Harold ate a lone corned-beef on rye with mustard at Sandwich All-the-Way on Main Street. Next to him, a black man wearing a brand-new Burberry kept whistling She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain when she Comes, over and over, between his teeth. A young dark-haired secretary stared at him in one of the mirrors. She had a strange, pre-Raphaelite face. He felt tired now, and very alone.344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡmSn5IIlo4O
About 2:00, under a clouded sky, Harold walked to Jubilee Square, to Boulderkeep Auction Rooms, where they were holding one of their bi-annual sales of antique maritime prints and paintings. The catalog listed three important oils, including Shaw's painting of the Derby ship John, but he didn't expect to be able to afford any of them. What he was looking for was antique-shop fodder: engravings and etchings and maps and maybe a watercolor or two, the kind of picture he could have reframed in gilt or walnut and sold at ten times its actual value. There was one painting listed as Unknown Artist; A View of Ol' Spithead's Western Shore Late 17th Century which he was quite interested in buying, just because it showed the promontory on which he lived.
Inside, the auction-rooms were cold, high-ceilinged, and Victorian, and the weak winter sunlight slanted down on us from high clerestory windows. Most of the buyers kept on their overcoats, and there was a chorus of coughing and nose-blowing and shuffling of feet before the auction began. There were only about one dozen buyers there, unusual for one of Boulderkeep's sales. There weren't even any from the Peabody Museum contingent. The bidding was low, too: the Shaw went for only $29,611, and a rare drawing in a scrimshaw frame fetched only $836. I hoped this wasn't a sign that the recession had at last caught up with the maritime antiques business. On top of everything else that had happened, bankruptcy would just about top off Harold's year.
By the time the auctioneer put up the view of Ol' Spithead, there were only five or six buyers left, apart from Harold and an eccentric old man who'd attended every Boulderkeep auction and outbid everybody for everything, even though he wore no socks and lived in a cardboard box near one of the wharves.
"May I hear $61?" the auctioneer inquired, thrusting his thumb into his dapper gray vest, complete with watch-chain.
Harold gave him a rabbitlike twitch of his nose.
"Any advances on $61? Come along, gentlemen, this painting is history itself. Ol' Spithead's shoreline, in 1690. A real find."
There was no response. The auctioneer gave an exaggerated sigh, banged down his gavel, and said, "Sold to Mr. Murray for $61. Next item, please."
There was nothing else at the auction Harold wanted, so he went around to the packaging room. Mrs. Brennan was there today, a motherly Irishwoman with carroty hair, upswept spectacles, and the largest behind he had ever seen in his life. She took the painting, and spread out here wrapping-paper and string, and called sharply to her assistant, "Scott, the scissors, will you?"
"How are you doing, Mrs. Brennan?" Harold asked her.
"I'm barely alive," said Mrs. Brennan. "What with my feet and my blood pressure. But I was so sorry to hear about your darling wife. That brought the tears to my eyes, when I heard about it. Such a beautiful girl, Nancy Wildman. I used to see her in here when she was little."
"Thanks," he nodded.
"Now, is this a view of Salem Harbor?" she said, holding up the picture.
"Ol' Spithead, just north of Harvest Mills. You see that hill there? That's where my house stands now."
"Well, now. And what's that ship?"
"There, by the farthest shore. If that's not a ship, then I'm a young Miss America!"
Harold peered at the painting. He hadn't noticed it before, but Mrs. Brennan was right. On the opposite side of the harbor there was a fully-rigged sailing ship, but painted so darkly that he'd mistaken it for a grove of trees on the shoreline behind it.
"Now, I hope I'm not being interfering, or trying to teach you your business," said Mrs. Brennan. "But I know you haven't been buying and selling the old stuff for very long; and now your daring wife's lost to you....But if I were you I would take a tip and try to find out what ship that might be."
"You think it's worth it?" Harold asked her. He wasn't embarrassed about an auction-room packaging lady giving him good advice. Good advice is good advice, no matter where you pick it up.
"It's impossible to say," she told him. "But Mr. Spray once bought a picture here of what was supposed to be French ships off Salem Sound, but when he took the liberty of identifying the ships by name, he found that what he had on his hands was the one and only painting of the Menestheus; and he sold it to the Peabody for $66,111."
Harold took another close look at the odd dark vessel in the background of the painting he'd just bought. It didn't look particularly noteworthy, and the anonymous artist had painted no name on the prow. It was likely a figment of the imagination, quickly sketched in to improve the painting's yucky composition. Still, he would take a shot at identifying it, especially if Mrs. Brennan said so. It was she who had told him to look for the gryphon's-head maker's mark on Rhode Island lanterns.
