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From Mother Goose in Prose by Frank Baum.
Start of Story
Age Rating 6 to 8.
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!"
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 him,
and had earned their living by chopping wood. Jack's father and mother
were both dead, and he lived with his grandfather and grandmother, who
took great pains to teach him all that a boy should know.
They lived very comfortably and happily together until one day a great
tree fell upon Grandpa Horner and crushed his legs; and from that time
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 Horner
had a little money saved up in an old broken teapot that she kept in
the cupboard, but that would not last them a great time, and when it
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 she
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 our
meals; and there is grandpa to be tended. But I am not too young to
work, grandma, and I shall take my little hatchet and go into the
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 we
need for food."
"You are a good boy, dear," said grandma Horner, patting his head
lovingly, "but you are too young for the task. We must think of some
other way to keep the wolf from the door."
But Jack was not shaken in his resolve, although he saw it was useless
to argue further with his grandmother. So the next morning he rose
very early and took his little axe and went into the wood to begin his
work. There were a good many branches scattered about, and these he
was able to cut with ease; and then he piled them up nicely to be sold
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 brought
with him, and then he resumed his work.
But scarcely had he chopped one branch when a faint cry from the wood
arrested his attention. It seemed as if some one was shouting for
help. Jack listened a moment, and again heard the cry.
Without hesitation he seized his axe and ran toward the place from
whence the cry had proceeded. The underbrush was very thick and the
thorns caught in his clothing and held him back, but with the aid of
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 that
there were treacherous bogs in this part of the wood, which were so
covered with mosses and ferns that the ground seemed solid enough to
walk upon. But woe to the unlucky traveler who stepped unawares upon
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 from
this part of the wood. But as he paused, again that despairing cry
came to his ears, very near to him now, it seemed:
Forgetful of all save a desire to assist this unknown sufferer, Jack
sprang forward with an answering cry, and only halted when he found
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 bog and
sunk into its treacherous depths nearly to his waist, and, although he
struggled bravely, his efforts only seemed to draw him farther down
toward a frightful death.
For a moment, filled with horror and dismay, Jack stood looking at the
man. Then he remembered a story he had once heard of how a man had
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 away
with his axe. The keen blade speedily cut through the young but tough
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 of
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