His cane was tapped with the garnets of Bohemia and
proudly it danced between his boots as he peered through the courtyard
trees waiting for people to pass between them so he could whistle
out to their figures. After several minutes of standing there, he was
called into the office of his father. A large, tobacco coloured map
of the world was hung above the desk and beside it was a lamp shining
down on the desktop and his fathers old hands.
The young man entered, tapping his cane lightly on the marble entryway.
He was then silenced by his father who was reading quietly over some
papers. The young man looked out the window and watched the late-summer
sun fold over the willow trees in the courtyard.
His father had laid out his trading papers. This he never did; in fact,
he never took them from his desk safe except for when he was travelling
for these trading papers were old, decorated and the only of
His fathers papers took him all over the world, to the coves of
the Sierras, to the ruby markets of the east
to Barcelona and
The old mans papers were undeniably the most decorated in Europe
perhaps in the world. He was the only jewel trader in Paris,
for instance, allowed to the buy and sell the glorious rubies of Burma.
And it is this example which brought him to fortune and widespread respect.
He was known in the great mansions of the Parisian aristocrats, for
the jewels that glimmered on their spoons had coursed through his hands.
He supplied every gem for the hotels on the Place de Concorde, as well
as for every bank office on the Grand Boulevards.
His son walked assured and proud through his youth, for he new that
this was to be his throne, and a glorious one it was.
"To all of your wishes, I have acquiesced." His father spoke
calmly with no disdain. "I will, however, not be making a voyage
this autumn and I expect that the procession will be taken up by you
in my place."
The young man did not speak, for he knew he would choke on the nervousness
in his throat. He looked over the papers quickly with his father. He
then thought of bargaining until his father agreed to let him travel
to Greece. But he knew that it was necessary to go to Bohemia and thought
twice about showing fear or stupidity to his father. He wanted truly
to gather the papers and leave the office for this was an uncomfortable
and important occasion. Soon enough, however, he was asked to leave
so his father could attend to other matters. With a handshake, the young
man joked that he would return with all of the emeralds in the Urals
even if it took four years. His father did not smile; instead
he gave his strong look, which said that no deviation from the plan
would be tolerated.
His father was extremely serious. He always followed the codes of morals
and laws of the particular region or country he was in. This is not
to say that he wasnt brave. He always took the most dangerous
option considering it was to his benefit. But when confronted
about his actions, he always replied in undaunted honesty. He took the
consequences for his strange behaviour. But instead of his unorthodox
actions causing him grief and social unrest, they created a path for
him in which others seemed to follow. His father would often do something
absurd; and when others looked at him as if he had committed a wrong,
he would look back with these eyes and this heavy brow that said, This
is the new way! Do you object to progress?
and people would
back away and be silent.
It is for this that his father gained the highest success as a jewel
trader. It is for this that his trading papers were the most decorated
in Europe. For the laws governing the commerce of gemstones is strict.
Even with the most privileged papers. For instance, no trader was allowed
to remain in a foreign market for more than a few days. The papers also
governed the amount of gemstones, which could be imported, the sum of
money that could be spent on one voyage as well as the kinds of stones,
which could be purchased. Burma was one of the strictest markets. In
fact its borders were closed to traders until just a decade before the
young mans father became a jewel trader. The first traders allowed
in to Burma were only permitted to return to Europe with 1 Kg of rubies.
They were also only allowed to remain in the Burmese markets for three
days. These regulations made it impossible for the traders to make a
profit. They could easily purchase rubies in Paris for less than it
cost to retrieve them from Burma. Because of this they began to smuggle
other jewels through the border as well as falsify the dates stamped
on their papers. Finally the early traders papers were revoked.
The young mans father was an exception. He never remained in a
country longer than was permitted. He also resisted the common practices
such as hiding opals beneath amber. Years ago, border officials would
check his parcels. This occurs with every trader, for the border official
who finds expired papers keeps them. Every eastern border guards
dream is to retain illicit gemstones, for they may be worth more than
his whole lifes salary. Most border guards would even prefer to
seize the traders papers rather than a simple lot of jewels. For
the papers would ensure him a more lively and affluent career than his
current position. There were no authorities to see to it that the papers
and jewels were accounted for upon seizure.
Border officials were switchy and outlandish men just one step
above common bandits. They would rob every passer-by of his freedom
and possessions if the border crosser didnt have his armed entourage.
Every trader passing a border, whether it was between Poland and Austria
or France and Spain, was dependent on his entourage. If the trader remained
in a country too long, and tried to pass with expired papers; the border
guards would certainly catch him. The trader would then look around
for his entourage, only to see them disappearing over the foreign horizon.
Why would they remain faithful by his side only to be arrested? Their
have had been many traders who attempted to pay off their entourage
in jewels for the capture of the guards and everytime the result
is the same. The trader arrives at the border only to be turned on and
ransacked by all for an entourage is made up of political men,
and political men are known to follow the rules even when they surpass
all morals. They will take part in a massacre as long as their country
is behind them.
So you see the tediousness of the traders position and
what skill and knowledge of human behaviour it requires. It is because
of the young mans fathers firm conviction in speech and
action, coupled with his fearless honesty that he reached such fortune
in the business. After just a few years in the trade, border guards
ceased searching him at the frontier. It is common knowledge that his
father could have walked freely with an illegal quantity or type of
jewels. It is common knowledge that the border officials must have let
him pass without an uproar for the fathers entourage was
as faithful as a family and they would stand beside him. Still, the
young mans father complied with the morals and laws of the particular
region he was in at a given time.
His son, however, with his dandy dress and wandering eyes, glittering
as asterious as the diamonds on his belt, was an opportunist and all
the while - skipping past the courtyard, stabbing pommes and poires
with his cane, kicking open the gate and summoning the carriage
he thought of how he would travel to Bohemia and return with an obscene
amount of the finest emeralds and garnets available. He mused on bringing
back the head of the border official studded with sapphires. While in
the carriage, however, he looked again at the trading papers his father
entrusted to him. They felt as old as sandstone. They held stamps from
28 countries. They were the most valuable trading papers in Europe.
He knew he must safeguard them. For if he passed the border even one
day late, the guards would most certainly seize them. This would mean
the end of his fathers and his career. His father would never
again respect him with even the most disdainful glance.
To be continued
© David Payne
TWO OF THE HANDSOME SON CONTINUES HERE
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