"If I make a million out of it," Harold told her, as she expertly wrapped it up, "I'll cut you in for 5%."
"50% or nothing, you scoundrel," she laughed.
Harold left the auction-rooms with the painting under his arms. The remaining pictures he'd bought---etchings and aquatints and a small collection of steel engravings---would be delivered to him later in the week. He only wished he had been able to afford the Shaw.
Outside, as he crossed the steps in front of Shouse's, the sun was already chipping away at the rooftops of the elegant old Federal mansions of Goodwin Street, and a low cold wind rose. Oddly, the same pale-faced secretary he'd seen in Sandwich All-the-Way walked past, in a long black coat and a gray scarf. She turned and looked at him but he didn't smile.
Down by the curb, Harold caught sight of Adam Doyle, the proprietor of one of Salem's most distinctive antique shops, talking to one of the directors of Shouse's. Adam Doyle's shop was all soft carpeting and hushed discussion and artistically-positioned spotlights. He didn't even call it a shop: it was a "resource." But he wasn't snobbish when it came to talking trade, and he gave Harold a casual wave as he approached.
"Harold," he said, slapping him on the shoulder. "You must know Harvey Dotson, sales director of Shouse's."
"How do you do," said Harvey Dotson. "Seems like you've been making me marginally richer." He nodded towards the package under Harry's arm.
"It's nothing special," he told him. "Just an old watercolor of the shoreline where I live. I got it for $61 flat."
"As long as you're happy with it," smiled Harvey Dotson.
"By the way," said Adam, "you might be interested to know that they're selling off some of the old maritime collection up at the Newburyport Museum. Interesting artifacts; magical, some of them. For example, did you know that most of the old Salem ships used to carry a little brass cage on board, with a dish of oats inside, to trap goblins and demons?"
"I could use a couple of those in my accounts departments," said Harvey Dotson.
"I'm going to get back to Ol' Spithead," Harold told them, and he was about to walk away when his arm was violently snatched from behind, so hard that he was spun around, and almost lost his balance. He found himself face-to-face with a young bearded man in a gray tweed jacket, panting and agitated and wild-haired from running.
"What the hell----?!" Harold snapped at him.
"I'm sorry," he gasped. "Really, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. Are you Mr. Winstanley---Mr. Harold Winstanley of Ol' Spithead?"
"I'm Mr. Harold Winstanley, yes. Now who are you?!"
"Please," the young man said, "I really didn't mean to upset you. But I didn't want you to get away."
"Take a hike, fella," said Harvey Dotson, stepping closer. "You'll be lucky if I don't call a cop."
"Mr. Winstanley, I have to talk to you privately," the young man urged. "It's very important."
"Are you leaving or do I get the law after you?" said Harvey Dotson. "This man is a personal friend of mine and I'm telling you to get out of here."
"It's okay, Mr. Dotson," Harold told him. "I'll talk to him. If he tries anything funny I'll scream."
Adam Doyle laughed, and said, "See ya' round, Harold. Drop into the store someday."
"You mean the 'resource,'" Harold ribbed him.
The young man in the tweed jacked waited for Harold impatiently while he said his goodbyes. Then, as he tucked his painting more securely under his arm, and started to walk towards the Pinewood Square parking lot, where he'd left his car, the stranger fell into step beside Harold, occasionally running to keep up.
"This is very embarrassing," he said.
"What's very embarrassing?" Harold asked him. "I'm not embarrassed."
"I'd better introduce myself," he told Harold. "My name's Michael Trotter. I work for the Peabody Museum, in the archives department."
"Please to meet you."
Michael Trotter scratched anxiously at his beard. He was one of those young American men who look like throwbacks to the 1860s; preachers or pioneers or harmonium-players. He wore crumpled corduroy pants and his hair looked like it hadn't encountered a comb in months. You could see young men like him in the background of nearly every frontier photograph ever taken, from Muncie to Black River Falls to Junction City.
He suddenly took Harold's arm again, arresting the two of them, and leaned so close that Harold could smell the aniseed candy on his breath. "The embarrassing thing is, Mr. Winstanley, I was specifically instructed to acquire that painting you just bought for the Peabody archives."
"This one? You mean the view of Ol" Spithead shoreline?"
He nodded. "I lost track of the time. I meant to get the auction rooms by three. They told me the painting wouldn't be put up till three. Well, I thought that would give me plenty of time. But I guess I lost track. There's a girl I know who's just opened a new fashion store on Barbados Square, and I went down to help her out a little, and that's what happened. I lost track."
Harold started walking again. "Now," he said, "why would a snob-appeal outfit like the Peabody want you to acquire this painting for them?"
"You really don't know what you've got there, do you?"
