JACK AND THE BEANSTALK

Jack lived with his mother in a little
cottage. It had dormer windows and
green shutters whose hinges were so
rusty that the shutters wouldn't shut.
Jack had taken some of them to make a raft
with. He was always trying to make things
that seemed like the things in books--rafts or
sledges, or wooden spear-heads to play at
savages with, or paper crowns with which
to play at kings. He never did any work; and
this was very hard on his mother, who took
in washing, and had great trouble to make both
ends meet. But he did not run away to sea,
or set out to seek his fortune, because he knew
that that would have broken his mother's
heart, and he was very fond of her. Though
he wouldn't work, he did useless pretty things
for her--brought her bunches of wild-flowers
and made up songs, sad and merry, and sang
them to her of an evening. But most of the
time he spent in looking at the sky and the
clouds and the green leaves and the running
water, and thinking how beautiful the world
was, and how he would love to see every single
thing in it. And he always seemed to be trying
to dream one particular dream, and never
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could quite dream it. Sometimes the thought
of his mother working so hard while he did
nothing would come suddenly upon him, and
he would rush off and try to help her, but
whatever he did turned out wrong. If he
went to draw water he was sure to lose the
bucket in the well; if he lifted the wash-tub
it always slipped out of his fingers, and then
there was the floor to clean as well as the linen
to wash all over again. So that it always ended
in his mother saying, "Oh, run along, for
goodness sake, and let me get on with my
work." And then Jack would go and lie on
his front and look at the ants busy among the
grass stalks, and make up a pretty poem about
the Dignity of Labour, or about how dear and
good mothers were.

But poetry, however pretty, is difficult to
sell, and the two got poorer and poorer. And
at last one day Jack's mother came out to
where he was lying on his back watching the
clouds go sailing by, and told him that the
worst had come.

"No help for it, " she said;" we must sell
the cow."

"Oh, let me take it to the market," cried Jack,
jumping up. "I shall pretend to myself I'm
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a rich farmer with a cow to sell every market-
day."

So the rope halter, with Jack at one end of
it and the cow at the other, started off down
the road.

"Ask five gold pieces for her," said the
Mother, "and take what you can get; and
don't let the grass grow under your feet."

Jack went along very slowly, and kept his
eyes fixed on the ground, because if the grass
did grow under his feet he wanted to watch it
growing. So this was how it was that he ran
plump into something hard, and, looking up,
saw a butcher, very smart in a new blue coat
with a red carnation in his button-hole.

"Who are you shoving of, young shaver?"
the butcher asked crossly. "Why don't you
look where you're going?"

"Because I thought I might see you," said
Jack.

"Ha! I see you're a clever boy," said the
butcher, not at all offended. "Thinking of
selling your cow ?"

"Well," said Jack, "that was rather the
idea."

"And what's the price?"

"Five gold pieces," said Jack boldly.

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"I wouldn't rob you of her by offering such
a poor price," said the butcher kindly. "Look
here."

He pulled out a handful of large, bright-
coloured beans.

"Aren't they beautiful?" he said.

"Oh, they are--they are!" said Jack. And
they were. They had all the colours and the all
the splendour of precious stones.

"Well, is it a bargain?" the butcher asked.

"Oh, yes," said Jack. "Take the ugly old cow."

And with that he took the beans, thrust
the end of the rope into the butcher's hand,
and hurried off towards home.

I don't think I had better tell you what
happened when he told his mother what he
had done. You can perhaps guess. I will
only say that it ended in his mother throwing
the beans out of the window and sending Jack
to bed without his supper. Then she spent
the evening ironing, and every now and then
a tear fell down and hissed and fizzled on the
hot iron.

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The next morning Jack woke up feeling
very hot and half choked. He found his room
rather darker than usual, and at first he decided
that it was too early to get up; then as he was
just snuggling the blanket closer round his neck
he saw what it was that was shutting out the
sunshine. The beans had grown up into a
huge twisted stalk with immense leaves. When
Jack ran to the window and pushed his hand
out among the green he could see no top to
the plant. It seemed to grow right up into
the sky. Then suddenly Jack was a changed
boy. Something wonderful had happened
to him, and it had made him different. It
sometimes happens to people that they see or
hear something quite wonderful, and then they
are never altogether the same again.

Jack scrambled into his clothes, ran to the
door, and shouted:

"Mother, those beautiful beans have grown!
I told you I'd made a good bargain with that
silly old cow. I'm going to climb up and see
what's at the top." And before his mother could
stop him he was out of the window and up the
beanstalk, climbing and wriggling among the
branches, and when she reached the window
he was almost out of sight. She stood looking
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up after him till she couldn't see him any more,
and then she sighed, and went up to her son's
untidy room, to make his bed and set all
straight for him.

