Whilst A.B.Fox continued his investigations to discover how Beaver intended to make use of the Wizard's Dressing Gown, we decided to continue our tour of Homeward with a visit to the Homeward Art Gallery.
It is reached via a cupboard at the bottom of the back stairs at Homeward. Once through one enters an open space between immense towers. The gallery is in a tower opposite a very strange-looking castle called Crack House.
As we arrived the curator, a small shabby man called William Snowjuice, came rushing up to us. "Oh Sir, calamity, calamity - all your paintings are gone. They came to life!....they literally floated out of the gallery of their own accord!" he cried.
We rushed into the gallery and it was true - it was empty apart from one crude picture of myself. "Oh yes Sir, as the other paintings all left this one floated in and hang itself upon the wall - It is by the artist J von Tussle." explained Snowjuice.
Jellytussle is one of the Badfort Crowd, he's thickly covered with jelly of a bluish colour, and he's a very spiteful character.
It did not take much thinking to work out how Beaver had made use of the Wizard's Dressing Gown. By rendering him invisible it had enabled Beaver to remove the paintings undetected - creating the impression that the paintings had taken on a life of their own.
At that point, the artist, Waldovenison Smeare arrived. He is very thin, with long hair and a thin straggly beard, and he was wearing paint-stained trousers and a coat made out of a worn hearthrug.
Looking around at the empty gallery he let out a groan and collapsed. "My Masterpieces!" he moaned "Breakfast at Homeward. The Owner of the Castle and Friends, The Stolen Sandwich...and one of my earliest works - Still Life.One melon on a cracked plate....all gone." he cried.
Overcome by the loss of his precious work, Smeare fainted.
The One-Armed Badger carried him to a couch and sat near him with a tray of delicacies in case he recovered enough to nibble a few of them.
It was indeed a black morning.
I inspected the caption that had been pasted alongside the Von Tussle. The Tyrant of Homeward - hit him where it hurts! it said.
"A bad day, Sir, indeed" said A.B.Fox "...but it gives us a clue to where they might strike next. They have struck here for a purpose. Most of the stolen pictures depict the glorious events in your life - you opening the Dwarfs' Drinking Fountains, opening the Hoof and Claw Trimming Stall, and the many illustrations of your battles with the Badfort Crowd - their aim is to take the objects most dear to you. To wipe your deeds from history and humiliate you. There is only one other thing they could do to bring you down - hit you in your pocket."
I looked at the Old Monkey and we both nodded, at least we knew Beaver's next target.
It appears that one mystery in the Case of the stolen Wizard's Dressing Gown has been solved.
Goodman came to me this morning to hand in his resignation. He said he was wracked with guilt because he now knew that it was he who had revealed the awesome powers of the Dressing Gown.
It turns out that during the time he had worked for Wizard Blenkinsop he had kept a diary.
"That was a very foolish thing to do," I told him. "This trend of people in important positions to keep diaries, is merely an attempt at self-aggrandisement and exaltation in the power and fame they imagine they have...."
I was going to go on but the Old Monkey laughed and looked pointedly at my own diary. Sometimes I think that he is far to familiar and forgets his position in society.
"I take it you mentioned the Dressing Gown in question?" I asked Goodman.
"I am afraid so, Sir, I merely wanted to record the Wizard's generosity in donating the item to the Museum - I never imagined it could have such appalling consequences, Sir." he replied.
I then asked him how he was so sure that Beaver and his gang had found out about it from his diary. It turned out that the diary had been kept in my library and was now missing.
A.B.Fox then interjected "I have discovered, Sir, that a Joey Beadle has been a regular visitor to the library - claiming to be doing research for Wizard Blenkinsop."
Wizard Blenkinsop then cried out "Lies, all lies - I sacked Beadle some time ago. He was getting far too big for his boots. He became convinced that he had mastered all the magical arts - he had the disgraceful idea of becoming a television magician. I told him that went against the Wizard Code of Conduct but he was only interested in seeking fame and fortune!"
Joey Beadle had once falsely claimed to be a Member of the World Wizard Association. He had fleeced some gullible young wolves and badgers by setting up a School of Magic and enrolling them as students. Suffice to say that he was a total imposter and the only magic he was capable of teaching was of the parlour game variety.
