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Chapter 12

MacLean’s Nose

“McClown, where have you left my lighter?”

The voice seemed to come from somewhere far off. Slowly the butler opened his eyes and sat up. His head ached and he felt like choking. He coughed and panted. Then he saw Lord McShredder and the wheelchair with the suitcases. To his joy the hamsters peered out of one of them. Their whiskers quivered and they certainly were hungry still. But why was it so bright? Where milord was sitting was a passage leading steeply downward. The butler turned and got a shock. Nearby a fire was roaring which seemed to burn down the volcano. Just at the spot where they had been a moment ago! And something else… His trousers! His trousers were burning! Frido McClown jumped up and tried to put out the flames at his bum.

“McClown, stop your silly hopping. I put a question to you!”

The butler gripped into his singed trouser pocket, got out the lighter and threw it at His Lordship. McShredder gave a loud shriek, tumbled backwards and disappeared in the dark passage. Appalled, McClown stared down and listened. There was wailing and rumbling and cries for help. By and by the noise died down and nothing but the hissing of the fire was audible. Some of the hamsters had left their trunk and looked down the dark passage curiously.

“Well, my dear little friends”, the butler addressed the hamsters, “Lord McShredder just went ahead to explore this passage. It seems to be rather steep, so we must be very cautious.”

Cheerfully, the little rodents scrambled back into the trunk. “Hold fast”, Goldi bawled, “roller coaster ahead!” It was about time for from the site of the fire a trickle of molten rock was flowing towards them.

“Hold fast!” also the butler cried and jumped onto the wheelchair. Then hamsters and butler darted through a narrow cave with their vehicle. Now and then they bumped against the walls, sparks flashed, McClown yelled, and the hamsters cheered. The wheelchair raced down, took a long bend to the left and a sharp bend to the right. All of a sudden the passage went straight upward, then it was silent, no rumpling - they seemed to fly.

“Hold fast” McClown shouted again, then the wheelchair came down with a crash and shot through the darkness. The cheers of the delighted hamsters suddenly became louder and McClown saw the reason for it when he turned round. They had lost one of the wheels which now left a spark spraying trace.

“You little blockheads”, the butler scolded, “that isn’t funny! We’ll all be done!”

It would have been better if Frido McClown had looked ahead. Flecki saw the danger, waggled her paw and pointed at something they were approaching quickly.

“No way”, the butler told her, “you’ll get nothing to eat, begging won’t help you, you little…”

McClown got no further. A hanging dripstone, also called stalactite, hit his head so that he collapsed on one of the suitcases. Big-eyed, the hamsters watched how he lifted his head with a moan. He had been lucky, very lucky indeed for his head had landed softly in the dirty underwear. Then Tuffy began to roar with laughter and pointed at the butler. He did not understand anything. His head ached and whirled and he saw sniggering hamsters. Then he noted some curious, disgusting smell and almost was sick. He felt his head and found a big goose egg. The hamsters rolled on the floor laughing and Frido McClown felt his head from the back to the forehead. There was some cloth and he took it off. Dimly he recognised the stinking pants of Lord McShredder, quickly turned and vomited into the direction they were going. This was very stupid indeed because the strong airstream brought all of it back into his face. Disgustedly, he threw away the pukey pants and held to the wheelchair as another sharp bend was coming. There was a bang, a lot of dust, hamsters, trunks, and butler sailed through the air. A loud crash, then the wild journey was over.

“There you are at last, McClown”, a croaking voice came out of the dark. “Do fetch a candle from the luggage, will you?”

A few minutes later they were sitting together in the light of a candle and checked their situation. The passage had opened to a small hall. They had nothing to eat but enough to drink for the dripping water had formed a small lake. Close to the spot where they were sitting the passage led on. But the wheel chair was damaged which meant that they had to carry the luggage. None of them had the faintest idea how far it was to the surface. If they would see daylight again at all. Suddenly the butler lifted his head and listened.

“Sir, I can hear a noise from the direction we came. We’ll be saved.”

He ran back to the passage and called out. Nobody answered but the noise grew louder. Even Lord McShredder could hear it now.

“Come here”, McClown roared. “We are here!”
“Somehow this noise reminds me of something”, His Lordship crowed. “I just can’t remember…”

The butler shouted and shouted, the noise grew louder and louder. The hamsters had hidden again in their suitcase as if they knew that the next disaster was on the way. Then there was a loud bang, and cry of pain, a gurgle - and silence.

“Oh, I just remembered, McClown. That sounded like a wheel of my wheelchair. It’s good that the two of them are together again, isn’t it?”

More than an hour later the wheel was fastened at the wheelchair and the journey could be continued. McClown felt better and could breath freely again after the lost wheel had hit his stomach full power. They were all glad that the passage was sloping only slightly now so that they could proceed without danger.

“Where do they take us now?” Flecki grumped and glanced at the mayor. But he said nothing. He had not said anything for quite some time. Since he had hit the phone box he no longer knew what really was on. Now and then somebody had addressed him as “enlightened one”, but he had no idea why they did so. When Flecki now looked at him he had the impression that he should make some statement.

“Well, er”, he uncertainly began. “Regarding the given facts according to the known results I can decidedly answer this question to the effect that the circumstances should not be neglected. This is an unalterable fact which I pointed out several times. Furthermore…”

“Hooray!” Flecki cried and nudged Goldi. “He is himself again!”

By and by all the hamsters realized this and were so excited that they did not see how bright it became all about them.

“Fine, fine, my dear McClown. We reached MacLean’s Nose. I know the surroundings like the back of my hand!”