Ghosts of Baskerbeagle Hall .

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Ghosts of Baskerbeagle Hall .

Post by ROLCAM »

Ghosts of Baskerbeagle Hall

by Bruce Cornely (as told by Chumley the Beagle)

It was a dark and stormy night . . .

(well, it WAAAAAS!!....) hee hee ... snrk snrk!

(as I was saying... harrrummmph... ahem, ahem...) ... the wind was howling around the windows in the library, but not as good as we howl . The doors to the terrace were rattling and shaking as though the Evil Dorf (wicked rabbit extraordinaire) was throwing his furry girth against them. In spite of all of the commotion outside, the fire in the hearth darted cheerfully around the pile of logs, oblivious to the sinister goings-on outside.
The Baskerbeagles rested peacefully, although not particularly quietly, in front of the warm fire. The steady rumble of snoring vied with the thunder for dramatic impact. Their backs were warmed by the fire and the only movement was the occasional dream-run or slapping tail on the fuzzy oriental rug. It seemed as though nothing could disturb their deep sleep.
Miles (the hoomin) was in his big, leather lounge chair with his feet propped up on the ottoman. He was all snuggled in, reading about the exploits of sinister creatures that lurked in court rooms and barked at juries.
Everyone was asleep... but ME! Chumley the beagle, that is! I decided to go exploring around the Baskervilla to see if I could open some of those doors which probably hid great toy wonders and rooms full of treats at the top of the stairs. Exploring alone is so much fun and that’s what I would be doing if I hadn’t stepped on Claxton’s head as I tried to sneak out of the pile of snoozers. He woke and started to bark, but I gave him THE LOOK that I had seen so often on Miles’ face (for some reason he does it to me alot!). Claxton is appropriately named after the company that makes fruitcakes -- you do the math!!
Being even more careful (so as not to wake anyone else) I very carefully stepped over Merlot (named for his reddish color) and Penny, moving away from the snoozers on the hearth rug. Moving in my best stealth mode, I was (if you’ll pardon the expression) quite c*t-like in my movements. I did notice the clicking sound of toenails on wood and thought for a moment that I probably shouldn’t make quite such as fuss when Miles tried to do the clip thing on my paws. But then, I do have to keep him “in line,” as our hunting forebeagles say; and, besides that, it’s so much fun to scare the hooey out of ‘em when I do my wounded coyote impersonation. I love drama!! snrk snrk
As I reached the large door, relieved that it was open a crack, I looked back over my shoulder at Miles to be sure he was not disturbed. I didn’t want any distractions until my hunt was over. He didn’t seem to notice, but I did catch a tiny lock-stare which told me he knew what I was up to, but was not going to stifle my adventuresome spirit. Looking farther around, there was Claxton happily bouncing along behind me in his cheeriest, non-stealth mode. I really don’t know if he’s happy or just unaware!! sheesh!
Aaaaaanyway..... using my very talented nose and my front paws, I opened the door enough to allow my very trim body to pass into the dark hallway. The grunting and clawing behind me let me know that Claxton, too, had made his escape from the library. The only light in the hallway came from the old ship’s running lights on the walls.... green on one side and red on the other. I don’t know what it means, but it must be special because Miles gets his “I am so clever I can’t stand it” look when visitors mention how interesting the lighting is. It really is kinda neat, especially on night’s like this one and, of course, (since I’m a beagle) it doesn’t matter! snrk snrk
With Claxton on my heels, I reached the great staircase in the front hallway. The dark wood of the stairs rose step by step by step up into the foreboding darkness of the second floor. No one had been up there since the storm started so there were no lights to guide us. It would be just us and our noses, ears, and trusty night vision. Great care would be needed in our maneuvers through this vast darkness which made everything look larger and more threatening. Of course, as soon as this warning entered my mind, ole carefree Claxton went bounding up the stairs taking them two at a time. (sigh) So much for caution and care. I don’t know what Claxton is missing, but it sure must be nice not to have one!
I took off after Claxton and caught up with him at the very top of the stairs. The upper hallway is identical to the lower one with the rooms on each side, just as it is downstairs. Dim, gray light shown beyond the upper terrace doors, but did not seem to make it into the hallway. It seemed to be a very sinister picture painted on the far wall. The only sound and movement other than us was the rain against the glass in the windows and doors. Claxton veered to one side to track a scent, but it didn’t excite him so it must have been old... probably the Evil Dorf’s path on his last intrusion. grrrrrrrrr DORF!! After considerable sniffing and snorting, Claxton lost interest in whatever it was and directed his attention to the view over the upper terrace.
Claxton sat very attentively with this nose pressed against the cold window glass, as though trying to smell through it. As he tried harder to capture a scent, his nose would draw in as much scent as possible and then emit a desperate exhaust, resulting in what Cecile, the housekeeper, called “snot angels”on the window glass. They were quite decorative, as “accidents” go. snrk snrk I edged up next to Claxton, hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder, and joined in concentrating on the mysteries of the view.
