Part Two

The day of the Anniversary dawned fine and bright. The many-coloured towers of Homeward looked magnificent in the sunshine. They were hung with silk curtains and flags. Around the massive drawbridge and along the moat enormous tents of many hues had been erected for the celebrations. In the midst of the tents was a great platform on which stood Uncle's Festival Chair made of solid brass. It was here that later in the day that the re-enactment of the crowning of Uncle and the handing over of the Great Key of Homeward would take place.

The weeks leading up to the celebration had been particularly fraught. Many of the populace of Homeward had been taken in by the radio broadcast from Badfort claiming that the Treasury was bare. In order to quell the alarm Uncle had been forced to organise guided tours of it, for the business community, led by Oldeboy. The great piles of gold that they could see were enough to reassure them of Uncle's profound wealth.

Uncle had been much gratified by the many letters of support and financial assistance he had received. The King of the Badgers had even offered to melt down the statue of himself that Uncle had, generously, once given him.
For this gesture of solidarity Uncle gave him another statue - twice the size of the original. Most touching of all, though, was the old dwarf woman who sent him all her savings with a letter saying that he was the most lovely landlord she had ever had and she could not bear the thought of paying rent to anyone else. I may say that Uncle returned this with a letter saying she could live in her apartment rent free for life.

The festivities began with some of Cowgill's daylight fireworks. They go up like rockets and explode into curious shapes in the sky. As usual there was one that formed the gigantic figure of an elephant that was loudly cheered. In honour of the day there were two that together formed a crown and a key. Jugglers and singers entertained the crowds at the vast banqueting tables that were filled with Juba Jellies, hams and Turkish Delight. Wizard Blenkinsop had also arranged for some student magicians to move around the tables performing magical feats of legerdemain to amuse the revellers.

Uncle and the Old Monkey wandered through the crowds greeting the multitude. “That's it, Sir, press the flesh - reassure them that all is well.” whispered the Old Monkey. “Yes, alright I have learnt my lesson, no need to rub it in.” said Uncle under his breath.

At four o'clock in the afternoon it was time for Uncle to introduce the re-enactors. He climbed onto the platform where he could be clearly seen by all.

“Friends, followers and inhabitants of Homeward,” he said “we are assembled here today to rejoice at the memory of that wonderful day when are lovely home passed into my ownership. I was born in the jungle. My parents were poor. A young, tender-” Uncle felt a frantic pull on his dressing gown and looked down to see the Old Monkey looking up at him sternly. He harrumphed to himself and continued. “Anyway, as you know I don't like long speeches -” There was a loud cheer from the crowd. “So suffice to say, there is a pound note and a mixed sack of foods and goods for everyone, which you can collect on the way out.” An even louder cheer from the crowd followed this. “It only requires me to now introduce our beloved re-enactors who have prepared the usual brilliant dramatic tableaux.” finished Uncle.

Uncle backed off the stage bowing to an actor, coming from the other direction wearing enormous amounts of padding and dressed in a purple dressing gown exactly like Uncle's. Over his own head he wore a large elephant head. “Really, you know I think they overdo the padding!'” whispered Uncle to Goodman “It's ridiculous - I'm not that big! Am I?” Goodman kept quiet, deciding discretion was the better part of valour in this case.

The actor playing Uncle took his place on the great festival chair and was joined by his fellow actors who were taking the role of Uncle's followers.
There was a small actor in a rather moth eaten monkey suit, playing the Old Monkey. Another one in an elephant mask carrying a crossbow represented Uncle's brother Rudolph. One in a badger suit had his arm tied behind his back and was playing the One Armed Badger.

Goodman always really enjoyed this yearly re-enactment, as he had not been one of Uncle's followers at the time the events took place. “I love the way they bring history to life'” he whispered to the Old Monkey “mind you they don't seem to have made much effort this year, look they've not even bothered shaving and that one playing you looks really fed up!”

First the actors would recreate the battle between Uncle and the Badfort Crowd. Amidst much booing and hissing from the audience the dwarves playing Beaver and his gang came towards the stage hurling abuse at the actor playing Uncle. “Tyrant, Capitalist Mercenary” Bounder! Arch Boaster!” they cried. “I wish they did not sound like they were enjoying themselves so much,” murmured Uncle but the Old Monkey shushed him.
They were all dressed in dirty grimy sack suits but because they were too short for most of their roles some of the suits contained two dwarves - one sitting on the others shoulders.

At a signal from the actor playing Uncle, his followers all jumped off the stage and ran at the Badfort actors. They laid into them with fists flying.
The actor playing Uncle trampled everyone with his feet and kicked the actors playing Beaver right into the air. The twang of 'Rudolph's' crossbow was everywhere. “Oooh.” said Goodman “It's much more realistic this year - they look like they are giving the Badfort Crowd a real pasting - it's staged very well. Look at them shuffling off. They look really beaten up - the fake blood's very convincing!”

