The Folly: fifth arc

 


 

The mission of the Folly’s spiritualist circle, is persuading Fiona Tattersby to forgive Simon, thus to allow his crossing. Tattersby family affairs are badly tangled, and the question of Simon’s elder brother Atherleigh, killed in a chemical explosion, leaving behind an unsettled estate, has not been broached. It is about to be, and through the medium of an unsuspected interloper, the German spy, Krug.

 


 

 

Perhaps a Pair of Eyes
Chiswick 1934
The Watchman
The Assassin Comes
A Chain
Only One
Lonely in Its Reckoning
Men (first)
Men (second)
Plain and Ugly Terms
Older in Their Wisdom

 

 


 

 

The German SpyThe German Spy

 

Perhaps a Pair of Eyes
(one)

 

Can a man in Tattersby’s estate

Plant his feet and lift the standard

Do we contemplate to name this tidal movement

(a little shaver chipped from the block of ancient manners)

The Modern Chivalry

Dames to entertain the dropping of a hankie

Even to allow the figure of a man

The launch

if not the following of a lance

 

When the host was packing, and had placed his bag

In carelessness a stone’s toss from the hearth

It was Roscoe took it on himself

to knock out Simon’s marble,

with an aviator’s savvy

for the arc

Simon’s pilgrimage may serve him thus

for a geste (Fiona grants it)

‘But even there…’

She interrupts herself to thrust a finger

At the guest

‘You’ve let Virginia start you on a habit…

All whimsy and romance…this wish to lend enchantment

To an unrepentant villain and a pest.’

Her late estranged’s quest sped with quixotic perseverance

O’er his lady’s threshold, London-ward

‘But, my dear,’ the host nods aside to their leader

‘you assign the soul a task too hard.’

 

‘I have promised Trout I will share in his guilt,

though I rather suspect him quite safe.’

Beetling off into the woods after supper

Tramping at sunrise home like a sleepwalker

Trailing a fluttering of cobweb

Stumbling indoors, eyes a-stare, hair on end

Pawing at the phone in a nervous tremour

‘Ahem. Is this…Llewellyn…? Oh…I see…the colonel isn’t…

No…I have no message…’

Passing the guest he’d murmured, ‘I shall be below…’

 

‘There is too much light,’ says the host.

‘I really don’t make it out…but just there, upper right

Perhaps a pair of eyes and a sort of mouth.’

 

 


 

 

The German Spy

Chiswick 1934
(two)

 

This area, where an up-and-comer rubs shoulders

With the fraying shawl of gentility

A lineage forged in lint

And where underground commuters spot oddity

Familiarly in circled eyes

And fierce vampiric lights

That pudding-skinned visages blanch

into a sinister loneliness

The chap whom no one knew

Fit in

And no one missed him

When he went

 

His room was in the attics

Or to speak of matters strictly, is

Even now he occupies his bed

It can’t entirely be said

Krug has vacated premises

A host of new arrivals even

Squats upon the lease

 

Puzzled, but largely still

Bearing above other stirrings pity for himself

A man falsified in grim disguise and shunned

(notwithstanding) he is further

Shackled  in place by a bony ankle

Reaches for the writing table

Where in his native tongue he had

Inked logorrheic gusts

And when she comes…

Will she have the sense

To burn those first—at once

Or will she stand aghast?

 

 


 

 

The German Spy

The Watchman
(three)

 

She would, Agnes, the wife, or helpmeet

(this was possible) approach the embassy

Possible

unlikely

She would, on an island nation folded, in state laid cerebral

along the coast (the brain an aging cheese

Encroached…by mites…active pissing virtue

upon the host) go when summoned

float at very sunrise

Krug had known it, time most wise

the sun so sharp, the watchman weary

When a countryman, a Greek or Pole

A bloody Czech

A Catalan contrarian, a Turk

(Her same photograph on four separate

Passports, her same autograph, with four separate

Surnames, once Tattersby, once Serna, once dos Santos;

