Just when the three investigators are feeling close to a breakthrough, de Clieux having established a path to the Celtic daughter, and she beginning to reveal those things unknown to history, to share her language and memories . . .
A mid-air collision between two planes brings three new spirits to the vicinity. Much to the surprise of the host and the guest, the spirits seem making themselves vocal, though these cannot have been captured within the Folly’s marble-decorated chimneypiece. One is the playful and adulterous Lady Gimple; one, the husband of the Spiritualist fellowship’s president, Mrs. Tattersby . . . and one his most vengeful rival in love. 
Complicating the matter is Mrs. Tattersby’s houseguest from America, Miss Harvey, a woman disturbingly self-aware of her mediumship. 

 

Return to Folly Home

 

 


 

aviator tattersby in melancholy mood

Tattersby

Romans
(one)

We thought they were not men

They, beardless, most, but for their slaves

Vaunted trophies keeping costumed show

That in all weathers tell their vanquished homes

Came by war-engine attended

Came regaliaed steed, foreguard of chariot

Wheeled cage of sacrificial beast

Gentled by their magic; all these mounted ones,

Their faces red-scorched by their foreign sun

That we, beneath our clouds, did palely gaze upon

The marching men in their stepping ranks

The drums

Shields they bore, dressed in gold and silver

Their tents amassed behind the waters

Banners staked, that our eyes would see

Stories told

Of burning men on cross-braced pillars

Conquered foes

You see, M. de Clieux…though I have set my mind

To learn the English speech

A picture and a pointing hand tell much

Our father, Dodtha, met his chiefs in council…

 

“Pardon.” He lifts his pencil.

“Father of your blood, or tribe…and do you give a name

Or title…?”

“Awful news!” The guest arrives. He sees de Clieux dismayed.

“Ah! You’d found her. I apologize. But had you heard

about the aeroplanes?”

As is the habit with enthusiasts

The host and guest come bustling in confabulation

Collision in mid-air, but did you hear

The witness swears one plane had seemed to veer…

To yaw—ahem—I think that is the term

Woman pilot, three thought deceased…

Blethering, who comes to do the place

And serve the lunch

Enters wheeling

Welsh rarebit, onion soup, hot tea

de Clieux breaks off his conversation once again

To Blethering’s eyes, the Frenchman speaks to air

And this is why she will not do the place

Except the host is there

 


Continued from A Conduit

landscape with plane shadow ancient foundations tattersby arc

St. Crispin’s

 

A Conduit 
(two)

 

On this day when fire could not be thought of

A sooty pall stains stucco shaded by the mantelpiece

But under this

Winks a brilliant blue and does persistently

…this Morse Code going on since yesterday

Refusing glances dart away

And none feels safe to read the message

Three men chew and meet each other’s eyes

“So,” the guest begins, and drains his teacup.

“Can this be a sort of ghostly nova? Why have I dreamed it

all night long? Ever since the rains…and I don’t care figs

for aeroplanes. I loathe the infernal machines.”

The host says, “We know it already, pictured scenes

are their speech, a means of it. You postulate a conduit,

a new way opened by our probings.

I fear we have a monograph to write.”

“Awkward,” sighs the guest. “I believe Lady Gimple,

the late aviatrix, was co-respondent in Mrs. Tattersby’s

divorce.”

“Naturally enough. Tattersby himself must be the third.

I don’t suppose they’ve said.”

“Not by today’s Advertiser.”

“No means,” de Clieux puts in, “of identification.”

 

My dear madam,

 

I feel I would have been remiss in my duties, as Secretary of Phenomena, not to have called this to your attention. It was on account of your having a houseguest, that (as I’d recalled) you’d written to postpone our walking party. I found the letter and read it through twice, to make certain of the particulars. Indeed, the weather seems (here, I should like to make a pun between incline and inclement, and can’t seem to do it) to forbid our climbing Wisham’s Hill. Our glasses are unlikely to descry anything promising about the lay of the land, in this pernicious fog. Perhaps, if Miss Harvey cannot walk any distance, she will enjoy reading my notes, assembled thus far, on the False St. Crispin’s. She is one of us?

