The Folly: second arc

 

Wake is a lonely outsider, who belongs nowhere; a man who feels himself entitled to royal respect; feels at the same time that he is particularly singled out for scorn. His deep broodings on the female sex have led him to an obsessive quest, to know, in the liveliest way, what a woman is. It is 1884, and as of yet, the maddest of murder sprees remains unthought of. All this converges, and Wake…but not Wake alone…pays the price.

 


 

Wake tries himself in a bonnet and lady's jacket

The Regent’s Bastard’s Grandson
(one)

 

And what do they keep in their reticules

It has been his job to make them give these over

This post a vulgar letdown, but Wake earns enough

To keep the rent up

While these holiday-makers, these thieves of the Queen’s revenue

These women

Sneer…they sneer behind a pretense of anxiety

Wake is the scion of royalty

Goes to show

He bends, hands clasped at his back, and circles

Gives, does he suspect, a bustle stuffed with Turkish

A smack

She shrieks

“No, madam, I won’t touch you…needn’t worry”

He says it stiffly, mumbles

Makes a point, before their eyes, of going in

To the elbow, plumping up the linings

Of their trunks

 

Well, we all know bloody Wake, the Bristol Ripper

No one wants him

 

Not so! Not so…ha! You know me, sir

Try to trap me

But I’ve seen things…and yes, who won’t like to know?

 

Then, do you suppose, the guest says, sotto voce, to the host

He’ll have gone, by tomorrow evening’s summoning?

He won’t, the girl Celt guiding them advises

Old Wake is next in line, and so the matter rests

His is a soul maligned, he has the right

To speak his piece

 

 

wake views himself in the looking glass

Bon Marché
(two)

 

What makes a thing grow to a torment

Not a thing, Wake tells himself. He has fallen prey

The succubus has dealt him night for day.

The Queen’s road constable falls in beside him.

“Fine evening, sir.”

“How,” says Wake, rigid, and refusing to eye him,

“may I be of assistance to you?”

“Pleasant, I always find it, walking. You’ll suppose

I don’t see much of interest, along this way. No, I’ll say it’s quiet.

Wintertimes we get some thefts. Boots, they steal. Coal

now and then. You, Mr. Wake,” he adds, as Wake

thrusts hands in coat pockets, his gait become a stride,

“see some thieving in your line. Much the same thing,

smuggling.”

“I’ve been heard to say so. Shall we part company, constable?

Or have you shopping of your own to do?”

Night for day, yes, pain for pleasure. Antic thoughts for lonely hours.

And yes, he has been noticed pilfering—

or this clumsy interview would not have been.

 

When dark falls, and sea-born fog rolls up the Avon

Wake, standing suspense no more, pulls her feathered bonnet on

Who she is, this swart female whose face needs powdering

He hasn’t in full decided. He awaits a sign.

 

 

Surgeon to the Bowfin
(three)

 

“I am a respectable woman. Inspector, I still feel

myself at sixes and sevens. I believe I took the greater

shock today.”

“Now, ma’am. I hope you’ve thought of it—

The assailant could well have cast aside those letters.”

She tells him she accepts it may be fancy. Yes, there

are Good Samaritans in the world. It is only in her heart

she feels his hand must be—

“But…why do I say he? I’ve told you though,

the assailant…as you put it…” She sips her tea

“Was rather queer. I swear I know it, sir…he looked them over.

Then posted them for spite.”

Inspector Samuels sighs. She’ll say her piece twice more.

So he expects. Respectable madam leaves her train.

She is in a temper.

“Yes, the usual incompetence. Making some delay.”

And finds herself sister to a low, dishonoured jade.

He has in mind a figure…a man he might name Wake.

But as the superintendent has already put a second P.C. on,

he’ll hold off speaking to the neighbours. Samuels

distrusts the public taste, for making pickpocketing

Turn murder. Keep the poor blighter safe.

