Lazy Jack

: Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales

[From oral tradition in Yorkshire.]

Once upon a time there was a boy whose name was Jack, and he lived with

his mother on a dreary common. They were very poor, and the old woman

got her living by spinning, but Jack was so lazy that he would do

nothing but bask in the sun in the hot weather, and sit by the corner of

the hearth in the winter time. His mother could not persuade him to do

anything for her, an
was obliged at last to tell him that if he did not

begin to work for his porridge, she would turn him out to get his living

as he could.

This threat at length roused Jack, and he went out and hired himself for

the day to a neighbouring farmer for a penny; but as he was coming home,

never having had any money in his possession before, he lost it in

passing over a brook. "You stupid boy," said his mother, "you should

have put it in your pocket." "I'll do so another time," replied Jack.

The next day Jack went out again, and hired himself to a cowkeeper, who

gave him a jar of milk for his day's work. Jack took the jar and put it

into the large pocket of his jacket, spilling it all, long before he got

home. "Dear me!" said the old woman; "you should have carried it on your

head." "I'll do so another time," replied Jack.

The following day Jack hired himself again to a farmer, who agreed to

give him a cream cheese for his services. In the evening, Jack took the

cheese, and went home with it on his head. By the time he got home the

cheese was completely spoilt, part of it being lost, and part matted

with his hair. "You stupid lout," said his mother, "you should have

carried it very carefully in your hands." "I'll do so another time,"

replied Jack.

The day after this Jack again went out, and hired himself to a baker,

who would give him nothing for his work but a large tom-cat. Jack took

the cat, and began carrying it very carefully in his hands, but in a

short time Pussy scratched him so much that he was compelled to let it

go. When he got home, his mother said to him, "You silly fellow, you

should have tied it with a string, and dragged it along after you."

"I'll do so another time," said Jack.

The next day Jack hired himself to a butcher, who rewarded his labours

by the handsome present of a shoulder of mutton. Jack took the mutton,

tied it to a string, and trailed it along after him in the dirt, so that

by the time he had got home the meat was completely spoilt. His mother

was this time quite out of patience with him, for the next day was

Sunday, and she was obliged to content herself with cabbage for her

dinner. "You ninnyhammer," said she to her son, "you should have carried

it on your shoulder." "I'll do so another time," replied Jack.

On the Monday Jack went once more, and hired himself to a cattle-keeper,

who gave him a donkey for his trouble. Although Jack was very strong, he

found some difficulty in hoisting the donkey on his shoulders, but at

last he accomplished it, and began walking slowly home with his prize.

Now it happened that in the course of his journey there lived a rich man

with his only daughter, a beautiful girl, but unfortunately deaf and

dumb; she had never laughed in her life, and the doctors said she would

never recover till somebody made her laugh.[18] Many tried without

success, and at last the father, in despair, offered her in marriage to

the first man who could make her laugh. This young lady happened to be

looking out of the window when Jack was passing with the donkey on his

shoulders, the legs sticking up in the air, and the sight was so comical

and strange, that she burst out into a great fit of laughter, and

immediately recovered her speech and hearing. Her father was overjoyed,

and fulfilled his promise by marrying her to Jack, who was thus made a

rich gentleman. They lived in a large house, and Jack's mother lived

with them in great happiness until she died.

[Footnote 18: An incident analogous to this

occurs in Grimm, Die Goldene Gans. See Edgar

Taylor's Gammer Grethel, 1839, p. 5.]