ONE TIME the boys' daddy decided he'd give 'em a hundred dollar a-piece and let 'em go out by themselves to see what would they do with it. Told 'em to be gone one year and then to come back so he could see which one of 'em made the best out of his money.
Well, the three of 'em set out together down the big road. Then Will says, "Now, when we come to where the road forks three ways, we'll separate. There ain't no use in us gain' all together."
So when they came to a crossroad, they stopped and talked awhile, and directly Will called Tom off to one side and they went to whisperin', then they both came over to Jack and thronged him down and took every cent of his money, divided it, and left Jack a-layin' there. Will took one side-road and Tom took the other'n. Jack got his senses back pretty soon and set there a little while tryin' to study what to do. Then he decided he'd go on ans see what luck he might have, so he walked out in the middle of the crossroads and throwed his hat up in the air. Whichever road it landed in, he was goin' to go that way. Well, his hat landed in the road straight ahead so he took it and on he went.
It was an old road, not traveled much, and pretty soon Jack I 'way out in a lonesome wilder-ness of a place. Went on, went on; the road pretty nearly covered up with grass and brian, and directly he came to a fine-lookin' white house out there. Jack could see signs of somebody livin' there and he had to hay. some place to stay the night. He hated to holler 'cause he was s ragged and dirty, but he 'lowed there wasn't nothin' like tryi so he hollered hello and waited awhile. Nobody came out, he went to the door and pulled the doorbell. The door opened and a big cat came out. Jack didn't know what to think of that. The cat sat there lookin' at him and there didn't no person cornet to the door, so Jack hollered again, "Who keeps house?"
"Cat 'n the mouse," says the cat.
"Law me!" says Jack. "I've done got to a country where cats can talk."
"Yes," the cat told him, "there's an old witch out here. She got all my family but me and my sister. She witched her into a cat, then to a mouse, and me into a cat. She'll try to witch me into a mouse tonight."
Then Jack looked and saw a mouse creep out one side the door, says, "Well, is there anything I can do to keep the old witch from botherin' ye?"
"Probably might be," says the cat. "You can help me, but my sister, she'll stay a mouse. There can't nothin' be done for ye, once she gets you into a mouse. You stay here by the door tonight and kill any kind of big varmints you see and it'll keep the witch off."
Well, Jack got him a big club and got before the door, and when it got plumb thick dark all sorts of bears and painters and big wild animals came up the steps and Jack 'uld knock 'em and beat 'em with his club, kept on fightin' all night. Next mornin' that cat came out and it was a little bigger, looked a little bit like a girl.
"Now tonight," she says, "the old witch'll send middle-siz varmints.
You see can you keep them off, too."