Fourth Folly Arc
The guest is invited by urgent telegram to return to the Folly, as Miss Keltenham, celebrated author, specifically had wanted ghosts for her latest inspiration, and Roscoe refuses to cooperate. Simon seems absent (more to that story); further, having met him in life, Virginia can’t imagine he’s got the stuff, in death. She demands the guest give her the Legend of the Pale Knight, the famous haunting associated with St. Crispin’s. The chapel is long gone, while the guest’s research indicates there had been another, older St. Crispin’s, at not quite the same spot.
‘Those deadly people. They’d like me a bit Elinor Glyn-ish
But then they want sentiment. But then, of course,
they don’t. They want some dismal comeuppance
for bad behaviour, a heroine like one of Lawrence’s
stultifying Magdalene figures. I suppose you can guess what
must lead up to all that.
Trout is with me. I’d ordered him to stay behind.
Sort of help you get these days.’
Pointed, this remark. Aimed at one standing nearby,
Heard to emit a priggish laugh
‘Roscoe…’ the guest clears his throat, and as at once she says,
‘I can’t hear a thing! Speak up!’
answers, ‘Virginia! Are you hearing me now?’
Footballers are chorusing, and the Ram’s Arms’ faulty service
Bloops and stutters
A voice breaks through to them, burbling like a dying man’s
Ask me anything
‘Leave,’ the guest tries.
Call that asking, do you? I may. I might.
‘Does it shock you a little, that I satirize my own
poor œuvre? But I mean to travesty yours—fair warning
That is, I’ve got to have it, your story of the pale knight.
Not to actively poach, my dear…but you’d said to me it is truly frightening.
I suppose,’ Virginia cups the receiver, ‘it’s all right if I insult Roscoe? Because
he’s not been a very public-spirited spectre.
As a matter of fact—dare I say?—silent as the you-know-what.
Trout, who rather inspires mischief, I’m afraid…even my darling Trout
has felt quite at peace, turning one of the cellars into a darkroom.’
‘Have a go,’ the guest shrugs, but feels given a nudge
The words a whisper echoed in his ear
Continued from An Ordinary Signal Drop
An Ordinary Signal Drop
It impressed me, acquainted me, the unspeakable
more normality than horror at a glance
shivering loose, like flakes of plated gilding
painted over with a garden scene
Shoes, parasol, a hand suspended
holding still its cup of tea
A man, crawling at the last, hurricane winds
Driving him onto knees, and stretching fingertips
at terrifying risk, bowed low and groping to the lopped edge
needing this spray of water in his face
the moon’s emerging, laying of its light
masked by clouds, then startlingly uncurtained
To believe it, that he saw it
Mr. Dunlow, my father’s ancient valet
was servant to a surgeon of Dundee
going out in any case, to lance a boil, or some such
thing, Dunlow not needed, but the gale’d come up strong again
that evening, that was how he told it, that he’d
just gone out to see his master off
and eye the weather for himself
It was Mr. Roberts’s story Dunlow told
But had it at second-hand first-hand if you understand me
The feather-tip descends to shelter hope
For a moment the signal lingers in mid-air
The train has gone at seven-fourteen
Continued from Godfrey
‘I don’t like to be a bore…’
That, she says, is the wrong way to begin a tale
You’ll have me fearing the worst
Not either in the proper sense
‘Well…because people have tended, quite literally, to wander off.’
You get invited to dinners, my dear, and you have no dinner conversation.
You plunge in with your Subject.
And, you know, rumour has got out. ‘Never in his presence
breathe the name of bloody St. Crispin’s.’
Have a glance at the sporting news, next time
Memorize one or two results
‘Noticed Madame’s Nightshirt came tenth’
Pigeons or horses, makes no odds
Answer every gambit, ‘Is that right?’
Roscoe, who has climbed down to participate
Is silenced nonetheless
In fact, Virginia says, no one in our circle has heard you tell it.
So what do they know? I shall be the first.
I pledge myself rooted to the spot.
Godfrey the Hermit…though probably he was not a hermit,
that was a bit of mediæval yarn-spinning, of which they did a
great deal, the early missionaries being wily in their way…
understood well that a mystique, a pretense the teachings
were not for everyone, a touch of the nobleman’s high-handedness
to which the peasantry were quite used—
Forgive me. Godfrey, I mean to say,
writing in his poor Latin, that he seemed partly
to have invented ad hoc
I’m not laughing
No…ahem…he had an excellent ear for gossip. His anecdotes,
always to encourage the belief in miracles, are difficult to place