An old rodden castle, somewhere in the 'Grampian Mountains'
Here old McShredder is living and takes pleasure in making the life of his butler unpleasant. However, as a well-trained butler, McClown endures all his noble gentleman's whims. But then the butler has to make a long, troublesome journey.
This story was written for no other purpose but to prepare my kids for their first trip to Scotland...
The Old Lord’s Castle
It was quiet in the old castle which lay deep in the forests of Scotland at the foot of a high mountain chain. Softly like an eiderdown quilt the night settled over the old walls. This castle, which once had been a church, had seen several centuries, here and there the stonework began to crumble away. All this belonged to the McShredder Clan, and the present owner was Lord McShredder, almost 90 years of age. Together with his faithful, a little clumsy butler Frido McClown he lived in the lonely, sinister building.
It was about midnight, when Lord McShredder called his butler.
“Hey, McClown, where are you fooling about? I feel cold.”
The faithful butler approached slowly and said with an innocent look:
“Your Lordship certainly knows we have a power failure and the heating does not work. But how about a nice cup of tea?”
“Eh?” Lord McShredder cried, outraged. “Why should the mice sup at the sea?”
McClown rolled his eyes for it was no secret that Lord McShredder was rather hard of hearing.
“Tea, I said, Milord.”
“The sea is laid out?” McShredder shook his head. “Well, yesterday it was still alive. Why don’t you make some tea for me when I feel cold?”
With a groan Frido McClown went to the kitchen to put the kettle on when he realized that there would be no hot water without power. Sadly he shuffled back to milord and explained that without power there would be no tea. Lord McShredder thought this over quite a while and suggested to fetch him a thick pullover or, better still, a fur coat if there was no tea.
“Sir, all our cloths have been eaten by the moths”, the butler reminded him.
“Eh?” the hard hearing lord retorted. “Allah and the carrots have beaten the maggots?”
“THE MOTHS HAVE EATEN THE CLOTHS!” the butler bawled and desperately tore at his hairs.
“No need to shout”, McShredder angrily said. “I’m not deaf.”
While the butler was close to a nervous breakdown milord took his pipe, but found that he had no more tobacco. The day before he had had such a fit of sneezing that now all the tobacco was well spread over the whole castle.
“Oh, my dear McClown, just another matter”, Lord McShredder said. “Please remember that tomorrow you don’t hoover the castle but use a broom. If all is swept, please put everything into my tobacco pouch. We have to economize.” Milord rubbed his hands and added: “And another matter. I need a thick pullover or, better, a new fur coat. My rheumatism gets worse and worse.”
“Fine”, McClown groaned. “Then I’ll go to the town.”
“Row in a gown?” McShredder was bewildered. “What kind of idea is that?”
“GO TO THE TOWN!” the butler crowed. “Early in the morning.”
“Curly as a form ring? What nonsense is that, McClown?”
Milord shook his head in puzzlement.
Shrieking, the butler ran out of the room and kept to his chamber for the rest of the night. Why, he thought, why do I have to serve such a complete moron?
The next morning McClown got up early. While going downstairs to the great hall he saw His Lordship still sitting and sleeping in his armchair. He went to the kitchen, put the kettle on, took a pan and broke some eggs into it. When he found a tea bag he prepared the teapot and put two slices of toast into the toaster. Satisfied, he put the pan to the stove and turned it on. Then he went over to His Lordship, calling:
„Wake up, Milord, breakfast will be served in a minute.“
“What was that?” Lord McShredder asked sleepily. “Miller’s back was shaved in a Mini? Why do they do that?”
“O well”, McClown grinned. “Now and then the back should be shaved, you know.”
“I see”, McShredder replied. “Perhaps I should do that, too.”
Before the befuddled butler could answer, milord continued: “Where are my scrambled eggs? Aren’t they ready?”
McClown hastened to the kitchen and with a shock he realized that without power there would be neither tea nor scrambled eggs.
“Hurry up!” milord shouted. “I am starving!”
“Coming”, McClown called back, poured the raw eggs from the pan into a soup plate, took a spoon and placed everything on the table in front of His Lordship.
Lord McShredder spooned up the raw eggs, looked at McClown and said: “Delicious, my good man, you surpassed yourself! By the way, yesterday I read an article in the newspaper. It was a report about the Syrian desert. Just imagine, McClown, thousands of hamsters are living there. It said those animals are only active during the night. And do you know the reason, McClown?”
“Probably during the day it is too hot”, the butler replied.
“Wrong”, McShredder said triumphantly, “because during the day it is too hot!”
“Indeed”, the butler said angrily.
“You wouldn’t have thought so, would you?” Lord McShredder said. “As matter of fact, those animals have a thick fur against the cold. And do you know which idea came to me?”
“Well”, the butler replied, “probably you want to grow a fur, too.”
“Fiddlesticks”, milord croaked. “I need a coat made of hamster fur. You have to leave immediately to get me a coat of hamster fur. But first you’ll sweep the castle. I need something to smoke after all.”
“But Sir”, the butler said, “we may take sheepskin.”
“By no means. You will make no sleep thing. Hurry up, McClown!”
“Your Lordship, I’ll need thousands of hamsters for a fur coat!” the butler shouted, shocked.
- British Hamster -
Actually not really different
to all the other hamsters
in the world.
“So what?” McSchredder retorted. “I may ask for some engagement. In my days every sheep around here was sheared by hand. So you have no reason to make trouble about some hamsters.”
“Do you mean I am to shear every single hamster?” McClown asked appalled.
“Nonsense, why should you tear and mingle hamsters?” milord answered. “You simply don’t get me, McClown, you are to shear the animals. Enough now. I’d like to have some tea.”
The butler shuffled back to the kitchen, swearing softly. In the kitchen, he angrily threw a tea bag into a cup filled with cold water. Water splashed on the old gas stove and while he cleaned away the drops with one hand, he tried to get at the sugar pot with the other. He did not seize it properly, and the sugar pot landed on his head. It ached like hell. While he held his head, he heard His Lordship calling impatiently: “How long do I have to wait for my tea?”
Now McClown’s patience was spent. He took the two toast slices, stuffed them into the tea cup and pressed them in firmly. Then he took the cup and ran to milord. That is, he wanted to run to him, but his sleeve got caught at the toaster and it banged to the floor. Enraged, the butler kicked the toaster so that it bolted into the shelf with the dishes. It clinked and jangled, the shelf came down on the poor butler who desperately tried to steady himself at the gas stove. A moment later he was buried under broken dishes and the splintered shelf. McClown heard a loud hissing. Buried under the shelf as he was, he could see nothing, took a match from his pocket and stroke it. The moment it flared up, he realized that the hissing was caused by the old gas stove.
Gas! he thought. That’s it! We don’t need electricity, we can use gas as power. Who would have thought that the old gas stove still works. So I don’t need to catch hamsters and…
McClown making Tea
His thoughts were interrupted by a big bang. McClown felt like lifted by a giant’s hand. Then he catapulted through the kitchen door into the great hall. All the time he was clinging to the tea cup with the toast mush. Another bang, and the butler landed beside His Lordship.
“You see”, Lord McShredder said, “you can if you will. Why aren’t you always that quick? Did you hear the noise? It sounded as if someone knocked at the door.”
Frido McClown got up with a groan, handed the tea cup to milord and staggered to the front door. It took him some moments to open it. As he could not see anybody, he closed it again.
“Where am I, what am I doing here?” he asked and held his buzzing head.
“Thank you, the tea is delicious”, he heard a croaking voice say.
He looked around. Somehow that old guy was familiar, but McClown did not know why. With the gas explosion he had lost his memory.
“McClown, now is the time to look for hamsters for my fur coat. Best thing would be you go to Syria or suchlike. A good butler keeps his master warm, doesn’t he?”
“Certainly, Sir”, McClown replied.
“Here is some money for your journey”, His Lordship continued. “If you’re in trouble, tell them that you’re travelling by order of Lord McShredder of the McShredder Clan. That should do. Hurry up – and enjoy your journey!”
With shaking legs McClown walked to the front door, opened it and went into the garden. The fresh air did him well as the castle had a smelly smell. He thought things over thoroughly and murmured: “So, I seem to be a butler named McClown. The old guy named McShredder is a lord in the castle – needs be my boss. I’m to fetch hamsters for a fur coat. Quite nuts! Well, so what, I can’t remember anything and only hope my memory will come back.”
So the butler took the road to the next airport which was Glasgow. On his way he had an embarrassing experience. When he sat in the train to the airport, pondering about a way to transport such a lot of hamsters, a conductor entered the compartment. In Scotland it is usual to get onto the train and buy the ticket from a conductor. So the conductor came to the butler and asked: “How many persons, Sir?”
McClown, deep in his thoughts about how many hamsters were necessary for a fur coat, answered: “Thousands – if not more.”
The conductor needed a few minutes to recover from the shock, but then handed a ticket to McClown.
The flight to Syria brought no problems. However, after wandering through the Syrian desert for a week, McClown had found not a single hamster and was finally picked up, almost parched, by a desert patrol.
After a two weeks’ stay in the hospital he was released. For safety reasons they put him from the sickbed into the next plane which took him to Paris. From Syria he was banished, and in Paris he did not understand anybody. Somehow he managed to cross the border to Germany near Strasbourg. Due to the gas explosion McClown no longer knew that he had German ancestors. He was happy to discover that he had hardly any language difficulties. But this did not solve his problem, for how was he to get any hamsters? Within the next days he was held up by the police several times because he was loitering around pet shops in the middle of the night. It seemed to be hopeless, but then chance helped McClown. In a rainy night he lay down on a park bench and as usual covered himself with an old newspaper to be protected against cold and wetness. Before settling to sleep he read a little, until he found an article which alerted him immediately. It was the thrilling story of a group of children and the emergency landing of a plane near Aubachtal. Unfortunately part of the newspaper was missing, so McClown only understood that it was something about hamsters and Syria.
After having slept a little, McClown set out for Aubachtal to get to the bottom of this matter. In the archive of the library he found quite a treasure trove of information. Most interesting seemed to be a report on one certain Carlo Killjoy.
That is my man, McClown thought and went to the next post office to find out Carlo Killjoy’s address.
Short time later he was in front of Carlo Killjoy’s villa. It took Carlo Killjoy some time to understand what McClown wanted of him.
“Ah, if I get you right, pal, you wanna be big in hamster deals.”
“Yes, Sir”, the butler replied. “I would be very grateful if you could assist me in this, Sir.”
“Well, and how big will my share be?” Carlo Killjoy wanted to know.
“Sir, I believe Lord McShredder of the McShredder Clan will come to an arrangement with you, Sir.”
Carlo Killjoy thought this over, wondering how much money such a lord might have. No matter: if this type was wild on the hamsters, it could be useful for the revenge of Carlo Killjoy against the hamsters. There were quite some things to settle with them little rodents. He, after all, was the founder of the Hamsterton Bank, which went bankrupt as everyone knew.
After that he had opened a restaurant, which went well up to the day when Carlo Killjoy got the idea to serve baked rubbish to the hamsters. When that was laid open at last, he was driven out in a way he would not easily forget.
“Right, pal, I’ll tell you what to do and you put in a good word for me at the lord’s side. I think about a cosy little castle estate for my holiday? Got me?”
“All right, Sir, I will see what I can do for you.”
For a long time they sat together talking. Some hours later McClown left the villa of Carlo Killjoy. He went to a drugstore and bought some ingredients. Then he bought two steel tubes at an ironmonger. After getting a big card box, a marker and few more things, he took the bus Carlo Killjoy had described to him and finally reached the Magic Forest. There he poured the ingredients into the two tubes and mixed them with gun powder. The tubes he fastened at his back, placed himself in front of a rock face and fired both tubes at the same time. It hissed and banged, and with a loud shriek McClown flew through the rocks right to Hamsterton. It was noon and so of course everybody was asleep in Hamsterton. He could prepare his plan and filled the remaining ingredients into the tubes for his voyage back. When he was ready, he fastened the tubes on his back again. Now he wrote in big letters those words on the card box which Carlo Killjoy had noted down for him in hamster language:
AMENIC – EERF ECNARTNE!
That stood backwards for: Cinema – Free entrance! Then he cut a small piece out of the card box – this was the entrance to the cinema. Now McClown only had to wait – and really: When it got dark, hundreds of hamsters came to the card box and one after the other went into it. Patiently the butler waited until the last hamster had walked into the card box. Now he sneaked towards the box. Bewildered, he listened for he heard curious sounds like ‘TRATS, TRATS1’. McClown quickly shoved a big, flat piece of carton under the card box, turned it round and closed the box with adhesive tape where it was open.
Done! Now he only had to take the card box back to Scotland. He dreaded the voyage back but it had to be. He fastened the card box with the hamsters at his back, between the tubes. After the weight had pulled him backwards, after he came down on his bum twice, he was ready.
McClown fired the tubes, and with a bang he and the hamsters were catapulted back into the Magic Forest. His flight was held up painfully by a heavy bump against an old oak tree, but luckily the hamsters had a soft landing on his back.
All his limbs aching and his head pounding, McClown woke up. By the bump his memory had returned and he immediately realized that he was not in Scotland. Everything looked strange and there were no high mountains. And by no means he could anyhow understand why he was carrying a big box full of hamsters. He also had no idea why he had fastened two steel tubes at his back. He shook his head, threw away the tubes, took the hamster-box and followed a path through the wood. Many hours later he reached the small town of Aubachtal, lay down on a park bench and slept. It was to become an uneasy night because the hamsters made a hell of noise. Again and again he was aroused by curious shouts like ‘PLEH, PLEH!’ (2)
Next morning we went to a bakery, got himself a few buns and shared them with the hamsters. His next goal was the railway station, where he took a train to Frankfort Airport. But it was impossible to go home by plane, for living animals were not permitted to be imported to Great Britain. McClown did not know why he was transporting these animals and what he was to do with them, but he thought that it probably was an order from his sappy deaf Lordship. So he had to get back to the castle, no matter the costs.
After a several days’ walk McClown reached Calais, ragged and tired. So he finally had reached the Channel which separated Great Britain from the continent. He wondered what to begin now for certainly living animals were also forbidden on a ship. One foggy morning McClown decided to take his hamster-box and secretly board some ship. He hid in a lifeboat and exhaustedly fell asleep. Many hours later some loud hooting woke him up and he glimpsed threw the canvas of the lifeboat. He met with cold air and fog. So he decided to wait for darkness before he started further researches.
He dreamt of a warm cabin with a comfortable tub for he had been silly enough to place his warm pullover over the hamsters, and now he was cold. He had wanted to warm the hamsters with it and they thanked him by biting the pullover to hundreds of small pieces. Now each hamster had a cosy little cover, but McClown no longer had a warm pullover. When it was dark he left the lifeboat and took a look around. It came as a shock when he suddenly realized that this was no passenger ship to Newcastle but a fishing cutter. At least he found a good piece of dried fish and took it with him. Then he scrambled back to the hamsters in the lifeboat and had not the least idea how to go on.
(2 Pleh = Hamstish Help)
The Hamsters are gone
“I hate homework!” Elfrida grumbled and kicked her desk. That was no good idea for 20 crayons, a ruler and all school books came down. When at this moment Bruno came in, she snapped: “Why are you always traipsing into my room? I’ve got work to do. Did you do your homework?”
Bruno gaped at Elfrida.
“What’s on?” Elfrida asked impatiently. “No homework?”
“Don’t you note down what you’re to do for homework?” Elfrida pressed him.
“Nope!” Bruno grunted and started to play soccer with Rudy the dachshund. Bruno was pushed aside and Rudy brought to safety.
“If you don’t do your homework”, Elfrida continued, “you won’t finish school and never find a decent job and never will earn decent money. Perhaps you’ll be at some boring stuff like cleaning cars all the day. Or you get a job at the garbage. Would you like that?”
“I would”, Bruno beamed. “Cleaning Ferraris and driving around with the swell new Mercedes-dust truck…”
At this moment their mother shouted: “Elfrida, if you finished geography, please get Bruno and come down for lunch.”
“Why geography?” Elfrida shouted back. “That’s what I did yesterday. I’ve finished maths and am sitting at English homework.”
“Time enough for that”, Gertrude Bobble shouted. “It’s teachers’ council tomorrow and then weekend!”
Elfrida stared at Bruno. Bruno grinned and ran to the door.
“That little scumbag knew it all the time and I totally forgot about it. You just wait!” she hissed and ran after him.
Close to the kitchen door she caught up with him and kicked his bum so that he was dashed to the kitchen table. Elfrida stayed where she was and waited in the hall. She did not want to have anything to do with what was to follow. At the kitchen table it clattered and rattled and mother Bobble scolded.
When a minute later Elfrida came in, she could see that her mother was cross. Bruno worked at some broken dishes with hand brush and dustpan.
“I'm fed up with you, you know!” Mamma Bobble shouted. “You will go out immediately after lunch.”
“But Mummy, it isn’t my fault and I want to meet with my friends. We want to go to the Magic Forest.”
“Do what you like, just take along Bruno!”
Bruno looked at Elfrida with sparkling eyes, while his sister poked in her pasta bake listlessly. Taking Bruno along to the Magic Forest, she thought. That will be disaster.
When they reached the Magic Forest bus stop, Elfrida’s friends were already waiting.
“Sorry for being late, but my mother told me to take Bruno.”
“So?” Jenny asked curiously.
“On his way he discovered some most interesting earthworms and wanted to play with them.”
“That’s disgusting”, Bertha said and remembered with horror the day when Elfrida had stayed overnight with Bruno. It had taken weeks to get the house back to the state it had been in before Bruno’s visit.
“Earthworms are not disgusting”, Bruno protested, pulled one of the animals out of his trouser pocket und marched over to Bertha. He let the earthworm dangle in front of Bertha’s face and she took a step back.
“Did you know that earthworms build a new mouth if you cut them in two halves…”
“Nooooo, take that monster away!” Bertha shrieked and took another step back.
