Chapter 10

Overnight Stay

It was raining hard by now. They all yearned for a warm, dry place. Especially Lord McShredder wished for a shower and a cup of tea. The latter to calm down his stomach. Moreover he had problems as he was not used to walk. On their way along the coast they met the village of Portuairk. To their great delight they found a small tea saloon, a cosy little house with slated roof and a big chimney. Inside it was most comfortable and they had a view onto the sea.

“Welcome to McHubble House”, an old man said. He was wearing a kilt, lent on a stick and looked at the newcomers sharply. Especially he eyed Lord McShredder who really did not offer much of a sight.
“Did anybody mention the name McHubble?” His Lordship crowed.
“Sir, if I might say something”, the butler butt in.
“Shut up, McClown, this is my business!” milord hissed and turned to the landlord.

In the meantime the hamsters had jumped onto a table. Some bread crumbs were lying about there and when they had taken them they made themselves comfortable and watched what was going to happen. Lord McShredder had risen from his chair. Remains of green puke dripped from his clothing, his face was pale and the hairs were windswept but he was ready for the next quarrel. He stood in front of the landlord.

“Where is the sheep which you recently stole from me, you bastard?”1

“Sir, please remember that this was in 1935 and the sheep by now certainly…”



“McClown, I know the date exactly! That doesn’t change the fact that McHubble is a mean thief!”

Milord turned to the landlord again. “Well, you bugger, where is it?”
“A thief? You have the guts to call McHubble a thief? It was my sheep which ran astray. I just fetched it back.”
“Fetched back? You stole it, you miserable bugger!” McShredder shrieked.

His butler in the meantime was sitting at the table together with the hamsters and listened to the fight between McShredder and McHubble. In between the butler succeeded in ordering a cup of chocolate and a lot of biscuits for the hamsters and himself. While McHubble went into the kitchen to get it, he still quarrelled loudly with milord. Frido McClown and the hamsters were delighted for they had food, drink, and loud entertainment. After half an hour the two gentlemen still had not solved their problems and His Lordship shouted:

“McClown, we will leave! I won’t stay in this house another minute!”
“All right, Sir”, the butler replied, chewing, and quickly pocketed the last biscuits which the hamsters had left.
Then he turned to McHubble: “How much will that be, Sir?”
“Nothing! I won’t take any money from the clan of McShredder!”

So they left the small house and walked on. Frido McClown and the hamsters had eaten their fill and were in the best of tempers. Lord McShredder looked tired and hungry.

“McClown, we should stop for a bite somewhere.”
“Sir, may I point out”, said the still chewing butler, “that first we are not very hungry and second the next stop is planned for Kilchoan.”
“Is that far?” His Lordship groaned.
“Not very”, the butler answered and looked at the sleeping hamsters. He had placed the sleepy animals into one of the suitcases on the wheelchair - the one with the clean underwear of milord. Between trunk and lid he had stuffed one of milord’s socks so that the hamsters got enough air. Satisfied, Frido McClown saw how his little friends huddled in the underwear and slept.

 



The small village of Archnaha lay behind them and now they reached a narrow bridge. To their left were mountains, to their right a forest. A few kilometres later they reached Kilchoan and walked directly towards a hostel where they wanted to stay overnight. His Lordship had collapsed a short time ago and so McClown had put him onto the trunks. He carted the wheelchair to the reception and pressed the bell on the counter. A moment later a thick, resolute looking woman appeared and glanced first at the butler, then at all that was on the wheelchair.

“This is no waste deposit, Sir. If you want to have a room, leave that there outside.”
“That there, Madam”, the butler calmly answered, “is Lord McShredder of Killichonan, conqueror the Loch Ness monster and Duke of Spain.”
“Don’t tell me”, the woman retorted. “When did he fight the monster? Just now?”

The thick woman was Mrs. McMyer and showed the room to the butler. She explained to him that at this time of the night there would be no warm meal but she could prepare some sandwiches. Gratefully, the butler accepted and first of all took the hamsters and trunks to the room, then His Lordship. A short time later Mrs. McMyer appeared with the promised sandwiches. He ate one of them, put another into the trunk with the hamsters and another one beside the sleeping McShredder. Then he went to bed, but only a short time later he was roughly awakened from his dreams.

“McClown, what does that noise mean?” His Lordship stood beside his bed and goggled at the suitcase.
“Well, Sir, er, that are the hamsters. They are nocturnal animals, you know, you could say nocturnal - er - especially at night.”
“I can hear that, McClown. Please take this party group out of the room at once!”

