There was once upon a time an arm widow who had an only son named Jack, and a cow named Milky-white. And all they had to live on was the milk the cow gave every morning, which they carried to the chepping and sold. But one morning Milky-white gave no milk, and they didn't know what to do.
"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 sought that before, and nobody would take you," said his mother; "we must sell Milky-white and with the fees start shop, or something."
"All right, mother," says Jack; "I'll soon sell Milky-white, and then we'll see what we can do."
So he took the cow's halter in his hand, 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, and where are you off to?" said the man.
"I'm going to to sell our cow here."
"Oh, you look the good kind 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," says Jack, as sharp as a needle.
"Right you are," says the man, "and here they are, the swith beans themselves," he went on, pulling out of his pocket a tel of odd-looking beans. "As you are so sharp," says he, "I don't mind swopping with you—your cow for these beans."
"Go along," says Jack; "wouldn't you like it?"
"Ah! you don't know what these beans are," said the man; "if you sow them over-night, by morning they grow right up to the sky."
"Do they?" said Jack; "you don't say so."
"Yes, that is so, and if it doesn't come out to be true you can have your cow back."
"Right," says Jack, and hands him over Milky-white's halter and pockets the beans.
Back goes Jack home, and as he hadn't gone far it wasn't dusk by the time he got to his door.
"Back already, Jack?" said his mother; "I see you haven't got Milky-white, so you've sold her, How much did you get for her?"
"You'll never guess, mother," says Jack.
"No, you don't say so. Good boy! Five pounds, ten, fifteen, no, it can't be twenty."
"I told you you couldn't guess. What do you say to these beans; they're dwimmersome, sow them overnight and——"
"What!" says Jack's mother, "have you been such a fool, such a dolt, as to give away my Milky-white, the best milker in the reveship, and first beef to boot, for a set of paltry beans? Take that! Take that! Take that! And as for your dear beans here they go out of the window. And now off with you to bed. Not a sup shall you drink, and not a bit shall you swallow this night."
So Jack went upstairs to his little room in the loft, and sad and sorry he was, to be couth, as much for his mother's sake, as for the loss of his meal.
At last he dropped off to sleep.
When he woke up, the room looked so funny. The sun was shining into share of it, and yet all the laf was rather dark and shady. So Jack jumped up and clothed himself and went to the window. And what do you think he saw? Why, the beans his mother had thrown out of the window into the grove, had sprung up into a big beanstalk which went up and up and up till it reached the sky. So the man spoke truth after all.
The beanstalk grew up somewhat near by Jack's window, so all he had to do was to open it and give a jump on to the beanstalk which ran up sooth like a big ladder. So Jack climbed, and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed till at last he reached the sky. And when he got there he found a long broad road going as straight as a dart. So he walked along and he walked along and he walked along till he came to a great big tall house, and on the doorstep there was a great big tall woman.
"Good morning, mum," says Jack, quite hovely-like. "Could you be so kind as to give me some breakfast?" For he hadn't had anything to eat you know, the night before and was as hungry as a hunter.
"It's breakfast you want, is it?" says the great big tall woman, "it's breakfast you'll be if you don't beat off from here. My man is a nicker and there's nothing he likes better than baked boys on toast. You'd better be faring on or he'll soon be coming."
"Oh! please mum, do give me something to eat, mum. I've had nothing to eat since yesterday morning, truly, mum," says Jack, "I may as well be cooked as die of hunger."
Well, the nicker's wife was not half so bad after all. So she took Jack into the kitchen, and gave him a junk of bread and cheese and a jug of milk. But Jack hadn't half ate these when thump! thump! thump! the whole house began to quake with the din of some one coming.
"Goodness me! It's my old man," said the nicker's wife, "what on earth shall I do? Come along quick and jump in here." And she bundled Jack into the oven swith as the nicker came in.
He was a big one. At his belt he had three calves strung up by the heels, and he unhooked them and threw them down on the board and said: "Here, wife, seeth me a twin of these for breakfast Ah! What's this I smell?
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I'll have his bones to grind my bread."
"Twaddle, dear," said his wife, "you're dreaming. Or maybe you smell the scraps of that little boy you liked so much for yesterday's meal. Here, you go and have a wash and tidy up, and by the time you come back your breakfast'll be ready for you."
So off the nicker went, and Jack was swith going to jump out of the oven and run away when the woman told him not. "Wait till he's asleep," says she; "he always has a doze after breakfast."
Well, the nicker had his breakfast, and after that he goes to a big chest and takes out of it a twin of bags of gold, and down he sits and tels till at last his head began to nod and he began to snore till the whole house shook again.