Once Agnes, first name Jane)

She had the child with her, sending him away

She turned…if tears were in her eyes

Obscured by rain

She stared, and Krug knew failure

Again

 

She’d crossed to take his arm

And in a trance, becharmed, he’d gone

 

Now let his agonies be devoured

Let pellets of private speech stink from walls

their sour stink

But let her think to come and see

 

 


 

 

The German Spy

The Assassin Comes
(four)

 

It amounts to when

No sacrifice without advantage

(mein Herr) as to chessmen

But players on the scene bump in

 

In her room, Krug diligent and dozy

…not allowing sleep

Lies still and lets the streetlamp

Inform him of her corners

Jewellery chest three dressing table drawers

The fourth is simply missing for a jest

He stares tries to fathom a map of this

When she snores

He creeps, and naked pads to feel behind the glass

All her things found in the pages of a bible

Many photographs of many men and third class menus

A lock of hair

A thin, thin chain of brass

Envy he feels most

Welling through a crust of abandonment

and helpless anger

An embarrassment of other selves

This woman Agnes sheltered under

She has pretended nothing

She and Atherleigh laughing

Their bitter gay insouciance of modern thought

To die with a brilliant flash as the setting sun

Teeth like a stream of mackerel clouds

Bared in a nihilistic grin

A boy in boarding school stowed

who may reared empty thus become

Another such as the whistling falcon

Stooping on

Atherleigh dead for the second time

His body arranged as a warning sign

The assassin comes

 

 


 

 

The German Spy

A Chain
(five)

 

A woman who has done no wrong in life

Leaves her front door

Leaves it to decide, as objects can

To click or slam…in its own good time

Skulduggery in mind

Discounting nursery crimes…her guvie’s frog

…indeed, to a helpless thing she’d once been cruel

Fiona feels a genuine sorrow

I ought to have kept well away from the pond

Let nature breed and sing and die

Unmolested by a spoiled child

 

She is on the sneak today

With Simon’s marble in her pocket

And down the drain she means to drop it

But he is dead long since and by rights

Simon must go away

No, dear, she tells him, under breath

I don’t, and I shan’t, and it’s all no use

Why stick at an argument neither of us can win?

She bends

A bobby bustles up. “Ah, madam. You are the one, I see. Lost this.”

He fists across a thin, thin chain of brass

On which a tiny pendant swings

One of those foolish things, a mustard seed, encased in glass

 

“Why,” she begins, and absent, then, “How kind…yes…thank you.”

Fiona Tattersby has faced down ghosts

And pitied them and mollified their torments

To say she dreads a thing, feels horror

She must be speaking of the tedious unbeliever

One query more from a sceptical reporter

But her eyes, darting in embarrassment

Had seen an invitation to the duel

 

 


 

 

The German Spy

Only One
(six)

 

The genius Falco has put his eye on a newish house of brick

Newish house with newish tile-capped wall, fatly hipped

Just under this, on the garden side, roses, that predictable

Middle-class person’s garish choice

A treacly morbid pink

Insistently like the vomitus of a suicide by poison

Bloody froth surrounded by a jaundiced glaze

He is nearly twitching with this restive scorn

Can it be…? The falcon doubts it much

And finds it plausible high places have sent down

A delaying order

He longs for them to find her

 

Perhaps the mistake had been the counterpane

The water low the weather sultry

The boatman poling past the culvert mouth

Well…does one report a dosser, sleeping rough?

