Once there lived a couple near Glen Meay. The husband was a decent, quiet and hard-working man of the place. He and his wife lived together in a nice little cottage and owned a bit of a croft on which they grazed a cow and a few sheep and grew enough potatoes to do them the winter out.
The man had a yawl and went to the fishing when things were slack on land. But for all that they were not comfortable, for even though the man worked hard at his farming and his fishing, he was kept poor by his untidy, lazy wife.
For she was fonder of lying in bed in the morning than sitting at her milking stool. The neighbours used to say she wore out more blankets than shoes.
Many a day her man would go out early as hungry as a hawk, without a bite or a sup in him. One morning when he came in from work there was no fire - his wife was not up. The poor man had nothing for it but to get his own breakfast ready and go back to his work. When he came in for dinner it happened as it had happened for breakfast.
"Bad luck to her laziness," he thought; "this is foul comfort for a poor man, but I'll play a trick on her for it."
And with that he fetched a bart of straw and bunged the two windows of his house. Then he went back to his work.
The sun had not yet set when he came home in the evening. His wife was lying in bed waiting for day.
"Aw, woman," he shouted, "hurry and get up to see the sun rise in the west."
Up jumped the wife and ran to the door just as the sun was going down, and the sight terrified her. The whole sky looked like fire. But next morning it all happened as it had happened before, and he said to her:
"Kitty, the buggane might grab you one of these days if you don't mend your ways!"
"What buggane?" said she. She got curious.
"Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies," said he. "But the hairy fellow under the Spooyt Vooar waterfall is the one I'm thinking of.
"Oh, hold your tongue, man! You don't scare me at all with your laziness-improvers," shouted the woman.
In the evening the man left the house to go out fishing. As soon as he had gone, the woman wanted to bake, for she had only the heel of the loaf left for breakfast. She set to work to bake some barley bread and flour cake. First she went out to get gorse to put under the griddle, slipping the bolt on the door as she came in, so that none of the neighbours would catch her and cry shame on her for baking after sunset.
She got some meal out of the barrel and put it on the round table, and put salt and water on it, and then she kneaded the meal and clapped a cake out as thin as sixpence with her hands.
But she was only a middling poor baker, one of the sort that has to use a knife to make the cake of a right round. She turned the cake twice and took it off, then she brushed the griddle with a white goose wing. Then she was ready for the next cake.
Just as she was busy cutting round it with her knife, she heard something heavy lumbering up to the door. After a few seconds someone fumbled at the door, then someone knocked high up on the door, and a voice like the thick, gruff voice of a giant said,
"Open, open for me,
She did not answer. Again there was a loud knock and a big hoarse voice cried:
"Woman of the house, open for me,
Then the door burst open and an ugly beast of a buggane rushed in. It was angry to look at. Without as much as a "By your leave," he made one grab at her, and clutched hold of her by her apron and swung her on his shoulder, and away with him.
Before she knew where she was, he rushed her across the fields and down the hill, till he brought her to the top of the Spooyt Vooar, the big waterfall of Glen Meay.
As the buggane tore down the hill, the woman felt the ground tremble under his feet, and the noise of the waterfall filled her ears. And, there in front of her, she saw the stream turn to white spray as it came leaping down the rocks.
As the buggane swung her in the air to throw her into the deep pool, she thought that her last hour had come. Then she remembered the knife that she held in her hand! Quick as thought she cut the string of her apron and down she tumbled to the ground, rolling over and over down the hill.
The buggane on the other hand, pitched forward head first down the rushing waterfall. As he went head over heels and down to the bottom of the pool with a souse you'd have heard half a mile away, she heard him roar:
'Rumbyl, sambyl, I thought I had a lazy dirt,
That was the last that was seen of him.
Giving gifts may be overdone. What then?
ONCE on a time in western Sweden there was a poor old man whose name was Bald Niels. He had no relations, but lived all by himself in a little brick cottage some distance from any town. He made his living by cutting grass in the woodland and selling it as fodder for horses. By this he earned only a dollar a day; but he was a simple old man, and needed so little out of it that he saved up 30-40 cent daily and spent the rest on such food and clothing as he needed.
