IN THE reign of King Arthur there lived near the Land's End, in Cornwall, a wealthy farmer, who had an only son, commonly called Jack Hornby. He was of a brisk and ready wit, and he was never known to be outwitted in any transaction.
One day, when he was no more than seven years of age, his father sent him into the field to look after his oxen. While he was attending to them, the lord of the manor came across the field, and as Jack was known to be a clever boy, he began asking him questions. His first was, "How many commandments are there?" Jack told him there were nine. The lord corrected him, saying there were ten. "Nay," quoth Jack, "you are wrong there: it is true there were ten, but you broke one of them when you stole my father's cow for your rent." The lord of the manor was so struck by this answer, that he promised to return the poor man's cow.
"Now," quoth Jack, "it is my turn to ask a question. Can you tell me how many sticks go to build a crow's nest?" "Yes," said he, "there are as many go as are sufficient for the size of the nest." "Oh!" quoth Jack, "you are out again; there are none go, for they are all carried!"
Jack Hornby was never more troubled with questions by the lord of the manor.