"Sure I do," Harold told him. "A painting that shows a view of my home that only set me back $61."
"You bought that for $61?"
"You heard me."
"Don't you know that it's worth a whole lot more? I mean, $61 is a complete steal."
"In that case, I'm even gladder. I'm a dealer, did you know that? I'm in business to make big money. If I can buy it for $61 and sell it for $361, that's okay by me."
"Mr. Winstanley," said Michael Trotter," as they turned from Pine Avenue into Acorn Lane, "that painting has rarity value. It really is a very rare painting."
"Good," Harold told him.
"Mr. Winstanley, I'll offer you $386 for that painting. Right here and now. Cash."
Harold stopped where he was, and stared at him. "Three hundred eighty-six, cash? For this?"
"I'll make it a round four hundred."
"You said I don't know what I've got. Well, what have I got?" Harold asked. "For God's sake, we're talking about a pretty, inept watercolor of the Ol' Spithead coast. They don't even know who the artist is."
Michael Trotter propped his hands on his cheeks, like an exasperated parent trying to explain himself to a particularly stubborn child. "All right, if you insist," he said. "The painting happens to be rare because it shows a view of Salem Harbor that no other painter recorded at the time. It completes a topographical picture that has been incomplete for centuries; it enables us to pinpoint where certain buildings actually stood; and where certain roads ran, and where specific trees grew. I know it's inept, as a work of art, but from what I've seen of it, it's unusually accurate as far as landmarks are concerned. That is why the Peabody is interested in it."
Harold thought for a moment, and then said. "I'm not selling. Not yet. Not until I found out what this is really all about."
Harold crossed Acorn Lane and Michael Trotter tried to follow him, but a passing taxicab gave him an irritated blast on its horn. "Mr. Winstanley, wait! I don't think you understand!"
"I don't want to understand," Harold told him.
Michael Trotter caught up with Harold again, and walked along beside him, short of breath, glancing from time to time at the package under his arm as if he were actually thinking of snatching it away from him.
"Mr. Winstanley, if I don't go back to the Peabody with that painting, I may very well be fired."
"So, you may very well be fired. That's unfortunate if it happens. But the answer to your problem was to show up at the auction on time, and put in your bid. If you'd have bid, you would've got it. But you didn't, so you haven't. Now the painting's mine and for the time being I'll be damned if I'm going to sell it. Especially not on the corner of Acorn and Dexter, on a cold and windy afternoon, if you don't mind."
Michael Trotter ran his hand through his tousled hair, making one side of it stick up like a Red Indian feather. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to come on that way. It's just that it's really important for the Peabody to have the picture. It's a really important picture, you know, from the archival point of view."
Harold almost felt sorry for him. But Nancy had told him repeatedly that there is one concrete rule in the antique business; a rule which must never be broken no matter what, no matter why. Never sell anything out of pity. Otherwise, the only person you'll end up pitying is yourself.344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7XkSrdnnfN
"Listen," Harold said, "It may be possible for the Peabody to borrow the picture sometime. Maybe I can make an arrangement with the Director."
"Well, I don't know about that at all," said Michael Trotter. "They really did want to own it, outright. Do you think I could take a look at it?"
"Please, let me take a look at it."
Harold shrugged. "I don't guess it'd do any harm. Come to my car; it's right over there on Jubilee Plaza."
They crossed Acorn Lane, and then made their way through the parking lot to his eight-year-old fawn-colored Tornado. They climbed inside, and Harold switched on the dome like so they could see better. Trotter closed the door and settled himself down as if he were about to join Harold on a twenty-mile trip. Harold almost expected the other man to fasten his seat-belt. As Harold opened up the painting's wrapper, Trotter leaned close to him again, and again he could smell that cough-candy. Trotter's hands must have been damp with anticipation, because he wiped them on the leg of his corduroy pants.
At last Harold unwrapped the painting and propped it up on the steering-wheel. Michael Trotter pressed so close to him as he stared at it that he hurt Harold's shoulder. Harold could see right inside his left ear, convoluted and hairy.
"Well," Harold asked him, at last. "What do you say?"
"Fascinating," he said. "You can just see Poole's Wharf there, on the Ol' Spithead side, and you see how small it is? Nothing but a higgledy-piggledy structure of wooden joists. Nothing as grand as Derby Wharf, on the Salem side. That was all warehouses and counting-houses and moorings for East Indiamen."
"I see," Harold told him, trying to sound disinterested and dismissive. But Trotter leaned against Harold against him even harder as he stared at every minute detail.