With a sigh McClown took the suitcase and carried it out. In the meantime milord took a shower. The butler lay down on the bed and ate another sandwich. To make things worse, His Lordship started singing under the shower while the hamsters had their very loud party outside the room. Some of them had scrambled out of the trunk and took a look around the small hostel. Downstairs, in the entrance hall, they found a fire place. Flecki und Tuffy discovered that the firewood made excellent see-saws. At the same time Goldi and chief engineer Botchy built a ramp from which firewood could be shot through the entrance hall with great success. It was really easy: a log of wood was placed at one end of the ramp, then they jumped onto the other end of the ramp and off went the log through the room. Well, now and then they hit other hamsters - so what? Dodo and Topple even succeeded to open the door of the big pendulum clock, and now they merrily swung at the pendular. The mayor who still felt a little dizzy, stood beside the bell on the counter. Goldi had told him that he was the referee. Every time a log hit the bell, they mayor was to lift his paw.

“And why is he to do that?” Flecki asked. “You can hear that all right.”



“O well”, Goldi mumbled. “Every time I hit the mayor, he gives such a charming squeak.”

The butler noticed nothing of all this, he snored peacefully. Lacking soap, His Lordship in the meantime finished his showering. Two bars of soap he had already lost. One got stuck in the plughole so that the water slopped out of the basin by now. All that would not have happened if the butler had heard his desperate shouts. But the butler slept. In the meantime the water had found its way under the bathroom door to the passage and down the stairs. Cheeringly, the feasting hamsters welcomed it as new playground. Now they were hot on rafting. Each hamster took a small log and bolted into the water. Mrs. McMyer had a restless sleep. She always had when new guests were in the house. Several times already she had heard curious noises, now and then she had the idea that the bell on the counter was ringing. Moreover there was some purling sound which she could not explain.

As she could not sleep any longer, she decided to get up and take a look. It gave her the creeps when she approached the entrance hall and the curious noises grew louder and louder. It sounded like “Yarooh!” and in between squeaking and the ringing of the bell. With pounding heart and quite furious she paused. The purling of the water was directly in front of her - but suddenly there was another noise. This drowned all other noises. A loud “McClown, help!” was to be heard, followed by a loud crash. Mrs. McMyers of course could not know that Lord McShredder just had found the second bar of soap. When he left the shower he stepped onto it and darted through the door with the afore mentioned cry for help. Necessarily, the door gave way and His Lordship continued his journey down the stairs. At this very moment Mrs. McMyer entered the scene and did not believe her eyes! Bathing hamsters! A naked lord coming down the stairs with a flush of water! And now some log of wood just missed her head. Mrs. McMyer took a deep breath! Then she let out a yell which even aroused Frido McClown..



“Out! At once!”

A few minutes later Lord McShredder and his butler with their luggage stood in the street. Low hamster-snoring sounded from the trunks. Lord McShredder stretched and breathed the clear night air.

“Excellent, my dear McClown, the wonderful night air will do us good. We do not have to go far for I know this terrain like the back of my hand. To that direction we’ll reach Mingary Castle. There we will stay overnight.”

 

 

1 (Book III: 'Hamster in Danger')

 

 


Chapter 11

 

In the Vulcano

Silently they walked through the night. They passed a small church and left the town.

“We will be there in a moment”, milord croaked when they crossed a narrow river. Three miles later they still had not reached their goal.

“Like the back of your hand, Sir?” McClown grumped. His Lordship did not answer but stared to the right side.
“Here we are, McClown, I knew all right. An old scout like me finds his way in the middle of the night. Or in the fog. Or in a nightly fog. Follow me, McClown!”

The path became arduous, they had to walk uphill.

“Are you sure that we have to climb a mountain?”
“Nonsense, McClown, we will find no fountain. This isn’t a park after all.”
“MOUNTAIN, Sir!”
“No, McClown, in the mountains is no fountain either. But Mingary Castle is behind a small mound, so we are certainly on the right path.”

While the butler pushed the wheelchair with the suitcases the hamsters woke up from the loud talking. Cautiously they peered out of the trunk into the dark night. Ahead of them was a high mountain which seemed to touch the sky. They hid between the underwear again anxiously. Lord and butler climbed on and panted.

“Sir, might it be that we lost our way?”
“By no means, McClown, I know this terrain like the back of my hand. We will be there in a moment.”