Wizard Blenkinsop had been impressed by his enthusiasm for the profession, however, so rather than expose and disgrace him had offered him the position of clerk and general helper. To be frank, I think that the old Wizard was somewhat flattered by Beadle's faux subservience and slavish attitude.
A.B.Fox then described how he and Goodman had tailed the wayward magician's assistant to Badfort. Hiding behind a barrel of Black Tom they had witnessed a meeting between him and Hitmouse.
That clinches it - there can be no doubt as to who stole the magical dressing gown - but what do they intend to do with it?
I forgave Goodman - an elephant in my position has to be able to make a judgement between an innocent mistake and dereliction of duty.
Graciously I told the cat "You are forgiven, Goodman, you have clearly worked diligently with A.B. to try and rectify events - we must all pull together to counteract the assault that Beaver is clearly planning."
"Oh thank you, Sir, you truly are a beneficent elephant!" he replied.
We had all been concerned over the sightings of Beaver and his gang at The Pleasure Palace. It was clear to me that, with so many valuable exhibits, the Museum would be a prime target for them. I instructed A.B.Fox, Brass and Goodman to act as night watchman and keep an eye out for the villains. The night, however, had passed quietly and we were just about to board our bus and set out on the next leg of our journey when Septimus Brigg, the curator, came rushing out, distraught and in a panic.
One of the exhibits had disappeared. The Wizard's Dressing Gown was no longer in it's display case. A.B.Fox was perplexed. "I don't understand, we saw no one, Sir, and heard not a sound!" he said - clearly upset at the thought of his failure to prevent the theft.
When I questioned Brigg about the lack of security alarms, given the value of the exhibits, he became quite defensive and rather rude. He tried to blame me - arguing that until, Fox discovered the means of access to the other floors, and, I opened the place up he had had no worries on such matters because nobody came to visit the place!
Dumbfounded at his impudence I told him to aid Fox in anyway he could - on all the possible means of escape. The only one that seemed feasible was in the bucket via the aerial lift. Fox's keen eye soon spotted a pile of skewers on the floor of the bucket. That clinched it - it had to have been Hitmouse who was responsible.
But why only steal one item? - what was so special about an old dressing gown?
I questioned Brigg further on the item - where had it come from?
It turned out that the dressing gown had been donated by Wizard Blenkinsop, so I set word to him to come immediately on a matter of Homeward Security.
"Oh, yes the dressing gown." said the Wizard "Well, I had to find somewhere safe for it and where better than the secure environment of a museum of treasures. I knew that the artifacts would be well protected..." "But what is so special about an old dressing gown?" I interrupted him.
"Why, it makes the wearer invisible and cloaks any sound they make, of course!" he replied.
I could not believe it - the perfect tool for a bunch of brigands in the hands of Beaver and his gang. "Why," I asked the Wizard angrily "did you not think to warn Brigg of the powers of this exhibit?"
"Well," retorted the Wizard "I did not want every Tom, Dick and Harry, to know of it's magical properties, did I! - that would have been most dangerous!"
But, how then did Beaver know about the dressing gown? and what villainous deeds does he intend to perpetrate with it? I wondered aloud.
We decided to continue our bus tour of Homeward with an expedition to my Pleasure Palace.
The Pleasure Palace was formally known as Montague Tower.
Montague Tower for a long time had been a toilsome and disappointing place - visitors hoping to visit the museum there were usually thwarted by the fiendishly complex and mysterious route required to get there. It was the most maddening, baffling place in my domain. This suited the curator, Septimus Brigg, because he did not really like visitors. In truth he is a somewhat lazy and officious individual and enjoyed laughing at prospective visitors attempts to find the entrance. It became known as the Closed Gallery for obvious reasons.
Our first visit was a dull affair. Although the museum consists of twenty four floors of artifacts, Septimus had only managed to find out how to get to three of them. The first floor consisted of nothing but treacle bowls through the ages; the second contained a collection of Flemish cooking stoves, all the same size; and on the third, nothing but flamingo bird-baths.
Luckily, my detective A.B.Fox discovered that whilst the staircase only serviced the first three floors there was in fact a lift that runs to all the floors. The exhibits on the these were far more interesting than the boring items on the first three floors.
