Having settled her newest founding in Marvin’s room, Bella Bostock crept away, yawning. One more hungry snout to feed, but they would manage somehow. There would be time to think about it tomorrow. ‘There’s been enough excitement for one night,’ she thought – but the thought was interrupted by the rusty clang of the doorbell.
As she indignantly wondered who could be calling at such an hour, it rang again. Fearful that the din would wake every Houndling in the building, she quickly padded downstairs and unlocked the great wooden door. Peering suspiciously outside, she half expected to find another foundling. Instead, her eyes met the unsteady gaze of the kneeling Baron of Beaconsfield.
The Baron belched twice and wavered unsteadily to his feet, wheezing like a leaky accordion. He had once been a Hound of erect carriage and noble bearing, but in old age it was as though the carriage had been derailed, damaging its grand facade. He was wearing a tattered military overcoat pinned with ribbons as faded as his eyesight.
‘Is that you Baron?’ she demanded rather than asked. Then, without waiting for an answer, ‘Have you been drinking?’
The Baron stifled another belch and gripped the railing for support.
‘Just a drop … or two. Is the good Headmaster available?’
Bella peered over her bosom like a judge summing up from the bench.
‘He is neither good nor available! Every Hound in the place is fast asleep.’ Her face softened, in the manner of an overripe lemon.
Bella was accustomed to the Baron’s visits, unannounced, and usually when most decent Hounds-folk were home in bed. His chauffeur would drive him the winding journey from his isolated baronial estate for a night playing cards and reminiscing with old comrades and war veterans. The Headmaster could always be counted on for a couch to sleep on, somewhere inside the rambling Orphanage.
Meet Bella Bostock
Bella Bostock is the portly Matron of the Houndside County Orphanage. Her kitchen is her kingdom, where shelves groan with her preserves and pickles and the warm glow of the Cracklewood fire dances off the well-scrubbed pots and pans that hang from the rafters.
She has a heart of pure gold, but a tongue like a whack from a wooden spoon! And she needs both to keep the boisterous orphan houndling’s in her big-bosomed care, in line. A kiss here; a clip over the ears there; all served with lashings of hearty Spotty Russock stew, and motherly love. The wee houndlings adore her and fear her in good measure!
Bella, divorced and reaching her frayed prime, still feels the stirrings of love for the curmudgeonly old Orphanage Headmaster, Rolph Flannegan.
Maybe her matronly charms and Crippleberry pie will win him over?