Jack and his mother lived all alone in a little hut with a garden in front of it, and they had nothing else in the world but a cow named Blackey.
One time Blackey went dry; not a drop of milk would she give. “See there now!” said the mother. “If Blackey doesn’t give us milk we can’t afford to keep her. You’ll have to take her off to market, Jack, and sell her for what you can get.”
Jack was sorry that the little cow had to be sold, but he put a halter around her neck and started off with her.
He had not gone far, when he met a little old man with a long gray beard.
“Well, Jack,” said the little old man, “where are you taking Blackey this fine morning?”
Jack was surprised that the stranger should know his name, and that of the cow, too, but he answered politely, “Oh, I am taking her to market to sell her.”
“There is no need for you to go as far as that,” said the little old man, “for I will buy her from you for a price.”
“What price would you give me?” asked Jack, for he was a sharp lad.
“Oh, I will give you a handful of beans for her,” said the old man.
“No, no,” Jack shook his head. “That would be a fine bargain for you; but it is not beans but good silver money that I want for my cow.”
“But wait till you see the beans,” said the old man; and he drew out a handful of them from his pocket. When Jack saw them his eyes sparkled, for they were such beans as he had never seen before. They were of all colors, red and green and blue and purple and yellow, and they shone as though they had been polished. But still Jack shook his head. It was silver pieces his mother wanted, not beans.
“Then I will tell you something further about these beans,” said the man. “This is such a bargain as you will never strike again; for these are magic beans. If you plant them they will grow right up to the sky in a single night, and you can climb up there and look about you if you like.”
When Jack heard that he changed his mind, for he thought such beans as that were worth more than a cow. He put Blackey’s halter in the old man’s hand, and took the beans and tied them up in his handkerchief and ran home with them.
His mother was surprised to see him back from market so soon.
“Well, and have you sold Blackey?” she asked.
Yes, Jack had sold her.