“I never heard this story before. I had no clue Claude was the one who caused my father to return so late that night”
himshon followed Sylvester to a large carriage draped in red fabric and pulled by two massive black horses. Sylvester gestured inside.
Shimshon entered the carriage and Sylvester followed. Seated across from Shimshon, Sylvester began to talk, his dark eyes gleaming in the dimly lit interior.
“I knew your father, Shimshon. Years ago, he used to deliver water for me. As you know, he was a water carrier, and everyone liked him because he treated everyone kindly. But there was one man who did not treat your father kindly. Claude, the wealthy, nasty man who lives at the edge of this city in a castle. He treated your father poorly because he hated all Jewish people. And one night, as your father was preparing to finish his last job, delivering water for Claude, and head home in the freezing cold night, Claude insisted he bring several more barrels of water from the lake.
“Your father had no choice. Claude threatened him with terrible things, including the possibility of losing his job forever. Your father went back and forth, bringing water from the lake, until he was near death’s door. On his way back up the mountain, he collapsed, and only his horse was found. His body was probably lost beneath the ice and snow somewhere.”
“I never heard this story before. I had no clue Claude was the one who caused my father to return so late that night.”
“Yes. But it gets worse. Shortly after your father’s death, Claude sent his guards to ransack your home when your mother was away, and they stole several jewels that your father had painstakingly collected over the years, hoping that one day he could provide you with a brighter future. That fiend Claude still has these jewels inside his castle.”
“Yes! A pity he gets away with all of this.”
“But how do you know so much about my father?”
“I know about everything that takes place in these parts. It’s part of my… specialty.” Sylvester shrugged with a dramatic sigh.
“Well, it was a pleasure meeting you,” Sylvester said. “Have a good day.”
“Wait, that’s it? Claude just gets away with this?” Shimshon demanded.
“Not much we can do, is there? It pains me, too, the utter injustice of it all. But alas, short of sneaking into his home and stealing the jewels back, there’s not much anyone can do.”
Shimshon thought for a moment. “They’re in his castle?”
“In the tower, yes.”
“I can climb well. And I’m fast.”
“You’re not suggesting that—” Sylvester trailed off, his eyes wide.
“I’ll get the jewels back. I must. Why should that evil man get away with this? My mother struggles to bring home a piece of bread every day, while our family savings sits inside his castle?”
“Well, I suppose it can be done. But it’s risky.” Sylvester bit on his lower lip as he thought. “I can help create a distraction with my dogs, and you can scamper up the tower with those nimble legs of yours and get the jewels back! Your father would approve. It’s the least you can do to get back at Claude, that greedy murderer.”
“Why are you helping me, Sylvester?”
“Because I have a big heart. We can’t bring your father back from the dead, but why should you not possess the jewels that are rightfully yours?”
“When should we do this?”
“Why delay? Tonight!”
When night fell, Shimshon left his home through the open window and expertly made his way down the mountain on his horse. He met Sylvester in their prearranged spot, just a short distance from Claude’s enormous castle.
“Shimshon, there’s something I wanted to tell you. I forgot to mention it back in the carriage.”
“When you get into the tower, there should be a bundle of documents inside a tattered burlap sack, inside the chest with the rest of Claude’s treasures. Bring me that burlap sack. It belongs to me.”
“Claude also stole from you?”
“Yes. He’s a murderer and a thief. Those documents don’t have any value to the average person, but they are of significant historical value for those who appreciate history.”
“Okay, I’ll bring them to you.”
“Thank you, dear boy. But there’s one stipulation… don’t look inside the sack.”
“The documents are extremely old and exposing them to the air could damage them. They have to be treated very cautiously, and only I know how to handle them. You must give me your word that you won’t look inside, not even for a tiny peek.”
At Sylvester’s signal, a soft whistle, his attack dogs began charging at the main castle entrance, startling the guards and causing an uproar. As more guards ran to deal with the disturbance, Shimshon began climbing the castle walls, a dark shadow almost completely camouflaged against the black stones.
Finally, when he was at the highest window, he dropped inside the room, nimble as a cat. He found the chest quickly, just as Sylvester had described. He put the jewels into a bag he’d brought with him, then carefully picked up the plain burlap sack Sylvester wanted.
He leaped to the window, and expertly climbed down, disappearing into the night. Back up the mountain he fled, not pausing for a moment until he was inside his room, sitting on his bed with his goods. His heart beat wildly as he examined the jewels carefully. He was elated, but the thought of Claude tormenting his father brought waves of anger and sadness over him.
He rolled over and looked at the burlap sack. Curiosity burned inside of him. And there was a good measure of caution now drumming inside his head. What had he taken? Sylvester would never know if he took just a quick peek.
He opened the sack and seven yellowed, cracked, and aged parchments tumbled out. He immediately recognized the origin of these ancient scrolls. And he knew then that Sylvester had tricked him….
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 959)
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