“That’s enough, Bruno”, Elfrida grinned. “Put away your earthworm friend.”
“What does such an earthworm eat?” Rosie inquired curiously.
“Leaves and organic remains”, Bruno replied. “So of course he also swallows earth, but he gets rid of that as humus through his after and that…”
“Stop!” Bertha yelled. “I’m going to be sick!”
“By they way, it’s different with sowbugs and centipedes, they…”
Elfrida put a hand over Bruno’s mouth and whispered: “You do not want Bertha to vomit, do you?”
“But then all those dear little beetles would have nourishment, because…”
“That will do”, Daisy called, “or I’ll be sick, too! Shall we leave or not?”
“Right”, Bernie butt in, “our new friend can tell us more later on.”
“By the way, do you know that humus is Latin and means earth?”
“Shut up”, Daisy laughed, “no more lessons.”
In the best of tempers the children walked on into the Magic Forest. Except Bertha, who followed slowly and green-faced. Today was special for after months of work the tunnel to Hamsterton was ready. Yesterday when it got dark they had finally succeeded to dig the last ten metres to their hamster friends. So the grand opening had to be delayed for one day. The birds in the forest twittered, the sun laughed in the sky, and the air in the forest smelled wonderfully fresh. The friends were happy and up to now nobody knew what a horrible discovery they were to make soon.
Susie and Mary were a little ahead of the others and first at the site. They began to clean away branches and twigs. The friends had cloaked the entrance well so that nobody could find it. But after a few minutes the entrance lay open.
“Fuzzy!” Daisy called into the dark entrance. “The party will start soon!”
Elfrida, Jenny, Susie, Mary, Rosie, Bertha, and Bernie laughed while they spread a rug on the ground. They wanted to be cosy for their party with biscuits, cakes, and nuts.
“Hamsterton, hurry up, the party’s going to start!”
Daisy tried to look down the tunnel as far as possible, then she took a torch to light the tunnel. Jenny frowned and said: “What if the tunnel at Hamsterton end has collapsed?”
“I don’t believe it”, Bernie soothed her. “The tunnel is clad with clay, nothing can happen there.”
“Well”, Elfrida said, “then we must take a look what’s the matter with our little friends.”
“And if Carlo Killjoy is behind that?” Rosie wondered anxiously.
“Or the witch found the entrance and is waiting for us?”
“Nuts”, Elfrida retorted. “If the witch were inside, how was she to arrange all the twigs and branches so neatly?”
Now they all turned to Bertha who looked quite aghast and raised her hand in protest: “Me? Forget it! I still feel sick of the stuff your brother told, Elfrida. I’m not going to crawl into the mud to be eaten by beetles and worms! Let Bruno go. He just seems to love them bugs!”
“If we send Bruno, he’ll find dear little earthworms and charming beetles and won’t come back before dusk.”
“No, Elfrida, I will not go in there – basta!”
“O well”, Elfrida sighed, “then it is Bruno’s turn. Bruno! Where is that guy? Brunoooo!”
“I’ve seen him go to that shrubbery over there, perhaps he had to pee”, Mary said.
So the friends all ran to the shrubbery Mary had indicated and searched for Bruno. Nobody was there and the friends made up two search parties.
“My mother will make minced meat of me if I come home without him”, Elfrida groaned.
The friends looked and searched. Finally they sat down for a moment on the rug to talk things over. The hamsters had not come and now Bruno had vanished. While the friends brooded, rather at a loss, they suddenly heard a voice: “Did you know that a stag beetle can be up to 5 centimetres long?”
Bruno! With a large beetle on his hand he approached Bertha.
“Look, how his antennae…”
“Take that away!” Bertha shrieked. “That poisonous beast will bite me!”
“But it isn’t poisonous”, Bruno replied calmly and fondled the beetle. “Well, yes, he can bite, but not very much. A dog is more dangerous.”
“Bruno”, Elfrida said, “we need your help. Our hamster-friends don’t show up and you’re the only one to fit into the tunnel entrance. Bertha does not want to go today.”
Bertha got up and looked at Bruno earnestly: “It’s important that you hurry up and don’t play around with your beetle stuff, got me?”
“Sure”, Bruno replied. “Take care of Alfred in the meantime.”
He put the stag beetle into Bertha’s hand, turned and marched towards the tunnel entrance. It did not interest him overmuch that Bertha shrieked and fainted. All his concern was on the dark tunnel now.
“Hey!” Jenny called after him. “Take along my torch.”
Bruno took it with a grunt and crept into the tunnel. Slowly he disappeared until only the soles of his shoes were to be seen. Then he was gone.
“Well, if we have to wait, we may as well have a little snack”, Rosie proposed and turned to Bertha. But Bertha was not in the mood to answer her. She still lay on the ground dizzily and stared after the stag beetle which sprinted to the underwood.
“Okay, let’s eat something, I’m quite starved. For sure my brother will be more than an hour. I hope he doesn’t dawdle. And I hope nothing horrible happened in Hamsterton.”
“It’s certainly very harmless”, Daisy said. “Perhaps our hamster-friends busy themselves with something else. I’m sure your brother will hurry.”
“I’m not that sure”, Elfrida said sceptically. “Yesterday he was two hours late for lunch. Our mum almost went bananas and lunch was cold anyway. You know, being late for a meal is the worst thing you can do to a mother. You can make your room a pigsty, you may leave your shoes in the way if she comes along with a full washing basket, but you may not be late for the meals.”
“My room always is tidy, and the shoes are in the closet”, Bertha butt in, who had bucked herself up. “But how can one be two hours late for lunch?”
Elfrida grinned. “He watched a snail race.”
The children roared with laughter, while Bertha almost vomited.
“How glad I am not to have a little brother like that”, Bertha said disgustedly.
“That’s better by all means”, Rosie said with a big smack. “I’d pity the poor child who had you as elder sister.
“Oh, do you indeed?” Bertha snapped.
“To have such a telltale as you for a sister would be the worst plague!”
“You indeed, Bertha, or have you forgotten the last day before summer vacation?”
“Why, I just called teacher’s attention to the fact that she had forgotten to give us homework for the vacation time.”
“Just so”, Rosie snorted. “You’re lucky you’ve left the building alive. We were pissed off, I can tell you.”
“I thought it was something like that”, Bertha mumbled. “I wondered why my satchel was gone and I later on found it in the garbage. The vexing thing was that a banana peels stuck between every page of my books. That was quite disgusting. And I didn’t understand why there was a wet sponge in my gym bag. The meanest thing was my bike hanging in the oak tree on the schoolyard. Headmaster and caretaker were really angry when they had to stay late because of me. The fire brigade finally got my bike down with a long ladder.”
“Haha”, Rosie jeered, “and the squishy tomatoes in your trainers…”
“How do you know?” Infuriated and with rolling eyes Bertha stormed at Rosie: “My mum found that stinky ketchup in the trainers only in the evening. My, she fumed! But do explain to me how you know about that, dearest Rosie.”
“Ehm, well, I, ehm”, Rosie stammered. “I’ve somehow heard about it.”
“And I’m to believe that?” Bertha hissed. “You know what I believe? I believe…”
“Shh!” Daisy hissed excitedly. “I think I heard a noise in the tunnel. Bruno’s coming back!”
Bruno indeed scrambled out of the tunnel entrance. It was a bit difficult for him to get to his feet because he held something in each hand.
“Bruno”, Jenny called out, “what did you find?”
“A centipede. Look at, these are never thousand legs. He’s only named thus. Did you know that centipedes…”
“Bruno!” Jenny shrieked. “The hamsters!”
“Hamsters have got four legs, why do you ask?”
“Where are they? What’s the matter in Hamsterton?”
“O that!” Bruno shrugged. “Nobody at home in Hamsterton.”
The friends looked bewildered. They had no idea at all what that meant. What was the matter? Where were their friends, the hamsters? Elfrida looked at her little brother in desperation.
“Was there something unusual? Did you see or find anything?”
“I found this button”, Bruno said and handed a gold coloured button to Elfrida.
With big eyes Elfrida took it. It seemed to be made of brass. A curious symbol and a name were to be seen on it. Elfrida read the name aloud: “Clan of McShredder.”
“Clan of McShredder?” Daisy asked and took the button.
“That means this button belongs to the family McShredder. The word Clan is Scottish and means something like family.”
“Perhaps the button belongs to one of the hamsters?” Rosie said hopefully.
“Lord, Rosie!” Daisy shook her head. “They are all from Syria. The only country they’ve ever been to is here around Aubachtal. Where would the hamsters get a Scottish button?”
Elfrida had stared at the tunnel entrance thoughtfully. Now she lifted her head, went over to Daisy and said: “If the hamsters did not come to the button, then the button came to the hamsters.”
Daisy and the others obviously did not understand, so she explained: “The hamsters have disappeared. All Bruno found was a centipede and a button with inscription and emblem of some Scottish clan. We surely can delete the centipede from the list of suspects, he has nothing to do with that. Remains the button. It doesn’t belong to the hamsters, so either it came by mail or someone lost it there. I don’t believe in the mailing, so someone must have lost it.”
“Okay”, Rosie grunted. “But why did the hamsters disappear?”
“They did not disappear, Rosie”, Elfrida said and looked at her friends earnestly. “They have been kidnapped. Probably they are in Scotland now. I don’t know why, but we should learn something about this fine clan. Let’s go to the library, perhaps we’ll find something there.”
When the friends were on their way to town, Elfrida noticed that Bruno was no longer with them.
“Anybody seen Bruno?” she asked and looked around.
“He’s gluing to some slimy beetles for certain and talks with them”, Bertha jeered.
Elfrida rolled her eyes and sulked: “It’s always the same with him. I’ve got to wait for him forever. Come on, we’ve got to go back to find him.”
When they reached the spot where a few minutes ago they all had been together, there was no trace of Bruno.
Again they formed two search parties and called him, but with no success.
“Pointless”, Jenny groaned, “we simply can’t find him. Where might he be?”
At that moment they heard the coarse croaking of a crow.
“Brute!” Jenny called out. “Why must you crows always laugh in such a mean way?”
Rosie, who just sucked at a lolly, looked at Elfrida and anxiously said: “And if the witch kidnapped him?”
“O no!” Elfrida yammered. “First the hamsters are kidnapped and then my beloved little brother. What’s to happen next?”
“Perhaps Bertha falls into a big mudpuddle full of worms and beetles”, Rosie suggested, still sucking her lolly.
“Pooh, I don’t listen to people who talk while eating and even smacking. Especially if they squeeze dirty fruit into innocent classmates’ trainers”, Bertha answered pertly.
“Tomatoes are not fruit, but vegetables”, Daisy corrected. “How about paying a visit to the witch?”
They all agreed and walked on into the wood cautiously. Half an hour later they were near the witch-house and decided that Elfrida and Jenny were to creep closer. Slowly the girls approached the blockhouse of the witch, when suddenly both bumped against something with their heads.
“Ouch, what was that?” Jenny groaned and held her head.
Elfrida felt about in the air like along a glass pane. First she struck her hand against something, then her fist.
“An invisible wall”, she whispered. “We can’t pass it, let us creep back.”
A few minutes later they conferred with their friends what to do.
Bernie suggested to blow up the invisible wall with explosives. Susie thought it better to dig a tunnel under the wall.
Finally Elfrida said it was time to pay a visit to Alberich, the King of Dwarfs.
“He’s sure to know a counter-spell!” she said.
“Or he’s got a key or something the like”, Rosie added.
This time it was Bertha’s turn to roll her eyes desperately: “How do you think to find an invisible key hole in an invisible wall?”
“Well, with a secret spell or suchlike”, Rosie uncertainly answered.
“Never mind! We only can find that out if we ask Alberich, so come on!”
If you ever have seen a map of the Magic Forest, you know that the road is quite difficult. There is no bridge over the river which separates the territory of the witch from the empire of the King of Dwarfs. The friends had to find a suitable tree trunk to put over the river. One after the other balanced over the trunk and they all reached the opposite bank sound and safe – except Bertha.
“Why always me?” Bertha wailed. “Look how I'm looking!”
“I’m sure Bruno would be beside himself with joy”, Rosie squeaked. “If we stick some earthworms to you, he’ll find you really interesting.”
Bertha thought it quite beneath her to answer that. As well as possible she tried to clean her dress of mud, however, without success. The mud would not go off, and the more she rubbed, the more the mud spread over the dress.
By now they had reached the house of Alberich the King of Dwarfs. It was high noon and Alberich lay on a lawn chair in his garden and snored. Beside him stood Jule, his faithful white horse. When the friends approached, Jule whinnied and looked at Alberich, but he snored on. Jule prodded him with her nose to wake him up. Unfortunately, Jule had prodded him too much so that the King of Dwarfs and his chair tumbled to the ground.
“Gosh, Jule”, he said, rising, “can’t you wake me up more cautiously?”
Then he saw the friends and walked towards to them with a big smile.
But when he saw their sad faces, he stood in front of them and said in a low voice: “Old Carla again?”
“Yes”, Elfrida replied and nodded. “This time the wretched witch has kidnapped my little brother and built an invisible wall around her daft witch house.”
“That shouldn’t be much of a problem. At witch school Carla never really paid attention. There certainly will be breaches in the wall. There is a trick to find that out. Let’s set off immediately.”
The King of Dwarfs went into his house, fetched his magic hat and a basket with herbs. The basket he put onto a wooden wagon. The wagon had a shaft bar which he took into both hands, then he whistled. Jule approached in a trot and the King of Dwarfs fastened the bar to the harness.
“All hands on board”, he cried, looked at Bertha and added: “We do not want to fall into the muddy river, do we?”
Bertha pressed her lips together and feigned not hearing anything, while Rosie snickered. When they all were in the wagon, Rosie still could not quiet down: “We do not want to fall into the muddy river, he he, we do not want to take a mud bath, he he, mud bath, he he he!”
They set off, Jule trotted faster and faster. Finally the horse took off, und the friends travelled through the air.
During the flight again and again Rosie’s cackling was to be heard: “We do not want to take a mud bath, he he, that’s funny, snort, mud bath, he he, I'll collapse in a minute!”
Bertha turned away from Rosie disgustedly and looked to the other side. But when deep down she saw the forest, she turned pale and latched onto the wagon seat. Why had that always to happen to her who had no head for heights? Why need she have a nutty girlfriend like Rosie? She looked at Rosie, and when their glances crossed, Rosie snorted again: “Mud bath, he he, to take a mud bath, that’s cool, he he!”
Finally Alberich the King of Dwarfs landed cautiously about one hundred metres off Carla‘s witch house.
“That’s that”, he said. “Now we have to be very quiet.”
“He heeee”, Rosie suddenly bawled, “take a quiet mud bath, he he!”
“She'd better stays in the wagon”, Alberich sighed, pointing at Rosie, who roared with laughter on the wooden wagon seat.
So while Rosie stayed with Jule and the wagon, the others cautiously and quietly approached the blockhouse of the witch. It was odd, but just as the roaring and chuckling of Rosie died down in the distance, there came noises from the direction of the witch house. It sounded like swearing and yelling. Curiously the friends crept to the point of the invisible wall. The King of Dwarfs fetched a bunch of reddish-greenish plants out of his basket.
“Common heather”, he said and grinded it with both hands. Then here and there he threw it against the wall and, behold, some of the heather stayed in the air and some fell down. For several minutes he repeated this, then he said: “You see? Where the heather catches, the invisible border is stable, and where it doesn’t, there are openings. Ah, this is an especially large one, here we will slip through.”
Alberich went first and the friends followed him. The noise from the witch house by now had grown so loud that they paused to listen. After a short time they brightened and took new courage.
“You blasted little toad! Drop that! Take your dirty fingers from my witch brew! What are you doing with my magic wand, you’ll blast us all up! And open the door of the prison or you will pay for it!”
“Carla seems to be in trouble”, the King of Dwarfs grinned.
“If you don’t mind my saying so”, Bertha said, “your dear little brother seems to be the specialist for chaos and shock!”
Elfrida grinned and was really proud of her little brother. Even if he mostly was a menace, she thought him to be a genius in some things. But how had he lured the witch into her own prison? She absolutely had to find out and went towards the door of the witch house.
“Noooo!” she heard the witch’s shriek. “Not the crack-herb! No, don’t put it into the pot, you will make us all…”
A loud bang interrupted her desperate cries. Quickly Elfrida threw herself to the ground and held her breath. She put her hands to her face for safety and squinted through her fingers to the witch house. Smoke came out of the roof, more and more, until the whole roof lifted off and sailed over the tops of the trees. The walls of the house faltered, bent and finally crashed down.
When the smoke had gone, Elfrida saw what had happened. The witch house now had no roof and no walls, only the floor was left. In the former kitchen Bruno stood with the magic wand in his hand and looked embarrassed. On his right side were the remains of the prison which Elfrida and her friends knew only too well. Between the remains of the prison lay the witch. She grinned and said: “O my dears, do come in! What can I do for you? O, what am I doing on the floor, and who is that charming little boy there at my hearth?”
“Wow”, Jenny groaned, “she’s quite off her trolley!”
“The explosion really seems to have confused her a little”, Elfrida grinned. “Can anything be done there, dear Alberich?”
“I could, Elfrida, but why should I? I like her much better as she is. I hope she remains like this for a while.”
Elfrida took her brother and the friends merrily walked back to Rosie and Jule. The witch called after them, inviting them to dinner, but the friends were not interested.
When Rosie saw her friends returning safe and sound, she ran to them excitedly, embraced Bruno and wanted to know what had happened.
“Bruno blew up the witch house”, Bernie explained.
“You can say that the witch had her big bang”, Alberich added.
“The witch had her big bang, that’s good”, Rosie shouted, “that’s even better than mud bath, he he he!”
“She’s doing it again!” Bertha groaned and climbed into the wagon.
Laughing, Rosie sat down beside her, looked at Bertha’s still dirty dress and snorted again with laughter.
