The Castle and Stumps

" That." said Fogget eyeing us up. " Is the bet."

" The bet." I said, as I said it I had a little feeling that made me think that I should not have ask.

" I know I'm going to regret this." said Joe. " But what bet."

Fogget looked at us for a moment then gave a little grin before replying " The bet of spending one night in this castle."

" Is that all." said Joe.

" Without being blind drunk." said Fogget.

I suggested that would indicate that the place was supposed to be haunted.. Fogget would not say one way or the other, just adding that no one had managed to win the bet in the past eighty years. Joe wondered if the note still legal tender, I could almost see Joe thinking there was a bit of easy money here.

Fogget thought the note was probably not legal any more but said that Colonel Randolf, who owned the pub had promised to pay the present day equivalent, which was probably four time that by now. Joe now thinking of an easy two hundred quid ask what precisely one had to do.

Fogget explained you had to spend one night in the bed upstairs from closing time to cock crow in the morning. It sounded a bit too easy so I ask Fogget if he had tried it, only once he explained, he lasted till half past midnight. Curiosity made me ask.

Fogget gave a quick rundown of events, banging, scraping, thuds, whoooing, you name it he got it, he did not actually see a ghost but as explained by the time he ran out the door to the safety of his cottage he was frightened enough to see a whole army of ghosts.

This was very odd as the place was simply not old enough to have a ghost of its own, it was not even a real castle, just a Victorian folly. Fogget knew all this but explained he would still not spend another night in the place and there is a lot of other people in the village who had tried and would not try again.

I ask if it was built over an ancient burial ground or something like that but that was the odd thing about it, there is nothing in the area linked with any kind of ghost at all, no grey ladies, no highwayman, no stories or legends, nothing in the whole village. Not even the Old Manor where Colonel Randolf lived had any ghosts, nobody could account for it at all.

" That's good enough for me." said Joe. " I could do with a couple of hundred quid."

" I wouldn't recommend it." said Fogget.

" It will have to be a jolly good ghost to stand between me and that kind of money." said Joe.

" And I have yet to be convinced there are such things as ghosts." I said.

" Are we on for tonight."

That evening the bar filled up with locals who had heard we were about to accept the old fifty pound challenge, they had all come to give us their support. The form this support took, they told us about every ghost they had ever heard of.

A small man with a scruffy dog thought the ghost was an old tramp who put a curse on the village when the church preacher turned him away last century. A big ugly chap thought it was the wife of a local gangster, she had died apparently under mysterious circumstances. Arthur the school teacher thought it was the ghost of a pirate captain from the seventeenth century who had been born in the village.

Someone else thought it was a group of local lads who had died in the last war when their bomber crashed, the fact that it went down in Africa I thought that was pushing it a bit. This went on all evening, the locals enjoying themselves at our expense.

By the end of the evening me and Joe were getting just a little bit jittery.

The only person in the bar who did not tell us a ghost story or talk to any one at all, was a small man with a grey face in a grey mackintosh sitting in a corner near the end of the bar. All evening he just sat there, with one pint of beer on the table in front of him. Nobody spoke to him and he said nothing, just sat looking straight ahead as if there was nobody around.

Towards closing time I glanced across to the corner and the old man had gone. No glass nothing. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and suddenly I went cold. As I focused on the empty spot in the corner all the other noises in the bar seemed to fade and this horrible sticky feeling crept all over me, had I just seen the ghost of the Castle and Stumps.

Fogget noticing I had gone somewhat pale came down to our end of the bar.

" Are you all right? " inquired Fogget. " You look a bit pale." he said.

" Di di di did ma ma ma man." I stammered.

" Pardon." said Fogget.

" Di did yo you see the man in the corner." I said at last.

" Old Will Dosset, course I did." said Fogget. " Comes in here every night, wife died three months ago, comes in here every night says nothing has one pint of beer then creeps out. He's a nice old soul we don't disturb him, he's still grieving, he'll come round when he's good and ready."

" Thank goodness for that." I said as my heart began beating again.

" Why? " said Fogget.

" O nothing really." I said. " Just something that was going round in my little head there for a moment."

Short Story Series - Abridged from the book - The Tatty Nickers Tony on the Moon