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Children's Rhymes. Children's Games, Children's Songs, Children's Stories
Children's Stories - Jack and the Bean-Stalk

In days of yore, there lived a widow who had a son named Jack. Being an only child, he was too much indulged, and became so extravagant and careless that he wasted the property which his mother posessed, until at last there remained only a cow, the chief support of her and her son.

One day the poor woman, with tears in her eves, said to Jack—"O, you wicked child, by your ungrateful course of life you have brought me to beggary in my old age; cruel boy. I have not money to buy even a bit of bread, and we must now sell the cow. I am grieved to part with her, but I cannot see you starve."

Jack felt some remorse, but having less affection for the cow than his mother had, he drove her to the nearest market town, where he met a butcher, who made a very curious offer for her. "Your cow,'' said he, "on young prodigal dog! is worth nothing; you have starved her until she would disgrace the shambles and, as to milk, no wonder that you and your mother have been starving while you were depending upon that supply. One bad turn deserves another, and receives it just as surely as one good turn deserves another. But you shall not take back the cow to perish with hunger. I have got some beans in a pocket; they are the oddest I ever saw, not one of them being, either in colour or shale, like another: if yon will take them in exchange for the cow, you may have then.''

The silly boy could not conceal the pleasure he felt at the offer. The bargain was struck, and the cow exchanged for a few paltry beans. Jack made the best of his way home, calling to his mother before he reached the house, thinking to surprise her. When she saw the beans and heard Jack's story, her patience quite forsook her; she kicked the beans away in a passion; they flew in all directions—some were scattered in the garden. Not having anything to eat, they both went supperless to bed.

Jack awoke early in the morning, and. seeing something uncommo in the garden. soon discovered that some of the beans had taken root and sprung up surprisingly; the stalks were of great thickness, and had so entwined that they formed a ladder, nearly like a chain in appearance.

Looking upwards, he could not discern the top; it appeared to be lost in the clouds. He tried the beanstalks, found them firm and not to be shaken. He quickly formed the resolution of climbing to the top to seek his fortune, and ran to communicate his intention to his mother, not doubting she would be equally pleased with himself. She declared he should not go; said it would break her heart if he did - entreated and threatened all in vain.

Jack set out and after climbing for some hours, reached the top of the bean stock quite fatigued. Looking around, he found himself in a strange country. It appeared to be a desert, quite barren, not a tree, shrub, house, or living creature to be seen.

Jack seated himself on a stone and thought of his mother, he reflected with sorrow his disobedience in climbing the bean-stalk against her will, and concluded that he must die of hunger.

However, he walked on, hoping to see a house where he might beg something to eat and drink. Presently a handsome young woman appeared at a distance. As she aproached Jack could not help admiring how beautiful she looked; she was dressed in the most elegant manner, and had a white wand in her hand, on the top of which was a peacock of pure gold. While Jack was looking with the greatest surprise at this charming female, with a smile of the most bewitching sweetness, she inquired how he came there. Jack told how he had climbed up the bean-stalk. She asked him if he recollected his father? He answered that he did not; and added that he had inquired of his mother who or where his father was, but that she avoided answering him, and even seemed afraid of speaking, as if there was some secret connected with his father's history.

The lady replied, "I will reveal the whole story your mother must not. But, before I begin. I require a solemn promise on your part to do what I command. I am a fairy, and if you do not perform exactly what I desire, you will be destroyed.'' Jack promised to obey her injunctions, and the fairy thus addressed him:-

"Your father was a rich and benevolent man. He was good to the poor. and constantly relieving them he never let a day pass without doing good to some person, On one particular day in the week he kept open house, and invited those who, were reduced and had lived well. He always sat at the table with them himself, and did all he could to render his guests comfortable. The servants were all happy, and greatly attached to their master and mistress. Such a man was soon known and talked of. A giant lived a great many miles on, who was altogether as wicked as your fattier was good; he was envious, covetous, and cruel, but had the art of concealing these vices.

"Hearing your father spoken of he formed the design of becoming acquainted with him, hoping to ingratiate himself into your father's favour. He removed quickly into your neighbourhood, caused it to be reported that he had lost all he possessed by an earthquake, and found it difficult to escape with his life; his wife was with him. Your father believed his story, and pitied him; he gave him apartments in his own house, and caused him and his wife to be treated hospitably, little imagining that the giant was meditating a horrid return for all his favours.

