The Magic Spectacles - Part One

During the weeks following Christmas the weather was even more fierce than usual. It had snowed everyday and huge drifts of snow surrounded Homeward - as much as thirty feet deep in places. The roads and railways leading in and out of Uncle's great castle were impassable. The inhabitants of Homeward were well provisioned though; as usual Uncle had gathered a great stock of food for Christmas. So, warm and snug in the Great Hall, Uncle and his followers enjoyed the enforced truce between themselves and the people of Badfort brought on by the cold snap.

The mood at Badfort was altogether different. The Badfort Crowd had been forced ever higher to escape the snowdrifts that had burst through the shabby windows of Badfort. It reached just below the walls of their fortress and they were all crammed into the tiny turrets. They had been reduced to dismantling sections to burn in order to keep themselves warm as blizzards raged around their sadly reduced home.

Beaver had failed to plan for this traumatic event - so they were all hungry. The only food Hitmouse had been able to find were some dry old biscuits that he had been keeping for Scob Fish bait. Nobody would talk to Sigismund because he had left a window open in the Black Tom store and it was now under thirty feet of snow.

But worst of all was the fact that honour demanded revenge on the arch-tyrant of Homeward, for the assault he had inflicted on them at Christmas. Imprisoned by the snow, any thoughts of retribution were impossible.

Beaver paced the rickety battlements of Badfort with Hitmouse and his chief planner Hootman.
“I'm starving,” said Beaver “Anymore of those dried biscuits left?” “Fraid not,” said Hitmouse “but I did manage to dig up some juicy worms this morning.” “Ye gods, is this what we have come to?” said Beaver morosely staring at his now limited domain. “Well I hear Uncle is going to be throwing out food parcels from the ramparts of Homeward to those who have taken shelter by the walls.” said Hitmouse. “I'm not taking any handouts from that humbug!...even if we could get through this snow.” screamed Beaver. Hootman was staring fixedly into the distance “What's that red thing over there?” he said. Beaver and Hitmouse turned to look at the object that Hootman had spotted. “Go fetch it, Hitmouse,” demanded Beaver. “But it's cold…I'll get all wet, why do I have to…..” But before he could finish complaining Beaver had kicked him over the wall into a big snowdrift by the red object.

Soon, shivering with cold, Hitmouse was struggling back over the wall with a big box wrapped in soaking wet red paper. “ Looks like we are in luck boys,” said Beaver “It must be one of the presents we stole from Uncle that fell out of Santa's sleigh. “With any luck it will be a big juicy Turkey.” said Hitmouse as, with a gleam in his eyes, he maniacally ripped open the box. Sadly, it seemed to contain mostly protective wrapping underneath which they found only a letter and a pair of spectacles. They stood despondently round the remains of the box staring at its contents. “What a swizz'” said Hitmouse “bet we couldn't even sell it for much.” But Beaver was staring at the letter - a slow smile spreading across his face.

“Wait a minute,” he said, “all is not lost.” He went on to read the letter…

“Here Filljug. You've got a gold filling aint' you?, let me take a look at you” shouted Beaver putting on the spectacles. Filljug ran over and stood in front of Beaver. Beaver eyes opened wide - “Unbelievable!” he cried, for through the spectacles he could see a golden glow around Filljug's closed mouth. “This is brilliant!” said Beaver. Hootman whispered in his ear. “Grand idea Hootman!” exclaimed Beaver “Right everyone, fetch some spades - a hunting we will go!”

Later that day, Uncle and his followers were enjoying a lunch of cold turkey and chips.
“How did the distribution of the food parcels go this morning?” enquired Uncle to the Old Monkey. “Oh splendidly! Sir,” said the Old Monkey “All the better for not having the beastly Badfort Crowd around, trying to steal them all.” “Yes, in some ways this inclement weather has been a blessing in disguise,” said Uncle “It has certainly had the effect of keeping the Badfort Crowd quiet.” he added cheerfully.

At that point a rather peculiar bird shot through the window and deposited a large round object on Uncle's head, causing him to slip from his chair. The bird quickly flew out again before Uncle's brother Rudolph even had time to raise his trusty crossbow. “Oh sir, sir are you alright!” cried the Old Monkey, in concern, running to help Uncle back to his feet. “Yes, don't fuss I'm fine.” shouted Uncle, for he was unhurt apart from his dignity.

The missile appeared to be merely a large piece of paper rolled into a ball. The Old Monkey unravelled it and read the message:

“What atrocious spelling!” declared Uncle “Still, they must be saved - tell Cowgill to prepare his tunnelling machine!”

The tunnelling machine is a clever device invented by Cowgill that has a many round circular blades at the front able which cut through the earth at remarkable speed. It had last been used to rescue the Old Monkey from the clutches of the Badfort Crowd when they kidnapped him and held him for ransom in the dungeons of Badfort. Much to the surprise of Beaver Hateman, Uncle and his followers had been able to tunnel up into the dungeon and release the Old Monkey without any blows needing to be exchanged between the combatants on either side.

“The tunnelling machine can only carry a small party,” declared Uncle “the One-Armed Badger will be needed to carry provisions for the stranded school children, of course.” At this the One-Armed Badger scurried of to prepare the many parcels that would be needed. “Cowgill will be needed to drive the contraption,” continued Uncle “and we'll need two strong lads, in case we need to do some digging by hand, so that will be you two.” said Uncle pointing at Cloutman and Gubbins…”that leaves room for one more.” Both the Old Monkey and Goodman looked pleadingly at Uncle. “Sorry you two, but I think this may require some detective work to find them.” he said. As if from nowhere A.B.Fox appeared “At your service, as always, Sir.” he said. “I'm leaving you in charge Rudolph, I don't think we'll have any trouble from the Badfort Crowd, with this snow, but be on your guard!” said Uncle to his brother.