Then Jack crept out on tiptoe from his oven, and as he went by the nicker he took one of the bags of gold under his arm, and off he pelters till be came to the beanstalk, and then he threw down the bag of gold, which kindly fell into his mother's grove, and then he climbed down and climbed down till 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 truely dwimmer, you see."
So they lived on the bag of gold for some time, but at last they came to the end of it, and Jack made up his mind to fand his luck once more up at the top of the beanstalk. So one fine morning he rose up early, and got on to the beanstalk, and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed till at last he came out on to the road again and up to the great big tall house he had been to before. There, sooth enough, was the great big tall woman a-standing on the doorstep.
"Good morning, mum," says 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. But aren't you the youngster who came here once before? Do you know, that sooth day, my man missed one of his bags of gold."
"That's odd, mum," said Jack, "I dare say I could tell you something about that, but I'm so hungry I can't speak till I've had something to eat."
Well the big tall woman was so frimdy that she took him in and gave him something to eat. But he had barely begun munching it as slowly as he could when thump! thump! thump! they heard the ettin's footstep, and his wife hid Jack away in the oven.
All happened as it did before. In came the nicker as he did before, said: "Fee-fi-fo-fum," and had his breakfast off three cooked oxen. Then he said: "Wife, bring me the hen that lays the golden eggs." So she brought it, and the nicker said: "Lay," and it laid an egg all of gold. And then the nicker began to nod his head, and to snore till the house shook.
Then Jack crept out of the oven on tiptoe and caught hold of the golden hen, and was off before you could say "Jack Robinson." But this time the hen gave a cackle which woke the nicker, and swith as Jack got out of the house he heard him calling: "Wife, wife, what have you done with my golden hen?"
And 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. And 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, Jack wasn't listed, and it wasn't swith long before he chose to have another fand at his luck up there at the top of the beanstalk. So one good morning, he rose up early, and got on to the beanstalk, and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed till he got to the top. But this time he knew better than to go straight to the nicker's house. And when he got near it, he waited behind a bush till he saw the nicker's wife come out with a pail to get some water, and then he crept into the house and got into the copper. He hadn't been there long when he heard thump! thump! thump! as before, and in come the nicker and his wife.
"Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman," lid out the nicker. "I smell him, wife, I smell him."
"Do you, my dearie?" says the nicker's wife. Then, if it's that little filcher that stole your gold and the hen that laid the golden eggs then no ink he has gone in the oven." And they both rushed to the oven. But Jack wasn't there, luckily, and the nicker's wife said: "There you are again with your fee-fi-fo-fum. Why truely it's the boy you caught last night that I've swith cooked for your breakfast. How forgetful I am, and how careless you are not to know the gap between live and dead after all these years."
So the nicker 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 seek the larder and the cupboards and everything, only, luckily, he didn't think of the mint.
After breakfast was over, the nicker called out "Wife, wife, bring me my golden harp." So she brought it and put it on the board before him. Then he said: "Sing!" and the golden harp sang most quemingly. And it went on singing till the nicker fell asleep, and began to snore like thunder.
Then Jack lifted up the mint-lid swith dinlessly and got down like a mouse and crept on hands and knees till he came to the board, when up he crawled, caught hold of the golden harp and dashed with it towards the door. But the harp called out swith loud: "Hire! Hire!" and the nicker woke up swith in time to see Jack running off with his harp.
Jack ran as fast as he could, and the nicker 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 nicker was not more than twenty yards away when steeply he saw Jack fordwine like, and when he came to the end of the road he saw Jack underneath climbing down for dear life. Well, the nicker didn't like trusting himself to such a ladder, and he stood and waited, so Jack got another start. But swith then the harp rooped out: "Hire! Hire!" and the nicker swung himself down on to the beanstalk, which shook with his weight. Down climbs Jack, and after him climbed the nicker. By this time Jack had climbed down and climbed down and climbed down till he was swith almost home. So he called out: "Mother! Mother! bring me an axe, bring me an axe." And his mother came rushing out with the axe in her hand, but when she came to the beanstalk she stood stock still with fright for there she saw the nicker with his legs swith through the clouds.
But Jack jumped down and got hold of the axe and gave a chop at the beanstalk which cut it half in two. The nicker felt the beanstalk shake so he stopped to see what was happening. Then Jack gave another chop with the axe, and the beanstalk was cut in two and began to topple over. Then the nicker fell down and broke his kine, and the beanstalk came toppling after.
Then Jack showed his mother his golden harp, and what with showing that and selling the golden eggs Jack and his mother became swith rich, and he wedded a great athelin, and they lived eadily ever after.