 


Continued from Swallowtail

m. de clieux baffled by miss harvey

de Clieux and Miss Harvey

 

Swallowtail
(three)

 

You’ve never sat, doing your work

…if you had been me, on a stool upstairs

Made dumb by the green walls of Lippard’s laboratory

Looking down, as directed, through the lens

at the wing he’d razored along the vein

Some of the colors are not pigments, you know

Only reflections of light

He hated girls to be romantic

Wanted me in a purely clinical sense

To pin the specimen, wearing magnifying goggles

With the scalpel’s point, slice the abdomen

I wouldn’t love the butterfly and make a life for it in fancy

Like a woman

I would understand

It was a creature of component parts

M. de Clieux, Miss Harvey says

I waited for him on the blanket

With the box lunch and my pocket sketchbook

You’ve never sat, doing your work…

And felt insurrection mark you

A flying squadron circle you, the enemy

Hem you round, knock you in the eye

Drop into your tea, buzz with a chill obscenity

Fall into your bodice

De Clieux feels this living woman, matter of fact in madness

Infects him, makes his intimate adulation of a ghost

as menacing as the insurgent swallowtail

 


Continued from The Lay of the Land

Curiosity Seekers

 

The Lay of the Land
(four)

 

“I imagine…I will not say admit…the possibility of cordial relations—

You see what he’s done here.”

The tenant of Wisham’s Hill Cottage

has got the field gate closed to traffic

For good, more or less…for the time being

Put a sinister trip-wire run through a boundary stone

“He ought not to have made that hole,” Mrs. Tattersby,

as she braces her rabbit-gun and takes a bead

Remarks acerbically to the host

“That post is in charge of the Council.”

The spaniel has got herself over

At the loss of a tuft of hair

The terrier is perched with its paws up

And Dougal says, through gritted teeth

“Look there!”

The local youth are pleased to trespass

Couldn’t care

There goes a lad and his girl with their cameras

The black, flattened tillage spans a swath so much larger

Than the bodies of two small planes

Metal parts rise

scrubbed shining by the rains

And Dougal’s face is red with a much-resented gallantry

He thinks there must be parts of Tattersby

Burned in the earth

Knows these young rapscallions think so too, and hope it

Taking photographs, trying to carry things away

And the wife can stand like that, and scorn him

“We’d arranged our business before all this, Mr. Inskip. We shan’t be looking

that direction.”

 


Continued from Familiar

dougal inskip unrequited swain of fiona tattersby

Dougal Inskip

 

Familiar
(five)

 

All these ordinary things are giving way

Times of late, like the dead wrapped in their winding sheets

Familiar in outline still

But disintegrating into melt and worm beneath

He feels infected with the guest’s unhappy mood

Uses the word, not having spoken with de Clieux

He thinks the time is now to broach disturbance

The time is near…the time grown urgent

He gazes at the sky to hold this in

“They’re loose,” he murmurs

 

Faithful Inskip won’t go home

His housekeeper is waving far below

A duster like a signal-flag, up and down

Her smock a sack of ticking in the door frame

“Bugger the woman,” he shockingly says

But too, under his breath, and moves

Again without manners, brusquely pushing through

to catch Mrs. Tattersby

And though the host would have said she never will

She needs poor Dougal’s help

She gives a scream

A shallow skin of humus girds the summit

A clayey baste of tufted grass and pine straw

Here hundreds of white butterflies or moths

Have risen and still rise

Her face cannot be seen

Her garments seethe

 


Continued from As Lightning Might

landscape image from poem as lightning might

Edwytha’s Plait

 

As Lightning Might
(six)

 

Their leader is not unwell. No, not harmed.

Please leave off, dear.

