The Folly: seventh arc
Push has come to shove, with the host and guest, and helpful friends gained along the way—popular author Virginia Keltenham, her secretary/publicist Trout, Colonel Llewellyn (against his will, but resigned to it), an agent in disgrace tasked with shouldering Llewellyn’s burden, and one or two from the Other Side—launching a campaign designed to menace and enrage the assassin Falco. At large, Falco has all Britain to traffic in. Each step he can be drawn towards destiny, however rash the proposal, limits the harm he may do to the innocent, while raising the chance of snaring him. Of course, the treasonous Atherleigh had been dealt with, to start the whole embarrassment. Falco may be, as well, to end it…
But then again, there remains the faithful Krug.
Storms and Fires
The hearth, riddled so, complains
The host has taken on a task he might have seen
was never to be ledgered done
Business as usual, for a time…?
I don’t know, he answers the airless remark
of the guest, That I can write today
Nor can I. A game?
Waiting feels like the wireless announcer had said
We are at war
And each chore weighs as the provisioning
Of a little kingdom under siege
If I go to market, will I be the first
To snatch at every loaf of bread?
Can I safely carry off a hoard?
The spirit callers are, at war with one man
They have moved their vulnerable to a safer home
They have need, posthaste, of a drawing card
And that lies undetermined
Sited not so foolishly, if its builder’s mad idée
Were vision, and his letters on the threat of moon-men
A canny ruse to provide him solitude
And all the while he had thought of things
Of storms and fires, and ordered the ring of trees
Well-culled, keeping shorn the mound he’d raised
On which to stand his tower
One of us, the host observes, not lifting eyes
from the laying of the Ludo board
There are three of us, Virginia says
Shall we ghost-play the fourth?
One of us, of course…
…must declare, by some means
Hostilities, to Falco
He puts a finger to his lips, to shush the writer of romance
I am aware you have the courage of ten
But Virginia, this is not child’s play
Our offence must be minutely mapped
Before we dare advance
In my researches into the vanished tribes
Which predate the era of Coel Hen
Who, I need hardly tell you, is known
to the modern reader of the nursery rhyme
A prelate of that village which calls itself Heneglwys
Whom my fellow in this enthusiasm is, had I but made
acquaintance with his own…his own scholarship, that is to say
prior to learning of a minor curiosity
his recent death prevents him to me imparting
The housekeeper he had employed
was a woman of Italian extraction
who had arrived—it is a charming story
Or parts of it may be said fairly—
Arrived, I say, to instruct the widower’s daughters in ballet
She had produced a son (which rather cut the project short)
The guest wonders if this last will not be edited out
He sits back pensive and finds he has no idea of it
What the Pembrokeshire propriety allows, in this year of 1934
He must appear quite fond, taking the Shakespearean sense
of the word, dodder on…
Though he himself, born 1900, ages with the age
At some point in this slumbrous peroration, he must insult
And with a deadly delineation
The face and shape, and wastrel life, the parentage
(which he has done)
Of the man Falco
I have a name in my notes (he adds), of one Colonel Llewellyn
And nothing to point me why I’d written it down
I suppose him a retired officer who must know something
Jesmine, so much the counterpoint to her headstrong sister,
had kept to her tuffet by the fireplace, demure with her teacup.
Maude, as she would, spoke at once, the moment Mrs. Davenant rejoined them.
‘Oh, tell, Margaret! You can’t mean to leave us hanging!’
‘I ought not to have made the allusion,’ came the sensible Margaret’s reply.
‘Bad on you, then! But I understand these people aren’t…’
‘Anything to do with us.’ Jesmine finished for her sister, goaded to it.
‘For charity’s sake, they are, however,’ said Margaret Davenant.
‘And the son…? Some disgrace on the poor mother? But how can it be
when he fought at Second Marne and came home wounded?
Heroism, isn’t it?’
‘Oh, Maude! How young you are!’
‘How, wounded?’ Jesmine put in. Her curiosity, despite herself, was now genuine.
‘One doesn’t know such things.’
‘Please!’ said Maude. ‘One may not, but I’ll wager you do!’
Margaret sighed heavily. ‘The young man’s name was Tomaso. He enlisted as
Thomas, of course.’
‘Why of course?’ Jesmine asked, at the same time the irrepressible Maude
remarked, ‘A regular Tommy!’
It emerged, on the two young ladies’ further probing of their older cousin,
that Tomaso Falco’s mother and father had not been married; that he had
by deed poll changed his name to Thomas Hawk. And that the lasting
of his injuries had been the loss of an eye.
‘Discharged with a patch, but he seems at some point to have fitted himself
with a secondhand glass one. Rather sadly conspicuous, once spotted, although
that is not the reason…’ Margaret sank into an armchair. ‘Thomas has a vengeful
temper, by all accounts. He has taken against his mother receiving our support,
knocked her flat last time… Poor Mrs. Milburne hadn’t known him to be
in the bedroom.’
‘Gracious! And Tommy’s mummy wouldn’t have the bobby?’ Maude said. ‘Why,
if I had been Mrs. Milburne…!’
‘Never mind! Jesmine is quite right. It has little to do with us. We shall, naturally,
be to poor Mrs. Falco all the help we can.’
And on this note, part one, of ‘Maude and the Country Hens’, seems—
To Virginia Keltenham…not altogether. Fortunately, she is half-owner
of The New Woman’s Quarterly, and can publish an unsatisfactory thing
if she pleases.
‘But Trout, I say it needs punch. My cliff looks barely a bluff.’
He yawns. The hurly-burly has rendered him a more worldly creature,
a change not wholly to Virginia’s liking.
‘Time in the world to write the next. Have your Milburne rush in and say,