I remember very well the day that everything changed. That morning the sun hadrisen just as it always had in the past: behind a thick screen of clouds. It began its slow decenttowards the horizon in the opposite direction behind that same screen. Snow continued to falland the world continued to freeze, but my attention was turned to my activities within the tower. I hadn’t slept much the night before, choosing instead to finish an epic about a braveknight on his quest to save his kingdom from famine and marry the most beautiful girl in theland. Once it was over, I managed to wedge it into one of the overflowing bookshelves. Insteadof grabbing the sequel I sat down at my writing desk.
As time ticked slowly by, I worked diligently on the next chapter of my story. My hero, Rudolph, was just setting eyes on his beloved Anne for the first time inseveral months and I felt a tingle of excitement as I described their reunion. I wrote ardently, filling up page after page and watching the stack of finishedsections resting at my feet grow slowly but surely. As the afternoon wore steadily on, I remainedcompletely absorbed in the world that I was creating to the absolute exclusion of my own.
I don’t know for how long I wrote, but it was rather late by the time I had run outof ideas and taken to staring off into space. As I watched through the small window, swirling snowflakes danced around the skyas they floated to the ground. I imagined that they were people and the frosty evening air wastheir ballroom. As the ice crystals maneuvered gracefully around one another, I envisioned astately set of dancers, kings and knights and the like, all gathering to celebrate a recentconquest. The room was decorated splendidly and the orchestra was just beginning to play.Ladies curtseyed demurely as their gentlemanly partners bowed… It was then that I noticed the silhouetted figure on the horizon.
Abandoning my wandering thoughts, I pressed myself between the window and mywriting table in order to get a better look. The figure was coming over a small hill in thedistance, battling against the wind and, from the looks of it, losing. The shape stumbled frequently, disappearing into large snow banks and reemergingseconds later, brushing clumps of snow from its shoulders.
I ran downstairs to the only window that opened and unbolted the shutters. A coldblast of air struck me, but I was too excited to care. I squinted hard against the setting sun and could barely make out the figuretrudging slowly through the snow, slightly favoring her left side. I recognized Mother’s uneven gait instantly for I had known it my whole life. Ididn’t bother to question for even a second why she had been walking instead of performing herusual trick of appearing directly under the tower and shouting for me to let my hair down.
Mother had been to see me only three days prior so I should have known that theperson growing ever closer could not have been her. But my blissful state of ignorance cloudedmy judgment and I ran from the window to throw another log on the fire. I stoked the blazehigher (Mother liked it warm) and lamented over the fact that I had let it die down so much overthe course of the afternoon.
Scurrying around the tower, I removed dirty dishes from the table and stacked themnext to the wash basin so they were out of the way. The books strewn about the room wererelocated and the crumbs from my last meal were swept away. I ran all about, only pausing onceto tuck a few stray hairs back into my braid. What can I say? Back then I was eager to please.
Mother was taking longer than usual. Waiting for her to arrive, I had begun toworry and I imagined all sorts of harms that could have befallen her. The world was a dangerousplace, after all, and she was risking a great deal coming out to see me. I went to the window and leaned out as far as I dared and call her name. It was, asof yet, that I had felt the snowflakes on my skin but they didn’t faze me at all. I was too focusedon the sudden sense of dread that had settled in the pit of my stomach.
With an audible gasp, I retreated back into the tower and pressed myself up againstthe window frame. My mind whirled with the realization that the person approaching was mostcertainly not my dear Mother Gothel. In fact, it was pretty much her exact opposite. A young man stumbled towards my defenseless tower.
Unwilling to be seen again, I left the shutters open and bolted back up the stairs onshaky limbs. I sank to the ground, cowering against the banister and praying to God that hehadn’t actually noticed me. “Let him think this tower is abandoned,” I willed silently even though I knew therewas no way for it to be true. I had dangled out the window like a fool. He had to have seen, or atleast heard, me.
Without moving from my spot, I was able to stretch my arm far enough to reach abook. I had read it before, recently, in fact, but at that moment I would have done anything thatallowed me to pretend there wasn’t a potentially hostile man advancing on me as I sat defenselessin a tower with no way out. I was distracted for a bit, but as soon as the man reached the base of the tower, therewas nothing I could do to stop my panicking.
