‘TiiiiiiiiNG!’ rang the bell above the door to Winterburn’s gallery.
Mr Winterburn looked up. An old man stepped in through the door and immediately stopped in front of the biggest and most expensive picture in the gallery. ‘At last,’ thought Mr Winterburn, ‘a customer!’ Quickly, but quietly, he closed his computer and went to stand beside the old man. They stood without saying anything for a few minutes while the old man looked at the painting. From the corner of his eye, Mr Winterburn saw the man’s long, silver hair, unusual clothes and thin, gold watch.
‘Can I help you with anything?’ asked Mr Winterburn.
`Very good’ replied the old man in a deep voice, describing the picture. ‘A very good painting indeed.’ He turned. ‘But not one of my favourite artists.’
Mr Winterburn smiled. ‘I see. Can I…’ Just then, behind the old man, Tommy put his face to the gallery’s glass door and looked in; but when he saw the old man, he pulled his head away quickly. ‘Can I ask who your favourite artists are, Mr…
‘Mint. My name is Mint.’
Mr Winterburn smiled again. ‘Nice to meet you, Mr Mint. My name’s…’
‘To tell you the truth, there is only one artist that I really love: Victor Smalling. What a painter!’
Mr Winterburn tried not to look unhappy. He had lots of paintings in the gallery, but none by Victor Smalling. ‘Yes, he’s a great painter. But have you ever thought about…?’
Again, Tommy to put his head to the glass door and looked in. This time Mr Winterton made an angry face at him.
‘Is there something wrong?’ asked the old man and turned around, but there was nothing to see.
Mr Winterburn laughed. ‘No, no! Nothing at all. Everything’s fine. Now, have you ever thought about Robert Ray? Or Eva Picard? They’re great painters and their work is like Smalling’s. Or Alfred Caplan? I have a Caplan just over…’
But the old man was shaking his head.
‘You don’t understand, Mr Winterburn. You see, I only buy Smalling’s work – nothing else.’
Mr Winterburn was really feeling sad: this gentleman was rich and ready to buy something, but he didn’t have a single painting by Victor Smalling. Not one. ‘I’m afraid I don’t have any by him.’
‘That’s too bad,’ replied the old man. ‘But I’m staying at the Kings Hotel for a little while. If you do find a painting by him, I’ll be very interested.’
‘Yes, of course: if I find one, I’ll let you know.’ They shook hands. Behind the old man, Mr Winterburn watched his son hide behind a large man with a burger in one hand and camera in the other. ‘What IS that boy doing? Just wait until I speak to him tonight,’ he thought. ‘Thank you for coming in and I hope I can find something for you,’ he said.
The old man smiled and began to leave. ‘I hope you do,’ he said, opening the door. ‘And don’t forget: the name’s Mint – room 46 at the Royal,’ he called out before leaving.
A painting (n) – a picture that an artist makes using paint
A customer (n) – a person who comes into a shop to look around or to buy something