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
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."