Short Stories

The most expensive of jewelry

Sitting behind the counter of his shop, old Peter felt secure as a castellan on the walls of his fortified square. Decades of investment, rigid accounts, and a great deal of business acumen had built this kind of small economic fortress. The inscription in gold lettering on the thick wooden sign that topped his establishment well symbolized all this: Peter Argern Pawn Shop.

In all his business he observed a series of strict rules, the fruit of hard-earned experience. And the first was this, which he made a point of repeating throughout the day: “Never trust anyone.” And he repeated the first word of his favorite phrase three times: “Never, never, never.”

The elders in town recounted that Peter had been in difficult situations, not only as a boy, but as an adult in the business world. Since then, he had voted a mortal distrust of all mankind. He had abandoned religion altogether, for he considered it foolish to speak of the priests about forgiveness and mercy. He was the last person to expect an act of compassion, or even understanding.

So her sense of distrust became more intense when one morning a girl came into the shop, stood for a long time with her nose glued to a shop window, her eyes fixed on one of the objects on display, then left without a word. . It was precisely the showcase of the jewels, most esteemed by old Peter. And the object for which the girl had shown so much interest was a precious necklace of blue sapphires that had been resting there for years on black velvet.

The next morning the same scene was repeated. Even more suspicious, the seasoned merchant wondered: had any thieves sent that child for information about the store’s values? Cautiously, he sent one of his smartest employees to discreetly follow the girl as she withdrew. Before lunch, the boy returned with some information: she was an orphan and lived in a poor house several blocks away with her older sister, who was about 25 years old, and another very sick sister, who is under 5 years old; I had no connection with any suspicious person.

How then can you explain your interest in the precious necklace? Maybe it was just a childlike charm. Peter wrinkled his nose, mumbled something and, shrugging, told the boy to resume his work while he did the same behind his beloved counter. The next day there was the girl again … To some surprise from old Peter, she did not go to the necklace window, but walked right to her counter. He could then watch her more closely.

She was thin and at most seven years old. She was wearing a very poor dress, but impeccably clean. Her blond hair was tied by a lace that was almost undone, so worn; However, it rarely becomes a loop made with such care. His two bright blue eyes stood out in his pale, innocent face.

Without looking away from the girl, and contrary to his principles, Peter Argern wondered how he had suspected a creature so fragile and candid when she woke him from his thoughts.

“Please, sir, I wanted to buy that pretty necklace.”

– What? Purchase? And … how much money do you have?

In response, she took an old tied handkerchief out of her pocket and began to undo the knots. He opened it and set the contents on the counter. It was just a handful of little coins. But she proudly asked:

– This gives, doesn’t it? I got all this money to snow the neighbors’ walk. Look, I want to give this big necklace to my big sister. Since when Daddy left and Mom died, she takes great care of me and my sister, and has no time for herself. Today is her birthday, and you know, she never gets anything. Sometimes I hear her crying in the bedroom at night. She will be very happy with this necklace, which is her eye color!

Sincerity shone on the poor girl’s face. This gesture of innocent gratitude shook all the petty convictions accumulated by old Peter throughout his selfish life. He remembered his own childhood and the people who had protected him at the dawn of his existence. Lips trembling, she went for the necklace.

Under the child’s overflowing gaze of joy, he set it delicately in a velvet case, wrapped it in flashy wrapping paper, and finished it with a beautiful blue satin bow. He received the “payment” from those little hands and, with a pat, said goodbye to his singular buyer.

Before the end of the afternoon, a distressed young woman strode into the pawn shop. The same poor dress style and big blue eyes left no doubt that it was the aforementioned older sister. With a firm gesture, she set the velvet case on the counter and opened it, glittering the wonderful jewel of blue sapphires.

– Is this necklace from your store?

“Yes,” answered the merchant.

In a voice filled with anguish, she inquired:

“Tell me honestly, did my sister steal it from here?”

– Not at all! Your sister bought it honestly this morning.

– But how?! The poor girl had but a few coins! Even if we sold ten times all we got, we couldn’t even buy one of these sapphires!

With a gentle gesture, old Peter handed it back and said:

– Ah! the girl is wrong … Your little sister has paid the highest price anyone can afford.

And accenting the word “all three times”, he explained:

“She gave everything, everything, everything she had, just to make her happy.”

The next morning, to the parish priest’s surprise, old Peter introduced himself early in the church. I wanted to make a good confession, willing to repair a lifetime of selfishness and insensitivity to one’s neighbor.

And the orphan sisters never again suffered deprivation, since from that day on they had a rich and generous protector … Maria Teresa Guerra

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