Song of Trout: Eighth Pale Knight
Song of Trout
There is no harm in others underestimating one’s fortitude
Matthew Piers Trout has reason to be sure of it
Sure as he’d known, from school days, loneliness
mutate into priestly hauteur
Mysteries performed behind the darkroom door
Life given purpose, on discovery of the art
He had known as well, at the first pass—thirteen when
the war ended—he would not be called
But yet the day would come
The authoress had wanted a shorthand-typist.
‘You haven’t the face of a man with a hobby. I ought to hire Lady Newtonmore’s niece. Do you know how many years I scrounged for a publisher? The little upstart tells me she shall look on it as an apprenticeship. Well, with the aristocracy, it is never a wise thing to burn one’s bridges. But, young Trout, I believe I’ll take you. And then,’ she had said, Miss Keltenham…after he’d barely got used to her trend of thought, ‘you’ll take me!’
He had. She returned from the hairdresser without her specs, another woman altogether. After that, got testy, when he had suggested, ‘Here you are putting an adverb between had and been. You do that rather often. Ought I to correct them all?’
‘I’ll tell you what. Go down and speak to MacCreasey. He has brought dull papers to read. A treat for you, lad.’
Months afterwards, going to Colonel Llewellyn’s safety talk, Trout, of all members of his camera club, bore about with him among ordinary shutterbugs, a certain celebrity, for having been hauled up by the collar into possession of this glamourous title…publicity agent.
‘Keltenham. Wife reads her. Bit of a humourist. Now there’s a danger worth putting a stop to, this joking habit. Gives comfort to the enemy.’
He hadn’t explained.
But, of course, the enemy.
This brief talk with the military man had chuffed Trout to pieces. And on that note of pride, he had felt braced to a British sense of duty, stopping just shy of rejoicing…that the Germans seemed bent on rearming.
They had all been asked to give their names.
In terror he had quivered for a week…he’d gone wrong, somehow, and would not be summoned. The others would shift eyes at one another and snigger.
‘No, you’ll not speak to Llewellyn again. He’s not in it,’ Trout had been informed. The major had given him a canister of film.
These who gather at the Folly
The urbane host, the Oxonian guest—
That neighbour, Inskip…certainly a Scot
Farming in Somerset
Or like Virginia, those to whom they let the place
All incomers. Such are the bustling ways
Of the present century
And Trout supposes whether or no
This may mean much
It means something
It is the dire burden of the charge
His shoulders now must manage bearing
‘When we are infiltrated, the tunnel will be made
By a nosing in, a gradual wearing
It won’t seem odd to you when you’ve got used
To the agitation, the comings and goings
You imagine it’s only in the Big Smoke
That people pass by foreigners on the street
Preoccupied, indifferent, out-of-mind
In contrast to the countryside, the little towns
Where famously nothing escapes the public eye…
But you forget what the classes are
How easily one nods at eccentricities
Among the gentry.’
The major thinks it not the rank and file
‘Your touring countess is the greater menace.’
Song of Trout
(2018, Stephanie Foster)