They called him the Bold Bad Lamb. His real name was Arthur, but no one called him that except his mother.
‘Arthur, stop butting!’ ‘Arthur, don’t bully!’ ‘Arthur, stay with the others!’ She would bleat a hundred times a day. The Bold Bad Lamb never paid the slightest attention. Right from the beginning, from the moment his wobbly black legs had supported his woolly white body, he had butted, bullied, wandered and generally made a nuisance of himself whenever he could.
‘A bold bad nature, that’s what he’s got,’ the other sheep said.
In an attempt to improve it, they decided to send him to Coventry. ‘You will play on your own, eat on your own and sleep on your own from now on,’ pronounce the Head Ram.
‘ See if I care. I’d rather be on my own, anyway,’ replied Arthur with a bold bad flick of his curly tail.
But when darkness fell, and the flock has settled down for the night, he wasn’t so sure. Without the other lambs around him, it was very cold. Dimly he could make out their forms, huddled together on the opposite side of the fold, sleeping peacefully.
Arthur felt much too cold to sleep. And there were strange noises in the darkness; hoots, crackles and in the distance a faint haunting chorus of voices that made his wool stand on end. ‘Wolves,’ he thought, and trembled from nose to tail, for like all the other sheep Arthur lived in fear of wolves.
‘Perhaps they’re coming this way.’ More terrified than ever he tried to block out the sound, sticking his front hooves in his ears. It was no good. The voices grew clearer and stronger by the minute, surging forward, ringing out on every side.
‘Oh, this is dreadful!’ shuddered Arthur. ‘They are about to attack.’
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the fold, the Head Ram was having a strange and wonderful dream. Awakening at dawn, he immediately summoned the flock.’ Something wonderful as happened,’ he cried. ‘Something wonderful, beyond our imagining.’
At this the sheep broke into an excited bleating. ‘Something wonderful! What is it? Tell us more.’
‘Oh dear!’ Their leader scratched his head, his voice suddenly flecked.’ Oh dear! That’s a pity! I can’t remember.’
What a let down! Still, within minutes, the sheep had something else to think about. Arthur’s mother had glanced across the fold to the spot where Arthur has settled the previous night. Instead of his bold bad early-morning face, all she saw was an empty patch of flat grass.’ He’s gone. Arthur is missing,’ she cried.
The sun was high in the sky before he returned that morning, by which time they had given him up for dead.
‘Arthur! Thank goodness!’ He was almost smothered in a four-legged embrace.
‘You gave us a terrible scare. We thought you’d been eaten,’ said the Head Ram.
Arthur this entangled himself. He looked embarrassed, apologetic, and extremely pleased with himself all at the same time. ‘I had an adventure.’ Rather hesitantly he began to talk about it; about the voices, about his panic, about running for miles as fast as his legs would carry him, about collapsing exhausted at the top of a hill, about realising suddenly that the sky was full of angels.
‘Angels!’ Exclaimed the sheep.
‘Yes, angels,’ said Arthur, and then he stopped. ‘There’s no point in going on. You’ll think I’m making it up.’
‘Know we won’t,’ said the Head Ram.
So Arthur continued. ‘The sky was full of angels singing in human tongue bringing news of a Shepherd; a great Shepherd come to our land.’
‘Yes,’ Breathed the Head Ram. ‘Yes, that’s it. The Great Shepherd promised to our ancestors. Last night I dreamt of his coming.’
The sheep looked at one another in joyful amazement. With the exception of Arthur (who had never bothered to listen) they had all heard the prophecy that someday a great Shepherd would walk their hills. He would protect them and lead them to rich pastures far all danger.
‘Hurrah! Three cheers for the Great Shepherd. Soon we shall be free from fear of wolves,’ they cheered.
‘Soon we shall be celebrating with him in the green land of safety,’ said the Head Ram. ‘We really have something to look forward to now.’
And after had brought the good news. Not only that, but overnight his behaviour had improved. From then on the butting, bullying and wandering came to an end.
He liked nothing better than to sit with the rest of the flock talking about the Great Shepherd, recalling the events of that starlit December night. ‘Those voices, what did they sound like?’ The sheep would asking over and over again. His mother still called him Arthur, of course, but to everyone else he became known as the Lamb who Had Heard the Angels.