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 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.