There are a wizard's dressing gown, a metal crusher for hard pies, a toffee candlestick, a Chinese rattle, a donkey's tooth mounted in silver, a thumb jug, a tin of burglar's toothpaste, an elk skinner, an antique lawnmower, and so on, and on.
Enough fascinating items for people to make many visits of discovery.
Most exciting of all, however, is the fact that on the roof is a steel platform from which a large steel bucket can be used to ascend from and descend to the ground.
I decided to re-open Montague Tower as a Pleasure Palace. After looking at the endless things of interest on all the floors visitors are then able to go on the roof, look out and see splendid views of Homeward and the countryside, and then take an exciting ride down in the bucket!
The aerial lift soon became the great attraction.
As usual, Septimus was complaining about how noisy the visitors were being. "They don't show enough reverence for these great historical artifacts," he moaned "the children are always running about and laughing!"
I had to remind him that I had renamed the place The Pleasure Palace for a reason - the idea was that people came here to enjoy themselves!
We decided to have a spot of lunch at the new eating-house I had established for visitors and were just tucking into some wholesome fare when A.B.Fox came up to me and said quietly: "I have very bad news for you, sir. I am afraid all the members of the Badfort Crowd are here, sir. They are disguised in various ways with false beards and wigs, but I've spotted them."
The Old Monkey and I's suspicions turned out to be right. When we arrived at the Badfort Crowd's makeshift Jail, in the cellars of Lion Tower, we found the doors wide open. The Birds had flown.
The two officers of the Badgertown Police, who were supposed to be guarding them, were staring adoringly at a 'Wanted' poster of Beaver Hateman.
"What is the meaning of this dereliction of duty" I demanded. We could get little sense out of them, however.
"That kind Mister Hootman brought us a lovely lunch - and we soon realised the error of our ways." they mumbled "Beaver is such a hero - a champion of the people. He is so kind, always fighting against injustice - not like you, you big fat tyrant. We just had to let him go, so that he could continue his good works."
"Have they gone mad?, Sir" asked Goodman. "No, not mad." I said "Just infatuated, I fear - but hopefully the affects shall soon wear off." I replied.
It was quite clear that Hootman had spiced their drinking water with Gleamhound's Hate Potion. As usual, his medicine's backward effects had led them to become besotted with their prisoners.
We climbed up Lion Tower to a giant balcony on the top floor to have our tea. My followers were despondent at the thought of the Badfort Crowd on the loose again. As I looked out over my domain, I remarked on what a wonderful day it had been to the Old Monkey and he agreed. Everyone else looked at us askance - "How can you say that, Sir," piped up Goodman "It has been an appalling day - the Badfort Crowd have escaped and goodness only knows what atrocities they are planning..." at that point he was interrupted by a loud caterwauling from below.
"What's that racket?" said Will Shudder. We all looked over the balcony."Why, I do believe that I am being serenaded." I laughed.
Below us the Badfort Crowd were singing a song:
"We love to hear of Uncle's deeds, He makes us feel so glad; His bounty makes the poor man rich, And fills with joy the sad, "How vast his stores of ham and lard, How huge his vats of oil..."
This went on for about twenty verses, all extolling my virtues.
I looked around at the Old Monkey..."So, it worked then?" I said.
"Oh yes, Sir, a Black Tom barrel just outside the cellar exit...I knew they would not be able to resist it. Laced with a whole bottle of Gleamhound's Hate Potion. Seems to have done the trick." he replied.
Of course, I made sure that the whole performance was being filmed - I felt it might prove a useful propaganda tool in my continuing battle with the Badfort Crowd.
A visit to Lion Tower would not be complete without a shopping expedition to Gleamhound's Store.
Thomas Clatworthy Spencer Libertas Sweetwater Clanjohn Brewage Templetonjoyce Gleamhound is nearly always called 'the Old Man' - it is a lot easier on the tongue.
With his assistant, Eva, he makes medicines for a living. They live at the top of Homeward Tower, where he has a laboratory, but his store is located at Lion Tower. It is easy to find because it has a huge neon sign spelling out the word 'Gleamhound'.
