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Boggarts of Britain
By Frank Mills
Oldcastle BooksCopyright © 2000 Frank Mills
All rights reserved.
BOGGART HOLE CLOUGH
A long time ago a legend was born. The legend told of a place called Boggart Hole Clough in the County of Lancashire. If you looked carefully in a certain spot after dark, three nights after the rising of the moon, you might be able to see traces of blackened woodwork and sometimes even a few wisps of smoke rising from the ground.
If you happened to be passing at that time of night I expect you would be just a little worried, so perhaps you would like to know how it got its name and how these strange things came about.
It must be well over a hundred years since Thomas Fraser built his house on this very spot. He did not believe all the stories the villagers told him about it being the home of the Pixies and to tell the truth he was not very interested.
'Pixies!' he said. 'Pah! Who believes in Pixies nowadays?'
When they told him that it was not always Pixies who cast their spell over the land but Fairies as well and even Boggarts, he burst out laughing in their faces.
'Boggarts!' he spluttered. 'You'll be telling me next there are ghosts and things that go bump in the night.'
Mr Fraser had heard stories like this before. Where he used to live some people believed in ghosts so much that when they said their prayers at night they would often put in a special piece at the end:
From ghoulies and ghaisties
and lang-leggit beasties
and things that go bump in the night
Good Lord deliver us.
So Mr Fraser laughed at the Pixies and the Boggarts and built his house. He built it partly of brick and partly of wood and he made it firm and safe against the winds and the rains and the snow and the thunder and the lightning. From all these he made it safe.
'Ay,' said the folk in the village, 'he's made it safe enough from the weather. But has he made it safe from Boggarts?'
'Boggarts be blowed!' scoffed Mr Fraser. 'There are no such things and if you want to go on believing there are, you're welcome but don't come fussing round my door with your silly tales.'
'You'll find they're not silly before you've been in the place a week,' they warned him.
'Maybe I shall; and maybe I shan't,' said Mr Fraser, 'but I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll dig a big hole at the bottom of my garden and the Boggarts can live in there. All of them. That shows you how much I care about them.'
He did just that. He dug a hole and he invited all his neighbours to send their Boggarts to live in his hole. The villagers went away shaking their heads and muttering to themselves but the strange thing is that although nobody ever remembers seeing a Boggart to tell them about Mr Fraser's invitation, somehow or other ... they got to know!
Now a Boggart is a very special kind of Imp. He loves mischief and playing jokes on people. He is never really wicked in his tricks but of all the little people in the world that Mr Fraser could choose to live at the bottom of his garden, the Boggarts are just about the worst. He began to wonder about them the day he moved in and after three days he was convinced. His wife was quite sure long before that and, for the sake of the children, she tried to persuade him to make friends with them and perhaps to say publicly that he did really believe in them. Mr Fraser snorted.
'If you think I'm going to stand out there in the middle of the moor and tell nobody in particular that I believe in Pixies or Boggarts, or whatever you call them, you are very much mistaken. This is my house and I'll live in it. I'll invite whoever I want to see and I'll make my own friends. Is that clear?'
It was very clear. It was clear to Mrs Fraser; and it was also clear to the children. It was clear to the neighbours and ... it was also clear to the Boggarts. On the night of the new moon, Mr Fraser moved in to his house that was safe from the weather and, to show that he was not impressed by the neighbours' silly gossip, he made a notice board and put it beside the hole he had dug at the bottom of his garden. On the board he wrote:
Then he went indoors to bed. To bed; but not to sleep. In ten minutes his son, Richard, came running into his bedroom calling out that his bed was going up and down and he could not get to sleep.
'Nonsense,' said Mr Fraser. 'You've been listening to rubbish. Go back to bed.'
In vain the boy insisted that he was not making it up. His father was not going to be persuaded into believing the silly stories.
'You have been listening to the neighbours,' he snapped. 'Go back to bed this instant and let's have no more tomfoolery.'
Slowly, the boy went back to bed and for half an hour everything was quiet. Mr Fraser lay in his bed, congratulating himself on his fine house and laughed quietly to himself when he thought of all the silly tales that country folk believe in. He sighed contentedly and turned over to go to sleep when the door burst open with a crash and his daughter, Molly, came in crying out that all the bedclothes had been pulled off her as she slept and that the bed was going up and down like a see-saw. Mr Fraser was now really annoyed. He was annoyed at being disturbed for a second time and he was annoyed at the neighbours for frightening the children with their silly legends. He jumped out of bed and marched down the passage to where Molly had been sleeping.
