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Chapter 26

A Happy Reunion

Venerable Dunollie Castle, former seat of the MacDougall Clan, the Lords of Lourne, to whom one third of Scotland belonged, was sleeping in the noon. It was situated on a high mound wherefrom Oban port could be seen. This castle certainly had seen better days and its present deplorable state was thanks to its present owner. Lord McShredder hated all extra costs. Why should he spend money on any expensive bricklayers who did nothing but replace a few stones? No, that’s what he had a servant for who could do the job as well. Stones were lying about free. It only took some good will and open eyes…

“Some good will, some good will!” Frido McClown bawled, took a stone and hurtled it over the castle yard. With a clacking sound the stone met the ground and jumped off against the rusty grille of the door to the yard.

It opened with a squeal and McClown returned to his work. If you repair three metres of the castle wall every day, you’ll be ready in five months. These words still sounded in his ears, but the old crack had said nothing about searching and carrying stones to the spot. Instead the miser had had the idea to sell the only cock they had. To his opinion McClown could take over the crowing-job.

If only Liza McGyer were here, she would tell him something. But unfortunately she was at King’s House Hotel to help her parents during vacation time. And George had been clever enough to go to Loch Rannoch to visit some friends. For quite some time they had tried to convince the lord either to repair the castle and look for some other place. Every time the old miser had croaked: “As long as the roof does not collapse over my head, we stay here!”

Frido McClown looked at his wristwatch. Close to one p.m., time to prepare lunch. If the old crack did not get his lunch at 1.30, there would be trouble. Quickly he assembled his tools and just wanted to make for the kitchen when he stopped and listened. There was the sound of a motor and his heart pounded. That would be George… or even Liza! Excitedly he hurried to the open gate and looked out. Oban port was visible in the distance and close by some trees blocked his view. All he could make out was a cloud of dust behind the trees. Impatiently he waited until the next bend gave a look at the reason of that dust cloud.

How big was his disappointment when he saw a big blue truck, but the next moment he wondered: What did a truck want in this loneliness? He waited until the truck was right in front of him. The sun shone onto the windscreen so that McClown could not make out who was sitting in the vehicle. Then the driver’s door was opened, he saw a man climbing out and walking towards him. The man looked exhausted and tired and when finally he faced him, Frido realized that this man must have been gone through hell.

“Good day to you, Sir”, the man weakly said, “I’m looking for the King of Loch Ness.”

McClown cautiously made a step back. What sort of madman was that? What did he want here? Feverishly Frido thought what to do in such cases. Yes, keep calm and don’t provoke him.

“Good day to you, too, Sir. Er, you’re looking for the King of Loch Ness? We, er, we certainly will find him hereabouts.”

“You’ve no idea how much you help me by that”, the truck driver groaned and sat down on a rock at the dusty roadside. “The little beasts hustled me all over Scotland. I simply can’t go on!”

“Sure, sure, all will be well”, McClown soothed him while inside he was close to panic.

He tried to remember what he might have heard about madmen. A certain event came to his mind when in Gortenfern the kitchen had been closed and he himself had gone raving mad. At that time he had chopped down the kitchen door with a bar stool but that had been quite different. At that time he had not had anything to eat for a long time and had gone bonkers. And of course the little episode at Sanna Bay when the lord had sought shelter in a phone box. Perhaps he had lost his nerves a little due to McShredder and his eternal nagging. But who was this man? Frido looked at the code plate of the truck.

“You are from The Netherlands, Sir?”

The truck driver nodded weakly. “Vim van der Slampe, I deliver Dutch cheese to Edinburgh.”

“McClown, Frido McClown. Edinburgh, Sir? You’re a bit off your road, aren’t you?”

“I am indeed, Mr. McClown. First they wanted na boven and I took them na boven. Then they decided they’d prefer Oban. They seem to belong to the king and now we are looking for him.”

The butler’s head was in a turmoil. Cheese, Oban, and a king! My, that Dutchman was right bonkers. If only Lord McShredder would come. Cautiously McClow looked at his watch: 13.25 and in five minutes at the latest the lord would discover that lunch was not laid out. No, the lord was not to meet this madman because he probably would provoke him and there would be bloodshed. This loony had to be off before His Lordship appeared!

