The first time I saw him I was leaning out of my window. It was a humid summer, and I was aching for a little bit of fresh air. The need of it had grown larger every summer, for a woman of my origin was expected to wear a greater petticoat every year, until she turned eighteen. My family had gone out, leaving me alone with the servants, who were far too occupied to accompany me outside.
At first the heat had brought me to the point where I felt very faint. Why should I pay a lot of attention to a street I had been able to observe since the day I was born? However, the figure stood out. Not only because of his red suit and feathered hat, but also because of the fact he had the guts to loudly praise the goods he had sorted out on his market stall. Not to mention, he was the only one selling products in this street, which I believed, was forbidden. This was the neighbourhood of the highborn . The tall houses hardly left any room for a street at all, not to mention a market stall. To visit market, one simply moved to the centre of the city.
“The most BEAUTIFUL jewels of the kingdom are in my possession. Real sapphires and diamonds! Suited for the empress herself!” The man looked rich enough to speak the truth, but why would someone with real gems sell them on a random street? It was probably all made out of glass. The man’s fine suit, decorated with gimp, was a fake as well. I was sure of it.
After all, my own family was one of great fortune, and knew the best jewel makers. However, none of my jewellery shone like the marketman’s. Who, surprised by the lack of attention he was given, scratched his beard broodingly. What was he hoping to achieve by doing this?
People who noticed him –it was hard not to- kept staring at him for about three minutes and walked away without even speaking a word to him. Except for Lady Olive. As she did her daily walk with her guinea pig of a dog – his leash was made out of velvet, ornamented with several emeralds- she shrieked when the gemstones reached her eyes. The dog was trembling for a long time after the shock of it.
The salesman was overjoyed. He quickly began a small talk with Lady Olive in which he cunningly mentioned the jewels which he would think look amazing on the vain woman. She bought everything he told her. She even blushed when he complimented her skin tone. I watched them, having nothing better to do on this day, except for admiring the lady’s clueless behaviour.
Then suddenly, Lady Olive’s eye fell on the medallion around the market trader’s neck.
“Oh, that looks just lovely. Is that real gold thread? The outside has such a beautiful fishes on it. I can distinguish their scales!” The man smiled politely, although there was some sort of edge to it.
“I am sorry madam, but this one is not for sale.” Lade Olive giggled. The lady really ought to act her age already.
“Of course not, sir. But I do assume you have another one?” The trader shook his head.
“Unfortunately, this is the only one in my possession, at present.”
“Is it not possible to order one?” Inquired the lady. Her eyes hungrily took in the medallion once more.
“My dear lady, I am sorry to disappoint you, but this medallion was made especially for me.” She pouted for a moment, but soon her face lit up again.
“Then sir, at least show me what is inside.” Strangely, the man began cackling at that. That made some spectators frown, including me. Certainly there hadn’t been anything so humorous about Lady Olive’s request? Rudeness, perhaps, but nothing to cause laughter.
“Excuse me for my sudden outburst.” The man said when he was finished. “There is nothing to show you, I assure you. But I can see you will not be satisfied until you see it for yourself.” As he opened it, a golden mechanism was revealed. However, that was not what drew my attention. The most beautiful melody filled my ears. Entranced, I stared at the medallion. It was true craftsmanship in the field of making jewellery and music to create something like this. The owner seemed to think so as well, for he stared at his possession, momentarily forgetting about his surroundings. Until he decided it had been enough and closed the medallion.
“I can see why the medallion is special. The mechanism works fast and is made out of gold, but what it does seems unclear to me.” Lady Olive said. Was the woman deaf? Or just very stupid?
The man in red only smiled faintly.
“It is a very peculiar work that only few will be able to fully appreciate. However, for you, this onyx bracelet will do quite well.” And he got back to praising his wares. But I was unable to forget the medallion. Why was it the case that only few were able to appreciate such a melody?
After two hours, Lady Olive walked away with at least half of the marketman’s initial goods, dragging her poor dog with her. The salesman took his hat off and threw it in the air happily, no doubt feeling really good about himself. He basked in his success for a while, until his eye fell on me, still leaning out of the window. When I noticed I now had his undivided attention, I wanted to quickly close the window. It wasn’t wise to start talking to a salesman. Especially one with jewellery which looked nice, but was no doubt trash. Except for the one he wouldn’t sell to anyone.
For bracelets, rings, earrings, necklaces and the like were my weakness. Once, I had even bought a tow ring. My mother had punished me severely for it. For a lady of my class should never wear a vulgar accessory. Besides that, it had been a fake ring. Because of this incident, I had developed a very good eye for jewels. If only to prevent my mother from screaming for the whole neighbourhood to hear.
Still, I couldn’t quite get the medallion out of my mind.
“Did you like it?” The market trader said before I had closed the window. My parents had, despite their despising cheap objects, taught me to never ignore someone who was speaking to you.
“Indeed, I liked it very much.” His dark eyes twinkled in a way even I could see it from the balcony.
“What exactly did you find so agreeable about it?” He inquired automatically. He was probably used to necessary conversations.
“Why, the music of course!” His calm and collected attitude vanished in a second. His mouth was hanging wide open and his eyes were wide in shock. Had I said something wrong? I couldn’t see what I could have done to shock the man. When he caught himself staring at me, he quickly regained his composure.
“Would you perhaps like to hear it again?” He asked. I nodded.
“Please come down then, for I would like to tell you more about it.”