I saw him on the first day of a very humid summer. I had been leaning out of my window, aching for a little bit of fresh air. The need for fresh air had grown a bit larger every summer, for a woman of my origin was expected to wear more layers of clothing 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.
After poking my head outside of the window, I looked over it without really seeing anything. Then again, why would I pay attention to a street I had been able to observe since the day I was born?
Nevertheless, he grasped my attention. 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 believe was forbidden. This was the neighbourhood of rich merchants. The tall houses hardly left any room for a street at all, not to mention a market stall. To visit the market, one simply had to walk 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 very best jewellers. 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?
People who noticed him –it was hard not to- either kept staring at him or 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? 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."
Lady Olive giggled. The lady really ought to act her age already.
"Of course not. 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."
The man’s demeanour suddenly changed. His voice became deeper, almost protective.
“This medallion is not for sale or display, and I would appreciate it if you would not inquire any further.”
That made some spectators frown, including me. Certainly there hadn't been anything so presumptuous about Lady Olive's request?
"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. I was startled when the instrumental music was joined by a voice. A voice I imagined only sirens could have. A voice that could make any captain desert his own ship, and be happy to. The owner of the medallion stared at his possession as if it was the first time he ever heard the song, although I was certain that it wasn’t. A small smile appeared on the trader’s face, until he decided it had been enough and he 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 it?
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 eyes 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 that one piece he wouldn't sell to anyone.
Rings, earrings, necklaces and the like were my weaknesses. 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. Because of this incident, I had developed a very good eye for jewels. If only to prevent my mother from yelling things at me for the whole neighbourhood to enjoy.
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 very dark eyes twinkled.
"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.
"Please come down then, for I would like to tell you more about it."
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