He would not himself, this bird of prey

No reward

Worse when they find she’s dead

But he has done for Krug…unbidden

Old-fashioned service, if you like

He might do for this lot here

Most astonishing…so many accidents to cover up

The sting of ingratitude, he feels it

There is only one Falco, only one

Stop him if you can

 

 


 

 

The German Spy

Lonely in Its Reckoning
(seven)

 

Agnes justified on the day of her promotion

The old women to her sister’s marriage filing

The church gained down pitched channels

Mostly arid, stepped by feast and famine

Fiery sky…and flood

Fiery sky

And flood again    neighbours dressed in veils

Veils cindered hues of ash flow

Dressed in veils themselves    neighbours

Side-footing under eaves marked with the eye of fate

Wool-clad, clad in sombre wool, for the hills here made no yield

The hills here

Everywhere this island bone-rock splits at drives of deluge

Autumn rains

And the dear olive, the patient olive grows here

The patient olive tender cultivated grapes

Unmarried girls stole glances bending drawing water

Hand not stopping play over ropes so cautious

Of vanity and of the Watchful

And wondered…never voicing syllables in hearts

There, even, envy had its ears

Wondered if that face had beauty

Why sparrow, her mother said

Why you are not so ugly

Her spirit was the spark of a live coal

Porous grey and near to dying

On the day of her promotion

She’d at last been shown the game

but

These were not the days of the old women

Agnes had crossed the century

to the continent and the city

And the face, as the mundane Mr. Serna said

Became her passport

 

And the flesh, in a place of verdancy

Wants its own

There is a kind born to this

But the flesh, lonely in its reckoning

Lies not where Agnes is

 

 


 

 

The German Spy

Men (first)
(eight)

 

He said, ‘Smile, Agnes. Always smile.’

Serna the milliner dispassionately surgical

Limning his foundling’s looks

She’d felt safe, so ill-prepared in going out

Wounded and angry and oddly at home

In Marseille he was mother to her, telling her

‘Your brows are too low, you will pluck them.

I tell you how girls are.’ He bent at the vanity

Ushered her to the glass

Used a word to call, so he saw, the most of them

Meaning pretty-plain

‘A face with no nose, no eyes…’

She laughed. ‘There, now!’ He made her up.

‘But see what a hard little harpy you are!’

She’d bared her teeth, they’d laughed together

 

At customs sheds, beaming at guards

Agnes folds wings

And becomes a colt, told to stand aside somehow

Frisking in the way again

Playful snagging the hat from the box and cocking it

On the crown of her own

Gives a bob and turn to the man, waiting his

‘Do you model them, is that it?’ his wife asks. ‘Is it fun?’

‘Have you seen the new brim?’ Finger to her lips…

Serna laughs, and laughingly he says, ‘Agnes, I forbid you!’

She opens another box.

 

Two years, a river of banknotes flowing

The scorn of armed frontiers verboten

Agnes one night leaves a cab

Fog on a street in Naples    a hand

Weights the clasp of her bag

And draws her elbow slack

 

With a single guard in her compartment

She rides to meet a ferry

Moves at gun-point down a pier

His nudging hand at her back and the

Clock, clock of his heels

Are lost to mist and she feels herself retracing the path of Orpheus

Descending blind into Hades and no hope

Of dodging His thin, welcoming smile

 

 


 

 

The German Spy

Men (second)
(nine)

 

Some speak her language

She hears them on tiptoes

Speak the other side of glass and mesh

A harsh sea agate blue squints and growls at the sun

Of other sights to see none

She wishes they would speak of Agnes

These guardians

Share their gossip, marvel

If there is anything marvellous in her imprisonment

She came to Serna not strongly literate

Knowledge was to her the world away from home

Whatever might be in it

Perhaps in this the moral to the myth

Would you now not trade the world for a map?

Would you learn to speak English…can you do it?

To dos Santos she had frankly said, I barely read and write

He scratched his chin…no? Well, you may be trained

A man and woman came to force the daily drill

One American one British

Don’t sit there stupid, listen

Hours in the locked room

I go, I shall go, I have gone, I went

Why so? Why not?

I learn, I am learning, I will learn, I have learnt

 

Odd then, to know a foreign alphabet

And not her own

Odd to be free, and a wife (which she has never been)

A lecturer’s wife, young parvenue

Modelling a baroness’s parure

At a charitable afternoon

Charming little thing

Do you mind, dear…where are you from?

