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 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.