I flicked through the vintage knitting patterns, but nothing really caught my eye. The junk shop in the corner of the neglected market hall was overflowing with trash and treasure and it was hard to sort the good from the bad in the dim and dusty light.
“I have some lovely ivory knitting needles.” The owner loomed out of the shadows. “They are quite rare these days, but I am lucky enough to have some in stock.”
I reluctantly took the needles he pushed into my hand. They were obviously plastic, with seam marks from the moulds still evident. “I don’t feel comfortable with ivory.” I said, with perfect truth, handing them back.
“I have a lot of vintage needlework items.” The elderly man shuffled around the heaped table and nearer to me. “There are some lovely things, you know, it’s a shame to part with them sometimes. You don’t get the craftsmanship these days.”
I struggled to keep my mouth shut. I had just come from a craft fair where the stalls could easily beat the ragged tat on offer here. “There are some beautiful things.” I murmured tactfully.
“How much for this print?” Ed asked.
I love my husband deeply, but he does have a habit of buying stuff. So far he had been lucky and had turned a profit with his car boot finds, more or less, but my heart sank at the thought of what he could find here. “We don’t need any more art.”
“That’s more than art, you know.” The owner shuffled towards my husband. “There’s a story about that.”
“Really?” Ed settled down to listen and I resigned myself to another picture on the wall.
“Oh yes, it’s quite a rare print, you see, but the value is in what the picture shows.” The owner leaned into Ed with a conspiratorial air. “The story goes that Prince Leopold, the one who was the son of Queen Victoria of blessed memory, well he gave the engraver a beautiful, solid gold chess set. But when the engraver sadly passed away, it was nowhere to be found and in his last will and testament he said that the set would go to the one who could find it. This print could be worth a lot more than I’m charging to anyone who can solve the clues.”
I tuned out of the rest of the conversation, ignoring references to Freemasonry and the Illuminati, and picked up an exquisite Tonbridgeware needle case that had been caught between two skeins of dusty yarn. Ed, of course, left with the print.
“Do you think it’s worth a lot more?” I asked as we strolled back to the car. “I mean, do you think you will be able to work out the clues?”
“They aren’t even clues, just details in the picture.” Ed couldn’t stop grinning. “But I’m pretty sure that I just picked up an original David Roberts print in a contemporary mother of pearl frame – worth thousands – for fifty quid. I think you could say that I found treasure.”