“You – you big bang mud bath, he he he”, Rosie croaked, while the wagon took off and flew back to the King of Dwarfs’ house.
After arriving there, they all sat together and debated what they were to do now. In between Rosie was thrown out because with her steady snickering nobody could concentrate. After an hour’s council Elfrida outlined their conclusions: “We have to go to Scotland. As none of us has the Scottish language, we need the wristbands of Professor Hurry. You remember these translation wristbands, by which we could speak with the Aborigines in Australia.”
Her friends nodded, so Elfrida continued: “Unfortunately, we’ve got only one of them, so we need the duplicator from Mona and Moyo. We have to contact them. Anyone any idea how to do it?”
“Morse”, Jenny suggested. “We take a strong torch and flash to them.”
“Fine”, Elfrida continued, “then that’s our next task. If we have enough wristbands, we can talk with the Scottish people. I hope we need not search too long. Question: How do we get there? The magic bottle will help but we never know where we’ll arrive with it. Professor Hasty has to help us, perhaps he can adjust the magic bottle to Scotland. So let’s get gone. Any questions?”
“Yes, I have a question”, Bertha shouted. “Do we have to take your brother along?”
They all looked at Bruno who just was lying in a corner watching ants.
“I don’t think so”, Elfrida said. “He better stays at home.”
“What shall we do with the morsels?” Rosie asked when later on they all sat in Elfrida’s room.
“Morsels?” Mary asked bewildered.
“W-well”, Rosie stammered, “those things by which we’ll get Mona and Moya here.”
“But you don’t know anything”, Bertha jeered. “It’s called morse.”
“And where’s the difference, Miss Cleverpig?”
“Ehm, morse is something beeping.”
“He he”, Rosie hooted and rolled on the carpet. “Something beeping, that’s cool, Miss Supercleverpig, he he, some beeping big bang mud bath, he he!”
“There we are again!” Elfrida groaned.
At that moment it knocked at the door and Bobble entered.
“Good evening. Er, did somebody see my slippers? I’ve been looking for them this half hour.”
“They banged and took a beeping mud bath”, Rosie cackled and wallowed on the floor. “Slippers, he he!”
Bobble shrugged. “Why mud bath?” he asked Rosie in a puzzled voice.
“Oh, you know, Mr. Bobble, pigs are clean animals, really banged-up, he he!”
Bobble could see that Rosie made no sense and left the room to look for his slippers somewhere else.
“Last time he found them in the tub. Bruno had established a ferry service for the sowbugs.”
She grinned at her brother, but when she saw him fumbling at her doll’s house, the grin vanished.
“Hey, take your hands off”, she snapped, “or I’ll throw your cars out of the window.”
That helped. Bruno left the doll’s house alone and sat up straight.
“By the way, how did you lure the witch into the prison?” Elfrida now wanted to know.
“When that old hag dragged me into her house, I bit her finger and she let me go. Then she chased me and when she stumbled, her magic wand fell out of her hand. Well, I threw the wand into the prison, and she ran after it. When the daft witch wanted to get out, I slammed the door, and she bumped against it. By that she lost the magic wand a second time. She was inside, the door was locked, the wand was outside.”
Rosie started cackling again: “She was inside, the wand was outside, he he he! Wonderful big bang, he he!”
“And then you tried her cooking recipes?” Elfrida asked.
“Nope, I couldn’t read that claw of hers, but I was hungry and thought to cook something for me.”
“He cooked something”, Rose cackled, “and with wand he stirred the magic herbs. Whamm, the house was gone! You get me rolling on the carpet again!”
“Very nice, Rosie”, Elfrida yawned, “may we go on now? Where had we been?”
“Morse and all about it”, Jenny said and continued: “That’s a coding system invented by a man named Samuel Morse. At a time without wireless or phone he had the idea to use electricity as means of transmitting information. If you lay a cable from here to the next town and connect a bulb to one end, you only need to put power on the cable from this end and in the next town the bulb lights up.”
“They are enlightened, he he”, Rosie snickered. “On, off, on, he he, then they know it’s time for a mud…”
She got no further for Bertha held on her trunk.
“Thank you, Bertha”, Jenny said and continued:
“Now both sides only have to agree how often and how long the bulb has to flash up to give a certain information. So Morse rewrote the alphabet to short and long signals. That’s known as morse-code. If I flash the bulb once short and once long, that means ‘A’. You can also do it with a torch over long distances. That way we can send signals into the space to give notice to Mona and Moyo.”
“Okay”, Elfrida said, “we’ll begin this very night. At midnight we’ll meet in our garden.”
The friends stayed for a few minutes, then the meeting ended and they went home. Elfrida and Bruno were alone in their room and wondered what to play now, but before they had any idea, their mother called them to supper.
“Well”, Daddy Bobble said, while he shoved a piece of cheese into his mouth, “which results did your awfully important meeting bring?”
“Oh, we will send signals into space to get help from aliens”, Elfrida answered in a lackadaisical voice.
“That’s it”, Bruno said, chewing. “Morse!”
“But of course”, Bobble grinned, “that could have been my idea. Bruno, pick up the salami. When you talked it fell out of your mouth and is under the table now.”
Nothing worth mentioning happened, but Mr. and Mrs. Bobble were a little surprised that both children abandoned the telly and wanted to go to bed early.
“The fresh air”, Gertrude Bobble explained to her husband, “it works wonders. The two of them ran right riot and have done with today.”
About midnight, when Mr. and Mrs. Bobble were peacefully asleep and snoring, the house became alive again.
“Careful!” Elfrida hissed. “Don’t tramp over my handcrafts!”
“You leave your rubbish everywhere about”, Bruno hissed back.
“That’s no rubbish and look where you are going, or the wrinklies will catch us!”
Cautiously they sneaked through the hall, down to the cellar and out to the gate. Their friends were already waiting for them.
“Everybody here?” Elfrida asked and Bertha answered: “Except Rosie. I’ve seen what happened. Her mother caught her when she sneaked along the kitchen. Just imagine: her mother was at the fridge in the middle of the night to get a little something.”
“And how do you know that?” Daisy asked.
“Me? Er, well, I looked through the keyhole of the front door. I had to know what was going on, after all.”
“At least nobody cackles around here and betrays us”, Susie grinned.
“Okay, then let’s start.”
Jenny got out her torch, while Bernie watched the sky. He pointed to the direction of Mona’s and Moyo’s home planet. Jenny directed her torch to the spot.
“Short-short-short, long-long-long, short-short-short - short-short-short, long-long-long, short-short-short…”, she said aloud and explained: “Three times short for ‘S’, three times long for ‘O’, and another three times short for ‘S’. That is SOS and means Save our souls, and that just means: Help us!”
After a few minutes Jenny paused and together with Bernie intensely watched the sky. Then she continued until she paused again.
“Will an answer take long?” Mary asked excitedly. “An answer to a letter sometimes takes very long.”
“The speed of light is the fastest there is. Light is pure energy and has now frictional loss.”
Amazed, they all turned to Bruno and Bernie nodded appreciatively: “Not bad, Bruno.”
Then he looked up to the stars again. Jenny’s finger was by now quite weary and Bernie just wanted to continue the signals, when Jenny shouted: “There! They’re answering!”
She took a pad and a pen which she had brought and noted down: “Long-long-long, long-short-long – that it OK! They gave their okay, so they’ll come!”
“Interesting! Who else will join the party?” they heard a deep voice behind them.
Terrified, the friends turned round. A policeman stood in front of them.
“Am I late?” Rosie’s coarse voice said in exactly this moment. “It wasn’t my fault, my mother caught me!”
“At the fridge, wasn’t she?” Bertha jeered.
“No, dear Bertha, it was pure chance. My mother said she’d just wiped up the kitchen!”
“Dearest Rosie, at midnight, you don’t believe that!”
“And why not, dearest Bertha? My mother takes no mud baths after all.”
“And I do not stuff rotten tomatoes into other people’s trainers! Constable, what do you say?”
“I – er – well, I once wiped up my kitchen in the middle of the night when my washing machine leaked, but…”
“You see, dearest Bertha, Constable also wipes up his kitchen in the middle of the night!”
“Perhaps you heard that his washing machine was defect.”
“So what? A constable is outside all the day long and if he comes home with muddy feet, he has to wipe up everything. Muddy feet, he he, that’s funny, Constable’s got mud feet, he he he!”
“Be quiet!” Bertha whispered to her. “Or we all will be arrested.”
“May I ask what you young folks are doing outside at this time of the night? Would it not be high time to be in bed?”
“Er, Constable, I’m no party of this, I only woke up from the noise”, Bertha lamented. “Please don’t arrest me, I’m only a poor victim, and my trainers never became really white again!”
“She’s a bad tattletale, Constable”, Rosie shouted angrily. “A few days of solitary confinement would do her good! Best thing would be if the aliens took her with them!”
The next moment a window of the neighbouring house opened where the Baconrinds were living. The annoyed voice of Rosie’s father was to be heard: “Be quiet down there! I’ve got to get up early in the morning! Shut up, or I’ll fetch the bloody cops!”
The constable did not believe his ears and walked over to the fence which separated the gardens of the Bobbles and the Baconrinds.
“Mister”, he snarled at Mr. Baconrind, “how about setting an example? Stop bawling!”
When Mr. Baconrind saw that it was a policeman, he immediately was very friendly and smiled bashfully.
“Yes, of course, Chief Sergeant. Good night and have a nice time!” he stammered. Then he shut the window. The constable was about ten metres away from the children at the fence and got out his notebook to write a report. At this moment Bobble entered the scene. He saw the friends and yawned: “Come on, kids, stop that noise. Do you want the cops down here? I don’t want to have them daft cops trampling down my beautiful lawn with their hooves.”
“Daddy, er, over there…”
“It’s all right, Elfrida, them cops won’t come. Especially not if you need them, ha ha! By the way, do you know my cop jokes?”
“Daddy, perhaps you should…”
“Exactly, little Elfrida, I should tell them now. So listen: Why don’t cops get their bum up? Because they’re always sitting on their ears. Ha ha! And what looks like a dachshund but isn’t one? A cop after 20 years of service! Ha ha, because he always sat on his ears, ha ha!”
Bobble had tears of laughter in his eyes. He just wanted to tell the next joke, when the constable tapped him on the shoulder with a smile.
“O Consternable”, Bobble murmured, embarrassed, “have you already been told that you have very beautiful ears?”
“I want to see your identification, Mister!”
Daisy, Elfrida, and Jenny stepped forward.
“It’s all our fault, Constable”, Daisy said.
“We just were watching the stars, because, er, we need that for school.”
“That’s it”, Jenny nodded. “We just wanted to go to bed.”
“Well, well”, the policeman growled and still look angry. “Then I’ve heard nothing. But now to bed and presto!”
“Thank you”, Elfrida said, “and good night, Constable!”
Together with Bruno she hurried into the house.
The others left, too, and as the last one, Rosie, trotted off.
“Good night”, she shouted and climbed over the fence to her parents’ house.
Bobble was the last one to walk to the front door, turned to the constable and said: “Good night, Consternable. Did you ever consider wearing earrings?” Then he quickly went in and shut the door.
“You impudent fellow, I will keep an eye on you!” the enraged constable shouted.
Now at the Baconrinds’ the window opened again. All that noise had awakened Rosies father once more and he shouted: “And that will be a black eye very soon, you sod!”
Constable Bertrams turned round very slowly. Somewhere far off a dog was barking. The moon had come out by now, and Mr. Baconrind could see who had been that noisy in the garden. Quickly he shut the window and switched off the light.
“I will finish you all”, Constable Bertrams yelled, who had quite lost his nerves. “I will question and pump each of you!”
Now a police car passed. The two officers in the car just were off duty and on their way home, but they were interested in what happened here.
“You think I’m your tomfool”, Constable Bertrams raged and kicked the garden fence. “Mud feet I’ve got? A dachshund I am? You know what the dachshund his going to do? Piss at your fence!”
But before he could do so, the two policemen got out of their car and held the constable tight.
“You better come with us, mate!” they said and dragged the swearing Bertrams along.
“You think you can finish me? Clean your own trainers! Ha, I’m an alien!”
While the one policeman dragged the scolding constable into the police car, the other one took a look at Bobble’s garden. He could make out Bobble who looked out of the window, grinning.
“Ey, you!” the policeman shouted and took his note book out. “Can you tell me what happened here?”
“No idea”, Bobble retorted. “That guy has been rioting here for quite some time. I think he’s gone nuts.”
“Thanks a lot, Sir, we will take care of him.”
The policeman nodded to Bobble kindly and walked back to the car.
From his window Bobble could see that by now Constable Bertrams was sitting in the rear of the police car. He wore handcuffs. Bobble drew the curtains and merrily went to bed. He could not know, of course, how soon he was to meet Constable Bertrams again.
In the meantime McClown faced several problems. First he still did not know whereto the fishing cutter was heading, second he had nothing to eat. Furthermore he was troubled about the hamsters for by now they were quite dear to him. In the evening he told them Scottish fairy tales and every time this caused the hamsters to have a party. So McClown had another problem: He hardly found any sleep. On the one hand the noise of the feasting hamsters kept him awake, on the other hand he always had to think of their beady eyes which looked at him hungrily. He had to do something, and so the desperate butler decided to surrender. Certainly the times were gone when a blind passenger was thrown over board. In the worst case they would hand him over to the police in the next harbour.
McClown threw a glance at the sleeping hamsters and scrambled out of the life boat. Cold wind met his face and he had the feeling that his ears were freezing off. Cautiously he looked around. It was rather a small ship and nobody of the crew was in sight. An old net was lying on deck and McClown got the impression that it had not been used for a long time. He knew nothing about seafaring, but something told him that this was no normal ship. After stumbling over an old fender, he opened the door to a cabin. He expected to be seized and questioned by a dozen sailors, but nothing happened.
“Get yer right in an’ shut yer the door tight!”
McClown got a fright but did as he was told and walked in. In an old armchair an old man with a white beard was sitting, his feet at the wheel and a pipe in his mouth.
“Me asked m’sel’ when yer shew up, pal”, the captain continued. “Din’ yer freeze yer ass orff?”
“Well, Sir”, McClown answered stiffly, “it is a little nippy indeed.”
“Little nippy!” The captain laughed heartily and turned round. “Me lad, me take ter yer!”
“Thank you, Sir. If I may ask a favour of you: Do you have some nourishment for my hamsters and me?”
“’amsters? D’yer bring me rats aboard?!”
“No, Sir, hamsters are no rats, they are peaceful little animals, Sir.”
The captain sucked at his pipe, took a coffee pot, and filled a cup standing on a big compass.
“Get yer a tambler o' the caboose”, the captain said. “Me rumbled fer long that ye’re in the tub. ‘ad yer not shewn, me’d got yer. Peer o’ the scuttle, storm’s abrewing ter blast yer o’er board ’elter skelter.”
“That’s very kind of you, Sir.”
“‘Sair’ me not, say Cap’n.”
“Very well, Sir Captain”, McClown replied. “If I may put another question, Sir Captain…”
“’nither ‘Sair Cap’n’ and yer’ll be back ter the tub.”
“As you like, S… Captain”, McClown said, embarrassed. “Begging pardon, S… Captain”, he added, “but where, please, is this ‘caboose’ you mentioned and what, please, is a ‘tambler’?”
The captain laughed aloud and said: “Jus’ new in the world, are yer? Landlubber! Caboose is a kitchen and tambler is a mug, see?”
“Very considerate, S… Captain, I found the mug. May I fill it with coffee now?”
“Say, pal, d’ye think ye’re ter pish in? For sure yer’ll ‘ave coffee!”
“Many thanks, Captain, I really appreciate your kindness.”
The captain turned to McClown the butler, sucked at his pipe again and said in a low voice: “Stop yer all that cootchie-cooing, pal. Ain’t used ter it aboard. Nuts enough ter ‘ave ye and yer zoo as stowaways on such a ran-down cutter. Yer tell me where ye’re from and wot yer do when ye’re not skipperin’ the sea wi’ yer fur-mice.”
So the two men sat together in the cabin, and McClown told the captain everything he could remember. He told about Scotland, about his master and all the things which had happened to him. However, how he came to carry about a box with hamsters he could not really recollect.
“Well”, the captain said, relighting his pipe which had gone out in the meantime, “ye’re right in the sod, pal. Me’s faring ter Reykjavik, up ’n Iceland ter ‘ave some ‘oliday. But get yer fur-mice in ‘elter-skelter, gale’s comin’ on.”
McClown ran to the door and was almost blown over board, such a strong wind had come up in the meantime. He hurried to the lifeboat, took away the tarp and gripped the box with the hamsters. Quickly he walked back to the cabin, but again he did not see the fender which of course was still lying on deck. The butler stumbled and the box with the poor hamsters whirled high up into the air. Lying on deck, McClown watched in desperation how the storm took the box and carried it towards the sea.
“No!” he yelled, but he could do nothing. Horrified, he imagined how his poor little friends would be drowned in the ocean. Sobbing, he stayed where he was, on the cold deck, and decided to stay here until the waves took him and also washed him overboard.
“Sayin' yer prayers or wot?”
With tears in his eyes McClown looked up. There the captain was standing in front of the cabin door and held the box with the hamsters.
“Jus’ thought a landlubber wouldn’ get along wi’ the gale. Well, gogglin’ out o’ the cabin, me sees yer pals whirl about. Jus’ got ‘em.”
Overjoyed, McClown stammered “Thank you, Captain” and then had no end of trouble to shut the cabin door against the strong wind.
“Well, our Frido”, the captain grinned and lit his pipe. “The worst’s ter come still. ‘obgoblin will be at us.”
“With your permission, Captain, he’ll get a sound thrash.”
“Tha’s the way me like yer. Now yer go ter the caboose an' see that yer gang fill their bellies! Elsewise we ‘ave a sound uproar aboard.”
