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The Grateful Beasts
by [?]

There was once a young man on his way to a fair with five shillings in his pocket. As he went he saw some little boys beating a poor mouse they had just caught.

“Come, boys,” says he, “do not be so cruel. Sell me your mouse for sixpence, and go off and buy some sweets.”

They gave him the mouse, and he let the poor little beast go. He had not gone far when he met a fresh set of boys teasing the life out of a poor weasel.

Well, he bought him off for a shilling and let him go. The third creature he saved, from a crowd of cruel young men, was an ass, but he had to give a whole half-crown to get him off. “Now,” says poor Neddy, “you may as well take me with you. I’ll be of some use, I think, for when you are tired you can get up on my back.” “With all my heart,” said Jack, for that was the young man’s name.

The day was very hot, and the boy sat under a tree to enjoy the shade. As soon as he did he fell asleep, but he was soon awakened by a wicked-looking giant and his two servants. “How dare you let your ass trespass in my field,” cried he, “and do such mischief.” “I had no notion that he had done anything of the kind.” “No notion? I’ll notion you, then. Bring out that chest,” said he to one of his servants, and before you could wink they had tied the poor boy, hand and foot, with a stout rope, thrown him into the chest, and tossed the chest into the river. Then they all went away but poor Neddy, till who should come up but the weasel and the mouse, and they asked him what was the matter. So the ass told them his story.

“Oh,” said the weasel, “he must be the same boy that saved the mouse and myself. Had he a brown patch in the arm of his coat?” “The very same.” “Come, then,” said the weasel, “and let us try and get him out of the river.” “By all means,” said the others. So the weasel got on the ass’s back and the mouse got into his ear, and away they went. They had not gone far when they saw the chest, which had been stopped among the rushes at the end of a little island.

In they went, and the weasel and the mouse gnawed the rope till they had set their master free.

Well, they were all very glad, and were having a great talk about the giant and his men, when what should the weasel spy but an egg, with the most lovely colours on the shell, lying down in the shallow water. It was not long before he had fished it out, and Jack kept turning it round and round and praising it.

“Oh, my dear friends,” said he to the ass, the mouse, and the weasel, “how I wish it was in my power to thank you as I should like. How I wish I had a fine house and grounds to take you to where you could live in peace and plenty.”

The words were hardly out of his mouth when he and the beasts found themselves standing on the steps of a grand castle, with the finest lawn before it that you ever saw. There was no one inside or outside it to keep it from them, so in they went, and there they lived as happy as kings.

Jack was standing at his gate one day as three merchants were passing by with their goods packed on the backs of horses and mules.

“Bless our eyes,” cried they, “what does this mean? There was no castle or lawn here when we went by last time.”

“That is true,” cried Jack, “but you shall not be the worse for it. Take your beasts into the yard at the back of the house and give them a good feed, and if you can spare the time stay and take a bit of dinner with me.”