Note to storytellers: this text is a dream transcript. You are welcome to tell it as you wish. It evolved through the years and if it will evolve again and again with you – so be it. Note to anybody else: this text is for oral circulation only. Crediting the source before or after you tell it, is considered best practice.
Many years ago in France, lived a wealthy businessman. He started a great business empire with his own two hands. One day, he was sitting on his executive chair on the top floor of an ultra-modern glass building in the heart of Paris, rotating slowly and watching the panoramic view.
He thought to himself: “For so many years I’ve been so busy with my work that I never got to see and visit the beautiful country I live in. People come from all over the world to visit here. They praise the food, the wines and the beautiful women. It is time for me to take a vacation”.
He left all his responsibilities with trustworthy people and left in his expensive car. He drove through the highways and sideways of France. He stopped often for watching the view, for meals and wines, for meeting people and having conversation. One day, after driving for many hours, he parked his car by a small forest and stepped out to stretch a little. As he was stretching, he heard the singing of a bird. It was beautiful and it moved his heart. It made him feel things long forgotten.
He searched for the bird through the forest, following its voice, but he could not see it anywhere. The voice led him to a clearing. There he saw a little wooden cabin. He walked up to the door and knocked. No one answered, so he walked to the back of the cabin. In the garden, just in front of his eyes was a large tree. A cage was hanging from one of its branches and in it was the singing bird. The businessman stood there for a while and listened, charmed.
As listening, he noticed a bench. Sitting on it were an old man and an old women. They too were listening to the bird’s radiating voice and they never noticed him. After a while he stepped into the garden and approached the old couple.
“Hello” he said. “I was standing here and listening to your bird. It sings so beautifully, I would like to buy it”.
“It is not for sale” replied the old man, smiling friendly.
“Oh, you don’t know who I am,” said the businessman, “I am one of the wealthiest people in this country. Anything your heart desires I can give you!”
“We already have everything our heart desires and the bird is not for sale. Sorry”.
The businessman thought: “Well, this is a country area so the bird is most probably local. I might find another at the local pet-shop”. Back he went to his fancy car and drove into the village. And there, right in the middle of the main street, he found a pet-shop. He pulled over and walked in. Up front he saw a cage with a similar bird in it. The note attached to the cage read “10 Franks”.
“Isn’t that too little?” he asked the salesman.
“Yes” came a reply “But this one doesn’t sing”.
“But I need one that does!”
“But we have none” was the short answer.
He wanted the bird. He bought the silent one, waited for nightfall and drove back to the cabin. There, he switched the cages and drove all the way back to Paris, to his office. He placed the cage next to his chair and the bird sang for him – for days and weeks and months, moving his heart. After about six months he was so changed that he realized: “I have done something terrible. I have to give them their bird back”.
He drove back. Reaching the cabin he parked his car and left the cage in it. He walked around until he got to the garden. There was the tree. From one of its branches a cage with the silent bird was hanging. In front of it on the bench was the old man. As the businessman walked into the garden the old man greeted him:
“Hello! You are the businessman from Paris, aren’t you? How are you?”
The man was surprised:
“What? You remember me? I was here six months ago, we spoke just a few words, how on earth could you remember me?”
“Oh” replied the old man “I do not remember you for nothing. Remember the day you were here? The same night my wife died. Since then, the bird sings no more”.