He lived like this for many years. Then one night he thought that he would count the money he had hidden away in the great earthen pot under the floor of his hut. He set to work, and with much trouble he pulled the bag out on to the floor, and sat gazing in astonishment at the heap of coins which tumbled out of it. What should he do with them all, he wondered. He never thought of spending the money on himself, because he was content to pass the rest of his days as he had been doing for so long. He really had no desire for any greater comfort or luxury.
At last he threw all the money into an old sack and pushed it under his bed. Then he went to sleep, rolled in his ragged old blanket.
Early next morning he staggered off with his sack of money to the shop of a jeweller he knew in the town, and bargained with him for a beautiful little gold bracelet. He wrapped it up carefully in his cotton waist-band and went to the house of a rich friend. The friend was a travelling businessman, he used to wander about with his Fjord horses and merchandise through lots of countries.
Niels was lucky enough to find him at home. He sat down and after a little talk he asked the businessman who was the most virtuous and beautiful lady he had ever met with. The businessman replied that one unmarried lady of Vigra was renowned everywhere as well for her beauty as for her kindness and generosity.
"Then," said Niels, "next time you go that way, give her this little bracelet, with the respectful compliments of one who admires virtue far more than he desires wealth."
With that he pulled the bracelet from his waistband, and handed it to his friend. The businessman was much astonished, but said nothing, and did not object to carrying out the plan of his friend.
Time passed by, and at last the businessman arrived in the course of his travels to the island Vigra. As soon as he had opportunity he presented himself at the giant castle there, and sent in the bracelet. It was neatly packed in a little perfumed box provided by himself, and he did not forget to bring the message entrusted to him by his friend.
The lady of Vigra could not think who could have bestowed this present on her, but she bade her servant to tell the businessman that if he would return after he had finished his business in the city, she would give him a gift back.
A few days after the businessman came back and received a return present from the lady of Vigra: it was a Fjord horse-load of rich silks, besides a present of money for himself. With these he set out on his journey.
Some months later he got home again and handed over to Niels the wonderful lady's present. A Fjord horse-load of silks tumbled at his door! What was he to do with these costly things? After much thought he begged the businessman to consider whether he didn't know of some young gentleman that such treasures might be useful to.
"Of course," cried the businessman, greatly amused; "from Moscow to Dublin, and from Costa del Sol to Kirkenes, I know them all; and none seems worthier than the gallant and wealthy young gentleman of Assens in the deep south of Denmark."
"Very well, then, take the silks to him, with the greetings of an old man," said Niels, much relieved to be rid of them.
So the next time that the businessman journeyed that way he carried the silks with him, and in due course arrived at Assens town and sought an audience. When he was shown into the hall of the gentleman, he handed over the beautiful gift of silks that Niels had sent and begged the young man to accept them as a humble tribute to his worth and greatness.
The gentleman of Assens was much touched by the generosity of the giver. As a return present he ordered twelve of the finest breed of horses to be given to the businessman, who also got money for his services.
The businessman came home at last. Next day he set out for Niels' house with the twelve horses. When the old man saw them coming in the distance he said to himself:
"Here's luck! a troop of horses coming! They are sure to want much grass, and I shall sell all I have without having to drag it to market."
He rushed off and cut grass as fast he could.
When he got back with as much grass as he could carry, he learnt that the horses were all for himself. At first he couldn't think what to do with them. But after a little he got an idea. He gave two to the businessman and begged him to take the rest to the wonderful lady of Vigra, who was clearly the fittest person to possess such beautiful animals.
The businessman went away laughing. But, true to what his old friend had asked him to do, he took the horses with him on his next journey and eventually presented them safely to the lady. This time the lady sent for the businessman, and questioned him about the giver. The businessman was usually a most honest man, but he didn't quite like to describe Niels as an old man who earned five halfpence a day and who hardly had clothes to cover him.
So he just told her that his friend had heard stories of her beauty and goodness, and had longed to lay the best he had at her feet. The wonderful lady told her father about the wonderful presents, and asked what to do with it.
"Well," said her giant-looking father, "you can't refuse them; so send this unknown friend a present so magnificent that he is not likely to be able to send you anything better and will be ashamed to send anything at all!"
