In a small country house lives a poor widowed woman and her only son, Jack.
Jack tries to help his mother, but his efforts are never enough. He helps her plant corn and beans in the garden, but the soil is too sandy, so nothing grows. As time goes by, Jack and his mother become poorer and poorer.
One day Jack's mother tells him, "You must take the cow to market and sell her.
The higher the price, the more money we will have to buy food." The cow is their only valuable possession. They are both sorry to sell it.
"I will do my best," says Jack trying to remain cheerful.
"Sit down and have some supper," says his mother. "You'll need your strength for tomorrow." Jack's mother serves him a thin soup with three peas
floating in it. This is the last of their food. The two of them go to bed hungry.
The next morning, Jack rises at dawn and sets off for town with the cow. Around his neck, Jack wears an old horn for luck. The horn once belonged to his father, who died when Jack was very young. While walking, Jack blows the horn and sings aloud. He feels proud to have such an important job.
Jack comes across a few people along his path.
No one is interested in buying his cow.
"This cow?" asks the butcher shaking his head. "Much too old. I have no use for your cow," says an old farmer as he keeps walking.
After awhile, Jack meets a stranger on the road. The man is dressed in interesting clothes. "What are you doing, young man?" asks the stranger.
"I'm taking this cow to market," says Jack.
The man looks carefully at the cow. "Such a fine cow deserves a high price," he says. "And I am the one to pay it. I will give you these five beans for the cow."
Opening his hand, the man reveals five gloriously colored beans. Jack stares. They seem to hold all the shades of the rainbow.
"That is a very high price. My mother will be pleased." Jack trades the cow for the beans. Then he hurries home to tell his mother of their good fortune.
"Mother!" calls Jack. "Look what I got for the cow!" Jack smiles as he pours the five colorful beans into her hands.
"Beans!" cries his mother. "These are worthless. We
cannot even make them grow." Sadly, she tosses the
beans out the window.
To find out what happened next to Jack, go to the next page.