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Chapter 39


Lord and butler sat down at one of the five tables in the tearoom. They chose the table near the counter, close to the window. In the back of the room, beside the door, a man was sitting. He had his head on his arms and seemed to be sleeping. Nothing unusual because trains were rare here and to wait for a train might take long. So Lord McShredder and Frido McClown did not mind the man but hungrily looked at the display in the counter. There were bakeries of different colours and tastes. They decided on shortbread.

“One tea, 3 shortbreads and one coffee”, milord croaked.
“Immediately, Sir. Oh, Lord McShredder, you’re home again”, the young man behind the counter exclaimed in a pleased voice when he recognized His Lordship.
“Obviously, my boy. Any news?”
“O yes, Sir, lots”, the young man beamed. “Last summer we hardly had any rain, a new public toilet has been built, and a new road sign was erected.”
“Fine, fine, the town thrives and prospers”, milord crowed and took the teabag out of the cup which had been served in the meantime.

The butler had placed the suitcase with the hamsters on his lap and opened the lid. Curious pink noses showed up and sniffed excitedly. The smell of the shortbread had made the animals wake up. McClown crumbled one of the cookies and gave it to the hamsters. Loud rumbling and squeaking was audible and nobody needed to understand Hamstish to realize what was going on. All the upset did not take long as they finished the shortbread quickly. When they saw that there was no more food, the little animals went back to sleep and the lid was closed again.

Milord slurped his tea, the butler drank his coffee and both looked out of the window. A good distance behind the rails they could see the forest they had passed short time ago. Far off and dimly lay the mountains and far, far behind them was the peninsula of Ardnamurchan where everything had begun. They had travelled far and much had happened. Now, close to their goal, they knew that it had been worth everything. No Spanish sunshine could replace home to them.

“McClown, time to take the last miles under our feet”, milord announced.
“Very well, Sir. Will you permit me a question?”
“Permitted, McClown.”
“Don’t you miss your wheelchair, Sir?”
“O yes, I do”, milord croaked and gave a moan. “But a tough lord does not lament!”
“What do I hear?” suddenly a voice from the back part of the tearoom sounded. “The Lord of Killichonan walks on his own two feet? All Celtic saints, I’ve longed to see this day!”

Surprised, the two of them turned round. The man, who had been sleeping at the table, got now up and came closer. He was short, thickish, very bald and limped.

“George, the bus driver”, Frido McClown delightedly exclaimed.

He knew the old mail bus driver well. More then once when milord had run out of tobacco or the household out of supplies, George had given the butler a lift to the next town when he had seen him walking along the road. George had never accepted money and the butler always had been glad for the lift.

“Frido, where have you been these days?”
“Why, George, that is a long story. Let me tell it some other time. Now we only want to get home.”
“Home!” George nodded. “I would not like to shock you, but your home is nothing but a ruin by now.”

Lord and butler paled. They knew that the old castle had not been in a good condition when they left for Spain - but a ruin? With difficulty they regained their composure and McShredder croaked: “Well, then we’ll rebuild the ruin, won’t we, McClown?”
He turned to the bus driver: “When is your bus scheduled?”
“I don’t work any longer, Milord, have retired since long and enjoy my leisure time. However, I feel a little bored and so now and then I still make the tour between Kinloch Rannoch and the station. You are my passengers today, of course.”
“Free ride, of course, George”, McShredder crowed.
George laughed. “Free ride, Milord.”

When the young man at the counter also did not want any money for tea, coffee, and shortbread, McShredder and his butler delightedly left the tearoom together with George.
“That’s coming home, McClown, isn’t it?”
“It is, Sir, but do we have a roof over our heads?”

The old mail bus set moving and George sped up. To their left they saw the ruins of Doire na h-innes, then they passed the big hydropower station of Gaur, and the hearts of the two homecomers throbbed happily. When Loch Rannoch came into view they both got up and looked out of the window excitedly. In the middle of the loch they could see Eilean nam Faoileag, the gull island. The last mile seemed to take ages but finally they had made it. George turned to the left and they had reached the castle.








Chapter 40

Back in the Castle
His Lordship was the first one to get out of the bus and slowly approached what once had been his castle. There were no walls any longer and a big heap of debris indicated the place of the entrance hall. The only upright things were the two door posts, the door hanging in the loose hinges. McShredder paused in front of the door relicts.