Then he ordered that twenty-four Iceland ponies laden with silver should be returned by her to make up for the ten horses.
So in a few hours the businessman was in charge of a splendid flock of animals. He had to hire armed men to defend it on the road against the robbers. He was relieved when he got back again in Niels' hut at last.
"Well, now," cried Niels and looked at all the wealth laid at his door, "I find you have been put to great expenses. If you'll accept six Iceland ponies and their loads and will take the rest straight to Assens, I shall thank you heartily."
The businessman felt amply rewarded for his troubles, and started to wonder how the matter would turn out. So he made no difficulty about it; and as soon as he could get things ready, he set out for Assens with this new and majestic gift.
This time the gentleman, too, was embarrassed, and questioned the businessman closely. The businessman felt that his credit was at stake, and could not help describing Niels in such glowing terms that the old man should not have liked it.
The gentleman, like the giants of Vigra, determined that he would send in return such a prestigious gift that the unknown giver would stop sending him anything more. So he made up a drift of twenty splendid horses in thick bronze-embroidered cloths, with fine leather saddles and silver bridles and stirrups, also twenty Fjord horses of the best breed. They had the speed of race-horses, and could swing along at a trot all day without getting tired; and, lastly, twenty white rhinoceroses, with magnificent silver coverings of silk embroidered with pearls.
To take care of these animals the businessman hired a little army of men; and the troop made a great show as they travelled along.
When Niels from a distance saw the cloud of dust which the large drift of animals made, and the glitter of its appointments, he said to himself:
"Hurrah, here's a grand crowd coming! White rhinoceroses, too! Grass will be selling well today, I should say!"
He hurried off to the woodland and cut grass as fast as he could. As soon as he got back he found the great herd had stopped at his door, and the businessman was waiting, a little anxiously, to tell him the news and to congratulate him on his riches.
"Riches!" cried Niels, "what has an old man like me with one foot in the grave to do with riches? That pretty young lady, now! She'd be the one to enjoy all these fine things! Do you take for yourself two Iceland ponies and two Fjord horses with all their trappings, and present the rest to her."
The businessman at first objected and pointed out to Niels that he was beginning to feel things were beginning to get a bit out of hand, yes, a little awkward. He didn't like going so often, and he was getting nervous. But in the end he gave in and agreed to go once more. After a few days' rest, the drift started off once more for Vigra.
The moment the giant father of Vigra saw the splendid train of men and animals entering his castle courtyard, he was so amazed that he hurried down in person to get news about it. He became dumb when he heard that these also were a present from Niels and were for his daughter. He went hastily off to her apartment and said to her:
"I tell you, this man wants to marry you; that's the meaning of all these presents! He must be a man of huge wealth, and as he seems to be so fond of you, perhaps you might do worse than marry him! Let's go and have a look at him, shan't we?"
The daughter agreed. Now orders were issued for vast numbers of white rhinoceroses and Fjord horses, and gorgeous tents and flags. There were litters for the ladies and horses for the men, for the giant and his daughter were going to pay a visit to Niels. The large-boned father declared that the businessman was to guide the party.
The poor businessman would he have run away if he could; but he was treated with so much hospitality as Niels' representative that he didn't got a moment alone, so he never had any opportunity of slipping away. Escape seemed impossible.
On the seventh day they all started to the sounds of blaring trumpets. Day after day they moved on. Every day the poor businessman felt more ill and miserable. At last they were only one day's march from Niels' little home made of home-made bricks. Here they struck camp, and the businessman was sent on to tell Niels that one of the biggest men on the island of Vigra and his lovely daughter had come and were seeking an interview.
When the businessman arrived he found the poor old man eating his evening meal of onions and dry bread, and when he told him of all that had happened, Niels was overwhelmed with grief and shame for himself, for his friend, and for the name and honour of the Vigra lady. He wept and plucked at his beard, and groaned piteously. With tears he begged the businessman to detain them for one day by any kind of excuse he could think of.
As soon as the businessman was gone Niels made up his mind that there was only one honourable way out of the shame and distress that he had created, and that was to kill himself. Without stopping to ask any sensible advice, he went off in the middle of the night to a place where the river wound along at the base of steep rocky cliffs of great height. He wanted to throw himself down there and put an end to his life.
