Jack and His Master
A poor woman had three sons. The eldest
and second eldest were
cunning clever fellows, but they called the youngest Jack
because they thought he was no better than a simpleton.
got tired of staying at home, and said he'd go look for
stayed away a whole year, and then came back one day, dragging
foot after the other, and a poor wizened face on him, and
cross as two sticks. When he was rested and got something
to eat, he
told them how he got service with the Gray Churl of the
Mischance, and that the agreement was, whoever would first
was sorry for his bargain, should get an inch wide of the
his back, from shoulder to hips, taken off. If it was the
should also pay double wages; if it was the servant, he
no wages at all. "But the thief," says he, "gave
me so little to
eat, and kept me so hard at work, that flesh and blood
stand it; and when he asked me once, when I was in a passion,
was sorry for my bargain, I was mad enough to say I was,
and here I
am disabled for life."
Vexed enough were the poor mother and brothers; and the
eldest said on the spot he'd go and take service with the
Churl, and punish him by all the annoyance he'd give him
make him say he was sorry for his agreement. "Oh,
won't I be glad to
see the skin coming off the old villain's back!" said
he. All they
could say had no effect: he started off for the Townland
Mischance, and in a twelvemonth he was back just as miserable
helpless as his brother.
All the poor mother could say didn't prevent Jack the
starting to see if he was able to regulate the Gray Churl.
with him for a year for twenty pounds, and the terms were
"Now, Jack," said the Gray Churl, "if
you refuse to do anything you
are able to do, you must lose a month's wages."
"I'm satisfied," said Jack; "and
if you stop me from doing a thing
after telling me to do it, you are to give me an additional
"I am satisfied," says
"Or if you blame me for
obeying your orders, you must give the
"I am satisfied," said
the master again.
The first day that Jack served he was fed very poorly,
worked to the saddleskirts. Next day he came in just before
dinner was sent up to the parlour. They were taking the
the spit, but well becomes Jack he whips a knife off the
and cuts off one side of the breast, one leg and thigh,
wing, and fell to. In came the master, and began to abuse
his assurance. "Oh, you know, master, you're to feed
wherever the goose goes won't have to be filled again till
Are you sorry for our agreement?"
The master was going to cry out he was, but he bethought
time. "Oh no, not at all," said he.
"That's well," said
Next day Jack was to go clamp turf on the bog. They weren't
have him away from the kitchen at dinner time. He didn't
breakfast very heavy on his stomach; so he said to the
think, ma'am, it will be better for me to get my dinner
now, and not
lose time coming home from the bog."
"That's true, Jack," said
she. So she brought out a good cake, and a
print of butter, and a bottle of milk, thinking he'd take
to the bog. But Jack kept his seat, and never drew rein
butter, and milk went down the red lane.
"Now, mistress," said he, "I'll
be earlier at my work to-morrow if I
sleep comfortably on the sheltery side of a pile of dry
peat on dry
grass, and not be coming here and going back. So you may
give me my supper, and be done with the day's trouble." She
that, thinking he'd take it to the bog; but he fell to
on the spot,
and did not leave a scrap to tell tales on him; and the
a little astonished.
He called to speak to the master
in the haggard, and said he, "What
are servants asked to do in this country after aten their
"Nothing at all, but to
go to bed."
"Oh, very well, sir." He
went up on the stable-loft, stripped, and
lay down, and some one that saw him told the master. He
"Jack, you anointed scoundrel, what do you mean?" "To
go to sleep,
master. The mistress, God bless her, is after giving me
breakfast, dinner, and supper, and yourself told me that
bed was the
next thing. Do you blame me, sir?"
"Yes, you rascal, I do."
"Hand me out one pound thirteen
and fourpence, if you please, sir."
"One divel and thirteen
imps, you tinker! what for?"
"Oh, I see, you've forgot
your bargain. Are you sorry for it?"
"Oh, ya--no, I mean. I'll
give you the money after your nap."
Next morning early, Jack asked
how he'd be employed that day. "You
are to be holding the plough in that fallow, outside the
The master went over about nine o'clock to see what kind
ploughman was Jack, and what did he see but the little
the bastes, and the sock and coulter of the plough skimming
the sod, and Jack pulling ding-dong again' the horses.
"What are you doing, you contrary thief?" said
"An' ain't I strivin' to
hold this divel of a plough, as you told
me; but that ounkrawn of a boy keeps whipping on the bastes
of all I say; will you speak to him?"
"No, but I'll speak to you.
Didn't you know, you bosthoon, that when
I said 'holding the plough,' I meant reddening the ground."
an' if you did, I wish you had said so. Do you blame
what I have done?"
The master caught himself in time, but he was so stomached,
and redden the ground now, you knave, as other ploughmen
are you sorry for our agreement?"
not at all, not at all!"
Jack, ploughed away like a good workman all the rest of
In a day or two the master bade him go and mind the cows
in a field
that had half of it under young corn. "Be sure, particularly," said
he, "to keep Browney from the wheat; while she's out
there's no fear of the rest."
About noon, he went to see how Jack was doing his duty,
and what did
he find but Jack asleep with his face to the sod, Browney
near a thorn-tree, one end of a long rope round her horns,
other end round the tree, and the rest of the beasts all
and eating the green wheat. Down came the switch on Jack.
"Jack, you vagabone, do
you see what the cows are at?"
"And do you blame, master?"
