The professor’s secret

The exclusive address lead to a large, tastefully furnished mansion. It was somewhat chaotic inside, where an executor was organising items to be auctioned. I wasn’t the only visitor. There were lots of people there, including some of the professor’s heirs, who were readily giving out information on this and that.

People came and went. The cloakroom was piled high with coats, jackets, hats and umbrellas. There, in a corner, I came across two dozen quite ordinary-looking antique walking sticks. I thought nothing of them. Lots of elderly people use a walking stick – no doubt the professor did, too.

“Did your father need help walking?” I asked the professor’s daughter.
“Oh no,” she replied, to my surprise. “He used to run around, right to the end. He walked the dog every day in the woods out there.” She gestured out of the window.

Thomas Seipt

  • Still Banks
  • Austrian Painting from 1900-1940
  • Architectural Souvenirs

“You don’t want to auction those, do you?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what we want to do with them!”

So why did the professor own so many sticks? Closer inspection revealed they weren’t walking sticks at all, but gadget canes. There was something special hidden inside each one: a sewing kit, a pair of binoculars, an egg timer, a fountain pen, glasses, a fishing rod, utensils, a compass, and more.

The professor was obviously an avid collector of gadget canes, but hadn’t told anyone. “Are the canes still wanted?” I asked.
“No, you can take them with you” was the reply. “They’re not on the inventory. You don’t want to auction those, do you?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what we want to do with them!”

A few weeks later, the enormity of my discovery became clear. While the least valuable canes earned only a few hundred euros each at auction, the most expensive brought in €10,000! More canes were found elsewhere in the house, so we auctioned nearly fifty in total. They brought in a combined sum of €51,200. This was exactly a hundred euros more than it cost to restore the mansion – as the professor’s heirs told me with a laugh.