A group soon gathered at the gates of Homeward to see Uncle and his party off. The digging machine consisted of a spacious wooden cabin on caterpillar tracks in front of which were the series of rotating blades. A gilded armchair had been placed for Uncle in the centre of the cabin, which resembled the Captain's bridge of a steam ship. A large ship's wheel in front of Uncle controlled the direction of the machine and a large handle by its side controlled the speed. Cowgill stood at the helm ready for his orders. The crew stood behind Uncle ready for action. The rest of the cabin was filled with boxes of different sizes that had been loaded on board by the One-Armed Badger.

Enough snow had been cleared from the Great Doors for them to be opened sufficiently for the machine to pass through. Nothing could be seen except a vast wall of snow and ice.

“Full Steam Ahead!” cried Uncle. With cheers from the gathered crowd and with a thunderous roar the blades started rotating and the machine moved forward at remarkable speed. It was soon cutting a swathe through the snow, boring a large circular tunnel. Before long all that could be seen of the machine was a distant speck at the end of a long tube cut through the ice.

A.B.Fox had been put in charge of navigation. “A sharp left here Sir, should put us on course for Gaby's Marsh.” he said “but we will pass perilously close to Badfort, I'm afraid.” he added. “Cloutman, Gubbins be on your guard,” said Uncle. Before long A.B.Fox let out a cry - he had spotted something encased in the tunnel wall “Look Sir, there in the frozen wall - it's a sign with Gaby's Marsh written on it!” “We must be getting close now, dead slow Cowgill if you please,” said Uncle “and everyone listen carefully, for sounds of life.” he added.

With his incredible foxy hearing A.B.Fox was first to hear the cries “Listen Sir, I think I hear something!” he said. Muffled cries could be heard coming from nearby “Help, help is anyone there?” echoed through the tunnel. “Right, we can go no further in the machine,” said Uncle “there is too great a danger of it flattening their refuge - everyone out and lets start digging by hand.” Cloutman and Gubbins set to work with a will in the direction of the cries. They were digging so hard their spades appeared just a blur. Soon they had a small tunnel spurred off from the main tunnel and had revealed the door of a small wooden hut.

Uncle pushed the door open, shouting, “Fear not! Your Rescuers are here!....” he got no further - a large bucket fell on his head covering him with a thick layer of soot. “What villainy is this!” he cried “Is this any way to treat your saviour!” Noddy Ninety and half a dozen other schoolboys cowered in the corner, covered in soot. “Ooh we are sorry, Uncle, Sir it was meant to be a trap for the orrible' Mr Hateman,” said Noddy “we thought he had come back again.” “Beaver?” queried Uncle “What has he to do with this?” he roared.

Noddy went on to explain the circumstances of their entrapment in the hut. “We were coping well, Sir, when the blizzards came.” He said “We made ourselves some igloos, just like it says in the Survival Proficiency Manual, and we cut holes in the ice and were able to do some fishing…only Scob fish I'm afraid but there not too bad if you cook them in a light mornay sauce like what that celebrity chef does, do you ever watch his programme, Sir?, it's jolly good…” “Enough!” cried Uncle exasperated with Noddy's rambling tale “How did you get trapped in this hut?” “Well, Sir,” began Noddy “As I was saying we were coping O.K. but then this little girl came running into our camp. Little Liz she said her name was - had a strange rasping voice - anyways she says she is from Miss Maidy's Finishing Off School for Genteel Young Ladies and they have got themselves trapped in this hut beneath the snow whilst on there way to a deportment competition. She pleads with us to save them - she says if we just climb down the chimney we could bring them all out. So we all climb down, but the hut is empty! When we look back up the chimney, there's Beaver leering at us and bricking up the top!”

“Monstrous!” cried Uncle. “What I don't understand, Sir, is how you knew to come and save us?” said Noddy. “Why, your note of course!” said Uncle. Noddy stared at the note that Uncle had produced from his robes. “Oh but Sir - the spelling is atrocious” said Noddy “If Doctor Lyre thought we had written this it would be a month of detentions for us all, you won't tell him we did it will you Sir? Because we would be in such trouble spelling like that…never let us enter a competition….” “Alright, alright. Enough!” cried Uncle before Noddy could launch into another of his ramblings “What I don't understand is Beaver's purpose in all this?” murmured Uncle to his followers.

At that instant, a roar of engines could be heard at the end of the small tunnel they had dug to the hut. “I fear you have your answer, Sir.” shouted A.B.Fox darting down the tunnel. They all got to the end of the tunnel to see the great digging machine disappearing around the corner with Beaver hanging out the door shouting abusively back at them.
“Hah! Old Snorty! I'm going to hit you where it hurts - in your wallet - just you wait and see!” he cried.

The digging machine had soon put distance between the Badfort Crowd and Uncle. At the helm Hitmouse, still in the disguise of Little Liz, awaited directions from Beaver. “Which way, Captain?” he asked. Beaver put the magic spectacles on and peered around. To the left he noticed a slight yellowish glow. “To the left me hearties lies the treasure.” he cackled. “I think you mean Port, Sir.” whispered Hootman in his ear. “Yes, I know, I know.” pretended Beaver “To Port, Hitmouse and that's an order!” he shouted.

Back at the hut Uncle and his followers were despondent. “We're doomed,” moaned Noddy Ninety “stranded in this arctic wasteland.” All the schoolboys burst into tears.

Click here for Part Two