Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Allegrezza ficcione, Part 6

His thesis finished, & sent to the reviewers, Allegrezza began the waiting period by sending what was essentially a chain letter to all the relatives whose addresses he could obtain. He explained that he was searching for any information about the ancestor who had headed East, leaving out that it was a personal quest by hiding it under a vague umbrella of post-doctoral research, asked that if anyone had anything at all could they please send it to him & could they please forward his letter on to any of their more distant relatives.

In the meantime he & Gemma continued their own search. By cross-checking municipal & religious records they put together a family tree that went back a millenium. There were gaps, false starts, branches that turned out to be the one branch. They discovered that one still extant branch had begun with the illegitimate offspring of a monk, that one branch became extinct when a Maria transformed into a Mario during an unwritten-about interval of years. Children died, but these deaths were not always recorded & they wasted hours looking for non-existant records or lines that had never started.

The notebooks of Rustichello were of little use. All they contained was a brief note saying "Must follow up about this Allegrezza. Polos won't tell me anything, secretive, but there may be material for another book. Possibly controversial."

Finally, in a litterae patentes dated 1041 & issued by His Eminence Bishop Artemis, they found an authority for "That Company made up of The Merchant Franco Allegrezza & his Three Sons" to be declared the sole supplier of priestly vestments to the See & The Principality of Genoa. The time seemed right, the occupation proper for someone who would have a purpose for venturing eastwards. The names of the sons weren't given; but two, Petro & Paolo, could be identified from the genealogy they had already drawn up. The third was a new player in the history.

The letters kept coming in. More rumours, myth, speculation. Variations on the name. Additions to the family history. An Allegrezza who was now a Visconti, whose grandfather, a committed Communist, had gone to Russia in the 1920s to help rebuild the post-revolutionary nation & who had been executed for counter-revolutionary activities in 1937. Allegrezzas in England, South America, North America.

& then the letter they had dreamed of. From Australia, North Queensland, a place called Home Hill.
My Great-Great-Grandmother was an Allegrezza. Something of a witch, a mystic.

She came here as a sixteen-year old girl, an arranged marriage to a man thirty years her elder, who grew sugar-cane here in the Burdekin. She had her only child, a girl, a year later; but the birth was difficult & prevented her from having any more children. Which was probably what prolonged her life.

She had no English, was alone. I learnt Italian so I could talk with her, be a companion. I lived with her, looked after her, for the twelve years before her death aged 103. For the last five years she was bedridden. But one morning I found her sitting upright on the edge of her bed, focussed on something I could not see.

Without looking at me she said "There were once a father & his three sons who were textile merchants. Each year at least one of them would travel north, to the lands of the French or the Allemands, looking for cloth to buy. One year the youngest, Giovanni, came back all excited about this cloth he had seen, that had been brought back from the East by a Leipzig merchant. It was called silk. He told his family that he would go East himself to bring a supply of it back for themselves. The next year he left. He was never seen again."

My Great-Great-Grandmother died a week after telling me this. I became a nun. I am now Sister Raffaela, of The Order of Little Sisters. I was christened Gemma.
The coincidences of her names, the fantastic but detailed story – it could not be anything but the lost piece for which they had been seeking.

Two days later Allegrezza headed north, to search the libraries & State Collections for anything within the block of time between 1050 & 1100 that might give him further information. In Leipzig he found nothing, in Strassburg he received notice of the confirmation of his Doctorate, in the University of Heidelberg he found a manuscript entitled "The Wanderings to the Land of Persia & Other Places in Search of The Grail" by Theophrastus, Graf von Holstein.

In it Holstein recounted how he had been captured & held for ransom in a mountain fortress in Persia called Alamut, though for the two years he was there he had been well looked after & kept in excellent health, better even than during his journey. His captors were extremely well organised, followed the maxim Nothing is true, everything is permitted. & led by a man called Hassan, the son of Sabbah, to whom they gave the highest allegiance, even unto death, as had been demonstrated on several occasions.

How, while he was there, there had been a banquet to which he was invited to participate. It was to farewell one of the followers, whom they called The Frankish, who was leaving to venture further north & east. An Ismali who appeared to not be from the region, who spoke passable German, who gave his name as Al'Farah. The Joy. In Italian, allegrezza.

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1 comment:

bill said...

ah, great story.