"Things went on in this way for some time, the giant becoming daily more impatient to put his plan into execution. At last, in opportunity presented itself. Your father's house was at some distance from the sea-shore, but the giant, standing on a hill one stormy day, observed some ships in distress off the rocks; he hastened to your father, and requested that he would send all the people he could spare to relieve the mariners.

"While the servants were all employed upon this service, the giant murdered your father by stabbing him with a dagger. You were then only three months old, and your mother, upon discovering what had happened, fainted, but still clasping you in her arias. The giant, who intended to murder both of you, having found her in that state, for a short time repented of the dreadful crime he had committed, and granted your mother and you your lives, but only upon condition that she should never inform you of who your father was, nor answer any questions concerning him, assuring her that, if she did, he won certainly put both of you to death in the most cruel manner. Your mother took you in her arms, and as quickly as possible. Having gained your father's confidence, he knew where to find all his treasure, He and his wife soon carried off two large chests filled with gold, which they could not have done unless they had been giants, and, having set the house on fire in several place's, when the servants returned it was burned quite down to the ground.

"Your poor mother wandered with you a great many miles from this scene of desolation; fear added to her haste; she settled in the cottage where you were brought up, and it was entirely owing to her fear of the giant that she never mentioned your father to you.

"I became your fathers guardian at his birth; but fairies have laws to which they are subject as well as mortals. A short time before the giant went to your father's, I transgressed; my punishment was a suspension of power for a limited time—an unfortunate circumstance, as it totally prevented my succouring your father.

"The day on which you met the butcher, as you went to sell your mothers cow, my power was restored; and, as I had been told by Oberon, the King of the Fairies, how dreadful were the consequences to your father of my single error, I resolved to take you under my protection, and to be more circumspect in future. It was I who secretly prompted you to take the beans in exchange for the cow.

"By my power the bean-stalk grew to so great a height, and formed a ladder. I need not add that I inspired you with a strong desire to ascend the ladder.

"The giant now lives in this country: you are the person appointed to punish him for all his wickedness. You will have dangers and difficulties to encounter, but you must persevere in avenging the death of your farther or you will not prosper in any of your undertakings, but always be always miserable.

"As to the giant's possessions, you may seize on all you can, for everything he has belongs either to you or to me; for you must know that, not satisfied with the gold he carried off from your father, he broke into my house and stole the two greatest curiosities ever possessed even by a fairy, and would have killed me as he did your father. if it could have been possible to kill a fairy. One thing I desire, do not let your mother know you are acquainted with your father's history till you see me again.

"Go along the direct road; you will soon see the house where your cruel enemy lives. While you do as I order you, I will protect and guard you; but. remember, if you disobey my commands a most dreadful punishment awaits you.''

When the fairy had concluded, she disappeared, leaving Jack to pursue his journey. He walked on till after sunset, when to his great joy, he espied a great mansion. A plain-looking woman was at the door; he accosted her begging her she would give him a morsel of bread and a night's lodging. She expressed the greatest surprise at seeing him. and said it was quite uncommon to see a human being to see as human being so hear the house, for it was well known that her husband was, a large and powerful giant, and that he would never eat anything but human flesh, if he could possibly get it, that he did not think anything of walking fifty miles to procure it.

This account greatly terrified Jack, but he still hoped to elude the giant, and therefore he again entreated the woman to take him in for one night only, and hide him where she thought proper. The woman at last suffered herself to be persuaded, for although she had assisted in the murder of Jack's father and in stealing the gold. She was of a compassionate and generous disposition, and took him into the house.

First they entered a fine large hall, magnificently furnished; they then passed through several spacious rooms, all in the same style of grandeur.

A long gallery was next; it was very dark, just light enough to show that instead of a wall on one side, there was a grating of iron which parted of a dismal dungeon, whence issued the groans of those poor victims which the cruel giant reserved in confinement for his own voracious appetite.

Poor Jack was half dead with fear, and would have given the world to have been with his mother again, for he now began to fear that he should never see her more, and gave himself up for lost; he even mistrusted the giant's wife, and thought she had let him into the house for no other purpose than to lock him up among the unfortunate people in the dungeon.

At the farther end of the gallery there was a spacious kitchen, and a fire was burning in the grate. The good woman bade Jack sit down, and gave him plenty to eat and drink. Jack, not seeing anything here to make him uncomfortable, soon forgot his fear, and was beginning to enjoy himself, when he was aroused by a loud knocking at the door, which made the whole house shake; the giant's wife ran to secure him in the oven, and then went to let her husband in.

