part 3 of The Rise & Fall of Donald Trumpet Esq.
Jack Connell had everything stacked against him; an Irish born Romany migrant worker, married to Consuela, a Spanish Romany woman. He worked for Trumpet Fisheries and eked a miserable life out of digging razor fish and clams from the shallow salt marshes on the edge of Trumpet Cove. Jack and their three children lived in a rundown, cramped cottage, near the marshes, rented from Trumpet Properties.
Every day in Trumpet Cove, Jack felt, was another nail in his coffin. He longed for the road but Consuela tired of it. When she first became pregnant after meeting Jack while the two of them dug clams five years before, she persuaded him to settle there for the birth of their son. So he waved goodbye to his own family and she, to hers, as they uprooted their carriages, tethered their horses and hit the road.
After the first year, they returned but there was less work and, what there was, paid less. All of this came about because of their employer, Donald Trumpet, who had persuaded some, like Jack and Consuela, to stay in his employ. Migrant workers earned less than their town born workers, born of generations of families who made their living from the salt marshes.
Now, five years later, the Romanies never came because the work was not there and the town born clammers were shut out. Trumpet owned the fisheries, the land around the salt marshes and the workers who toiled for him every day.
For all that, Jack enjoyed himself. Living by the marsh kept them from the suffocating confinement of living in a town.Their little cottage, for all its faults in construction, lay in a beautiful spot, indeed, by many’s estimation, the finest spot in the Cove. He loved his little family, two boys and a girl and his beautiful wife, Consuela. He didn’t mind working for Trumpet, so long as they were left to their own devices. Of course, he knew the wages were scandalously low and whatever they did earn was taken away as quickly in rent and provisions.
He earned a little on the side, line fishing at the shoreline and kept a few lobster pots he built himself off a small cove south of the town.
The trouble started when Trumpet banned migrant workers because he arranged for all his regular workers, former migrants, to get tenancy and work permits while migrants, like the Romanies who gathered here every year, were excluded. Trumpet’s lackey, Bench, took great delight in telling him, while he was Irish and in no need of a permit, his wife, Consuela was a foreigner and born of a migrant family and would therefore be excluded from working. Furthermore, he told him, she was no longer eligible to domicile on Mr Trumpet’s property.
So, the Connells were given notice of eviction, two weeks hence and just the time Donald Trumpet had contracted surveyors, wreckers and builders to descend on the property to raze it to the ground and begin work on the future Trumpet family home for himself, his intended, Mademoiselle Fifi Fontaine and their family.
Of course, it hadn’t occurred to Trumpet to inform his intended of his plans, nor, indeed, his intentions. Nor had it occurred to him to look into the legality of shifting a sitting tenant without cause.
Bench, on the other hand, saw Trumpet’s intentions and Connell’s bad luck as an opportunity from providence, a blessing bestowed and a chance, at last, to put a spoke in Trumpet’s dander, a sour note in his tune and a halt to his march, the thieving upstart.
Mortimer Bench was proud of his family though, through misadventure, they’d fallen on bad times. The Benches were an old family in Failsafe – he refused to call the town Trumpet Cove, even if he was, by circumstance, obliged to pay the odious ‘Trumpet Tax’ – a Bench was among the town’s founding fathers and for many generations, filled the spot of local magistrate.
Mortimer, unfortunately, lost his family fortune. With his father’s premature death, Mortimer was obliged to return from the Law Inns to take up the reins of the family business, of auctioneers, valuers, estate agents and undertakers. He was then a teenager, on the eve of his twentieth year, in the throes of doing what young apprenticed law students do, get drunk, carouse and spend money, gambling.
Thrust into an apparently thriving family concern with full control of the coffers, then brimming, he proceeded to spend and fritter them away until, outfoxed and swindled in a property deal engineered by the late Alderman Sylvester Crook, he lost everything, house and home, his poor mother consigned to the Poor House and he condemned to a life of servitude to the odious Crook.
Bench spent some time explaining his rights to Jack Connell, after he gave him Trumpet’s notice to quit, explaining to him how he qualified as a sitting tenant who, so long as he could pay rent, may not be obliged to vacate his home unless by mutual agreement between tenant and landlord. Furthermore, since Consuela, his wife, was married to him, Jack, considered a citizen and their children all born in the town, Trumpet’s claim regarding his wife’s entitlement were void, even by his own definition.
But Bench had further news for Connell and this was regarding the lucrative foreshore clam grounds in the salt marshes.
Mademoiselle Fifi Fontaine was grateful, marginally delighted and more than a little confused to receive not just one, but five bouquets of the reddest and pinkest English roses she had ever seen, delivered to her door, not just in one day, but ever.
Fifi Fontaine was always taught to be wary of people who try too hard. No-one ever explained why but when she saw the flowers, she believed she knew. The last bouquet carried a card with an invitation to dinner.
She hadn’t travelled to Failsafe, – or is it Trumpet Cove, she wondered? – to socialise. She came to bury her Grande Tante Blanche, sell her business and return to France but her departure was delayed by endless bureaucratic complications. Her aunt was a wealthy woman who ran a thriving business, surely, she thought, there should be no problem disposing of such an enterprise?
But no, first there were problems regarding the property deeds and then more regarding her aunt’s own identity papers and whether she had the necessary documents to own a business, let alone sell one. This went on and on. So she engaged Mrs Mayfly, a comely lady who had been in the employ of her aunt as a private housekeeper, to re-open and operate the business for her. We might as well make money while we try to sell the place, she thought, there was always a need for a house of leisure.
When the last bouquet arrived she enquired of Mrs Mayfly who the sender was and when Mrs Mayfly explained her curiosity was aroused.
‘C’est le meme Trumpet who hastened mon Grande Tante Blanche to her grave?’, she asked, unaware she’d lapsed into her native tongue, such was her agitation.
‘Oui, Madame,’ answered Mrs Mayfly, even though she’d never spoken a word of French in her life but she got the gist from the young Madame’s disposition and the bill from the Town Council, signed by Alderman Trumpet, she clutched and waved in her hand. It was the same bill that had to be prised from Madame Blanche’s cold fist, when her body was discovered.
‘I wish to send a telegram,’ Mademoiselle Fifi said as she dipped a quill in the ink pot and scribbled, with a fury, on a notepad. Mrs Mayfly took the folded note, saying she would have an undermaid deliver it, post haste.
‘Non,’ Mademoiselle Fifi said, ‘you will deliver it yourself, maintenant.’
Mrs Mayfly, her understanding of French exhausted, looked blankly at her young mistress.
Mrs Mayfly needed no further explanation. She scurried out of the room at a pace that belied her age and her portly demeanour. Anything to get out of the room, she thought and the fiery gaze of her young mistress.