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JACK AND THE BEANSTALK

from Types Of Children's Literature - Traditional





Joseph Jacobs


There was once upon a time a poor widow who had an only son
named Jack, and a cow named Milky-white. And all they had to
live on was the milk the cow gave every morning, which they carried
to the market and sold. But one morning Milky-white gave
no milk, and they didn't know what to do.

"What shall we do, what shall we do?" said the widow, wringing
her hands.

"Cheer up, mother, I'll go and get work somewhere," said Jack.

"We've tried that before, and nobody would take you," said his
mother; "we must sell Milky-white and with the money start shop,
or something."

"All right, mother," says Jack; "it's market-day today, and I'll
soon sell Milky-white, and then we'll see what we can do."

So he took the cow's halter in his hand, and off he started. He
hadn't gone far when he met a funny-looking old man, who said to
him: "Good morning, Jack."

"Good morning to you," said Jack, and wondered how he knew
his name.

"Well, Jack, and where are you off to?" said the man.

"I'm going to market to sell our cow here."

"Oh, you look the proper sort of chap to sell cows," said the man,
"I wonder if you know how many beans make five."

"Two in each hand and one in your mouth," says Jack, as sharp
as a needle.

"Right you are," says the man, "and here they are, the very beans
themselves," he went on, pulling out of his pocket a number of
strange-looking beans. "As you are so sharp," says he, "I don't
mind a swop with you---your cow for these beans."

"Go along," says Jack; "wouldn't you like it?"

"Ah! you don't know what these beans are," said the man; "if
you plant them over night, by morning they grow right up to the
sky."

"Really?" said Jack; "you don't say so."

"Yes, that is so, and if it doesn't turn out to be true, you can have
your cow back."

"Right," says Jack, and hands him over Milky-white's halter and
pockets the beans.

Back goes Jack home, and as he hadn't gone very far it wasn't
dusk by the time he got to his door.

"Back already, Jack?" said his mother; "I see you haven't
got Milky-white, so you've sold her. How much did you get for
her?"

"You'll never guess, mother," says Jack.

"No, you don't say so. Good boy! Five pounds, ten, fifteen,
no, it can't be twenty."

"I told you you couldn't guess. What do you say to these beans;
they're magical, plant them over night and---"

"What!" says Jack's mother; "have you been such a fool, such
a dolt, such an idiot, as to give away my Milky-white, the best milker
in the parish, and prime beef to boot, for a set of paltry beans?
Take that! Take that! Take that! And as for your precious
beans, here they go out of the window. And now off with you to
bed. Not a sup shall you drink, and not a bit shall you swallow
this very night."

So Jack went upstairs to his little room in the attic, and sad and
sorry he was, to be sure, as much for his mother's sake as for the
loss of his supper.

At last he dropped off to sleep.

When he woke up, the room looked so funny. The sun was shining
into part of it, and yet all the rest was quite dark and shady.
So Jack jumped up and dressed himself and went to the window.
And what do you think he saw? Why, the beans his mother had
thrown out of the window into the garden, had sprung up into a
big beanstalk which went up and up and up till it reached the sky.
So the man spoke truth after all.

The beanstalk grew up quite close past Jack's window, so all he
had to do was to open it and give a jump on to the beanstalk, which
ran up just like a big ladder. So Jack climbed, and he climbed
and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and
he climbed till at last he reached the sky. And when he got there
he found a long, broad road going as straight as a dart. So he
walked along and he walked along till he came to a great big tall
house, and on the doorstep there was a great big tall woman.

"Good morning, mum," says Jack, quite politely. "Could you
be so kind as to give me some breakfast?" For he hadn't had
anything to eat, you know, the night before and was as hungry as
a hunter.

"It's breakfast you want, is it?" says the great big tall woman;
"it's breakfast you'll be if you don't move off from here. My man
is an ogre and there's nothing he likes better than boys broiled on
toast. You'd better be moving on or he'll soon be coming."

"Oh! please, mum, do give me something to eat, mum. I've had
nothing to eat since yesterday morning, really and truly, mum," says
Jack. "I may as well be broiled as die of hunger."

Well, the ogre's wife was not half so bad after all. So she took
Jack into the kitchen, and gave him a chunk of bread and cheese and
a jug of milk. But Jack hadn't half finished these when thump!
thump! thump! the whole house began to tremble with the noise of
some one coming.

"Good gracious me! It's my old man," said the ogre's wife;
"what on earth shall I do? Come along quick and jump in here."
And she bundled Jack into the oven just as the ogre came in.

He was a big one, to be sure. At his belt he had three calves
strung up by the heels, and he unhooked them and threw them down
on the table and said: "Here, wife, broil me a couple of these for
breakfast. Ah! what's this I smell?

"Fee-fi-fo-fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I'll have his bones to grind my bread."

"Nonsense, dear," said his wife, "you're dreaming. Or perhaps
you smell the scraps of that little boy you liked so much for
yesterday's dinner. Here, you go and have a wash and tidy up, and
by the time you come back your breakfast'll be ready for you."

So off the ogre went, and Jack was just going to jump out of the
oven and run away when the woman told him not. "Wait till he's
asleep," says she; "he always has a doze after breakfast."

Well, the ogre had his breakfast, and after that he goes to a big
chest and takes out of it a couple of bags of gold, and down he sits
and counts till at last his head began to nod and he began to snore
till the whole house shook again.