“I’ve got an idea, my dear Mr. van der Slampe”, Frido purred. “In Oban you certainly will find out where the king is living. I give you a description of the way to the police station…”

“No police”, van der Slampe groaned, “not again!”

McClown shrank back and felt the sweat running down his neck. Was this loony wanted by the police? Why else should he be afraid of the police?

“Well, Sir, you also could inquire at the town hall. Would you like to go there?”

The Dutchman nodded.

“Fine!” The butler sighed with relief. “Do you have a road map so I can show you the way?”

Again the truck driver nodded and together they walked over to the truck. At this moment there was a loud, tinny voice behind them and both men stopped short in front of the truck.

“McClown, you good for nothing, where’s my lunch? What whopper is blocking our entrance there? Take away that junk and bring my lunch!”

The so addressed turned round and saw milord standing on the castle tower and furiously waving his hands.

“Just a minute, your Lordship. The man only took the wrong bend. Your lunch will be in a few moments”, McClown shouted back and under his breath swore: “Old crock!”

They proceeded and when they reached the blue truck, Vim opened the driver’s door and shouted: “McDudle, will you hand me the road atlas, please?”

“I didn’t do anything wrong, Mr. Vamp the Swamp! I’m innocent!” came a screech from the vehicle.

Frido McClown froze in shock. Another madman yet! He cautiously peeped into the driver’s cabin and did not believe his eyes. First his glance fell on several small animals at the edge of the bunk. Hamsters! Then he saw the co-pilot and many a thing dawned to him.

“Here is the road map, Mr. McClown!”

The butler took the heavy atlas and much to the surprise of the driver threw it back into the cabin. Loud howling said that it had hit Finnegan.

“I should have known, Mr. van der Slampe. Everybody looking as haggard as you, has to have met the hamsters. O yes, and Mr. McDudle of course. Has it been bad?”

The Dutchman nodded. “Horrible, Mr. McClown. You know my passengers?”

“Quite well, and you could say I know the hamsters very well. But what in the world do they want here? There must be a reason, dear Vim, and I think it best you do come indoors and we will…”

“McClown, I’m starving! Do throw out that chap with his rusty bucket and get me my lunch!”

“Your Lordship”, the butler bawled back, “we have visitors. I’ll place some more settings!”

“Visitors?” McShredder shouted. “Who do you think you are to invite any beggars here? Who is to pay that?”

“Everything all right, my dear Vim. By this you are invited to lunch with Lord McShredder.”

“And what about my passengers?”

“No problem, they’ll join us”, Frido McClown answered the baffled truck driver. Then he hastened to the open driver’s door and shouted: “Please all get out!”

A few seconds later Frido McClown had twelve little, merrily squeaking hamsters in his arms, each of whom he cautiously hugged and petted. Beside him stood an embarrassed looking Finnegan McDudle who seemed to consider seriously where he met this man before because this man had addressed him by name. From this he concluded that they must have met earlier. Finnegan decided to find it out in some clandestine style.

“Mister, er, did not we broach a cask in Polloch and nicked some chicks?”

“We didn’t”, Frido retorted and could not suppress a grin.

“Well, er, Mister, what was your name?”

“McClown, still Frido McClown.”

“Sure, sure, now I remember. I never forget a name, just ask Mr. Slenderventer, he’ll confirm it. Mr. Slenderventer, this is the man I told you about!” McDudle proudly informed the truck driver.

Vim van der Slampe slowy rose from the rock he had been sitting on and walked over to Finnegan. “Well, my little forget-me-not, and now you will tell good Uncle Frido exactly what you told me.”

“Well, er, what shall I say, Mister, that’s quite some time ago…”

“Many long months”, McClown smirked.

“Well, and I guided this Mister and his, er, Highness of Loch Ness…”

“The King of Loch Ness!” van der Slampe cried.

“That one never was and never will be king”, the butler declared. “There is no country so mismanaged to need someone like that as king. He is Lord McShredder of Killichonan Castle which by now is a ruin. Killichonan Castle he had got because he said he had driven the monster from Loch Ness.”

“And so?” the truck driver panted, his mouth wide open.

“It is possible after all”, McClown continued with a laugh, “that the monster simply became McShredder.”

“McClown, you slack fool, where are you?” the bickering voice came from the tower.

“Although I cannot imagine that monsters are that rude in general”, Frido McClown added. “However, we should go into the castle now and meet the lord. He will be delighted to meet Mr. McDudle again.”

