Letters to Alf.
You could never imagine my happiness!
I am finally allowed, no, I am finally able to return to my motherland, which I left as a seven-year-old boy.
To this day, the reason for my exile from my parents’ home has remained an absolute mystery to me.
I must have told you hundreds of times about my happy and privileged childhood in my father’s ancestral castle, and yet, I was somehow embarrassed to tell you of my last days there. Tonight, I want to tell you about it.
I don’t know myself what is driving me to do that.
I remember a beautiful evening in early spring. The sun hasn’t set yet, and our garden was filled with fragrance of flowers. My parents and their guests had gathered on the terrace. My little sister Lucy and I were allowed to stay with the adults and even my mother’s favourite dog was present, dozing quietly at her feet
Suddenly a footman appeared and told my parents that an elderly gentleman wished to see speak to my father.
Father nodded his head in agreement and the footman returned with the old grey-haired man, dressed in long monkish attire. As he made his way towards the terrace, I noticed that he had strange red tinged eyes and fleshy purple lips that contrasted strangely with his pale skin.
As soon as he spoke, Nettie, my mother’s favourite dog, jumped up and rushed towards him with her fur bristling. I thought that she would sink her teeth into his leg, but the long stick brandished by the old man held her back.
Mother sat up straight in alarm.
“What’s happening to our Nettie?” she asked, puzzled.
“Please forgive us”, she said, turning towards the stranger “it is the first time that Nettie has behaved in such manner”.
“Petro, take out the dog” ordered my father.
The old man appeared to have hardly noticed the dog’s behaviour. He bowed low to my father and handed him a large sealed envelope.
My father tore it open.
He glanced at the letter inside and leaned over to my mother, explaining the contents to her.
I, of course, heard little and understood even less. Eventually my parents offered the stranger to take a seat and agreed to whatever he was asking.
Ignoring the chair, he remained standing.
“When will it be suitable to bring the coffin?” he asked.
“Tomorrow, if you wish” said my mother
The old man bowed deeply and left.
When he was gone, my parents continued talking but I was too young to understand the conversation.
They mentioned the burial crypt, grandfather and the old painting in the gallery but I had no idea how all of these things were linked together.
I couldn’t finish my letter yesterday. Silvio came and asked me to go with him to Lido. It was a wonderful evening.
Our gondola was gliding soundlessly on the water. The last rays of the setting sun lit the clouds with a golden glow. All around us, I heard laughter and singing from neighbouring gondolas.
My mind was full of memories and I was thinking about my mother and her premature death. She was so beautiful and she died so young!
I was already in Nuremberg when I heard of her passing. To this day, I know nothing of an illness that took her to her grave.
My father refused to answer my questions about her death, just as he refused to tell me the reason for my banishment from home.
“It was your mother’s wish” was all he would say.
But why? Why would she send me away? She loved me so much!
I remember her so clearly. Tall and slender with her heavy blond hair in two braids. I remember her blue eyes looking down on me with tenderness and love...
I can still feel them watching me...but...What is this? I feel other eyes looking at me, but they are black and full of passion and fire.
She was there one moment and then she was gone. And I cannot forget her. Forgive me, Alf, I cannot finish this letter today, I must find her!
Goodbye for now,
It has been almost two weeks since I had written to you.
I barely noticed the passage of time. I am sure you would forgive me if I were to confess that I am Happy, insanely happy.
I’ve found her, the girl who was looking at me on the Lido. Believe me those eyes look even better by sunlight. And the entire girl is beautiful too!
Just think of the descriptions of the legendary Venetian beauties and then you will have some idea, but think not of her but only of her shadow.
Though she is of noble lineage, her family fell on the hard times and she is poor. She is an orphan and lives with her old nurse, and this is all I know so far...
I’ve already told you that my unwilling exile has come to an end and I now can return to my birthplace, my home.
And yet, my happiness is mingled with sadness, because the ban has been lifted with my father’s sudden death. For many years, I’ve had no news from him, and he forbade me to return on my own under a threat of disownment.
“When the time is right, I will send for you myself” was all he would say.
And now I’ve received a letter from my parents’ trusted servant Petro, telling me that my father had died suddenly of what the doctor said was a heart attack.
Petro helped to raise me and he took me to Nuremberg when I was a boy.