After another hour of steep climbing the ground suddenly became plain. The sky was clouded, no moon or stars could show them the way. There were no lights or houses, not to talk of Mingary Castle. Lord and butler both held to the wheelchair and cautiously put one foot in front of the other.

“Sir, is it far to Mingary Castle?” It took some time until milord replied.
“My dear McClown, you’re lacking patience. Perhaps within the last years the course of the road has changed at little. - However, if I did not know the terrain so well I would assume that we are on Ben Hiant.”
“Ben Hiant, Sir?”
“An old volcano, McClown. Those who plunge down into its crater never see daylight again.”

Suddenly lord and butler came to a shocked standstill and looked at each other in the darkness. Then the wheelchair toppled over and with a loud shriek the two of them followed. A soft “Yarooh!” could be heard from one of the suitcases, then silence fell. It took some time until out of the dark came a furious voice:

“Like the back of your hand, Sir? Like the back of your hand? Was that your wording?”
“We all make mistakes! Stop kicking me, McClown, it is rude to kick old people.”

The butler tried to calm down and to think clearly. They had crashed down, so first of all damages and injuries had to be checked. After groping around for a while he found the suitcase with the hamsters and ascertained that they all were well. Then he helped up Lord McShredder.

“Where might we be?” he wondered.
“We are inside the Ben Hiant volcano”, His Lordship crowed. “I know this like the back… What I mean is: I’m quite certain.”
“Then we are lost”, the butler mumbled and sat down on the cold ground. He turned things over in his mind for quite a while, then he stood up again and began to sniff at the rocks.
“McClown, you must be stark raving mad!”
“No, Sir, I’m looking for fumaroles.”
“I’m sitting here in the cold and you can think of nothing but your dinner?”
“Sir, fumaroles are openings through which volcanic gases come to the surface. I read that in a book. My idea is as follows, Sir: If we fire such a gas source it will be seen widely perhaps. Somebody will find us. In the darkness even a single match can be seen over long distances, so we have to hurry.”

Milord got out his pipe, cleaned it out laboriously, filled it again and lit it. He listened to the wailing squeaking of the hamsters who were hungry again. Now his butler made a find.

“Gas, decidedly gas”, he exclaimed, ran to the trunks and ransacked them. He searched his pocket trousers, then the suitcases again and gave up.
“We left the matches on board, Sir.” He looked at Lord McShredder hopefully. “Or have you got the matches, Sir.”
“No, McClown, I do not have any matches.”



This answer made the butler desperate. He began to search the ground, lifted stones, knocked and grinded them and gave up in frustration.

“If we at least had flint stones, Sir, then we could strike a spark and ignite the gas.”

His Lordship gave a sympathetic nod and sucked at his pipe. There was deep silence now, interrupted by the scratching of the hamsters who looked for nourishment. About half an hour later a croaking voice said:

“I don’t know anything about these formulas or what’s their name, McClown, but might we take my lighter? Eh, McClown, why are you bumping your head against the rocks?”

When the butler had calmed down he searched the wall a second time. The he fetched an old newspaper from one of the suitcases, crumpled it and pondered.



“Sir, it will be better if you and the hamsters hide in the back part of the cave. It might get quite hot.”

As matter of fact the funnel of the volcano looked like a round cave. It was like sitting in an upside down bucket with an upside opening. Now and then a blinking star could be seen. Obviously a wind had sprung up and drifted away the clouds. But at one spot there was a big niche in the wall and the hamsters had made themselves comfortable there already.

McClown took a look at the wheelchair. Luckily it was only scratched and not broken. Cautiously the butler took the hamsters and placed them into their overnight trunk. Then he put the suitcases back onto the wheelchair, pushed it into the niche and went back to the crumpled newspaper. He lit it with the lighter, laid it down where the gas was coming out of the rocks and hastily retreated into the niche to sit down beside His Lordship. Anxiously they watched the flames rising. With a hiss the gas ignited and the cave became as bright as daylight. It was a fantastic sight and the butler’s plan seemed to work when something happened none of them had expected. Another hiss and a second fire column shot out of the wall, a third and fourth one until the whole cave was aflame

“Quite hot, McClown?” sounded the frightened voice of milord.
“We will be boiled like porridge!”
“Sir, there are more fumaroles than I expected. We have to get out here!”