Jack heard him accost her in a voice like thunder, saving

"Wife, I smell fresh meat."

"Oh my dear," replied she, "it is only the people in the dungeon."

The giant appeared to believe her and walked into the kitchen, where poor Jack lay concealed, shaking with fear and trembling in every limb.

At last, the monster seated himself by the fireside, whilst his wife prepared supper. By degrees Jack took courage to look at the giant through a small crevice; he was quite astonished to see what an amazing quantity he devoured, and thought he never would have done eating and drinking. When supper was ended, the giant desired his wife to bring him his hen, which was one of the curiosities he had stolen from the fairy. A very beautiful hen was brought, and placed on the table before him. Jack's curiosity was very great to see what would happen; he observed that every time the giant said, "Lay!" the hen laid an egg of solid gold.

The giant amused himself a long time with his hen, meanwhile his wife went to bed. At length the giant fell asleep by the fireside, at snored like the roaring of a cannon. At daybreak, Jack, finding the giant still asleep, crept softly out of his hiding place, seized the hen, and ran of with her.

He easily found the way to the bean-stalk. and descended it more quickly than he expected. His mother was overjoyed to see him, for she concluded he had come to a shocking end.

Jack was impatient to show his hen, and inform his mother how valuable it was.

"And now, mother," said Jack, "I've brought home that which will quickly make us rich; and I hope to make you some amends for the affliction I have caused you through my idleness and extravagance.''

The hen produced as many golden eggs as they desired, and so they became possessed of immense riches.

For some months, Jack and his mother lived very happily together; but he, recollecting the fairy's comands, and fearing that if he delayed to avenge his father's death, she would put her threats into execution, longed to climb the bean-stalk again and pay the giant another visit. Jack was, however, afraid to mention it to his mother, being well assured that she would endeavour to prevent his going. However, one day he told her boldly that he must take a journey up the bean-stalk. She begged and prayed him not to think of it; she told him that the giant's wife would certainly know him again, and that the giant would desire nothing better than to get him into his power, that he might put him to a cruel death in order to be revenged for the loss of his hen.

Jack resolved to go at all events; for, being a very clever fellow, although a very idle one, he had no great dread of the giant, concluding that, although he was a cannibal. he must be a very stupid fellow not to have regained his hen, it being just as easy to come down the stupendous beats-stalk as to ascend it. Jack, therefore, had a dress made, not exactly invisible, like that of his illustrious namesake, the Giant-killer, but one which so disguised him that even

"The mother that him bore
Would not have known her child."

In a few mornings after this, he rose very early, changed his complexion, and, unperceived by any one, climbed the bean-stalk a second time. He was greatly fatigued when he reached the top, and very hungry, for, with his usual thoughtlessness. he forgot to take apiece of bread in his pocket.

Here we are inclined to remark that, as he had neither bread nor bacon, he must in his progress have met with at good supply of beans. but perhaps he never thought of this resource.

Having rested some time, he pursued his journey to the giant's mansion. He reached it late in the evening; the woman was at the door as before. Jack addressed her, telling a pitiful tale, and requesting that she would give him some victuals and drink, and also a night's lodging.

She told him (what he knew before very well) about her husband's being a powerful and cruel giant and also that she one night admitted a poor, hungry, friendless boy, who was half-dead with travelling; that the little ungrateful fellow had stolen one of the giant's treasures, and ever since that her husband had used her very cruelly and continually upbraided her with being the cause of his loss. But at last she consented and took him into the kitchen, where, after he had done eating and drinking she laid him in an old lumber closet. The giant returned at the usual time, and walked in so heavily that the house was shaken to the foundation. He seated himself by the fire, and soon after exclaimed "Wife, I smell fresh meat."

The wife replied, "It was the crows which had brought a piece of raw meat, and left it at the top of the house."

The giant was very ill-tempered and impatient, continually crying for his supper, like little Tom Tucker, and complaining of the loss of his wonderful hen, which we verily believe he would have eaten, disregarding the treasure which she produced. Jack therefore rejoiced that he had not only got possession of the hen, but had in all probability saved her precious life.

The giant's wife at last set supper on the table, and when he had eaten till he was satisfied, he said to her--

"I must have something to amuse me, either my bags of money or my harp." Jack, as before, peeped out of his hiding-place, and presently his wife brought two bags into the room, one filled with gold and the other with silver.

They were both placed before the giant, who began reprimanding his wife for staying so long. She replied, trembling with fear, that the bags were so heavy that she could scarcely lift them, and adding that she had nearly fainted owing to their weight.

