S was agreed upon the day before, Jacques made ready for
the performance. To keep the patients from moving, they were
obliged to make them lie down, their feet tied, between the
two inclined planks of a rack. Steel knives shone on the
ground. As for them, innocent victims of the needs of man,
they were already bound and lying on their sides. With
gentle resignation they awaited their sad fate. Were they
going to be slain? Oh, no: they were to be shorn. Jacques
took a sheep by its feet, placed it between the two planks
of the rack, and, with large scissors, began, cra-cra-cra,
to cut off the wool. Little by little, the fleece fell all
in one piece. When the sheep had been despoiled, it ran free
to one side, ashamed and chilly. It had just given its
covering to clothe man. Jacques put another one on the rack,
and the scissors began to move.
"Tell me, Jacques," said Jules, "are not the sheep very cold
when they have had their wool cut off? See how that one
trembles that you have just shorn."
"Never mind that: I have chosen a fine day for it. The sun
is warm. By to-morrow they won't feel the need of their wool.
And besides, ought not the
 sheep to suffer a little cold so
that we may be warm?"
"We warm? How?"
"You astonish me. You do not know that, you who read so many
books? Well, with this wool they will make you stockings
and knitted things for this winter; they will even
make cloth, fine cloth for clothes."
"Peuh!" exclaimed Emile. "This wool is too dirty and ugly to
make stockings, knitted things, and cloth."
"Dirty at present," Jacques agreed, "but it will be washed
in the river, and when it has become very white Mother
Ambroisine will work it on her spinning-wheel and make yarn
of it. This yarn knitted with needles will become stockings
that one is very glad to have on one's feet when obliged to
run in the snow."
"I have never seen red, green, blue sheep; and yet there are
red, green, blue, and other colored wools," said Emile.
"They dye the white wool that the sheep gives us; they put it
into boiling water with drugs and coloring matter, and it
comes out of that water with a color that stays."
"And cloth is made with threads of wool like
 those of
stockings; but in order to weave these threads, make them
cross each other regularly, and convert them into fabric,
you must have complicated machines, weaving looms that
cannot be had in our houses. These are only found in large
factories used for manufacturing woolen goods."
"Then these trousers that I have on come from the sheep;
this vest; my cravat, stockings too. I am dressed in the
spoils of the sheep?" This from Jules.
"Yes, to defend ourselves from the cold, we take the sheep's
wool. The poor beast furnishes its fleece for our clothes,
its milk and flesh for our nourishment, its skin for our
gloves. We live on the life of our domestic animals. The ox
gives us his strength, flesh, hide; the cow, besides, gives
us milk. The donkey, mule, horse, work for us. As soon as
they are dead they leave us their skin, of which we make
leather for our shoes. The hen gives us eggs, the dog puts
his intelligence at our service. And yet there are people
who, without any motive, maltreat these animals without
which we should be so poor; who let them suffer hunger and
beat them unmercifully! Never imitate those heartless ones;
it would be an insult to God, who has given us the donkey,
ox, sheep, and other animals. When I think that these
valuable creatures give us all, even to their very life, I
would share my last crust with them."
And the shears meanwhile continued their cra-cra-cra;
and the fleece fell.