Desperately the butler banged his fists against the wall behind him. That wall sounded hollow and seemed not to be very thick. Even McShredder heard this and helped the butler to kick and hit the wall. The air became hotter and thinner, chunks of stone came down from the edge of the volcano. Milord and his butler were sweating and gasping and desperately worked at the wall. Then suddenly it gave way and a black hole was yawning at them. McClown took His Lordship and shoved him onto the suitcases. Then he gave the wheelchair a kick and jumped into the darkness. Behind him he heard the roaring of the flames and the collapsing of the volcano. And that was the last thing he heard..



 

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!”

 

 


Chapter 13

The Kitchen is Closed

Our friends proceeded on their eastern road. The sun was up by now, even the butler was whistling a merry tune. They were on a narrow road, bordered to their left and right by a low wall.

“You know, McClown, it’s a pity that we did not see Mingary Castle. An impressing building. Ah, you see the big red rock there? That’s Cladh Chiarain, St. Chiarain lies buried here.”
“O Sir, did this happen lately? There was nothing in the newspapers.”
“Well, McClown, it happened in the year 549. Perhaps you should educate yourself a little in Glenmore, there’s a museum for natural history. By the way, we will be there in a few minutes.”

They took a short rest at the monument. The butler crumbled a dry toast and gave it to the hamsters. Except for a little brawl the animals shared the crumbs peacefully and drew back into the suitcase for their beauty sleep. His Lordship had by now scrutinized his surroundings and decided to take the road to the left as this was to be the shortest way to town. Some hours later they were in the middle of a forest.



“Sir, may it be that we are inland again?”

His Lordship did not answer but looked at some mushrooms. The lane they had followed had become narrower within the last minutes and ended now. Cautiously McClown pushed the wheelchair over swampy ground. To the right and left there were some small lakes. With difficulty they crossed a tiny river and soon left the forest behind them.

“Charming forest, Sir, a few minutes feel like several hours in there.”

His Lordship still did not answer but looked straight ahead. They passed a most beautiful landscape but both did not really feel any delight in it. Ahead of them lay a pathless, rocky area. At least the wheelchair did not stick in the mud so that they proceeded a little faster. At some time they had a view on the sea from a mound. Hours later some houses came into sight.

“Sir, a place-name sign - something with a G…”
“Glenmore, my dear McClown, Glenmore. As I said, it cannot be far. Do trust an old scout!”

A few minutes later they were standing in front of the sign.
“That’s Gortenfern, Sir Scout. Perhaps we should buy a map?”
“Don’t talk rubbish, McClown. We should look for some accommodation.”

His Lordship was right because the sun was now setting. With tired steps they approached an inn. The butler took the trunk with the hamsters, opened the door and gave Lord McShredder the advantage. The inn was empty and they sat down at the next table.

“Welcome at McPhee’s, gentlemen”, came a deep voice. An old man came shuffling in. His long beard gave him quite a wild look and his eyes flashed at them with curiosity. He took a chair and pushed it to the table. He sat down with ceremony and said: “Welcome to Gortenfern, this meaning as much as much as ‘field of ears’.”

“We would like to have some dinner”, the butler said.
“Certainly”, Mr. McPhee replied. “I’m sure you’re coming from Kilmory, don’t you? Kilmory means kirk of Saint Mary’s, by the way. Interesting, isn’t it?”
“No, Sir”, McClown retorted, “we’re coming from Killichonan and are starving.”
“But that’s most interesting!” McPhee replied and excitedly scratched his head. “It sounds almost like Kilchoan, don’t you think so? By the way, Kilchoan means something like kirk of St. Congan.”
“Sir, since our landing in Sanna Bay we have hardly eaten anything and really would like to…”
“Sanna Bay?” McPhee interrupted him. “Sanna means sandy, did you know that? Here in Gortenfern we have even the singing sand. That’s interesting, isn’t it?”
“Certainly, Sir, but first of all we would like to eat something and…”
“Have you already been to Ockle or Swordle?”
“No, Sir, we would like to get something to eat!”

The butler had spoken up now. In the background the hamsters were squeaking hungrily. Even His Lordship fidgeted in his chair.
“Well, Ockle means ‘high’ and Swordle means ‘field of grass’…”
“Dinner, dinner! We want something to eat!” McClown bawled at the landlord.
“Just a minute, Sir”, this worthy replied. “Do you know the meaning of Acharacle? Actually it is Ath Tharachail and means…”

Mr. McPhee got no further for Frido McClown swooped down on him. Together with the chair they rumbled backward. The butler held to the landlord’s beard and roared at him that they wanted to have their dinner.

