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"The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World"


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* オーディオブックに収録部分のテキスト (原:P.3 〜P.6)  Read by エドワード・ハーマン

Sometime after William Wilcox's father died, his mother got into the business of managing estate sales. She took charge of selling off the contents of houses of people who had died or who were moving or downsizing or had some other need to dispossess themselves of the things they owned. She was paid a commission on every item that was sold. It was a good business for someone like Mrs. Wilcox, who had no money to invest in inventory but who had the time and the talent to learn a trade. Mrs. Wilcox was fortunate that two antique dealers, Bertram Grover and Ray Porterfield, took her under their wings and started her on a career path.
  From the start, William worked side by side with his mother.
  In their first major estate sale, the Birchfields', Mrs. Wilcox found a four-panel silk screen wrapped in an old blanket in the back of a bedroom closet. It was slightly faded but had no tears or stains, and she could tell immediately that it had been had painted a very long time ago. She priced the screen reasonably at one hundred twenty five dollars but could not interest anyone in buying it. Her instincts told her it was something fine, so when she was finishing the sale and still couldn't find a buyer, she deducted the full price from her sales commission and took the screen home, put it up in front of the sofa in their living room, and studied it. Each of the four panels told part of the story of how women washed and wove silk. The more she studied and researched, the more she became convinced that the screen was not only very fine but rare.
  On the weekend following the Birchfields sale, she and William packed the screen into the family station wagon and tried selling it to antique shops all over St. Malo. When she could not interest anyone in buying it, she and William took to the road, and on several consecutive weekends, they stopped at antique shops in towns along the interstate, both to the north and south of St. Malo.
  They could not find a buyer.
  Without his mother's knowing, William took photos of the screen and secretly carried them with him when his sixth-grade class took a spring trip to Washington, D.C. As his classmates were touring the National Air and Space Museum, William stole away to the Freer Gallery of Art, part of the Smithsonian that specializes in Asian art and antiquities.
  Once there, William approached the receptionist's desk and asked to see the curator in charge of ancient Chinese art. The woman behind the desk asked, "Now, what business would you be having with the curator of Chinese art?" When William realized that the woman was not taking him seriously, he took out the photographs he had of the screen and lined them up at the edge of the desk so that they faced her. William could tell that the woman had no idea what she was seeing, let alone the value of it. She tried stalling him by saying that the curatorial staff was quite busy. William knew that he did not have much time before his sixth-grade class would miss him. He coolly assessed the situation: He was a sixth grader with no credentials, little time, and an enormous need. He squared his shoulders and thickened his southern accent to heavy sweet cream and said, "Back to home, we have a expression, ma'am."
  "What's that?" she asked.
  "Why, back to home we always say that there's some folk who don't know that they're through the swinging doors of opportunity until they've got swat on their backside."
  William waited.
  It may have been because he returned each of her cold stares with cool dignity, or it may simply have been the quiet assurance in his voice coupled with his courtly manners that made it happen, but the receptionist picked up the phone and called the curator, a Mrs. Fortinbras.
  William showed Mrs. Fortinbras the photographs, and Mrs. Fortinbras was not at all dismissive. She said that the photographs--crude as they were--made it difficult to tell enough about the screen. But they did show that it might be interesting. She suggested that William bring the screen itself to Washington so that she could arrange to have it examined by her staff.
  When school was out for the summer, William convinced his mother to pack up the screen again and drive to Washington, D.C., and have Mrs. Fortinbras and her staff at the Freer give it a good look.
  And they did take it there.
  And Mrs. Fortinbras and her staff did examine it.
  And Mrs. Fortinbras and her staff did recommend that the museum buy it.
  And the museum did buy it.
  For twenty thousand dollars.


Read by Edward Herrmann
Unabridged (省略なしの、完全な)版 ・CD4枚セット 

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