Mystery Object

One August in a Peloponnesian olive grove, I found this small, heavyish object hidden in the dry grass. I’ve no idea how long it had lain there; whether it was days, or years.

The olive grove is where Ruthie and Vinny Hollingbourne live in Silver and Salt. When they were very young, their father built a villa there. In the summers of their childhood, he brought his family across the sea from Kent, in England, promising it would be an idyll for them all.

In Silver and Salt we meet the two sisters in their adulthood, when they’ve retreated to this haven above the sea. Paths lead through the grove to two small coves where the water is clear and flat as glass.  The earth beneath the olive trees is red, and dusty. The particular patch of ground where I found the object is next to a small, white chapel. That day the door to the chapel was open.  Someone had been there just before me, and left a candle burning.

The object is small enough to fit snugly in the palm of my hand. Now, in London, I hold it up to the October light and see that there’s a fine coating of red-earth dust on its surface still, despite the years that have passed.

When I’ve shown people the object and asked them what they think it is, I’ve been given different suggestions.  A friend with an enchantingly extravagant taste in clothes thought it most likely a ring.  My mother recognised it as the cross-section of the bottom of a walking stick, with the coating worn through and the inside showing.  ‘The bit right at the bottom, I mean,’ she said.  ‘A ferrule, I think it’s called.’  Adrian at Dragonfish Graphics, the maker of this site, saw instead a photo frame, holding an image so time-faded as to have been made unrecognisable.