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The Oak-Tree Fairy Book by  Clifton Johnson
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LAZY JACK

[322]

O
NCE upon a time there was a boy whose name was Jack, and he lived with his mother in a little house on the borders of a village.

They were very poor and the woman kept busy day in and day out at her spinning-wheel; but Jack did no work at all. H e would lie in the sunshine when the weather was warm, and when the weather was cold he would sit beside the fire.

Time passed along and Jack grew to be a young man, but still his mother could not get him to do anything for her, and finally, just after breakfast one Monday morning, when she was beginning her spinning and Jack had settled himself comfortably in the chimney-corner, she said to him, "Jack unless you begin to work I shall turn you out of the house for good and all, and you will have to get your living as best you may."

Lazy Jack did not care to run the risk of losing his home. "The only safe thing for me to do, thought he, "is to find a job at once," and he got up [323] and went to a neighboring woodcutter and hired himself for the day. When evening came the wood cutter gave the lad a penny for his services, and Jack set off for home well satisfied; but he had never had money before and he handled it so carelessly that in crossing a narrow foot-bridge over a brook he dropped the penny into the water. The brook was deep, yet he could see the penny lying on the bottom and he poked about with a stick hoping to get it out. That only stirred up the mud, and soon the penny was hopelessly lost. Then Jack went on home and told his mother what had happened.

"You stupid boy!" said she, "you should have put it in your pocket."

"I'll do so next time," said Jack.

On Tuesday morning Jack went and hired himself to a dairyman. When evening came the dairyman gave him a quart pail full of milk for his services. Now," said Jack, ((I must not lose this milk as I did my penny. Mother told me I should have put what I got in my pocket, and I will this time. My jacket pockets are large and deep, and I think the pail will go in very well."

So he put the pail of milk into one of his jacket pockets and walked off home; and by the time he got there the milk was all spilled.

[324] "Dear me!" said his mother, "you should have carried it on your head."

"I'll do so next time," said Jack.

On Wednesday morning Jack went and hired himself to a farmer. When evening came the farmer gave him a cream cheese for his services. "Now," said Jack, "I must not lose this cheese as I did the milk yesterday. Mother told me I should have carried what I got on my head, and I will this time."

So he took the cheese and put it on his head; but the day was warm, and the cheese melted, and some of it dropped off along the way and the rest was matted in his hair.


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"You foolish fellow," said his mother, "you should have carried it in your hands."

"I'll do so next time," said Jack.

On Thursday morning Jack went and hired himself to a baker. When evening came the baker gave him a large tom-cat for his services. "Now," said Jack, "I must not lose this tom-cat as I did the cream cheese yesterday. Mother told me I should have carried what I got in my hands, and I will this time."

So he took up the cat and carried it along in his hands; but pussy began to scratch, and the tighter [325] he gripped it the worse it clawed, until he had to let it go. As soon as he reached home Jack told his mother how the cat got away, and she said, "You silly lad, you should have tied it with a string and dragged it along after you."

"I'll do so next time," said Jack.

On Friday morning Jack went and hired himself to a butcher. When evening came the butcher gave him a nice leg of mutton for his services. "Now," said Jack, "I must not lose this mutton as I did the tom-cat yesterday. Mother told me I should have tied a string to what I got and dragged it along after me, and I will this time."

So he tied a string to the leg of mutton and dragged it along after him in the dirt, and when he got home he found the mutton was spoiled. His mother was more out of patience with him than ever. "You ninny-hammer," said she, "you should have carried it on your shoulder."

[326] "I'll do so next time," said Jack. On Saturday morning Jack went and hired himself to a cattle-keeper. When evening came the cattle-keeper rewarded him for his services with a little donkey that was too old to be of any more use on the farm. "Now," said Jack, "I must not lose this donkey as I did that leg of mutton yesterday. Mother told me I should have carried what I got on my shoulder, and I will this time."

Jack was a stout fellow, and after considerable trouble he succeeded in hoisting the donkey to his shoulders and started for home. As it happened, he had to pass the mansion of a rich man whose only daughter was deaf and dumb. She had never laughed in her life, and the doctors said unless she was made to laugh she could not hope to have either speech or hearing to the end of her days. So everything was done that could be thought of to make her laugh, but nothing was accomplished. At last the father proclaimed that the first man who succeeded in making his daughter laugh should have her for his wife.


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When Jack came along with the donkey on his shoulders the young lady was looking out of the window, and the sight was so strange and comical that she began to laugh very heartily, and im- [327] mediately she could speak and hear. Her father was overjoyed, and he sent for Jack and told him how things were, and Jack married the daughter and was thus made a rich gentleman. He and his wife had a beautiful home, and Jack's mother lived with them in great happiness for the rest of her days.


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