Then Jack crept out on tiptoe from his oven, and as he was passing
the ogre he took one of the bags of gold under his arm, and off he
pelters till he came to the beanstalk, and then he threw down the bag
of gold, which of course fell into his mother's garden, and then he
climbed down and climbed down till at last he got home and told
his mother and showed her the gold and said: "Well, mother,
wasn't I right about the beans? They are really magical, you see."

So they lived on the bag of gold for some time, but at last they
came to the end of it, and Jack made up his mind to try his luck once
more at the top of the beanstalk. So one fine morning he rose up
early, and got on to the beanstalk, and he climbed and he climbed
and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed till
at last he came out on to the road again and up to the great big tall
house he had been to before. There, sure enough, was the great
big tall woman a-standing on the doorstep.

"Good morning, mum," says Jack, as bold as brass, "could you
be so good as to give me something to eat?"

"Go away, my boy," said the big tall woman, "or else my man
will eat you up for breakfast. But aren't you the youngster who
came here once before? Do you know, that very day, my man
missed one of his bags of gold."

"That's strange, mum," said Jack, "I dare say I could tell you
something about that, but I'm so hungry I can't speak till I've had
something to eat."

Well, the big tall woman was so curious that she took him in and
gave him something to eat. But he had scarcely begun munching
it as slowly as he could when thump! thump! thump! they heard
the giant's footstep, and his wife hid Jack away in the oven.

All happened as it did before. In came the ogre as he did before,
said: "Fee-fi-fo-fum," and had his breakfast of three broiled oxen.
Then he said: "Wife, bring me the hen that lays the golden eggs."
So she brought it, and the ogre said: "Lay," and it laid an egg all
of gold. And then the ogre began to nod his head, and to snore till
the house shook. Then Jack crept out of the oven on tiptoe and
caught hold of the golden hen, and was off before you could say
"Jack Robinson." But this time the hen gave a cackle which woke
the ogre, and just as Jack got out of the house he heard him calling:
"Wife, wife, what have you done with my golden hen?"

And the wife said: "Why, my dear?"

But that was all Jack heard, for he rushed off to the beanstalk and
climbed down like a house on fire. And when he got home, he
showed his mother the wonderful hen, and said "Lay" to it; and it
laid a golden egg every time he said "Lay."

Well, Jack was not content, and it wasn't very long before he determined
to have another try at his luck up there at the top of the beanstalk.
So one fine morning he rose up early, and got on to the beanstalk, and
he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed till he got to
the top. But this time he knew better than to go straight to the ogre's
house. And when he got near it, he waited behind a bush till he saw the
ogre's wife come out with a pail to get some water, and then he crept
into the house and got into the copper. He hadn't been there long when
he heard thump! thump! thump! as before, and in came the ogre and his
wife.

"Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman," cried out the
ogre. "I smell him, wife, I smell him."

"Do you, my dearie?" says the ogre's wife. "Then if it's that
little rogue that stole your gold and the hen that laid the golden
eggs he's sure to have got into the oven." And they both rushed to
the oven. But Jack wasn't there, luckily, and the ogre's wife said:
"There you are again with your fee-fi-fo-fum. Why, of course it's
the boy you caught last night that I've just broiled for your breakfast.
How forgetful I am, and how careless you are not to know the
difference between live and dead after all these years."

So the ogre sat down to the breakfast and ate it, but every now
and then he would mutter: "Well, I could have sworn--" and
he'd get up and search the larder and the cupboards and everything;
only, luckily, he didn't think of the copper.

After breakfast was over, the ogre called out: "Wife, wife,
bring me my golden harp." So she brought it out and put it on
the table before him. Then he said: "Sing!" and the golden harp
sang most beautifully. And it went on singing till the ogre fell
asleep and commenced to snore like thunder.

Then Jack lifted up the copper-lid very quietly and got down
like a mouse and crept on hands and knees till he came to the table,
when up he crawled, caught hold of the golden harp and dashed with
it towards the door. But the harp called out quite loud: "Master!
Master!" and the ogre woke up just in time to see Jack running off
with his harp.

Jack ran as fast as he could, and the ogre came rushing after, and
would soon have caught him only Jack had a start and dodged him
a bit and knew where he was going. When he got to the beanstalk
the ogre was not more than twenty yards away when suddenly he saw
Jack disappear-like, and when he came to the end of the road he
saw Jack underneath climbing down for dear life. Well, the ogre
didn't like trusting himself to such a ladder, and he stood and waited,
so Jack got another start. But just then the harp cried out: "Master!
Master!" and the ogre swung himself down on to the beanstalk,
which shook with his weight. Down climbs Jack, and after
him climbed the ogre. By this time Jack had climbed down and
climbed down and climbed down till he was very nearly home. So
he called out: "Mother! Mother! bring me an ax, bring me an
ax." And his mother came rushing out with the ax in her hand,
but when she came to the beanstalk she stood stock still with fright,
for there she saw the ogre with his legs just through the clouds.

But Jack jumped down and got hold of the ax and gave a chop at
the beanstalk which cut it half in two. The ogre felt the beanstalk
shake and quiver, so he stopped to see what was the matter. Then
Jack gave another chop with the ax, and the beanstalk was cut in
two and began to topple over. Then the ogre fell down and broke
his crown, and the beanstalk came toppling after.

Then Jack showed his mother his golden harp, and what with
showing that and selling the golden eggs, Jack and his mother became
very rich, and he married a great princess, and they lived
happy ever after.





Next: THE ELVES
Previous: BLUE BEARD



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