 

Then Lord Atherleigh

She has aimed at him the swirl of her skirt

The nape of her neck

A glance and a pinkening of cheeks

She can manage even that

I pity her, she hears one say

That man

He might be her grandfather

She makes her eyes wide and clear

Do you wonder I’ve been staring at you

So rude, I’m very sorry, but…

 

 


 

 

The German Spy

Plain and Ugly Terms
(ten)

 

Now I never smile

That, Fiona, brings the flicker of one your own

(I saw)

Ah—

But in plain and ugly terms…in simplicity, of course, why lie?

We are measuring ourselves as we are

Those mortal remains of mine stretch wide

Flesh devoured or dried, my death’s head grin…

I apologize

I must tell you where they are, these bones

Half mummified

Among the favours I will ask…

No.

You remember when Atherleigh surprised you

and me

Just there in the hall, letting it slip

You’d been fighting with Simon

Wennie was six, you hadn’t met him,

and you’d asked if the salmon was all right

With, as he said (afterwards) admirable aplomb

You spoke to me more kindly, I think, than you felt

Because you would not speak to him

What did we talk about?

 

Oh, my dear…I likely harped on the theme

of Tattersby failings, bred in the bone.

I said so. Nasty cat. I doubt it’s ever really true.

No, the cold mechanics

of decomposition won’t trouble me, to hear of

Very little does.

 

You want to know how he managed it.

Some chemical they kept that could explode

If touched by water

He had rigged a balloon inside another

And timed the acid’s work without the horrid third

Fifteen minutes, he’d gathered all the papers

To not be seen as Atherleigh leaving, dressed

in a groundsman’s gear

And the shock that they had found a body

I can now account for

The men who’d brought on Falco

Merely falsified the story

 

 


 

 

Older in Their Wisdom
(eleven)

 

Hearing, Falco would have said, or if insightful, so might say, a million other Falcos… Would have said, he means to say, it’s odd…more than you’d think. More odd, good sirs, more altogether. Yes, point of fact, done and said, there were plenty went deaf…lucky ones, lucky in their way. Most of us were not. But yet, you and the cannon could come to terms. Same as you and your nerves. They might well be married to each other, like that, the roar, and after, the ache. You had to get to where you could ignore that shrew, either road. Lovely old mums at home, doing without their butter, donating the family silver, knitting socks for Tommy. And we, drinking corpse water, creeping lower than poor Yorick…no joke about that. No, three nights left lonely, in a shell pit with a severed head, likely your last confessor, waiting death. And a thing your boots had come to rest on, saving you from suffocation, feeling like a pair of legs. These were my brothers, older in their wisdom.

 

Speak, at least, as my Livingstone.

Tell me what I may presume.

I am not a weak man, I doubt the trump of doom could shake me now.

 

I think of my son unhappy

I hadn’t made him understand

He sits on the foot of his school bed, without a friend.

Bearing along. His Mum will keep her promise.

By God, she will.

You are not a blood relative.

But go to see him, tell him, he’s to live with you

He is, Fiona?

 

We’d doubted Atherleigh. While allowances were made. Scientists are gifted men; it has been necessary all along, to work with the Germans. And the Germans are given to maintaining ties. Wherever you’ve got a Bavarian clockmaker, there’s an American uncle, a cousin on the rue Saint-Gilles. Britain, one does not really suspect otherwise, is riddled as an old tub. Too many resident foreigners of every type. That woman Agnes, brought in as another man’s wife. Dos Santos vanished…all planned for, of course. Calling himself Pelfrey, last photographed in Budapest. They’d set up housekeeping, produced a child. Having her under watch, nine years under watch, we’d marked his little ruse at once, almost infantile.

 

 


 

 Older in Their Wisdom: Eleventh German SpySee Folly page for full series

The story begins: Calmacott’s Brother

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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