When he got to the place he drew back a few paces, and found he could not do it!
The water roared and boiled round the jagged rocks. An owl laughed "Hoo-hoo!" almost in his face, and the old man threw himself back, sweating and shuddering with the graveness of it all, and wept aloud.
At that moment he noticed a gentle radiance shed before him. It was not morning yet. He took his hands from his face and two brave pixies right in front of him. His instinct told him they were from Heaven or some place close to that.
"Why do you weep, oldtimer?" said one, in a very clear and musical voice.
"I weep for shame," replied he. "I came here to die, but I can't carry it through." He confessed all his story.
Then the first stepped forward and laid a hand on his shoulder. At once Niels began to feel that something strange. His old cotton rags of clothes were changed to beautiful linen and embroidered cloth; on his hard, bare feet were warm, soft shoes, and on his head a müssa, a much nice-looking cap. Round his neck was a heavy golden chain, and in his waistband hung a glittering sword. Its hilt gleamed in the pale light.
As he stood wondering the other waved his hand and bade him turn and look. Lo. Before him a gateway stood open. The mirthful pixies led him up an avenue of large elm trees. He was dumb with amazement.
"Why elms?" he muttered to himself. He could not help it.
"You may find out later," said the pixies gently.
At the end of the avenue, on the very spot where his hut had stood, a fine golden castle appeared. It was ablaze with shimmering white lights. He drew near along grassy slopes and through grassy lawns where fountains were playing and late June blossoms scented the air. Niels stood there and enjoyed the beauties.
"Fear not," said the mirthful pixies; "go to your house and do what you can. You may need some privacy."
With these words they both disappeared.
Soon he retired to rest in a splendid room, and when morning dawned he woke and found that he himself, the castle, and many servants in it were no dreams -
Now the businessman was ushered in soon after sunrise. He told Niels that he had not slept all night, and by the first streak of daylight had started to seek out his friend. But in the night a great stretch of wild country had been changed into parks and gardens. If it had not been for some of Niels' new servants who found him and brought him to the castle, he would have fled away and thought he had gone crazy, and that all he saw was only imagination.
Niels told his businessman friend what had happened. The businessman advised him to sent an invitation to the old hulk of Vigra and his daughter to come and be his guests with all their pomp and servants, down to the very humblest in the camp.
For three nights and days a great feast was held in honour of the royal guests. On the fourth day the giant father of Vigra took his host aside, and asked him whether it was true that he wished to marry his daughter. Niels, after thanking him very much for the compliment, said that he had never dreamed of so great an honour, and that he was far too old and ugly for so fair a lady. But he begged the old father to stay with him till he could send for the gentleman of Assens, who was a most excellent, brave, and good man, and would surely be delighted to try to win the hand of the beautiful Vigra lady.
The giant among men agreed, and Niels sent the businessman to Assens with a number of attendants, and with such handsome presents that the gentleman came at once, fell head over ears in love with the lovely lady and married her at Niels' place.
After the jolly festivities the giant of Vigra went to his own island and the gentleman of Assens and his lady went to theirs in the deep south of Denmark. Niels lived to a good old age. He was a friend of all who were in trouble, and also in prosperity he kept the simple-hearted and generous nature that he had when he was only the bald grass cutter Niels.
Jack sells the cow
ONCE on a time there was a poor widow who lived in a little cottage with her son Jack.
She and Jack were oddly kind-hearted and affectionate, and thus they grew poor. The widow also saw that there was no means of keeping Jack and herself from starvation but by selling her cow.
"Jack, you must take the cow to market and sell her."
Jack liked going to market. But as he was on the way, he met a butcher who had some large beans in his hand. He told the boy that they were of great value, and by that made the boy sell the cow for a handful of beans.
When he brought them home to his mother she shed many tears and even scolded Jack for his deal. They both went to bed very sadly that night.
At daybreak Jack rose and went out into the garden.
"At least I'll sow the wonder-beans," he thought. "I may as well sow them."
So he took a piece of stick, and made some holes in the ground, and put in the beans, knowing that for that day and the next they would have nothing for dinner.