When I heard his footsteps crunching in the snow, my hands began to shake and Idropped the book, crumpling the pages and bending the cover. My heart beat rapidly and Imoved to the staircase. I was close to tears as I pressed my back to the stones, hoping indesperation that he would just go away. No such luck. I heard him staggering around the tower and his voice rose easily on the wind,carrying it directly to my ears. “Hello!” I winced and took a few steps back. “I am fortunate tohave found you – can you please let me in? It’s freezing out here!” His words were slurredtogether and occasionally drowned out by his chattering teeth. I didn’t answer. He persisted.
“I know you’re there; I saw you waving.” I wound my way down the stairs with caution. He didn’t sound dangerous, but I hadto see him with my own two eyes. As I tip-toed closer, he continued, “You left the window openand I see smoke coming from the chimney. I’m cold, not blind.” I moved soundlessly and peeredover the sill. My breath caught when I saw him standing ankle-deep in the snow, shivering andblowing on his hands in an effort to keep them warm. “Please,” he begged. His desperate tone won out over my apprehension and I couldn’t bring myself toleave him standing there. My voice shaky with apprehension, I managed to call out “hello” beforemy nerves got the better of me. I only hoped that mother had been mistaken. Perhaps not all thepeople outside the tower were bad.
He snapped his head up and our eyes met. Even from my height I could see that hisnose was a dangerous shade of blue and his teeth were chattering uncontrollably. Hope flickered in his eyes and he spoke with renewed vigor. “Oh, thank God! I am indesperate need of shelter. Please let me in.” Mother’s constant warnings about the dangers of the outside world echoed in myhead as I debated whether to let him up. I had to consider the distinct possibility of the strangerbeing a liar, but I couldn’t bring myself to turn my back on him. With an anxious heart, I wound my braid around its hook and tossed the rest of itout the window with simple instructions, “Climb.”
I braced myself against the wall and felt him tug twice on my braid. He apparentlydeemed it safe as I soon felt his full weight suspended in air as he climbed. Peculiarly, he waslighter than mother. After what seemed like ages, his head finally appeared over the ledge and thepressure on my head ceased when he shifted his weight from my hair to the wood.
I admit that I stared rather shamelessly when he entered fully into the tower. Iwatched as he quickly drew up my braid and looped it into a coil that he tossed underneath thewindow. When he thanked me, I went red in the face and I stammered a meek “You’rewelcome.” Not only was he the first man I had ever seen, he was the first person, other thanMother, that I had ever spoken to. And I found him fascinating.
He went straight for the fireplace and stuck his hands close to the flames. Shiftinghis weight back and forth between his feet, his shoes squished small puddles onto the floor. Iguessed he was too happy to have his toes unthawing to notice.
I hung back by the stairs, ready to dash up them at a moment’s notice. At first,neither one of us spoke. He cut an interesting figure hovering close to the fireplace and I studiedhim intently. His dark hair caught the light of the flames and his green eyes were concentrated.He was tall and lean with an unexaggerated strength. Though he limped, he bore no visibleinjuries and he seemed to be in fair health. I thought of the soldiers I had read about in my books and the description seemedto fit him. Mother had said that the world was full of them, some good but most bad, and Iwondered which side he fell on. Did he fight to restore order to the kingdom or was he amerciless brigand? He seemed harmless enough so I ventured a simple question. “For whom doyou fight?”
I should have known by the look that he gave me that something was amiss. Stillheating his hands over the fire, he glanced over his shoulder as if I were crazy. “I don’t fight foranything.” I blushed and tried to clarify. “But aren’t you a soldier? Were you injured in battle? Iassumed that is why you are limping…” My rambling only earned my another odd look. “I’m not a soldier and I have neverfought in any battle. I am a printer by trade and my limp comes from the fact that I twisted myankle earlier this afternoon when I was set upon by renegades.”
Immediately my opinion of him worsened. ‘So he was one of those people,’ Ithought. Mother had told me all about them: people so set against the war they refused to beinvolved on either side. Often they took the opportunity to enrich their own lives either throughwar profiteering or raiding vulnerable villages. I crossed my arms, glared, and sniffed in contempt.
He paid no need to my disdain so I sniffed again in the hopes that it would compelhim to offer an explanation for his cowardice. When that didn’t work, I cleared my throat but hestill didn’t turn around. He probably just thought I was suffering from a cold. I was about to just ask him outright for his justification when I noticed his fingerstugging at the strings of his soggy tunic. With stiff, half-frozen movements, he unknotted thestrings and pulled them loose.