Jack climbed on and on until his head felt
dizzy and his legs and arms ached. He had
had no supper last night, you remember, and
no breakfast before he started. But at last
there was no more stalk to climb, and as soon
as he reached the top tendril it suddenly flat-
tened and opened out before him into a long
white dusty road. He was in a new land, and
as far as he could see nothing else was alive in
that land but himself. The trees were withered,
the fields were bare, and every stream had
run dry. Altogether it was not at all a nice
place; but if it wasn't nice it was new; and
besides, he could not face the idea of going
down that beanstalk again without anything
to eat, and he set out to look for a house and
beg a breakfast. At that moment something
dark came between him and the light--
fluttered above his head, and then settled on
the road beside him.

"Oh, mercy! I though it was a great bird,"
cried Jack. But it wasn't. It was a fairy--
Jack knew that at once, though he had never
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seen one before. There are some things you
cannot mistake.

"Well, Jack," said the fairy, "I've been
looking for you."

"I believe I've been looking for you all my
life, if you come to that," said Jack.

"Yes, you have," said the fairy. "Now
listen."

She told Jack a story that made him all hot,
and cold, and ashamed, and eager to do some-
thing heroic at once, for she explained how the
new land he had found had once belonged to
his father, who was a good and great man, and
who had ruled his land well and been loved
by his subjects. But unfortunately one of his
subjects happened to be a giant, and, being
naturally of a large size, he considered himself
more important than any one else, and he had
killed Jack's father, and with the help of a bad
fairy had imprisoned the faithful subjects in
the trees. Since the giant's rule began the
land had not flourished--nothing would grow
on it, the houses fell down in ruins and the
waters ran dry. So the giant had shut him
self and his wife up in a large white house
with his precious belongings, and there he
lived his selfish, horrid life.

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"Now," said the fairy, "the time has come
for you to set things straight. And this is
really what you've been trying to dream about
all your life. You must find the giant and
get back your father's land for your mother.
She has worked for you all your life. Now you
will work for her; but you have the best of it,
because her work was mending and washing
and cooking and scrubbing, and your work is--
adventures. Go straight on and do the things
that first come into your head. This is good
advice in ordinary life, and it works well in this
land too. Good-bye."

And with a flutter of sea-green, shining wings
the fairy vanished, and Jack was left staring
into nothingness. He didn't stare long though,
for, as I said before, he was a changed boy.
There are plenty of people who could go in for
adventures splendidly, but somehow they are
never able to do anything else, and if they don't
happen to fall in with adventures they can do
nothing but dream of them, and so have a
poor time of it in this world. Jack was one of
these people. Only he, you see, had got out
of this world and had fallen in with adventures
into the bargain.

He went along the road, and when he came
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to a large white house the first thing he thought
of doing was, curiously enough, to knock at
the door and ask for something to eat, just as
you or I would have done if we had gone up
a large beanstalk without our breakfast or our
last night's supper.

"Go away!" said the little old woman who
opened the door, just as many people do if you
ask them for something to eat and they don't
happen to know you. "My husband is a giant,
and he'll eat you if he sees you."

"You needn't let him see me," said
Jack. "I haven't had anything to eat for
ages . Do give me something, there's a good
sort!"

So she took him in and gave him some bread
and butter and a poached egg, and before he
was half-way through it the whole house began
to shake, and the old woman seized Jack, put
his eggy plate into his hand, and pushed him
into the oven and closed the door.

Jack had the sense not to call out, and he
finished his egg in the oven. Then he found
he could see through the crack near the hinges,
so he glued his eye to it and saw ! He saw the
giant--a great big fat man with red hair and
mutton-chop whiskers. The giant flung him-
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self down at the table and roared for his dinner,
and his trembling old wife brought him a whole
hog, which he tore in pieces in his hands and
ate without any manners, and he didn't offer
his wife so much as a piece of the crackling.
When he had finished he licked his great greasy
fingers and called out:

" Bring me my hen!"

Jack was rather surprised. He thought it
was a curious creature to have on the dinner-
table. But the next instant he understood, for
the hen stood on the table, and every time the
giant said "Lay!" it laid a golden egg.

It went on doing this until Jack thought
it must really be tired, and until the giant
was , for he lay back in his chair and fell
asleep.

The first thing that occurred to Jack to do
was to leap out of the oven, seize the hen under
his arm, and make off for the beanstalk and his
home as fast as ever he could.

I won't describe the scene in the cottage
when he arrived. His mother was inclined to
scold him, but when she thoroughly understood
about the hen she kissed him instead, and said
that she had always believed he would do some-
thing clever, some day.

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Jack sold golden eggs at the market every
week, and his mother gave up taking in wash-
ing; but she still went on cleaning the cottage
herself. I believe she rather liked that kind
of work.