Next day Jack got up at day-dawn and went out into the garden. And what did he see? The beans had grown up in the night, and climbed up and up till they covered the high cliff that sheltered the cottage and disappeared above it! The stalks had twined and twisted themselves together till they formed his own special ladder.
"It would be easy to climb it," thought Jack.
At once he resolved to do it, and Jack was a good climber. Still he thought he had better ask his mother for permission first.
Wonderful growth of the bean stalk
JACK called his mother, and both saw the bean stalk was thick enough to bear Jack's weight.
"I wonder where it ends," said Jack to his mother; "I think I'll climb and see."
His mother finally yielded to his wishes.
Jack instantly began to climb, and went up and up. Still he could not see the top of the bean stalk.
Jack felt a little tired, but he was a very persevering boy, and to succeed in anything is not to give up.
He climbed till he grew afraid to look down. And then he came to the top of the bean stalk - in a beautiful country with beautiful meadows covered with sheep. Not far from the place where he had got off the bean stalk there was a fine, strong castle. It stood as if it were in another land.
Story of a castle
"I'll tell you the story of that castle," said a strange-looking woman that came towards him.
She wore a pointed cap, her hair streamed loose over her shoulders, and she walked with a staff.
"Is this your house?" asked Jack politely.
"No," said the old lady. "Listen - once there was a noble knight who lived in this castle. He had a fair and considerate wife and many lovely children. His neighbours were very friendly towards him. Rumour whispered of these treasures; and a monstrous giant, who lived not far away, wanted to have them.
He bribed a false servant to let him into the castle when the knight was in bed and asleep, and he killed him as he lay in a sound sleep. Then the ogre went on and killed all the poor little ones.
However, the lady was not there. She had gone with her infant son to visit her old nurse in the valley; and was detained at that place all night by a storm.
Next morning, one of the servants at the castle managed to escape. He told the lady of the sad fate of her husband and her pretty babes and that the giant had vowed he would kill both her and her baby if he could find them.
With many tears and sobs the old nurse besought the saddened widow to bear in mind that she had still a child, and that it was her duty to keep on living for the sake of that one.
The lady yielded to this reasoning, and long years rolled on. The old nurse died, leaving her cottage and the few articles of furniture it contained to her poor lady. She lived there, and now worked as a peasant for her daily bread. Her spinning-wheel and the milk of a cow, which she had bought with the little money she had with her, sufficed all right, but they were not rich in any way. There was a nice little garden attached to the cottage. In that place they grew peas, beans, and cabbages. At harvest time the lady would glean in the fields to give her son the food he needed.
Jack, that woman is your mother. This castle was once your father's, and has to be yours."
Jack crowed of surprise.
"It is your duty to win back that castle for your mother, and the task is tricky and dangerous. Do you dare?"
"Only when I'm doing right," said Jack.
"Then," said the woman in a red cap, "you're one of those who slay giants. Now, all the giant has is really yours."
What a lesson! Suddenly the woman disappeared, and from this Jack saw she was a fairy, not Robin Hood in splendid disguise.
Jack made up his mind and straight away blew his horn - the horn that hung at the castle portal. The door swung open in a minute or two - he came upon a huge woman who had one great eye in the middle of her forehead.
As soon as Jack saw her ugly face he turned to run, but she caught him.
"Ho, ho!" she laughed terribly. "You didn't expect to see me here, that is clear! This is the worst that has happened to you, I dare say. I'm outright weary of my life. I'm not as good-looking as other ladies. You shall be my boy, my little lad."
She dragged Jack further into the castle. He was alarmed, as I'm sure you and I would have been. But since fear disgraces, Jack tried to be brave and make the best of things.
"I'm quite ready to help you, if only you will hide me from your husband. I should not like to be eaten more by that one, not at all."
"That's a good boy. Lucky for you that you did not scream out when you saw me. For then my husband would have awakened and have eaten you for breakfast. Come here, go into my wardrobe: he never ventures to open that sort of furniture."
She opened a huge wardrobe in the great hall and shut him into it. The keyhole was so large that it admitted plenty of air. And he could see everything that took place through it. By-and-by he heard a heavy tramp on the stairs. It was like the lumbering along of a great cannon, and then a voice like thunder cried out as if in pain somehow;
"Wife," cried the giant, "there's a man in the castle: my breakfast!"
