Chapter 1

 

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.”

Lord McShredder

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


 


“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, PLEH2!’
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.