Morte de Jack – the Fourth Part of the Jack Saga

Chapter 1

Once upon a time, Jack ruled well and wisely, and made many enemies. All the citizens of his kingdom loved him like their own father, and took a personal interest in all his family affairs. They had rejoiced when his daughter Rose married her wonderful husband Prince Joseph, and they mourned when his snippety, crotetchety, well-meaning mother passed away. She had lived a full, rich life ever since Jack had come down from the beanstalk, vintage-1653946and though she often complained, unable to shake off those earlier years of constant misfortune and accustom herself to the splendors of her comfortable existence, she had always been inordinately proud of her son.

Yet, there were those who salivated to see his head on a platter. Jack had spent his life eradicating the evil around and in his lands, and there were many witches, goblins, dragons,  werewolves, and other fearsome beasts who boiled hot in their revengeful hate against him. fairytale-1735371Including a whole family of giants who hated him for killing their evil uncle. (Except they really hated him for stealing the golden harp – they didn’t care about their uncle.)

They held a gathering in the dark forest, which was called so because daylight never penetrated through the deep foliage overhead, to decide what to do about this aggravating king.

“We should curse him!”

“Kidnap his daughter!”

“Eat him for dinner!”

Now, evil creatures do not have good imaginations. As they clamored loud for all these ill fates to befall the king, they did not stop to consider that everyone had already been tried, and failed. But the witches were cleverer than the rest, and putting their three heads together (witches always come in threes, just ask Macbeth), they hatched a plan. It was not completely original, but it had more potential to it than any of the other suggestions.

They gathered their forces together, and marched off against the kingdom of Jack.

architecture-3095716_1920As they marched they burned every farm and town they came across, so that they people fled to Jack’s castle ahead of the marching horde. They begged Jack to save them, and Jack rose from his throne, called his knights together, and rode out to meet the enemy. Every able-bodied man took up a sword to march behind their beloved king, while Queen Miranda and her daughter Rose stayed behind to care for the women, children, and elderly. (I think they had the harder job, but they liked it better).

The clash of blade against teeth, the meeting of two great armies, the cries of living and dying, were too epic to convey on a mere piece of paper. King Jack slew every giant that bent to kill him and Prince Joseph pierced the heart of every wicked witch. While knights Rojo and Verde killed the werewolves that jumped at their throats, Sirs Richard and George faced the fairies that buzzed against them like angry wasps. Terence and Corncob led the charge against the two dragons, and Serence devotedly defended the life of his king with every thrust and parry of his blade.

What the heroes did not know is that, while they fought with every ounce of their strength to protect the innocents back at the palace, the enemy had cunningly sent a small team to circumvent the battle and infiltrate the kingdom. While Jack killed giants on the battlefield, a witch, with a retinue of fairies, entered the palace, killed the guards, and stole away the queen and princess.

Successful, as Jack always is over evil, on the battlefield, Sir Serence told the King he should return home and leave the clean-up to the knights. “Reassure your people and the queen. We can handle this mess.”

Jack was grateful, and he and Joseph headed back to the palace accompanied by the wounded who could travel. Imagine the elation he felt, returning after a grueling day, after performing unsavory chores, to see his wife and daughter, and the weak of his kingdom, whom he loved with his whole being, to tell them they are safe – perhaps forever. The enemy is slain or fled, weakened and demoralized. Imagine how he anticipated embracing his beautiful, loving wife, who has taken such excellent care of his subjects in his absence. Imagine how he yearned to hold some little children in his arms, for every young citizen knew he cared for them like a proud grandfather. With these expectations, then, buoying his spirits, imagine his utter devastation when he returned to the palace to find the little ones cowering beneath tables, his knights all slain, and his wife and daughter gone.

sad boy“What has become of you?” he asked the young boy who threw himself against the king’s leather vest and clung while he cried.

“Someone came and took them away. An ugly hag and vicious pucks!” he wept.

As Prince Joseph herded the young ones into the room where the rest of the citizens had fled, fearing the worst for their little children, Jack realized the devious nature of the battlefield. He had been lured away from the palace so his family could be stolen from under his nose.

“What next, King-Father?” asked Joseph, his face white with loss, but his stance at attention. Wherever his wife was, he would find her again. With Jack beside him, he would not fear.

“Your majesty,” said John, a young soldier who had been wounded in the arm in the battle, “we can care for your people. Go. Find your wife.” All the lightly wounded soldiers nodded, rallying together for the king as he had always rallied for them.

Jack lifted his sword. “Let’s go.”

Chapter 2 Coming Soon…

‘Rose and the Prince’ by Elizabeth Russell

(While this story stands alone, it is also the third is a series. Read #1, Jack and the Princess here, and #2, Jack and Princess Rose here)

Once Upon a Time, the most beautiful princess in all the land was Princess Rose. And she was not only beautiful but absolutely good. Her main mission in life was to give food and clothing away to the poor, distributing it with her own hands to the dirtiest and most destitute of the citizens in the kingdom. Her father and mother, King Jack and Queen Miranda, were as proud as their citizens to have such a wonderful daughter. They believed she was wonderful on her own merit, but the people of the kingdom knew that she had been raised so by her parents, who were the holiest rulers the kingdom had been blessed with for time out of mind.

Yet it is impossible for anyone to grow in kindness and goodness without some people hating them, and the King and Queen, possessing authority and power as they did, garnered more enemies than the average individual.

Every day for many weeks, when the princess went out of the palace on her rounds to bring food baskets to the poor, she was maliciously watched by beady eyes from behind dark shadows and hidden alleys. Sometimes she would feel the hair on the back of her neck prickle and lift, and then she would whirl around to see what might be following her, but she always saw nothing.

Nothing, that is, until one day a gigantic, fat, bulbous bear waddled into the village and heedlessly stampeded through the palace gates to eat up all the extra food that was set aside for the poor. He had been sent on this mindless mission by a person who hated the royal family, and hated Rose most of all.

The palace guards tried to stop the bear, but they could do nothing against its layers and layers of protective fat. After being peppered with twenty or more arrows, the odious beast just waddled back the way he had come.

The princess wept, and the entire kingdom along with her. (Except, of course, those few who hated the royal family because they were good, and so whispered to each other that this is just what comes of setting yourself up as so much better than everyone else). The royal family was at their wits end about what would happen to the poor and helpless of the kingdom.

