August 13, 2015

Promising...



The Home Office telegraphy department always smelled of tea. The source was one packet of Lipton's at the back of Nathaniel Steepleton's desk drawer. Before the widespread use of the electric telegraph, the office had been a broom cupboard. Thaniel had heard more than once that its failure to expand was a sign of the Home Secretary's continuing mistrust of naval inventions, but even if that wasn't the case, the departmental budget had never stretched to the replacement of the original carpet, which liked to keep the ghosts of old smells. Besides Thaniel's modern tea, there was cleaning salt and hessian, and sometimes varnish, though nobody had varnished anything there for years. Now, instead of brooms and brushes, there were twelve telegraphs lined up on a long desk. Three to an operator during the days, each wired to separate places within and without Whitehall, and labelled accordingly in the thin handwriting of a forgotten clerk. ...
      Thaniel shifted stiffly and turned himself to the left of his chair rather than the right, and slid his book along the desk. The wires from the telegraphs were threaded through holes in the desk and then down to the floor, leaving all twelve trailing just where the knees of the operators should have been. The senior clerk liked to complain that sitting sideways made them look like society girls learning to ride, but he complained more if a wire snapped; they were expensive to replace. From the telegraphy room, they ran down through the building and spidered out all over Westminster. One went across the wall to the Foreign Office; one to the telegraph room at the Houses of Parliament. Two joined the clusters of wires strung along the street until they reached the post office headquarters at St. Martin's Le Grand. The others wired direct to the Home Secretary's own home, Scotland Yard, the India Office, the Admiralty, and other sub-departments. Some of them were pointless because it would have been faster to lean out of the main office window and shout, but the senior clerk said that would have been ungentlemanly.

from The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, by Natasha Pulley

This is only the first page and a half; a lot more has already happened during my morning bus ride. My pile of library books is a little out of control, and this one is due today, but with apologies to the sixteen people waiting in line, I think the overdue fines are going to be worth it.

I hope your day has started out as well. :)



2 comments:

JoAnn said...

Sometimes the overdue fees are well worth it - enjoy !

Cosy Books said...

I made a customer giggle earlier this week when I expressed my disgust that she had somehow nudged ahead of me in the holds list for this book. I can't wait, I can't wait...glad you're liking it so far, Audrey.