We stood and read the notice outside:
PURVEYOR OF DRUGS. PROPRIETOR OF GLEAMHOUND'S HEADACHE MIXTURE, GLEAMHOUND'S HEADACHE MIXTURE, GLEAMHOUND'S HEADACHE PRODUCER (FOR ENEMIES), GLEAMHOUND'S HAIR REMOVER, GLEAMHOUND'S FAT REDUCER, GLEAMHOUND'S FATTENING MIXTURE FOR THE THIN, GLEAMHOUND'S STOMACH JOY, ETC.ETC.
Mr Gleamhound came out to meet us. He is perfectly bald, and wears immensely strong glasses over his inflamed eyes. He has been using his own hair restorer and eye salve for years.
For you see there is one distinct problem with all his products. They are all very good, but they act the wrong way. For instance, his headache Mixture gives you a frightful headache, his Jumbo Bunion Destroyer is well calculated to rouse bunions on a perfectly healthy foot. His Jacob's Eye Salve can put your eyes out for weeks, whereas his Punishment Eyesight Irritant (for enemies) will often cure people who have had to wear glasses for years.
No one wants to hurt the Old Man's feelings, though, so they tend to keep quiet about this fact. After all, as long as one knows the idiosyncrasies of his concoctions there is nothing better.
I asked the Old Man how he was getting on."Oh very well,very well indeed! After three thousand three hundred and seventy experiments, I have at last succeeded in perfecting a Hate Potion that is satisfactory. It has been selling like hot cakes! I must admit its sales have rather taken me by surprise - with Valentine's Day coming up one would assume that everyone would want my Love Potion - but surprisingly that has not been the case?" he replied.
I winked at the Old Monkey "Tell me Old Man, how does this Hate Potion work and what is it designed for?" I asked.
"Well," answered Gleamhound "it is very useful for getting rid of bores and sycophants. One drop of this potion and they can't stand you anymore - they soon go away then."
I tactfully replied "Well, that's sounds very useful, I have more than my fair share of fawning flatterers to put up with - but I think I'll take a bottle of the Love potion. One does not want to be heartless at this time of year."
"I must admit I don't have a lot of the Hate Potion left," said Gleamhound "I sold a dozen bottles to a spectral figure this morning - tried to interest him in my potion for making ghosts more apparent. Thought it would help him make more friends - he was not a very attractive person and his shabby clothing did not help. But he told me to mind my own business."
The Old Monkey piped up "I think it might be advisable to buy some of the Hate Potion, Sir, that personage sounds very like our old enemy Hootman...I suggest we check up on the incarcerated Badfort Crowd as soon as possible."
I heartily agreed - it seems some sort of skulduggery is afoot.
We had to re-take the lighthouse before Beaver and his gang could turn off the light and carry out their plan of stealing the cargo of the wrecked ships.
A fierce battle ensued all the way up the spiral staircase - but we had soon fought our way up to the lantern room.
There, Beaver and his gang, dressed as pirates had erected a large wooden plank which jetted out from the parapet. Captain Walrus had been forced to walk to the edge and now stood precariously looking over the abyss that yawned below him.
High above Lion Tower, the lighthouse kept up its swaying motion and I feared for the Captain's ability to maintain his foothold.
Through a megaphone Beaver shouted his demands. "Keep back, Unc or the Captain is in for a long drop - ain't that right me hearties !" he extolled his motley crew.
"Don't listen to him, Sir !" cried Captain Walrus "The light must not go out!"
Jubber Vanty whispered in my ear "If you could just distract them for a moment, Sir, I think I have a solution to our problem."
"Alright Beaver - I know what your after it's the tanker of Black Tom isn't it?" I shouted. This took him by surprise and his eyes all agleam he asked "What tanker of..."
But before he could get any further Jubber sprayed him with his plastic solution. He had handed cans to all my followers who following his actions sprayed the rest of the Badfort Crowd.
Beaver and co were encased in plastic straitjackets !
"A special design, Sir - commissioned by the Badgertown Police to deal with recalcitrant dwarfs." said Jubber smiling.
I must say it was an excellent days work and with Beaver and his gang safely incarcerated in the cellars of Lion Tower I can look forward to the rest of my trip passing without anymore unfortunate incidents.
On a previous trip to Lion Tower we had noticed a huge notice on one landing:
JUBBER VANTY'S SUITINGS Plastic suit sprayed on while you wait. Pay then get sprayed.
