This is the story of my family, the Ferraldis. It is a very old Italian family and my story begins in 1550, in Florence, which was an important business centre at that time. Jacopo Ferraldi was a very rich man. He kept all his money under the floor in his house and was only happy when he was counting it. He was always afraid of thieves and so he had no friends and only two servants. One day he found that £2,000 was missing. To him this was not a lot of money but he was very angry and told his servants to leave.
Not long after this, a letter arrived from his sister, who lived in England. In the letter she said that her husband was dead and that her son, Arthur Allen, was coming to Florence to try to make some money for the family, who were now very poor. Jacopo was angry. He did not want his nephew to come, but when the young man arrived his anger changed to happiness. The young man had £2,000 with him and Jacopo decided to steal it.
That night, while they were having dinner, Jacopo murdered his nephew and hid his body under the floor. He counted the money happily, but the next night, when he sat down to dinner, Jacopo saw the ghost of his nephew in the chair opposite him. This happened every night at dinner-time and he started to feel more and more uncomfortable.
He decided that the only way to stop the ghost coming was to travel to England and pay back the £2,000 to his sister. Of course, he could not leave the rest of his money at home, so he put it all into big boxes and took it with him. After weeks of travelling, Jacopo arrived at his sister's house in England. Two servants carried his boxes into the house and from their heaviness they guessed that the boxes were full of money.
Jacopo gave £2,000 to his sister, but of course he told her nothing about her son's death. 'I'm afraid he never arrived in Florence,' he said. He did not see the ghost again, but his next worry was his money. He was sure that the servants were planning to steal it. He was right. That night they came to Jacopo's room, murdered him and took the boxes. The next morning, a neighbour found the empty boxes at the side of the road. The police searched the servants' rooms, but they found nothing. They questioned the servants, but it seemed that they really had no idea about the money. It was gone.
Two hundred and fifty years later, I, Francesco Ferraldi, was born in the house of Jacopo Ferraldi in Florence. As I grew up, I felt that it was an unhappy house, and when I was older, my parents told me the story of the murder of Arthur Allen. They were very ashamed of Jacopo Ferraldi and no one in the family ever said his name. Every time I went into the room where Jacopo killed his nephew and hid his body, I was sure I could hear strange cries and screams.
A few years later, because my family was poor, I travelled to England to try to make some money. I was a good singer, so I went to all the rich people's houses in London and sang at parties for money. At one of these parties, a kind old man, Mr Greathead, heard me and asked me to stay at his house in the country for the summer. 'I would like you to sing at all my parties and to give lessons to my daughters,' he said. I was very happy to agree.
When I arrived Mr Greathead showed me round the house and garden. When we came to the flower garden, I was surprised to see a small part of it covered in Italian flowers.
'How do they grow here?' I asked. 'I've never seen them outside Italy'
'I think the ground is very rich here,' said Mr Greathead. 'But, funnily enough, my wife and I have a disagreement about this part of the garden. I would like to make the house bigger by building here, but my wife won't agree. She says she saw the ghost here once.'
That night at dinner I asked Mrs Greathead about the ghost in the flower garden. 'I really did see someone or something there,' she said. 'It was an old man. He was very thin and he was holding a pencil and paper. He was walking up and down between those Italian flowers and the tree. I got the idea that he was looking for something. I ran into the house but, of course, when my husband came out he could see no one. Some of the servants have seen him, they say, and the gardener says that, when he works in that part of the garden, the old man always appears. I've also heard stories of a murder here many years ago.'
Mr Greathead did not believe his wife's story and a few weeks later work began on that part of the garden. One of the men found an old coin and gave it to Mr Greathead, who showed it to me in great excitement.
'Look,' he said. 'It's in Italian, isn't it? And look at the date -1545. How strange.'
The workmen found many more coins that day, and at dinner Mrs Greathead was very excited. 'You see,' she said to her husband, 'now you must believe me. All that money belonged to the old man I saw. Perhaps he hid it under the ground and then someone murdered him. Now his ghost is looking for the money'
I began to think about Jacopo Ferraldi. Could it be? I thought. But no, it was impossible.
After dinner we had coffee in the library and I told the Greatheads my old family story about Jacopo and the murder of his nephew. As we talked I noticed something like a map, hanging on the wall. 'This looks very old,' I said. 'And ... how strange ... some of the words are in Italian.' As I looked closer I saw that it was in fact a map of the garden. I could see the flower garden and between the Italian flowers and the tree there was a cross. Mr Greathead came to look too.
'Yes,' he said, 'we think the gardens were designed by an Italian ... but what's wrong?'
I was looking at the back of the map, where I saw the words 'Jacopo Ferraldi' and the date '1550'.Then I was sure. I was in the same house that the old murderer, Jacopo Ferraldi, came to all those years ago. The cross on the map showed the place where all his money was under the ground. I believe that he guessed the servants were planning to rob him, so he hid the money in the garden to keep it safe. His ghost has walked there ever since, guarding our family's money.
The Greatheads were very surprised and pleased, especially Mrs Greathead, who loved to be right. They were very happy to
give all the old Coins to me, which I sold for enough money to make me a very rich man.