Curious, no more. A nuisance.

Please don’t trouble.

All over now.

When she’d shaken out her jacket

One flew a spiral

And died in the fire

Its wings by then had…

caked away, he somehow thinks

As a butterfly’s broken will do

The scales, would it be the scales

He could ask and she would tell

He wants to leave Miss Harvey…any house that holds her

At this moment, and not hate her

For scintillating so

“It’s me,” she says. “It’s me, being here. They know.”

 

De Clieux, pushing currents against the thickness

Tells himself it’s air we blunder through

Air is not nothing

We breathe lethargy and move like swimmers

This countryside this moment pulling down the clouds

Strikes him thus, as lightning might

Our eyes can’t see, but it will burst its bounds

He had wanted an aimless walk alone

He asks his friend, who has trailed behind

To prow away the silence with chatter

Explain what it was about the chapel

 

The false St. Crispin’s

“Well, you know. We have records to the twelfth century.

So it had been assumed there was only one. Of course, that would be

typically the way of it…fire, or invasion, or plague, would

rend to ruin the old edifice

They would rebuild on the same spot

De Clieux, if you’ll climb with me to the top

Of Wisham’s Hill, we’ll arrive just at dusk

I believe it’s safe.”

 


Continued from Dougal Inskip’s Lonely Vigil

tattersby and fiona medwin followed by douglas inskip poem tattersby arc

Tattersby and Fiona Medwin

 

Dougal Inskip’s Lonely Vigil
(seven)

 

When she had been Fiona Medwin

Long about the jaw, but fair enough to a man

Content to break even on a steady-goer

No desire for a flash in the pan

Women, though, Dougal says to himself

Flash will get them, even the sensible ones

Ought she to burn a torch for Tattersby

Useless git to let a butterfly flatter him

…Lady Gimple, not a proper title either

Always the fly-boys with that one

(by reputation)

 

He has trodden the beckoning path

Wisham’s Hill Cottage to the Folly’s gate

He has no pretext for passing beyond

She won’t thole it, won’t take it as a caring friend’s

Solicitude

Tear another strip, more like…say to him again, not

Thank you, dear (you are so good to me)

But, Dougal, are you mad?

 

And at once, the light goes out

“You must be mad, I swear you are!

Look at you, Mr. Inskip, preening on the inside!

Did she call you Dougal, you poor lamb? How starved you are!

And what a meagre banquet the old girl provides.

How dare you, while we’re at it, say my title’s not a proper one?

Because poor Reggie got his for flying a blimp over the channel?

Ah, poor Reggie! He has truly gone down to the sea.

We’ll never know if his soul washes up on some Froggie beach.”

 

Light laughter. Dougal, meanwhile, struggles,

bending double, dancing foot to foot.

She has taken impish hands from his eyes,

And got him by the arms…round the ankles.

He is painfully aware he looks a fool,

Wrestling the invisible.

At last he dares to whisper, “Lady Gimple…”

 


Continued from Edwytha’s Plait

Silver Brooch

 

Edwytha’s Plait
(eight)

 

Terror, when it comes, warms the night

Fallen close and hard of breath

like a parachute’s muffling silk and chill

Night

Borne opaque the face of pity

Mirrored in the watcher’s eye

The plain below

Sinking to the cataract

Emerging hidden under rock

Mimicking Edwytha’s plait

The waters keen

And he has never known this name

 

For since the Celtic daughter’s hour

They have not called it so

They throng

Crania lift hollow sockets, smile

Sadly aware

They are death’s heads void of nuance

Smile of all the world’s news

A rational man, de Clieux tells his companion

Would call this fog

Have you really left your bed to join me?

