Once upon a time, there was a tiny country called Cornucopia, which was ruled by a team of newly appointed advisors and a Prime Minister, who at the time of which I write was called Gordon Goodfellow. Prime Minister Goodfellow had been elected by the people of Cornucopia because he was a very honest man, and Cornucopia was a country that had learned the value of truth. There was a country-wide celebration when Prime Minister Goodfellow announced that he was going to marry Lady Eslanda, the kind and brave woman who’d given important evidence against Lord Spittleworth.
The king who’d allowed his happy little kingdom to be driven to ruin and despair stood trial, along with the Chief Advisor and a number of other people who’d benefited from Spittleworth’s lies, including Ma Grunter, Basher John, Cankerby the footman, and Otto Scrumble.
The king simply wept all through his questioning, but Lord Spittleworth answered in a cold, proud voice, and told so many lies, and tried to blame so many other people for his own wickedness, that he made matters far worse for himself than if he’d simply sobbed, like Fred. Both men were imprisoned in the dungeons beneath the palace, with all the other criminals.
I quite understand, by the way, if you wish Bert and Roderick had shot Spittleworth. After all, he’d caused hundreds of other people’s deaths. However, it should comfort you to know that Spittleworth really would have preferred to be dead than to sit in the dungeon all day and night, where he ate plain food and slept between rough sheets, and had to listen for hours on end to Fred crying.
The gold that Spittleworth and Flapoon had stolen was recovered, so that all those people who’d lost their cheese shops and their bakeries, their dairies and their pig farms, their butcher’s shops and their vineyards, could start them back up again, and begin producing the famous Cornucopian food and wine once more.
However, during the long period of Cornucopia’s poverty, many had lost the opportunity to learn how to make cheese, sausages, wine, and pastries. Some of them became librarians, because Lady Eslanda had the excellent idea of turning all the now useless orphanages into libraries, which she helped stock. However, that still left a lot of people without jobs.
And that is how the fifth great city of Cornucopia came into being. Its name was Ickaby, and it lay between Kurdsburg and Jeroboam, on the banks of the River Fluma.
When the second-born Ickaboggle heard of the problem of people who’d never learned a trade, it suggested timidly that it might teach them how to farm mushrooms, which was something it understood very well. So successful did the mushroom growers become that a prosperous town sprang up around them.
You might think you don’t like mushrooms, but I promise, if you tasted the creamy mushroom soups of Ickaby, you’d love them for the rest of your life. Kurdsburg and Baronstown developed new recipes that included Ickaby mushrooms. In fact, shortly before Prime Minister Goodfellow married Lady Eslanda, the King of Pluritania offered Goodfellow the choice of any of his daughters’ hands for a year’s supply of Cornucopian pork and mushroom sausages. Prime Minister Goodfellow sent the sausages as a gift, along with an invitation to the Goodfellows’ wedding, and Lady Eslanda added a note suggesting that King Porfirio might want to stop offering people his daughters in exchange for food, and let them choose their own husbands.
Ickaby was an unusual city, though, because unlike Chouxville, Kurdsburg, Baronstown, and Jeroboam, it was famous for three products instead of one.
Firstly, there were the mushrooms, every single one of them as beautiful as a pearl.
Secondly, there were the glorious silver salmon and trout which fishermen caught in the River Fluma – and you might like to know that a statue of the old lady who studied the fish of the Fluma stood proudly in one of Ickaby’s squares.
Thirdly, Ickaby produced wool.
You see, it was decided by Prime Minister Goodfellow that the few Marshlanders who’d survived the long period of hunger deserved better pastures for their sheep than could be found in the north. Well, when the Marshlanders were given a few lush fields on the bank of the Fluma, they showed what they could really do. The wool of Cornucopia was the softest, silkiest wool in the world, and the sweaters and socks and scarves it produced were more beautiful and comfortable than could be found anywhere else. The sheep farm of Hetty Hopkins and her family produced excellent wool, but I’d have to say that the finest garments of all were spun from the wool of Roderick and Martha Roach, who had a thriving farm just outside Ickaby. Yes, Roderick and Martha got married, and I’m pleased to say they were very happy, had five children, and that Roderick began to speak with a slight Marshlander accent.
