Thursday, 14 August 2014

Billet doux

" 'I don't think you understand, ' Mrs Thripp smiled patiently.  'He hasn't spoken a word to me for three years.'
'Three  years ! Good god! How does he communicate?'  The instructing solicitor laid a number of little bits of paper on my desk.
'By means of notes.'

I then discovered that the man Thripp, who I was not in the least surprised to learn was a chartered accountant, used his matrimonial home as a sort of Post Office.  When he wished to communicate with his wife, he typed out brusque and business-like notes,  documents which threw a blinding light, in my opinion, on the man's character.

'To my so-called wife,' one note read, 'if you and your so-called son want to swim in hot water you can go to the Public Baths.  From your so-called husband.'  This was fixed, it seemed, to a padlocked geyser.  Another billet doux was found in the biscuit tin in the larder, 'To my so-called wife.  I have removed what you left of the assorted tea biscuits to the office for safe keeping.  Are you determined to eat me into bankruptcy? Your so-called husband, F. Thripp.'

I made two observations about this correspondence, one was that it revealed a depth of human misery which no reasonable woman would tolerate, and the other was that all the accountant Thripp's notes were written on an Italian portable, about ten years old.

'My husband's got an old Olivetti.  He can't really type,' Mrs Thripp told me.

Many years ago I scored a notable victory in the 'Great Brighton Benefit Club Forgery' case, and it was during those proceedings I acquired my vast knowledge of typewriters.  Having solved the question of the type, however, got me no nearer the heart of the mystery."

Rumpole and the Married Lady  John Mortimer

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