Miss Harvey says, for this time

 

That was my great disappointment…it has been

So many, but Edwytha does not come

When the sun was high yet, before the warning clouds

Before the settlling mists had veiled her iron locks

You’d seen her forged there, giantess laid low

Long ribboned tresses bound in woven stone

Edwytha’s resting place, our spirit home

I, monsieur, too much a goddess from the cradle

Not to dream of honour, how I’d fly

The day I’d won a guardian’s grave

And mounted to the sky

 

The council first resolved

To bargain with our poverty of gold

Yea, this, we give in tribute, Romans!

All we have

My brothers, each with ceremony draws the silver brooch

From his cloak, and from his hair

Ceremony

That for this solemnity our enemy suppose

We yield before their potent Jupiter

We bury our own

 


Continued from Not Wanted Here

Roscoe Bevington

 

Not Wanted Here
(nine)

 

Awkward. He reminds himself he’d said it to the host

Not long ago. He’d meant Fiona. Tattersby. And the awkwardness was

Sex. Well, but…the guest says, temporizing. In this dense fog,

strolling with somnambulant, cautious footing, he feels the sheen of mist

like Lady Gimple’s atomizer. When he’d been her tutor,

she’d sprayed him with her Joy, making sticky the Chaucer, and smiling…laughing,

he must say, to see his eyes water. But what had been the notion…

It was this. That as the leaden pull of breakers, at the seaside, and the salt air,

make one feel not alone—but party to the wailing drowned,

he frets these spirits may have heard

A thought

No, he says aloud for their sake. I impute nothing. The French are different

And Miss Harvey. She, of course, is an American.

But, on the prudent side, I am not wanted here.

 

A ring shapes itself in parting obscurity

A gong-like train’s whistle

About that, where it seems to hit the scale

Shows teasing black, a dream of standing stones

Else a funhouse mirage

Of Dougal’s boundary post, reduplicated

Not his, of course, a borough feature

Meant to stand as sentinel, for public order

A speaking voice, he cannot fear it

Any yet uncertain that he hears it

 

‘Squier, com neer, if it your wille be,

And sey somwhat of love; for, certes, ye

Connen ther-on as muche as any man.’

 

Roguish laughter.

We haven’t met

You and I, my scholarly predecessor.

Pre-deceased, think of that!

Poor bugger’s heart snuffed like ash.

Reggie! Dear old intrepid Reggie, him, we shan’t forget!

Falsetto: I call, and my lover answers not

Ha, ha!

Tattersby, chained on a spit, crisped to a cinder.

Inskip, daft fool! You’re for it now, lad!

Thou pair of captives, ye who live

And the hecatomb of my lady Lucille’s dead

 


Continued from Roscoe Bevington

 

 

Roscoe Bevington

Anselm and Roscoe

Roscoe Bevington
(ten)

 

I feel cheated. Yes, cheated, in a profound and unexpected way

You won’t like crediting Roscoe Bevington with profundity

Not least because, educated as you’ve been

You no doubt cherish philosophy as franchise

Don’t much take to it, a wrong’un like myself

Waxing Aristotelian on the theme of man’s demise

I missed the war. As, of course, did you…ergo, sirrah, you understand me

When I say those boys of Kitchener’s brigade

Had the easier time of it

How I’d have thrived as a flying ace

What reward for ramming Tattersby mid-air

What medal pinned upon my breast?

Or such as filled my casket

His precious Tiger Moth, you know

Ha, ha! That also his unimaginative pet name for Lucille

Handy little aviatrix, our Lady Gimple

 

Now, I am a rather blunt-looking chap

Not one of your equine aristocracy

Makes one cynical of one’s elders, a bit

This inconstant family visage

And what is my brother Anselm today? A plodder

Embalmed behind a company desk

You don’t know, do you…you can’t tell me, my young squire

If he sent his man Walker in the dear old Chickadee

to carry it up to Morpeth

I mean that neatly severed hand of mine

The papers were all so kind as to mention

 


Continued from Awful Rivalry

Awful Rivalry

Awful Rivalry

 

 

Awful Rivalry
(eleven)

 

The extraordinary freedom!

I refer to taking matters of despatch into one’s own hands.