“Dinner”, McPhee groaned and tried to get free. “There is not dinner today. The kitchen is closed on Wednesdays.”

Butler and lord looked at each other. The hamsters who a moment ago had whooped McClown cheeringly, fell silent. The landlord’s words were hanging in the room like lead. Silence in the small inn. A fly was buzzing in lonely circles. Very slowly Frido McClown stood up. His temples puckered and his stomach rumbled. He looked at the counter. Some glasses were neatly arranged there. In front of the counter stood some bar stools in line. Behind the counter was a cabinet full of bottles. Beside this he saw a door with the label “Kitchen”. The letters danced in front of his eyes and he had the feeling that the letter ‘K’ grinned at him jeeringly. With a yell the butler raced to the counter, took the next stool and blew upon the label.

“I will wipe the smirk off our face”, he shouted and continued to thrash the label. The door showed first cracks when the stool broke. Furiously, McClown fetched the next stool. He was already on his way to door when his glance fell on the glasses.

“I’ll show you what it means to smirk at Frido McClown”, he panted and with one well aimed move swept down all the glasses from the counter. Then he fell on the door again.
“How long is your butler employed?” Mr. McPhee asked His Lordship.
“Annoyed? No, I’m not annoyed”, McShredder answered. “McClown behaves a little boorish now and then but in general he is a nice chap.”

By now the nice chap had made chop-wood of the kitchen door and stood in the door frame, panting. With a flickering look in his eyes he whispered: “Sir, the kitchen is open…”

 


Chapter 14

The Singing Sands of Gortenfern

“That was an expensive dinner, my dear McClown”, His Lordship said and counted his money. “It certainly was not wrong to refrain from staying overnight with this McPhee. I don’t know what might have happened there.”

The butler did not answer but pushed the wheelchair along the bumpy road. He did not feel like talking, his belly was much too full for that. Marvellous, how a man could stuff himself in such a short space of time! And the hamsters! From one of the suitcases noises of their digestion sounded through the night. Now they all had to find a tolerable spot for the night - the beach it should be. So before they reached a grove, they turned left and down to the shore. They found a spot to their liking and arranged themselves as best as they could. As Gortenfern is situated deep in a bay they were quite safe from stormy weather.

“My dear McClown”, milord said and slowly turned to his butler, “it would not be a bad idea if your little, er, friends spend the night in some distance. We’d like to have a quiet night, wouldn’t we?”

McClown sighed and put down the hamster-trunk in a little distance. From another trunk he fetched some towels which were to serve as bed covers. For a long time he looked up to the stars, while milord was already snoring. Finally also he fell asleep.

“That can’t be true”, Flecki grumped. “Nothing on tonight? How do they think we can have a party here?”
“We might build a sandcastle and destroy it again”, Goldi proposed.
“The sand is much too fine here, you even cannot dig tunnels”, chief Botchy complaint.
“Perhaps the enlightened one has an idea?” Tuffy hopefully asked.




The mayor looked helpless. Why in the world should he have any idea? It was his job to hold speeches - not to have ideas. But to be addressed as an enlightened one did flatter him indeed.

“Well, it is an undenied fact that now and here and anyhow we are in a situation which asks for strategic action and decisiveness. These are the facts, dear hamster-friends! Only by a corporate individual initiative which not only should but has to - I repeat has to proceed not only from every single one a situation can be mastered in a way…”

The mayor interrupted his impressive speech. His hackles were up. The other hamsters had heard it, too. There was some sound. A sound which made their fur stand on the ends. The night was pitch dark and somewhere someone was singing. It was no merry song, it sounded consistent and doleful and seemed to come from all sides.

“Come on, do something, Mayor, act strategically”, Goldi shouted.

The mayor only goggled with big round eyes. Anxiously he blew up his cheeks and began to tremble.

“There!” Tuffy exclaimed. “He will be enlightened in a moment!”

Flecki just wanted to remark that probably he was just shitted when the mayor shouted:

“Cinap, safe yourselves!” Immediately all the hamsters started a carefully considered rescue operation which had stood to test in many dangers: the ran in circles and yelled. After half an hour of circling and yelling “Pleh!” they exhaustedly collapsed in the sand. The spooky singing had not stopped! The poor little animals were much too tired to run away and so they tried to burrow themselves in the sand. But this did not really work.

“Perhaps we should just surrender”, Dodo wailed.
“Or make a deal”, Flecki proposed. “Come on, Mayor, go and make a deal!”