 

I couldn’t keep the fellow from sidling up

He’d taken lodgings in my house, this Howitt

Surgeon to the Bowfin, she

Having her barnacles scraped in dry dock

“I’ve been three times round the world, Wake.

I can tell you a thing or two. There are islands in the Indies…

I mean the Dutch Indies…where it’s nothing to see a chap

Tog himself in skirts. Very true

that travel makes one see men as they are.

You’ll consider me a confidante, I hope.”

 

 

Confidante
Confidante
(four)

 

Travel, if that were the cause of it

A career of amputating limbs…a bent

Towards a ruthless, curious, yearning to experiment

Perhaps an inclination when he spoke

Of all humanity’s being one

To place himself outside of it

Howitt, the only friend I’d known

 

Wake’s voice dies at this.

 

A breath of sound

After a silence stirs the candle flame. I might believe

that in his voyages he’d run afoul,

that in some demon-haunted cave of the Malay,

had left his soul behind

This Howitt seen, the very appetite of evil

Clothed in flesh

An apparition.

I did not feel it then.

 

“Wake, catch that animal!”

I had got a habit of obeying him.

The stalls were shuttered yet these

Spits and moanings of the matted, bony

Crook-tailed pusses of the lanes and alleys

Came nightly to our ears. Some tender pity as though I

Once had loved, slackened this time, my grip, and Howitt told me,

“Never mind.”

But he’d a thing he’d meant to say.

“You’ll be surprised, Wake, seeing this for yourself, one day.

How the force of life,

Resists extinguishing. Say I’d cut you open…

How long might you live, do you suppose, each nerve

Being severed from the spine, one by one?”

 

truth for the victim liddie watts of wake series

 

Truth for the Victim
(five)

 

Wake has become lost

Three summonings have failed to raise him

 

“But,” M. de Clieux says, “the case is odd. This woman,

…like them all,” he laughs, “confuses me.

What is the dénouement?”

To the expert (that nobleman from Rennes)

in dead languages, the guest nods. “That we have yet to learn.

Some private notes of Mr. Samuels were found

Hid in the cabinet of a county magistrate…for what it’s worth,

your host,” he adds, “is author of the pamphlet.

That account, I mean, of the buried crime in Bristol.

Published 1912.”

“Yes.” The host supplies an unforthcoming smile.

For modesty, or that he finds it irritating still.

“Crothers wanted a full retelling…and I deem murder,

as a subject, uncompelling.”

“Yet I suppose the Whitechapel victims will always be of interest.”

 

Souls in purgatory, or in limbo, as with other party guests,

Find the thrilling controversy cannot go unaddressed.

 

The voice that emerges from the chatter is a woman’s

She is not the Celt

She is not Wake’s other self, as de Clieux had doubted she might be

“In a sort of way—Wake will tell you this as well—he and I

Have long been married.”

She…you do not know her name…she has one.

She patches a living for herself, as best she can.

Fear she can’t afford, that too, is for the well-to-do

All smiling men are equal in her sight, no chore demeans her

If it gets her lodging for the night

 

One in a cell weaves his tale of revenge

One eyeless corpse washed ashore from a wreck

One only known by an arm and a leg

One with a gun by himself in the woods

One gazes last on a view from a cliff

One bit by bit freezes stiff on the street

One in delirium strangles in bed

Dead, in their hundreds, without law or forgiveness

Will you demand it then

Truth for the victim

 

inspector samuels each nerve seventh wake folly series

Each Nerve
(six)

 

She sails, within a fortnight, the Bowfin

Wake, relieved, or like a living man

Entombed, soon, shall heft aside the grinding lid

And breathe

He cannot whisper his secret heart to Howitt

As a maiden sister might…though his friend invites it

Howitt’s intimacy with vein and sinew

Has gifted him, almost, with second sight

And Wake’s own private thoughts disgust him

Shown him in this light

 

I feel I have gone wrong, sir. It was a fiendish business, and I belive the spectacle, the room, affected me. I ought not to have let it, you will say. I had thought of a trial, of Wake’s ancestry, the London press, the hideous publicity. And you know, I was rather ashamed of myself at the time, feeling for him that pity. He seemed to me quite sane—haughty, if you want to know the truth. Insisted on his innocence, yet offered nothing in his own defense.

