There was once upon a time a poor widow who had an only son named Jack, and a cow named Milky-White. All they had to live on was the milk the cow gave every morning, which they carried to the market and sold – until one morning Milky-White gave no milk.
“What shall we do, what shall we do?” said the widow, wringing her hands.
“Cheer up mother, I’ll go and get work somewhere,” said Jack.
“We’ve tried that before, and nobody would take you,” said his mother. “We must sell Milky-White and with the money, start a shop or something.”
“Alright, mother,” said Jack. “It’s market day today, and I’ll soon sell Milky-White, and then we’ll see what we can do.”
So he took the cow, and off he started. He hadn’t gone far when he met a funny looking old man, who said to him, “Good morning, Jack.”
“Good morning to you,” said Jack, and wondered how he knew his name.
“Well Jack, where are you off to?” Said the man.
“I’m going to market to sell our cow there.”
“Oh, you look the proper sort of chap to sell cows,” said the man. “I wonder if you know how many beans make five.”
“Two in each hand and one in your mouth,” said Jack, as sharp as a needle.
“Right you are,” says the man, “and here they are, the very beans themselves,” he went on, pulling out of his pocket a number of strange looking beans. “As you are so sharp,” said he, “I don’t mind doing a swap with you — your cow for these beans.”
“Go along,” said Jack. “You take me for a fool!”
“Ah! You don’t know what these beans are,” said the man. “If you plant them overnight, by morning they grow right up to the sky.”
“Really?” said Jack. “You don’t say so.”
“Yes, that is so. If it doesn’t turn out to be true you can have your cow back.”
“Right,” said Jack, and handed him over Milky-White, then pocketed the beans.
Back home goes Jack and says to his mother, “You’ll never guess mother what I got for Milky-White.”
His mother became very excited, “Five pounds? Ten? Fifteen? No, it can’t be twenty.”
“I told you that you couldn’t guess. What do you say to these beans? They’re magical. Plant them overnight and — ”
“What!” Exclaimed Jack’s mother. “Have you been such a fool, such a dolt, such an idiot? Take that! Take that! Take that! As for your precious beans, here they go out of the window. Now off with you to bed. Not a sup shall you drink, and not a bit shall you swallow this very night.”
So Jack went upstairs to his little room in the attic, sad and sorry he was, to be sure. At last he dropped off to sleep.
When he woke up, the room looked so funny. The sun was shining into part of it, and yet all the rest was quite dark and shady. Jack jumped up and went to the window. What do you think he saw? Why, the beans his mother had thrown out of the window into the garden had sprung up into a giant beanstalk which went up and up and up until it reached the sky. So the man spoke truth after all!
The beanstalk grew up quite close past Jack’s window, so all he had to do was to open it and give a jump onto the beanstalk which ran up just like a big ladder. So Jack climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and he climbed until at last he reached the sky. When he got there he found a long broad road going as straight as a dart. So he walked along, and walked along, and he walked along until he came to a great big tall house, and on the doorstep there was a great big tall woman.
“Good morning, ma’am,” said Jack, quite politely. “Could you be so kind as to give me some breakfast?” For he was as hungry as a hunter.
“It’s breakfast you want, is it?” said the great big tall woman. “It’s breakfast you’ll be if you don’t move off from here. My man is an ogre and there’s nothing he likes better than boys boiled on toast. You’d better be moving on or he’ll be coming.”
“Oh! please mum, do give me something to eat, mum. I’ve had nothing to eat since yesterday morning, really and truly, mum,” said Jack. “I may as well be boiled as die of hunger.”
Well, the ogre’s wife was not half so bad after all, so she took Jack into the kitchen, and gave him a hunk of bread and cheese and a jug of milk. Jack hadn’t half finished these when thump, thump, thump! The whole house began to tremble with the noise of someone coming.
“Goodness gracious me! It’s my old man,” said the ogre’s wife. “What on earth shall I do? Come along quick and jump in here.” She bundled Jack into the oven just as the ogre came in. He was a big one, to be sure. At his belt he had three calves strung up by the heels, and he unhooked them and threw them down onto the table and said:
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll have his bones to grind my bread.”
“Nonsense, dear,” said his wife. “You’re dreaming. Or perhaps you smell the scraps of that little boy you liked so much for yesterday’s dinner. Here you go, and have a wash and tidy up. By the time you come back your breakfast’ll be ready for you.”
So off the ogre went, and Jack was just going to jump out of the oven and run away when the woman told him, “Wait till he’s asleep. He always has a doze after breakfast.” Well, the ogre had his breakfast, and after that he went to a big chest and took out a couple of bags of gold, and down he sat and counted until at last his head began to nod and he began to snore until the whole house shook again.
