Little Jack Horner lived in an old, tumble-down house at the
edge of a
big wood; and there many generations of Horners had lived before
and had earned their living by chopping wood. Jack's father and
were both dead, and he lived with his grandfather and grandmother,
took great pains to teach him all that a boy should know.
They lived very comfortably and happily together until one day
tree fell upon Grandpa Horner and crushed his legs; and from that
on he could not work at all, but had to be nursed and tended very
This calamity was a great affliction to the Horners. Grandma
had a little money saved up in an old broken teapot that she kept
the cupboard, but that would not last them a great time, and when
was gone they would have nothing with which to buy food.
"I 'm sure I do n't know what is to become of us,"
she said to Jack,
"for I am too old to work, and you are too young." She
always told her
troubles to Jack now; small though he was, he was the only one
could talk freely with, since it would only bother the poor crippled
grandfather to tell him how low the money was getting in the teapot.
"It is true," replied Jack, "that you are too
old to work, for your
rheumatism will barely allow you to care for the house and cook
meals; and there is grandpa to be tended. But I am not too young
work, grandma, and I shall take my little hatchet and go into
wood. I cannot cut the big trees, but I can the smaller ones,
and I am
sure I shall be able to pile up enough wood to secure the money
need for food."
"You are a good boy, dear," said grandma Horner, patting
lovingly, "but you are too young for the task. We must think
other way to keep the wolf from the door."
But Jack was not shaken in his resolve, although he saw it was
to argue further with his grandmother. So the next morning he
very early and took his little axe and went into the wood to begin
work. There were a good many branches scattered about, and these
was able to cut with ease; and then he piled them up nicely to
when the wood-carter next came around. When dinner-time came he
stopped long enough to eat some of the bread and cheese he had
with him, and then he resumed his work.
But scarcely had he chopped one branch when a faint cry from
arrested his attention. It seemed as if some one was shouting
help. Jack listened a moment, and again heard the cry.
Without hesitation he seized his axe and ran toward the place
whence the cry had proceeded. The underbrush was very thick and
thorns caught in his clothing and held him back, but with the
his sharp little axe he overcame all difficulties and presently
reached a place where the wood was more open.
He paused here, for often he had been told by Grandpa Horner
there were treacherous bogs in this part of the wood, which were
covered with mosses and ferns that the ground seemed solid enough
walk upon. But woe to the unlucky traveler who stepped unawares
their surface; for instantly he found himself caught by the clinging
moist clay, to sink farther and farther into the bog until, swallowed
up in the mire, he would meet a horrible death beneath its slimy
surface. His grandfather had told him never to go near these terrible
bogs, and Jack, who was an obedient boy, had always kept away
this part of the wood. But as he paused, again that despairing
came to his ears, very near to him now, it seemed:
Forgetful of all save a desire to assist this unknown sufferer,
sprang forward with an answering cry, and only halted when he
himself upon the edge of a vast bog.
"Where are you?" he then shouted.
"Here!" answered a voice, and, looking down, Jack saw,
a few feet
away, the head and shoulders of a man. He had walked into the
sunk into its treacherous depths nearly to his waist, and, although
struggled bravely, his efforts only seemed to draw him farther
toward a frightful death.
For a moment, filled with horror and dismay, Jack stood looking
man. Then he remembered a story he had once heard of how a man
been saved from the bog.
"Be quiet, sir!" he called to the unfortunate stranger;
"save all your
strength, and I may yet be able to rescue you."
He then ran to a tall sapling that stood near and began chopping
with his axe. The keen blade speedily cut through the young but
wood, and, then Jack dragged it to the edge of the bog, and, exerting
all his strength, pushed it out until the sapling was within reach
the sinking man.
"Grab it, sir!" he called out, "and hold on tightly.
It will keep you
from sinking farther into the mire, and when you have gained more
strength you may be able to pull yourself out."
"You are a brave boy," replied the stranger, "and
I shall do as you
It was a long and tedious struggle, and often Jack thought the
stranger would despair and be unable to drag his body from the
clutch of the bog; but little by little the man succeeded in drawing
himself up by the sapling, and at last he was saved, and sank
exhausted upon the firm ground by Jack's side.
The boy then ran for some water that stood in a slough near by,
with this he bathed the stranger's face and cooled his parched
Then he gave him the remains of his bread and cheese, and soon
gentleman became strong enough to walk with Jack's help to the
at the edge of the wood.
Grandma Horner was greatly surprised to see the strange man
approaching, supported by her sturdy little grandson; but she
help him, and afterward gave him some old clothing of Grandpa
Horner's, to replace his own muddy garments. When the man had
rested, she brewed him her last bit of tea, and by that time the
stranger declared he felt as good as new.
"Is this your son, ma'am?" he asked, pointing to Jack.
"He is my grandson, sir," answered the woman.
"He is a good boy," declared the stranger, "and
a brave boy as well,
for he has saved my life. I live far away in a big city, and have
plenty of money. If you will give Jack to me I will take him home
educate him, and make a great man of him when he grows up."
Grandma Horner hesitated, for the boy was very dear to her and
pride of her old age; but Jack spoke up for himself.
"I 'll not go," he said, stoutly; "you are very
kind, and mean well by
me, but grandma and grandpa have only me to care for them now,
must stay with them and cut the wood, and so keep them supplied
The stranger said nothing more, but he patted Jack's head kindly,
soon after left them and took the road to the city.
The next morning Jack went to the wood again, and began chopping
bravely as before. And by hard work he cut a great deal of wood,
the wood-carter carried away and sold for him. The pay was not
much, to be sure, but Jack was glad that he was able to earn something
to help his grandparents.
And so the days passed rapidly away until it was nearly Christmas
time, and now, in spite of Jack's earnings, the money was very
indeed in the broken teapot.
One day, just before Christmas, a great wagon drove up to the
the little cottage, and in it was the stranger Jack had rescued
the bog. The wagon was loaded with a store of good things which
add to the comfort of the aged pair and their grandson, including
medicines for grandpa and rare teas for grandma, and a fine suit
clothes for Jack, who was just then away at work in the wood.
When the stranger had brought all these things into the house,
asked to see the old teapot. Trembling with the excitement of
good fortune, Grandma Horner brought out the teapot, and the gentleman
drew a bag from beneath his coat and filled the pot to the brim
shining gold pieces.
"If ever you need more," he said, "send to me,
and you shall have all
you wish to make you comfortable."
Then he told her his name, and where he lived, so that she might
him if need be, and then he drove away in the empty wagon before
Grandma Horner had half finished thanking him.
You can imagine how astonished and happy little Jack was when
returned from his work and found all the good things his kind
benefactor had brought. Grandma Horner was herself so delighted
she caught the boy in her arms, and hugged and kissed him, declaring
that his brave rescue of the gentleman had brought them all this
happiness in their hour of need.
"To-morrow is Christmas," she said, "and we shall
have an abundance
with which to celebrate the good day. So I shall make you a Christmas
pie, Jack dear, and stuff it full of plums, for you must have
share of our unexpected prosperity."
And Grandma Horner was as good as her word, and made a very delicious
pie indeed for her darling grandson.
And that is was how it came that
"Little Jack Horner sat in a corner
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum
And said, "What a good boy am I!
And he was--a very good boy. Don't you think so?