Far in the distance peeking over the swaying treetops was the lighthouse with its warning beacon slicing through the darkness to warn seafarers of the dangerous shoals and reefs near the coast. The light brought comfort to those at sea and to us, as well, since the light was a reminder that Snuffer and her Keeper were minding the light and keeping watch. As the yellow blade of light cut through the darkness the tree tops turned gold and silver. The shining shaft of light was also reflected in the puddles of the upper terrace, but the light was too high to offer any assistance in the dark hallway.
But enough of the scenery! It was time to do some serious exploration. As I got up I made sure to give Claxton a good nudge with my hindquarters... (they’re not only decorative, but work well as weapons, too!). Claxton withdrew from his window position and followed me into the large bed chamber. It was the hoomin’s favorite one and we often cuddled up in the well stuffed bedding when we slept upstairs, mostly in warmer weather. The hangings were pulled back from the terrace doors but the room was still very dim. Claxton took one side of the room and I the other and we began our search for excitement. Except for a few snorts, however, this was evidently not going to be where we struck the night’s lode. (sigh... bummmer!)
After tracking the large bedchamber we met at the doorway and made our way back into the upper hall. It was a little darker and much quieter, even though the wind and rain continued their attack on the walls of the old house. We turned away from the terrace doors and headed for the front of the hallway, passing the stairs with a cautionary glance. At the front window was a reading niche with some great snoozing chairs and potted plants for bone hiding. On each side of the hall was a doorway, one leading to the front parlor and the other to the bedroom where the “weeping widow” was seen. The weeping widow was the wife of the sea captain who built the house many years ago. He and his afghan hound, Schooner, had been lost at sea and, when his ship had been found among the rocks, the widow had turned her back on the sea, moving all activity in the upper levels to the west side of the house, looking away from the water. It was said that the last time the housekeeper saw the widow she was sitting in her rocking chair holding her hoomin pup, weeping over the loss of the Captain. In the morning when the housekeeper returned to bring the mistress her tea, the widow and hoomin pup had vanished, leaving only a quilt that the widow had been making for the Captain. The widow was never heard from again except on those very stormy nights when, among the sounds of wind and rain, weeping could be heard coming from the upper west bedchamber.
Tonight we heard no weeping, but there was a squeaking sound coming from the room. I heard it first, but Claxton was forewarned when he saw my ears twitching to get a better fix on the sound. We carefully poked our noses into the darkness of the bedchamber. Then, when there was no apparent consequence, we ventured farther into the room. The sight was peaceful but shocking at the same time. The rhythmic squeaks came each time the rocking chair reached it’s full backward movement; the chair would silently, slowly rock forward, then back again until the groan of the floor boards or the rockers signaled the end of the journey. It was difficult to tell just “what” was groaning. But looking closer we could see the outline of a shadowy figure sitting in the chair. Not the weeping widow, though. This was a large figure with long hair, and the straight line of a beard interrupted only by a nose and the pipe protruding from his mouth. His clothes appeared wet, but there was no puddle around the chair. One large hand seemed to be holding something beneath it with the other hand resting on his knee.
I looked over at Claxton who was looking at me. His expression was a cross between fear and imminent laughter. Claxton always got giddy before he got scared.... silly dawg. But he was still undecided and, fortunately, silent.
Stretching myself to my greatest extension, I tried to peer into the Captain’s lap so see what he was holding. As though it knew of my curiosity, a head seemed to float upward from the Captain’s hand. The higher it got, the bigger my eyes got... and I’m sure they were about to explode when I realized that the head was attached to a body (whew!) covered with long, silky hair. The head had a long nose and eyes as gentle as a ghost could have, and long ears covered with the silky hair.
“Whoa! Baby!” I thought. “This must be Schooner, the Captain‘s hound.”
As though confirming my thought, the large afghan slipped from under the Captain’s hand and jumped to the floor. It wasn’t really a jump, though. Schooner seemed to float from the rocking chair to hovering a few inches above the floor. He shook, beginning with his head and continuing, doggy style, to his tail. His silky hair moved with an incredible billowing motion as if being blown by a strong wind from below.
Schooner raised his regal head and sniffed the air, first looking at me and then at Claxton. His eyes showed recognition and then a surprising warmth. Moving his long legs in an almost swimming motion, Schooner moved between us with a movement that said, “follow me.” In a small doggie parade we followed Schooner across the hall and into the upper parlor, navigating around the various pieces of ancient furniture to the far corner where there was a small door. The door looked as though it had once been on an old ship and even had a sign on it with olde English letters, “Captain.”
With a nod of his head, Schooner caused the door to open. Claxton looked at me with eyes that said, “keeeeeeeeeeeeeewl!” Silently, we continued our little doggie parade through the door and up a narrow, steep stairway which led to a room in the center of the Villa extending from the front to the back walls. Tall, gothic three-light windows with ornate tracery barely lit the room. The storm had eased somewhat and the moon occasionally slid from behind the black clouds giving an eerie light through crinkly glass.