My jaw dropped and I stumbled backwards onto the stairs. Instantly, a book I hadread a few months ago, The Villain in the Dungeon, came to mind. In it, the dastardly count hadtaken advantage of several young ladies before he was most satisfactorily defeated by the hero.Each time he cornered one of them in an empty room, his evil seduction always began with theremoval of several layers of clothing. Even though I ha d never been out of the tower, my bookshad shown me plenty of the world’s vices and I wasn’t as innocent as one may have assumed. “Hold it right there! What do you think you’re doing?”
Hearing the alarm in my voice, he dropped his laces and turned around to look me inthe eye for the first time. “I’m soaked through,” he said, pinching the fabric of his tunic andletting a few drips fall to the floor. “I’m just going to hang it up so it can dry.” He hesitated,shifting his weight nervously between his feet as if waiting for permission.
Still uneasy, I averted my eyes and allowed him to go about his business. As I stood there I listened to the sounds and pictured his movements in my mind.The soggy slap of the waterlogged tunic as it smacked against the fireplace. The steady drip ofthe water onto the floor as it competed to be heard over the crackle of the flames. The soft swishof my skirts against the stone steps as I brushed my foot back and forth. The shuffle of his feetas he left his place at the hearth and came towards me.
I startled at his proximity and my stomach clenched in sudden nervousness. Doubtcreeped into my mind and I couldn’t help but think of Mother’s certain disappointment whenshe found out that I let a stranger in. “When will you be leaving?” I asked. “First thing in the morning. I promise.” At that point I stepped back another stair. The thought of him staying overnightwas not appealing.
“Please,” he said sympathetically, “I do not wish to frighten you, miss. My name isGustaf Schreiber – I’m a printer from a small village called Kirschblüte – and I just need shelterfor one night. That’s all I ask.” I wavered on the stairs, torn between letting him stay and making him go. He was atotal stranger, but I did recognize the name of the town he was from. Mother lived there too.
He reached out for my hand which I reluctantly gave. “Come sit down with me and Iwill explain everything.” I hesitated for a second, pulling back in an attempt to wrestle free of his grip, but hewouldn’t let go. Something in his steady gaze that struck me as trustworthy “My name is .Rapunzel and this is my tower” I said as I gave in to his lead. “Pleased to meet you.”
He steered me towards the benches and took his seat as I took mine. “So tell me whyyou are here,” I insisted. Gustaf stretched his feet towards the fireplace as he spoke, still thawing his frozentoes. “I left Kirschblüte early this morning, intending to head directly over the mountains and intothe city. I had an appointment with a man concerning a piece of property I wish to purchase. Iam looking to open up a new print shop, you see, but I never made it there. About six hours intomy trip, I was held up by a group of-” “Oh! Did you come across a group of soldiers? Were they doing battle?” In myinnocence, the whole situation seemed a like another one of my novels and my mind jumpedahead, trying to fill in the gaps with my assumptions.
For a second, Gustaf sat at a loss of words. Finally he shrugged and raised his browin confusion, “I’m sorry, I don’t follow.” “Never mind,” I said, a bit disappointed. “Please continue.” “Well, as I was saying, I was making my way across the mountains and I was justabout to cross the border out when a group of guards spotted me. As you can probably guess,they were less than satisfied with my traveling papers and I was put in a holding cell to awaittransport back to the village. I was to be brought before the Bürgermeister for sentencing but Iknew it would only end in disaster, what with my forged documents and the closed-gate policyheld against me.”
Mother hardly ever talked politics with me, but to my understanding he hadcommitted a grave offence. The ruler of the village, the Dame, had sealed the gates years ago inorder to keep the citizens safe and to guard against invaders. The kingdom as a whole, comprisedof dozens of self-governing cities and villages, was still a dangerous place and it would not dofor outsiders to wander in of their own volition. People could still travel, of course, but they hadto apply for and be granted the proper documents well in advance. “Somehow I convinced myself that escaping my cell and trying to make it to thecity before nightfall was my best course of action. Apparently I was mistaken. I wandered forhours in the wrong direction and was beginning to feel resigned to my fate when I saw thesmoke coming from the chimney. I thought I was going to die out there in the snow, Rapunzel,but you saved me and for that I am truly grateful.”
