When Daisy entered the palace courtyard, at the head of the people’s procession, she was amazed to see how little it had altered. Fountains still played and peacocks still strutted, and the only change to the front of the palace was a single broken window, up on the second floor.
Then the great golden doors were flung open, and the crowd saw two ragged people walking out to meet them: a white-haired man holding an axe and a woman clutching an enormous saucepan.
And Daisy, staring at the white-haired man, felt her knees buckle, and the kind Ickaboggle caught her and held her up. Mr Dovetail tottered forward, and I don’t think he even noticed that an actual live Ickabog was standing beside his long-lost daughter. As the two of them hugged and sobbed, Daisy spotted Mrs Beamish over her father’s shoulder.
‘Bert’s alive!’ she called to the pastry chef, who was looking frantically for her son, ‘but he had something to do… He’ll be back soon!’
More prisoners now came hurrying out of the palace, and there were screams of joy as loved ones found loved ones, and many of the orphanage children found the parents they’d thought were dead.
Then a lot of other things happened, like the thirty strong men who surrounded the fierce Ickaboggle, dragging it away before it could kill anyone else, and Daisy asking Mr Dovetail if Martha could come and live with them, and Captain Goodfellow appearing on a balcony with a weeping King Fred, who was still wearing his pyjamas, and the crowd cheering when Captain Goodfellow said he thought it was time to try life without a king.
However, we must now leave this happy scene, and track down the man who was most to blame for the terrible things that had happened to Cornucopia.
Lord Spittleworth was miles away, galloping down a deserted country road, when his horse suddenly went lame. When Spittleworth tried to force it onwards, the poor horse, which had had quite enough of being mistreated, reared and deposited Spittleworth onto the ground. When Spittleworth tried to whip it, the horse kicked him, then trotted away into a forest where, I am pleased to tell you, it was later found by a kind farmer, who nursed it back to health.
Lord Spittleworth was therefore left to jog alone down the country lanes towards his country estate, holding up his Chief Advisor’s robes lest he trip over them, and looking over his shoulder every few yards for fear that he was being followed. He knew perfectly well that his life in Cornucopia was over, but he still had that mountain of gold hidden in his wine cellar, and he intended to load up his carriage with as many ducats as would fit, then sneak over the border into Pluritania.
Night had fallen by the time Spittleworth reached his mansion, and his feet were terribly sore. Hobbling inside, he bellowed for his butler, Scrumble, who so long ago had pretended to be Nobby Buttons’s mother and Professor Fraudysham.
‘Down here, my lord!’ called a voice from the cellar.
‘Why haven’t you lit the lamps, Scrumble?’ bellowed Spittleworth, feeling his way downstairs.
‘Thought it best not to look like anyone was home, sir!’ called Scrumble.
‘Ah,’ said Spittleworth, wincing as he limped downstairs. ‘So you’ve heard, have you?’
‘Yes, sir,’ said the echoing voice. ‘I imagined you’d be wanting to clear out, my lord?’
‘Yes, Scrumble,’ said Lord Spittleworth, limping towards the distant light of a single candle, ‘I most certainly do.’
He pushed open the door to the cellar where he’d been storing his gold all these years. The butler, whom Spittleworth could only make out dimly in the candlelight, was once again wearing Professor Fraudysham’s costume: the white wig and the thick glasses that shrank his eyes to almost nothing.
‘Thought it might be best if we travel in disguise, sir,’ said Scrumble, holding up old Widow Buttons’s black dress and ginger wig.
‘Good idea,’ said Spittleworth, hastily pulling off his robes and pulling on the costume. ‘Do you have a cold, Scrumble? Your voice sounds strange.’
‘It’s just the dust down here, sir,’ said the butler, moving further from the candlelight. ‘And what will Your Lordship be wanting to do with Lady Eslanda? She’s still locked in the library.’
‘Leave her,’ said Spittleworth, after a moment’s consideration. ‘And serve her right for not marrying me when she had the chance.’
‘Very good, my lord. I’ve loaded up the carriage and a couple of horses with most of the gold. Perhaps Your Lordship could help carry this last trunk?’
‘I hope you weren’t thinking of leaving without me, Scrumble,’ said Spittleworth suspiciously, wondering whether, if he’d arrived ten minutes later, he might have found Scrumble gone.
‘Oh no, my lord,’ Scrumble assured him. ‘I wouldn’t dream of leaving without Your Lordship. Withers the groom will be driving us, sir. He’s ready and waiting in the courtyard.’
‘Excellent,’ said Spittleworth, and together they heaved the last trunk of gold upstairs, through the deserted house and out into the courtyard behind, where Spittleworth’s carriage stood waiting in the darkness. Even the horses had sacks of gold slung over their backs. More gold had been strapped onto the top of the carriage, in cases.
As he and Scrumble heaved the last trunk onto the roof, Spittleworth said:
‘What is that peculiar noise?’
‘I hear nothing, my lord,’ said Scrumble.
‘It is an odd sort of grunting,’ said Spittleworth.
A memory came back to Spittleworth as he stood here in the dark: that of standing in the icy-white fog on the marsh all those years before, and the whimpers of the dog struggling against the brambles in which it was tangled. This was a similar noise, as though some creature were trapped and unable to free itself, and it made Lord Spittleworth quite as nervous as it had last time when, of course, it had been followed by Flapoon firing his blunderbuss and starting both of them onto the path to riches, and the country down the road to ruin.
‘Scrumble, I don’t like that noise.’
‘I don’t expect you do, my lord.’
The moon slid out from behind a cloud and Lord Spittleworth, turning quickly towards his butler, whose voice sounded very different all of a sudden, found himself staring down the barrel of one of his own guns. Scrumble had removed Professor Fraudysham’s wig and glasses, to reveal that he wasn’t the butler at all, but Bert Beamish. And for just a moment, seen by moonlight, the boy looked so like his father that Spittleworth had the crazy notion that Major Beamish had risen from the dead to punish him.
Then he looked wildly around him and saw, through the open door of the carriage, the real Scrumble, gagged and tied up on the floor, which was where the odd whimpering was coming from – and Lady Eslanda sitting there, smiling and holding a second gun. Opening his mouth to ask Withers the groom why he didn’t do something, Spittleworth realised that this wasn’t Withers, but Roderick Roach. (When he’d spotted the two boys galloping up the drive, the real groom had quite rightly sensed trouble, and stealing his favourite of Lord Spittleworth’s horses, had ridden off into the night.)
‘How did you get here so fast?’ was all Spittleworth could think to say.
‘We borrowed some horses from a farmer,’ said Bert.
In fact, Bert and Roderick were much better riders than Spittleworth, so their horses hadn’t gone lame. They’d managed to overtake him and had arrived in plenty of time to free Lady Eslanda, find out where the gold was, tie up Scrumble the butler, and force him to tell them the full story of how Spittleworth had fooled the country, including his own impersonation of Professor Fraudysham and Widow Buttons.
‘Boys, let’s not be hasty,’ said Spittleworth faintly. ‘There’s a lot of gold here. I’ll share it with you!’
‘It isn’t yours to share,’ said Bert. ‘You’re coming back to Chouxville and we’re going to have a proper trial.’
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