I had been inclined, even I, to stick to rules, you know. Embarrassing

the name of Bevington not done.

(As though this were a thing of real concern.)

I bore the insults. Wavered, I tell you

On the brink of feeling

Titles, after all, must find each other out…

Here what feels to the guest like the clutch of a hand

Chilling his forearm with such freezing immediacy

He fears he has been done an injury

How at this moment he could wish, to share this insight with his colleagues!

Do you understand me! Roscoe shakes him and he notes

the arm not broken (shattered)

I’d taken her across to Paris, taken her over the sea

To Antwerp. We’d strolled their sodding cobbled streets, took Flemish snaps

Of architectural excrescences. It was cosy. We came across Tattersby.

Lunching at the flying club.

‘Oh,’ she’d said, ‘now you I’ve heard of. You had an awful rivalry with Anselm

once. This,’ she’d said, ‘is Anselm’s brother.’

Tattersby yawned a bit.

 

I recall her never showing the spark of interest

And all her talk had been of theatre

How she’d be an angel, now, being that her father

Had forbade her, in her first youth, going on the stage

‘How’—falsetto again, sing-song—‘Simon, pet, I’m curious…

Does one learn to pilot a plane?’

 

It was only some stunt I’d had in mind, taking off

Only hoping, perhaps, to buzz them, royally.

But homing in, it came to me…be a fine and fitting end

To our little menage à misery.

But there you see, my friend

The true pilgrim’s progress of a deadly flirt

I don’t see it, the guest says

Ah, says Roscoe. You shall.

 


Continued from The Hothouse Rose

 

 

Mrs. Kentworthy

Mrs. Kentworthy

 The Hothouse Rose
(twelve)

 

‘You’ll have to get rid of that woman’

Her voice rings oddly clear, a piercing ray

of sun snowcaps Mrs. Kentworthy’s hair

His housekeeper meets his eye; a glance up from her cleaning kit

And withering glare, that says indeed,

keeping fealty with the name she bears,

‘I’ve worked many places, Mr. Inskip. This here’s summat

below par.’

He’s not certain, though, that Lucille can be heard

By any other than himself

It had been the start—

His giving Macbeth’s before the ghost of Banquo

A run for its money

An earlobe tugged sportingly

That chilling touch

(Not her fault, he grants)

And Dougal being out the night, his coat

dew-spangled

Face unshaved, shoes tracking mud

His help must think him fallen prey to drink

No, she doesn’t hear that laugh

Sees her gentleman strike a listening attitude

helpless

They pantomime these telegraphing roles

He knows Mrs. Kentworthy is jotting notes

Mentally, what she’ll tell her sister

 

‘You see I’m not such the hothouse rose…

No matter what the envious whisper

I intend making a project of it

Of you, my darling Dougal!

Keeping your precious hearth and home

Fiona-proof

Begone melancholy fancy!

(Tinkling merriment)

I’ve always had a will and made a way

You shall be my hands, my Jane

And I your Mr. Rochester

Just see what fun we’ll have together, you and I!’

 

‘What fun!’ he shouts aloud, and sees at once

Of all strange things to blurt

Worse, from a face, no doubt, of humourless defeat

He has found it

That tremour capable of shaking Mrs. Kentworthy

The slamming door frames a hollow quiet

So suddenly

He knows Fiona can never fill it

 

Lucille…my dear…

How will we ever manage?

 


Continued from A Cold Reception

 

A Cold Reception
A Cold Reception

Pile-Up at the Races

 

She’d written him a letter too confiding

for a cold reception

(Flying an enthusiasm, scientific enquiry, not…in his book)

A girl of twenty…she has since learned her lesson

1911—April it was—she’d been introduced at Newmarket races

to Mr. Ismay

All so gay

She thinks of his face

But…there he is—

Simon, always now, hovering

behind her in the glass, eyes beseeching

It makes Fiona want to spit

‘Simon!’ she snaps. ‘I do forgive you, of course.’

