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Chapter 7

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!”

1 Hamstish: Hooray!

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.