Round the World in Silence

Annabelle Kent, Round the World in Silence
(New York: Greaves, 1911)

[S]omebody had lost a ticket, and a wild search through pockets and handbags was carried on to no purpose. A telephone from the station to the hotel brought the answer: Yes, something had been found; and, after expectant waiting, a smiling boy on a bicycle brought triumphantly forth from his pockets—a pair of old slippers! And thus we left Rome.

At an early stage of her circumnavigation, Annabelle Kent describes the fumbling efforts of her party to catch the early morning train from Rome to Brindisi—from Brindisi they then would catch the India Mail to Port Said and beyond. But someone had forgotten something. Here the telephone seems like a messenger itself, heading from the station to the hotel to bring back the answer. Personified, it conveys to the anxious group that ‘something had been found.’ Then, as if breathlessly following the telephone’s route, a smiling boy arrives on a bicycle, bearing a pair of old slippers. In Kent’s account, the telephone links the imagined spaces of the station and the hotel. More than sending and receiving pulses through a wire, this telephone seems to properly connect these Roman scenes and to travel between them. What makes the visual imagery of the telephone vivid for the reader is perhaps the fact that Kent herself was deaf. This passage comes at the beginning of what is believed to be the first circumnavigation experienced in silence.

by Kevin Riordan