By now the mayor was tinged green with fear when Goldi kicked him forward. There he was and his hamster-friends were most interested how the enlightened one was to master this situation.

“Er, wodget, er, widget, er, dear widget, we all know a sotulation, er, situation to be misted, er, mastered by thingumbob. What I mean is dingusdeal. If you see what my bean would say, er, I mean to repress, er, express.”



After this strong speech the mayor quickly turned round and hid behind the group of the hamsters.

“Wonderful, really touching”, Flecki sneered. “I’m certain we are quite safe now.”
“Perhaps the kind butler may help us?” Tuffy wondered and pointed at the sleeping Frido McClown. Her friends nodded delightedly. Certainly there was some room under the kind butler’s blanket for a few frightened little hamsters.

Shouting "Yarroh!"1 they ran to him.

1 (Hamstish: Horray)

 

 


Chapter 15

Kentra Bay

“McClown, see that you get a fire going! I’m cold!”

The sun had just risen, it promised to be a beautiful day. Might have been, the butler thought, slowly opening his eyes. It was cosily warm under the towel, much too cuddly to get up. Slowly he turned and to his surprise heard some shocked squeaking. He turned to the other side - another shocked squeaking. Very cautiously he lifted the towel and behold: the hamsters squinted at him sleepily

“Ha, McClown”, His Lordship laughed. “Singing beach. This McPhee told us a lot of fustian. I slept very well. Who might believe such nonsense?”
“Well, Sir, I think I know someone”, McClown answered and pointed at the hamsters.
“McClown, you don’t think there are animals who are afraid of such rubbish?”
“Well, Sir, I think there are such animals indeed.”



The butler covered the shivering animals and began to look for firewood. He did not have to go far for the close by forest offered enough for a good campfire. It did not take long until men and beast were sitting at the warm fire. However, there was no breakfast and so they set off soon. Following a narrow foot path, they reached the small town on Arivegaig. It took them only one look to discover that here would be no breakfast. So they walked on disappointedly. Within the last two hours the sun had shone upon the small group. By now they had reached a broader road and were approaching a bridge.

“Sir, do look! Isn’t this a beautiful view?” “McClown, my stomach has no eyes for that! Look, over there is an inn.”

They passed the bridge and reached the “Shiel Bridge Inn”. The butler pushed the wheelchair with the suitcases into a corner beside the counter and with Lord McShredder sat down at a window. When their breakfast arrived he put a part of it onto a small plate and set it down beside the hamsters’ trunk who immediately fell on it hungrily. Then McClown returned to His Lordship and enjoyed his meal.

“What sort of muck is that?” Flecki leerily asked and eyed the food which the butler had brought them.
“Porridge with baked beans”, Goldi replied, his mouth full. “It’s simply great!”

Chief Botchy had left the trunk together with Dodo and Topple and took a bite, when suddenly they froze.
“A c-c-ca…!”

He did not get further and there was no need for his friends all realized the danger. Slowly a big black cat approached them. Tuffy and Taty were the last ones to scramble back into the trunk. They were safe now but as the lid was not completely closed they could watch how the cat jumped onto the wheelchair. With pounding hearts and in helpless rage they had to watch how their breakfast vanished in no time.

“You son of a bitch of a cat, I’ll tie you into knots!” Goldi shouted and wanted to go at the cat but Flecki and the mayor held him back.



“We can’t do it that way, silly, we need a plan”, she scolded.
“Fine”, Goldi hissed, “I’ll kick the brute according to plan, she nicked our breakfast! If only I had a rocket…”
“We should fall back to our own individual strength. As in the past I often enough stressed…”
“Oh?” Flecki interrupted him. “What kind of strength would that be?”

When the mayor did not come up with anything, the hamsters held counsel. As usual, the outcome was nothing to talk of. Only Dodo and Botchy were of the opinion that the enemy had only one weak point: water. But how were the hamsters to find water? Tuffy and Taty excitedly said that when entering the inn they had seen several bottles on the counter.

“That’s a superhamster case”, Dodo stated. Suddenly Goldi did no longer feel all the thing. Embarrassed, he sorted his whiskers and stared at the big black cat who had taken seat on one of the other trunks.

“Superhamster, superhamster, superhamster!” the others chorused, while Goldi felt hotter and hotter under his fur.
“Well, do show us that you can do more useful things than munching”, Flecki mocked and the others started their "superhamster"-chorus again.

Goldi scrambled to the edge of the suitcase and peered out. Then he turned round and just wanted to explain that superhamster was going to resign when he slid from the edge and tumbled down with a shrill squeak.

