With only a week to go until Christmas the Old Monkey was doing his best to provide his master, Uncle, with something approaching the grand feast that had been the annual highpoint of life at Homeward. It was no use pretending though - it would be difficult to summon up the joys that were usually so abundant during this festive period.


He had arisen early that morning to bake some mince pies. Uncle's cook, Mig, did his best with the antiquated wood stove in the tiny kitchen of their new home but it was a far cry from the huge kitchen of Homeward with it's great roasting fire and oxy-acetylene gas stove. So the Old Monkey did all he could to assist the little dwarf.


The heat in the tiny kitchen soon became stifling - so, once the pies were in the oven, the Old Monkey took a break and sat by the open window. There was an arctic wind blowing from the North that soon cooled him down. He looked across at Homeward, feeling melancholic. The dark glowering sky enveloped his old home as if nature itself was reflecting the dinginess of the once great house.


Homeward had gone through a steep decline. Beaver Hateman, through nefarious means, had managed to wrest control of it from Uncle. Since that time no repairs had been made to any of the buildings. The Badfort Crowd had held numerous boisterous parties that lasted for days on end. Revellers had run amok amongst the skyscrapers ripping apart the fabric of the buildings to feed the fires that they danced around as they swigged from bottles of 'Black Tom'.


A tear sprang into the Old Monkey's eye as he surveyed the blackened and broken walls and though of Christmas's past when those same walls had glowed in the light of the many decorations that the dwarves had strung from one skyscraper to another.


Uncle's followers had been stunned at how Uncle seemed to have just accepted his fate. He had made no attempt to regain his old home arguing that, although he had employed trickery to obtain Homeward, the fact was that Beaver was now it's legal owner and they just had to accept it.


They were even more astounded when Uncle had declared that he now wished to live in Badfort ! - Beaver's dingy old home. Uncle still had the contents of his Treasury and could afford to build himself a new palatial home in a much more salubrious area - such as the outskirts of Badgertown. When Uncle had insisted that this was because he needed to be able to keep an eye on Beaver, many of his followers felt that the real reason was that he could not bare the thought of not being able to see his old home. The Old Monkey was asked to try and persuade him that he needed to move on and forget the past.


When Uncle agreed to pay Beaver's ridiculously inflated price - the whole of the contents of his Treasury! - his followers were aghast. To them it appeared that the whole traumatic incident had effected Uncle's mental state. Many felt that he was a shadow of his former self as he spent the days prowling the castle walls at Badfort deep in thought and muttering to himself.


Meanwhile, back at Homeward, Beaver Hateman's mood was also far from festive.
“Those dwarves are making my life a misery!” he shouted at Hitmouse. “Well it is the tenth time we have raised the rent - bound to get a bit narky ain't they,” retorted Hitmouse. “S'pose if they keep being revoltin' like this we'll just have to show em' who's boss.” said Beaver, and continued “honestly though you would fink that they could show some gratitude for us usurping that fat tyrant and laying on all these parties.”
“Yeah,” said Hitmouse “but all they do is complain about the noise when there trying to sleep, and how it makes a mess and they have to pay for it all - miserable bunch of killjoys!”. Beaver said, thoughtfully, “Yeah I never thought I would say this but I must admire the way that old elephant kept 'em all under control - and look at all this lot..” he added pointing to the piles of paperwork strewn all over Uncle's, now battered, grand desk. “I never realised how much bloomin' work goes into running this house - there's hardly enough time to have a party!. Fair makes my head spin!.”


At that point Hootman wafted in demanding their attention. Apparently Jellytussle had spotted some activity at their old home 'Badfort'. “Wow great!” cried Beaver “ Perhaps the old fool's finally going to come out for a showdown!”. For, truth be told, Beaver actually missed the regular battle of wits with his old sparring partner.
They took one of the rapid lifts to the highpoint of the tallest tower in Homeward - so that they could look down into Badfort.


At Badfort, for the first time in months, all was abuzz with activity. Without Homeward to run, Uncle's life had become one of little activity. He had no places to explore, no civic duties to attend, no grand openings. His followers had desperately tried to find way's to keep him occupied but he seemed to have withdrawn into himself and now rarely stirred from bed before Noon.

His followers, were therefore, astounded when early that morning he had come bounding down the stairs demanding to know when the Great Christmas Tree would arrive. Each year Uncle gets Cowgill, his chief engineer, to erect a big tree by the edge of the moat outside Homeward. The Old Monkey had assumed that, given their stricken circumstances, that such a great tree could not be afforded this year. In fact, given the sad events of the year, he had also assumed that Uncle would not want a tree at all.

