not. Fields and more fields stretched into the distance with no shadow of a barn nor a single lighted window of a farmhouse. We were far too tired to make for the next village, so there seemed nothing for it but to curl up closely together under a hedgerow and shiver the time away until morning.
Dido was intoning, 'Poor Tom's a cold, poor Tom's a cold', which was her current favourite line from King Lear when, to our shock, another and more sepulchral voice from the other side of the hedge said
'Doubt you'll last the night out in that chilly spot.'
A familiar greasy smell wafted over us. Sheep? But surely sheep don't talk, they just loom and move their mouths about, constantly in a circular motion. Remembering again Mimi's injunction to be brave, but at the same time checking that the hedge was thick and strong, we resisted the urge to run and instead asked tremulously 'Are you a sheep? And were you talking to us?'
'Who else be there?' came the answer. 'Course I be atalking to you, or rather we, the flock be addressing you. Ain't you never bin addressed by sheep before?'
'No,' we said. 'We have been looked at by sheep, very closely in fact, but without a word being exchanged. We thought sheep just munched and loomed and we were rather frightened because of being so much smaller.'
'Oh I see, you bin looked at. Well we sheep is cautious about whom we addresses. We takes our time. We likes to know who it is in our field, and being short-sighted we have to get in close, and being timid we have to keep very tight together when we does look. And our mouths are always going around and around cos that is how we digests our food. But it don't mean we can't talk when we wants to, like just now when we was atelling you as how you'll freeze to death under that there hedgerow. Stiff and stark you'll be by morning.'
At this last part of the speech Dido began mewing piteously. She is a brave little cat but after the shootings and being sick and supperless she had had more than enough trials for one day, and was quite overcome by the thought of being 'stiff and stark', as well as cold.
Her distress had an immediate effect on the unseen communicators behind the hedge. 'Don't you take on so, little traveller. We don't mean you no harm and no more will we let you freeze to death. You come on in here along of us, and we'll keep you warm like you was tucked up in your own bed.'
And that was how we spent the night, guests of a wall of sheep that had loomed over us, closer and closer, the ends of the wall bending around until we were in the centre, almost asphyxiated by the smell, but deliciously warm and comfortable between the soft fleeces.
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