While the butler walked ahead with the hamsters in his arms, Vim van der Slampe followed and Finnegan McDudle came last, anxiously looking around and really not feeling all the thing. Slowly it dawned to him that the old lord probably still had no good opinion of him. After a few steps they had reached the rusty gate which Frido McClown opened with a well aimed kick. There was a loud clatter, the door left its hinges and crashed onto the pebbles of the yard.

“Welcome to Dunollie Castle”, he cried, “the seat of the MacDougalls, the Lords of Lourne who once owned one third of Scotland, and today the seat of Lord McShredder who owns not much more than his impudence and his misery.”

They passed an archway and reached a smaller, angular inner yard. As they walked, they could see two towers, each making one corner of the inner yard. There were several doors and windows and they immediately noticed that everything needed a thorough renovation.

“It’s a pity”, van der Slampe said, “that all these beautiful buildings fall to ruins only because there is no money.”

“There’s money enough”, the butler gnarled. “The old crack simply is too tight-fisted.”

After entering the left tower, they ascended a steep spiral staircase. Breathing heavily, they reached a wooden door, equipped with heavy iron fittings. It opened with a creak and Frido McClown pointed to a table with several chairs around it.

“Please make yourselves comfortable, gentlemen. I will take care of food and drinks.”

With the hamsters in his arms, McClown left the room by a side door and left the two men alone. He entered a cosy room and put down the hamsters on a table at a window. Glancing out of the window, he could see Oban port in the distance. As matter of fact it was a beautiful view but the old lord had not given him this sea view room without reason. It was directly under His Lordship’s room so that the butler had short ways to fulfil the manifold wishes of his master. McClown took a rug and spread it on an easy chair, took up the hamsters again and one by one set them down at this cosy spot.

“Well, my dear little ones”, he said, “surely you little nocturnals are completely knocked out by this exhausting day travelling. First of all I’ll take care of our visitors and the lord. See you later.”

He took an apple from a bowl on a shabby chest of drawers and passed it to the hamsters.

“Well, this should do.” With these words he left the sleeping room.

“I just don’t believe it”, Goldi shouted. “Old McClown! He makes our day. As I always usefully said, my dear hamsters”, he aped the mayor, “we generally came to the lonely belief…”

“Stop it, Goldi”, Flecki snickered, “or I’ll wet my fur!”

“Erm, and now? Going home?” Dodo asked.

“O no, we’d have to be back at that daft school”, Hamstilidamst cried. “I won’t be bothered with biology and math!”

“Math and bio are easy as pie”, Goldi replied, tasting the apple. “Math is just logical.”

“Logical? Math is logical?” Flecki nagged. “Math is illogical rubbish, Goldi! Think of that: Two people enter an empty house, after a while, three people come out. What does that daft math teacher say? He says: If another one is going in now, the house is empty again.”

“We also had something that silly once”, Tealeafy shouted. “The postman has a speed of 12 km/h and the dachshund a speed of 16 km/h, the distance is 50 m. When does the dachshund overtake the postman? And teacher asked us to solve the problem graphically.”

“Well?” Goldi asked, chewing. “Did you know?”

“Nope”, Tealeafy grunted. “Teacher said I failed because I wrote that I can’t draw a dachshund.”

“If you’ve done with our classroom matters, perhaps we can discuss what is to happen now”, chief engineer Botchy gnarled and gave the mayor an angry glance who as sitting on the window sill and marvelled at the view to Oban port.

“Er, yes, we are here now and that is wonderful, my dear hamsters. After a fashion we so to say have succeeded if I may phrase it like that and I am proud…”

“All right, all right, but what now?”

“Well, my dear Flecki, we of course will find some solution. I am, er, open for proposals. Yes, Goldi?”

“We kidnap the old crack, nick the truck and bolt back!”

“We offer them sacks of sunflower seed!”

“We knock him out, stuff him into the truck and just make the truck driver take him along.”

“We convince McClown to help us!”

“We threaten to level his castle if he doesn’t come!”

The hamsters made quite a kerfuffle and each of them had his own ideas how to solve the problem. After an unsuccessful hour it was decided to found a competence team and there were first brawls about who was to join in. After another hour they came to a consent.

Exhaustedly the hamsters scrambled under the rug on the easy chair and held their siesta.