I blushed at his sincerity. “It was nothing. I was glad to do it.” “I was rather surprised to find you here in the middle of nowhere, I must say. Atfirst I thought I was hallucinating; you’re so very far from any civilization.” “Yes, well, nobody is supposed to come this far into the mountains. Mother built outtower here so we can be safe.” “Oh, you live with your mother?” he asked, looking around for somebody to step outof the shadows. “Is she here?”
“N-no,” I stammered, “She’s from your village, actually, and, um, she’s there rightnow.” Immediately I regretted telling him that I was alone. My pulse began to race; a thousandterrifying scenarios bombarded my imagination. But, to my relief, he did not pull out a knife or launch himself upon me. All he didwas offer a confused look and scratch behind his left ear. “So, your mother lives in town but youlive all the way out here? Have you been cut off by the snow or something?” I knew what he was getting at, but I had no desire to offer an explanation. Mothertraveled back and forth between the tower and the village, bringing me supplies to last weeks ata time. She never missed a visit and I never went without. “She and I have a sort ofarrangement.”
“Does it involve numerous trips through the window?” he asked with a chuckle. “Ihad been expecting stairs.” I turned from his gaze. I suppose it was meant to be funny, but it sounded to me likereproach. I had never been blind to my unique living situation, but this was the first time that anoutsider had seen it; and criticized it. Embarrassment was a new feeling for me. The conversationstalled when I didn’t respond. I fiddled with my braid. He picked at a loose string on his cuff. “You, uh, have nice hair,” he said at last. “Longest I’ve ever seen.” “Thank you…Um, would you care for something to eat?” I stood up before heanswered.
His stomach growled and he tried to pass it off with a laugh. “Yes please; I’mstarving. Of course, only if it’s no trouble, that is.” “None at all,” I assured, excusing myself and heading straight for the pantry. I wasquite relieved to move from his proximity. I dug through the cupboards, pushing aside plates and cups in search of someleftover rolls and roast beef. Mother had brought some last time she was here and I thought itstill might be good. As I rummaged, I was keenly aware of Gustaf ’s movements around theroom.
I heard the sound of his wet shoes slapping against the stone floor. He hoveredaround the mantle for a few seconds before moving on to the table to its left and then finally overto the stand by the window with my bible on it. He fingered the pages, turning them andinspecting the colors. “Remarkable work,” he said.
I shut the cupboard door quickly and turned to face him, my cheeks flushed and myheart beating rapidly. “What are you doing? Please don’t touch that; it’s very fragile and dear tome.”
He jumped back from the table. “Sorry, I didn’t know! Is it a family heirloom?” I scoffed. “Not even. You should know how hard books this nice are to come by thesedays! Mother went to great trouble to bring it back here for me. I should hate it if I were to loseit. She taught me to read with it, you see, and if word ever got out that we owned something likethis I just know we would have all sorts of ruffians trying to scramble up the tower to lay theirhands on it. So I would appreciate it if you would keep quiet about it when you leave and-” Itailed off into silence, cowed by his puzzled expression.
“All your concern over a bible?” he scoffed. “I said it was nice work, but it’s not thatnice. I could print once just like it in my shop if I wanted to.” “Not possible! Books, bibles especially, are incredibly hard to come by! Mother saidso. One like this would fetch a fortune!” He scoffed once again. “Your mother told you that, did she?” “Yes!” I was growing incredibly frustrated.
“And you believed her?” “Of course I did,” I shouted, stamping my foot. “It’s true!” “I don’t know what your deal is, lady, but I feel like I should show you something.Come over here…”
Fuming, I followed him to the fireplace. My anger urged me to banish him from thetower and forget the whole situation had ever happened but the small amount of curiosity deepwithin my heart compelled me to stand silent and watch as he dug through the pockets of hiscoat.
With a gentle, but slightly uneasy, smile, he pulled forth a miniature book; thesmallest I had ever seen. It was bound in red leather and the spine looked well-worn. Smallscratches and water spots were spread across the cover. Balancing it on his palm, he opened it to the last page and began thumbing through,backwards, at a rapid pace. As the pages flew by, my eyes caught underlined passages and notesscrambled into the margins, but I could not make out what they said.
He stopped abruptly on the front page where in dark printed letters was written thewords “Holy Bible.” I blinked rapidly is surprise. “It was my father’s before me. My family alone owns dozens of copies. See here,” heflipped back a page revealing an inked tower climbing up out of a shield with the letter Sstamped in the middle, “this is the mark of my father’s printing business. Many years ago hemade it himself and now I make dozens of them a week. They’re my shop’s most popular item.”
