playing with paper

Friday, June 22, 2012

Found: Silence Please

I wish I could find some silence these days, but it's a rare commodity around here.

This evening, my husband came across this passage in a short story titled "Silence Please" (1954) by Arthur C. Clarke found in Tales From the White Hart.

"I can still remember reading the synopsis while waiting for the curtain to go up, and to this day have never been able to decide whether the libretto was meant seriously or not. Let's see—the period was the late Victorian era, and the main characters were Sarah Stampe, the passionate postmistress, Walter Partridge, the saturnine gamekeeper, and the squire's son, whose name I forget. It's the old story of the eternal triangle, complicated by the villager's resentment of change—in this case, the new telegraph system, which the local crones predict will Do Things to the cows' milk and cause trouble at lambing time.

"Ignoring the frills, it's the usual drama of operatic jealousy. The squire's son doesn't want to marry into the Post Office, and the gamekeeper, maddened by his rejection, plots revenge. The tragedy rises to its dreadful climax when poor Sarah, strangled with parcel tape, is found hidden in a mail-bag in the Dead Letter Department. The villagers hang Partridge from the nearest telegraph pole, much to the annoyance of the linesmen. He was supposed to sing an aria while he was being hung: that is one thing I regret missing. The squire's son takes to drink, or the Colonies, or both: and that's that."

Certainly an unfortunate end for the postmistress and one of the more interesting postal references I've read!


  1. I love the word saturnine. So rarely do I get to say it, but I guess that's good that I am not surrounded by such people.
    Poor postmistress!

    1. Some words are lovely just for their twist on your tongue or their curves when handwritten.

      Thanks for the nod in your packaging postcard post! I'll get to work on my entry.