Emily dialled the number and waited, fiddling with the square of white cardboard. She felt naughty, excited, like a child searching under her parents’ bed, the week before Christmas.
The voice was old-fashioned, courteous, a little distant. The sort of voice you heard in black and white films, announcing, ‘This is Whitehall two-one-oh,’ into a Bakelite receiver.
‘Hello. Am I speaking to Mr Charles Wright?’
‘That’s me. Can I help you?’
‘I found your card,’ she said quickly, sensing wariness in his tone. ”All manner of restorations undertaken’?’
‘Oh, yes. Good. How can I help?’ She heard clinking, tools being laid down.
‘I was wondering… what sort of objects do you find most suitable for restoration?’
Emily smiled at her reflection in the dressing room mirror. Lines ran like quicksilver from the corners of her eyes, giving them a bright, amused air. She was 44 years old.
‘Oh, well. It’s mainly furniture. I specialise in English pieces, Queen Anne and Regency, but I’ll work on anything, really. Mahogony. Rosewood. Oak, sometimes.’
Emily savoured the richness of the words. ‘Rosewood. Yes. And what technique do you favour?’
‘I usually take back the old varnish, lift off the dirt, treat the wood with oil and finish it with beeswax. I try to bring out the texture. I don’t go for that stripping down and re-varnishing. You lose all the patina.’
‘That sounds wonderful,’ said Emily. ‘What about… what about moving parts?’
‘Clocks, you mean?’ He was enthusiastic now, his voice warm and engaged.
‘I do a little work with timepieces, yes. And musical boxes, too. I’m not an expert, you understand. But I’ll be happy to take a look and give you an honest opinion.’
An honest opinion. Emily turned her head, observed how the light through the lace curtains showed a softening along her jaw, which almost disappeared when she lifted her chin. The light glanced sideways across her neck.
‘That would be most helpful,’ she said. ‘How about Monday?’
‘Mondays are fine. Just ring the bell. I work upstairs, so it takes me a minute to answer.’
‘Perfect. Until Monday, then.’
‘Might I ask what you will be bringing?’
Emily smiled joyously into the mirror. ‘Oh,’ she said. ‘I’ll think of something.’