'I'll soon settle this,' he grunted; and strode on. Inside the room he stopped for a moment to look at the scene. Bedclothes were all over the floor, the bed itself had been pushed away from the wall and ... was it his imagination or did he see the mattress gradually sink in the middle? He picked up the bedclothes and made the bed again.
He looked out of the window to see if he could catch any sign of creeping villagers because he still thought they were responsible for all these tricks. But the night was quite still. At the bottom of the garden he could make out the vague outline of the notice board he had put up but there was no movement around it. He comforted Molly, said goodnight and popped her back into bed. Molly was not very keen on staying there on her own but she was going to try very hard to settle down to sleep. Mr Fraser returned to his room.
'I told you no good would come of this,' said his wife miserably.
'Oh, don't talk such rubbish. They may have believed in Boggarts two hundred years ago; but I tell you once and for all there are no such things as Boggarts today.'
Perhaps he should have spoken a little more softly because just as he finished speaking there was a tremendous crash outside the front door and his wife began to shiver with fright.
'What was that?' she whispered, between chattering teeth.
'Wind!' said Mr Fraser, a little uneasily and stretched himself out in the bed.
The next instant he was sitting bolt upright while Mrs Fraser had disappeared under the bed clothes. Without any doubt at all this time, someone was knocking on the front door.
'Don't answer it, don't answer it,' pleaded his wife in muffled tones from somewhere inside the bed, but Mr Fraser climbed out of bed for the third time.
'Don't be foolish. Who do you think it is?'
'Boggarts!' replied his wife, simply.
'Nonsense. If it were Boggarts they wouldn't wait to knock on the door, would they? They would just walk in.'
'Ah, so you do believe in them.'
'I didn't say anything of the sort; but if they can do the things you say they can do, I should think they could manage a little thing like a front door.' He went downstairs and pulled back the bolts on the front door. Slowly the door opened and he looked out. Not six feet from where he stood shivering in the night breeze, facing him and stuck firmly in the ground, was the notice board with the words staring him in the face:
Somebody had moved the board. He shut the door quickly, pushed home all the bolts and, with a quick look all around him, went smartly upstairs to bed, a lot more worried than he was prepared to admit to anyone.
'One of those silly villagers,' he growled, 'playing tricks and stupid games; moving the notice board I put up this morning. I'll give them a piece of my mind when I get up.'
'Moved the board, did you say?'
'Yes — stuck it outside the door. They're like a lot of mischievous children.'
'Supposing it wasn't the villagers?'
'Oh, don't start that all over again. I'm fed up with the word Boggart and I'd be obliged if you don't mention it again.' Richard and Molly gritted their teeth. They were determined not to give in to the bumps and noises they heard in the night and eventually they became so tired that even the revels and midnight games going on all round the house and garden could not keep them awake and they went to sleep.
The next morning, before Thomas Frasser could go out and tell the villagers what he thought of them for playing silly pranks in the night, the villagers came to him. They thanked him for the most comfortable night they had enjoyed for years.
'Seems they heard all about your invitation, Mr Fraser. They've all gone to live in your Boggart Hole.'
'I hope they stay there,' said another one. 'It's quite a treat not to hear bumps and slithers all through the night.'
They sympathised with him when he told them about the board but they all thought he deserved it for the way he had gone on about the Boggarts.
'I'll never believe in Boggarts, I tell you. You're all living in ancient times up here. Nobody believes in things like that any more, except the children.'
'Ay, that shows their good sense,' said one of the neighbours.
'They'll never leave you alone now,' said another one, 'not until you do what we all do and leave a bowl of cream on the doorstep for them to eat in the night.'
'Do you mean you leave perfectly good cream outside the door every night, before you go to bed?'
'Of course we do. If we didn't we would always have a night like you had by the sound of things.'
'But there are no such things as Boggarts!'
'Well, who eats the cream then?'
'Do you mean it's gone in the morning?'
'The bowls are still there but the cream has gone.'
'Then all I can say is that the cats and dogs round here must be having the time of their lives.'
'You take our advice,' they told him, 'put some cream out.'
'I'll give them cream,' grunted Mr Fraser. 'I'll give 'em cream.'
During the day he put the notice board back where it belonged and he worked on it rather longer than you would expect.
When night began to fall he inspected his work and it could be seen that he had driven in nails all over the post so that they would stick out on the other side. Anybody who tried to move the board now would be very lucky not to catch their hands on the nails.
They did not move the post. In fact nothing was heard all through the night although that did not help Mr Fraser much because he was awake most of the night listening for them, ready to rush downstairs to catch them in the act.