I had always meant to investigate further - to make sure there was no sharp practice going on. So, while at Lion Tower we had decided to make a visit on Mister Vanty.
We followed the directions on the notice and soon found ourselves at an ornate door with a nameplate:
Jubber Vanty Fashion Designer - Clothes for the discerning Gentleman
The door was opened by an extravagantly dressed man who positively gushed at the sight of us. "Oh my," he cried "at last my reputation has spread to the great owner of Homeward - I cannot tell you how much I have dreamed of the opportunity to dress your personage, Sir, your sartorial elegance is world renowned..." I quickly interrupted before he could go on. "Yes, alright - tell us more about these spray on suitings."
It turned out that the process was his own invention. Apparently one could choose any colour one wished from a range of spray cans - he would then dial in a template of his own design - and voila a quick spray and the plastic garment would appear.
Will Shudder volunteered to be a guinea pig for the process and was soon arrayed in a splendid yellow jacket.
We all decided to have a go and I must admit the results were very interesting - if a little gaudy for my taste.
I decided to go for a purple mackintosh - in a traditional gannex style. One likes to show solidarity with the working classes on occasion.
"Oh, suits you Sir, it really does," said Jubber "...and I do a nice range of spray-on rubber items, as well, if you are interested? Sir," he added.
"Why would anyone want a rubber suit? - I can't imagine you sell many of them?" I asked, somewhat perplexed.
"You would be surprised, Sir. Naval people are particularly keen...they are perfect for underwater swimming, diving, that sort of thing - why only this morning I sprayed a whole group of fellows - uncouth lot a must say. Appalling dress sense - sack cloth! so rough on the hands - mind you they were a rough lot!" replied Jubber.
"Sounds like the Badfort Crowd, Sir." interjected the Old Monkey with a worried look on his face.
"What would they want with Rubber suits?" I pondered fearing the worst.
Suddenly, Joe Weasel, Captain Walrus's man, burst through the door. "Oh, thank goodness I have found you, Sir !" he cried. He was out of breath and clearly distraught.
We sat him down and gave him a tot of rum to calm him down. He was then able to recount the terrible mornings events. Apparently the lighthouse had been attacked in the early hours by a gang of brigands who had been hiding in the lake. They now held Captain Walrus prisoner and had captured the lighthouse.
I looked at the Old Monkey and in unison we declared... "Beaver!"
This was a serious situation. Hateman clearly intended to switch the light off - causing countless shipwrecks...and a rich harvest of plunder for the Badfort Crowd.
We had until nightfall to rescue Walrus and avert disaster.
Lion Tower is the highest tower in my castle and there are a hundred or more storeys - so we have set aside a whole week to explore it.
Doctor Lyre has written a whole book about it called The History of Lion Tower and we shall be using it as our guide - even though it is full of inaccuracies.
First of all, though, I wished to pay a visit on my old friend Captain Walrus. There is a good sized lake at the top of Lion Tower, and at the edge of it is a sturdy tower, approached by a massive staircase. On the top of this is the lighthouse where Captain Walrus lives.
The lighthouse is a tight, snug little place but it sways about a bit, being so high up. It can make one feel a bit sea sick. It is a good idea to take one of Gleamhound's "Sickness Producer for Enemies" tablets - as his concoctions always work backwards it is a valuable remedy for queasiness.
We had a capital seafaring meal prepared by Captain Walrus's man, Joe Weasel. It was just sea-biscuits, salt pork and, in my honour, plum duff, but we enjoyed it a good deal and afterwards I had a lie down in the hammock that Captain Walrus had specially made for me on my last visit. It took one hundred and eighty yards of sailcloth to make. The gentle swaying of the tower soon sent me off to sleep.
Tomorrow we will investigate Mister Jubber Vanty - we had spotted a mysterious sign on one of the landings on a previous visit to Lion Tower and had always meant to look him up.
Today we paid a visit to Lost Clinkers to see our old friend, the writing master, Benskin.
Benskin teaches fancy and copperplate writing and has improved Goodman's writing skills a great deal.
The scenery on the way to Lost Clinkers is very pretty at first. There are lots of woods, with great purple flowers as big as shields, and some ponds full of yellow fishes, but the nearer you get to Lost Clinkers the uglier it becomes.