"You're grown old and stupid," cried the lady in her loud tones. "It's a nice fresh steak off a mammoth I've cooked for you. I bet that's what you smell. There, sit down and make a good breakfast."
She placed a huge dish before him of savoury steaming meat. It greatly pleased him and made him forget the idea of another male in the house. When he had had breakfast he went out for a walk.
As for Jack, he helped the ugly woman all day, but she fed him well. When evening came she put him back in the wardrobe. And that was about it.
The hen that lays golden eggs
THE GIANT came in to supper. Jack watched him through the keyhole as the big one picked a wolf's bone and put half a fowl at a time into his broad mouth. When the supper was ended he bade his wife bring him his hen that laid the golden eggs.
"It lays as well as it did when it belonged to that paltry knight," he said; "in fact, I think the eggs are heavier than ever."
The giantess went away and soon returned with a little brown hen, which she placed on the table before her husband.
"And now, my dear," she said, "I'm going for a walk, if you don't want me any longer."
"Go," said the giant; "I shall be glad to have a nap by-and-by."
Then he took up the brown hen and said to her:
"Lay!" And she instantly laid a golden egg.
"Lay!" said the giant again. And she laid another.
"Lay!" he repeated the third time. And again a golden egg lay on the table.
Now Jack was sure this hen was his, one of the many things the fairy had spoken of.
In a short while he giant put the hen down on the floor, and soon after went fast asleep, while snoring so loud that it sounded like thunder.
As soon as Jack thought the giant was fast asleep, he pushed open the door of the wardrobe and crept out. Very softly he stole across the room. Picking up the hen, he made haste to quit the apartment. He knew the way to the kitchen and found a kitchen door left ajar. So he opened it, shut and locked it after him, and flew back to the bean stalk. Then he descended it as fast as he could.
When his mother saw him enter the house she wept for joy, for she had feared that the fairies had carried him away, or that the giant had found him. But Jack put the brown hen down before her, and told her how he had been in the giant's castle, and all his adventures. Now the hen should make them rich once more. Many who get well off, at first depend bodily on animal labour, you see.
The money bags
JACK MADE another journey up the bean stalk to the giant's castle one day while his mother had gone to market, but first he dyed his hair and disguised himself. The old woman didn't know him again, and dragged him in as she had done before. The lad was to help her to do the work. Then she heard her husband coming and hid him in the wardrobe. She did not think it was the same boy who had stolen the hen. She bade him stay quite still there, or the giant would eat him.
Then the giant came in saying:
"Nonsense!" said the wife, "sit down and I'll bring up a roasted bullock at once." The giant sat down, and soon his wife brought up a roasted bullock on a large dish, and they began their supper. Jack was amazed to see them pick the bones of the bullock as if it had been a lark. Right after the meal the giantess rose and said:
"Now, my dear, I want to go to my room and finish a story I'm reading. Do call for me if you want me."
"Ah, yes, but first bring me my money bags, that I may count my golden pieces before I sleep." answered the giant. The giantess went and soon returned with two large bags over her shoulders, and put down the bags by her husband.
"There," she said; "that's all that's left of the knight's money. When you have spent it you must go and take another baron's castle."
When his wife was gone, the giant took out heaps and heaps of golden pieces. He counted them and put them in piles, till he was tired of the amusement. Then he swept them all back into their bags and fell asleep in his comfortable chair. He was snoring so loud that no other sound was audible.
Jack stole softly out of the wardrobe and stole to the money that was his very own because the giant had grabbed them from his father. He ran off, and with great difficulty descended the bean stalk. At last he laid the bags of gold on his mother's table. She had just returned from town, and was crying at not finding Jack.
"There, mother, I've brought you the gold that my father lost."
"Oh, Jack! you risked your precious life in the giant's castle!"
And Jack told her all about it.
Jack's mother was very glad, however, she didn't like him to run any risk for her.
