What the Shepherd Saw by Thomas Hardy

What the Shepherd Saw by Thomas Hardy

Corrected version Everything happened at Christmas, in the south of England. That night a bright white moon was illuminating the earth. Shepherds lived on these lands. They kept sheep and grazed them all year round. They had to be close to the herd all the time. Therefore people used small houses on wheels, where they could have a rest and warm themselves. At the same time, it was possible not to lose sight of the precious sheep. One of the huts stood between low trees. It was not so cold; the wind did not pester so much. The house had small windows through which its inhabitants could watch eight hundred sheep grazing nearby. Also it was easy to see ancient stones, built in the form of a doorway. No one already remembered who created this small monument. The locals called this place the Devil’s Door.

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What the Shepherd Saw by Thomas Hardy

The Christmas moon was showing her cold face to the low hills called the Marlbury Downs, in the southwestern part of England known as Mid-Wessex. Here sheep were kept out on the hills all year round, and lambs were born as early as December. Shepherds needed to be on the hills day and night at this time of year, and often used small wheeled huts where they could rest and keep warm, while keeping a careful eye on the sheep.

What the Shepherd Saw by Thomas Hardy

On a high piece of land one of these huts stood inside a little circle of trees, which kept it out of the icy wind and also hidden from any passersby. The hut was made of wood, and had a door and two windows. The north one looked out on the eight hundred sheep which were in the shepherd’s care, and the south window gave a view of three ancient stones, built in the shape of a doorway. These great stones, which village people called the Devil’s Door, had been there for over two thousand years. They were worn and weather-beaten, but tonight looked almost new in the silver light of the moon.

Inside the hut a young shepherd boy was waiting for his master, who entered at that moment.

‘Are ye sleepy?’ asked the old man crossly.

‘N – no, master,’ replied the boy, who was a little frightened of the shepherd and his heavy stick.

‘The sheep should be all right until the morning now,’ said the shepherd, ‘but one of us must stay here, so I’ll leave ye, do ye hear? I’ll go home and sleep for a few hours. Run down to my cottage and fetch me if anything happens. Ye can have a bit of a sleep in the chair by the stove but only for a few minutes, mind! Make sure ye stay awake the rest of the time, and don’t let that fire go out!’…

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