“Ay ay, Captain”, McClown said and went to the kitchen. He took salad and bread and put it into the hamster-box. For certain this meant party time for the half starved hamsters and they fell on the forage like mad while outside the storm was howling. The waves grew higher and higher and broke over the ship’s side like into a white wall. The vessel rolled to and fro and within the box it squeaked merrily.
“Well, well, yer crew sound fit as a fiddle”, the captain laughed. “Say, our Frido, ‘ae ye e’er been ter Iceland?”
“Nay, Captain, I only know that Reykjavik is its capital and that there are pixies and trolls.”
“Ay”, the captain laughed. “An’ jus’ imagine, the ‘ottest summer ‘as lousy 8 degrees. Then them there collapse of ‘eat, say. An’ jus’ imagine, them there kids ne’er ‘ave ‘eat vacancy! Yer knows why there’s such a bulk o’ fish?”
McClown thought this over. “Close to Iceland, in the northern Atlantic, the offshots of the warm Golf Stream and the currents of the polar regions meet. The sea is rich with oxygen and plankton. So there is much nourishment for fish, Captain.”
“Bit slipshod, but a’ right”, the captain laughed. “But know yer wot none knows? Scotland’s not the ain seamonster-quarter!”
“Impossible!” McClown shouted. “Give me proof.”
The captain put aside his pipe and descended a short ladder down to his bunk. After a few minutes he came back with a thick book tucked under his arm. The brown cover was quite worn out and the book looked very old.
“See ye, tha’s a guide-book o‘ me great-great-gran’dad.”
The captain opened the book and cautiously turned the leaves. After a while he found the page he was looking for and held it under McClown’s nose. McClown took it and read: “By the way, Iceland also has to offer monsters living in lakes like Nessie. The most famous of these monsters is living in the Lögurinn lake in the eastern part of the country. The saying goes that once upon a time a woman gave a golden trinket to her daughter. The daughter wanted to know from her mother what best use she could make of the gold. The mother advised her to put the gold under a worm. Everybody knows that a lindworm lying on gold grows tremendously and the treasure on which he is lying grown with him. The next day the girl found a snail in the garden and put it onto the gold. In the evening she took the snail and the gold into the house and hid both in a safe place. When after a few days she went to take a look, the snail already had grown so much that the girl got rather frightened. She took the snail and the gold, ran to the river and threw in both. But the snail grew on and on and by and by became the much feared monster in the Lögurinn.”
McClown looked thunderstruck. It just was not possible that there were monsters outside of Scotland. He shook his head and poured himself another cup of coffee.
“See ye? Now yer dangle yer ears, our Frido!”
Before Frido could answer, the captain sharply altered the course and shouted: “All people ‘old on, we’re landing!”
Frido McClown looked out of the window and could see a mountainous landscape in the distance. This had to be Iceland! Skilfully the captain steered the ship into the narrow port entrance, and after a while they had made it.
“Our Frido, d’ye know ‘ow ter fasten a ‘awser?”
“No problem, Captain, will be done in a moment!”
McClown left the cabin and one minute later was back.
“What is a ‘awser?”
“Tha’s a rope ter moor the cutter, din’ yer know?”
Redheaded, McClown hurried out again and in his cabin the captain distinctly heard the thud of a falling body.
I’ve got to put that fender somewhere else, the captain thought while the ship was moored at the pier. A short time later he and McClown disembarked to the island of Iceland. They bid farewell to each other, McClown took the box with the hamsters and decided to walk inland.
Where is Professor Hasty?
Next morning all children were still rather sleepy. With closed eyes Elfrida stumbled into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet lid. Her head was heavy and her eyes did not want to open. She bedded her head on the washbasin and dreamt about her warm, cosy bed. Now Bruno plodded into the bathroom half asleep. When he blinked a little to check the situation, he saw Elfrida lying with her head on the washbasin. Immediately he was wide awake. Cautiously he crept to the washbasin, turned the cold water on and saw that he was off. Elfrida woke up with a jerk. All she wanted was revenge and she ran out into the corridor. There Bruno was lying. He had slipped on one of his toy cars.
“Ha”, Elfrida cheered, “harm set, harm get.”
Vengefully she thrust herself on the wailing Bruno to slaughter him, when their mother came up the stairs.
“Have you gone nuts?” she cried. “Go frolicking elsewhere. Right after breakfast you are out, you hear me?”
“But, Mummy, I’ve got a date with my friends.”
“So you may, Elfrida. Just take Bruno along.”
So it happened that Bruno marched merrily beside Elfrida when she met her friends at the Magic Forest bus stop.
“I thought you wanted to leave your brother at home”, Daisy said grumpily.
“I did, but my mother had a different opinion.”
“I don’t see the fun of it”, Daisy grouched, and Bertha added: “Promises have to be kept, my mummy always says.”
“Right”, Daisy retorted. “So send him back!”
“I can’t”, replied Elfrida.
“Then you’d better both stay here”, Daisy nagged on.
That was enough for Elfrida.
“You listen now, you’ve got your problems, I’ve got mine. How would you like it if I got off with you that way?”
Daisy had no answer to this. Embarrassed, she murmured: “Sorry, but I didn’t sleep much and I had trouble with my parents. They rumbled that I’ve been out last night.”
“Anyhow”, Bertha insisted, “a promise has to be kept and you said that Bruno… Aaah, take that monster away!”
“Did you know that snails can go over razor blades?” Bruno stood in front of Bertha and held out a grapevine snail.
“Bertha, I think he likes you”, Daisy laughed.
“I would like it if he hated me”, Bertha shrieked.
Bruno looked at her sadly.
“Oh… Er, I didn’t mean it that way”, Bertha stammered.
“Well, you should make up for your words”, Jenny proposed.
Bertha was sorry for the sad Bruno and made a momentous remark: “Bruno, how about telling me something about your little naked – er – friends?”
Bruno was all smiles and started: “Snails belong to the gastropods. They prefer to live at damp places, under stones, in the earth or the water. When moving they leave a slime trail. On this mucus they creep on their sole. Movement takes place by means of expanding and extracting muscles in the foot.”
“Wonderful, Bruno, that was very interesting”, Bertha groaned, but Bruno continued, unpertubed:
“Ramshorn snails belong to those robust snails settling even in polluted water where many other animals no longer feel comfortable. Though living in the water, ramshorn snails are lungsnails. A skin flap works like gills so that the ramshorn snail seldom has to come to the water surface to get fresh air. It feeds on algae and dead plants which it grazes with its radula.”
Now Bruno crammed a handful of candies into his mouth and Bertha interrupted him once mores: “Thank you, Bruno, now I’m in the know!”
“No, one snail species is missing, that is the grapevine snail, a land-living lungsnail, which buries her clutch in the earth. The grapevine snail is a delicacy. Its consumption is said to be strengthening. Today it is forbidden to go on wild living snails. Like the grapevine snail, the smaller garden snail belongs to the grove snails. The big red and the big black slug are not so popular. When the weather is damp you may find them in hundreds. They pitch into the vegetable gardens and of course the gardeners…”
To the general relief the bus was now arriving.
“Sorry for being late”, the driver said to the children. “There was a traffic jam at the crossing.”
“What happened?” Rosie curiously asked.
“Oh, I think it was the fault of Elfrida’s father.”
“What?” Elfrida cried. “Not again!”
“Yes, I could see it clearly”, the bus driver said. “Your father’s car was directly in front of me. In the middle of the crossing stood a policeman and he suddenly started to shout at your father. It was something about dachshunds and mud puddles.”
“Muddy feet”, Elfrida corrected.
“That’s it. However, the policeman did not want to let your father pass until he just drove around the bawling policeman. He almost made it, but then the policeman bit into the fender of the car and let not go. It took quite some time until two colleagues of that madman came and dragged him away. Any idea what that meant?”
“Nooooo!” answered a chorus.
The bus stopped and they got out quickly and ran to the beach.
Elfrida was the first to reach the lighthouse where the professor was living and rang the bell. Nothing happened and also after several trials nobody answered. The friends were at a loss.
“Perhaps he’s gone on holiday”, Jenny said with a shrug.
“Or gone to get new spare parts”, Bernie guessed.
None of them paid attention to Bruno who was digging in the sand near the lighthouse.
“We still have some time left”, Elfrida soothed her friends, “till Mona and Moyo will arrive. Until then we have to try… Ey, Bruno, what did you find there?”
The children got moving again and ran to the place were Bruno was digging in the sand.
“But that looks like the tail fin of a jet.” Bernie was thrilled.
“I think it’s just irresponsible of a grown up man like the professor to leave his garbage about on the beach”, Bertha ranted.
“This does not look like garbage”, Elfrida stated. “Look, it’s not at all rusty. Come on, let’s dig together.”
It was a long, hard work. When the tail fin lay open they noticed to their astonishment that a complete plane was buried in the sand.
“Oh, how ghastly!” Bertha suddenly cried out and they all looked at her terrified. “Just look, I have ripped my fingernail!”
“My, what a pity”, Rosie grunted with a grin, “And I did not take along my manicure set.”
Angrily, Bertha dug on and the next moment she shrieked again and ran away.
“Well, what it now?” Daisy asked impatiently.
“S-something m-moved there.”
“In the sand?”
“N-no, b-behind window!”
Elfrida summed up the situation at once and shouted: “Hurry up, we’ve got to dig on or we may be too late!”
Now they doubled their efforts and after a while the cockpit of the plane lay open. They could see now what Bertha had seen: Professor Hasty was in the cockpit. He was lying in the plane and it was clearly to be seen that he still was breathing.
“We’ve got to get him out there, or he’ll suffocate”, Jenny cried desperately and banged her fists against the glass of the cockpit.
“No use”, Bernie said, “that’s safety glass. We can’t break it.”
“What can we do?” Elfrida mused. “The professor obviously cannot open the cockpit from within and we cannot open it from the outside. How thick may this glass be?”
“9 millimetres”, Bruno said, interestedly watching some mussels.
“And how can we open it?” Elfrida hopefully asked.
“Several ways”, Bruno answered. “There is a rectangle lever to open the access from outside and a round level to open it from inside. Some planes have an aft entrance to the cockpit and some have a cockpit where from outside 8 screw nuts have to be opened to get into the machine.”
Everybody just stared at him. Embarrassed, Bruno pointed at the mussels and said: “Over there are more of these.”
“I found a rectangle lever”, Jenny shouted. “Do help me, I can’t manage alone.”
Elfrida, Daisy, Bernie, and Jenny pulled at the lever and with a ‘plop’ the glass dome sprang open. They all looked at the professor who lifted his head a little and drew in the fresh air.
“That w-was a n-near thing”, he gasped. “A thousand thanks!”
“Thank my little useless brother. Sometimes he really knows what’s what. But what happened, why have you been buried in the sand with your plane?” Elfrida asked the professor who with shaky legs now got out of the plane.
“I w-wanted to pay a visit to my brother in Australia, b-but something went wrong.”
Soon they all sat in Prof. Hasty’s lab and told him why they had come. Of course the professor was willing to help them with the ‘readjustment’ of the magic bottle. Elfrida took the small bottle out of her bag and handed it to him. Then our friends said good-bye and walked back to the bus stop because the time became short. Certainly Mona and Moyo had already landed in the Magic Forest and waited for them. Luckily it did not take long until the bus arrived. The children got in and set off to the meeting with their alien friends.
In the meantime McClown did not know whether to be happy or not. He had always wanted to travel to Iceland, but as Lord McShredder never permitted him to stay away for more than three days he never had had a longer holiday. With horror he thought of the endless discussions with the hard-hearing lord.
“Sir, I need a vacation”, he often had said.
“I read in the canalization? How dare you say so?!”
“Sir, I said VACATION !”
“Why do you shout so, McClown, and why vacation? Don’t you like it here? Many people would be grateful to live a castle.”
“Certainly, Sir, but I would like to see another place now and then.”
“You want to go out to space with cow and hen? What fustian are you talking, McClown!”
“ANOTHER PLACE, SIR!”
“You know you should not shout at me, my dear McClown. In my time there were no such newfangled things like vacation. But if you by all means want to go to another place, I have an idea. Pack your things and go!”
The butler’s heart bounced in joy and McShredder continued: “You will move from your room in the east wing of the castle to the room in the north wing. You will have a completely different view from there, McClown, and I’ll give you a day off for moving. What do you say?”
“I am most happy, Sir!” McClown shouted and had to control himself not to strangle His Lordship.
“You see, McClown, the McShredder Clan has always been generous. Of course you will catch up that day.”
“Your kindness goes to the utmost, Sir”, the butler mumbled.
“Your mind flows to the atmosphere? For pure joy, I guess, McClown – ha ha. Back to work now, but get me some tobacco first.”
After such mindless discussions with His Lordship McClown usually went to the kitchen and smashed some dishes to calm down a little.
By now McClown had mounted a small mound and sat down on a tree trunk at the roadside. It did him good to rest a little because the box with the sleeping hamsters had grown heavier and heavier. He wrapped himself in the plaid which the captain had given him as a farewell present and closed his eyes. It did not take long until he slept soundly. But all the adventures of the past days had left their traces and McClown had uneasy dreams. He dreamt that he was back in Scotland chasing monsters. In this dream he was the commander of an army and his soldiers all wore whiskers and furs. They were just chasing the most bloodthirsty monster the world ever had seen: the McShredder-Clan-Monster.
Commander McClown and his true followers had come over the sea in their heavy-armed ships to finish off this monster. Just when he and his army faced the McShredder-Clan-Monster and he wanted to draw his sword, it happened: In his sleep he had moved violently and the tree trunk beneath him started to move as well. McClown and the hamsters tumbled down the mound. The poor butler rolled first, then the trunk and finally the hamsters. As bad luck would have it they had fallen out of the box and by no means knew what was happening. McClown was firmly convinced to be fighting dragons when he saw something dark and big coming towards him.
Another monster, he thought and crashed against a tree. When he wanted to get up, the tree trunk had reached him and hit his neck. Butler and trunk were lying on the ground and the hamsters were stopped by the trunk. The small animals sniffed and when they discovered nothing interesting, they crawled to the butler to nestle to him as he still was wrapped in the plaid.
The sun was just setting when McClown woke up with a tremendous headache and looked about him.
“We lost the battle against the monster”, he said, “but we have not lost the war.”
He rose, took the box and looked up to the mound.
“You just wait, you damned McShredder-Clan-Monster! My army will hunt you down. We will free the world of monsters like you!”
After yelling this he felt better. The hamsters, awakened by the noise, saw that it was dark and looked for forage.
“O my true army”, McClown cried, “are you ready for new battles?”
The hamsters looked bewildered, some of them scratched their heads. They discussed the matter and decided that it would be better to follow this man. He had fed them up to now after all and seemed to be their friend. So they followed him up the mound and inland.
The road was difficult but some hours later they reached a plateau. ‘Langjökull’ was written on a sign. Now and then big rocks were to be seen. Billions of stars shone in the sky above them and McClown could not get his fill of this view. While he watched the starry sky, the hamsters by and by became cross. They were hungry and wanted to have a party. Angrily they started to squeak, some of them even plucked at the butler’s trouser cuffs.
“You raise against your leader?” McClown angrily asked. “What is the matter with you, my faithfuls?”
The hamsters squeaked even louder and their little paws pointed to their bellies.
“Ah, my army is hungry and thirsty! So let’s stop for a bite and relax.”
McClown looked about him: In the distance he could make out a farm building.
“Forward, o you brave!” he shouted and marched on. When getting closer he saw to his joy that there was light in the farm windows. A short time later he knocked at the door. A little girl opened and told him that her parents were on a party in the neighbourhood and she was not allowed to let anybody in.
“You don’t deceive me”, McClown cried. “You are a white fairy turned into a little girl to test our loyalty!”
Before the dumbfounded girl could reply the butler and the hamsters had stormed the kitchen and ransacked the pantry. The little girl followed them, repeating that she was not allowed to let anybody in and that her parents would scold.
“Don’t worry, lovely fairy”, McClown soothed the little girl, “it’s all the fault of the McShredder-Clan-Monster!”
The girl shrugged and shuffled to the living room to watch TV.
It did not take long until the pantry was empty and the bellies of the hungry troop filled. The kitchen looked like a battle field. McClown and his hamster army left the house and walked on northwards.
After a short while they reached a small village with several shops. As all people were already asleep nobody noticed this curious group. They left the village behind them and passed a fish smokehouse. Close to it was the shop of a basket maker.
“Forward, my brave soldiers!” McClown encouraged the hamsters. “We are close to our goal! I can already smell the stinking breath of the monster.”
There was indeed a smell, and the hamsters wrinkled their delicate noses. They would have walked out on him, but they moved on because they thought the kind man was taking them to a party. The stink grew worse. In a distance McClown and his little friends saw smoke coming out of the earth. If McClown’s head had not been between two tree trunks before and he could have thought clearly, he would have known what this was. It was geysers. Geysers develop when hot volcanic rock heats the water. The hot water is transported upwards under high pressure. It was the sulphur vapour which was stinking.
seeing the vapours, shouted: “Forward, my brave soldiers, you can see the hot breath of the monster. Forward, go and get it!”
The hamsters looked at him inquiringly. Was this to be the promised party? They really did not like smoke and bad smells. They hesitated to follow the butler and that was quite a good decision. For when McClown almost had reached the spot, the geyser erupted like geysers now and then do. A hot water column of 15 metres shot up and splashed over McClown. Shrieking, he fled back to the hamsters and cried: “Hurry up, my brave ones, he attacked your leader!”
The hamsters did not understand anything.
“He fled, went underground!” McClown groaned and sat down. Up he was again with a scream for the ground was boiling hot. He ran to the spot were the hamsters were waiting and sat down there. For a long time he thought things over, then his face lit up. He took one of the hamsters – it was Fuzzy – who was sitting directly in front of him.