The princess went to the king and pleaded to him, “What shall I do, father? How can I help our people?”

“My daughter,” said her loving father, sitting her down beside him, “your mother and I have an idea. The kingdom of Coresh is wealthier now than ever before, and the prince of that land is about your age. We can invite Prince Joseph to come stay with us and throw a great party in his honor. If you fall in love with him, then you can marry and unite our kingdoms for the benefit of our people.”

She considered his proposal carefully. She knew that her mother had married her father for love and no other reason, so she determined to only marry this prince if her heart truly desired it. After all, this was only one idea that they could try for the good of the kingdom, and if it failed, they could pursue others. So she nodded and said that yes, she would meet this prince and see if she fell in love with him.

They invited the prince to stay with them for a month, and to impress him, began the visit with a great party. It was a royal affair, with dukes and bishops and counts and courtiers. Everyone of importance in the kingdom was invited.

Everyone gathered in the splendid ballroom, mingling and enjoying the lovely refreshments, when the trumpeter announced the entrance of Princess Rose. When the prince first beheld the beauty of King Jack’s daughter, standing at the bottom of the staircase and gazing up at her as upon a goddess, he was stricken to the heart. From that very moment, he wanted nothing more in the world but to marry her.

Rose, however, was not so fortunate. She was generally unimpressed when she saw him at the foot of the staircase, gaping at her with round eyes and open mouth like a puppy. She strictly told herself not to be deceived by appearances, and after all, if he wore a different expression, his face could have been rather pleasant. She danced with him all night and found that, although he was handsome, strong, and a good dancer, his brain held nothing deeper than the depths of his dull blue eyes. She tried to speak of the states of the kingdoms, and he managed to interpret her remarks as clever observations of the weather. She brought up the current theological debates circulating amongst the clergy, and he misinterpreted her statements as mere pious niceties. As a last resort, she attempted to discuss the training methods of knights and squires, and he grew most animated, taking it upon himself to boast of all his greatest and most impressive exploits on the training field of battle.

At the end of the evening, her father found her between dances and requested the next. She melted into his arms in gratitude, and enjoyed the peaceful cadence of the dance.

“So, what is the verdict?” he asked as they swayed to the violins.

“I’m spoiled by you. There’s just no man who can measure up.”

“You flatter me, my dear. Do you expect to find someone exactly like me? Can you not appreciate him on his own merit?”

She smiled in a way that told him the prince was really a lost cause.

“Very well. What shall we do about caring for our poor?”

She looked around the room. “We throw a great party….Let’s throw a charity ball.”

The king smiled at his resourceful daughter. “And the prince?’

“There’s no real harm to him. We can let him wear out his welcome.”

He grinned, and then frowned in thought. “Can we afford another party? We threw most of our resources into this one to impress the prince.”

She smiled impishly as he twirled her around, and he knew she had a trick up her sleeve. “We can’t. But Lady Geraldine most certainly can.”

Lady Geraldine was the King’s Aunt’s Brother-in-Law’s Cousin, who had married into the family from a low but wealthy station. She had little interest in aiding the poor, but she craved Royal approval far too much to turn down a chance to work with the beloved princess on a pet project.

The young princess, for the next few days of palace life, found herself greatly regretting her leniency toward the visiting prince. If he had looked like a puppy dog that first night, he acted like one now. From dawn to dusk the princess employed all her ingenuity to escape his unwelcome attentions, and it was a constant game of cat and mouse. What made it far worse was the apparent fact that Prince Joseph had no clue she sought to avoid him.

Her propensity to send him on long, pointless errands only gratified his idea that she had his heart romantically wrapped around her little finger. Her constant questions about ‘wouldn’t you be more comfortable in the stables?’ or ‘isn’t it time for your midday meal?’ filled him with joy over her loving concern for his welfare. Finally, her forthright confessions of a far-distant marriage with a still unfound partner only soothed any doubts about her feminine modesty.

Princess Rose eagerly awaited the night of Lady Geraldine’s Charity Ball for more than simply philanthropic concerns: the ball was to take place far from her home and Prince Joseph was not invited. She looked forward to a night free from his unremitting attentions.

It was with alarm then, when, at the breakfast table the morning of the ball, she overheard the Prince requesting permission from her father to escort her to the party.

She turned pleading eyes upon the King, and he stuttered that he would give the prince his answer later.vintage-1653121_1920

He went up to his daughter after the meal.

“Father, please, you must tell him straight out that I am uninterested in him. Perhaps he will hear it from you. I went so far as to tell him that I do not see a future between us, but he seems to hear my words as encouragement! I don’t know what to do!”

He smiled at his beautiful daughter. “Be easy on him, my dear. There was a time I might have behaved so foolishly towards your mother.”

“But you will say something?”

“Yes. I will speak to him.”

King Jack found the prince strolling through the gardens, lost in weaving the imagery of the multi-colored blossoms into an eulogy of Rose’s incandescent radiance. The prince was not a bad sort, only rather pathetic, and so it amused and saddened the king to end his blissful dreams.

He sat the young man down on a stone bench and gently but firmly told him that his daughter was not interested in a marital union. The prince was shocked: he cried out that the princess had given him every encouragement. He grasped in vain at memories rich with the sweet scent of her presence, but could recall no hint of her disapproval. The king watched him flounder a moment, and then repeated, for surety’s sake, that his daughter truly had no designs upon the prince.

“What have I done? What can I do? King Jack, I adore your precious daughter: no, more than that, I love her! I would die, lay down my life, perish, grapple with the hounds of hell, for her sake. Can I not prove this? I must prove it!”

The king lay his hand on the prince’s shoulder. “My boy, you can prove nothing. Your death will serve no good but to determinately wipe you from her life forever. And at this point,” he stated bluntly, “she might find that a welcome change.”

Joseph’s shoulders drooped deeply, and he hung his head. Then he turned serious, pleading blue eyes upon the king. “Please, sir. Please advise me. All I want is for her to be happy. But if there is some way…something I can do…I must try, even if I fail!”

The King respected the prince’s resolve. “Very well. I cannot promise that anything you do will improve Rose’s opinion of you. I can, however, tell you some of what she finds lacking in your character. If you believe that after diligent work you can supply what is lacking in your person, then I here and now extend an invitation for you to return in a year’s time and prove it to her.”

