TITLE: The wraith
Lady Adelajda’s men broke up a quarrel at the edge of her land. They brought the culprits before her.
The two men sized each other up. One turned to his captors:
“I was in my right” he articulated, painfully, since the guards still held a rope around his neck.
“Let him speak” Adelajda ordered and the guards loosened their grip:
“In your right to defile my land? Who are you?”
“I meant no disrespect milady. I am Gianfrancesco Alfieri, a Genovese merchant. I trade furs, precious hair cloths and adorned habiliment.” He bowed, then turned towards the other:
“And this man, this filth, he stole from me!”
The other prisoner twisted in his bonds: “I did no such thing!” He muttered behind his halter. “This man is a liar!” He added, and spat in the merchant’s direction. The guard had to yank at his ropes to tame him.
“Let the merchant finish” lady Adelajda ordered. “You will get your turn.”
“What did this man steal from you, sir Alfieri?”
“His scales were a sham. I ordered five marks of silver buttons and paid in solid gold. But when I returned to my ship, I measured only three marks.”
The prisoner accused of theft laughed bitterly.
“Is this true?” Lady Adelajda asked him;
“Speak stranger. Is the accusation true?”
They loosened his halter.
“He lies! He asked for five marks and that is what I gave him. Exactly forty ounces! I am Jawahir Akbar milady, I sell precious metals and stones brought from the Levant and this man tried to murder me and steal my merchandise.”
It was the Genovese’s turn to protest in his bounds:
“I only wanted to take what’s mine. The Levantines are thieves – all of you! Thieves!”
“Silence!” Lady Adelajda stood up:
“In my house, I decide if the man before me is, or isn’t, a thief! Tell me, sir Jawahir, the wound on your arm, is it sir Alfieri’s men that inflicted it?”
Jawahir pushed aback his bleeding forearm, ashamed:
“It is one of them. The one your guards hold outside. They caught him as he attacked me. I trust he will be judged for his crimes.”
“I didn’t mean it that way” Alfieri protested. “I sent you a messenger. My messenger was returned with a black eye. What was I to do?”