From his bedroom window the plant had looked shiny in the early morning sun, but close to it was only the smooth, glossy dark, green leaves that shone. The stalk was paler, rougher, almost the texture of the big chestnut tree at the far side of the meadow that he used to climb to hide from his mother.
The moment the idea was in his head, he couldn’t not climb. One thing Jack’s mother failed to understand about him was that he wanted to know about everything. Those days when she found him lying behind the haystack when he was supposed to be doing his chores, he wasn’t doing nothing, not at all, he was watching a line of ants transporting crumbs or trying to work out where the rain came from. When she sent him to the market early in the morning and he didn’t return until long after dark, he’d been debating with an itinerant preacher or persuading the blacksmith let him have a go at making a horseshoe. “Can you not just apply yourself to your work first!” his mother would sigh, but as far as Jack was concerned, everything in the world and out of it was too interesting to wait until he’d finished doing whatever he was supposed to be doing.
There he was, standing on the lowest leaves, resting his head against the stalk, smelling the green scent of it, almost exactly like the smell of the runner bean plants his mother grew. There he was, just level with the upstairs windows, when his mother opened her curtains. For just a moment, her eyes were wide with shock. Then she spotted Jack and fury took over. She flung open the window and screeched, “Jack! You get down here right now and cut that monstrosity down!”
No chance! Jack was off up the beanstalk as fast as he could, making easy progress now, the pairs of leaves not much further apart than the rungs of a ladder. Up and up, he went, until he could no longer see his mother, until the house was a tiny dot.
“I will go as far as the clouds,” he told himself. “I’d like to see what clouds are made of.”