The giant took his bags, and began to count their contents. First the bag which contained the silver was emptied, and the contents placed on the table. Jack viewed the glittering heaps with delight, and most heartily wished the contents in his own possession. The giant (little thinking he was so narrowly watched) reckoned the silver over several times; and having satisfied himself that all was safe, put it into the bag again, which he made very secure.

The other bag was opened next, and the gold pieces placed on the table. If Jack was pleased at the sight of the silver, how much more delighted must he have felt when he saw such a heap of glittering gold.

When the giant had counted over the gold till he was tired, he put it up, if possible, more secure than he had put up the silver before; he then fell back on the chair by the fireside, and fell asleep. He snored so loud that Jack compared the noise to the roaring of the sea in a high wind, when the tide is coming in. At last, Jack, being certain that he was asleep, stole out of his hiding-place and approached the giant, in order to carry off the two bags of money; but, just as he laid his hand upon one of the bags, a little dog, which he had not perceived before, started from under the giant's chair and barked at Jack most furiously, who now gave himself up for lost. But Jack, recollecting that the giant had left the bones which he had picked at supper, threw one to the dog, who instantly seized it, and took it into the lumber closet which Jack had just left.

Finding; himself delivered from a noisy and troublesome enemy, and seeing the giant did not awake, Jack seized the bags, and, throwing them over his shoulders, ran out of the kitchen. He reached the door in safety, and found it quite daylight.

Jack was overjoyed when he found himself near the bean-stalk; although much incommoded with the weight of the money bags, he soon reached the bottom, and immediately ran to seek his mother. He was greatly shocked on finding her apparently dying, and could scarcely bear his own reflections, knowing himself to be the cause. On being informed of' Jack's safe return his mother gradually recovered. Jack presented her his two valuable bags, and they lived as happily and comfortably as ever.

For three years, notwithstanding the comforts Jack enjoyrd, his mind dwelt continually upon the beanstalk for the fairy's menaces were ever present to his mind, and prevented him from being happy. It was in vain he endeavoured to amuse himself; he became thoughtful, and would rise at the dawn of day and view the bean-stalk for hours together.

His inclination at length growing too powerful for him, he began to make secret preparations for his journey, and, on the longest day, arose as soon as it was light, ascended the bean-stalk. and reached the top. He arrived at the giant's mansion in the evening, and found his wife standing, as usual, at the door. Jack had disguised himself so completely that she did not appear to have the least recollection of him; however, when he pleaded hunger and poverty in order to gain admittance, he found it very difficult indeed to persuade her. At last he prevailed, and was concealed in the oven.

When the giant returned, he said, as upon the former occasions, "I smell fresh meat!" But Jack felt quite composed, as he had said so before, and had been soon satisfied; however, the giant started up suddenly, and notwithstanding all his wife could say, he searched all around the room. Jack was ready to die with fear, wishing himself at home; the giant approached the oven and put his land into it; Jack thought his death was certain.

The giant at last gave up the search and ate a hearty supper. When he had finished, he commanded his wife to fetch down his harp. Jack peeped as he had done before, and saw the most beautiful harp that could be imagined; it was placed by the giant on the table. who said, "Play!" and it instantly played of its own accord without being touched. The music was very fine; Jack was delighted, and felt more anxious to get the harp into his possession than either of the former treasures.

The music soon lulled the giant into a sound sleep. This, therefore, was the time to carry off the harp. As the giant appeared to be in a more profound sleep than usual. Jack soon determined, got out of the oven, and seized the harp. The harp had also been stolen by the giant from the fairy.

The giant suddenly awoke and tried to pursue him but he had drank so much that he could hardly stand. Jack ran as fast as he could; in a little time the giant recovered sufficiently to walk slowly, or rather to reel after him. Had he been sober, he must have overtaken Jack instantly; but, as he then was, Jack contrived to be first at the top of the bean-stalk. The giant called after him in a voice like thunder, and sometimes was very near him.

The moment Jack got down the bean-stalk, he ran for a hatchet. Just at that instant the giant was beginning to descend, but Jack with his hatchet cut the bean-stalk close off at the root, which made the giant fall headlong into the garden, and the fall killed him.

At this instant the fairy appeared; she charged Jack to be dutiful to his mother, and to follow his father's good example, which was the only way to be happy. She then disappeared, after recovering her hen and her harp, which Jack gave to her most thankfully, having acquired great riches and revenged the tragical death of his father.

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