The prince leaned forward eagerly to hear tell of all his faults. The king recited them in a pragmatic list, and the prince nodded curtly at each one,

“Lack of interest in politics; lack of knowledge regarding politics; lack of interest in anything academic; lack of true understanding about science, religion, literature, or medicine; general distaste for anything deep or thought-provoking; a tendency to over-romanticize life; reciting poetry with no true understanding of its deeper nuances; and finally, your nagging tendency to follow my daughter around ‘like a puppy-dog’, as she puts it.”

“I had no idea those things were important to her. Whoever heard of anyone liking politics or religion? They are an everyday part of life, but liking them?” This was a new concept to him.

“If you develop a thoughtful understanding of these things, and learn to improve your blind gaze of life and love, you may – and I say may – have a chance to win my daughter.”

The prince beamed gratitude and left for his home immediately to gain a deep insight into these mysterious realms of knowledge. Great was the astonishment of his old tutor when he barged in upon him and demanded lessons in Aristotle, Archimedes, Ptolemy, and Aquinas, and still deeper was his surprise at the prince’s diligent interest, which stretched into not only a week or a month, but month after month, for an entire year.

Rose’s philanthropic pursuits developed significantly over that time, and her unremitting efforts brought benefit not only to her own kingdom, but all the lands far and wide. The poor and needy had never known such loving care.

The same menace that had once unleashed a bear upon the palace kitchens, devastating the princess’ charitable work, still hated her and everything she did with a passion. It had not been idle through that year, only silent, waiting for a chance to strike.

Evil, like the earth, waits for its prime season. On April 3rd of the next year, which happened to be Good Friday, the waiting, lurking presence rose up to make its move.

Princess Rose sang blithely to herself as she dug inside her garden, which was going to be, unlike most Princesses’ gardens, not a bright medley of blossoms and sweet fragrances but a veritable rainbow of fruits, vegetables, and grains. She tilled the thawing earth and enjoyed the warmth of the midday sun on her bent back, when she heard the approach of shuffling feet. It was an old hag with a dirty cloak.

“Hello, my dear,” spake the hag, “and who might you be, such a sweet little thing?”

“I am Princess Rose. Do you need anything, mother?”

“Oh! Youth, naturally. Goodness. All those intangibles that pass away easier than water through your fingers.”

Rose smiled sadly. “I can only offer you food, lodging, and a warm smile. Will you accept it?”

The hag smiled back, but it was a terrifying grimace, and Rose stumbled back despite herself. “I said,” repeated the old woman, “that I want your youth!!”

And with that, she waved a hidden wand and dissolved herself and the princess into thin air.

The witch bragged to all her friends that she had captured a princess, and soon word came to Rose’s parents. All the kingdom was in alarm for its beloved princess, and King Jack and Queen Miranda feared greatly for their beloved daughter. The King prepared to go out and seek her just as he had years and years ago when she was an infant, and he gathered together all his aged knights. Since Sirs Serence and Terence had both passed away a few years before in a battle against the gnomes of Karesh, his remaining knights were Sirs George, Richard, Corncob, Roho, and Verde. They were all hale and still handsome, and eager to set forth to find their beloved maiden. Sir George stood brave before the king, trying desperately to conceal his notable limp; Sir Richard gazed forward steely-eyed, praying that no one remembered his black eyepatch; Sirs Roho and Verde gripped their swords tight through the shaking of their oncoming arthritis. Corncob was the only one who did not shake, wobble, or lack depth perception, upright as he sat in his wheelchair.

The King looked over his brave-hearted retinue and his heart sank. As eager as were these men’s faithful hearts, their mortal bodies did not have the strength. King Jack realized that he needed younger blood.

Prince Joseph was in the midst of composing a theoretical juridical treatise on the proper treatment of blacksmith injuries in the winter months, which, due to his devoted efforts to interview every blacksmith in the kingdom, he found far more fascinating than he ever anticipated, when he received word that King Jack was looking for young champions to rescue his daughter. Immediately, and still grasping the roll of printed parchment in his hands, the prince rushed determinately to King Jack.

“I will save her!” he cried on entering the palace, a blot of ink glistening on his nose.

Jack raised his eyebrows and said nothing, fearing that if he spoke to this frustrating youth, he would not be very gracious.

“Just tell me where she was taken, and I will save her life. I don’t care if she loves me or not: I care nothing for such things. I care only for her safety.”

The Queen sighed. “This is not the time for idle boasts, Prince Joseph. If you want to save our daughter, then save her, but don’t make useless speeches.”

“Right! Do you know where she is?”

The king grew red in the face and seemed about to burst, but the Queen, who possessed more natural patience, laid a hand on her husband’s arm and said deliberately, “As we said in the summons, the witch of Xaranx kidnapped her and wishes to steal her youth and corrupt her goodness. You must travel to Xaranx and kill the witch to free Rose.”

The prince’s fiery resolve paused a moment at that. His chest remained half-inflated for a long moment in between a breathe to declare his adieus and a distracted reverie.

“You have killed before, haven’t you?” asked Miranda hesitantly.

Joseph stuttered uncomfortably a moment.

“Maybe, at least, a squirrel or raccoon?”

There was still no coherent answer.

Then Miranda could no longer contain her husband’s rage, and really, she no longer wished to, and he roared out, “What did you think would happen, anyway? You’d gallop across the fields and swoop the princess into your saddle? You’re no better than you used to be! Still living deep inside your dreamy head: the world is not all rainbows and flowers and kisses, boy! It’s gore, and hatred, and enemies, and death!”

The prince was visibly shaken, but significantly affected. His year of study, reading, and learning had not been in vain. He may have lacked any real-world experience, but his readiness for it was greatly increased. He squared his shoulders and stood tall before King Jack and Queen Miranda, and for the first time since Jack had laid eyes upon him, the Prince was truly handsome.

“I may not know what I get myself into. I may not have the experience I need. As I learned from Beowulf, however, everyone has to start somewhere, and this is my opportunity to swim the length of the sea. Who knows? If I do not perish in this attempt, I may go on to slay monsters! Farewell, your majesties: if I return, it will be with your daughter.”

The King and Queen watched him leave, and then Miranda began to giggle, and then to laugh out loud.

“What?” asked her husband in annoyance.

