Part 2 of a Dickensian style trilogy, The Rise and Fall of Donald Trumpet Esq.
Five generations of Thomas Wellspring’s family grew up on the shoreline of Failsafe . Wellsprings were fishermen, sailors and, for the last three generations since his grandfather, Benjamin, started his business, fishmongers. Indeed, until recent years, Wellspring’s Fishmongers and adjoining Cafe were not only the leading fish merchant in the town, they were the measure of all that was good, fresh and fishy in Failsafe.
‘Times change,’ his father said to him and to hear him say that, he who was once so proud of the family’s standing, took the wind from his sails and left him languish in doldrums, until, of course, his ageing grandfather, puffing furiously on his cob pipe, spluttered, ‘Bilge Water,’ before doubling over at the dinner table with a fit of coughing and then, recovering after a thirsty draught from his freshly charged schooner of sherry, ‘it grieves me to hear a tadpole speak,’ he said, casting a bitter and withering look at his only son, Thomas Senior, ‘it’s time that hairless peacock, Trumpet, was put back in his box. I’d fillet him for chum, I would, were I ten years younger.’
The affairs of the town’s Alderman and merchant tycoon, Donald Trumpet often arose over Sunday dinner in the Wellspring household and when they did, the women of the household, spotting Trumpet clouds on the horizon, withdrew to safer shores and the drawing room and left the men of the house to weather that storm together. Yes, a chat on the topic of Trumpet was always more than a squall and more frequently, a tempest.
In the five years since Michael, the junior, although head of the household and commander in chief of the good ship, Wellspring and all that sailed in her, returned from seafaring and took over control of the family business interests from his ailing father, the affairs and machinations of Alderman Donald Trumpet often clashed with their own and so were discussed and cogitated upon in some detail and no little agitation.
The topic of discussion today was Alderman Trumpet’s proposal to change the town’s name to Trumpet Cove, the latest manifestation in an ever lengthening list of the pompadoured poltroon’s forays into self aggrandizement. Many of these – like the statue of himself erected on the city’s dockside but beside the town’s wildest cathouse – were the source of much mirth and ridicule but others, like the banning of migrant workers, once the stalwart of the town’s seasonal trade, but now replaced by Trumpet’s own immigrants, for whom he’d wrangled legal papers and enfranchisement, thus swelling his own electoral support, were unsettling indications of his future intentions.
Everyone knew he was a bigger crook than his predecessor, Alderman Crook, but did or said nothing. They’d watched as many of the town’s most respected families fell on hard times and then their businesses and properties sequestered but, while some grumbled, nothing was done. began by acquiring a couple of street stalls, now he controlled the supply of mussels, clams and cockles and by buying out three of the Wellspring’s competitors and consolidating, become the single biggest fishmonger in the town.
But now his proposal to rename the town and, in the process, own the town, since the privilege to use his name was contingent with a new name tax on every citizen; every duty or licence paid and every permit granted by the town’s council, the numbers of which had multiplied since Trumpet’s election to the town council.
There are days when the sun shines and casts a sheen over Failsafe harbour, a balmy sea breeze wafts a sea scented freshness over the town and its people, then God’s in his Heaven and all is well with the world. Well, so it was for Alderman Donald Trumpet as he watched a team of city workers wash and shine his statue, divesting it of the coat of guano it attracts with worrying frequency.
Sitting at a terrace table of his own,happily sun drenched, dockside cafe, the Alderman felt the sun shone on him alone and anyone else who felt it, did so by his grace. So the sight of a liveried carriage and its passenger, a lady of such elegance and beauty, her pulchritude was so dazzling as to turn heads and put this summer’s day’s sunshine in the shade, well, his attention was instantly diverted.
Unheeding of the attention, the lady, dressed in a fashionably cut outfit of the finest cream silk, alighted, assisted by her liveried driver and strode with assurance up the steps to the door of La Confiture, an elegant Georgian building and the town’s biggest, best known and notorious bawdy house.
Donald Trumpet sat staring, mouth agape. Paying little or no attention to her destination, he turned to Bench, Crook’s old retainer and now his manservant, standing, attentive, two feet behind him, ‘Who is that?’ he asked, ‘find out who she is.’ he flicked his hand dismissively and Bench slid out of his view.
If he had been paying attention to her destination, La Confiture, he might’ve seen the resemblance between her and its recently deceased owner, the improbably named Madame Blanche Fontaine. But since his only contact with the town’s Madame was in his contentious efforts to shut her down, they’d never met and he was certainly no customer of her establishment. No, his efforts to shut her down were related to the success of her business and how much he wished to get hold and control of it. When she died, less than four days before, of apoplexy, he was hardly surprised, since it was he who issued the warrant to shut her down along with the well upholstered bill to cover the cost of doing so.
Donald Trumpet made a decision. He rose and strode from his sun soaked cafe terrace and strode down the street, confident, entitled. She would be his wife, the perfect complement to his own perfection.
‘He’s what? Challenging me, my council seat, Wellspring? How dare he?’
Bench often wondered why he’d accepted the position as the Alderman’s assistant and general factotum. He hated Trumpet ten times more than he ever hated Crook and he hated Crook so much he never washed in the hope that Crook might notice and send him on his way.
Donald Trumpet felt set upon. Bench returned with news that shook him to his foundations. First, he told him the vision in cream was Miss Fifi Fontaine, the Parisian courtesan and royal concubine and grandniece and sole heir of his deceased business rival, Madame Blanche. Second, because the good townsfolk of Failsafe had thrown up someone for the role of his political opponent and nemesis, Thomas Wellspring II.
CATCH UP: Read Trumpet’s Triumph, Part I of this Dickensian trilogy