“The matter is settled, my little friend! We cannot follow him into the hot earth and we have no ship. So we will follow him by air. He certainly looks for an underground way to Scotland. Do you know, my brave little friend, what we are going to do?”
“My hero!” McClown shouted and pressed Fuzzy to his breast.
“Pleh! Pleh!” the terrified hamster yelled.
“That’s it”, McClown cheered. “Flee, that’s what he does. The monster flees us, but we will catch it. Come along, I have a plan.”
After having said so, he got up and walked into the direction they had come from. Bewildered, the hamsters followed him. An hour later they reached the village again. After some search the butler found the shop of the sail maker. He kicked in the door, walked right in and came back with a large canvas and lots of hemp rope.
To the puzzled hamsters he made a sign to follow him and walked back towards the geysers.
At the basket maker he paused, tossed canvas and ropes to the ground and kicked in also this shop door. He came back with a very large basket and ran on to the geysers.
The hamsters with their short legs were quite spent from all the running, but they never had experienced anything that exciting. Bravely they followed until they again reached the hot vapours of the geysers. McClown had to hurry because from the village infuriated voices were to be heard. Quickly he knotted some ropes to the canvas and connected them to the basket. When he was ready, he put the canvas over the hot spring and shouted: “Hurry up, my brave soldiers, we are following the monster!”
The hamsters were very sure that now the party was to start and happily hopped into the big basket. How disappointed were they when they did not find anything to eat in there! Angrily they abused McClown but became quiet as soon as the hot air ballooned the canvas. The canvas grew bigger and bigger. When the basket finally took off, the infuriated villagers had come very close. Excited shouts were to be heard: “Stop, my sails… My basket… Come back, you thief!”
“Daddy, that is the man who stole our stocks”, a little girl blurted out.
The butler bent over the edge of the basket and shouted to the upset people: “Don’t you worry, good folk, this serves a good cause. It is all the fault of the McShredder-Clan-Monster. You hear me? It is all the fault of the McShredder-Clan-Monster.”
Then he lay down beside the hamsters exhaustedly. It did not take long and they all were asleep, while the balloon carried them high through the air.
Reunion with the Aliens
When they finally reached the Magic Forest bus stop, the children excitedly left the bus and ran into the forest. After walking to a fro aimlessly for a while they paused to discuss the matter.
“Is it the correct time?” Susie asked and Bernie answered: “The flight from Zeta to Earth takes 10 hours, that is with the space ship of Mona and Moyo. Around midnight we got their answer via light signals. Now it’s noon, so they should have landed.”
“But where?” Rosie asked. “Nowhere around here is a landing place.”
“I know”, Elfrida cried, “they have landed here before and that was close to the witch house. You know there is a large clearing and that it the best spot for landing.”
“That’s right”, Daisy said. “But then they are in great danger!”
“I don’t believe that”, Elfrida grinned. “Not after the witch became acquainted with my brother.”
“I wonder whether she built up her house again”, Daisy laughed.
In former days the children had always moved very cautiously in this part of the Magic Forest, but today they ran toward the witch house almost merrily. Only Elfrida was angry because she always had to drag Bruno out of some bush or other where he was looking for some interesting beetles. She was the last one to walk into the clearing. The witch house still lay about like debris, only the floor and some furniture were where they should be. Elfrida saw with relief that the space ship with their two friends had already landed. But what she then watched was so very surprising that her mouth stood open and she did not know what to think about it. Over there Mona and Moyo sat at the kitchen table with the witch, playing rummy !
“He he”, Elfrida heard the witch’s laughter, “this time I won! Another game?
“We have to pause”, Mona answered. “Our friends arrived. Moreover we are even and that’s a pretty result.”
The witch nodded, collected the cards and kindly smiled at Elfrida and her friends.
“How about some nice herb tea?” she asked.
“Eh, thanks a lot, but we just had tea”, Daisy lied and turned to Mona and Moyo. “Have you gone nuts? Don’t you remember the stress you had with her? And now you sit here playing rummy? That could have gone quite sour, you know.”
“Negative”, Mona said, “nothing could go sour. We checked the region by PSI-scan.”
Rosie cleared her throat: “What is a ski can?”
“That’s all like you”, Bertha jeered. “She said PSI-van!”
“Scan”, Mona corrected, “PSI-scanner – we can check the neighbourhood for bad impulses by it.”
“And what does PSI mean?” Rosie asked.
“Pig-Stable-Indicator”, Bertha smirked. “By that duffers like you can be made out in time so that one can run away.”
“Dear Bertha! If Miss Cleverpig has no idea, she ridicules everything. And what does PSI mean now?”
“Eh, well, I’ve forgotten for the moment”, Bertha stammered. “But I think it’s something with rays.”
“No rays”, Mona laughed. “It is short for Para Sensual Intelligence, meaning things beyond your normal five senses. Witch craft for instance.”
The friends looked at the witch who was sitting on her kitchen chair grinning and slobbering.
“I doubt any scanner will find anything about her”, Bernie grinned.
“Fine”, Elfrida said. “As that is clarified we now may come to the point. Thanks a lot for coming so quickly, Mona and Moyo. Fact is…”
“How fast is your space ship?” Bruno interrupted who stood beside the vessel of Mona and Moyo.
“On hypermode we almost reach light speed”, Moyo proudly said.
“Wow!” cried Rosie. “Is that faster than a jet?”
“If I may go on”, Elfrida said. “We have to…”
“Nothing is faster than light”, Bruno replied. “It makes 300,000 kilometres per second, that’s more than 1 billion kilometres per hour.”
“You’re really great, Bruno”, Elfrida tried to stop him.
“Ain’t I? And the most interesting thing: this value always remains stable, no matter how fast the onlooker or the light source are moving.”
“What does that now mean? Who is to understand that?” Bertha said and wrinkled her nose.
“Perhaps we should…” Elfrida got no further because Bruno was just at the beginning:
“What that means? Now listen to this example:
From standing position, you throw an apple with 30 kilometres per hour. The apple then flies with the same speed. Now you get into a car and drive with 50 kilometres per hour. Again you throw an apple. Now the apple has a speed of 50+30=80 kilometres per hour.
Now if you stand and switch on a torch the light has a speed of 300,000 kilometres per second. Do the same in a car with a speed of 50 kilometres per hour. Now the light does not have light speed plus 50 kilometres per hour but still 300,000 kilometres per second. The value is always the same.”
“What we now want to know…”, Elfrida tried again.
“Exactly”, Bruno interrupted once more. “How far is the distance from your planet to Earth?”
Moyo thought, then he said: “Almost 60 AU.”
“Perhaps we later can…”, Elfrida tried again, but this time Daisy butt in.
Bruno answered: “It’s short for astronomical unit. One AU is the medial distance between Earth and sun and sums up to 150,000,000 Kilometres.”
“It’s okay, Bruno”, Elfrida tried to take over, “we can calculate that later. First of all now we…”
“That would be about 9 billion Kilometres!” Bruno cried excitedly. “Have you got a proton drive?”
“To be exact, we use an ionic drive”, Mona replied.
“We need the repli…” Elfrida got no farther because now Rosie asked, aghast:
“Idiotic drive? How would that work?”
Elfrida almost lost her nerves. Infuriated, she rolled her eyes but before she could say anything, Bruno set out to answer.
“The basic principle of an ionic drive is the ionising of the material. Ionising means that a material is deprived of electrons. By that the rest of the atomic core has positive charge. Now a positive charge particle can easily be sped up by a magnetic field. Even over short distances a particle gains high speed, much higher than that of chemical fuels. As source of energy ionic drives don’t use chemical fuels but electricity which has to be supplied by solar cells or a nuclear reactor. These normally have more weight than the drive. Is that the reason why you do not really reach light speed?”
“Exactly so”, Moyo replied. “We’ve got too much inertia.”
“Perhaps you may…”
But this time Bruno got no further. Elfrida by now was really fed up. “And you get your bum moving with light speed to collect some snails…”
“I can’t reach light speed because due to his mass the human body…”
“Shall I try to lightspeed you – shall I?!”
Bruno saw that his sister was fuming. He preferred to say nothing but to take a good look at the forest soil.
“It’s about our little friends, the hamsters”, Elfrida at last could explain. “They have been kidnapped to a country the language of which is quite unknown to us. We only have one translator wristband and need more of them. If we should be separated, each of us should be able to talk to the people.”
“I see”, Mona said. “Your need our replicator.”
Elfrida fetched the translator wristband from her trouser pocket. Mona took it and looked at it closely.
“That should be no problem”, she said and took the wristband to her space ship. After a while she came back, hands full of wristbands, and handed them to Elfrida.
“Ten”, she beamed. “That’s your number now, isn’t it?”
“In a way it is”, Elfrida answered, also beaming with joy. “Norbert is grounded at the moment and not allowed to leave his room.”
“What kind of measure is that?” Mona wondered. “What is it good for?”
“Well, he again didn’t do his homework and the teachers complained at his parents. Now he is not allowed to leave his room and has to do work up homework. Even no TV.”
“See”, Rosie said to Bertha. “That’s what I always tell you. Do your homework or the teachers will be at your parents!”
“And what about eating?” Rosie uncertainly asked.
“Why, of course you may eat”, Susie said.
“Oh, then it won’t be that bad”, Rosie said in a relieved voice.
For a few hours the friends sat together, chatting. Mona and Moyo reported how the friendship between them and the monsters became closer all the time.
“Just imagine”, Moya groaned. “Now they begin to sing – even hold contests – horrible!”
When the sun began to set it was time to say good-bye. For a long time the friends watched the rocket rising to the sky higher and higher.
“Well, well”, the witch laughed who also had watched the start of the space ship, “you young folks think of nothing but feasting.”
Grinning, the children left the clearance with the witch house and ran back to town. Before they parted, Elfrida handed a translator wristband to each of them and said: “Don’t forget to take along the wristband tomorrow. We’ll meet at the bus stop at ten o’clock. As soon as Professor Hasty had adjusted the magic bottle, we’ll go to Scotland.”
The last two wristbands she stuffed into her pocket and went home like the others.
There she put the 10th wristband on the table and went to bed early after supper. Tomorrow she wanted to be well rested.
McClown Touching Down
In the meantime McClown faced three problems:
1st: He had no idea how to navigate a captive balloon so that they drifted here and there.
2nd: Terrified, he noticed that the hot air in the balloon cooled down so that they were steadily sinking towards the surface of the Atlantic.
3rd: He felt rather hacked off because of the permanent hamster-party.
He knew he had to jettison something to make the balloon win height. But only he and the hamsters were on board. The hamsters weighed nearly nothing and so he would have to jump overboard. That was not a solution he liked.
Dozens of times McClown had looked down and every time the water surface had been closer. Again he looked over the edge of the basket and estimated that it would take 30 minutes till impact. They were sinking about one metre per minute. He did not like to think of the consequences. The basket would be as useless as the canvass for both would not swim on the water for long.
The butler looked into the direction where he supposed Scotland to be. The sky was cloudy, it was foggy – impossible to say how far off they were. He turned to look into the Iceland-direction and saw his next problem: a large, black, thundery front approached from the north. He could hear the first grumbling of the thunderstorm. Great, he thought, this real isn’t a bland crossing. He glanced at the hamsters who had fallen asleep, tired of their party. Again he looked down, again the water surface was closer. Suddenly something dawned to McClown: Thunderstorm meant storm! Perhaps the storm would carry them closer to the Scottish coast. By now the basket began to swing and McClown sat down beside the sleeping hamsters. The thunder was quite loud now, there was lightning and it started to rain. The box with the hamsters was shaking and the butler was full of pity because the poor hamsters surely were very cold. So he undressed to his pants and socks and stuffed his clothes around the hamsters. This way he killed two birds with one stone: the hamsters were warm and his clothing would not get wet. When the rain was over and they all were still alive, he would have dry clothes. A loud thunder, followed by glaring lightning brought his thoughts back to the moment. The balloon with the basket raced over the water with unbelievable speed and rocked wildly. The storm roared, the rain lashed down. Anyhow, McClown noticed that the hamsters were having a party again. Every time the basket pitched to the side and McClown was afraid to fall out he heard the hamsters’ loud and merry squeaking
“Do you think you’re at a fun fair?” he yelled at them. “You little nitwits have no idea what’s going on!”
After these words McClown was almost washed over board by a gust of rain. He just could hold fast when the whole basket was gripped by the storm, rolled high into the air, over the balloon and back. While the butler was almost sick he heard a delighted “Yarrooh1!” from the box.
Before he really could wonder what that meant, he felt his socks getting wet and with a start he realized that the basket had met the water surface. Thanks to the balloon and the wind it bobbed up and down a little. Was this the end? Without thinking, McClown took the box with the hamsters and held it up so that it would not get wet. Then a loud banging and gnashing could be heard over the hissing of the storm. Like being gripped by a giant’s hand McClown plus hamster box were taken up and hurled through the air. The butler heard one last “Ho!” there was another bang and he blacked out.
When McClown slowly opened his eyes he had no idea how long he had been lying on the beach. He looked about him and immediately knew that he was back home.
“Strathy Point!” he gasped. “We have made it! I know this place – we are safe!”
He took up one of the hamsters and danced with him along the beach. The others hamsters watched this, completely at a loss. When McClown had set down his little dancing partner, he looked about him quite thunderstruck.
“My clothes!” he cried and stared down the beach. His clothes were still there but he no longer could put them on. They were torn to tatters so that each hamster now had a nice bath towel. Luckily McClown did not understand Hamstish for the hamsters were quite amazed about him: “First he dances like mad and now he lies in the sand howling. He does not know what he wants!”
After the half-naked butler calmed down a little he decided to go to the next town to buy new clothes. Bettyhill was the next hamlet, so he collected the hamsters and the fragments of his clothing, put all into the box and walked inland. When he reached Bettyhill, however, he discovered that there was no clothes shop in the whole village. So he went to the newsagent and took a few newspapers. When he wanted to leave the shop he was stopped by a shop assistant.
“Sir, I’m afraid you did not pay these newspapers!”
“Well, Sir”, McClown replied, “just invoice them to His Lordship of the McShredder Clan!” And he ran away as fast as he could.
To his joy the man did not follow him. McClown hid behind some rocks at the beach to dress. Wrapped up in newspaper design he continued his walk to the west. When it darkened he reached a lonely cave named Smoo Cave. He had to stay overnight in this dark, damp place.
The next morning he continued his difficult journey. The sky was overclouding threateningly. Well, rain was the very last thing McClown needed in his paper clothes.
The Renewed Magic Bottle
At the same time the sun had just risen over Aubachtal. Nothing stirred in the small town. That is, almost nothing, for the Bobble family already were rather tizzy.
“Why have we to get up that early? We only have to be there at ten o’clock.”
“Simply because we have to pack some things, Bruno. And you are always loitering, so we have to be off in time.”
Elfrida was excited. As matter of fact she was simmering with excitement and hardly could wait. Since four o’clock in the morning she had not been able to sleep and again and again had looked at her alarm clock. This was the red-letter day and she thought of thousand things. Would they really land in Scotland? How fared their friends, the hamsters? Would they find them?
Elfrida glanced at Bruno.
“Do you really want to take along your cars?” she growled.
“Just some of them: the Lamborghini, the Ferrari…”
Elfrida rolled her eyes.
“Take this wrist band and put it on. If you have to talk to the natives, you’ll need this.”
Bruno took it and fastened it at his wrist. Elfrida was already wearing hers and ponderingly looked at her doll Dolly.
“I think I’ll leave Dolly at home, she might get lost. They say there are ghosts in Scotland and perhaps they also nick dolls or cars.”
With satisfaction she watched her brother unpacking his cars. Now their small rucksacks were filled with the most necessary things. Elfrida had listed everything up. After checking if they had socks, extra shoes and the like it was time for a last breakfast. They stuffed themselves and when they had put the dishes into the sink they could start.
Punctually they arrived at the bus stop. All their friends also had rucksacks on their backs. Rosie’s rucksack however was double the size of the others and Bertha mocked: “Are you afraid to starve during the journey? No need to take the fridge along.”
Luckily at this moment the bus arrived so that no quarrel between the two pigs came up. When they had reached the lighthouse bus stop they flounced out of the bus in a style that the driver looked after them, shaking his head. Impatiently they ran to the professor’s lighthouse. Rosie twice stumbled and fell with her heavy rucksack. The lighthouse door was wide open. As the lift still was defect, the friends ran up the 365 stairs to the professor’s lab in record time. But how surprised and disappointed were they when they did not find anyone. Professor Hasty was not in.
“O no”, Daisy cried. “Where might he be? We want to be off!”
Downcast, they all sat down on the floor. No one spoke. They sat for some minutes and looked at each other helplessly. Finally Rosie started to open her rucksack.
They all watched her getting out a roll with cheese.
“Munch, munch, munch, that’s all you know!” Bertha was disgusted. “We have no idea how to go on, but Miss Rosie fills her belly!”
“So what?” Rosie smacked. “We also would have no idea how to go on if I were not eating.”
That was quite logical and Bertha was silenced. Except for Rosie’s smacking there was no sound in the laboratory.
About half an hour had passed when suddenly they lifted their heads and frowned.
“Do you also hear these funny noises?” Bernie asked.
Before anybody could answer, the room filled with fog. The noise, which at first had been like a low whistling, became very loud. Terrified, the children jumped up because the fog became so dense that they could not see anything. There was a groan and when the fog cleared they saw it: Professor Hasty. It was him who had groaned so loudly. As matter of fact he looked completely changed, his body was covered with a thick layer of ice, even his ears were icicled.
A whisper emerged from his icy, almost frozen lips: “Help!” Then he broke down.
“Quick!” Elfried shouted who was the first to compose herself again. “Get a fan heater and some rugs!”
“And a mop to clean up!” Bertha said.
The friends ran higgedly-piggedly, looking for something to help the professor. Rosie was still sitting on the floor. Like for a picnic her sandwiches were distributed all around her. Now she had to watch helplessly how her food was trampled down by the feet of her excited friends. She desperately collected the sandwiches before they could be completely squished.