“Everything!” she gasped, thinking about his comment that someday he might slay monsters, and yet that was exactly what he had set off to do. “But mostly,” she giggled, “he reminds me of you.”

“Me?” Jack was revolted.

“Standing there, an ant in the midst of a giant’s castle, so fiery and in love, declaring that you would rescue me no matter what the risk.” She looked at her savior with great love.

“Give him a chance,” she said. “Love can overcome many faults.”

Joseph arrived at the Witch’s cottage around nightfall, when the forest made strange noises and normal objects distorted into gruesome, misshapen wraiths. He pulled up his horse and dismounted, his scroll of juridical theory in his belt and his sword in his hand.

He knocked at the cottage door. There was the sound of scuffling and creaking from inside and then the old witch stood before him, wearing a lovely gown of pink satin that looked ghastly on her.

“What do you want?!” she screamed, annoyed that someone had interrupted her preparations for regaining her youth.

“Uh, I uh, um,” stuttered the prince.

“No soliciting!” she cried, and stepped back to slam the door in his face.

But at that moment, the prince had a brilliant idea. He smiled brightly, sheathed his sword, and smoothly drew out his blacksmith thesis, stepping possessively into the house.

“Ah, but my dear old mother, your reputation precedes you! You see, I am the proposer of a brilliant business scheme that will make us both filthy rich, and I have come to present this scheme to you. I hear that you are on the verge of gaining youth once again, and what is youth without riches? I have here an uncommon insight into the ways and workings of blacksmith forges. You see, when blacksmiths injure themselves, kingdoms have no means of offering compensation or care for them. They’re left out in the cold. Well, if we increase the amount of blacksmith injuries with your magic, and then I market my doctor services to heal those injuries (but really, you’ll heal them again with magic), we could make a fortune! With my marketing skills, and your charisma…we’d be unstoppable! Come on, mother — what do you say?”

“Well, I…”

“You don’t have to answer now. In fact, why don’t I just read you the notes I have here? I think you’ll find them very enlightening so you can make your decision. You just sit right down here in the easy chair, and I will read to you.”

Now, this was a very greedy witch, and the Prince’s proposal did not displease her. If she had no princess currently bundled into a trunk in her attic, she would have jumped at the idea. As it was, she was torn between listening to the scheme and throwing the strange marketer out of her home. Since, however, the prince’s actions gave her no room to argue politely, she sat down and let him read to her. This was a legal, hypothetical treatise, and as we all know, anything legal and hypothetical is extremely boring, and there is no quicker remedy for insomnia. Despite her best efforts, after an hour of “therefores”, “henceforths”, and “consequentlies”, the witch’s pointed chin rested deeply inside her shriveled bosom, and head-splitting snores screamed and growled out of her nose.

The prince took no time to congratulate himself or marvel at his good fortune, both of which he was very tempted to do; but as soon as he was certain that she was lost in slumber, he snatched his blade from his side and cut her throat so that her gray, wrinkled head bounced across the wooden floor.

Then Prince Joseph pounded up the stairs and into the attic, where he saw a trunk against the far wall. It was locked.

“Princess Rose!” he called out, “Are you in there?”

Rose managed not to sigh in disappointment: after all, she had heard all that had passed below, and the prince had risen considerably in her estimation. “I am here,” she yelled. “The key is around the witch’s neck on a chain!”

Joseph ran back to the hag and found the key, slippery with the witch’s blood. He put it carefully in the lock and freed the Princess.

After stretching her legs, back, and arms, Rose looked around for Joseph, but did not see him anywhere. She went outside, and he was there by the horse.

“I want to thank you for saving me.”

Joseph smiled sadly. He was glad that she was safe, but he did not expect her to like him anymore than she had before. After all, what was he but an ignorant man who happened to be born with a title? That did not grant him brains, brawn, or virtue.

“Thank you, your highness,” he bowed respectfully. “But I need no thanks. I want you to know that I will always consider you a friend, and I will always come if you need me.”

Rose was surprised by his answer. She found, to her consternation, that she was blushing. But she hid it well. She climbed on the horse in front of Joseph, and they started for home.
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Along the way, to break the uncomfortable silence, Rose commented on Joseph’s legal treatise, of which she had only heard snatches in her imprisonment. Her one, innocent question was enough to launch the young scholar into an extensive monologue of the mistreatment of blacksmiths and the legal potentialities that could benefit them. The philanthropic princess, far from falling asleep in the enumeration of these details, grew excited and asked intelligent questions of her own, and proposed possible solutions. Both forgot their discomfort with the other, and were shocked when they reached the castle in what seemed like no time at all. Rose was actually a little disappointed when she tore herself away from Joseph to greet her happy, relieved parents.

Jack offered a sincere apology to Joseph and invited him to dinner. Before they all went inside to eat, Rose put a hand on the prince’s arm, holding him back for a moment.

“Joseph,” she said, addressing him directly for the first time. A deep blush overspread his face.

“Joseph, you said before that you would always be my friend, but I wonder…There was a time when you wanted more than that.”

“Yes,” he said breathlessly, consumed with fear and hope.

“Well, I do believe…I want more too.”

There never was a prouder and yet humbler prince than Joseph in all the world than on the day that he joined in marriage with the daughter of King Jack and Queen Miranda, the beautiful and pure Princess Rose.

The End

Further Reading:

Jack and the Princess

Jack and Princess Rose

‘Jack and Princess Rose’ by Elizabeth Russell

Remember how Jack killed the Giant and saved the whole country from starvation? Remember how after that, he married the princess that he loved very much?

Well, this is what happened after…

Once upon a time, the kingdom flourished. In fact, it thrived. It was so happy that even the little junebugs sitting on the September flowers and dying from frost were happy. Life was that good. And Queen Miranda, Jack’s beloved wife, had just given birth to a beautiful baby daughter who they called Rose.

But all good things turn with fortune, and so it was that one mild mid-November morning, when the sun shone blithely upon the prosperous kingdom of Jack and Miranda, there came a great shaking of the ground and the sound of an earthquake. A host of savage bears roared into the kingdom, bowling down the gates of the wall, and upsetting all the stalls and carts in the street. Baby Rose and her nurse were out in the open air that morning, and the bears careened toward them. The poor nurse was so frightened that she fell down in a faint. The bears grabbed the princess out of her stroller, but did not harm her. Before anyone could attack or stop them, they had carried the baby out of the kingdom.

