BOOTS AND HIS BROTHERS
ONCE on a time
there was a man who had three sons, Peter, Paul, and John. John was Boots, of course,
because he was the youngest. I can't say the man had anything more than these three sons,
for he hadn't one penny to rub against another; and so he told his sons over and over
again they must go out into the world and try to earn their bread, for there at home there
was nothing to be looked for but starving to death.
Now, near the man's cottage was the King's palace, and,
you must know, just against the King's windows a great oak had sprung up, which was so
stout and big that it took away all the light from the King's palace. The King had said he
would give many, many dollars to the man who could fell the oak, but no one was man enough
for that, for as soon as ever one chip of the oak's trunk flew off, two grew in its stead.
A well, too, the King would have dug, which was to hold water for the whole year; for all
his neighbors had wells, but he hadn't any, and that he thought a shame. So the King said
he would give to any one who could dig him such a well as
But as the King had set his heart on having these two
things done, he
Well, they hadn't gone far before they came to a
fir-wood, and up
"I wonder, now, what it is that is hewing away up
yonder," said Jack.
"You're always so clever with your wonderings,"
said Peter and Paul both at once. "What wonder is it, pray, that a woodcutter should
stand and hack up on a hillside?"
Still, I'd like to see what it is, after all," said
Jack; and up he went.
Oh, if you're such a child, 'twill do you good to go and
take a lesson," bawled out his brothers after him.
But Jack didn't care for what they said; he climbed the
steep hillside towards where the noise came, and when he reached the place, what do you
think he saw ? Why, an axe that stood there hacking and hewing, all
"Good-day!" said Jack. "So you stand here
all alone and hew, do you?"
"Yes; here I've stood and hewed and hacked a long,
long time, waiting for you," said the Axe.
Well, here I am at last," said Jack, as he took the
axe, pulled it off its handle, and
So when he got down again to his brothers, they began to
jeer and laugh at him.
"And now, what funny thing was it you saw up yonder
on the hillside?" they said.
"Oh, it was only an axe we heard," said Jack.
So when they had gone a bit farther, they came under a
steep spur of rock, and up there they heard something digging and shoveling.
"I wonder now," said Jack, "what it is
digging and shoveling up yonder at the top of the rock."
"Ah, you're always so clever with your
wonderings," said Peter and Paul again; "as if you'd never heard a woodpecker
hacking and pecking at a hollow tree."
"Well, well," said Jack, "I think it would
be a piece of fun just to
"Good-day!" said Jack. "So you stand here
all alone, and dig and delve!"
"Yes, that's what I do," said the Spade,
"and that's what I've done this many a long day, waiting for you."
"Well, here I am," said Jack again, as he took
the spade and knocked it off its handle, and put it into his wallet, and then down again
to his brothers.
"Well, what was it, so rare and strange," said
Peter and Paul, "that you saw up there at the top of the rock?"
"Oh," said Jack, "nothing more than a
spade; that was what we heard."
So they went on again 'a good bit, till they came to a
brook. They were thirsty, all three, after their long walk, and so they lay down beside
the brook to have a drink.
"I wonder now," said Jack, "where all this
water comes from."
"I wonder if you're right in your head," said
Peter and Paul in one breath. "If you're not mad already, you'll go mad very soon,
with your wonderings. Where the brook comes from, indeed.! Have you never heard how water
rises from a spring in the earth ?"
"Yes; but still I've a great fancy to see where this
brook comes from," said Jack.
So up alongside the brook he went, in spite of all that
his brothers bawled after him. Nothing could stop him. On he went. So, as he went up and
up, the brook got smaller and smaller, and at last, a little way farther on, what do you
think he saw ? Why, a great walnut, and out of that the water trickled.
"Good-day!" said Jack again. "So you lie
here, and trickle and run down all. alone ?"
"Yes, I do," said the Walnut; "and here
have I trickled and run this many a long day, waiting for you."
"Well, here I am," said Jack, as he took up a
lump of moss, and plugged up the hole, that the water mightn't run out. Then he put the
walnut into his wallet, and ran down to his brothers.
"Well, now," said Peter and Paul, "have
you found out where the water comes from? A rare sight it must have been!"
"Oh, after all, it was only a hole it ran out
of," said Jack; and so
"After all, I had the fun of seeing it," said
Now Paul, he was to try his luck, but he fared just the
same; when he had hewn two or three strokes,they began to see the oak grow, and so the
King's men seized him too, and clipped his ears, and put him out on the island; and his
ears they clipped closer, because they said he ought to have taken a lesson from his
So now Jack was to try.
"If you will look like a marked sheep, we're quite
ready to clip your ears at once, and then you'll save yourself some bother," said the
King, for he was angry with him for his brothers' sake.
"Well, I'd like to just try first," said Jack,
and so he got leave. Then he took his axe out of his wallet and fitted it to its handle.
"Hew away!" said he to his axe; and away it
hewed, making the chips fly again, so that it wasn't long before down came the oak..
When that was done, Jack pulled out his spade, and fitted
it to its handle.
"Dig away!" said he to the spade; and so the
spade began to dig and delve till the earth and rock flew out in splinters, and so he had
the well soon dug out, you may think.
And when he had got it as big and deep as he chose, Jack
took out his walnut and laid it in one comer of the well, and pulled the plug of moss out.
"Trickle and run," said Jack, and so the nut
trickled and ran, till the water gushed out of the hole in a stream, and in a short time
the well was brimful.
Then Jack had felled the oak which shaded the King's
palace, and dug a well in the palace-yard, and so he got the Princess and half the
kingdom, as the King had said; but it was lucky for Peter and Paul that they had lost
their ears, else they had heard each hour and day how every one said, "Well, after
all, Jack wasn't so much out of his mind when he took to wondering."
GEORGE WEBBE DASENT
FROM THE BOOK:
<THE YOUNG FOLKS TREASURY>
THE UNIVERSITY SOCIETY INC.