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Chapter 4

The Old Castle II

The old castle in the heart of Scotland, close to Killichonan, was a dreadful sight. It had done so for many years, but now it looked worse than ever. Where once had been the repaired roof with its big bell now was no roof at all. Neither a bell. After all a roof hardly can exist without walls, and there were no walls any longer. The hamsters had done quite a job there. Groaning and yammering they were lying in all the debris on the floor of the former entrance hall.

"Mayor?" Flecki shouted, summing up the situation. "Come on, Goldi, move your bum, we have to rescue the mayor."

Goldi got up and groaned while chief engineer Botchy took up a teaspoon from the floor. By the way, it was His Lordship’s favourite teaspoon and more often than not he had used it to stuff tobacco into his pipe. Taking the spoon, Botchy and Goldi began to dig a path through debris and stones. Tuffy also tried to help but as usual she did more damage than good. Several times chief engineer Botchy had to rescue her from under a collapsed heap of debris. But finally they found the mayor. He had a big bump at his head and squinted helplessly.

Dodo, who had seen him first, shouted: "He's alive!" The hamsters promptly began to cheer and to run in circles. The mayor sat in the centre and grinned. "You okay, Mayor?" Flecki asked and cautiously approached the grinning mayor. It took some time until he turned his head towards Flecki. The bump at his head was very obvious but he tried to get up anyhow. When after a good while he got to his short legs he grinned happily and crashed into a heap of debris head first.

"Well", Goldi said, "you can't say he's fit."

The mayor was dragged out of the debris and laid down in a corner. Then the hamsters started to clear away the worst mess and to repair the damages. Busily everybody ran about but in the evening nothing had changed. To make things worse it started to rain and storm during the night so that the poor animals spent an uncomfortable night under Lord McShredder's wingchair. It meant something that the hamsters did not hold a party but looked for rugs or something the like. Finally Botchy succeeded to make some rugs from an old carpet. But even then there was no peace. The mayor wandered about in the ruins of the castle and told something about a voyage to the south. In between he fell in one of the many holes in the floor and had to be rescued. After a long, stressing night finally a new day dawned. When the first sunrays warmed the ruin the hamsters woke up and discussed what to do. They really had no mind to stay here for another uncomfortable night. The mayor had not changed in the meantime and rather wrecked the nerves of the other hamsters by prating something about summer, sun, and beach and asking everybody where the next travel office might be. The hamsters felt quite fed up.

"If he asks me again for the way to the next travel office, he'll get his second bump!" Flecki grumbled.
"Perhaps he would be better then", Goldi replied. "A tiny little explosion…"

He did not continue. Seeing all the infuriated looks, Goldi preferred to shut up.
"We can't stay here", Tuffy yammered. "I don't want to live between debris. That isn't cosy."
"Well", chief Botchy said, "we can't do anything without new building material."

They all felt downcast and drew back for a conference near the relicts of the fire place. But as so often they had no idea at all. Silently they stood together and looked at the floor. Only the mayor was in the best of tempers and sang a song about a "white beach at the blue sea". Something had to happen - but what? It was Goldi who said:
"Somehow the mayor is right!"
"Maybe", Grumpy agreed. "He's got such a lot of screws loose, he thinks everything swell."
"I don't mean that", Goldi objected. "We should look for some warmer place. Think of the Bettyhill beach!"
"Great!" Tuffy cheered. "The mayor certainly has an inspiration and we perhaps should follow him. I'm sure he is an enlightened man."

They all cheered, but Flecki did not trust the matter.

"That's the silliest idea since Goldi's pancake-machine. We'll go to hell with this enlightened man. Or to the moor. Or to both."

So they voted. After the votes had been counted several times, they had the result:

14 Pros
2 Cons and
9 votes had been eaten

So the matter was decided. It took half a day until the mayor understood that they were to go to the sea now. The hamsters decided to let him go ahead and relied on it that he would find the way. The mayor indeed marched ahead merrily. When they reached the road, he paused, looked left, looked right, looked at the big lake in front of them. Then he turned to the right, the hamsters followed him and the place where once the castle had been standing was left behind.

It would be a long walk, in this the hamster all agreed as an exception. They were, however, in good cheer and even Flecki admitted that the mayor had been right to go to the right. She had taken a look at an old map lying about in the castle and knew that this was the shortest way to the sea. But she heartily doubted whether the silly mayor really was enlightened.

The hamsters had already walked for some hours, when they saw a big red car ahead of them. It was standing in the middle of the road they wanted to take. Everybody looked at the mayor and waited for his decision. But the enlightened one only stood there with a stupid grin. Goldi nudged him and whispered:

"Hey, what about taking the car? I can't walk any longer."
"We take the car", the mayor repeated without in any way catching what Goldi was talking about.

The hamsters were impressed. What a leader! Yes, he must needs be an enlightened one. With loud cheers they scrambled through an open car door and made themselves comfortable. There was some gingerbread under the passenger seat. Now it was party time. When a few minutes later somebody got into the car and started the motor, they all held to something because now a wild drive started. With high speed they raced over the narrow road. The hamsters shrieked and toppled over and had a lot of fun. Only the driver frowned because he did not like the noises his car made.

"Next week I've got to take the car to the garage", he thought. "Something is wrong with the suspension. Something's squeaking there."

While the driver was worried and the hamsters were casting merry somersaults, they approached a lonely railway station. Here the wild drive came to an end. The driver left the car and for the hamsters this meant they had to walk again. By now it was dark and they had to cross some railway tracks. However, after a few metres the mayor simply laid down, yawned and dozed off.

"The enlightened one wants us to stay here overnight ", Tuffy shouted. "Shall we make camp?"

Chief Botchy looked about him and said in a satisfied tone:

"This place is ideal. We are exactly between two high steel walls - I think it's called rails. Here we're well screened against wind. We will be quite comfortable on these wooden planks which connect the rails. So our fur won't get wet."

Everything appeared peaceful. The weather was fine by now and the first stars glittered in the evening sky. The hamsters fetched their rugs, made themselves comfortable and rested their tired little feet.

Their nightly party was quite short because their journey had really exhausted them. But in the small hours their sleep was interrupted by some horrible noise. It sounded as if everything about them was going to collapse.

"A monster, it will destroy us!" the hamsters yelled and on the planks ran in circles. There was a loud puffing and hissing, then the screeching of metal. Anxiously the hamsters assembled round the still grinning mayor and cried:

"Help us, o enlightened one, a monster wants to eat us!"

The mayor seemed to notice that everybody looked at him. For a moment his silly grin vanished, then he looked at all the anxious hamsters and again grinned broadly. The thrill rose, they all waited for the words of their wise man. After five minutes' of mute smiling he said:

"We take the car…"
"What I said, completely nuts", Flecki cried. "Where should we get a car?"
Also the other hamsters became fidgety but suddenly Tuffy shouted:
"Look there, the monster has wheels."

Now the other hamsters noticed it, too. Indeed, many wheels were standing on the steel walls, one behind the other. Slowly the little rodents perceived that this perhaps was no monster after all. Goldi said that this might be a train. The little animals realized that this was not really a monster and they took heart again. Dodo and Botchy were the first ones to climb up the wheels. Then they waved and the others followed them. By and by they climbed up higher and reached a platform, then another platform and finally a big room with many benches. Between the benches was a passage.

“The enlightened on has led us! He knew!” Tuffy cried, enraptured. Then the train started moving.