The Ass The Table And The Stick

: English Fairy Tales

A lad named Jack was once so unhappy at home through his father's

ill-treatment, that he made up his mind to run away and seek his fortune

in the wide world.

He ran, and he ran, till he could run no longer, and then he ran right

up against a little old woman who was gathering sticks. He was too much

out of breath to beg pardon, but the woman was good-natured, and she

said he seemed to be a likely lad, so
he would take him to be her

servant, and would pay him well. He agreed, for he was very hungry, and

she brought him to her house in the wood, where he served her for a

twelvemonths and a day. When the year had passed, she called him to her,

and said she had good wages for him. So she presented him with an ass

out of the stable, and he had but to pull Neddy's ears to make him begin

at once to hee-haw! And when he brayed there dropped from his mouth

silver sixpences, and half-crowns, and golden guineas.

The lad was well pleased with the wage he had received, and away he rode

till he reached an inn. There he ordered the best of everything, and

when the innkeeper refused to serve him without being paid beforehand,

the boy went off to the stable, pulled the ass's ears, and obtained his

pocket full of money. The host had watched all this through a crack in

the door, and when night came on he put an ass of his own for the

precious Neddy belonging to the youth. So Jack, without knowing that any

change had been made, rode away next morning to his father's house.

Now I must tell you that near his home dwelt a poor widow with an only

daughter. The lad and the maiden were fast friends and true-loves. So

when Jack returned he asked his father's leave to marry the girl.

"Never till you have the money to keep her," was the reply.

"I have that, father," said the lad, and going to the ass he pulled its

long ears; well, he pulled, and he pulled, till one of them came off in

his hands; but Neddy, though he hee-hawed and he hee-hawed, let fall no

half-crowns or guineas. Then the father picked up a hayfork and beat his

son out of the house.

I promise you he ran; he ran and ran till he came bang against a door,

and burst it open, and there he was in a joiner's shop. "You're a likely

lad," said the joiner; "serve me for a twelvemonths and a day and I will

pay you well." So he agreed, and served the carpenter for a year and a

day. "Now," said the master, "I will give you your wage"; and he

presented him with a table, telling him he had but to say, "Table, be

covered," and at once it would be spread with lots to eat and drink.

Jack hitched the table on his back, and away he went with it till he

came to the inn. "Well, host," shouted he, putting down the table, "my

dinner to-day, and that of the best."

"Very sorry, sir," says the host, "but there is nothing in the house but

ham and eggs."

"No ham and eggs for me!" exclaimed Jack. "I can do better than

that.--Come, my table, be covered!"

So at once the table was spread with turkey and sausages, roast mutton,

potatoes, and greens. The innkeeper opened his eyes, but he said

nothing, not he! But that night he fetched down from his attic a table

very like the magic one, and exchanged the two, and Jack, none the

wiser, next morning hitched the worthless table on to his back and

carried it home.

"Now, father, may I marry my lass?" he asked.

"Not unless you can keep her," replied the father.

"Look here!" exclaimed Jack. "Father, I have a table which does all my


"Let me see it," said the old man.

The lad set it in the middle of the room, and bade it be covered; but

all in vain, the table remained bare. Then, in a rage, the father caught

the warming-pan down from the wall and warmed his son's back with it so

that the boy fled howling from the house, and ran and ran till he came

to a river and tumbled in. A man picked him out and bade him help in

making a bridge over the river by casting a tree across. Then Jack

climbed up to the top of the tree and threw his weight on it, so that

when the man had rooted the tree up, Jack and the tree-head dropped on

the farther bank.

[Illustration: The fisherman and his wife had no children, and they were

just longing for a baby]

"Thank you," said the man; "and now for what you have done I will pay

you"; so saying, he tore a branch from the tree, and fettled it up into

a club with his knife. "There," exclaimed he; "take this stick, and when

you say to it, 'Up, stick, and bang him,' it will knock any one down who

angers you."

The lad was overjoyed to get this stick, for he had begun to see he had

been tricked by the innkeeper, so away he went with it to the inn, and

as soon as the man appeared he cried:

"Up, stick, and bang him!"

At the word the cudgel flew from his hand and battered the old fellow on

the back, rapped his head, bruised his arms, tickled his ribs, till he

fell groaning on the floor; and still the stick belaboured the prostrate

man, nor would Jack call it off till he had got back the stolen ass and

table. Then he galloped home on the ass, with the table on his

shoulders, and the stick in his hand. When he arrived there he found his

father was dead, so he brought his ass into the stable, and pulled its

ears till he had filled the manger with money.

It was soon known through the town that Jack had returned rolling in

wealth, and accordingly all the girls in the place set their caps at


"Now," said Jack, "I shall marry the richest lass in the place; so

to-morrow do you all come in front of my house with your money in your


Next morning the street was full of girls with aprons held out, and

gold and silver in them; but Jack's own sweetheart was among them, and

she had neither gold nor silver; nought but two copper pennies, that was

all she had.

"Stand aside, lass," said Jack to her, speaking roughly. "Thou hast no

silver nor gold--stand off from the rest." She obeyed, and the tears ran

down her cheeks, and filled her apron with diamonds.

"Up, stick, and bang them!" exclaimed Jack; whereupon the cudgel leaped

up, and running along the line of girls, knocked them all on the heads

and left them senseless on the pavement. Jack took all their money and

poured it into his true-love's lap. "Now, lass," he exclaimed, "thou art

the richest, and I shall marry thee."