The professor was wrapped in rugs and laid down in front of the fan heater. Very slowly the ice began to melt. Again and again Elfrida and Daisy changed the wet rugs with new, dry ones while Bertha every time wiped the floor.
Finally Professor Hasty opened his eyes. He looked first at the children, then at the fan heater. With a flat voice he said: “That does me good! Heaven, it was cold!” With trembling hands he searched his frozen pocket und shouted: “It is still there!”
“What is still there, Professor?” Jenny asked.
“The magic bottle, what else?”
“You mean – it works?” Elfrida excitedly asked.
“O yes”, Professor Hasty beamed. “I wanted to experience something special. I wanted to go to the coldest spot on Earth. Perhaps it wasn’t a frightfully good idea, but no matter. Do you know where the cold pole on Earth is and how cold it is there?”
He peered at the children. None of them seemed to know an answer until Bruno’s voice came from the background: “That’s at the South Pole, also called Antarctic. The Antarctic is the coldest, stormiest, and driest continent. Minus 98.2 degrees Celcius was the deepest temperature ever measured there. Even on a warm summer day the medium temperature is minus 20 degree. In the central Antarctic the thermometer hardly ever goes beyond minus 50 degree.”
“The North Pole is as cold”, Bertha bossily said, but Bruno knew better:
“No, the annual medium in the Arctic is about 30 degrees Celcius higher. The reason is that the South Pole is a continent rising about 1,800 meters beyond sea level. A temperature drop of 1 degree per 100 metres makes all the difference.”
“You might have eaten a textbook”, the professor smiled. “Do you also know the animals living there?”
“At the North Pole there are polar bears. Polar bears normally are loners. They walk over long distances over the arctic islands and ice. Due to their excellent sense of smell…”
“Bruno!” Elfrida interrupted. “We want to go to Scotland today – remember?”
“… and penguins are living at the South Pole”, Bruno quickly finished his lecture.
“If we are back home, Bruno, you will lend me some of your books!” Bernie was all admiration but now turned, like the others, to Professor Hasty, who continued his report: “So, to the coldest spot of the Earth I wanted to go. You see, now you also can regulate the magic bottle on temperature. I wanted to try whether it works and selected the lowest temperature possible.”
“But Professor”, Elfrida objected, “if we enter the Scottish temperature, we might as well land somewhere else where it is as warm or cold.”
“Not if you add the direction, Elfrida”, the professor reassured her.
Suddenly the girl stared at Professor Hasty and shouted: “You don’t stammer any longer. How can that be?”
Now also the other children and even the professor noticed it! What had happened to his stammer? Since the unhappy experiment when his lab exploded he had be stammering.
Happily he shouted: "That was the cold pole or the magic bottle! I don't know and it doesn't matter. I think it's just great!"
The professor and his friends could hardly calm down over this unexpected healing, but finally Elfrida cried: "How about a swell party when we are back? But now we really have to leave!"
All agreed to this, of course, and Professor Hasty showed the children how to adjust the magic bottle.
Then the time had come: The friends had the feeling that the lighthouse was turning round and round. Fog came up and grew thicker and thicker. All of a sudden the twisting stopped, the fog vanished. Cautiously the friends looked about them. Words failed them, only Rosie said: "Boooh!"
McClown in Dirty Trouble
At the same time butler McClown faced some new problems: The pouring rain had completely soaked his paper dress and he was cold. The hamsters were wrapped in his former clothing and felt very hungry. Where in the world was he to get new clothing and something to eat? McClown continued his southward route and was worried. Now and then a car passed him. Every time he signed them to stop but when seeing the half naked McClown the drivers sped up and left him out in the rain. Considering his own slow speed, the butler realized that it would take him days to reach the castle if he had to walk all the distance. Provided that he would not freeze or starve before. He felt quite downcast when he passed a hay cart which was halting at the roadside.
Suddenly he had an idea. He turned and walked back to the hay cart. As customary with such vehicles it was loaded with hay. McClown threw the box with the hamsters into the hay and scrambled onto the cart. Then he brushed aside the hay so that he could hide in it with the box. The hay rather pricked but he did not mind for in here it was warm and dry. Butler and box were now hidden deep in the hay. It was dark and cosy so that McClown became sleepy. He did not notice that the hay cart set into motion while he was soundly asleep.
A hard bump woke the butler. He heard the frightened squeaking of the hamsters but could not see anything. Blackness all around him, his lids felt sticky. He wiped them thoroughly and was glad to be able to see something. It took him some time to understand what had happened and where he was. His face and body where covered with black mud. He was lying in some dirty, stinking broth.
“A pigsty”, he swore. “They tilted me into a pigsty!”
Indeed the hay was meant as fodder for the cattle on a small farm. How should McClown have known that the cart would be moved while he was sleeping? He looked about him. This was a small barn. Some pigs were on the one side, from the other side a cow watched him with her big eyes. Swearing, he got out of the stinking mud and feverishly searched for the hamster-box.
He found it beside the pig feeder, grabbed it and looked for the exit of the cattle shed. Close by he saw a wooden door and ran towards it. This was a mistake for McClown slipped on a cow pad and fell down right at the legs of a cow. Dizzily he lay there and the cow began to lick his face with her long tongue. Disgusted, the butler stood up and fled to the door. But when he opened it and looked out he hastily closed it again. The next room was the kitchen and the farmer family was sitting there at supper.
Bugger! the butler thought. He could do nothing but wait until the family went to sleep. The cow had followed him and again began to lick him.
“Now stop that, please, I’m no calve”, he hissed, but the cow did not seem to realize this. Now McClown fled to the other side of the stable where the pigs were living. He sat down in a corner, quite spent. But a short while later he was surrounded by curious pigs. They sniffed at him and they, too, started to lick the poor butler.
“Now stop that, you pigs”, McClown hissed and while he looked for another place he realized why the animals were quite mad on him. Salt! Some animals are crazy about salt. He had come over the North Sea by balloon, so the smell and taste of salt water were on him. There was the rough tongue of the cow again and he fled to another corner. There the pigs were waiting for him and grunted merrily. He turned quickly and walked into the other direction but there the cow was standing, wagging her tail. Swearing, McClown went over to the door and listened. Darn it, the family did not go to bed but began to kill their time by playing cards.
He turned round: The cow was waiting for him – some steps away the pigs did the same, eyes full of hope. For some minutes McClown wandered from one corner of the stable to the other, but finally he surrendered. He did not fight them any longer but let cow and pigs have their fill of licking him.
“Why always me?” he groaned. “Why not that old gaga dummy McShredder, who brought all this onto me?”
Neither cow nor pigs gave him an answer. Instead they merrily continued licking him.
Hours later, the farmer family went to bed. Now McClown dared to sneak through the door and leave the stable. When he entered the kitchen he noticed that the animals were following him. He hastily tried to shut the door behind him. He pressed to the door from one side, and the animals pushed from the other side. But finally he succeeded and the door was closed. One piglet however managed to squeeze through the gap in the door and unobstrusively followed McClown through the kitchen to the courtyard door. When he cautiously pressed down the handle, he felt a cold, sniffing snout at his leg and the blood almost froze in his veins.
The dog, he thought and almost panicked. Watchdogs are big, mean, and dangerous. He will bite and mangle me! McClown was sweating and his legs felt like jelly. Weeping, he fell to his knees and waited for the deathly bite of the beast. Nothing happened and his fright grew. He closed his eyes and waited on but still nothing happened. Doddering, the butler now decided to plead for his life. On his knees, eyes closed, he turned and whimpered: “Take pity on me, you are so much stronger than me. I surrender. Be gracious, you strong, mighty being. Feel pity with the innocent little hamsters!”
Still nothing happened. Cautiously McClown opened one eye to look at the beast bravely. In front of him a small, dinky piglet was sitting and looked at him. Never in his life McClown had felt more silly. Relieved he took the hamster-box and left the yard. To the south there was a forest which seemed to be an ideal hiding place. A few minutes later he and the hamsters were in safety. From twigs and leaves he built a shelter and tried to find sleep. He felt a little disturbed by the hamsters who were beginning a nightly party but even more it disturbed him that the piglet was sucking at his feet.
Next morning McClown woke up, shivering of cold. Gratefully he looked at the piglet which was lying on his feet and gave him a bit of warmth. The sun was shining and the butler decided to leave the shady forest to warm up in the sun. When he reached the road he discovered to his joy that the distance to his home castle was only a few kilometres. He realized that the hay cart had taken him a good way into the direction he needed. On his way he succeeded in stealing a small can of milk at a farm. A furious peasant woman almost caught him, but McClown was lucky. Against noon he reached a small crossroad. From there he walked into the direction of the castle. McClown sighed deeply and shouted: “My friends, a few hours only and we are home!”
He took the piglet’s forepaws and danced around with it.
“To sleep in a coy bed again”, he sang, but the piglet only looked at him wonderingly.
Jenny was the first one to regain speech: “What a beautiful country! Look down there, a waterfall!”
The friends were standing on a high mountain and looked down into a valley. Heather was blooming on the rocky mountain. There was a large lake in the valley, stretching to the horizon. High trees were growing at the banks, even higher than the firs in the Magic Forest. At the foot of the mountains sheep were grazing beside the waterfall. In the distance large animals with reddish fur and curved horns could be seen, peacefully chewing grass.
“I wonder if they are dangerous?” Bertha anxiously asked.
“I don’t think so”, Elfrida replied and turned to her brother: “Say, Bruno, wasn’t there a book about such animals in your room?”
Bruno nodded: “Highland Cattle. Have been raised especially for the life in the harsh Highlands, the mountainous part of Scotland. They are very amicable, but if you shout at them it saddens them. The sheep don’t mind if you shout at them. The farther northwards you are the more black-faced sheep you will find. They graze in the spacious areas of the Highlands. The animals care for themselves and are only taken to the stables for shearing. Sometimes they are very trusting.”
“Wow!” Daisy exclaimed. “What kinds of animals and plants might here be?”
Bruno continued: “At the coasts you can watch whales, dolphins, and seals. In the Moray Firth you’ll even find a colony of bottlenose tumblers. These playful animals can be seen regularly near the coast. You can watch them from Fort George. That is a great fort near Nairn from the 18th century. Or from Chanonry Point on Black Isle.
The impressive cliffs on the Orkneys or the Isle of Handa in West-Sutherland and further south at Bass Rock and at St. Abbs are marvellous if you want to get in touch with nature. Puffins, Northern Gannets, Common Guillemots, ospreys, fulmars, and kittiwakes are there in ten thousands. As Scotland is situated, it is a paradise for birds. And of course, there is deer, packs of red and fallow deer, rodents like mountain hare or rabbits, foxes, badgers, martens, and wildcats. The rhododendron shrubs are enormous. You find bright furze, lots of moor plants like sweet gale, orchids, many carnivorous plants, very rare ferns. Partly the habitats are arctic or heather landscapes like here.”
The children listened to Bruno who obviously again had learned the contents of his book by heart. When he had finished, he collected some interesting stones.
“Shall we go down to the valley?” Elfrida asked and they started immediately. When they reached the sheep, a wild baa-concert received them.
“Are they always out here? Do they never go into a stable?” Rosie wondered and stuffed a piece of chocolate into her mouth.
“Only for shearing”, Bruno replied. “Sometimes that is a special event. The roundup of the sheep is done by dogs who work together with shepherds. The dogs get a special training in rounding up sheep. The shepherds rival on the quality of their dogs, therefore there are regular sheep dog contests. Each dog and his master are rated there. The dogs have to drive four sheep into a corral. A dog is best qualified if he can manage that with as few as possible whistle commands of his master. You know, these contests are also sent in TV and lay people can easily learn the differences between the qualities of the dogs.”
“Great!” Mary cried. “The things your brother knows!”
Elfrida did not exactly know whether to be angry or proud that her little brother knew more than she did.
“How about going to the lake and taking a rest?” she proposed.
The descent had really been quite difficult. Bertha had several times slipped on sheep’s droppings, so that now her bum hurt and she did not want to walk on.
“By the way, it is loch and not lake”, Bruno said. Elfrida goggled at him and her friends grinned. Elfrida stood right in front of Bruno and wagged her finger at him.
“How about being our guide and teaching us a bit of geography, he? If there’s one thing I hate, it is geography…”
“Okay”, Bruno said. “Well, Scotland…”
“No!” Elfrida shrieked. “That was a joke!”
But Bruno could not be stopped now. “Scotland is situated in the north of the British main island and has a size of 78,764 km². Due to the many firths most of the towns are no more than 80 km from the next coast. About 4.5 % of the country are water, 1,732 lochs have been counted. Lochs are the lakes – remember?
Scotland is mainly shaped by the Grampian Mountains and the Highlands. Ben Nevis near Fort William is the highest mountain with 1,343 m. And you should know that there are two large groups of islands, the Orkneys and Shetland in the North and the Inner and Outer Hebrides in the West. They come up to an area of 894 km².
Scotland is named after the Celtic tribe of Scots who came over from Ireland in the 5th century. But often enough you hear it named Caledonia which goes back to the likewise named tribe which had been living here before that.”
“You forgot the number of inhabitants”, Elfrida groaned, feeling rather shirty.
“O yes”, Bruno continued. “Today Scotland has about 5 million inhabitants. Would you like to know something about the castles?”
“Nooo!” the chorus of children yelled.
By now they had reached the loch and sat down in the shadow of the trees.
“By the way, there are a lot of jokes about the Scottish people”, Bruno began.
“All right”, Elfrida yawned. “Go ahead!”
“Why are there so many round churches in Scotland? – So that during collect nobody can hide in a corner.” His friends looked quite lost and he explained: “As Scotland is a very poor country, the inhabitants are said to be close-fisted. But that is a prejudice because the Scots are very hospitable and helpful to foreigners, especially Germans.”
“Hospitable?” That was something Rosie loved to hear. “Can’t we just check on their hospitality? We are all quite hungry, aren’t we?”
The friends opened the rucksacks, got out their provisions and made themselves comfortable.
Jenny pointed to the left shore of the loch. “Over there seems to be a village. Perhaps we can ask there about this McShredder. I’m sure we’ll also get something to eat there.”
“Good idea”, Elfrida nodded, chewing.
Now she checked the magic bottle. This time the cork was hanging at a ribbon around the neck of the bottle.
“The professor is a genius. This time we’ll have no difficulties with our journey home. We need not look for the cork.”
“How about making the magic bottle take us to the village?” Rosie hopefully asked. “Then we need not walk.”
“That’s not advisable on short distances”, Bernie explained. “If we’re unlucky, we take a long way round.”
As they by now all had finished their meal they stood up and walked in eastern direction. They reached a narrow country road. To the left and right they saw walls of about one metre height, built of rocks and now and then interrupted by lanes and recesses.
“This certainly is a one-way-street”, Daisy stated.
“For sure”, Bertha nodded. “There’s no room for more than one car.”
“It’s a single track”, Bernie explained. “Oncoming traffic has to drive into a recess, depending who his closer to the next recess.”
Now they came to a small bridge which they had to cross. Just in front of the bridge long iron rods were imbedded in the ground. It looked like a big drain.
“Ouch!” Bertha cried. “You can break your legs here! What are these silly things good for?”
“Perhaps a drain for rainwater”, Elfrida guessed.
Quite at a loss, the children looked at those curious rods. At this moment a small van passed them. The driver waved to the children and crossed the bridge. When he came to the funny drain there was such a noise that they all put their hands to their ears.
“I think I know”, Jenny shouted. “This grill shall warn the oncoming traffic by the noise.”
“You’re all wrong”, Bruno now said. “These are cattle-grids. Cattle are shut off by this. If for instance a sheep gets stuck between the rods with his feet it cannot run away.”
They followed the road and passed pines and birches. To their right now was the loch which sparkled in the sun like diamonds. To their left was a fence. Behind it, at the foot of a mountain, was a meadow where sheep and lambs were grazing. It was rather warm and after two hours the children were glad that they now approached the village. They passed a few cottages, a church, and found themselves on a small marketplace.
“Are you that hungry, too?” Rosie gasped and sat down on a big stone.
“We are, but first we have to ask about McShredder”, Elfrida said. Then her face lit up. “There certainly will be a restaurant or snack bar or the like. Let us take a rest. Bruno can tell us everything about Scottish food, what do you think?”
“It will do no harm”, Bertha said und so Bruno sat down on a stone and began:
“Scotland has of course traditional dishes like the famous Haggis or Arbroath Smokies, that is smoked haddock. There is also Hotchpotch, a lamb stew. In posh restaurants and hotels however you find international cuisine. Especially in the big cities and elegant country hotels you’ll find an absolute gourmet level. In smaller towns and in the country the choice of dishes is limited, fresh vegetables are rare, mostly you get it from the freeze. However, the Scottish breakfast is really something. Beside the usual ham and eggs you get grilled sausages, stewed tomatoes, fried mushrooms, lots and lots of toast and jam. If you like you also can get kippers, that are smoked, warm herring filets. Porridge is quite a tradition. Looks like macerated cardboard – tastes likewise. Often you also get cornflakes or cereals. Good tea and not so good coffee go with it. The bread is quite soft and flabby.
Lunch is no big matter. Bar lunch is cheap and good. You can get excellent ploughman’s lunch, warm pies, or rich sandwiches. Lunch time is between noon and 2.30 p.m. – and only then! If you order lunch in a hotel or restaurant you can get richer meals and if you are Rosie-like hungry you may find opulent luncheon buffets there.
The principle meal is dinner in the evening. Game and seafood are especially good in Scotland. You’ll often get deer or grouse. Close to the coast you of course get all variations of fish. It’s really smashing, you know. Salmon and trout you’ll find in the rivers and lochs in abundance. You get them grilled, boiled, smoked – whatever you like. Most often you get the haddock in many variations. Just try finnan haddock: rub the haddock with salt, dry it at the beach and put it in the smoke of a peat fire.”