And this lie dispels nothing

She is the sort who does the expected thing

The powder puff obscures him in a cloud of talc

The very words call up a succession

of infuriating faults

Most of all that twitch of the lip that was not a smile

Because she’d put it down in ink

‘Is it possible? I think I love you.’

 

And had it been possible? Well, youth fades

 

And in the sitting room below

The guest wrapped in a blanket

Propping a lap desk with his knees

yawns by the fire

‘Give that up,’ the host suggests. ‘Can’t see any need.

Roscoe’s an unprincipled haunter, bound to be.

Dare say by Sunday you’ll find he’s annotated your account

In soot, or spilt tea, or frost on the windowpane

If it happens you’ve set events down wrong.’

‘Capital!’ they think they hear,

from a pocket dark and cold

somewhere up the chimney

 


Continued from A Scientific Family

A Scientific Family
A Scientific Family

 

You won’t

Until the sun finds its moment

Steadfast tick of bodies set in motion

Until the turning earth has lost its math

And the red eye blinks at the black-rimmed gorge’s gap

You won’t have seen night fall

From the cockpit of an aeroplane

You won’t have seen night fall

 

I’d passed by any chance to make an observation

I’d thought, when the work was done, I might

Come to pass the time of day in a deck chair

Lucille I likely saw there…it could not have been Fiona

Not really visiting this notion

I want now

(You seem a kind and patient man)

To say a thing. I have been thinking of appearances.

 

When Atherleigh—you’ll recall, we were a scientific family

Was ruled definitely killed, by the blast

I can’t say more—

 

The Hon. Simon Tattersby’s voice fades off

And the host, writing to his creditors

Wondering if another paying customer is in the cards

Says aloud, after minutes of the clock’s pendulum

Sounding in quietude its irregular chute, chute

‘Chap’s gone. Bit of a bore.’

 

Tattersby says, ‘I apologize. Struck me odd. I could tell you

all the trials of the lab. What they’d been working on. What

my elder brother confided. I believe I can. No Official Secrets Act

for the dead. But I shan’t.’

 


Continued from Utter Blame

Utter Blame

Utter Blame

 

‘De Clieux reports the Celtic daughter could be raised—

His bride full willing,’ the host, sardonic, says

‘So far south as Quimper; the Contessa di Baruchi

Has invited them to stay.

And what can be the meaning of that puppy-doggish eye…?’

He demands of the guest. No sense being envious.

‘Hardly that. It’s the keenness of pursuit, however…mission!

To marry for science!’ He sighs.

‘I’ve got nowhere whatsoever with my own.’

And doodles on his pad, St. Crispin’s

As usual, and why they pack their bags

Simon Tattersby floats about the place moaning to himself

And Roscoe, when he does not rattle pipes,

Wafts away the pen the host has just set down

Or sings them dirty limericks through the night

‘Miss Keltenham will bring her publicity agent’

The host pronounces this title very foreign

‘Well after all’—offers the guest, who seems to apologize for everyone

—‘they make pictures from her books, I suppose she needs one’

Virginia Keltenham, Simon’s voice comes to them

Buttonholed me once, looking for Fiona

Desperate to write a romance with a ghost in it

Her words

I said…I don’t know where she’s gone

I don’t know where she’s gone

I wish that you would find her for me, intervene

I see myself, I told you this, with cruel clarity

Always dogged, finishing up the last job

Not to start the next

Lucille’s lessons to be wound up

Because I’d promised her it

She was loved with a passion, she

Who heeds so little, she’s gone off to improving Inskip

but I feel…a terrible pity and comprehension

She’d said to me, ‘Simon, an affair is what you need’

And I’d said, ‘Yes, no doubt, Lucille, we’ll see’

Poor Roscoe! I utterly forgive

I utterly blame myself

Why, my dear fellow, his ancient rival says

I hope you won’t

 


 

 

 

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