Apparently, though, Uncle had already made arrangements with the King of the Badgers. Although poor himself the King well-remembered all the kind occasions when Uncle had given generously to the people of Badgertown. So he had decided to donate the largest tree in his kingdom to Uncle for Christmas.

The tree had arrived that morning. Cowgill had rigged up a special pulley device that had enabled then to hoist it over the parapet. He was now busily organising Uncle's followers to dig a specific hole for it to be placed in. They were all merrily working away -partly because they felt imbued with the Christmas spirit, but mainly because they were so happy to see 'Uncle' so much like his old self.

It was a little odd to see their once great leader so excited about a Christmas tree. In the old days it would have just been a relatively minor part of the great festivities he organised, but if it cheered him up - albeit temporarily - then perhaps they at least could enjoy the holidays as they had before.

Back at Homeward Beaver and his gang watched the bust activities at their old home. “Look how excited that sad old elephant is about a stupid old tree!” smirked Beaver. “I tell you what - get some money out of his Treasury this afternoon and we'll buy one twice as big to stick out the front - that'll take the smile off his face.” he added. “Look, there hoisting it to go in that big hole,” said Hitmouse “Hope it topples over and squashing the fat twit.” he giggled.

Suddenly as the sharpened end of the tree slid into place a hugh gush of black liquid sprayed upward from the hole through the branches of the tree.
“That's a funny way of decorating it.” laughed Beaver as he looked through his binoculars. “I don't think they meant to do that.” said Sigismund. “No - but they all seem quite happy about it - look they're all dancing around the tree laughing! What a bunch of idiots they're soaked in that stuff.” said Hitmouse “…that black stuff…. THAT'S OIL!” he shouted. The Badfort Crowd all looked at each in stunned amazement.


At Badfort all was glee amongst Uncle's followers. “Oil !, sir, oil!, you're rich again!” shouted the Old Monkey to Uncle. But Uncle ignored him - he was deep in discussion with Cowgill.

The next day the Badfort Crowd were once more watching the goings on at their old home in amazement. A continuous convoy of oil tankers streamed to and from the gates of Badfort. Steelwork now encased the somewhat forlorn Christmas tree. “That's one hell of a well head they've got there!” muttered Beaver. “Yeah - and it was under our feet all the time! - trust that fat tyrant to be the one to find it!” squeaked Hitmouse “…must be worth millions..if only it was still ours..” he muttered reproachfully. “How was I to know we were standing on a fortune!” snapped back Beaver. “Well Uncle obviously knew what it was worth - we all thought he was mad giving us the contents of his Treasury for it! - canny so and so.” retorted Hitmouse. “All is not lost…we all know how much fatso loves Homeward don't we?...I'll make him an offer he can't refuse!.” Laughed Beaver.


The following day Beaver and his cronies approached Badfort waving a dirty and bedraggled white flag. “Oi, Fatty don't worry we come in peace !”. Uncle and the Old Monkey stared down at them from the ramparts. “What do you want - come to see how your old home has become my latest successful venture?” boasted Uncle. Beaver shouted back up to him “Look - we just thought that being the season of goodwill and all that, you might be regretting the way you tricked us out of our home - paying a pittance for something that you must have known was worth far more.”
“I paid you a more than fair price for this dump.” Uncle replied. “Is it my fault that you never surveyed your own land?” he queried.
“Look - I'm not here to argue - I'm suggesting a straight swap back. You can have Homeward back and we'll have Badfort back again. That's a fair deal ain't it ?” wheedled Beaver.
“You must be joking.” laughed Uncle “What about the contents of my Treasury? - the over inflated price you thought that you had made me pay for this decrepit flea pit?”.
“O.K. I'll tell you what we have spent a bit of that money, on a few parties we had to liven up your boring old house, but you can have everything tha's still in it - how's that then can't say fairer than that can we?” pleaded Beaver.
Uncle lashed his trunk around in deep thought. “Don't do it, Sir, I beg you.” said the Old Monkey “I know you love Homeward but we could build ten just like it with the money from this oil well!”
“Sorry Old Monkey - but no home could mean as much to me as Homeward.” he said in a loud voice “ Beaver - I accept your proposal - tomorrow is Christmas Eve - we shall swap then - business as usual from then on!”
“Hah the sentimental old fool! I knew he'd want it back,” whispered Beaver to Hitmouse “business as usual my behind! - we'll be off to the Seychelles foe the New Year me thinks!”


