She spotted it right away, but pretended not to notice. In French, she asked him to show her Russian religious icons, one after the other. But she wasn't interested in Russian icons; not today.
Before that afternoon at the brocante at Parc des Princes, she'd never been interested in daggers. But at first glance at the antique dealer's table, she could see one was very special. Four ancient ceremonial daggers were lined up in a row, their scabards gleaming; the handles studded with semi-precious stones. Casually, she asked to see the one she liked least. He detected an accent and began talking in English about his days at university in Scotland. He went on and on, caught up in happy memories, no longer paying any attention to trying to sell his antiques.
"I'm not English," she said. He looked crestfallen. "But your accent?..."
"I'm American," she responded. "Perhaps you think my accent sounds a bit English, because my husband is British."
"Ah, that's it," he nodded, knowingly. And he kept talking about Scotland, about his English girlfriends at university; about the fierce winters that made him long for the desert.
She asked him to show her another dagger. It was beautiful, but not unusual. Finally, she asked to see the one that had made her inwardly catch her breath.
As he drew the dagger from its silver and bronze scabard, she tried not to react at the rare sight of the hand-carved keyhole and hand-etched design. She brushed aside his talk of the ivory handle, inlaid with coral stones. She shrugged and said, "Yes, it's nice. How much?"
"550 euros," he replied gravely. She laughed. "You might as well stab me in the heart with it then."
"350 euros," he offered. "No, I don't have that kind of cash with me, but thanks," she said, shaking her head and turning to go.
Then she looked back at him and asked, in Arabic, "Do you speak Arabic?" "Do I speak Arabic??!!" he exclaimed. And the words came tumbling out, one after the other, so fast she could barely keep up, as he told her his story. She listened, nodding and trying to make appropriate remarks in the flowery language she hadn't attempted for ages. After a few minutes, she asked, in Arabic, his best price for the dagger.
"For you, 100 euros!" he shouted, beaming. "Thank you," she responded, smiling as she handed over the cash. And he, too was happy, even though he'd dramatically undersold a 200-year-old piece.
Antique Syrian dagger, which has not been cleaned in many, many years on top of a Lehnert & Landrock photograph.
Close-up view of the silver and bronze dagger's keyhole design.
A 19th-century Moroccan silver coin necklace purchased Sunday from another dealer at the brocante - no bargaining required. The coins rubbing together sound like little tinkling bells, as you walk. The mosque image is part of my collection of Lehnert & Landrock photographs.
Scroll down the page for a second post today.