It was now time for the second stage of the drama - the re-enactment of the solemn ceremony in which Wizard Blenkinsop placed the 'Homeward Crown' on Uncle's head and formally handed over the 'Great Key of Homeward'. This year Wizard Blenkinsop had agreed to play himself and would formally crown the actor playing Uncle. On many occasions the Badfort Crowd had attempted to disrupt this dignified occasion, but Cowgill had introduced extra security measures for this special celebration. He had trained a number of dogs to detect the smell of Black Tom.

Earlier that morning Butterskin Mute had been out in his fields tending one of his Pumpkin trees. Mute is the best farmer in the neighbourhood, and he supplies Uncle with fresh vegetables. He wears boots with small spades attached to them for digging. He glanced over towards Badfort and could hardly believe his eyes. Beaver and his cronies had a large number of tin baths arranged outside Badfort and were busy washing each other with large sponges. For a change a pleasant odour drifted on the breeze across from the bathers. “Hmm,” thought Butterskin “Rose petal bubble bath, rather nice - but how odd”. For it is a very rare sight indeed to see the Badfort Crowd washing themselves. “I'm sure they had their yearly bath a few months ago” Butterskin murmured to himself. If only he had thought to pass on the news of this strange and rare sight the events of the afternoon may have been very different.

The ceremony was now in full swing, the actor playing Uncle knelt before Wizard Blenkinsop seated in the great Festival Chair. He is a little man with cloudy eyes who wears old-fashioned breeches and stockings. The Old Monkey's double handed the 'Homeward Crown' to the Wizard and stepped back.
“Look,” said Goodman peering at the crown “It's much more realistic than usual - last year you could tell it was just cardboard covered with gold paper with some coloured glass stuck on.” “Yes.” murmured Uncle “They have made a real effort this year - very impressive.” The real crown is never used in the re-enactment being far too precious. It is kept safe in a distant part of Uncle's Treasury. Suddenly a light wind blew across the festivities and a wonderful aroma wafted across from the platform where the ceremonial procedures were taking place. “What a lovely smell of rose petals,” said the Old Monkey.

On the platform Wizard Blenkinsop placed the crown carefully on Uncle's look-alike's head. He began intoning the Great Charter of Homeward from a large scroll of parchment he held before him. “Let it be known that by this magical agreement he who wears the Great Crown of Homeward shall here fore and henceforth own and rule over the property detailed within and known as Homeward, we trust that to the best of his abilities…” “Shut Up! You Old Windbag!” screeched a loud and raucous voice from beneath Uncle's double's head. The doppelganger suddenly ripped off his costume revealing none other than - Beaver Hateman!

The crowd gasped in amazement as the rest of the actors ripped off their costumes. Underneath the disguises were the instantly recognisable sackcloth suits of the Badfort Crowd. The diminutive actor playing the Old Monkey was Hitmouse himself!

Beaver arrogantly strode across the platform towards Uncle. “Hah you great bloated bladder of lard! You thought we got away with nothing from our attempt to liberate funds for the revolution from your Treasury! Well think again you big boaster! We got the crown - yes that's right the 'Crown of Homeward' he shouted. An evil looking smile spread over Beaver's face. “And if I'm not mistaken Mister Wizard,” smirked Beaver “That means by the magical rights rested in the crown, the wearer - being me - has entitlement to the Great Key of Homeward.”

All faces turned towards expectantly towards Wizard Blenkinsop. “Oh my!” he stuttered, “I don't know how to say this…but I'm afraid he is absolutely right! Whatever means he used to obtain the crown, the fact remains, he is the wearer and therefore Homeward is now his!”
“Hah!” cried Beaver “Oh sweet revenge! In a matter of hours my feet will be under that big show-off desk of yours!”

Uncle's followers were both dumb founded and crestfallen. They could not believe their ears. The Old Monkey turned to Uncle “It can't be true, Sir, surely? There must be something we can do?” he cried as tears welled in his eyes. Uncle had turned puce with anger but in a stoic voice he replied “I'm afraid not, old friend, he has the magic and the law on his side - we have no choice. We shall have to leave our home.”

“Yeah! On yer bike fatty!” laughed Beaver perched upon the festival throne.
“Do you want to borrow one? he jibed in a clear allusion to the Badfort Crowd's oft quoted claim that Uncle had once stolen a bicycle.

In the past this claim would have been enough to provoke Uncle into giving Beaver the kicking up he clearly deserved. The crowd, in muted silence at this strange turn of events, looked on expectantly. But this time Uncle gloomily turned and walked away, lashing himself with his trunk in painful thought. Openly weeping the Old Monkey scurried after his master.

To be continued…