Lost Clinkers is really an old deserted gasworks. There are great piles of cinders and rubble and everything is black with soot. There are bluish pools that contain some sort of chemical. You would imagine the place to be really awful but surprisingly the air there is very good and the industrial landscape has a strange beauty all of it's own. The Gasworks has its own railway yard and train-loads of tourists come everyday to enjoy the invigorating air and walk around the desolate landscape.
We had a splendid lunch, in the retort house, including more than twenty bottles of ginger ale and raspberryade. The we walked over some slag heaps to the big reservoir and had a good swim. It was very interesting swimming there because there are great big pipes and iron ladders in the reservoir, and a big iron thing in the middle like a buoy. We all climbed on this and paddled around in the reservoir.
After this we climbed to the top of a rusty iron tower by means of a spiral staircase.
"Oh, Please, Sir, do sing for us again!" begged the Old Monkey. On our last visit to Lost Clinkers I had given my followers a rendition and they were keen to hear my singing again.
As you know I don't like to show off in anyway, praise does so embarrass me, but they all insisted that I favour them with a song so I reluctantly agreed.
"Flowers in my garden grow Of which gardeners brag; But the sweetest flower I know Is a daisy on the slag
"Honour to the daisies On the slag-heap high; Let us sing the praises Till they reach the sky!
"They say the loveliest flowers cling Beneath an Alpine crag; But the sweetest flower I sing Is the daisy on the slag.
"Honour to the daisies-"
The Old Monkey broke down at this point and was led away weeping, but he soon came back so as not to miss anything.
As I finished, loud applause broke out from beneath the tower. "Bravo, Bravo," yelled out a dwarf "Well worth 5 shillings... so beautiful and ethereal."he added. We looked below. A huge crowd of dwarfs surrounded us.
"Allow me to say," said Benskin. "that I have heard the greatest artists, but without any flattery, I should put your singing by the side of that of Signor Maletti of Trieste, and I think the Signor would have to say he was defeated. What a surprise to here such a small sound from such a big personage - so different from your usual thunderous tones."
I must admit I blushed somewhat. But one thing concerned me. I asked the dwarf what he meant by paying five shillings to hear me?
"Why a gentleman in a raggedy suit told us that you would be singing for charity this afternoon and sold us all tickets." he answered and added "I must say it was well worth it - your singing is so fairy-like so.."
"Mincing !" shouted a raucous voice. It was Beaver Hateman.
"What is the meaning of this! " I roared. "Have you duped these poor dwarfs into paying to hear me sing?" I asked - incredulous at the effrontery of Beaver's actions.
"Yep, Cheers Unc - we knew you would not be able to resist showing off again so we thought we could make a bob or two from your wailing!" shouted Beaver.
By the time we had got to the bottom of the tower he and his cronies had disappeared.
The least I could do for the poor dwarfs, who had paid out money to hear me sing, was to perform a proper concert for them. So I sang a number of the most popular songs from my repertoire.
There was, of course, rapturous applause and a loud cheer when I told them that we would lay on a feast, for them all, at the top of the largest slag heap.
I was determined, however, that Beaver would pay for this latest outrage.
We have stopped off on our tour of Homeward to see the new Cheese-Grater Tower.
Wizard Blenkinsop, as the previous owner of Homeward, takes a keen interest in the changing architecture of my domain. He thinks that the place is being wrecked by some of the new towers which he describes as "carbuncles".
To some extent I agree. I much prefer my skyscrapers to be the traditional rectangular block too - a symmetrical design is far more aesthetically pleasing and in keeping with the heritage of Homeward.
However, in the case of Cheese-Grater Tower the architect could not have done a better job of fitting form to function. It is a delight to watch the dwarfs at work. Each morning they pull a huge lump of cheese up it's slope and then let it loose. As it descends it grates over the metal indentations showering fine slivers of cheese into the waiting vats below. They repeat this process many times during the day. I am proud to say that our cheese gratings are exported all around the world and are considered a great delicacy.
Next door to Cheese-Grater Tower is Gherkin Tower. This is where the gherkins are grown for all the Fish and Chip Shops of Homeward.
We had a slap up Fish Dinner at the Restaurant at the bottom of the Tower.