On Christmas Eve Uncle's Followers and the Badfort Crowd met halfway between their respective properties for the solemn ceremony of handing over the keys. The Badfort Crowd were all carrying battered suitcases and sacks that clearly contained a number of purloined items from Homeward.


Wizard Blenkinsop was on hand to make sure that all was legal and above board. Beaver handed the 'Crown of Homeward” and the “Great Key of Homeward” to Uncle and in turn Uncle handed the battered old brass key of Badfort back to Beaver.


“Despite everything I would like to wish you a Happy Christmas, Beaver, in your unusual home - I can't say I enjoyed myself there - but I can understand how it suits you. See you in the New Year, I suppose” said Uncle resignedly.

“Yeah - well I better warn you - we had a few parties so you might have a bit of clearing up to do.” Said Beaver “Sorry 'bout that but at least we breathed a bit of life into your stuffy stuck up place. As for seeing you in the New Year - you'll be lucky - you obviously ain't got any idea what that oil's worth - we're off on our hols and we won't be coming back - so there!' Beaver stuck out his tongue at Uncle and scared that Uncle might try and go back on the deal shouted “Run for it lads!”. With that the Badfort Crowd ran with their motley mix of possessions back towards Badfort laughing all the way.

Uncle's followers made their way back to Homeward with mixed emotions. They were all looking forward to being truly home for Christmas - but this was tinged with some regret that the Badfort Crowd had for once gotten the best of them.

Snow began to fall as the Old Monkey walked by Uncle's side. They looked up at the forlorn towers of Homeward. “A lot of work to be done to restore the old place to its former glory, Sir.” whispered the Old Monkey. “Yes, but that can wait until the New Year - it'll be good to get back into the swing of things!” said Uncle. “Yes Sir - but pretty noise with all those oil tankers coming in and out of Badfort.” Responded the Old Monkey. “Oh I don't think so - you see there is no oil.” said Uncle smiling to himself. “No oil Sir!' cried the astounded monkey “But I saw it myself! gushing out of the ground!.”. “A simple ruse organised by Cowgill on my instruction - a dozen or so barrels of the stuff circulated around and around by a pump hidden beneath the tree - quite convincing I thought.” laughed Uncle. “But what about the oil tankers?” said the monkey in disbelief. “All supplied by the King of the Badgers - and all completely empty!” said Uncle. Feeling slightly hurt the Old Monkey felt he had to ask Uncle “Could you not have at least told me of your plan, Sir?”. “Sorry old friend - but it had to be convincing when I accepted Beaver's offer - you and all my other followers were trying to persuade me to keep the oil well and that's what stopped Beaver becoming suspicious.” replied Uncle in a soft voice.

A thought suddenly occured in the Old Monkey's mind “You've been planning this all along, Sir!” he said. “Oh yes, that's why I was willing to pay such a high price for Badfort. You see whilst Beaver understood that my weakness was my fondness for Homeward I knew that he too would look for any excuse to return to his home. All that stuff about going off and not coming back was just his way of trying to make me feel he'd won. He would not have stayed away for long.” Uncle explained.

“But, Sir, there's one thing I don't understand - why did you wait so long to implement your plan? - you could have 'discovered' the oil at anytime?.” asked the Old Monkey.

“Well - running Homeward is quite hard work, as you well know, so I thought I was entitled to a bit of a holiday! And those Dwarves were getting a bit of a handful - absence makes the heart grow fonder as they say!” said Uncle giggling to himself.

Perhaps the Old Monkey should have been angry with Uncle for this deception that had led to the long sojourn at Badfort. But the old elephant had, indeed, needed a rest from all his duties and he could not help but inwardly smile at the manner in which it had been achieved.

The Old Monkey looked up at the towers of Homeward with relief at the thought of returning to it's well appointed kitchen. Suddenly he noticed a flurry of activity at the windows of two of the towers. “Oh look, Sir, it looks like you were right - the dwarves are pleased to see you home! he cried out.
Uncle looked up and saw a string of glowing lights that spelt out the words “WELCOME HOME UNCLE!” “Well, well, well… looks like we are in for a particularly hospitable Christmas!” sighed Uncle.
“There maybe trouble when the Badfort Crowd learn of your deception!” warned the Old Monkey. Uncle broke into a merry laugh “Oh I don't think we'll hear from them for a while - you see I got the King of the Badgers to fill one of those tankers with Black Tom. It's a little present they will discover on their arrival - it is Christmas after all!”