Straw into Gold
The Tower and the Bird or Rapunzel
The tower stood on a small rise in the middle of the forest. It looked a little like a squat, dark windmill without its sails, or the monstrous chimney of some cold furnace. It was built of dark stone; reddish black and smelling of iron. Even on the brightest of days it was a menacing presence. And at night it loomed like a deliberate insult inked against the stars.
Grass and thornbushes grew at the base of the tower, but the deer from the forest did not graze there. Nothing ever moved on the tower mound except for the scuttling witch.
The forest lapped all around, a green ocean of trees.
Great carved oaks and airy maples. Tall, sweet-scented pines. Rust-red streaks of hurrying squirrels. Many bright birds.
Jess and Leo always noticed birds because their mother loved them so much. “They are so brave,” she said, “and so fragile, and so quick and bright.”
Jess and Leo preferred dogs for company. Dogs who would come on adventures all day, and sleep on your bed all night. Their father, the Prince, loved his old white horse.
“But birds suit Mother,” Jess and Leo agreed, and so they looked out for the first swallow and counted the storks’ nests on the rooftops in the village, and they saw the bird in the cottage window.
It was a small thing, green with a yellow head, hunched on its perch in a miniature cage. Three cats sat underneath, watching. The sight made Jess boil with indignation.
“We should steal it,” she said, “and set it free. It’s cruel!”
“We don’t have to steal it,” said Leo, reasonably. “There’s other ways of getting things. Perhaps they would sell it.”
“We haven’t any spare money. I suppose we could ask at home.”