Two other people got married, as well. I’m delighted to tell you that on leaving the dungeon, and though no longer forced to live next to each other, those old friends Mrs Beamish and Mr Dovetail found that they couldn’t do without each other. So with Bert as best man, and Daisy as chief bridesmaid, the carpenter and the pastry chef were married, and Bert and Daisy, who’d felt like brother and sister for so long, now truly were. Mrs Beamish opened her own splendid pastry shop in the heart of Chouxville where, in addition to Fairies’ Cradles, Maidens’ Dreams, Dukes’ Delights, Folderol Fancies, and Hopes-of-Heaven, she produced Ickapuffs, which were the lightest, fluffiest pastries you could possibly imagine, all covered with a delicate dusting of peppermint chocolate shavings, which gave them the appearance of being covered in marsh weed.
Bert followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Cornucopian army. A just and brave man, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he ends up at the head of it.
Daisy became the world’s foremost authority on Ickabogs. She wrote many books about their fascinating behaviour, and it is due to Daisy that Ickabogs became protected and beloved by the people of Cornucopia. In her free time, she ran a successful carpentry business with her father, and one of their most popular products were toy Ickabogs. The second-born Ickaboggle lived in what was once the king’s deer park, close to Daisy’s workshop, and the two remained very good friends.
There was a museum built, in the heart of Chouxville, which attracted many visitors each year. This museum was set up by Prime Minister Goodfellow and his advisors, with help from Daisy, Bert, Martha, and Roderick, because nobody wanted the people of Cornucopia to forget the years when the country believed all Spittleworth’s lies. Visitors to the museum could view Major Beamish’s silver medal, with Flapoon’s bullet still buried in it, and the statue of Nobby Buttons, which had been replaced, in Chouxville’s biggest square, with a statue of that brave Ickabog who walked out of the Marshlands carrying a bunch of snowdrops, and in doing so saved both its species and the country. Visitors could also see the model Ickabog that Spittleworth had made out of a bull’s skeleton and some nails, and the huge portrait of King Fred fighting a dragonish Ickabog that never existed outside the artist’s imagination.
But there’s one creature I haven’t yet mentioned: the first-born Ickaboggle, the savage creature who killed Lord Flapoon, and who was last seen being dragged away by many strong men.
Well, in truth, this creature was something of a problem. Daisy had explained to everyone that the savage Ickaboggle must not be attacked or mistreated, or it would hate people more than it already did. This would mean that at its Bornding, it would bring forth Ickaboggles even more savage than itself, and Cornucopia could end up with the problem Spittleworth had pretended it had. At first, this Ickaboggle needed to be kept in a reinforced cage to stop it killing people, and volunteers to take it mushrooms were hard to find, because it was so dangerous. The only people this Ickaboggle even slightly liked were Bert and Roderick, because at the moment of its Bornding they’d been trying to protect its Icker. The trouble was, of course, that Bert was away in the army and Roderick was running a sheep farm, and neither of them had time to sit all day with a savage Ickaboggle to keep it calm.
A solution to the problem arrived at last, from a very unexpected place.
All this time, Fred had been crying his eyes out down in the dungeons. Selfish, vain, and cowardly though he’d definitely been, Fred hadn’t meant to hurt anyone – though of course he had, and very badly too. For a whole year after he lost the throne, Fred was sunk into darkest despair, and while part of the reason was undoubtedly that he now lived in a dungeon rather than in a palace, he was also deeply ashamed.
He could see what a terrible king he’d been, and how badly he’d behaved, and he wished more than anything to be a better man. So one day, to the astonishment of Spittleworth, who was sitting brooding in the cell opposite, Fred told the prison guard that he’d like to volunteer to be the one to look after the savage Ickabog.
And that’s what he did. Though deathly white and trembly-kneed on the first morning, and for many mornings afterwards, the ex-king went into the savage Ickabog’s cage and talked to it about Cornucopia, and about the terrible mistakes he’d made, and how you could learn to be a better, kinder person, if you really wanted to become one. Even though Fred had to return to his own cell every evening, he requested that the Ickabog be put into a nice field instead of a cage and, to everyone’s surprise, this worked well, and the Ickabog even thanked Fred in a gruff voice the following morning.
Slowly, over the months and years that followed, Fred became braver and the Ickabog gentler, and at last, when Fred was quite an old man, the Ickabog’s Bornding came, and the Ickaboggles that stepped out of it were kind and gentle. Fred, who’d mourned their Icker as though it had been his brother, died very shortly afterwards. While there were no statues raised to their last king in any Cornucopian city, occasionally people laid flowers on his grave, and he would have been glad to know it.
Whether people were really Bornded from Ickabogs, I cannot tell you. Perhaps we go through a kind of Bornding when we change, for better or for worse. All I know is that countries, like Ickabogs, can be made gentle by kindness, which is why the kingdom of Cornucopia lived happily ever after.
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