Chapter 5

 The Hamsters

 

“But Daddy, it’s such a tiny, cute pet. It hardly eats anything and is so sweet. Please, please, Daddy!”


Bobble put aside his newspaper, took the cigar from his lips and replied:
“We discussed that often enough! There’s no pet to come into this house.”
“Very well, Daddy, so I’ll go to my room now and be very sad. Don’t worry if you hear me weeping. I shall overcome it.”
Bobble looked after her when she slowly left the room to mount the stair to her room. He thought for a moment and called:
“How much would such a pet cost?”
“Almost nothing, Daddy, I’d pay it from the money I got at my birthday. I shall look after the pet. I shall always do my homework and keep my room in order, and every day I shall…”
“…wash my car, I know”, Bobble laughed. “Well, so go and get it.”


Elfrida pressed a fat kiss on her Daddy, hurried to her Mummy and said:
“Daddy now also wants to have a hamster, you only have to agree!”


Gertrude Bobble sighed. As she did not want to be the Jackass, she agreed and Elfrida raced into her room, emptied her saving box and stormed out of the house.


“And your parents did not mind?”


Daisy was delighted. Since yesterday she was the proud owner of a cute little golden hamster. Dodo was his name and a gift of her granny. When all her friends had seen little Dodo, there was a lot of stress at all homes. Nothing was in their minds but also getting a hamster. Now also Elfrida had one and it was called Scrubby. Scrubby slept a lot and when he did not sleep, he had lots of mischief in mind. The friends were sitting in Elfrida’s room and watched the two hamsters. They sniffed at each other and started to inspect the room. Every corner was checked and sniffed. Every plushie lying on the floor was nudged.


“Oh, I’d just love to have something that sweet”, Rosy sighed.
“My Mummy says that hamsters soil everything. I think that should be nothing for me.”
Berta was very certain.
“That would be also better for the hamster, dear Berta, he would die of polish poisoning.”
“Don’t be jealous, dearest Rosy, we are just cleanly and orderly.”
“So are hamsters. Everybody can be.”
“Cleanliness and order, dear Rosy, are not innate, one has to work hard for it.”
“But if hamsters already are, my dear Berta, every blockhead can be.”
“Can hamsters clean and scrub? Can they wash? Can they…”
“Look at, they wash!” Jenny suddenly shouted with delight.


Rosy took a piece of chocolate and held it out to Scrubby. The pet sniffed, straightened up on his little hind legs and took the chocolate with his forepaws. They now all expected Dodo to come, too, and that they would share the piece. However, Scrubby just shoved the chocolate into his little mouth. They could clearly see how his hamster cheeks bulged.


“How terrible”, Berta said, wrinkling her nose. “Such a nasty gannet!”
“He did not eat it”, Jenny informed her. “He just pushed it to his cheeks. Later on, in his cage, he’ll put it into his store. Hamsters always do.”
Rosy looked unbelieving and asked Jenny:
“Don’t they face trouble with drinking?”
“Why should they?”
“Well, to think that they always have to push drink into their cheeks and then…”
Everyone laughed. They walked into the bathroom and fetched a small bowl filled with water, put it down close to the hamsters and watched how the pets curiously came closer.


From both sides one of the little, furry pets came, put its forepaws cautiously onto the rim of the bowl and sniffed. Then both began to lick the water with their tiny tongues. It was just cute how the tongues again and again dipped into the water. All was well until Dodo had his fill and took his paws off the rim. Now the bowl was no longer in balance, Scrubby pressed it down with his paws and got quite a shower. Now the poor hamster was soaking wet and did not know what had happened to him. Laughing, Elfrida ran into the bathroom to fetch a towel for the poor little chap. Scrubby put up with the drying procedure but suddenly started to shove a corner of the towel into his cheeks.


“Eh, Scrubby, what are you doing? A towel isn’t tasty.”


Elfrida pulled the corner out. Jenny laughed out loudly and explained:
“He surely took it for nesting material. Hamsters always look for it.”
“Did someone see my Dodo?” Daisy asked.
They all looked around and saw that they moved carefully. Scrubby was sitting in a corner and seemed to have found something but Dodo was gone. They searched all over: under the desk, in the doll’s house, behind the heating, and under Elfrida’s bed, but the little hamster could not be found. In the end a loud sream came from Rosy who had just gone into the bathroom.


“A ghost! Help, a ghost!”


The friends stormed into the bathroom and saw Rosy, who much frightened pointed at the loo brush.
Indeed, the loo brush was moving like by ghost’s hand. Bernie approached the brush, took it up and – a hamster became visible. Laughing, Daisy took him up and carried him back to Elfrida’s room. There new disaster was looming. Once more it was Rosy’s outcry:
“My chocolate! The brute is eating my good chocolate!”


Scrubby was sitting on his hind paws and saw Rosy coming running. Immediately the hamster took a large piece of Rosy’s chocolate and swished out of the room. Rosy followed him, scolding. Scrubby ran for his life. Rosy was at his heels but the little hamster succeeded to give fury Rosy a slip by clever sidesteps. To no avail in the end. Rosy nailed him down in the corner of the corridor.