Of course Jack was not about to sit around and do nothing, so he called all his bravest knights to the throne room. All of his knights loved King Jack very much, and they swore at once not to return home until they had found the baby princess. The queen wept terribly, but Jack assured her that all would be well and he would return Rose to her safe.

“I know you will,” she wept. “But take care and don’t be rash. So often you follow your heart, but try to use your head.

Jack promised to be careful, and with that, they set out into the wide world.

They set off in pairs in four different directions. Sirs George and Richard went South to the Sea, Sirs Corncob and Terence went North to the Frigid Ice Caps, Sirs Roho and Verde went West to the Great Desert, and King Jack took his closest friend and bravest knight, Sir Serence, with him to the Eastern Mountains.

But the wide world is full of dangers, both to the body and soul, and each knight that went on this adventure would be tested ere he returned.

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King Jack and Serence traveled night and day until they reached a gigantic cave as big as the castle wherein Jack once encountered a princess-stealing Giant. But this was a magic cave, and could play tricks on the mind. When Jack saw it, he thought it was the house of a giant instead of an empty cave.

“Of course!” he cried. “The bears worked for a giant. I should have known this would happen to her. She has been taken just like Miranda. Rose!” he cried, running throughout the castle with his sword drawn. “Rose!” But after he had run from the bottom of the castle to the top, and back again to the bottom, he had seen no Giants or any sign of Rose.

“Your majesty,” said Serence, “I do not believe she is here.”

“She must be!” he cried angrily. “They’ve just hidden her!”

“Who, your majesty?” The cave played no tricks on Serence. He saw it for what it was.

“The giant!” he cried impatiently. “Who else would live in such a great castle?”

“Your Highness,” said Serence in confusion, “I see only an empty cave.”

Now, Jack was a fair and humble king, and he knew Serence would never lie. So he stood in mystification a moment, then gradually, the illusion fell away, and he saw the cave as well.

His shoulders sagged. “I have wasted precious time. I have been rash and fearful. Can you forgive me?”

Of course, Serence protested that there was nothing to forgive, and so they set out southwest to the sea to find if any of their companions had had more luck than they.

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Meanwhile, Richard and George headed South toward the sea. When they arrived it was night and the entire shore was lit with glistening starlight. Moored on the beach before them, the two knights saw a beautiful ship with sails of moonlight and oars of stardust. On the ship were beautiful maidens singing and beckoning the knights on board.

“Come with us,” they sang, “and we will take you to your little lost princess.”

Both knights went toward the ship but George paused. “Wait,” he said, “It is night, and night can play tricks on a man. I think we should wait until morning and see if this ship and its passengers still look as fair in the light of the sun.”

This seemed like good advice to Richard, so they set up camp on the sandy shore and fell asleep to the calls and songs of the fair maidens.

When the sun rose the next day, George awakened with the dawn and looked out at sea. There was no sign of the beautiful ship; only, in its place, a little rowboat with two oars, and filled with a handful of dolls.

“My, my,” said Richard when he awoke.

“Yes,” agreed George, “it is good that we waited, or we would have lost ourselves to a dream. Those must have been sirens, who beguile men to their deaths.”

Then they climbed into the rowboat and pushed off, heading along the coast to search for the baby princess.

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Heading North toward the frozen tundra were the knights Terence and Corncob. Terence was a large knight who had a high opinion of himself, and Corncob was a stupid knight, who had an accurate opinion of himself. They reached the frozen ice caps and continued on their way when suddenly they came across a tiny castle. The castle was made completely from ice and glistened in the sunlight.

“Terence,” said Corncob, “I believe this castle is where the bears took the Princess Rose. I have a feeling about it.”

Terence laughed. He laughed and he laughed, and then he laughed still harder. Even Corncob was chuckling in the end.

“Oh, oh! You’re too much, my friend,” protested Terence. “Not even an infant would fit in that palace.”

“Well,” said Corncob humbly, “yet I still have a feeling about it. I am going to stay the night and see what happens to it.”

Terence shrugged. It was already getting dark and here was as good a place as any to sleep. They made themselves an enclosure out of snow and lay down for the night.

A few hours later, Corncob woke and went out under the stars where the Northern Lights lit up the sky above him.vincent-guth-136078 But right at his feet was another rainbow of colors: the little palace had come alive and rainbow lights poured out of every window. Corncob bent down and peered in to see all sorts of fairies partying, singing, and dancing. They were mischievous fairies, and Corncob soon saw the little princess in the arms of the fairy queen.

“Terence,” Corncob awoke his friend, “The bears were really fairies who kidnapped our princess and made her small so they could keep her in their palace.”

Terence, of course, did not believe this for even that split-second of time when you are still half-asleep and everything sounds believable. He chuckled and shrugged the knight off, but Corncob was persistent, and eventually Terence looked into the palace just to silence his friend.

“Why!” he cried out in alarm. “They’ve got our princess! We’ll save you princess!” But at his yelling all the fairies saw Sirs Corncob and Terence and immediately worked their magic so that the two men disappeared into thin air, only to find themselves on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere.

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In the West we find Sirs Roho and Verde who have just reached a town on the outskirt of the great desert. From a local merchant they bought food and water, skins, and a map. The merchant warned them, “Follow the main route on the map and do not rest. Do not veer off or you will be dead men.”

So the two knights started across the hot, scorching desert. They made good time the first day; but on the second, they started to notice that all the creatures they passed, big and small, were very lazy.

“The lion lays out in the sun all day,” said Roho.

“And the snakes slither as slow as mud on a bank,” agreed Verde.

“If they can take their time,” said Roho,

“Then why can’t we?” finished Verde.

These two knights, it turns out, were very lazy. They were brave and loyal, but they were lazy. So they started to take many rests along their way, and each time, the stops grew longer and longer, and they ate up more and more of their food.

At last, they had only one more skin of water and one more loaf of bread, and when they checked the map, they were only half-way across the desert.

“We shall perish!” wailed Verde in fright.

“This is all your fault!” said Roho.

“Look!” cried Verde. Roho looked and they saw great cliffs before them. The map took them around the cliffs, but they could clearly see that there was a way through them.

“If we take this route,” they said, “we shall surely not die.”

