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But when Jack stepped from the top of the beanstalk he found himself in a beautiful place, such as he had never seen before. There were stately groves and lovely meadows covered with sheep. A stream of pure water ran through the pastures, and not far from him he could see a strong castle on a hill. Jack wondered very much that he had never heard of this land or castle before, but still be walked on toward it, looking at it all the time and hoping that he might get something to eat, for he was very hungry after his long climb.
But the castle was farther away than he thought, and finally, growing very weary, he sat down on a pile of stones and rested his head on his hands. A fter a while he looked up and saw standing before him a beautiful lady, carrying in her hand a small wand, on the top of which was a peacock of pure gold. Jack jumped up, pulled off his cap and made a low bow.
The lady, who wore a pointed red cap of quilted satin turned up with ermine, and whose beautiful hair streamed over her shoulders, smiled at Jack's respectful behavior and said, "Where do you come from, young man?"
In reply, Jack told her all about trading his cow, planting the beans and climbing the beanstalk. When he had finished she surprised him by asking this question:
"Do you remember your father?"
"No," said Jack, "and I do not know what became of him. Whenever I mention him, my mother cries, but she will never tell me anything."
"She doesn't dare to speak about him." said the ladv. "but I will tell vou."
I AM a fairy," continued the lady, "and it was my duty to watch over your father, but one day I grew careless, and when he most needed me I was not there to help him, and he died. I am so sorry that I am going to tell you his story, so that you may help your mother. But you must not tell her about me, and you must promise to do as I tell you.
"Your father, who was a noble knight, once lived in that very castle, which is, you see, on the borders of Fairyland. His wife, your mother, was a beautiful woman, and they had several lovely children. Their neighbors, the fairies, were very friendly to them and helped your father to obtain a great many precious things.
"A great giant, who lived a short way off, heard whispers of these treasures and coveted them; besides, he was very jealous of your father, who lived only to do good and let no day pass without assisting some poor and needy person.
"Resolving to obtain possession of the treasures and to destroy your family, the giant bribed a false servant to let him inside the castle. When the knight was in bed and asleep, the giant crept to his bed and killed him as he lay. Then he searched the castle till he found the nursery, and he killed all the poor little children, your brothers and sisters. Although he searched the castle from one end to another he could not find your mother nor her infant son, for both had gone to visit an old nurse who lived in the valley.
"The next morning, as soon as it was light, one of the servants who had escaped from the castle told her of the death of your father and your brothers and sisters, and frightened her still more by telling her that the giant was searching everywhere for her and her infant. If there had been no one but herself, your mother would have gone straight to the castle to die with her husband, but she felt she must live for you, so she remained concealed at the house of the old nurse, never daring to tell any one who she was, or to let you know your father's sad story.
"Years passed by. When the old nurse died she left her cottage and its contents to your mother, who dwelt there like a peasant, working for her daily bread. With her spinning wheel and garden she earned money enough to buy a cow, and whatever more was necessary to keep you and her. At times your mother was not ashamed to go out to work, and even in the harvest fields she gleaned food to supply your wants."
"My mother! O lady, what can I do? My poor father, my dear mother!"
"You must win back everything for your mother and yourself, but it is a difficult task and full of danger. Have you the courage to undertake it?"
"I shall fear nothing while I am doing right."
"Then," said the fairy in the red cap, "you are one of those who slay giants. Now remember, it was I who secretly prompted you to trade the cow for the beans, and it was my power that made the beanstalk grow to so great a height and form the ladder. It was I, also, who inspired you with the wish to climb the ladder. Now the giant lives in this country—here, in fact, in the very castle that was once your father's. Everything he has is yours, and you may seize all you can. You must rid the country of the giant and save yourself and others. One thing alone I ask: you must not let your mother know that you have learned your father's history till you see me again. Go straight on to the castle, enter it bravely, get possession of the hen that lays the golden eggs, and of the harp that talks. While you do as I order you, I will guard and protect you, but if you disobey, a terrible punishment will fall upon you."
THE HEN AND THE GOLDEN EGGS
WHEN the lady ceased speaking she suddenly disappeared, and Jack started at once on his adventures. Bravely he walked up to the castle, seized the horn that hung at the portal and blew a great blast. In a moment the door was opened by a terrible giantess who had one great eye in the middle of her forehead. Jack turned and tried to run away, but the giantess caught him by the hair and dragged him into the castle.
"Ho, ho," she said, grinning horribly. "You didn't expect me to come to the door, that's clear. I am tired and overworked and I want a boy to help me. I shall see that you never get away. You shall clean the knives and black the boots, make the fires and help me in every way while the giant is out. But when he comes home I must hide you in a hurry, for he thinks my pages are dainty morsels and has eaten every one I have ever had."
You may believe Jack was very much frightened, as you or I would have been in his place; but he remembered what the fairy had told him and struggled to be brave and to make the best of things.
"I will do the best I can to help you," said Jack, "but I hope you will hide me carefully, for certainly I do not want to be eaten."
"That is a good boy," said the giantess. "It is lucky you did not scream as the other boys have done, for my husband might have heard you, and then he would have eaten you as he did the other boys."
So they passed through the castle together and saw the grand old rooms, which all appeared fort saken and desolate. They went through a long dark gallery, on one side of which they could dimly see a strong grating, and back of this they heard the moans of the poor wretches whom the giant was holding to satisfy his hunger. Poor Jack was half dead with fear, and would have given everything he possessed to have got out into the sunlight. He was afraid he should never see his mother again, and gave himself up for lost. When they came to the farther end of the gallery they found a door that opened into a great kitchen, where the woman bade Jack sit down and eat his fill. When he was through the giantess told him what to do, and he set about his work with a lighter heart, for he had forgotten most of his fear. But very soon he was frightened again by a loud knocking at the gate—a knocking so loud that the whole castle seemed to shake.
"Come here, quick," called the giantess. "That is the giant. Get into my wardrobe; he never ventures to open that. You will be safe in there."
As she spoke she opened a huge wardrobe and thrust Jack into it and shut the door tightly. The