Then suddenly one morning, as Jack stood
in the cottage garden with his hands in the
pockets of a quite new pair of lavender-coloured
breeches, he felt he couldn't go on living
without another journey up the beanstalk,
and, forgetting to tell his mother that he might
not be in to dinner, he was off and up. He
found the same dry, withered land at the top,
and, although he was not hungry this time, he
couldn't think of anything new to say, so he
said the same thing to the old woman; but this
time he found it much harder to get round her,
although she did not know him again. Either
his face was changed, or the lavender-coloured
breeches were a complete disguise.

"No," she kept on saying, and Jack lost
his temper when she had said it twenty-two
times. "A boy came here before, and he was a
bad one and a thief, and I can't let another
boy in."

"But I've got an honest face," said Jack.
"Everybody says so."

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"That's true," said the woman, and she let
him in. This time he was obliged to hide
before he had begun to eat, and he was rather
glad, because, as I said, he was not hungry--
the giant's wife had only given him bread and
cheese, and the cheese was rather stale. When
they heard the giant coming along the road the
woman lifted the copper lid and made Jack
get in.

The giant seemed in a good temper, for
he chucked his wife under the chin and
said:

"Fresh meat to-day, my dear. I can smell
it."

"I'm--I'm afraid you're wrong," said his
wife; and Jack could hear by the way she said
it that she was very frightened. "It's half the
ox you had yesterday, and that fresh meat you
smell is just a bit of a dead cart-horse that a
crow dropped on the roof."

The giant seemed sulky after that, and didn't
eat his dinner with much appetite, and when his
wife was clearing away he suddenly laid hold
of her and shouted:

" Bring me my money-bags!"

Jack couldn't help lifting up the copper lid
a little bit when he heard the chink of the coins,
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and when he saw the giant counting out the
great heap of gold and silver he longed to have
it for his own, for he knew that it ought by
rights to belong to him or his mother.

Presently the giant fell asleep, and Jack
looked all round to see if the wife was about
before he dared to get out of the copper. And
he heard her walking about upstairs, so he
jumped out, seized on the bags, and again made
off for the beanstalk.

He reached home as his mother was clearing
away the dinner-plates; but I won't describe
the scene. Of course they were now rich,
and Jack wished to live in a large house, but
his mother said she couldn't leave the "bits
of things," and when he came to think it over
Jack felt that he couldn't bear to leave the
beanstalk.

Another day came when Jack felt he must
make another journey to the giant's land,
disguised now in new smock-frock and gaiters,
and again the same thing happened, except
that it was harder than ever to persuade the
giant's wife to take him in. She did at last,
however, after explaining that two boys had
served her badly, and that if he turned out bad
too, then the giant would most likely kill her.

[PAGE]
No sooner was Jack inside the house than
the giant was heard coming. The woman
showed Jack an empty barrel, and he crept
under it.

Then the giant came in, and he rolled his
eyes, twisted his great head about, and swore
that he smelt fresh meat. His wife told him
he was wrong, but this time he didn't believe
her, and he looked in the copper and in the
oven and in the bread-crock, and under the
sink; but he never thought of the empty
barrel--partly, I daresay, because he thought
it was full of something that it wasn't full of.

At last he gave up the search and sat down
to his dinner, and when he had finished he
stretched himself until Jack thought some of
his buttons would burst, and called:

" Wife, bring me my harp!"

The old woman brought in a beautiful
golden harp, which she set on the table, and as
soon as the giant said, "Play!" it began to give
out beautiful soothing music, and the giant
presently fell asleep, while his wife went into
the back kitchen to wash up.

The first thing that occurred to Jack was to
upset the barrel, dash to the table, and take the
harp, but as his hands touched it it cried out
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in a human voice, "Master, master!" For
one second Jack nearly dropped it; then he
realised that the giant was waking. He rushed
to the door, kicking the cat in his hurry as he
heard the giant stumble out after him. But
the giant was heavy and only half awake, and
by the time Jack was down the beanstalk the
giant was only just at the top; but he was
coming down, that was quite plain, for the
next moment the great beanstalk shook and
shivered with his great weight. Jack screamed
to his mother for a chopper, and, like the good
woman she was, she brought it without asking
what it was for. Jack hacked at the beanstalk,
and it cut like butter, so that when it fell the
giant fell down with it and was killed, and that
was the end of him.

And now Jack and his mother had plenty to
live upon, and might have rented a palace if
they had liked, but still Jack's mother wouldn't
leave her cottage. As for the enchanted land
up above--well, the fairy told Jack that after
the death of the giant the people came out of
the trees, and the land flourished under the rule
of the giant's wife, a most worthy woman,
whose only fault was that she was too ready to
trust boys.

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