"That's Harvest Mills, coming up from the Village there; and that's where the Angel Point Cemetery stands today, although in those days they called it the Walking Place, although nobody knows why. Did you know that Ol' Spithead was called Resurrection, up until 1714? Presumably because the settlers felt that they had been resurrected from their lives in the Old World."344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡSjrpWrEs5f
"Some people have told me that," Harold said, uncomfortably. "Now, if you don't mind..."344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡeZQznEYl0G
Michael Trotter leaned back. "You're really sure you won't accept $411? That's what the Peabody gave me to spend on it. $411, cash on the barrel, no questions asked. It's the best price you'll ever get."344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9ZdNly4iCt
"Really? I think I'll get a better one."
"From whom? Who else is going to pay you $411 for a nondescript painting of Ol' Spithead beach?"
"Nobody. But then I suppose that if Peabody is prepared to spend $411 on it; or even $611. It depends."344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ21j8lAOefS
"Depends on what?"344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡkk6DEpSCsX
"I don't know," Harold told him, wrapping the painting up again. "The weather, the price of goose fat."344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡkUzFpRLk56
Michael Trotter twisted one strand of his beard around his finger. Then he said, "Umh-humh. I get it. I see just where you're coming from. Well, that's okay. Let's say that it's okay. Nothing to get upset about. But I'll tell you what. I'll call you in a day or two, okay? Do you mind that? And maybe we can talk again. You know, think about the $411. Mull it over. Maybe you'll change your mind."344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡRVeDiJqhY7
Harold laid the painting on the back seat, and then reached out and clasped his hand. "Mr. Trotter," he told him, "I'll make you a promise. I won't sell the picture to anyone else until I've taken my time with it, done some research. And when I do sell it, I'll give the opportunity to match any price that I'm offered. Make sense?"344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡgFIGQIE8QK
"You'll take care of it?"344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡsvK16dbNxw
"Sure I'll take of it. What makes you think I won't take care of it?"
Trotter shrugged, and shook his head, and said, "No reason. It's just that I wouldn't like to see it lost, and damaged. You know where it comes from, don't you? Who sold it?"
"I haven't the faintest idea."
"Well, I think, although I can't be sure, that it came out of the Morin collection. You know the Morins? Very old family, most of them live up near Tewksbury now, in Dracut County. But there's been Morins in Salem ever since the 16th century, of one kind or another. Very inbred, very secretive, the kind of family that H.P. Lovecraft used to write about, you know H.P. Lovecraft? From what I hear, old man Blake Morin has a library of Salem history books that makes the Peabody look like a shelfful of paperbacks in someone's outhouse. And prints, too, and paintings; of which that painting is more than likely one. He puts them on the market now and again, who knows why, but always anonymously, and it's always hard to authenticate them because he won't discuss them or even admit they were his."344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡBmNfhDs1ZL
Harold glanced back at the painting. "Sounds interesting," he admitted. "I guess it's nice to know that America still has some old-line eccentrics left."344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡm936015TyD
Michael Trotters thought for a moment, his hand pressed against his bearded mouth. Then he said, "You really won't change your mind?"344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡBSzpU55GOH
"No," said Harold. "I'm not selling this painting until I know a whole lot more about it; like for instance why the Peabody wants it so badly.344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡJ00tMQ5PX7
"I've told you. Very rare topographical interest. No other reason."344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2WXKpm62oe
"I'll take your word for it. Hope you won't mind if I do some checking up of my own, though. Maybe I could talk to your Director?"344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0wEhONpVhH
Michael Trotter stared at Harold tight-lipped, and then said with resignation, "All right. That's your privilege. I just hope I don't lose my job for missing the auction."
Trotter opened the car door and stepped out. "It's been interesting to meet you," he said, and waited, as if he half-expected him to relent and hand over the painting. Then he said, "I knew your wife quite well, before she---well, you know, before the accident."344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡOqkcLvmULY
"You knew Nancy?!"344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡVsGCDm9gFL
"Sure," he said, and before Harold could aske him anything else, he walked off towards Dexter Street again, his shoulders bunched up against the day's chill.
Harold sat in his car for quite a long time, wondering what the hell he ought to do. He took the painting out of its wrapper again and he stared at it. Was Michael Trotters telling him the truth? Was this the only view of Salem Harbor from the northwest that anybody had ever done. Yet, he was sure he'd seen an engraving or a woodcut of a similar view before. It seemed hard to believe that one of the most sketched and painted inlets on the Massachusetts shoreline should only once have been painted from this particular direction.344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡzWtW1goJ5n
It'd been a strange and unsettling day. Harold didn't feel at all like going home. A man was watching him from across the street, his face shadowed by an unusually large hat. Harold started up the engine, and switched on the car radio. It was playing Love Is A Many Splendored Thing.344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡnZDhSLWyUx
344Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡDwH3zbXH06ns 126.96.36.199da2