They were all set to go through the cliffs when Verde felt something tugging at him. He looked all around, but could see no cause for it. Yet, as he went closer to the rocks, the tugging grew more intense. Finally, he stopped and cried out, “What is tugging at me?”

“Not I,” said Roho.

Verde slapped his friend’s forehead, and then his own. “What blockheads we are!” he said. “It’s my conscience. I’d forgotten. The map-seller told us to follow the map or we would die for certain.”

“We shall die for certain anyway,” said Roho.

“We should pray for guidance.”

Well, it is one thing to take lots of breaks because you are lazy, but quite another to stop to pray. Verde and Roho were both out of practice, but they concentrated and asked for guidance.

When Verde looked up, there was an angel before him. “If you go through the cliffs,” the angel said, “you will certainly perish. In the same way, if you go around, you will start to feel yourselves die, and this is because you were lazy and drank all your water. But if you persevere, I promise that you will arrive at the other side no matter how famished you are.”

With this guidance, both men took themselves bravely in hand and set off around the cliffs. Soon they were dying of thirst. They dragged one foot ahead of the other under the hot sun and felt their tongues swell like hot balloons. But they pressed on and remembered that it was all their fault for stopping so often before. Just when they saw the gates of heaven opening before them and heard choruses of angel choirs, they stumbled onto an oasis. They rejoiced and plunged in the water, drinking and splashing and coming all the way back to life.

When they were sufficiently revived, Verde found a lamp beside the spring, and upon rubbing it, a genie streamed forth.

“What do you wish to know?” the genie cried in a deep voice that reverberated from tree to tree.

Verde cried up to the genie. “We wish to know, oh great one, what has happened to our fair princess and how we may bring her home.”

“You have asked wisely,” said the Genie. “The princess has been taken by fairies to their palace in the North. To outwit the fairies and rescue the princess, you will need three things: The Blanket of Sleep from a Witch, The Purple Berries of Paradise, and Mud from the Amazon. The blanket makes any one sleep, the berries remove the effects of magic, and the mud prevents transformation.”

“Blanket, Berries, Mud,” repeated Roho to himself, over and over again.

“Thank you, oh great genie. That is all we wished to know.” Then they left the lamp on the oasis, packed their skins with water and their food bags with grapes, and headed southeast to the sea.

***

George and Richard were still rowing on the sea along the coast, and as they rounded a corner, they saw two figures in the distance on an island who immediately began to call and wave to them. It was Terence and Corncob. Of course the two sailors took them in, and the boat was so full that the water came right up to the edge and they had to bail desperately with their hands until they reached the mainland, or they would have drowned. Even so, when they landed, all four men were soaked through. Terence was not very happy at all, but Corncob liked the sound of his squishy boots, and George and Richard just wished that the life of a knight could be more romantic.

When they got back to the place where George and Richard had first found the boat, whom should they see but King Jack and Serence waiting for them. And there, in the distance, were Roho and Verde plodding toward them. They were all met, and George, Richard, Jack, and Serence reported that they had found nothing. But Corncob and Terence cried out that they knew where the princess was.

“As do we!” said Verde. “And what’s more, we know how to rescue her.”

Roho and Verde told of the three items: the Blanket, the Berries, and the Mud and immediately all the knights were afire to find these items and save their princess from the fairies.

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They went to the house of the witch and came upon her just as she was about to poison an unsuspecting traveler.

“Stop, Witch!” they cried, and she threw her hands in the air in anger.

“AHH!!” she screamed. “I know all about your little daughter’s capture, and I cackle at the thought. Serves your family right, you goody two shoes! I know what you seek, and you will never find your precious blanket, because I’ll never tell!”

Then she lifted the poison to her own lips to drink. But the King was too quick and knocked it away with his sword before grabbing her arms and holding her tightly.

“You shall not kill yourself so long as I am king. Now where is that blanket?”

But she would say nothing more. Jack handed the witch over to Richard and told him to take her back to the palace. The witch would be locked safely in a cell, visited by a priest daily until she died of old age in the hopes of saving her shriveled soul. (And though this was no doubt the best and holiest decree Jack could ordain for her, I personally feel very sorry for the priest.)

When Richard was gone and the almost-poisoned traveler received clear water, the King and his knights ransacked the house. But they really did not have to look far, for the blanket lay in glory on the witch’s bed. And really, where else would you expect to find a blanket?

Next, they traveled to the end of the earth to find paradise. And when they got there, they found a golden ladder that stretched far above them into the pink and golden clouds, for here it was always sunset and dawn: the end of this life and the beginning of the next.

“I once climbed a beanstalk,” observed the King, as they all stared up at the veil between two worlds, “believing it to be a way to heaven. I would gladly make the real climb to save my daughter.” But then he looked down. “But I would not let the witch take her own life, and who am I to decide my own fate? No, I will pray and ask for guidance from heaven.”

image-1265277.jpgThen he removed a little from the others, knelt down, and stayed there all night.

The knights, of course, stayed up all night as well, arguing about who would climb the ladder. None of them was going to let the king sacrifice his own life. In the morning, Verde suddenly saw before him the same angel who had guided him and Roho through the desert. The angel was holding out a bowl filled with purple berries.

“Take this to your king,” it said, “it is not his time yet.”

When Jack rose and came back to his knights, Verde stepped forward and solemnly gave him the bowl. There were tears in all the knights’ eyes, and the king’s as well, for they loved him dearly.

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They continued on their way to the last place: the Amazon. When they arrived, they were very tired, hot, and thirsty. They found slippery mud slides all around that led into the river. Corncob followed his instinct (which is what he always did, and it always had a fifty-fifty chance of being either idiotic or wise) and plunged onto the slippery slides, covering himself in cool mud, and lapping clear water from the springs. All the other knights followed suit, while the King filled a bowl with mud from the ground. He watched the knights frolic for a moment, and then called them to order, and they stood at attention.

“We have collected every item,” he told them; “It is time to rescue my daughter.”

So they set out. But as they were halfway to the frigid ice caps, they encountered an evil werewolf! His vicious eyes gleamed at them so maliciously that they all stopped still.

“ARRG!” he growled. “I have hated the royal family many years, and my only consolation was the witch that I could visit and we would both complain about you daily. But now you have taken her away from me, and I will punish you! HA!” At that last word, he reached out and swiped the bowl of mud from the king and drank it all down. Then he ran far away, but the mud was such that it made him a wolf forever, and he would never again transform into a man.