I pulled my eyes from the page. “This has no relevance for me. For all I know youcould be lying. I’ve only known you for an hour and for all I know you could be one of them; oneof the villains.” Gustaf tucked the precious, soggy bible into his pocket of his vest and said with anincredulous laugh, “I’m not lying! I don’t know what your, um, theories are about how the worldworks outside of this tower, but I can tell that there’s something you’ve missed.”
My throat prickled with the tears I was holding back. I felt in over my head and mymost desperate wish was that mother was by my side. She would have launched Gustaf from thetower in a heartbeat. Instead I had to stand by, at a complete loss of what to do while he went tothe bookcase and pulled a book from atop a stack, reading the title aloud, “These Fifty Years: ABrief History of the Ongoing War from its Inception to the Present.” “That one mother brought me a few months ago. She said she saved up for a longtime to be able to buy it new.” He cracked the spine and I cringed. “Please put it back.”
He flipped through the first few pages, “Don’t worry; I’m just looking.” He turned tothe end of the book and then back to the beginning. A slow smile spread across his face. “Seehere,” he pointed to a blank page in the front. “This is where the mark of the printer who madethe book should be stamped. But the page is blank. Therefore it couldn’t have been made by alegitimate business. And it’s just as well. The author tries to pass it off as non-fiction when it’sclearly fiction. The war they’re talking about ended almost twenty years ago.”
“I don’t believe you!” I said, my voice barely above a whisper. Hurt and confused, Iwas suddenly aware of the fact that, while most of my books had printers’ marks such as the onehe had showed me, a significant amount of the books in my possession did not. “It cannot matterthat a silly picture is missing. Some books just don’t have them, I guess.” “Not possible. That’s against guild regulations. Either somebody sat there and putthis thing together by hand, or it was conjured by magic.”
“Stop it! Just stop it!” I had never yelled at anybody before. My hands shook andblood rushed in my ears. “Put it back!” I ripped the book from his hands and tossed it onto thestack. “My mother would never lie to me.” “And what reason would I have to lie? In fact, what I’m saying goes directly againstmy interests.” Realizing what he said, his shoulders fell. “Angering you is the quickest way to getme thrown out of the tower. Maybe I should stop now…”
I was past anger now. All I wanted was to escape. The tears I had been fighting tohold back spilled forth and I turned to flee up the stairs. He started to follow, but one look fromme stopped him in his tracks. He hung back, shuffling his feet in discomfort. “I’m sorry forupsetting you…”
I flung myself on my bed, pushing aside the books that were littered there. Thesight of them made me sick. Angry thoughts buzzed around in my head. Mother would not,could not, lie to me. She had saved me! Taken me in, given me safety, and raised me when my ownparents were too greedy to do it themselves. Gustaf was the liar. It was he who spun falsehoods…but then…No! I clenched myhands into fists and pummeled the feather mattress. I would not be swayed. From down below, I heard Gustaf pace around a bit and then shut the window. Ididn’t know why; it wasn’t cold in the tower. Then I thought – hoped – that he had left. But thenI heard him close the pantry and stretch out on the floor in front of the fire. I didn’t care if hehad taken food. I didn’t care if he stayed. I didn’t care if I ever saw him again.
The sun finally slipped below the horizon. The snow continued to fly. I barelynoticed. I don’t know how many hours I stayed there, unmoving. My head spun in everydirection and I cycled through a broad range of emotions – anger, loyalty, betrayal, doubt, envy,more anger – until my heart finally settled on dull, aching curiosity.
Finally I relaxed my muscles and stretched my stiff joints. I rose and peeked overthe bannister. Gustaf was there, lying out on the rug in front of the fireplace and breathingdeeply. I envied his peaceful sleep. I had lain awake for what seemed like days; never before hadthe hours moved by so slowly. If only he hadn’t said such things. Such lies. But were they lies? Somewhere between betrayal and doubt I had decided I neededto find out for myself.
I had hundreds of books to choose from. My hand shot out and picked one atrandom. I vaguely recognized the spine as belonging to a trilogy I had devoured only a few daysago. Oh, how quickly life can change. I hesitated before sliding it slowly off the shelf. I had to see how many were missingprinters’ marks, but what would I do with the information? What could I do with theinformation?