"To be sure, you lazy sluggard,
"Hand me out one pound thirteen
and fourpence, master. You said if I
only kept Browney out of mischief, the rest would do no
she is as harmless as a lamb. Are you sorry for hiring
"To be--that is, not at
all. I'll give you your money when you go to
dinner. Now, understand me; don't let a cow go out of the
into the wheat the rest of the day."
"Never fear, master!" and
neither did he. But the churl would rather
than a great deal he had not hired him.
The next day three heifers were missing, and the master
bade Jack go
in search of them.
"Where will I look for them?" said
"Oh, every place likely
and unlikely for them all to be in."
The churl was getting very exact in his words. When he
into the bawn at dinner-time, what work did he find Jack
pulling armfuls of the thatch off the roof, and peeping
holes he was making?
"What are you doing there,
"Sure, I'm looking for the
heifers, poor things!"
"What would bring them there?"
"I don't think anything
could bring them in it; but I looked first
into the likely places, that is, the cow-houses, and the
and the fields next 'em, and now I'm looking in the unlikeliest
place I can think of. Maybe it's not pleasing to you it
"And to be sure it isn't
pleasing to me, you aggravating goose-cap!"
"Please, sir, hand me one
pound thirteen and four pence before you
sit down to your dinner. I'm afraid it's sorrow that's
on you for
hiring me at all."
"May the div--oh no; I'm
not sorry. Will you begin, if you please,
and put in the thatch again, just as if you were doing
it for your
"Oh, faith I will, sir, with a heart and a half;" and
by the time
the farmer came out from his dinner, Jack had the roof
it was before, for he made the boy give him new straw.
Says the master when he came
out, "Go, Jack, and
look for the
heifers, and bring them home."
"And where will I look for
"Go and search for them as if they were your own." The
all in the paddock before sunset.
Next morning, says the master, "Jack,
the path across the bog to the
pasture is very bad; the sheep does be sinking in it every
and make the sheep's feet a good path." About an hour
after he came
to the edge of the bog, and what did he find Jack at but
a carving knife, and the sheep standing or grazing round.
"Is this the way you are mending the path, Jack?" said
"Everything must have a beginning, master," said
Jack, "and a thing
well begun is half done. I am sharpening the knife, and
the feet off every sheep in the flock while you'd be blessing
"Feet off my sheep, you
anointed rogue! and what would you be taking
their feet off for?"
"An' sure to mend the path
as you told me. Says you, 'Jack, make a
path with the foot of the sheep.'"
"Oh, you fool, I meant make
good the path for the sheep's feet."
"It's a pity you didn't
say so, master. Hand me out one pound
thirteen and fourpence if you don't like me to finish my
"Divel do you good with
your one pound thirteen and fourpence!"
"It's better pray than curse,
master. Maybe you're sorry for your
"And to be sure I am--not
yet, any way."
The next night the master was going to a wedding; and
says he to
Jack, before he set out: "I'll leave at midnight,
and I wish you, to
come and be with me home, for fear I might be overtaken
drink. If you're there before, you may throw a sheep's
eye at me,
and I'll be sure to see that they'll give you something
About eleven o'clock, while the master was in great spirits,
something clammy hit him on the cheek. It fell beside his
and when he looked at it what was it but the eye of a sheep.
he couldn't imagine who threw it at him, or why it was
him. After a little he got a blow on the other cheek, and
was by another sheep's eye. Well, he was very vexed, but
better to say nothing. In two minutes more, when he was
mouth to take a sup, another sheep's eye was slapped into
sputtered it out, and cried, "Man o' the house, isn't
it a great
shame for you to have any one in the room that would do
such a nasty
"Master," says Jack, "don't
blame the honest man. Sure it's only
myself that was thrown' them sheep's eyes at you, to remind
was here, and that I wanted to drink the bride and bridegroom's
health. You know yourself bade me."
"I know that you are a great
rascal; and where did you get the
"An' where would I get em'
but in the heads of your own sheep? Would
you have me meddle with the bastes of any neighbour, who
me in the Stone Jug for it?"
"Sorrow on me that ever
I had the bad luck to meet with you."
"You're all witness," said Jack, "that
my master says he is sorry
for having met with me. My time is up. Master, hand me
wages, and come into the next room, and lay yourself out
like a man
that has some decency in him, till I take a strip of skin
broad from your shoulder to your hip."
Every one shouted out against
that; but, says Jack, "You
hinder him when he took the same strips from the backs
of my two
brothers, and sent them home in that state, and penniless,
When the company heard the rights of the business, they
too eager to see the job done. The master bawled and roared,
there was no help at hand. He was stripped to his hips,
and laid on
the floor in the next room, and Jack had the carving knife
hand ready to begin.
"Now you cruel old villain," said
he, giving the knife a couple of
scrapes along the floor, "I'll make you an offer.
Give me, along
with my double wages, two hundred guineas to support my
brothers, and I'll do without the strap."
"No!" said he, "I'd
let you skin me from head to foot first."
"Here goes then," said
Jack with a grin, but the first little scar
he gave, Churl roared out, "Stop your hand; I'll give
"Now, neighbours," said Jack, "you
mustn't think worse of me than I
deserve. I wouldn't have the heart to take an eye out of
itself; I got half a dozen of them from the butcher, and
three of them."
So all came again into the other room, and Jack was made
and everybody drank his health, and he drank everybody's
one offer. And six stout fellows saw himself and the master
and waited in the parlour while he went up and brought
down the two
hundred guineas, and double wages for Jack himself. When
home, he brought the summer along with him to the poor
the disabled brothers; and he was no more Jack the Fool
people's mouths, but "Skin Churl Jack."