The king was cast down in sadness and knew not what to do.

But then George cried out merrily, “Well, friends! Our filthy hides will have to save the day today! Sire, we are all covered in this mud: take it from us and we can continue on our way.”

Then the king smiled for joy and they went on until they reached the tiny castle in the snow. There was the little glass house, and all within were quiet and asleep, for it was daytime and fairies sleep during the day.

The king spread the Blanket of Sleep over the castle. He reached in and drew forth his miniscule infant daughter, held her in his palm, and mixed some berry juice with her milk in her teeny-tiny fairy bottle. While he did this, the knights were taking each impish, sleeping fairy out of the castle one-by-one, and spreading the Amazon Mud on them so that they would always remain fairies and could not transform into vicious bears. Then the king gave his daughter the berry juice to drink, they removed the blanket, and the princess and the fairies all woke up. The princess was her normal size again, and the fairies were fairies forever. They screamed in anger but could do nothing worse than buzz around the King, Knights, and Princess.

They returned home in triumph, and the Queen was overjoyed to see her husband and daughter again. There was a celebration that lasted twenty days, but all the knights went right to their rooms to take a bath first.

 

The End

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‘Jack and the Princess’ by Elizabeth Russell

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Jack. He lived with his mother in a cottage on the outskirts of a kingdom, right between the town and the outlying farmland. The kingdom was going through a period of drought: everyone was starving, and Jack and his mother were no exception. One morning, his mother said to him, “Jack, we are going to starve. You must take the cow into the village and sell her for what you can get. We will live on what she sells for a few weeks and then we will die.”

So Jack took the cow and headed down the path to the village. On his way, he met a hobbling old man who carried a little handkerchief. Inside the handkerchief, the old man said, were four magic beans, and he offered to trade Jack the beans for the cow. Jack saw that this was the most he would get for the dried-up, starving cow and gratefully accepted. When he got home, however, his mother was less than pleased and grabbing his ear with one hand, threw the beans out the window with the other. “How could you!?” she cried. “We were supposed to live for another few weeks, but now you will go to bed with no supper tonight, because we have no food to make a supper with!” And at that, Jack went to his bed, tired out from his walk and his empty stomach.

The next morning when Jack woke up in the early light, he found a great plant had grown up where his mother had thrown the beans. All the way up to the sky it reached, and further even than that. It was taller than the tallest skyscraper in our world.

Well, Jack knew he had not long to live and decided that there is no moment like the present, so he started making his way up the vine. “Maybe I’ve already died,” he thought, “and now I’m climbing up to heaven.”

But eventually he found himself at the top, and the beanstalk supported a great castle – a castle larger than the biggest prison in our world. It was a castle made for giants.

Jack went inside and was in awe of all the magnificent things he saw there: sparkling gold, glistening jewels, gorgeous velvet, and exotic spices. Most of the things were far too large for a normal-sized man like Jack, but some were people-sized, and these he picked up and fingered: some were softly embroidered, others were prickly-plated, and still others glassy smooth. He breathed deeply and there wafted a most heavenly scent upon the air. Jack could have stayed in that castle forever; he was beginning to lose himself in the radiance of it all when he was suddenly startled by something far more beautiful. Through the door at the other end of the room emerged a lovely girl of normal, person-sized height. She was adorned in a dusty apron, carried a dirty broom, and her hair curled around her forehead in sweaty, frazzled wisps. But nothing could dim the vibrant, fresh beauty in her face or the stately way that she held herself erect.

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She started when she saw Jack and dropped her broom. “What are you doing here?” she cried in alarm.

“I did not mean to startle you, miss. I found a giant beanstalk and climbed it to find myself in this beautiful place.”

“This place is not beautiful at all,” exclaimed the girl. “I know it glistens and dazzles, but it is all false finery that covers the den of a troll. My master eats any man that he can find, and he will eat you if he smells you here. You must leave immediately.”

As you might have guessed, Jack was instantly head-over-heels in love with this beautiful girl, and because of this, her concern did not fill him with proper caution; instead, since he had a dreamy nature, he was grateful for her concern, and he saw her through stars and galaxies, shining in the glow of the stained-glass window draping its light upon her.

“My name’s Jack.”

“Please, Jack,” she begged, “please leave.”

“If I leave,” he said, “you must come with me for I will not leave you to live with a man-eating troll.”

“I cannot go,” she started to tell him, but then Jack, who really was starving to death, suddenly fainted.

When Jack awoke, he was lying on cold stone beside a ginormous fire with a cold cloth on his forehead. The smell of hot soup wafted to him from a bowl at his side.

“You should really eat,” came the voice of the girl, and he turned to see her standing on top of a giant wooden countertop cutting up vegetables. “You look like you’re starving.”

Jack ate without another word, practically swallowing the entire bowl in one gulp. He was that hungry.

“Thank you.” He started to climb up the leg of the counter-top.

“No!” cried the girl. “I was telling you earlier, I can’t leave but you must!”

“Why can’t you leave?”

“I am the princess of the kingdom below.”

“Princess Miranda?”

“Yes. I was kidnapped three years ago and forced to cook and clean for the giant. I have a spell on me, and if I try to escape, this whole castle will fall down upon the kingdom and kill everyone.” Jack had reached the top of the counter, and she handed him an apple. “Now you must go. It is almost his lunchtime and he will be down shortly. Then he will eat you and I will have to watch.”

Jack’s heart leapt at her concern. “There must be a way to break the spell?” he asked.

“So long as he has his magic items, he will have power over me.”

“What are his magic items?”

The princess pointed to the corner of the kitchen. “His magic golden eggs and magic golden harp give him all his spells.”

Suddenly the entire room shook, and Jack fell against the wooden counter-top. The princess, who was more used to it, just wobbled a bit.

“Quick!” she cried. “We are too late, he is coming! You must hide.”

She slid down the leg of the counter, and he followed her, then she grabbed his hand and raced to a cupboard. Jack was too overcome by her touch to do anything but completely obey her. She pushed him inside, and before he realized what had happened, she had sliced his hand with a knife.

“Ah!” he cried, pulling away.