I still hadn’t opened the cover when a tap on my shoulder made me jump. Gustaf reddened and took a few steps back. “I’m sorry – I really didn’t mean tostartle you. I thought you heard me come up.” “It’s fine,” I said, gripping the book to my chest. “I didn’t know you were awake.” “Oh, I heard you moving around. Your braid sounds an awful like snakes slitheringacross the floor,” he chuckled. I kept my face stony; I didn’t find his jokes funny. “Um, are youdoing alright?” he asked with real concern in his voice. “I heard you crying but after a while Ithought you fell asleep…”
“No, I couldn’t.” His eyes lit up when he caught notice of what I was holding. “Hey, I recognize thatone! May I?” Timidly, I held it out and he took it. My heartbeat quickened as his fingers cracked open the spine. The scent of ink andparchment wafted into the air; such a familiar smell. I guess I was going to find out if this bookhad been guild-made whether I was ready to or not. My face flushed when I saw the picture of the tower and shield stamped the fulllength of a page. He just smiled. “Just as I thought; it’s my printer’s mark. See here? The “S” isfor “Schreiber Printing.” I printed one of these for my mother as a present last month.”
“You mother reads “Sir Edwin’s Quest”?” I asked with mild enthusiasm. “It’s one ofmy favorites.” “Hers, too,” he said, smiling. He handed the book back and I wedged back onto the shelf. One down, a thousandmore to go. He motioned to the rug, inviting me to sit with him. Awkwardly, I nudged a fewscattered novels aside and joined him. “You read a lot,” he said, pulling a book from behind the pillow he was leaning onand glancing at the cover.
“Not much else to do in case you haven’t noticed.” I took it from and laid it, alongwith four others, out in front of me. One at a time, I flipped them open. Three had printers’marks. Two did not. And they both were about recent developments in the war. I had been usingthem as research for my own writing. Gustaf saw the same pattern I did. “The world isn’t all bad, you know. Sure, at timesone struggles and it can seem like no matter how hard you try, there’s just no winning, but thereare a few honest people out there. Even if your mother isn’t one of them, I’m sure she had thebest of intentions at heart.”
I flinched at the mention of my mother. Tears pricked my eyes. “Please don’t start again.”“I’m sorry,” he said and then went quiet. He played with his sleeves, staring at the ground.It was I who broke the silence. “Tell me about the village.”
He lifted his head and leaned his arms on his crossed legs. A smile came across hisface. “It’s beautiful this time of year, Rapunzel. My shop faces the market square which is linedwith dozens of cherry trees. Down there it’s spring by now and the trees are all in full bloom.” “It sounds lovely,” I said wistfully. “Oh, it is! You should be there: pink petals float on the breeze, the sun is warm onthe cobblestones, the snow is finally melted, and in a couple of days all that is left of us willcome together to celebrate the Spring Festival, the Frühlingsfest.”
I smiled along with him, picturing the village in my mind. I’d never experiencedanything other than snow and cold; never felt the sun on my skin or felt it warm the groundbeneath my feet. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was missing something. We sat in silence for a few seconds before he spoke up, “You know…you could alwayscome with me.”
My head snapped up and a current of fear passed through my body. “Are youcrazy?!” “No! Just listen for a minute. Leave with me tomorrow morning; come with mewhen I leave and I’ll show you what you have been missing. I will show you that you don’t haveto be afraid. There’s more to life than this tower and your books.” “I cannot possibly…I mean…what if mother comes for a visit and finds memissing?”
“It doesn’t have to be long! I can have you right back in this spot in three days. Myfirst attempt to cross the mountains failed so I have to go back for supplies and a new set ofpapers before I can go again. I’ll grab a map and I can find my way back here no problem. Afterthat, I’ll be on my way.” “I don’t know…my mother…” “I’m not asking you to choose between me and your mother. I’m asking you to take achance and see the world for yourself; make your own decision.”
The word “yes” was on the tip of my tongue but I hesitated. I had said I wanted tofind the truth for myself. But could I really betray her like that? Well, it would be only three days– Mother wouldn’t be back for at least three times that length of time – and she would neverhave to know… While I still had the nerve, I took a deep breath and let out all at once, “Alright, Iwill go so long as you swear to keep me safe and bring me right back here by sunset on the thirdday.” Blood pounded in my head and my fingers tingled. What had I done? “I swear!” he said in all seriousness. There was no going back now.