My wife, Betty, had just come home, proud of her find at the local thrift shop. Six small glasses. “Six dollars for the whole set,” she said.
“Hmm,” I said. “We could use them for orange juice.” I picked up one. Nice design. Cut glass, solidly made. I liked the heft of it in my hand. I held it up to the light…and noticed something on the bottom. An inscription.
I turned the glass upside down. There etched in the glass was a crown and the British lion rampart encircled by the words: the Cunard Steamship Company, Limited. A Cunard glass! Immediately I put the glass down for fear I’d drop it. My first instinct was that we needed to lock up the set.
“Betty, these are Cunard glasses! They probably graced the table of some first-class dining room on a long-ago liner. They’re real collector’s items.” Betty knew of my fascination for old ocean liners, and Cunard was top of the line, famous for its transatlantic ships like the Lusitania and the Aquitania.
The first ocean voyage I took was on a Cunard ship, the Scythia II, and even though it was World War II and the liner had been converted into a troop carrier, it still showed evidence of its prewar style.
Why, these juice glasses could have been used on any number of historic ships. Betty put them in the sink. “Be careful with them,” I said. “I’m going to find out just how much they’re worth.”
I called an appraiser. “I’d say each glass is worth at least $50,” he said. “In a few years even more.”
“We can’t use these for breakfast,” I told Betty. I took them from the drying rack and put them on the top shelf of the sideboard. “They’re too valuable.”
“Nonsense,” she said, wiping her hands on her apron and following me. “I bought them to use and that’s what we’ll do.”
“Don’t you realize what we’ve got?” I raised my voice in anger.
“Six juice glasses,” she said, and in a moment we were having a full-blown argument, with Betty even quoting the line from scripture about not storing up things “where moth and rust corrupt.” I said she didn’t understand a thing about collecting and she said when you buy something you should use it.
Dinner that night was frosty. We didn’t want to say much and the glasses glared right back at us. Finally Betty broke the silence. “Remember your war bonnet?”
I flinched. I’d told the story to our boys many times. When I was 10 I’d won an Indian war bonnet in a contest. I was so in love with it that instead of wearing it, I hid it so my brother couldn’t find it.
In fact, I hid it so well that I forgot where it was. I never really enjoyed it because I was so afraid it might get dirty or someone else might bust it.
Maybe something even worse than moths or rust could corrupt a thing. I thought of another Bible verse: “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house.”
I looked up at the glasses. “We’ll use them at breakfast.” Betty smiled. I took her hand. After all these years it felt like I’d finally unearthed that old Indian war bonnet.