The Baron Relates a Key Tale of the Home’s Formative Years [Part One]

“A Cautionary Fable As Regards Gypsies, Carnival Folk & Other Such Queer & Deplorable Road Fiends”

Allow me, if you will, Gentle Internetizen, the indulgence of a few moments of your precious time this day.

Please forgive me if I seem at all shaken or in any way fragile of temperament.

I have, you see, just recently awoken from a series of tortured fever dreams (no doubt fomented by the abandon with which I indulged in several rare and deadly forms of synthesised chemical inhalant, foolishly left unguarded in the HWC Kitchen’s (East Wing ) ice chest by one of The General’s absent paramours, just last eve); these twisted night terrors, best left undescribed for fear of prematurely driving you from my very presence, have reawoken memories I thought long since consigned to the outer recesses of my Baronly psyche.

Images, which raise gooseflesh even now, boil to the surface of the howling menagerie of horrors from which I have just been startled (by my very own curdled screams, I must here admit)!

Memories of The Home

It was February 14th, 1934, I do believe, and another excellent evening was in progress in The Home’s Hall of Distinguished Wayward Children (North Wing).

The Dame was in the process of unveiling her latest exhibition of Norman Lindsay inspired Rubenesques- Pablo, Man Ray, lovely old Groszy and similar such luminaries were present, and, I must, say, suitably effusive in their praise of our dear Dame’s preternatural sympathies for the depiction of the female form in that most demanding of mediums, oil.

The Skipper, meanwhile, was all in a flap regarding the state of the Estate’s Back Gardens- the dear little chap had been in the process of organising the celebration of something called ‘Beltane’(no doubt related to one of the whimsical Pagan works of fancy with which he had become entranced on a visit to the high country), and had just discovered that the gardeners had failed to follow his exact instructions re: the construction of some sort of stone circle or similar symbolic concentration of ley lines and other such hogwash.

I must admit that that sort of fantastical rot leaves The Baron cold, but we had agreed, we being The Alumni, that whatever kept the little fellow amused was more than worth the exasperation, obsessive fussing and occasional outburst of theatrical histrionics.

The Lord, of course, was in attendance, squiring, as always, one of his many ‘ladies’, whom he invariably wooed via correspondence before ensnaring them in his web of Scots charm and fine home cookery (this was quite some time prior to his meeting the bona fide Lady, of course), as was The Cap’n, who, as you know doubt are aware, has since been somewhat inevitably insitutionalised.

Interesting fellow, that Cap’n– mad as an absinthe enema, and given to affecting the occultish airs of your Crowleys, your Hubbards, your LaVeys and such, but still lodging, quite shamelessly, in his parents’ Groundskeepers’ Quarters, delicately assembling almanacs of dark arcana which bore no intrinsic value to anyone bar the similarly delusional and stricken of mind.

The Cap’n (who would go on to travel and perform under the stage nom de guerre ‘The Gentleman Dreamweaver’, or so I am told, as I actively boycotted all encounters with the man as a matter of course following the dark events to follow), it is my strange duty to relate, had many of us perplexed with his tricksy occult airs and fastidiously researched intellectual ruses for quite some time- indeed, for a brief period we believed him uncapturable via conventional photographic means of the day, a trick which was achieved, we later discovered, not through any diabolic occult means, but merely through canny misdirection and an elaborately rigged combination of mirrors secreted upon his person and the voluminous robes which are his trademark to this very day.

This shameless charlatan’s powers of recall and intellectual acuity were also later proven to be little more than the combination of senses dulling opiate remedies dispersed in ether form from a mechanism installed in his signature chrysanthemum buttonierre combined with a rigorous system of memory cards and a research assistant performing subtle semaphore from a discrete location in any given room.

But The Baron, as is his want, digresses.

Where was I? Ah, yes- that evening, I do believe I was subject to the distinct honour of an audience with the lovely Theda Bara, screen siren, and was in the progress of delivering a most vigorous description of the Home’s extensive collections of banned literature and bawdy projections when, to our great consternation, a piercing woman’s scream split the air for a scant moment before becoming one with a sudden, shrieking gale force blast from off the moors.

(It was only later that I noticed that Theda had taken flight, no doubt owing to the sheer horror of the events unfolding, at some point during the following confusions, thus denying me of another well earned celebrity notch in my somewhat heavily abused headboard!)

All in attendance gathered, somewhat shaken, as a roiling blast of thunder echoed in the Estate’s NorthEast driveway, to find The Skipper, for it is he who screams like a woman at first sign of mortal danger, unconscious and about to be set upon by a teeming horde of cannibal midgets!

Lightning rent the sky asunder, illuminating this terrible tableau and scarring the stuff of nightmares across my otherwise sensible Baronly psyche.

It was this brief daze which, of course, saw The Lord spring into action first, quickly snatching up a spade and brandishing it in a menacing fashion as he advanced on The Skip’s surreal adversaries. As I shook off my stupor, I noticed also that The Dame had thrown down her flask and was in the process of drawing a bead with her snub nosed Derringer (a souvenir of her brief encounter with Al Capone in Chicago not twelve months previous), and that The Cap’n had thrown his cape about his person and was muttering dark incantations as he gestured theatrically with his ram’s head ivory cane.

What dread turn of events was this?! What unearthly horrors had established such a beachhead at our otherwise (mostly) respectable Home for Wayward Children?!

Just as this horrific scene was about to reach its gruesome crescendo, a mighty Slavic voice boomed from out of the all-consuming darkness, freezing all in their tracks:

“Stand down, you ruffians! Can you not see that my tiny charges, as is their weak brained and excitable custom, have merely mistaken your Puck-like liege for our very own Chimp Boy, and in doing so given the poor fellow a terrible start, unaccustomed as he may well be to the sudden appearance of a swarm of Little Folk in his immaculately tended Back Garden?!”

What was to emerge next was as pathetic as it was sickening, bathed as it was in the sickly dim glow of the kerosene lamps posted about the Gardens…

[To Be Continued…]

Originally published at on March 7, 2007.