stamp pony express
stamp freimarke

He rolled over to her a small table, and from aplastic folder lifted with tweezers, delicately, a U. S. commenmorative stamp, the Pony Express issue of 1940, 3¢ henna brown. Cancelled. »Look«, he said, switching on a small, intense lamp, handing her an oblong magnifying glass.
»It’s the wrong side«, she said, as he swabbed the stamp gently with benzine and blaced it on a black tray.
»The watermark.«
Oedipa peered. There it was again, her WASTE symbol, showing up black, a little right of center.
»What is this?«, wondering how much time had gone by.
»I’m not sure«, Cohen said. »That’s why I’ve referred it, and the others, to the Committee. Some friends have been around to see them too, but they’re all being cautious. But see what you think of this.« From the same plastic folder he now tweezed what looked like an old German stamp, with the figures 1/4 in the centre, the word Freimarke at the top, and along the right-hand margin the legend Thurn und Taxis.
»They were«, she remembered from the Wharfinger play, »some kind of private couriers, right?«
»From about 1300, until Bismarck bought them out in 1867, Miz Maas, they were the European mail service. This is one of their very few adhesive stamps. But look in the corners.« Decorating each corner of the stamp, Oedipa saw a horn with a single loop in it. Almost like the WASTE symbol. »A post horn«, Cohen said, »the Thurn und Taxis symbol. It was in their coat of arms.«
And tacit lies the gold once-knotted horn, Oedipa remembered. Sure. »Then the watermark you found«, she said, »is nearly the same thing, expect for the extra little doojigger sort of coming out of the bell.«
»It sounds ridiculous«, Cohen said, »but my guess is it’s a mute.«
She nodded. The black costumes, the silence, the secrecy. Whoever they were their aim was to mute the Thurn and Taxis post horn.