”What a hero!” Taty exclaimed. All hamsters watched big-eyed. Even the cat was irritated for a moment and hesitated but then she attacked. That short moment of irritation Goldi had used to escape onto the counter. It was slippery there and he had difficulties to keep his balance. With a mighty jump the cat followed, landed in front of him, but slipped, passed him like a missile down the counter right into the whisky bottles. There was a lot of clinking, then the cat lay in a whisky puddle..




“Olé!” it sounded from the suitcase. Infuriated, the cat took a new run-up, but Goldi dodged way, and she again slithered over the counter, while another “Olé!” came from the suitcase. This time she banged into a bottle of cider which burst to pieces. The background hamsters gave another cheerful “Olé!” With trembling whiskers Goldi waited for the next attack, but his enemy seemed to be a little giddy. The confidence of victory had given way to irritation, added by first signs of drunkenness. However, the hunting instinct was still alive and the cat made for her prey with a hiss. The prey, however, had no mind to be caught and fled through an open flap into the kitchen.

“Superhamster, get her down!” it sounded from the trunk, while loud clattering in the kitchen announced the arrival of the cat. Goldi had reached the back edge of a bucket with liquid soap and saw some big, black monster flying towards him. He was paralyzed with shock, but the jump was too short, there was a splash and bucket with attacker toppled over. While the little hamster escaped to the sink, behind him was an enemy who now faced a new problem and hardly could stand on his legs. Blind with rage, the cat watched the hamster climbing up a towel. Followed a big jump, Goldi squeaked and saw how right beside him the cat banged her head at the tiled wall and fell down into the sink unconsciously.

“Off the mark, off the mark, the cat’s always off the mark!” Goldi sang and saw himself as the victor. Then he lifted his head an sniffed. A nice smell, a very nice smell indeed. He ran to the stove and took a look. The nice smell came from several pots. The hamster jumped onto a small pot and onto the edge of a bigger one. This was the fulfilment of all his dreams: one big pot full of vegetables for him alone! Greedily he shovelled one paw after the other into his mouth when suddenly it got dark above him. In the next instant the cat passed him closely and landed in the hot vegetable broth. Frightened, Goldi jumped down, scrambled over the sink and fled through the flap. Then he saw that he got back into the trunk where his friends welcomed him with cheers. Lord McShredder and his butler had noticed the noise in the adjoining kitchen. They of course had no idea that the hamsters had anything to do with it. His Lordship paid the bill, while McClown pushed the wheelchair with the suitcases towards the door of the inn. While he waited at the door, McShredder discovered something. A big, black cat was lying in the corner with glassy eyes, licking her dirty fur. Milord shook his head and called the landlord:




“Landlord, you really should allow this poor cat some fresh air and a little bit action, you know!” Then he followed his butler and they continued their journey..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next

Chapter 11

In the Vulcano

Silently they walked through the night. They passed a small church and left the town.

“We will be there in a moment”, milord croaked when they crossed a narrow river. Three miles later they still had not reached their goal.

“Like the back of your hand, Sir?” McClown grumped. His Lordship did not answer but stared to the right side.
“Here we are, McClown, I knew all right. An old scout like me finds his way in the middle of the night. Or in the fog. Or in a nightly fog. Follow me, McClown!”

The path became arduous, they had to walk uphill.

“Are you sure that we have to climb a mountain?”
“Nonsense, McClown, we will find no fountain. This isn’t a park after all.”
“MOUNTAIN, Sir!”
“No, McClown, in the mountains is no fountain either. But Mingary Castle is behind a small mound, so we are certainly on the right path.”

While the butler pushed the wheelchair with the suitcases the hamsters woke up from the loud talking. Cautiously they peered out of the trunk into the dark night. Ahead of them was a high mountain which seemed to touch the sky. They hid between the underwear again anxiously. Lord and butler climbed on and panted.

“Sir, might it be that we lost our way?”
“By no means, McClown, I know this terrain like the back of my hand. We will be there in a moment.”



After another hour of steep climbing the ground suddenly became plain. The sky was clouded, no moon or stars could show them the way. There were no lights or houses, not to talk of Mingary Castle. Lord and butler both held to the wheelchair and cautiously put one foot in front of the other.

