136 JACK AND THE BEANSTALK
' Jack, that poor lady is your mother. This castle was once your father's, and must again be yours.'
Jack uttered a cry of surprise.
' My mother ! oh, madam, what ought I to do '? My poor father ! My dear mother!'
'Your duty requires you to win it back for your mother. But the task is a very difficult one, and full of peril, Jack. Have you courage to undertake it ? '
' I fear nothing when I am doing right,' said Jack.
' Then,' said the lady in the red cap, ' you are one of those who slay giants. You must get into the castle, and if possible possess yourself of a hen that lays golden eggs, and a harp that talks, lie-member, all the giant possesses is really yours.' As she ceased speaking, the lady of the red hat suddenly disappeared, and of course Jack knew she was a fairy.
Jack determined at once to attempt the adventure; so he advanced, and blew the horn which hung at the castle portal. The door was opened in a minute or two by a frightful giantess, with one great eye in the middle of her forehead.
As soon as Jack saw her he turned to run away, but she caught him, and dragged him into the castle.
I Ho, ho !' she laughed terribly. ' You didn't expect to see me here, that is clear ! No, I shan't let you go again. I am weary of my life. I am so overworked, and I don't see why I should not have a page as well as other ladies. And you shall be my boy. You shall clean the knives, and black the boots, and make the fires, and help me generally when the giant is out. When he is at home I must hide you, for he has eaten up all my pages hitherto, and you would be a dainty morsel, my little lad.'
While she spoke she dragged Jack right into the castle. The poor boy was very much frightened, as I am sure you and I would have been in his place. But he remembered that fear disgraces a man; so he struggled to be brave and make the best of things.
II am quite ready to help you, and do all I can to serve you, madam,' he said, ' only I beg you will be good enough to hide me from your husband, for I should not like to be eaten at all.'
' That's a good boy,' said the Giantess, nodding her head ; ' it is lucky for you that you did not scream out when you saw me, as the other boys who have been here did, for if you had done so my husband would have awakened and have eaten you, as he did them,