Schooner moved to within an inch of the window and sat, with his nose almost against the glass. It was strange that he could have his nose so close to the window but make no foggies on the glass. He turned his head and looked me.
“Come to the window,” he said. “It’s time for the Rainbow Hunt.”
“The Rainbow Hunt?” I asked, cocking my head like a puppy (I can be so cute!).
“Yes, Schooner replied. “Whenever there is a hard storm and the hoomins are all cozy in their parlors the hounds who have died are waiting for their hoomins at the Rainbow Bridge return for a hunt. They come back here because the Evil Dorf’s bunnycestors made so much trouble for them, a tradition which the Evid Dorf continues to this day, so the entire pack of hounds from the Baskervilla who are now at the Rainbow Bridge give him and his rabbiteers an especially energetic run of the hunt.”
Schooner turned his head back toward the window and said, “Gather close. It’s time for the Rainbow Hunt. No one else here knows about it. I’m showing you because you were brave and inquisitive tonight while the others slept.”
Claxton and I moved close to the window being careful not to crowd Schooner, but as I looked to see if he had enough room, I noticed that my hind leg seemed to be inside of his.
“Whoa!” I thought, but as I looked up at Schooner he wagged his head slowly back and forth.
“Not to worry, Chumley,” Schooner said. “It seems I don’t take up any space these days.”
I was relieved, and it was sort of interesting to see an afghan ghost hound smile.
“There!” Claxton exclaimed, standing on his hind legs and placing his paws against the stone window ledge. His eyes had gotten huge and his mouth opened, letting his long tongue fall out of one side.
In the distance, emerging from the woods we saw an incredible sight. Filmy white hounds of several breeds, moving rapidly over the meadow in hot pursuit of three bunnies moving with incredible agility ahead of the pack. Darting from side to side, circling, hopping over bushes, diving under bushes, circling again, they moved in constant evasion of the pursuing pack. Around trees, under bushes, the bunnies led the hounds on a merry chase. Clods of dirts flew into the air as the bunny feet made traction, propelling them upward and beyond the swiftly moving pack. Puffs of steam rose and hovered over the stream of hounds as they bore down on the speeding bunnies. It was truly a magnificent site.
But as quick as the scene had started, it ended. The steamy pack of hounds evaporated and just floated upward appearing as clouds with wagging tails. What a sight! It was amazing. As our eyes returned to the meadow we saw three very, VERY confused and disoriented bunnies running in circles, gradually slowing as they realized that they were running from nothing.
“This is the most enjoyable part of the hunt for the hounds,” Schooner said, turning his long nose away from the window. “The Evil Dorf’s bunnycestors have played tricks on the Baskervilla hounds for many years. You remember the food dish incident! This is our revenge: Hound Revenge! The best kind. Appropriate, fun, and harmless.”
Claxton had his face smushed against the cold, wet glass, trying to see where the Rainbow Pack had gone. I moved closer to the window and aimed my nose upward to follow his gaze, but the clouds were only the ordinary black ones that carried the storm away. Turning my head back toward Schooner....
“Yeeeeps!” escaped from my mouth, as I saw... NOTHING!
Schooner had vanished and Claxton and I were alone in the dark and spooky room.
‘Yo, Claxton.....” I barked, trembling. “We’re outta here!!”
Like cartoon doggies, our paws ran in place, unable to gain traction on the highly polished and very dusty floors. Perseverance won out (a turtle once said that to a bunny) and finally our feet did their work and propelled us across the length of the room and to the narrow stairs. Three, even four at a time.... almost like ‘gilady.... we powered over the stair treads and through the captain’s door. Skidding under tables and around chairs, barely missing the lamp stands (ugh! such inconvenient furniture!) we maneuvered comically through the room like little tricolored pinballs in a game machine. Bounce, run... Bounce, run... Dodge, run.... Bounce, dodge, run... and finally, spew into the upper hall, jumping over the rugs which lay in wait ready to move as soon as our paws touched them.
Clicking toenails sounded our progress through the upper hall and down the long expanse of stairs to the lower hall. Panting and clicking were the only sounds (since dogs don’t scream.... but I was thinking, “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!”) in the darkness of the Great Hall of the Baskervilla.
As the flickering of the hearth fire in the library signaled rest and warmth, we slowed our pace and prepared for a quiet return to the snoozing pack.
My nose poked slowly between the heavy doors, checking for the scent of movement.
“Ah. None!” I thought.
Pushing slowly into the opening, my eyes checked the room.
“Perfect! Miles is snoozing, too. All of the packsters are asleep, but they have merged and filled our spaces.”
Claxton, unaware of.... well, ANYTHING (whudda dawg), passed me and headed for the sleeping pack. Without any hesitation he approached the furry pooch pile, selected a spot and aimed for it. He settled on top of Merlot, Penny and Sherlock, and then wiggled his way down like a fiddler crab I saw on the beach during my last visit to see Snuffer at the Lighthouse. There were a few groans and one sleepy snarl, but nothing indicating a waking reaction.
I crossed the distance from the doors to the hearth, made my obligatory three circles and then plopped into place with my back to the hearth and my nose comfortably beneath my hind leg with the crook of my elbow in front of my eyes.
“Yikes!” I thought. “Dare I close my eyes.... Dare I dream!”
I did...... and I do!


Bruce Cornely
Scritchies and Haruffaroo-bahawow...
Bruce and the Baskerbeagles at HowlingAcres