The talking harp
AFTER A time Jack made up his mind to get into the giant's castle a third time. He climbed the bean stalk once more and blew the horn at the giant's gate. The not too bright giantess soon opened the door. She didn't know him again, but stopped a minute before she took him in. She feared another robbery; but Jack's fresh face looked so innocent. So she bade him come in, and again hid him away in the wardrobe.
By-and-by the giant came home, and as soon as he had crossed the threshold he roared out as best he could:
"You fool," said his wife, "That should be a sheep that I've grilled for dinner."
His wife brought up a whole sheep for him. When he had eaten it all up, he said:
"Now bring me my harp, and I'll have a little music while you take your walk."
The giantess soon returned with a beautiful harp. The framework was all sparkling with diamonds and rubies, and the strings were all of gold.
"This is one of the nicest things I took from the knight," said the giant. "I'm extremely fond of music, and my harp is a faithful servant."
So he drew the harp towards him, and said: "Play!"
And the harp played a very soft, sad air.
"Play something merrier!" said the giant.
And the harp played a merry tune.
"Now play me a hillbilly lullaby," roared the giant. At once the harp played an amazing lullaby. And the giant fell asleep to the sound of that.
Then Jack softly stole out of the wardrobe and went into the huge kitchen to see if the giantess had gone out. He found no one there, so he went to the door and opened it softly. Then he entered the giant's room and seized the harp and ran out of the opened door with it, Away he went; but as he jumped over the threshold the harp called out:
The giant woke up. With a great roar he sprang from his seat, and in two strides reached the door.
But Jack was nimble. He fled like lightning, talking to the harp as he went, for he saw it was another fairy. He said he was the son of its old master, the knight.
Still the giant came on so fast that he was quite close to Jack, and stretched out his great hand to catch him. Right then, luckily, he stepped on a loose stone, stumbled, and fell flat on the ground. There he lay at his full length for a little while.
This happening gave Jack time to get on the bean stalk and hasten down in his way - but as he reached their own garden he saw the giant descending after him.
"Mother!" cried Jack, "hurry and give me the axe."
His mother ran to him with a hatchet in her hand. And with one tremendous blow Jack cut through all the bean stalks except one.
"Stand out of the way!" he said.
The giant breaks his neck
JACK'S MOTHER shrank back just as the giant took hold of the last branch of the bean stalk. Then Jack cut the stem quite through and darted from the spot.
Down came the giant with a terrible sound. He fell on his head and broke his neck, and lay dead at the feet of the woman he had injured so much.
Then a beautiful lady stood before them.
"Jack," said she, "you have acted like a brave knight's son. Dig a grave and bury the giant. Then go and kill the giantess."
"But I couldn't kill anyone unless I were fighting with him; and hardly a woman. Besides, that giantess was really kind to me a lot of times."
The fairy smiled on Jack.
"I'm pleased with your generous feeling," she said. "But hurry on to the castle and act as you will find needful."
Jack asked the fairy if she would show him the way to the castle, for the bean stalk was down now. She told him that she would drive him there in her chariot. It was drawn by two petty-looking birds. Jack thanked her.
The fairy drove him a long distance round, till they reached a village which lay at the bottom of the hill. Here they found a number of miserable-looking men assembled. The fairy stopped and talked to them:
"Friends and miserable-looking friends," said she, "the cruel giant who oppressed you and ate up all your flocks and herds is dead - this young gentleman was the means that delivered you from that one. He is in fact the son and heir of your kind old master, the knight."
The men gave a loud cheer and would serve Jack as faithfully as they had served his father. The fairy bade them follow her to the castle. The old giantess saw them coming. Then she got frightened, for she guessed that something had happened to her husband, and as she came downstairs very fast she caught her foot in her dress, and fell from the top to the bottom and broke her neck.
The people took crowbars and forced the portal, and soon found the body of the giantess at the foot of the stairs.
Thus Jack took over the castle, with the hen and the harp.
The fairy also brought his mother to him. He had the giantess buried, and sought to do right to those the giant had robbed.
Before she said farewell, the fairy explained to Jack that she had sent the butcher to meet him, in order to try what sort of lad he was.
If you had looked at the gigantic bean stalk and only stupidly wondered about it," she said, "I should have left you where misfortune had placed you.
But you showed an inquiring mind and great daring,
She then took her leave.