If you listened to the gossip whispered behind fluttering fans, you’d be convinced that Yale Belom was a philanderer of some standing. Yet between ourselves, a more loyal family man never drew breath. Yes he had his weakness, but his was more that he tended to say what seemed good at the time.
He had at one point described himself as a poet. The cruel might say that it was a stage he was going through; but I think that would be too unkind. To declare yourself a poet is to lay claim to an honourable estate. I almost remember one of his poems. It was short and called ‘The Artisan’s Lament.’ With the passing of years all I can remember is that he managed to produce a complex internal rhyming scheme which rhymed ballcock, stopcock, buttock, pillock and instruct, in a poem barely two lines long. I know at the time it was regarded as something of a triumph, if only because everybody pooh-poohed it and then tried to produce their own feeble imitations.
This was Yale’s apotheosis as a poet. A couple of weeks later a number of us were in celebratory mood and had decided to have a few drinks. One thing led to another, in the way these things do. When the watch finally arrested us, Lancet Foredeck was wearing only a lady’s petticoat, while Yale was attempting to drown a horse-trough which he insisted had offered him a grave insult.
Next morning we were charged with various petty offences and of course the charge-sheet had to be filled in. I gave my profession as that of poet. So did Lancet. But when he did so the sergeant muttered about a surfeit of poets and how the magistrate was likely to deal with them most severely. Immediately Yale gave his profession as dancing master.
Now again the cruel have pointed out that in all candour he was as well qualified to do business as a dancing master as he was to practice as a poet. Alas it is not entirely untrue. But still, having received a somewhat lesser penalty than Lancet and myself, Yale felt that he was honour bound to teach people to dance.
Now obviously he could dance, but he lacked the natural sense of rhythm that a great dancer (or poet) needs. To be candid he was frankly pedestrian. Still there was a glimmer of hope. For the previous year and a half he had been courting assiduously a young lady who was a fine dancer. Indeed it was she who had worked so hard to improve his dancing, if only as a form of self defence.
Yale started a dancing school. This went better than we all expected. He is a genuinely pleasant fellow, people are instinctively drawn to him, and he got quite a lot of pupils of all ages. But how to teach them?
Here he had another brainwave. He pointed out that to dance as divinely as he did demanded physical fitness. It was, he proclaimed, positively dangerous for the stiff and portly to rush into attempting to dance with him. He had his pupils doing basic exercises and stretches. So when the young lady of his dreams dropped in ‘as if by chance’ to see exactly what he was getting up to, she found row after row of matrons apparently attempting to stick their big toe in their ear. Yale was walking between them, encouraging them with the immortal words, “Well if a dog can do it, how difficult can it be?”
When the class was dismissed, Yale took a reckless financial gamble and blew his life savings on taking her out for lunch. During lunch he proposed and when she agreed he went into debt to buy a ring. Two days latter, as man and wife they returned to the dance class and Yale continued to supervise the exercise classes while Jelina, his lady wife, started teaching those pupils who had reached a basic level of fitness how to dance.
To be fair it worked well, but some of the pupils would wonder why Yale didn’t teach dancing. After all, he founded the school and had brought somebody else in to assist him with the teaching. The assumption had to be that he was the better dancer and had brought her in to lend a hand with the less capable pupils. To be fair to Yale, he hadn’t so much as hinted at this; his pupils had come up with the idea entirely on their own.
So it was inevitable that some of them would raise the topic with him. It was equally inevitable that Yale wouldn’t even have considered the matter and therefore gave the first answer that came into his head.
He bowed, “Madam, I daren’t. Unfortunately I have reached a plane in my dancing where my partner is often overwhelmed with passion. Having to cope with such lusts and sensations as are inadvertently unleashed is something that I as a married man cannot even begin to contemplate.”
Now obviously he hoped that the matter would end there, but not a bit of it. If anything it made some of the ladies even more determined to dance with him. He fell back on the obvious. “Madam, my wife doesn’t approve.” Often followed by, “No I’m afraid I cannot give ‘private lessons’ at home.”
Yet as time went by I would hear rumours circulating. Ladies would hint to others that they had been graced with a ‘private lesson’ and a delicate raising of the eyes or fluttering of the finger tips would tell of the unbelievable pleasures available for those so blessed.
I was surprised the first time I heard this, but eventually realised that Yale had a cast iron alibi for each of these occasions. Normally they happened when he was at home with his wife and growing family. In fact outside lessons you rarely saw Yale unless he was chaperoned by Jelina or one of their charming daughters. But still the rumours circulated.
Indeed I began to suspect that when trade flagged a little, Jelina would start the rumours circulating again.
Should you wish to learn more of life in Port Naain
As a reviewer commented, “Another great collection of short stories about Port Naain poet Tallis Steelyard. This is the second collection I’ve read, and I enjoyed it as much as the first one – if not more so.
The individual stories are amusing, and a little quirky, and well suited for a quick read to disconnect from reality after a long day.