Big-eyed, the little hamster looked at her and waited. Rosy saw with some surprise that the chocolate had disappeared. This instant Scrubby took his chance, ran through her legs into the corridor. Quickly he snatched the chocolate which he had left there and hid under Elfrida’s bed.


“Well, my dear Rosy, the hamster was cleverer than you”, Berta stated with a smirk.
They all looked at the bed silently. Some distant gnawing could be heard.
“What are you doing there?” Elfrida’s mother came in and looked around, baffled.
“Oh, it’s only Scrubby and Dodo, Mummy”, Elfrida retorted.
“I think Daddy is allergic against hamsters. Since Scrubby is here, his snout is itching. See that they don’t get into his way.”
“All right, Mummy, we take care.”
The friends silently sat down to watch the hamsters under the bed polish off the chocolate.
“I – eh – I’ve got something to do”, Susy said. “See you tomorrow!”
“I’ve to be gone, too”, Mary added.
“And I – eh – have to help my mother with clearing”, Berta said.


Soon Elfrida’s room was empty and she was alone with Scrubby. No matter, it was anyway time to do the homework. If there was something Elfrida deemed unnecessary, it was homework. Only yesterday Bobble had held a speech how important such things were but after Mummy had told what a lousy pupil Bobble had been, he had said no more.


By now it should be bed-time for the little hamster.
“Come, Scrubby, call it a day, beddy-bye.”
But that was not to Scrubby’s taste, he tried to get out of Elfrida’s hands – to no avail. He was put into the cage and the cage closed. Scrubby’s sleeping room was an old cigar box which Daddy Bobble had donated.


Content, Elfrida stretched, yawned, took Dolly the doll into her arms and closed her eyes. Just when heavy sleep was overcoming her, she was startled by some “romp, romp”. Scrubby! She thought. She switched on the light and got up to look. Nothing could be seen or heard. With a sigh she lay down again and switched off the light. “Romp, romp” – again! Elfrida switched on the light and the noise had gone. Once more she switched off the light and once more there was the “romp, romp”. Light on, noise off. Light off, noise on. In the end Elfrida decided to leave the light on tonight. Soon she was asleep and dreaming about the Magic Forest. She dreamed of being on her way to a circus when a gigantic tractor came towards her. “Romp, romp”, it rumbled along the forest ground, approaching Elfrida. She tried to run away but the tractor followed her. Closer and closer “romp, romp” and she wanted to scream and just then opened her eyes and found that she was in her bed. The light was on and Scrubby had scrambled into his running wheel, running as fast as he could – “romp, romp”. So that it had been! For the rest of the night Scrubby plus cage were placed into the corridor.


Next day the friends met at Elfrida’s again. Actually they had wanted to go to the playing ground but unfortunately rain was pouring down. It came out that Dodo and Scrubby were no longer the only hamsters. Rosy proudly showed her Berty (and Berta was infuriated over the name) and Bernie had with him little Grumpy.


“Anyone without hamster yet?” Daisy laughed.


Now also Susy and Mary showed their boxes which they had hidden behind their backs.


“Let me introduce”, Susy said, “Flecki to you.”
“And mine is named Goldi”, Mary proudly said. “We bought them together.”
Now all eyes were on Berta.
“Well”, Rosy mocked, “did your Mummy not permit you a pet? It will soil everything, won’t it, dearest Berta. Don’t you worry, you now and then may fondle my Berty.”
Berta had blushed a little but said nothing. She pulled out a small wooden box, opened it and fetched out a hamster.


“May I introduce to you, my dearest Berta, Robert.”
“Robert?”
They all looked at Berta in amazement.
“Yes, Robert. My Mummy says, he needs a prudent name. Snuffy and Frizzy is a name for every Tom, Dick, and Harry. First we wanted to call him Jean Pascal, but we have already got one, so we called him Robert Luis Carlo Baconrind.”
“Em – a very – em – rare name”, Jenny nodded.
Daisy and Rosy almost toppled over with laughter.
“And if it’s a girl, Berta?” Bernie asked.
“Well, we’d call her Roberta Luisa Carla.”
“Ha ha, also very pretty”, Jenny cackled.


Insulted, Berta turned aside and began to preen the fur of Robert Luis Carlo with a small brush.
“My Mummy says, hamsters are too little to clean themselves thoroughly”, she explained.


It was a jolly afternoon and the friends decided always to meet at Elfrida’s for the time being. At least until the hamsters were big enough to be taken along to the Magic Forest. Later on Mrs. Bobble brought chocolate and biscuits and the hamsters came from all sides to beg. Unfortunately two of the hamsters fought so much over a biscuit that they were injured. Only when the two fighting cocks had been separated, the children saw what had happened. Both pets were wounded. Elfrida raced down the stairs into the living room where her father was comfortably sitting in an armchair, reading the newspaper.