“No time!” she cried and taking his hand, dripped his blood into a bowl. “Wait until he is eating then leave through that door. Go down your beanstalk and never come back here again.” Then she shut him up into complete darkness except for a small sliver of light between the cracks.

He saw the princess take the blood that she had drawn from his smarting hand and pour it into the giant’s bowl of soup. If he had not been so completely in love, Jack might have shuddered at the fact that he himself had just eaten that soup.

“FEE, FIE, FOE, FUM!”

The room shook and the pottery on the shelves clinked and rattled. “I SMELL THE BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN!” The ground quaked as the largest man you have ever seen rumbled into the room. Jack peered through the sliver of a crack and bounced up and down with each heavy footfall. The giant turned his head so that he could see the hugeness of his face, the wideness of his shoulders, and the fierceness of his eyes. Then he did shudder. No, he quaked; and not from the vibrations of the giant’s steps.

“Do you, sir? That’s just a little something special I put together for you. I managed to bargain it off Mrs. Dungbury of Gigantic St.”

“AH! YOU KNOW WHAT I LIKE!” The giant sat down at the large table and  started eating like a mad animal, pouring soup in his mouth before even having time to swallow.

Then Jack took his chance. He leapt out of the cupboard, and the giant was so busy with his soup that he noticed nothing else. The princess watched him anxiously, but Jack did not head straight for the door like she had told him; he jumped up onto the table in the corner, where the golden eggs and harp were laid out in all their glory. The princess in fear shook her head at him, but he ignored her and picked up the eggs one by one (there were three of them, and each was very heavy). Then he reached for the harp, but it was magical, and played music whenever anyone touched her, so now she began to play herself, and at hearing the sound, the dinner table shook as the giant lifted up his mighty head.

“WHY DOES MY BEAUTIFUL HARP PLAY MUSIC?” he asked the princess.

Jack rabbited and raced across the kitchen floor for the door to freedom, but he still clutched the golden eggs to his chest.

“I do believe she just wants to make your dining experience more enjoyable, sir,” said the princess, and sighed with relief when she saw that Jack was safely out of the room.

Jack climbed down the beanstalk as quick as he could. When he got to the bottom, he found his mother waiting for him.

“And where have you been all morning? Do you expect me to starve to death alone?!” She stood before him with arms crossed over her chest in her strictest manner, but he could see how thin her cheeks really were.

“Mother, look!” he cried, holding out the eggs that he had wrapped in his shirt.

“Oh, my!!” she cried out and threw her hands high into the air in astonishment.

They sold the eggs and got enough money from them to live on for the next ten years.

But Jack could not forget the Princess Miranda, so the very next morning, he got up earlier than the sun and started climbing the beanstalk again. As soon as he entered the palace, he headed for the kitchen to find her.

“Princess!” he cried, when he saw the lovely girl at the giant fireplace. She was standing on an iron ladder to reach a huge, boiling stew pot and using a great spoon to stir it. Her face was flushed and her arms straining, but her back was strong and she looked more beautiful than ever.

“Jack!” she yelled at him, “you’ve come back! But why? You must have sold those golden eggs and are no longer starving. You’ll get eaten!”

“No Princess,” he answered her, “I will not. I will steal the golden harp so that you can escape from this man-eating giant, and his castle will not fall on your kingdom.”

“Oh, Jack…” she cried with rising hope, but then she pulled back, shaking her head. “No, no. I can’t accept this. I won’t let you put your life in danger again. I’m the princess, and it is my duty to keep the kingdom safe: all of it.”

But Jack just grinned at her foolishly. He did so like it when she worried about him.

“FEE, FIE, FO, FUM!” The ground heaved and the pottery clattered. The pot over the fire swayed and the ladder tipped. Jack jumped forward to steady it, but the Princess, who was very used the trembling, had already caught herself against the brick.

“Quick!” she cried. “This is very early for him to come; he must have smelled you!”

Jack knew what to do and jumped inside the cupboard. When the Princess came to him with the knife and bowl, he dutifully held out his hand. Without flinching, the princess took his blood and shut him inside the cupboard.

“I SMELL THE BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN!”

“Do you smell that?” she cried gaily. “It’s the last of it that I got from Mrs. Dungbury.”

While the giant was busy gorging himself on the stew, Jack once again slipped out of the cupboard and made for the table in the corner. There was the beautiful golden harp which he took up and then ran across the table.

But the enchanted harp, alarmed at Jack’s wild motions, played vigorously in dismay.

“WHY DOES MY BEAUTIFUL HARP PLAY MUSIC?” the giant cried out in anger and whirled toward the corner-table before the princess could distract him.

“RAARGH!” he cried in rage when he saw Jack holding his precious magic harp.

“Run!” screamed the princess.

“Come on!” cried Jack as he raced across the kitchen to escape. He grabbed the princess’s hand and now she could do nothing but obey him. She followed him outside and to the beanstalk, and they both started climbing.

The giant followed close behind, but he was slower and had to search for strong parts of the vine to hold him up. They were halfway down before he had really started.

“I’LL GET YOU! AND I’LL DROP MY PALACE ON YOUR KINGDOM!”

“No, you won’t!” Jack yelled up as they kept going down.

“What if he does?” asked the Princess when they reached the bottom. The whole ground shook with the giant’s footfalls.

“He won’t,” said Jack, and ran to the back of the house where he got an ax. Then he went back to the vine and started chopping.

“HA HA!” cried the giant, “YOU’LL MAKE IT FALL ON THE KINGDOM ANYWAY!”

“Not if you fall the other way,” yelled Jack and at that, the vine fell over. And sure enough, Jack chopped so it fell across the fields and pastures, crushing the meagre, dried-up crops.

The giant was dead with no harm to the kingdom.

There was great fear when everyone felt the earthquake of the palace crashing onto the fields. The kingdom panicked at the loss of the crops, but when they gathered about the fallen beanstalk, they rejoiced over all the wealth of treasures within the Giant’s palace.

In the giant’s attic, cellar, and pantry, they found mountains of seeds and nuts, hordes of dried fruit and vegetables, oceans of grain, and hills of dried meat. No more starvation, no more death, and no more illness, all thanks to Jack’s heroic conquest.

There was, of course, wonderful rejoicing at the return of the princess, and she, of course, married Jack. Her father was not thrilled that she would marry a farmer, but he was too happy to have her back to argue hard with her choice.

The End

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