The front door was now boarded shut from the inside.
Mister Mawkish Buskermush, owner of the house, surveyed his handiwork with satisfaction thus far, but was not about to set down the hammer or close the box of nails; other doorways of the domicile, as well as a number of potentially improvised entrance points, remained unsecured.
His little daughter Maudlin emerged from upstairs, saying: “Father, I have been hearing evidence of some sort of carpentry project. Are you building furniture?”
"Would that it were merely one of my leisure exercises in woodworking," Mister Mawkish Buskermush answered, "but this clamor of hammer is for the sake of securing our safety."
"Oh? is there danger prowling outside?" little Maudlin replied without especial concern. "Shall we arm ourselves with weapons?"
Her father frowned: "Neither battle-axe nor ballista would be of any use against such a malady."
"I'll leave them in the armory, then," the girl plainly replied.
Mister Mawkish Buskermush then took up several more boards from the heap of lumber on the floor, and proceeded to safeguard any other potential portals by which the unnamed adversary might attempt to gain entry.
This very serious work being completed, father and daughter took their usual seats in the newly-fortified parlor. A grandfather clock therein struck a tone in acknowledgement of three o'clock in the morning.
"Father," little Maudlin asked, "might not the continued tones of the clock, during the remaining intervals of this crisis, attract malicious attention to the presence of we who remain here instead of fleeing?"
"Unsavory though it may be," Mister Mawkish Buskermush explained, "for we good citizens to hypothesize so heinously, steadfast residents such as ourselves must think from the villain's perspective: a house which is unnaturally quiet defeats its own purpose, by attracting notice. Meanwhile, a house which gives impression of moderate domestic activity, at least from the outside, is rendered inconspicuous in its normality."
The girl remarked: "Let us hope, then, that the neighbors also preserve all semblance of typical operations in their own homes, lest conspicuous silence from their appliances and extinguishment of their gas-lights figuratively furnish a bullseye upon our own building."
"Bright little one!" her father said. "If only I, myself, had considered such a notion...!"
Not even one ambient sound could be heard from outside, nor was there any light visible in the windows of the nearby houses. This was indeed a grim prognosis for the Buskermushes, for it made their household not merely a likely target, but the only sure one.
"This oversight of mine might be our undoing," the father continued. "I do sincerely hope that, here and now in what is most likely our imminent end, you will forgive the sundry items on my list of mortal imperfections which have been my shame to occasionally display."
"Of course I will, father," little Maudlin replied, "in reciprocal remembrance of your having always been so graciously in receipt of my great many 'Letters of Fault-Admission and Dismay Thereof' which I have penned and presented to you during the short years of my literate life. I was, just some minutes ago, composing a rough draft of such a memorandum at my desk upstairs, when I allowed myself to become distracted by your labor of fortifying our home; do you think there is enough time remaining for me to complete the missive?"
"Speaking in all honesty," Mister Mawkish Buskermush answered, "I fear that the striking of this current hour was the last which we shall hear, before we meet our fate."
The girl thoughtfully remarked: "Not enough time, then; I was only on the third page."
That was when they heard the unmistakable noise from outside: a scritching, tappity collection of subtle sounds and glaring portent, heralding that the most persistent pest and invincible invader was on the hunt and had cornered its quarry.
Little Maudlin said to her father: "Then should I, for the sake of expediency, simply describe aloud the contents of the unfinished letter?"
There was not even a moment for Mister Mawkish Buskermush to offer a reply, for his attention was arrested by the rubbity-squeak of iron nails being pushed out from their wooden fixtures. The front door opened! as easily as if it had been left ajar; such was the foe's power, that the barricade had been in vain from the utter start.
The grotesquely goblin-esque creature set its glinting eyes upon the defenseless residents within, extending its fur-clad arms and snakelike fingers of debilitating spectral venom toward them. A hoot of bestial anticipation escaped from the brute's mouth.
This, finally, was when the Buskermushes broke. Little Maudlin trembled with horror and clutched reflexively at the sleeve of her father’s robe, a desperate gesture which could offer no real comfort or safety to the poor girl.
"Oh, my one and only father in this world!" Maudlin cried with both miserable grief and tender sentiment. "I wish you to know, while I still have breath to speak, how much I... appreciate you!"
The girl was now beyond any means of controlling herself, continuing through her sobs: "You have done everything for my well-being, all by yourself, ever since mother... went on vacation!"
These heartfelt pronouncements, though piteously weak in of themselves, flashed and crashed like thunderbolts through the hitherto mundane Mister Mawkish Buskermush, to such a tremendous degree that even the very pillars of reality strained under the force of so much fatherly power emanating all at once from a mere mortal man. We may speculate this to be how it was that now, in what would become the most pivotal and defining moment of his life ...the episode for which he would be immortalized thereafter... he would not cower as prey in the path of a predator, but stand proud as an immovable object against an unstoppable force. It would be no plank of wood nor nail of iron which would shield little Maudlin, but rather, the girl's own father of flesh and blood would be her sole protector!
"I know who is the monster... and who is the man!" the emboldened Buskermush father announced at the creature. "So do your worst against me... you Tickle Monkey!"
Gentle reader, I shall spare you from the gruesome, intimate details of the attack which followed. What I will report, though, is that the most bizarre and weird cries of howling and wailing ...if those are the most accurate terms which our language might offer... issued from the house of the Buskermushes and rang out into the dark of pre-dawn morning. There would be no help to summon, nor any aid to render, on that infamous night.
It was not until the subsequent afternoon, when the neighbors dared to investigate what had happened, for they had evacuated from their own homes during the previous evening and were of no mind to return until daylight was fully in effect. They were greeted at the Buskermushes' front door only by little Maudlin, whose behavior was astonishing, in the sense that it was perfectly in accord with her normal daily demeanor, rather than displaying any trace of injury or trauma whatsoever.
"Fellow neighbors," the girl plainly said to them, "I am sorry to report that my father is quite indisposed at the moment; he is unable to receive you in person. His physician will shortly emerge from the house and make a statement."
By means of the aforementioned physician's public prognosis, as well as a report from the Office of Animal Control and a commendation from the mayor, the story emerged that the courageous Mister Mawkish Buskermush had thrown himself voluntarily into a full and exclusive mauling by the monster, the result of which was that though little Maudlin was forced to behold her father in such a pitiable state of violent convulsions and ragged breath, the girl herself remained entirely unscathed.
Thus it was that upon the slow recovery of the father's shattered nerves and eventual return to society, he was widely ...and rightly... greeted and treated in person by one and all as a hero for his selfless sacrifice. It came as no surprise to anyone when he was given a number of honorary degrees from prestigious universities, knighted by the sovereigns of several kingdoms, and was honored with the inaugural 'Mawkish Buskermush Father of the Year Award' by his own nation. As a more personal commemoration of this honored citizen, ‘Mawkish Buskermush’ became a popular first-and-middle name for newborn boys throughout the realms of this outstanding fellow’s fame.
Though it grieves me to sour this sweet ending with a tinge of terror, I must disclose that the Tickle Monkey remained on the loose, and went on to test the mettle of other men; these sorry incidences do not merit being reported in detail. But, after all, if everyone were as brave and worthy as our own original Mister Mawkish Buskermush, then would not his sacrifice be as singularly inspiring as it is?