But nothing happened in the night. Next morning almost everything did. Just as Mr Fraser was getting up the bedclothes began to move and, before he knew what was happening, the sheets were being shaken with him still inside them. Then they were thrown into the corner of the room and it was nearly five minutes before he could disentangle himself from all the folds. When he did get free, he tried to go downstairs but could not open the door. Shaking with rage, he put his foot against the wall and put all his strength into pulling at the handle. Unfortunately for him the door was released at just that moment and Mr Fraser found himself on the floor once again, this time with the door on top of him. Tenderly, he felt his nose to see if it was broken before he walked through the space where the door had been.
When he arrived at the top of the stairs, the mat slipped and he bumped his way down to the bottom getting quicker and quicker as he went; and when he sat down to breakfast he leapt up in the air as quick as lightning. There on his seat were the nails he had driven into the notice board the day before.
The children could not stop laughing, which only made his temper worse, but Molly's laughter did stop when her bowl suddenly turned upside down and her porridge landed in her lap. Richard was laughing so much that his orange juice dribbled down his chin and down inside his shirt, while Mrs Fraser found that the butter had melted and was running all over the tablecloth.
Breakfast was abandoned with Mrs Fraser appealing once again for Mr Fraser to put out some cream as the villagers suggested and to say loudly that he did not mean it when he said there were no Boggarts anymore. But Mr Fraser was stubborn.
'I'll not apologise to something I can't even see and I'll certainly not waste good food on every stray cat and dog in the neighbourhood. I won't. I won't. I'll set fire to the place first before I give in.'
Somehow the day passed. Mr And Mrs Fraser became more and more irritable because they had not slept for two nights. The children were frightening themselves by listening to stories in the village and then making up worse ones of their own — and night approached — the second night after the rising of the new moon.
During the afternoon, Mr Fraser went into the big town and when he came back he carried a shotgun in his arms. He rode slowly through the village showing everybody the gun.
'Anybody who comes near my house tonight will wish he hadn't,' he said grimly.
Nobody wanted to go near his house. If they were offered payment to go near the house nobody would accept it. All the same, things happened. As soon as darkness fell, the windows began to rattle and Mr Fraser went outside with his shotgun but there was nobody around.
What is more, there was no trace of any wind; yet the windows continued to rattle. He sent his family to bed with strict instructions to stay there whatever happened. He then prowled round the house with his shotgun, rousing himself to a greater and greater pitch of temper as every minute passed. The doors began to shake, clothes slid off hangers, windows burst open and great gusts of wind whistled through the rooms. Outside, there was not so much as a gentle breeze.
Suddenly the front door banged and Mr Fraser raced downstairs with his gun ready to fire. Nobody in sight. With a swish, the lights in the hall went out and the door slammed. Mr Fraser rushed to it just as it opened again and, for the second time that day, he tenderly nursed his flattened nose. The door was still open and he noticed a vague shape outside. He raised his gun to his shoulder but the shape disappeared and he raced out into the night in hot pursuit. The door behind him slammed shut. He was locked out.
He called to his wife, to Richard, to Molly telling them to come and let him in but they had been told to stay where they were — whatever happened. For nearly an hour he wandered morosely around the garden but although he did not believe in them, he took good care not to go near the Boggart Hole.
After an hour he could stand it no longer. He threw a brick through the window and climbed back into his newly built house. When he went upstairs he found a terrified wife who thought he was a Boggart walking up the stairs.
'A very big Boggart,' grunted Mr Fraser.
'I'll not stay another night in this house,' sobbed Mrs Fraser.
'All right, all right,' agreed her husband. 'We'll move tomorrow. But I won't be beaten. I won't be beaten by a gang of imps playing mischievous pranks. I'll finish those Boggarts — or whatever they are — or my name is not Thomas Fraser.'
At last the dawn came to a very weary and red-eyed family. Mr Fraser took his wife and family to the town and booked them into an inn. Then he came back and loaded most of his belongings on to his cart and drove slowly back to the inn. When he brought the cart back again he had several large cans which he unloaded. He loaded the empty cart with all of his remaining goods and set to work on the house.
He soaked the whole house with paraffin from the cans and did his work so thoroughly that it was nearly dark by the time he had finished. He turned the horse and cart so that it was facing the way to the inn.
For the last time he looked around his new house; the house he had moved into only three days before. Then solemnly and stubbornly he set fire to his own property and stood back as the flames blazed through the rooms, upstairs and downstairs; up to the roof and out to the garden. In the light from the fire he saw the words 'Boggart Hole' and chuckled to himself.
As the flames finally died down the moon shone brightly on the blackened timbers and the thinwisps of smoke still swirling upwards.
It was the third night after the new moon. He climbed into the cart and shook the reins.
Excerpted from Boggarts of Britain by Frank Mills. Copyright © 2000 Frank Mills. Excerpted by permission of Oldcastle Books.
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