we left beckwith, the fearsome and dignified butler of castle morwyn, lying facedown in some sort of indescribable and by us so far undescribed muck, and the unfortunate muggleton - at this point, the chief protagonist of our plain, or as plain as we can make it, tale, having burst through the protective hedges of the said castle morwyn, approaching the gate - more properly, the front door - of the castle, quite unaware - as he was largely unaware of everything - of beckwith's prone presence.
what happened next was foreordained, as everything in this world is foreordained, whether it be told in a plain unvarnished tale like this the one i am telling, or the most overelaborated one told to the accompaniment of a full orchestra in the finest opera houses of london or paris or dublin, attended by the most respected and dignified citizenries of these bustling metropolises in all their most resplendent finery.
yes, respected and dignified, for the respected and dignified - not to mention the wealthy and celebrated and cosseted - must have their tales - often the same tales - no less than the downtrodden and wretched and faceless of the earth.
it may be rightly understood that the downtrodden need their tales to get them through their desolate existences, but why should the great of the earth attend to the same stories, even as they flaunt their glory?
can it be that in the great echoing cavern of onrushing oblivion that we call "the universe" there is no difference between the highest and the lowest, no more difference than between a termite, about to be devoured by an aardvark, and an ant, about to be devoured by a southern tamandua.
reader, we digress, and we apologize. there should be no digression in this plain story we aim to tell.
and so it was foreordained that the mighty beckwith should lose his dignity in the blasted and root-bestrown and pestilentially infested heath that constituted the "grounds" of castle morwyn ...
dignity! a sage has rightly said that love makes the world go round, but dignity puts it through its paces and keeps it in line.
for many survive the loss of love - many survive well enough without ever having it to lose - but who can survive the loss of dignity?
let the greatest king or emperor or conqueror appear on a white horse or a raised throne, and no matter what his triumphs or what is laughingly called his service to the state, if, while accepting the plaudits of the multitude, his wig blow off or his drawers fall down, and he will be remembered forever for this unlucky accident and for nothing else...
such were the ruminations of beckwith as he attempted to rise, to extricate his foot from the root which seemed to livingly encircle it.
time was of the essence. so far as he could tell none of his good-for-nothing underlings had stirred themselves to accompany him down the stairs and out the door and so none had witnessed his humiliation .
he pushed himself up on his hands. the foul essence covering his face dripped onto the ground, sending up a miasma that blinded him anew.
just as he was about to gain the traction to rise to his feet, he was smashed to the ground again by a heavy oblect falling with dead weight across his back -
the living carcass of poor muggleton, who in his haste to reach beckwith, to help him to his feet and also inform him of the plight of poor costermayne who lay half dead - or perhaps now entirely dead - on the other side of the hedge muggleton had so precipitatively broken through , had just tripped over some rock or bottle or shrub, or had perhaps slipped on one of the numerous slimy worms or grubs who slithered restlessly over the morwyn grounds, day and night, in fair or foul weather - in any event muggleton,
as he fell over the horizontal body of beckwith, had managed to give himself a great clout on his own head with his stout walking stick, the very same walking stick which had heretofore served him so handsomely, as he walked the face of the earth, one foot in front of the other, first one, then the other, an excellent and time honored mode of proceeding, which we have already made the reader acquainted with, at hopefully not excessive length.
the clout on the head with the walking stick - the stick snapping back one way, muggleton falling forward precipitously and with the force of dead weight in the other producing a most prodigious whack, hardly to be duplicated by the most scientifically trained pugilist smacking some poor sod tied to a lamppost smack in the gob -
muggleton as he pinned beckwith back into the muck he had so desperately tried to arise from, was out cold.
muggleton’s hat flew off his head and spun around in the muck and grass like a top before coming to a stop.
beckwith, now all unconscious of dignity or anything except a blind primal desire - are all primal desires blind? - to somehow once again to stand upright upon the earth - had the wind completely knocked out of him.
even in his blind state beckwith at first had the sense to conserve his strength for his attempts to throw the unconscious muggleton off of himself.
but as the day wore on, and the sun began to go down behind the high hedges and darkness to fall and his efforts were for naught, frustration got the better of him and he began bellowing like a wounded moose.
his savage cries finally caught the attention of the chambermaid he had been chastising when fate led him to first notice muggleton’s progress through the hedge and across the grounds.
getting up from the chair she had been sitting on while waiting his return - for no servant in the castle, even the oldest of them - especially the oldest of them - would dare to simply walk away from beckwith before he was done with them - she approached the window and leaned ever so cautiously out of it.
the sight that presented itself to her eyes - insofar as she could see anything in the encroaching gloom - perplexed her acutely, and she stayed hanging out the window for some time wondering what to do, and whether to investigate herself - for she was only a chambermaid -or to seek assistance - but from whom, other than beckwith himself? - and in any event, she feared to leave her post before beckwith returned to complete her dressing down.
was the creature crying out so frightfully perhaps devouring beckwith?
were the cries of beckwith being devoured?
though the moon had not yet risen, might beckwith himself been transformed into the creature?
meanwhile, in other rooms of the castle, admiral morwyn and aunt morwyn and various other moywyns were being served their tea in a most slipshod manner, and were clamoring for beckwith to come to their aid.
where was the fellow?
and you, reader, may be wondering, what of costermayne, left outside the hedge in the deepening gloom with a hole in his head?