To their great relief the ground became more solid. They were walking along the foot of a mountain and a lake was ahead of them.
“Loch Laidon, McClown! It has a length of almost 10 miles. A nice cup of tea is waiting for us at the end of it.”
“You mean the tearoom at the little Rannoch Station, Sir?” the butler excitedly asked.
“That’s exactly what I mean, McClown. And it would not be bad to reach the castle today so that we can change and take a bath.”
Silently they walked on and the butler wondered whether there was a chance of warm water in the castle or if they had to take their bath in the icy waters of Loch Rannoch. By now they had reached a pine forest and no longer could see Loch Laidon. After all their plagues and labours it was wonderful to smell the air of the home forest. They came to a hiking trail and could walk faster. Now they could see Loch Laidon again and in the far distance there was a railway bridge with a steaming train crossing it.
“That would be the train to Fort William, Sir. Wouldn’t it be nice if the dear little hamsters could go with it?”
“Don’t talk nonsense, McClown. Hamsters never would use the railway.”
“But how might they have reached Sanna Bay, Sir? I’ve been wondering for quite some time.”
“By ship of course, McClown, how else?”
The butler thoughtfully looked at the pine trees. Somehow he could not imagine his little friends going by ship all the way from Hamsterton to the west coast of Scotland. What for, what should they want there? No, there must be some other explanation for their appearance.
“Sir, are you sure that there were no more hamsters in the castle when we left for Spain?”
“How the devil should I know, McClown? You are the butler, tidying up is your job!”
Now it was milord who looked at the pine trees thoughtfully. He did not like what his butler just had said. What if these little criminal minded hamsters had been alone in the castle while he and McClown had been staying in Spain? He did not dare to imagine what sorts of catastrophes might have happened. They had not been here for more than one year, after all. Enough time for the short-legged hamsters to reach the western coast.
“Well, McClown, did you search the castle for hamsters thoroughly before we left?”
“B-but Sir, how could I? I had to take care of everything and I had to buy tobacco and then…”
“Excuses, McClown, lame excuses. The perfect butler can do everything at the same time, it’s only a matter of condition.”
“Craving pardon, Sir, but the perfect butler receives a regular salary.”
McShredder did not answer but interestedly looked at something in the distance. Suddenly Frido McClown’s face lit up. “Sir, in Chapter 16 you promised to pay my salary as soon as we are back home!”
“Er - yes, I did.”
“Well, Sir? Will you do so?”
“I can’t, McClown.”
The butler paused, eyes wide. While he looked where to find a nice strong cudgel, he slowly walked towards McShredder.
“You can’t, Sir? How am I to take that, Sir?”
“We hardly have any money left, but it will be enough for a nice cup of tea and coffee cake. So you may look forward to some cake, McClown.”
“B-but where is all the money, Sir?”
“Hotels are expensive, McClown. May I remind you that you forced me to book rooms at King’s House Hotel?”
Frido McClown war silenced. Gone bust again! So he could give up on all his plans. Without money he could not take the hamsters back to Hamsterton. Without money he could not invite Liza McGyre, except she brought along her own lunch. He did not waste his time thinking about the reconstruction of the castle or how they should fare.
While he brooded over all this, he had not noticed that they left the forest. Only milord’s voice jolted him out of his thoughts.
“Over there it is, McClown. May I buy you some tea and cake? Take it as extra salary.”
Sadly the butler raised his head but when he recognized the lonely railway station, there was a small, happy pricking in his stomach.
A few minutes later they entered the tearoom.