“McClown, you lazy chap, come and open the door for your master!”

The butler only goggled at milord while George laughed and waved to them.

“You’ll get along. Tell me if you need me!”

He drove back to the road and the butler cautiously opened the door. He hardly had pulled at it a little when it crashed down and overturned the door posts.

“Thank you, McClown”, milord said after the dust had settled. “Go and find my armchair and then I would be grateful if you would tidy up a little.”

With a loud sigh Frido McClown set down the hamster-trunk between some bricks and opened the lid. Then he went searching for the armchair while His Lordship filled his pipe.

“Hey, guys, we’re back in the castle”, chief engineer Botchy exclaimed and scrambled out of the suitcase. “That’s the pits”, Flecki groaned. “We’ve really come far.”
“Anyhow, we’ve been at the beach”, Tuffy said. “That was quite nice.”

By now the mayor had climbed a heap of debris and thought it time to cheer up the hamsters with a little speech.

“Dear friends”, he began, “it was a long way, and I am proud to say that…”

Nobody ever learned what he was proud on because the debris heap collapsed.

“I’m sorry, little hamster”, they heard the voice of Frido McClown, “but I’m looking for milord’s armchair. What need you scramble about in all this debris?”

He set the scolding mayor down between the other hamsters and continued his search. Suddenly it crashed and where the butler had been standing was nothing but a cloud of dust.

“McClown, did you find my armchair?”

No answer. Slowly the dust settled but the butler still was gone. The hamsters curiously craned their necks when McShredder cautiously approached the place where Frido McClown just had been standing. He was looking at a large hole in the floor.

“McClown, stop this hide and seek. Back to your work! I can’t do everything myself.”

Still no answer and now he desperately turned to the hamsters. Goldi was right in front of him and McShredder pointed at him.

“How about doing some work for your food? I have been feeding you all the time, after all!”
"Dos, ssik ym ruf !1 was the prompt answer.

“Eh? Toss something rough? What do you mean?” Lord McShredder looked about him, quite at a loss. Then his face lit up. “Ah, no bad idea, little rodent.”

He took up a brick and tossed it into the hole. A loud outcry confirmed he had hit a target.

“McClown, will you now stop fooling around and busy yourself with tidying up, please.”
“Sir”, the muffled voice of the butler could be heard, “I’ve touched down on old dishes.”
“Old dishes, McClown? How am I to take that? Did you hide dirty dishes in the cellar?”
“But, Sir, we never had a cellar.”
“You are quite right, McClown, so where the hell have you landed and how the devil am I to get you out of there?”

Chief Botchy, Flecki, and Goldi in the meantime had scrambled down the hole to check the matter because they very well knew that with the butler they would get food. So they were most disappointed when all around they found nothing by useless scrap. Dirty over and over, they reappeared out of the darkness and with a hoarse cry Lord McShredder darted at Flecki. As Flecki was quick, His Lordship only landed in the debris and excitedly shouted:
“What did you find, little rodent? Come to Uncle Lord, show him!”

But Flecki saw that she was off and hid behind some bricks.

“What’s all that fuss about?” Tuffy inquired after she found the panting Flecki.
“That’s my brooch, I found it! I always wanted to have jewellery like this. Just look!”

With big, shining eyes Tuffy looked at the brooch. It was ornamented artfully and though it was dirty, nothing could take off its golden shine. Without doubt it was very valuable and the old lord had seen that at a glance. He in the meantime had found the long curtain of the former living room and thrown down one end of it into the hole where his butler was sitting. The other end he fastened at the frame of the former kitchen door. Huffing and puffing, he dragged at the curtain while his butler was clinging to the other end.

“McClown”, His Lordship groaned, while he dragged up the butler inch by inch, “have you taken along something of the - er - dishes?”
“N-no, Sir, I haven’t”, was the short reply.

Milord nodded slowly. Then he let the curtain go and the butler fell back with a shriek. A loud clatter indicated his arrival at the ground.

“Sorry, McClown, the curtain - er - slipped out of my hands. But if you are down there anyhow, pocket some of the - er - dishes and bring them up.”
“I will, Sir, but please get me out of here!”
“Without fail, McClown”, McShredder purred and again dragged up the curtain.

This time it did not take long until the panting butler was out of the hole and in front of his master.

1 (Hamstish: Kiss my fur, Idiot)