“If I don’t get anything to eat at once, I’ll go mad!” Rosie shouted.
“So will we!” the chorus of her friends answered.
“And what is this Haggis?” Bertha wanted to know.
“Haggis is Scotland’s traditional but by no means an everyday dish. Haggis is sheep stomach, stuffed with heart, liver und lung of sheep, kneaded with oatmeal, mutton fat, onions, salt, and pepper. You boil it and eat it with mashed potatoes and turnips. A specialty is lamb filet, stuffed with haggis…”
“Stop, Bruno, I’m going to be sick!” Indeed Bertha’s face was greenish by now and also the others had lost their appetite, but Bruno could not be stopped:
“One thing is missing: the dessert. A typical Scottish desert is Sticky Toffee Pudding, very sweet and made of cake and custard. And you will love teatime. It goes with scones with butter and jam or cream. There also may be biscuits or sandwiches with egg, cucumber, or salmon.”
In the meantime Elfrida had got up and looked about her. She rummaged her trouser pockets and said: “I’ve got the money Aunt Odilia gave me for a birthday present. Over there seems to be such a pap.”
“The word is pub”, Bruno corrected and did not mind her black looks.
“No matter”, Elfrida said. “There certainly are many people whom we can ask about McShredder.”
They took up their rucksacks and walked to the corner of a house. There was the door and voices were to be heard. It smelled of food and the friends stormed the pub. The room was pleasantly cool. They looked around.
To their left were some tables, in the background stood a pool table. Two men were playing there. The friends could look into a separated room were some men were playing darts. To their right was a long bar counter. A kindly looking man was washing glasses. He was quite bald but had an impressive moustache. A little frightened, the children were standing there, not knowing what to do now until one of the men at the pool table shouted: “Hey, new faces in this old shed! Come on in and tell where you’re coming from!”
“W-we’re coming from Germany and are here on vacation”, Elfrida uncertainly answered.
By now also the dart players had interrupted their game and came closer.
“From Germany?” one of the pool players said who had a long black beard. “Hey, John, hand some lemonade to our guests, they surely are thirsty.”
Obviously the man behind the bar was the landlord and named John. He took some glasses, filled them with lemonade and said: “Come, help yourselves. You do look thirsty.”
“And very hungry”, Rosie added.
“You heard her, John?” one of the dart players said, a man in oil-stained blue
overalls. “Our guests are hungry. Haven’t you got some pies left?”
John nodded and disappeared through a door.
“I hope it won’t be haggis”, Elfrida whispered to her brother, but he only goggled at her in puffed up way and said: “I told you that’s no everyday dish. You won’t get that at pubs!”
The friends sat down at a table near the pool table and curiously watched the players.
“Ever played snooker?” the younger of the two players asked.
“No”, Bernie replied. “What are the rules?”
“It’s quite simple: You just have to pot the balls into the pockets of the table. It doesn’t matter into which of the six pockets. You just have to play a red ball first and then a coloured one. One player pots as long as he succeeds to pot the balls in the order I just described. While the red balls stay in the pockets up to the game’s end, the coloured ones are put back on the table until there is no red ball left. Only then the coloured balls are potted in the order of their value.
Winner of course it the one with the highest score. There is one big difference to pool-billard. Fouls of the one player are credited to the other. So a clever player can score just by provoking his opponent to make mistakes. That’s fun, you know.”
While Bernie was making quite a face, the young man continued: “Of course you have to take care that…”
Luckily now John arrived with a large plate and said: “Now let our young guests have a good meal in peace, Angus.”
He put down the plate with deliciously smelling pies.
Elfrida and her friends quite forgot their manners and greedily snatched the pies with their hands. Only Bertha wanted to have knife and fork and waited until the landlord brought them. Bad luck that the pies were eaten up by then. John laughed and went into the kitchen for more.
Again the friends partook of them heartily and now Elfrida thought it to be the right time: “Does anybody know the name McShredder?” she asked. Suddenly all talk and laughter in the pub died down.
“Somebody asked about McShredder?” a croaking voice sounded from the dart room. An old man in kilt and tam-o’-shanter came in. He approached the table where the children were sitting and croaked: “Old lying McShredder? I know him indeed. He stole one of my sheep once. I’m Rufus McHobble.”
“But that’s really mean”, Jenny said. “When was that?”
“Oh, a short time ago only”, McHobble answered. “In 1935! One of my sheep got astray on his land, and this scumbag McShredder just kept it!”
John the landlord laughed: “And up to now he did not pay his beer from 1950! Now seriously, children, what do you want of him?”
Elfrida did not really know what to say. Finally she mumbled: “Eh, we found a button where McShredder is written on it and we want to take it back to its owner.”
“Better keep aloof from him”, McHobble recommended. “Everybody knows that the castle is haunted. Do ask old William, he lived to see it!”
He pointed to an old man who was sitting at the bar, cigar in mouth and nodding. Slowly he took the cigar out of his mouth and said: “That’s right. In 1946 it was when one night I passed McShredder’s castle. And I saw her through the curtains!”
“Her?!” the chorus of children echoed.
“Boabhan-Sith!” (Note of the author: pronounced “booh-van she”)
The children were huddling close together and Elfrida asked: “Who is that?”
“Boabahn-Sith is an evil Scottish fairy who appears in the shape of a young girl in a green dress. First she dances with her victims, then she sucks them to the last drop of blood. She can only be killed by cold iron.”
“A-are there any more Scottish ghosts?” Bertha asked with big eyes.
“Lots. If you just count them, the most haunted place is that of the Bowes Lyons family, the Counts of Strathmore. Glamis Castle in County Angus is their seat, a weird place which Shakespeare chose for his Macbeth. As matter of fact King Malcom II had been stabbed to death there in the 11th century. It is said that his blood still stains many rooms of the castle. And the Lady in Grey is also one of the many Glamis Castle-ghosts as well as the little black boy and one of the Strathmore Counts who lost a game of cards against the devil.
Many ghosts are connected to the counties or certain houses or families. Of course you can dismiss these restless ghosts as stories being told from generation to generation at the fireplace. But you can believe me that lots of witnesses in decades and centuries have met these ghosts which are haunting certain families. Sometimes these spirits are quite friendly towards there hosts or rather indifferent. But mostly the appearance of the ghost announces the death of a family member.”
“Say, Mister”, Bertha said suspiciously, “what did you have to do at McShredder’s castle in the middle of the night?”
“O well, eh, I missed a sheep and I – eh – looked for it”, William stammered.
The children by now had finished their meal and Elfrida came back to her original question: “And where will we find this McShredder?”
John, cleaning away the dishes, replied: “Go into the direction of Killichonan. Keep to the northern shore of the loch. It’s many miles, however. Even if you start now, you will be there after midnight only.”
“Is there no bus to Hillybilly or what’s its name?” Rosie hopefully asked.
John thought, looked at a big old watch over the bar and said. “I think my brother will depart with the mail car. Wait a minute, he certainly takes you along a short way towards Killichonan.”
He strode to the door. A few minutes later he was back and shouted: “Hurry up, children, he will start right now.”
The friends thanked him for the meal and the lemonade, took their rucksacks and left the pub. Close to the pub stood the van which had overtaken them before. A man in a chequered shirt was standing there and asked: “So you’re the brave Germans who want to pay a visit to McShredder’s haunted castle?”
The children nodded and walked over to the car. The man opened the door for them and said: “By the way, my name is George and I’m the postman.”
When as the last one Rosie had boarded, George closed the door and started the motor. Slowly the van left the village.
When they reached the bridge, George stepped on the gas so that the van was in the air for a moment. Passing the cattle-grids every time was quite a noise. The drive was fun to the children, but suddenly the van stopped at a letter box. Beside the letter box a small path led to a small white house. George took a bundle of papers, got out and came back after a short while.
“That the mail?” Mary asked.
“Right”, George grinned. “By the way, I take passengers on each tour. John’s friends get a free ride.”
So on they went from letter box to letter box. Rosie was disappointed because the drive was always interrupted by letter box-stops. When Bernie discovered a large castle to their right he excitedly shouted: “Are we there now?” But the driver only laughed and said: “That’s a posh hunting lodge. McShredder’s castle is rather ramshackle.”
“Are there really ghosts?” Rosie wanted to know.
“Yes”, George replied seriously and turned round, “there is a ghost. Do you want to know its name?”
Hushed and frightened, the children nodded.
“His name is … McShredder!” George laughed so much about his own joke that the car almost skidded.
“And what about the butler?” Elfrida wanted to know.
“Frido McClown?” George laughed. “He’s the most harmless soul I ever met. Sometimes I wonder how he stands that geezer. McShredder’s ideas are quite funky now and then.”
After he had said so the driver stopped and pointed to a wood. “Follow that path, it will take you directly to the McShredder estate. Have a nice time!”
The children got out of the van which went on in western direction. Efrida opened a rotten, wonky gate and her friends followed her cautiously.
“What may expect us there?” Jenny wondered. “I cannot understand the birds here, the translator wristband doesn’t help.”
“Let’s think things over”, Elfrida proposed. “We know that McShredder is said to be a geezer living with his harmless servant in a ramshackle castle.”
“But the people in the village also say that there are ghosts in the castle”, Susie anxiously added.
“Superstition and ghost stories are widespread in Scotland. There normally is no reason…”
“Thank you, Bruno”, Elfrida interrupted him. “We also know that this McShredder is said to have funky ideas. If he had the idea to kidnap the hamsters, he must be funky indeed.”
“Perhaps he’s just bored”, Mary said. “He only wants to play with the hamsters.”
“Or he wanted to lure us to his castle”, Daisy proposed.
“We’ll find that out when we meet him”, Elfrida said impatiently. “You know what I think? They and their ghost stories – a bit bonkers. They nick sheep from each other, pray you. Let’s get gone!”
The friends walked through a garden wilderness which had seen better days. Here and there wild roses were growing and high rhododendrons. They passed some birch trees until they approached a little mound on which a ruin was standing.
They paused and stared at that ruin. Well, it was not really a ruin. Furniture and wallpaper were still there. The roof was missing, the walls were damaged but the building seemed to be inhabited. Suddenly something darted out of the shrubbery and fell on them with loud shrieks. Terrified, the children threw themselves to the ground but a moment later Bruno said: “A duck, a darling duck! Did you know that ducks…”
“Shut up, Bruno!” Elfrida was angry that a harmless duck had frightened her and her friends so much.
They now reached the door of the ruinous castle. Bernie went to the right side to scramble over a low wall, but Elfrida shouted: “Stop, Bernie! If we are paying a visit to a real lord, we should press the bell.”
She walked to the door, lifted a heavy iron ring which was mounted there and let it fall. The ring clang against the door. Nothing happened. She tried again but nothing moved in the castle.
“Let me try!” Rosie said. She lifted the iron ring and crashed it against the door. Unfortunately she forgot to take away her fingers and the ring crashed against her hand instead. Rosie looked at her aching hand in disbelieve, then she took a deep breath and yelled so loud that her friends thought their ear-drums would burst.
“Why”, they heard a croaking voice, “the bell is working again. McClown, is that you after all? Come in, you ninny-hammer, the door is open!”
Slowly, one after the other, the friends walked into the entrance hall. There they finally saw Lord McShredder, who was sitting in his wing chair as usual. When he saw the children, he straightened up and asked: “What do you want? Do you bring back the sheep which McHobble stole from me?”
Elfrida stepped forward.
“Sir, we would like to ask you something.”
“What rotten nonsense is that? Nobody is going to bath the Sun King. Get out here!”
“I said, I’d like to inquire about something”, Elfrida said a little louder.
“And it’s not my business if the Sun King got a quagmire!”
“PUT QUESTIONS!” Elfrida now roared at the top of her voice.
“Oh, you make an opinion poll.” McShredder was quite pleased. “Make yourselves comfortable. How about some biscuits? Yes? Just go to the kitchen and get you some. You also may prepare some tea for me. My butler is away and I did not have anything to eat and drink for days.”
Daisy, Bernie, Susie, and Bertha went into the kitchen to get everything ready.
“I don’t believe that!” Bertha cried when she saw the kitchen. “This looks appalling! Mister Lord, you should tidy up the room!”
“Fry the broom? Why should I do so, my child?”
Angrily Bertha stepped up to milord and blustered: “Such a filthy kitchen. Have you ever heard anything about order and cleanliness?”
“Murder is meaningless? Well, for my sake…”
“THIS KITCHEN IS FILTHY”, Bertha bawled at him and her eyes glittered dangerously.
Lord McShredder gave her a shocked look. “Then that grubby McClown did not clean up before he left. That certainly will be docked. Eh, piglet, please be kind enough to clean this up, will you?”
Now Bertha lost her temper. With a yell she wanted to leap at McShredder, but she stumbled over Bruno who just had discovered an ant on the floor. Rosie could just hold her up and Elfrida quickly said: “Bertha, do it, please. We have to jolly him along so that we may question him!”
Bertha calmed down a little, but when at this moment milord emptied his pipe on the carpet she began to shriek and ran into the kitchen.
“It warms my heart to see somebody going to his work with so much joy”, milord smiled. “A really dear pig. But tell me, were do you come from?”
“Germany!” Elfrida shouted.
“Ah, good old Germany”, His Lordship shouted. “Tell me, how is old William?”
Elfrida was quite at a loss and looked at her friends. “Who might that be?”
“A German Emperor”, Bruno replied. “There were two of the name William. William I reigned from 1871 – 1888. It was he who appointed Bismarck to be President and let him manage everything. He was followed by Emperor Frederick III, but that one reigned for 99 days only and his wife Victoria told him what to do. So he always had trouble with Bismarck. The last German Emperor was William II from 1888 – 1918. Then he resigned.”
“I see”, Elfrida sighed. “So he wants to know who now ranks first in Germany. That’s the Chancellor, isn’t it?”
“Nuts”, Bruno angrily replied, “the first rank in Germany has the President.”
Elfrida blushed fiercely, turned to McShredder and said: “William – er – is fine!”
“William drinks wine? Then he seems to be doing well.”
In the meantime Daisy and Susie had found some old biscuits and Bernie was busy repairing the gas stove. Bertha was wiping the kitchen and cursed.
“We found a button”, Elfrida said now and handed McShredder the button Bruno had discovered in Hamsterton. His Lordship looked at it for quite some time, gave it back to Elfrida and angrily croaked:
“The button belongs to my butler, this good-for-nothing! He loses and forgets all kinds of things. Look at this castle – all his fault! That booby goes on a journey and leaves the gas stove on. When I lit my pipe yesterday, the castle just banged and the roof was gone! I will deduct that from his salary!”
“When will he be back?” Jenny wanted to know.
“On a hack? No, he did not go on a hack, he took a plane.”
“No”, Jenny groaned, “I mean, when will he be home?”
“That’s it”, Lord McShredder sulked, “he even didn’t phone. Impudent I call that.”
“I WANT TO KNOW WHEN HE WILL BE HERE AGAIN!” Jenny bawled.
“How should I know? And you need not shout, my girl, I’m not deaf.”
Milord sucked at his pipe and yelled: “Where is my tea?”
“In the kitchen – until the floor is dry”, Bertha yelled back.
“Impudent”, milord croaked as loud as possible. “Such an answer should get a dungeon punishment!”
Bertha was rather infuriated by now, held the mop under his nose and snapped: “No hamster-thief says something like that to me!”
McShredder was puffed up.
“Yes, you… you Lordscamp. You kidnapped our friends!”
“Friends?” McShredder wondered. “Are you living in Syria, too?”
“Nuts! The hamsters and we are both living in Germany!”
Milord scratched his head, sucked at his pipe and thought that over. Then he said: “So that silly McClown has again screwed up everything. I told him: McClown, go to Syria and fetch hamsters. I did not say: McClown, go to Germany and nick hamsters.”
“And what was the great idea?” Elfrida asked.
“My rheumatism”, McShredder moaned. “It was so cold in the castle and my rheumatism got worse and worse. Hamster fur helps against rheumatism. So I said: McClown, I need warm hamster fur. He was to shear the animals and bring me the wool.”
“That went soundly awry”, Elfrida stated. “And where is your butler? Did he not contact you?”
“I told you he even did not phone. We just have to wait for him.”
By now Bernie had succeeded to repair the gas stove and Susie carried a cup of tea to His Lordship. The friends made a tour through the castle. It was not much regarding furniture and did not really look like a real castle. The windows were made of coloured glass, the kitchen was a semicircular room with walls of several metres’ height. The most curious thing was an old rusty bell which hung under the ceiling.
“Tell me, Mister Lord, how long have you been living here?”
Lord McShredder looked bewildered at Elfrida and mumbled: “How long the calf is giving beer? I really have no idea, my child.”
The Proud of the Clan McShredder
“Since when is this your castle?” Elfrida rephrased her question and shouted.
“Well, eh, quite a long time, my child. Why do you ask?”
“Because the castle somehow reminds me of a church”, Elfrida roared.
At this moment Bruno came in with a handful of snails. Bertha flinched and yelled: “Get you gone with your silly earthworms.”
“These are snails, not earthworms”, Bruno replied disgustedly. The he turned to Elfrida. “Outside near the graves are lots of them and…”
“Graves?! Did you say graves?” Elfrida sounded shocked.
“Yes, so I said. Well, these dear little snails belong to the …”
“Lord McShredder”, Elfrida now shouted. “What is going on here?”
The old lord sat back in his wingchair and thoughtfully glanced at the destroyed roof. Then he sipped his tea and sucked his pipe.
“O, my pipe has gone out!”
“What is going on here?” Elfrida repeated relentlessly.
McShredder made some fuss about lighting his pipe and glanced at the children innocently.
“Well, well”, he croaked, “I’ll tell you. But you must promise to keep it a secret.”
The friends nodded, he sucked at his pipe, blew the smoke and began to talk.
