Beauregard, a country hound, has taken up with Brockwilde the badger and Aunt Nibbles the mole as they search for their grandfathers. Read their stories in The Oak and the Cliff books.
Beauregard ranged on ahead, naturally moving faster than the mole and badger, with his long legs and easy lope.
“Farmhouse up yonder,” he reported. “Should be mice in the barn, grubs in the yard, and breakfast scraps fer me, unless they’ve been eaten up already. Folks ‘ppear to be out in the field, workin’.”
They approached the house, watching for any activity. Seemed pretty quiet.
Brockwilde wandered into the barn, and Nibs found a nice section of grass that looked promising. Beauregard loped around back to where the kitchen door might be. A screen door led into the kitchen, and he could smell breakfast aromas, but found no leftovers in the yard.
“Must not have a dog…” he thought. “Strange. Farmhouses al’ays have a dog.”
A cry came from within the house. A child, maybe 5. Not much more, if that. Sounded frantic, actually. Desperate.
Beauregard tried the screen door, but it was latched.
He trotted back around front, and pushed on the front door, but it was solidly shut.
Out in the yard, he found Nibs.
“Come with me, ma’am, if you would. I think there’s a problem. Got a kid cryin’ in there, and no one else around.”
Nibbles followed him to the back door, and he lifted her past the wooden steps onto the porch. The child was now crying steadily, and crying, “Grandma! Grandma, get up!”
With some squeezing, she was able to get through the crack under the door and into the kitchen. As Beauregard waited, she disappeared into the house. Brockwilde came up from the barn, moving slowly.
“Found a meal?” asked Beauregard.
“Very nice indeed, thank you,” replied Brockwilde. “What’s going on?”
“Somethin’ wrong inside. Nibbles has gone in to have a look-see.”
Brockwilde examined the door, as they both listened to the child. There was certainly no way he could enter, unless they damaged the screen.
“Come help me!” cried Nibbles, from inside. They looked at each other. It was time to go through the screen. Brockwilde drew a claw down the wire fabric to weaken it, and Beauregard backed up to get a run at it. It took three tries, but the screen broke free from its fastenings on the third collision, and Beauregard fell into the kitchen. He ran down the hall, with Brockwilde close behind.
In the bedroom they found an older woman lying on the floor, as though she had fallen. Blood on her head indicated she had struck it on the dresser on the way down. The blood soaked much of her thin silver hair, and ran across her face as she lay there. She was bleeding from an elbow as well. It would take some looking to see how bad she was hurt, and how deep the cuts were.
Nibbles was on top of the dresser. The child was on the bed, crying, and staring at the animals now crowding into her room.
“Mr. Brockwilde! Beauregard!” cried Nibbles. “Look out!”
Across the room, just inside the open window, curled a diamondback rattler. It had just entered, and was surveying the scene. The child now saw it, and was old enough to know what it was, and that Grandma was in danger.
The snake looked around the room. Nice looking morsel up there on the dresser. But the smell of blood was strong, and not coming from there. He looked across the room, and saw the hound beginning to growl at him. That could be a problem, have to be careful with him. And what’s that other thing? Furry, and big. Never seen one like that.
“What can we do, Beauregard?” Nibbles was frightened.
“Don’t see nothin’ in here to kill it with. Maybe lure it outside?”
Brockwilde had no better ideas.
“If you get to the screen door, you could go under it, then climb straight up the outside of it and be out of his reach,” suggested Beauregard, “but the run to the door would be dangerous. Maybe if I nip at his tail I could slow him down, and stay back enough to not get bit.”
The idea was not much to Nibbles’ liking, but she had no better suggestions.
“OK”, she said. “I’m the one he’s most interested in, obviously. And he won’t bother the lady or child, as long as he has to watch you. Get up on the bed, you two, so he’ll come past her and chase me.”
Beauregard and Brockwilde jumped onto the bed. Beauregard licked the child’s face, to try to comfort her. Brockwilde stayed at the far end of the bed, in case the child would be afraid of him.
The snake began to stretch out and move. Nibbles jumped down and began running for her life. With a sideways glance at the dog, the snake slipped past the lady on the floor and went after her. Nibs scampered down the hall and into the kitchen, the snake gaining on her with each moment.
Beauregard padded up behind it and slapped the snake’s tail. It whipped around into a coiled, striking position, and Beauregard back-pedaled out of reach, as quickly as he could get his forward momentum under control. The snake watched him for a moment, and Nibbles reached the screen door. As the snake turned and dove back into his pursuit, she climbed through the hole in the screen and kept climbing, straight up. As the snake approached the door, Beauregard began his most fierce barking, in desperate hopes of persuading the snake to keep going. With all that racket close behind it, the serpent apparently decided to do just that, slipping under the door frame and dropping down across the steps to the open ground.
“What the … Hank, give me that!” came a shout from outside, and a moment later a shotgun blast took the snake away.
A man in coveralls stepped slowly up to the porch. He looked with intense interest at the mole clinging to the top of his screen door, and the hole blasted in the bottom of it. A hole made by a large creature going in, obviously.
And he had heard the barking, so he entered carefully, with the shotgun ready for use.
Beauregard lay down, panting quietly on the floor, so as to make no apparent threat.
“You’re the one chased that snake out of here, huh?”
Beauregard stood, and came and sat in front of the man, looking like every man’s desire for an obedient, attentive dog.
“Good dog. Well done!”
The badger came up behind Beauregard, and sat next to him, emulating the position as much as he could.
“What? You’ve got a partner?”
Then the child heard him, and called, “Daddy! Grandma’s fallen! And the dog chased a snake out for us!”
Daddy ran back to the bedroom and exclaimed over what he found. He went to the bathroom, found some washrags, filled a bowl with water, and came back to the bedroom. He began cleaning the blood, some of which had already dried, and talking to his mother.
Soon she awoke, and was able to sit up.
“I came to check on her, and saw a rattler coming in the window! It startled me so, I fell, and … that’s all I remember.”
“And then the animals came, Daddy, and chased it out!”
The man lifted his mother from the floor and helped her into the living room, settling her into a chair and bringing her a drink of cold water. “I think you’ll be fine. You’ll have a pretty bruise around this eye, but I don’t think we’ll need to sew you up. And that elbow should heal in a couple days, we’ll just keep a cloth on it so you don’t bleed on the furniture!”
He hugged his daughter as she came to stand beside him.
“I think I need to go thank that dog, again!”
But when he went to find them, they were gone.
“Thank you, Nibbles. That was a brave thing to do.” Brockwilde looked at her with admiration, as the farmhouse was finally out of sight behind them.
“Yes indeed, ma’am, I was right proud of you,” added Beauregard.
“Just don’t you tell Barley I was almost eaten by that fellow, Mr. Brockwilde. He’ll not let me go wandering any more, if he hears that story!”