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 dogsbody Trout, Colonel Llewellyn (resigned to it), 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. The treasonous Atherleigh had been dealt with at the start. Falco may be, as well, to end it…
But there remains the faithful Krug.





Storms and Fires
The Irrepressible
Of Use





Pencil drawing of folly on hilltop

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


The folly

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





Pastel and ink drawing of figure before landscape





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—

To engage…

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





Pencil drawing of two sisters

The Irrepressible


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,

“Awful news!”’





Pastel and ink drawing of face behind thorns



The woodland affords the falcon—

Where hedgish undergrowth shoots in voluntary tangle

augmented year by year from half-digestions

spat or shat by avian lodgers, nesting

a thicket permitted by the landowner

(Said to be the blighted Rory Tebbs)

to wax untrimmed

Has wove itself a Briar Rose’s castle

of clinging burs, of stabbing spines and thorns

Good for the grousing, good for the pheasanting

Good for whatever sport…as God alone can fathom, might appeal…

(To such people!)

Yet a worthy poacher stealthily has carved

away the lowest growth athwart a trickle

unable to decide if it be brook or spring

And hidden where success may favour him

are his snares… Falco trips them each


The woodland affords the falcon cover

and his spyglass scopes the undulous terrain

and his patience feeds on the contents of a Crispo tin


Dusk will do

Falco is a famous man; he is on society’s lips

The spellbindings of rumour weave beyond

Such nets as governments may knit

The Milburne is not clever

Yet like others, who will make no plea to expiate their guilt

She may be found as she deserves being left

Where is that? His mind falls into trance

(And what this trance invites, if he could guess!)

It lies far from coincidence

‘A thing like this…if it’s not against the law, I can’t see why!

What does she mean, using our names! That Miss Keltenham.

Her magazine’s nothing but sedition. She says if there’s war…

Here. And there, her picture. See the hair!

That wasn’t taken anytime too recent. If there’s war…here, Teresa…

the women ought to go, and the men stay at home!’

His mother said (nothing to this proposal): ‘Parish records. Or

something printed in the newspapers. They do print them, the deed polls.

And Thomas, when the army let him go, they printed that.

Miss Keltenham has not realised it matters. She thinks

it’s like pulling names out of a hat.’





Digital picture of figure at night



Rain falls, a light and misty one, the best of sorts

As they of the night patrol who require the pull of it

Have medium to prowl the grounds in broader swaths

Simon Tattersby, avoiding Lady Gimple and Roscoe

Matey and inseparable, those spectral reprobates

By no means yet induced to vacate

(Poltergeists, to the serious spiritualist, almost a burlesque

to an oratorio—and they know it)

The inmates, with Virginia and Trout, being mortal all

Will post to the outer rings, first weaponing themselves

‘Falco, of course, is a man and can bleed…

It happens I’ve a lovely little pistol that I carry in my bag.’

‘I’m of two minds,’ the host replies. ‘But leave it, I think, Virginia.’


‘He is trained as a soldier; he is desperate and ruthless.

He may wrest it from you…and frankly, his hope is

to kill the most of us.’

Hence from the curiosities, the guest has drawn a stick with a blade

that springs at the depression of a lever

I would be depressed, if I were a lever, says Roscoe

A tepid laugh, and: ‘You are forgiven’

For these are the words that sting


The whole enterprise is terrifying

The sparkling Lucille has said barely a word

Only: ‘Gracious, I think I love you all! Tell me you’ll none of you be harmed.’

‘What signal?’ asks Simon

‘Why, tackle him, sir, if you spot him.’

‘Ah. Shall I ever learn? I don’t feel that I can frighten anyone.’


Virginia to make east, with a flare, for hurtling

(While resolved to get fully in the assassin’s face, if need be)

Trout to make west, tucked under his arm

a sturdy crossbow, like an idyllist’s lyre

The host will go north, a bright torch his defence

‘I shall play decoy, if you’ll lend me the dog.’

‘Oh, my poor Robbie is no use…’ Virginia begins

‘To walk, my dear. Merely to exercise on a lead.’





Pastel drawing of woman in headscarf

Of Use


To a life of unkind treatment

Toast a prayer—

any person with a heart

As to Krug it can’t matter, who you are



He had not had a father

Stray girls are placed in homes to bear the sufferings

The girl had been his mother

Twice, but only once

Twice, but only once—

Because they’d wanted him to live in loneliness…


Murdered for his constancy, as the workhouse chit

apologizing for the child at her skirts, whom she would agree

Mein Herr, surely, yes, to have sent

When old enough to be of use

‘He is only three’

Mouth-breathed through chores, her midriff marked

With an iron-shaped pain


…the sacrifice almost a bonus

Less Krug, in a world one Krug to the surplus


They had wanted him to help

And she, the second human touch he’d felt

If Agnes had not loved him, in so short a space

He had died for her

Yet understand, ye of little faith




The falcon is turned panther, stalking the dot

of a torch, a distracted voice chides a dog

It has found…the story makes itself plain…some object among leaves

And sniffs, and carries on sniffing

‘Get on with it,’ says the man

I shall, thinks Falco, but I wish you were not a disappointment

Keltenham, her I want, though you know it, sir, yourself

what she’s done

If I spotted her, I’d fling her down the ravine

And while she lay broken, bury her

So she’d count the minutes…one tossed stone at a time

And slow


It’s carrion the dog’s after, he thinks, inapropos

Close by, close by, foul and reminiscent

But crouching, the war come vividly again

Falco hears a gait…a limp, a dragging shuffle

He almost fancies he hears his name




(more to come)