An English folk tale told through Second Life
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An English Folktale
Once upon a time a boy called Jack and his old, widowed mother lived in a miserable little cottage. They were very poor. The old woman worked hard all day spinning and weaving and managed to earn a few coins to make porridge for herself and Jack. Jack was strong and healthy but lazy. He would lie on a warm sunny spot in summer and huddle by the small fire in their cottage during winter. One day his mother got tired and fed up, she was angry at Jack and told him to get up and earn his food or he would go hungry. Jack was surprised, but he shrugged his shoulders good-naturedly and went off to find some work.
On Monday morning he met a farmer who offered him work for a penny. Jack worked hard all day long, in the evening Jack took the penny, and set off happily for home. On the way he had to cross a brook, and as he skipped over the bridge the penny dropped from his hand into the water. When he reached home he told his mother what had happened.
‘Oh you silly boy,’ cried his mother. ‘You should have put the penny in your pocket.’
‘Next time that is what I will do,’ replied Jack.
On Tuesday morning Jack set off again in search of work and met a dairy farmer who offered him milk for his work. Jack worked hard, and at the end of the day was given a jug of warm fresh cow’s milk. Jack, remembered what his mother had said the previous day, so carefully poured the milk in his pocket and set off home. The milk drained away long before he reached home.
‘You should have carried the milk in a jug on your head,’ cried his mother.
‘Next time,’ replied Jack.
On Wednesday Jack worked, once again for a dairy farmer. At the end of the day, the farmer paid Jack with a fresh cream cheese. Jack thanked the farmer and set off for home, taking care to balance the cheese, on his head just as his mother had told him. By the time Jack reached home birds had pecked at the cheese had bits had melted and run into his hair! There was nothing left for supper.
‘You stupid boy!’ cried his mother in despair. ‘You should have carried the cheese in your hands!’
‘Next time,’ replied Jack.
On Thursday morning Jack set off once again to find work. He met and worked all day for a baker, who gave him a large tom cat as his wages. Jack set off for home, holding the cat carefully in his hands. But the cat scratched him so badly that he had to let it go.
‘You should have tied it with a string and dragged it along after you,’ said his mother.
‘Next time,’ said Jack.
On Friday morning Jack went out again and found work for a butcher, who paid him generously with a large shoulder of mutton. Jack tied the mutton carefully with a string, and dragged it along after him all the way home. By the time he reached home, the meat was completely dirty and spoiled.
His mother looked at him angrily. ‘You should have carried it on your shoulder,’ she wept in frustration, holding her head in her hands.
Jack felt so upset, he replied, ‘Don’t cry mother, next time I will remember to carry it on my shoulders.’
On Saturday morning Jack met another farmer who gave him a day’s work and a donkey as his wages. Jack remembered what his mother had told him, and being a strong boy, lifted the donkey on to his shoulders and set off for home, whistling cheerfully. This time he was sure he had got it right, and he smiled happily to himself thinking of the joy on his mother’s face when he got home with the donkey.
On path that led Jack home, a rich man lived in a fine house with his only daughter. The daughter was deaf and dumb and had never spoken or laughed in her life. Doctors said that the only thing that would cure her was for her to laugh. The rich man had tried everything to make her laugh – he had hired jesters and clowns but nothing had made her laugh. At last, in despair, he had declared that he would give half of his fortune and his daughter in marriage to any man who made her laugh. Many tried but none had succeeded.
That evening, as Jack passed by, the rich man’s daughter was standing at her window. She stared in surprise Jack – was that really a donkey he had on his back? As he came closer, she saw that he did indeed, and the sight of the poor animal on the young man’s back, its legs dangling helplessly in the air, struck her as so comical that she burst out laughing, and instantly became able to speak and hear.
The rich man was overjoyed that his daughter was well again. He kept his promise gave Jack half of his fortune and on Sunday he married his daughter to Jack. Jack became a rich man himself and lived in a large house with his wife. He brought his mother to live with them, and she spent the rest of her days in comfort and ease.