“Once upon a time, not so very long ago, about 1920, I lived as a Spanish knight in Andalusia, my homeland. There was a day when the Spanish king heard about the legendary Loch Ness monster. He ordered me, Don Shreddo, to bring this monster to Spain. So I travelled to Scotland and searched for a monster named Nessie. This was to be the most dangerous chase of my life because up to then I only had fought small dragons. But Nessie was a giant monster, a relict from the past. It was a mixture of Tyrannosaurus and Brontosaurus. Do you know anything about saurians?” McShredder asked the children.
“I only know bronchitis, but that one died”, Bertha said.
“That’s it”, Bernie grinned. “Coughed himself to death.”
They now all looked at Bruno who just was organizing a snail race on the carpet.
“There were land-living saurians and flying saurians.” Bruno looked at his friends and at His Lordship. “Do you really want to know more about it?”
Before Bertha could answer, milord said: “Go on, my young friend, but speak up.”
Bruno’s eyes sparkled and he continued: “There were plant eating and meat eating saurians. Therefore they were classified in two groups. Most of the meat eaters were theropods, they walked on two legs. Best known is Tyrannosaurus Rex. The plant eaters mostly had a very long neck and walked on four legs.
They were classified in two groups. There were the prosauropods with quite a long neck but still walking on two legs. Sauropods had a long neck and long tail and normally walked on four legs. Brontosaurus was one of them.”
In that style Bruno explained all the dinos and Lord McShredder was impressed. When Bruno paused, milord said: “Well, sonny, you really do know a lot. What is your name?”
“His name is Bruno, he is my brother”, Elfrida proudly said and stroked Bruno’s head.
Bruno ducked away as he was not used to be petted by his sister, quite in the contrary. He hastily bent to continue the organization of the snail race, before his sister could take it into her head to kiss him.
In the meantime Susie had refilled the cup of milord and when he had sucked at his pipe, McShredder took up his story again: “Well, well, so I was to track down the Loch Ness monster. Many Scots came to help me in the chase but one after the other fled the horrible monster. Those who did not flee were dragged under and nobody ever saw them again. Often enough I cornered the monster but it always escaped in the last moment. By now I was quite alone in my battle against Nessie. So I fought day by day, month by month, and year by year. The Spanish king had forgotten my existence by then, but I continued my fight.
One day when I sat at the banks of Loch Ness exhaustedly and asked myself if I should give up my battle, a man sat down beside me. This was St. McGregor, a man of the church, who had heard about my fight against the monster. He consoled me and told me that nobody ever had succeeded to catch the monster or chase it away. He said it would be better to give up. I dismissed this proposal and swore to beat the monster. St. McGregor laughed and made a deal with me. If I would succeed to free Loch Ness from the monster he would make his church over to me. If I did not succeed I should be sent back to Spain in dishonour.
I agreed and for several nights turned it over in my head how to beat the monster. Then an idea came to me: Saurians were afraid of fire – why should Nessie not be? I got me some torches with magnesium which also burns under water, took my sword and dived into Loch Ness. I found the monster hidden between some rocks deep down in the water and a murderous fight began. It took all the night but at dawn Nessie gave up and fled through the Caledonian Canal into the North See.
St. McGregor took me here and gave this church to me. Nobody has ever since seen the Loch Ness monster again. Up to day scientists are looking for it in vain. Now you know the true reason why the Loch Ness monster cannot be found.”
Lord McShredder sucked at his pipe and watched them. The children looked at each other and wondered. Finally Rosie said: “When will be dinner?”
“I’ve seen some tins with baked beans in the kitchen. There is nothing else.”
“Nonsense”, McShredder croaked. “There are no wee gin cakes. I’ve got only baked beans.”
“And who is to eat something like that?” Bertha disgustedly asked.
“We still have some sandwiches. They go well with baked beans”, Bernie proposed.
As nothing better was to be found, they had to be content with the beans. Bernie and Jenny even succeeded to build a fireplace from some bricks and soon they all were sitting at the fire. It was quite cosy and even Bertha liked the beans. By now it was late and dark and the friends had to ask His Lordship to allow them to stay overnight in the castle. He had no objection and so they retired to the upper rooms. McShredder had given them an empty room in the northern wing which fortunately still had a roof. As the children had been clever enough to bring sleeping bags, they could comfortably prepare for the night.
By and by they exhaustedly fell asleep. Only Rosie was awake. That it was quite cold was not the only reason. There still was the smell of baked beans in the air. Longingly, the hungry pig remembered all the delicious meat and vegetable pies they had had in the pub.
Of course the distance to the pub was too great, but the distance to the kitchen was not. Rosie made sure that her friends all were sleeping. Then she got up and crept through the dark passage to the staircase. The nightly castle was silent and spooky, but the smell from the kitchen was stronger than Rosie’s fright. Cautiously, step by step she went down the stairs and supported herself at the wall. The wall felt cold and damp and Rosie thought of horrible loch-monsters. The moon was up by now and threw eery shadows through the damaged roof. For a moment a bat showed up in the sky and seemed to fall through the roof into the castle. With pounding heart Rosie moved towards the dark kitchen as fast as possible. By now she regretted that she got up and crept through the castle all on her own just for some cold beans. In every corner of the old castle something seemed to hide. Her blood ran cold, she trembled and expected to be attacked any moment by some monster with long fangs. She had almost reached the kitchen when suddenly the front door of the castle creaked and opened slowly. Rosie was so frightened that she thought her heart would stop. With her last ounce of strength she stumbled into the kitchen and hid under a table.
She held her breath. There was a horrifying huffing and puffing. She squinted to that direction. The shock was tremendous. A monster came creeping into the castle! Now Rosie lost her nerve. She yelled as loud as she could. The monster wanted to raise, but Rosie took everything she could get hold of and threw it at the monster with all her strength: pots, plates, knives, cups. She yelled and flung until the beast began to howl. Now I’m finished, she thought desperately, but then she heard a voice: “What’s wrong, Rosie?”
Torch in hand, Elfrida and Bernie came down the staircase, followed by McShredder who carried a candle.
Elfrida and Bernie hurried to the yelling Rosie while McShredder, candle in hand, approached the monster which was lying motionless beside the front door.
“Give me more light!” McShredder said. Daisy, who had followed with the others, fetched a second candle. Excitedly, Elfrida looked there and discovered that pots and pans were distributed around the unconscious body. In her fright, Rosie had hit the monster extremely well, it seemed to be seriously injured.
“Welcome home, McClown!” the children heard His Lordship say. “This happens if you creep into the house without knocking!”
The children came closer now and could see the butler lying on the floor, dirty and in his underpants. A big bruise decorated his head and beside that lay a big, dented pot. Milord cleared his throat and said: “Please excuse the appearance of my butler, usually he is a neat man.”
“Poor chap”, Bertha said. “You gave him quite a bump, my dear Rosie!”
“But… but I thought it was a monster.”
“Great! Shoot first, ask later! That your method, my dear Rosie?”
“He could have said something!”
“You don’t say anything when a pot hits your nob!”
“Nonsense”, McShredder now said. “He does not need a doc, just a bit of quiet. A butler must be able to bear such things.”
“The hamsters!” Elfrida gasped excitedly. “Where did he leave our pets?”
Milord was surprised. “Why would you heave him to a shed? We don’t have a shed here.”
Elfrida rolled her eyes. She glanced at the unconscious butler. Half naked he was lying on the cold floor of the castle.
“Talking about heaving, it’s too cold on the floor. We must heave him to lay him down at some other place.”
McShredder replied: “Are you talking about me? I heard you well, my girl. Milord does not need a hearing aid in his palace. My ears are sharp!”
Before Elfrida could explode, Bernie, Daisy and Jenny came to her assistance and helped to lay down the butler on a sofa. When Bertha wanted to shut the front door, she suddenly paused and shouted: “There’s a parcel in front of the door. Does nobody fetch the mail in here?”
“Parcel? Mail?” Elfrida cried and ran out. She snatched the large box and carried it into the room, while Bertha shut the door. Everybody was with Elfrida when she opened the dirty box and to her great joy saw their beloved hamsters. The little rodents were dirty, their fur was tousled, they were quite thin. Hungrily they squeaked at the children, but otherwise they looked healthy. Elfrida raced into the kitchen and searched it. There was no bread, no milk, not nuts, not fruits or vegetables – only baked beans. So Elfrida shrugged, opened a tin and put its contents into a bowl. She took the bowl to the living room and to the hamsters. Bertha looked at her in disbelief: “You’re not going to feed this stuff to the hamsters?”
“Well, there is nothing else”, Elfrida grinned. “If we can eat baked beans, it will not poison the hamsters, will it? We can’t let them starve.”
Bertha had to accept that and watched how the little rodents cautiously approached the bowl with the beans. They nosed and sniffed until the reached the bowl, took a bean with their tiny paws and tried it. Then something happened which nobody would have bargained for: The hamsters fell on the bowl and it did not take long until Elfrida had to open another tin.
“It would be better if the hamsters did not eat too much of those beans”, Bruno said.
“And what do you know about hamsters?” Elfrida angrily asked. She should not have done so for Bruno replied: “The golden hamster, also called mesocricetus auratus…”
“Yes, nuisance, it’s all right”, Elfrida snapped. “But do you grudge them the beans? Look, Bruno, they seem to have a real party. The beans agree with them, you can see that and…”
Elfrida interrupted her stream of words and glanced at the hamsters again. What was that? She could hear that the hamsters made noises. Bertha already held her nose and shouted: “Oh, how disgusting!”
Bruno had been right for the beans had quite an effect on the hamsters. The hamsters themselves found a lot of fun in their farting contest. The air in the room was hardly breathable. It was in the middle of the night by now and the children could hardly keep their eyes open. Bernie yawned: “I think I’ll go to bed again. Let’s cover the butler with a rug. He’ll be better tomorrow morning.”
“And the stinking-hamster problem?” Elfrida asked. “I had been looking forward to take them to our room – but not after they have eaten the beans.”
“Then leave them with His Lordship”, Bernie said and pointed at McShredder who was already sleeping and snoring in this wing chair. “He doesn’t hear the farting and the smell will not disturb him at the moment.”
So the box with the hamsters was left beside the chair of Lord McShredder while the children retired. It became quiet in the castle.
Next morning, McClown was the first to wake up. Surprised, he looked about him and understood that he was back home. His head ached, he felt that he had rather a bruise. The hamsters! he thought and jumped up. To his great relieve he saw the box beside the sleeping lord. In spite of his headache McClown felt much better than during the last days. And finally he could remember everything. Was that caused by the bruise? He walked to the bathroom and washed off all the last days’ dirt. Then he dressed and looked into the kitchen. With the exception of some dented pots lying about the room was spotless. The butler scratched his head and wondered whether he had underestimated milord. That old crock never had cleared away anything.
He then went out to the grocery. He bought a large bag of buns for the hamsters as well as bread, jam, and tea. Thus heavily laden he returned to the castle and walked into the kitchen to prepare the breakfast. The fresh buns smelled sweet and when McClown discovered that the gas stove had been repaired in the meantime he prepared a big pot of tea. He quite looked forward to see the silly face of His Lordship when suddenly he heard a coarse voice at his side: “May I also have a bag of buns?”
Rosie was at his side. The smell of the buns had lured her out of bed. The butler slowly turned round and did not believe his eyes. A pig? Why was a pig standing there? Yesterday he had been glad when the piglet finally had left him after they passed a small farm. And now again a pig! However it looked much bigger and quite greedy.
“Who are y-you?” he stammered.
“My name is Rosie and I’m starving.”
McClown passed a bun to Rosie.
“May I ask what a pig is doing in the castle of His Lordship?”
“My friends and I were looking for our kidnapped hamster-friends of Hamsterton…” And Rosie told the whole story.
By and by all children joined them and listened what Frido McClown had to tell about his adventurous journey. When he had finished, Elfrida grinned. “Well, thanks to Rosie your memory is back!”
They all laughed, then they enjoyed a good breakfast. When milord woke up he was quite miffed because nobody had bought him new tobacco. But when he heard the things his faithful butler had endured he softened and permitted McClown to breakfast before he went out to buy tobacco. Suddenly there was a knock at the door and the butler hurried to the front door.
“Where is this McShredder?” they heard an infuriated voice. “I want to have the supplies he has stolen!”
A man in a rather curious outfit came in and immediately marched over to His Lordship. “My name is Stólpi Vegdraupnir from Reykjavik!“
“You stole the vet’s open ray cabin?” Milord was confused. “And why do you come here to tell me that?”
Celtic Hamster with Playtoy
It took some time until McShredder understood what the man wanted. But finally Stólpi Vegdraupnir left the castle with some money which milord handed him as compensation and travelled back to Iceland.
Not long after that there was another knock at the door and again the butler opened.
“Where is this scumbag McShredder?” the children heard a loud voice. “He shall pay me the canvass, the ropes and the basket!”
A big, furious man came in and approached His Lordship: “I am Raghnak Alsvinnur and want to see money!”
“What?!” McShredder bawled. “You have a drag nag as winner and want to get a pony? You Icelanders all seem to be madmen to me!”
Before Raghnak Alsvinnur could jump on McShredder, McClown stopped him and explained the matter. It did not take long until the Icelander left the castle, whistling merrily.
“There is hardly any money left, McClown”, Lord McShredder croaked. “What will happen next?”
What happened was a very loud knock at the door.
“Come in if you’re not from Iceland”, milord shouted. A man entered, Scottish without doubt. The butler brought him in and the man approached His Lordship.
“You don’t steal a pig from Lachlann McGowan without getting away!”
McShredder was even more confused: “You won’t peal a fig at Loch Langan without letting it stay?” This time it was quite difficult for the butler to get the hands of farmer Lachlann McGowan off milord’s neck. However, when the farmer learned where he might find his piglet, he cooled down. Peace was back in the castle – until it knocked again.
“How about mounting a revolving door?” Bernie grinned when the butler again opened the door.
“The milk! Somebody shall pay my milk!”
An infuriated peasant woman came in. She, too, walked straight to His Lordship who by now was quite miffed and moreover very angry that he still had no tobacco.
“My name is Sarah McConner, Sir…”
“Well, well, the jar is in the corner”, McShredder interrupted her. “It is good to hear that, and what sort of fustian will you tell me next?!”
Luckily the butler could also clear up this and the woman left the castle after she received some money for the stolen milk.
Ponderingly, lord and butler were now sitting in the living room. Bruno had already fetched the box with the hamsters und the other children began to pack their rucksacks. They all were happy to go home again. Except Elfrida. She felt it was a pity to leave the two men in the damaged castle. They certainly had not enough money for repair works and would be wretchedly cold in winter. She turned the matter over in her mind and suddenly an idea came to her.
“Lord McShredder”, she shouted, “you once have been a well-known man in Spain, haven’t you?”
“O yes, I was. I still own lots of houses and estates there.”
“And your rheumatism, it always gets worse in the cold Scottish weather, doesn’t it?”
“No, not better. It gets worse!”
Elfrida grinned and spoke louder. “Do you think you can build up this castlechurch again?”
“How should I? I even haven't enough money for tobacco.”
“How about”, Elfrida said, stepping close to milord, “how about going back to warm Spain?”
McShredder goggled at her, his look wandered up to the damaged roof and back to Elfrida. Then he got up, stretched and shouted: “McClown, go packing, we’re returning home!”
The butler looked confused. “Home, Sir?”
“Are you deaf, McClown?”
“No, Sir, I just mean, Sir, how should we…”
“With a ship, McClown, how else should we?”
The butler thought this over for a moment, then he said: “Sir, as matter of fact I know a captain…”
“What?!” McShredder shouted. “You borrowed a hot pan? What in the world for? Do go and pack the suitcases now, I want to be off.”
Elfrida had joined her friends. She laughed so much that the magic bottle almost dropped from her hand. One last time she waved to milord and his butler but those two were busy quarrelling.
Elfrida just wanted to give the sign for their departure when again it knocked at the door. McClown scratched his head and went to open.
“Good day to you, Sir”, the children heard a polite voice saying. “It’s about the newspapers which you did not pay at my shop. May I come in?”
“Let’s go”, Elfrida shouted, took the cork and put it onto the magic bottle. Fog came up in the old castle’s living room. The last thing Elfrida heard was McShredder who shouted at his butler to shut the door and not to let every Tom, Dick, and Harry enter his castle. Then everything seemed to whirl around the friends – faster and faster. After a few seconds the fog vanished and they were back in their beloved Magic Forest.
“What an adventure”, Elfrida cried and looked at her friends.
“It was”, Rosie agreed. “And super-duper food!”
They all agreed readily. Except Bertha and Bruno. Bruno was already on this way to chase snails and Bertha desperately tried to clean her shoes from sheep dung.
“My mother never will believe that it wasn’t my fault”, she wailed.
Suddenly Elfrida cried out and the all looked at her, shocked.
“We’ve forgotten something”, she said and looked at her friends mystically. Then she thrust her hand into her trouser pocket and slowly pulled something out. “We forgot to return the button to McClown!”
Now they hurried to the tunnel to Hamsterton with the hamsters and then it was time to say good-bye for today. The opening party for the tunnel was to be held on the next day and now this story is at
Does anybody doubt the truth of this story? You can easily check it by going to Scotland.
The place where butler McClown and the hamsters landed with the balloon exists all right. And you will also find a beach like any Mediterranean beach – just go to Bettyhill. Close to Bettyhill you will find Smoo Cave where McClown spent a night. The church which McShredder won from McGregor in a deal? O yes, there is even the grave of McGregor. Just take a look if you are in Scotland!
And what happened to Lord McShredder and his butler? Well, they really travelled with the captain who had taken McClown to Iceland. Unfortunately they came ashore a little bit too far in southern direction and got astray in Africa. In the meantime, however, they are living happily in Spain. That is – I do not know whether the butler is really happy. But I'm sure we will hear more from them in future. And we will hear more from Scotland, of course.