“Sir, is it far to Mingary Castle?” It took some time until milord replied.
“My dear McClown, you’re lacking patience. Perhaps within the last years the course of the road has changed at little. - However, if I did not know the terrain so well I would assume that we are on Ben Hiant.”
“Ben Hiant, Sir?”
“An old volcano, McClown. Those who plunge down into its crater never see daylight again.”

Suddenly lord and butler came to a shocked standstill and looked at each other in the darkness. Then the wheelchair toppled over and with a loud shriek the two of them followed. A soft “Yarooh!” could be heard from one of the suitcases, then silence fell. It took some time until out of the dark came a furious voice:

“Like the back of your hand, Sir? Like the back of your hand? Was that your wording?”
“We all make mistakes! Stop kicking me, McClown, it is rude to kick old people.”

The butler tried to calm down and to think clearly. They had crashed down, so first of all damages and injuries had to be checked. After groping around for a while he found the suitcase with the hamsters and ascertained that they all were well. Then he helped up Lord McShredder.

“Where might we be?” he wondered.
“We are inside the Ben Hiant volcano”, His Lordship crowed. “I know this like the back… What I mean is: I’m quite certain.”
“Then we are lost”, the butler mumbled and sat down on the cold ground. He turned things over in his mind for quite a while, then he stood up again and began to sniff at the rocks.
“McClown, you must be stark raving mad!”
“No, Sir, I’m looking for fumaroles.”
“I’m sitting here in the cold and you can think of nothing but your dinner?”
“Sir, fumaroles are openings through which volcanic gases come to the surface. I read that in a book. My idea is as follows, Sir: If we fire such a gas source it will be seen widely perhaps. Somebody will find us. In the darkness even a single match can be seen over long distances, so we have to hurry.”

Milord got out his pipe, cleaned it out laboriously, filled it again and lit it. He listened to the wailing squeaking of the hamsters who were hungry again. Now his butler made a find.

“Gas, decidedly gas”, he exclaimed, ran to the trunks and ransacked them. He searched his pocket trousers, then the suitcases again and gave up.
“We left the matches on board, Sir.” He looked at Lord McShredder hopefully. “Or have you got the matches, Sir.”
“No, McClown, I do not have any matches.”



This answer made the butler desperate. He began to search the ground, lifted stones, knocked and grinded them and gave up in frustration.

“If we at least had flint stones, Sir, then we could strike a spark and ignite the gas.”

His Lordship gave a sympathetic nod and sucked at his pipe. There was deep silence now, interrupted by the scratching of the hamsters who looked for nourishment. About half an hour later a croaking voice said:

“I don’t know anything about these formulas or what’s their name, McClown, but might we take my lighter? Eh, McClown, why are you bumping your head against the rocks?”

When the butler had calmed down he searched the wall a second time. The he fetched an old newspaper from one of the suitcases, crumpled it and pondered.



“Sir, it will be better if you and the hamsters hide in the back part of the cave. It might get quite hot.”

As matter of fact the funnel of the volcano looked like a round cave. It was like sitting in an upside down bucket with an upside opening. Now and then a blinking star could be seen. Obviously a wind had sprung up and drifted away the clouds. But at one spot there was a big niche in the wall and the hamsters had made themselves comfortable there already.

McClown took a look at the wheelchair. Luckily it was only scratched and not broken. Cautiously the butler took the hamsters and placed them into their overnight trunk. Then he put the suitcases back onto the wheelchair, pushed it into the niche and went back to the crumpled newspaper. He lit it with the lighter, laid it down where the gas was coming out of the rocks and hastily retreated into the niche to sit down beside His Lordship. Anxiously they watched the flames rising. With a hiss the gas ignited and the cave became as bright as daylight. It was a fantastic sight and the butler’s plan seemed to work when something happened none of them had expected. Another hiss and a second fire column shot out of the wall, a third and fourth one until the whole cave was aflame

“Quite hot, McClown?” sounded the frightened voice of milord.
“We will be boiled like porridge!”
“Sir, there are more fumaroles than I expected. We have to get out here!”

Desperately the butler banged his fists against the wall behind him. That wall sounded hollow and seemed not to be very thick. Even McShredder heard this and helped the butler to kick and hit the wall. The air became hotter and thinner, chunks of stone came down from the edge of the volcano. Milord and his butler were sweating and gasping and desperately worked at the wall. Then suddenly it gave way and a black hole was yawning at them. McClown took His Lordship and shoved him onto the suitcases. Then he gave the wheelchair a kick and jumped into the darkness. Behind him he heard the roaring of the flames and the collapsing of the volcano. And that was the last thing he heard..