He asked me in his letter to send a lawyer to help him facilitate the sale of the castle, adding that it was my father’s wish.
He never even mentions the possibility of my return home.
I will go back home, no matter what it will cost me... I want to uncover the mystery surrounding my mother’s death.
And, if you let me tell you a secret, I do hope that I will not have to travel alone.
Can there be a more wretched creature on this earth than I?
Since I was seven years old, I have been deprived of both my mother and my home, and I felt as if no one had ever loved me. You may say that I never lacked for anything and that I lived in luxury, but I swear to you, these things count for nothing.
Even ‘she’ doesn’t care for me. Yesterday she walked right past me, without as much as a glance, and yet, she knew that I was waiting for her behind the pillar, longing for her to look at me. And she walked right past.
I feel so depressed. Alf, you have your mother’s grave to mourn at, and I? I am going home!
You’ve asked me about the coffin I mentioned in my letter.
The coffin belonged to my grandfather and it was brought from America by his old servant.
Why grandfather went to America and what happened to him there I don’t know. There was a family legend surrounding the whole affair, but my child’s memory could not retain it. All I know is that had grandfather ordered in his will for his body be brought back home from the land of Aztecs”.
Harry stopped Karl Ivanovich:
“Aztecs?” he exclaimed, surprised “I am from the land of the Aztecs, or more accurately, I am descendent from them”
“Maybe this is the relative you’ve been looking for. You said you needed a death certificate of an ancestor of yours, to prove your rights of inheritance”, added Doctor.
“Pity my lawyer isn’t here... Please go on, Karl Ivanovich” rushed Harry
Karl Ivanovich resumed reading:
A day after the visit from the strange red-eyed old man, in the late afternoon, a funeral cortege, bearing a huge coffin, stopped at our gates.
My parents had spent most of the morning preparing for its arrival.
Our private chapel was decorated with wreaths and flowers, and the doors leading to the burial crypt beneath it were flung open. The crypt itself was aired and cleaned and my father ordered for one of the spare stone coffins to be brought out and inscribed with grandfather’s name, with a note underneath it saying that his body was brought home from America. My parents also invited the local priest to say the Mass.
We spent a long time waiting for the red-eyed servant to appear and only saw him and his sad burden as the sun was already moving towards the west.
The coffin was unbelievably heavy and the old man looked doubtfully at the narrow entrance to the winding staircase.
“There are too many tight turns there”, he said to my father “it would be better to use the western doors to the crypt, the ones that open onto the garden”, he added.
“How can you know all of this?” asked my father, surprised.
“From my master’s stories” he replied dryly.
He was right and we were forced to forego the funeral service, which disappointed my mother.
The western doors were opened in a hurry and the coffin was lowered into the crypt.
When it was time to lock up the doors, the key to the crypt’s ornate lock was nowhere to be found. I could still remember the lock. It was shaped like a cross and the old folks said that it was brought here all the way from Rome and was blessed by the Pope himself.
The servants were running around and arguing among themselves, trying to find out who was the last person to have the key, but all their fuss led to nothing and the key was never found.
The red-eyed old man asked my father for his permission to move into the small guardhouse near the crypt, saying that he wished to guard his master’s last resting place.
My father shook his head, doubtfully:
“The guardhouse is hardly fit to live in” he said.
“It will do. I will repair it myself. After all, I have nothing more left in this world, except to visit my master’s grave”
“As you wish”
The old man made a deep bow and, addressing my mother, pulled a long dark case from his pocket:
“From a spoken order of my late master, in remembrance of him”, he said giving her the case.
Inside, resting on the light blue velvet, was a magnificent pearl necklace, its intricate clasp fashioned in the shape of the serpent’s head, with two large emeralds for eyes. The green stones glinted mysteriously, and the whole thing appeared very unusual and must have cost a small fortune.
Harry held up his hand, stopping the reading:
“I don’t know if any of you know this, but the famous statue of the god Huitzilopochtli had a large pearl necklace around its neck. It was shaped like a snake with green emerald eyes and was supposed to posses some supernatural power. The necklace vanished when the Spaniards looted Huitzilopochtli’s temple”.
After waiting a moment, to see if Harry had finished, Karl Ivanovich continued:
“Mother looked up at father and he nodded his head in consent. She accepted the gift. I wish she had refused it....
Goodbye, Alf, she sent for me!
I am so happy!