On Charles Beaumont’s “Song For A Lady”

“It was an old ship, very old, very tired. And slow.”

Later adapted into the season four Twilight Zone episode “Passage on the Lady Anne,” Charles Beaumont’s original short story entitled “Song For A Lady” grants us permission to board the Lady Anne, an aging relic of a ship embarking on its final voyage. Eileen and Alan are celebrating their honeymoon aboard the Lady Anne, however upon boarding the ship, they notice that all the other passengers appear to be elderly couples –the McKenzies, the Burgesses, Van Vlyman, Sanders, and Captain Protheroe.  

After an evening of dancing, the elderly passengers announce they will be casting Alan and Eileen adrift in a dinghy while the Lady Anne sails away. In shock, Alan and Eileen are left in quietude as they listen to the sound of water slapping against the lifeboat. As the Lady Anne sails away, it explodes in a fiery inferno before sinking beneath the waves, much to the newlyweds’ chagrin. It is an ominous and deliberately ambiguous ending which leaves our protagonists adrift at sea after witnessing something which was supernatural.        

Beaumont, Charles. Perchance to Dream and other Short Stories. Penguin Classics. New York, NY (2015).  

Note: In the Foreword to this essay collection, Ray Bradbury offers some lovely reflections on the life of Charles “Chuck” Beaumont, from initially meeting a sixteen-year-old Beaumont at a bookstore in Los Angeles (talking about Terry and the Pirates comic collection, Buck RogersTarzan, and Prince Valiant), to helping Beaumont publish his first short story and embark upon a successful literary career –“His life revolved around a special desk which he had designed and had built by one of the finest cabinetmakers in the West. His files were beautifully stashed, labeled, and stuffed with a half-million notions, idle fancies, half-grown or full-grown dreams…” (xiii). His was a life that was cut short too soon –a great tragedy for American science fiction.

Ray Bradbury offers the following reflections on Charles Beaumont’s funeral:

“The friends of Charles Beaumont, at gravesite, felt… above all that a time was over, and things would never be the same. Our old group would meet less often, and then fall away. What was central to it, the binding force, the conversational fire, the great runner, jumper, and yeller, was gone” (xiv).  

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

Click here for my review of “Passage of the Lady Anne” Twilight Zone episode    

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