 

It is mid-afternoon

An hour of the day when solacing strangers

Still will walk, and steps remain unshadowed

Even one whose fingers tremble

At the fear of some surprise

Turns the latchkey, pats the owner’s spaniel

And for that moment, exhales a sigh

He climbs

Wake smells a thing his mind can’t wholly recognize

Blood in such redolent quantity

What he sees

Parts of her are set about

He is not Howitt and can’t name them

Her spine is flayed, her eyes

Glassy, not dead, catch his, and he takes this in

The depth to which his struggle

Has resolved itself

His hands move of their own whim

And helplessly

He knows of nothing he can do to help

 

The Depth

 

The Depth
(seven)

 

It was Farringate, the city magistrate, who’d thought of his old colleague, Mr. Moss. Wake had come along (by private car) docilely enough. We shut hm in a room, there, at Abbothurst Farm. I think it is nothing—that is, I do not find it sinister—that your uncle’s house has since burnt down. I told Wake I thought he must know what to do. And he’d said to me, though reluctant, I believe, “Yes, likely I will.” Last of all he said, “You’ll be careful, sir, of that man Howitt.”

 

I am in an attic, a low, chill chamber

Smelling of linens, wax, and dust

Samuels has placed a vial

With a plink of glass his fingers snuffs

Next the basin…shall I fill it?

And taking poison, wash my hands?

 

His hands betray a season come too late

I gave my soul to him a moment after

This, Wake, is what you never knew and hoped to fathom

He starts, and drops the victim’s head

That he had pressed his eyes to

The voice is Howitt’s

“Yes, constable, very true. An old woman’s dream,

and her day help gone missing. Hysteria. The girl will turn up.”

Howitt seems to think of things. He chuckles,

and this rattling, lacking mirth, ascends the stairs.

“You’ll see.”

 

Wake sees his half-closed door begin to swing.

 

She Foundered

 

She Foundered
(eight)

 

So it may have been, that the sinking of the Bowfin

Reported late, this news carried home

By the merchantman Ceylon, in ’87, the year of the hurricane—

Some said the men were mostly saved

Taken up

By the hundred boats of the pearl fleet—

Ended Mr. Samuels’s part, no guilt attaching

Unable to find proof, did Howitt live

Did Howitt walk

A particular London street

He rabbits round the circumstance

Circumstance, the inspector’s word

For Annie Chapman’s mauling

 

But you see, Moss, what I’d done was in pursuit of right. I am not the author of this method, and it has been used. Yes, when it all began, I’d thought they’d got it wrong about the stabbings—the ordinary knife violence, I’d have said, of a poor district. They’d lead themselves astray, the metropolitan police, putting stock in propinquity, and never gather proper evidence. The first day of October, I’d learned there’d been a third found in the same circumstance (as the others like my own). And to think we’d made a careful photograph of Wake in his coffin; before we’d allowed his step-father to remove him. In the event, you understand, of some new transgression’s coming to light. Howitt was not a physician, of course. But yet, the prussic acid was his supplying. He kept a number of things, in his shipboard surgery. I had nothing to give Sir Charles but my recollection of his face.

 

“Liddie, sir,” she says, “née Watts. That was it, my name.”

De Clieux rises from his chair and bows.

“By God,” the host murmurs, “I wonder.

Can it be he is living still, the creature?”

“It would be worthwhile…”

The guest slides the paper knife across a fingertip.

“…to beat the old boy out of cover.”

 


 

Continue to Tattersby

Calmacott’s Brother

The Folly

 

 

 

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