Jack then crept out on tip-toe from the oven, and as he was passing the ogre, he took one of the bags of gold from under his arm, and off he peltered until he came to the beanstalk, and then he threw down the bag of gold, which of course fell into his mother’s garden. He climbed down and down until at last he got home and told his mother and showed her the gold and said, “Well, mother, wasn’t I right about the beans? They are really magical, you see.”
So they lived on the bag of gold for some time, until at last they came to the end of it, and Jack made up his mind to try his luck once more at the top of the beanstalk. So one fine morning he rose up early, and got onto the beanstalk, and he climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and he climbed until at last he came out onto the road again and up to the great tall house he had been to before. There, sure enough, was the great tall woman a-standing on the doorstep.
“Good morning, mum,” said Jack, as bold as brass, “could you be so good as to give me something to eat?”
“Go away, my boy,” said the big tall woman, “or else my man will eat you up for breakfast. Aren’t you the youngster who came here once before? Do you know, that very day my man missed one of his bags of gold.”
“That’s strange, mum,” said Jack, “I dare say I could tell you something about that, but I’m so hungry I can’t speak until I’ve had something to eat.”
Well, the big tall woman was so curious that she took him in and gave him something to eat. He had scarcely begun munching it as slowly as he could when thump! thump! They heard the giant’s footstep, and his wife hid Jack away in the oven.
All happened as it did before. In came the ogre as he did before, said, “Fee-fi-fo-fum,” and had his breakfast off three boiled oxen.
Then he said, “Wife, the hen that lays the golden eggs.” So she brought it, and the ogre said, “Lay,” and it laid an egg all of gold. Then the ogre began to nod his head, and to snore until the house shook. Jack crept out of the oven on tip-toe and caught hold of the golden hen, and was off before you could say “Jack Robinson.” This time the hen gave a cackle which woke the ogre, and just as Jack got out of the house he heard him calling, “Wife, wife, what have you done with my golden hen?”
The wife said, “Why, my dear?” But that was all Jack heard, for he rushed off to the beanstalk and climbed down like a house on fire. When he got home he showed his mother the wonderful hen, and said “Lay” to it; and it laid a golden egg every time he said “Lay.”
Well it wasn’t long before that Jack made up his mind to have another try at his luck up there at the top of the beanstalk. One fine morning he rose up early and got to the beanstalk, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and he climbed until he got to the top.
This time he knew better than to go straight to the ogre’s house. When he got near it, he waited behind a bush until he saw the ogre’s wife come out with a pail to get some water, and then he crept into the house and got into a big copper pot. He hadn’t been there long when he heard thump, thump, thump! As before, and in came the ogre and his wife.
“Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman,” cried out the ogre. “I smell him, wife, I smell him.”
“Do you, my dearie?” said the ogre’s wife. “Then, if it’s that little rogue that stole your gold and the hen that laid the golden eggs he’s sure to have gotten into the oven.” And they both rushed to the oven.
Jack wasn’t there, luckily. So the ogre sat down to the breakfast and ate it, but every now and then he would mutter, “Well, I could have sworn –” and he’d get up and search the larder and the cupboards and everything, only, luckily, he didn’t think of the copper pot.
After breakfast was over, the ogre called out, “Wife, wife, bring me my golden harp.” So she brought it and put it on the table before him. Then he said, “Sing!” The golden harp sang most beautifully. It went on singing until the ogre fell asleep, and commenced to snore like thunder.
Then Jack lifted up the copper lid very quietly and got down like a mouse and crept on hands and knees until he came to the table, when up he crawled, caught hold of the golden harp and dashed with it towards the door. But the harp called out quite loudly, “Master! Master!” The ogre woke up just in time to see Jack running off with his harp.
Jack ran as fast as he could, and the ogre came rushing after, and would soon have caught him, only Jack had a start and dodged him a bit and knew where he was going. When he got to the beanstalk the ogre was not more than twenty yards away when suddenly he saw Jack disappear. When he came to the end of the road he saw Jack underneath climbing down for dear life. Well, the ogre didn’t like trusting himself to such a ladder, and he stood and waited, so Jack got another start.
Just then the harp cried out, “Master! Master!” and the ogre swung himself down onto the beanstalk, which shook with his weight. Down climbed Jack, and after him climbed the ogre. By this time Jack had climbed down, and climbed down, and climbed down until he was very nearly home. So he called out, “Mother! Mother! Bring me an axe, bring me an axe!” His mother came rushing out with the axe in her hand, but when she came to the beanstalk she stood stuck still with fright, for there she saw the ogre with his legs just through the clouds.
Jack jumped down and took hold of the axe and gave a chop at the beanstalk which cut it half in two. The ogre felt the beanstalk shake and quiver, so he stopped to see what was the matter. Then Jack gave another chop with the axe, and the beanstalk was cut in two and began to topple over. Then the ogre fell down and broke his crown, and the beanstalk came toppling after.
Jack showed his mother his golden harp, and with showing that and selling the golden eggs, Jack and his mother became very rich, and he married a great princess, and they lived happy ever after.
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