Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The Christmas Mystery of the Silent Snuff Box
We had a Thanksgiving Day guest this year to whom I showed a little musical snuff box, c1840s, with a lovely 2-tune Swiss musical movement below the snuff compartment. The man asked whether I'd consider selling it to him, so he could give it for Christmas to his wife, who is ill and housebound. He thought it would brighten her life.
I'd had no desire to sell the piece, which I'd bought 25 years before in England, but I decided, under the circumstances, to let it go. I thought I'd get more pleasure from imagining my guest's wife enjoying the music than I would, listening to it myself.
For the past couple of years, I'd been working intermittently to coax another, more-elegant, snuff box back to playing its music, but nothing I tried had had any effect. After my guest left with the snuff box for his wife, I decided to fill the space on the shelf with the recalcitrant, silent box. At least, I could look at it.
But as I put the box into place, I pushed the start button...and music played. When it stopped, I pushed the button again, and again, music played. I can't begin to tell you why.
As a confirmed skeptic, I'm comfortable saying that mysterious things do sometimes happen, and letting it go at that. Coincidence, coincidence. But what a great little Christmas story.