Hamster and Witches in Australia
Trouble in Australia
This time our friends are facing their most difficult task: They have to rescue the world from the mean witch! However, they get help from a clever budgie and many, many hamsters.
The journey takes Elfrida down under to Australia where she takes up the battle with the assistance of her friends.
Quite drenched, Berta sat down on a trunk, wiped her face and lamented: “What a rotten ideas was that, look what I look like!”
“You look like we all look, so take a chill pill”, Elfrida grunted. “Who would have thought that the tent falls to pieces. We better go home to me, my parents won’t come back soon.”
Elfrida, Daisy, Jenny, Susy, Rosy, Berta, Bernie, and Norbert really did not look very smart. They were wet to the skin and dirty. They all thought that Mary could count herself happy because she had not been allowed to come along. Her parents had gone to watch a movie and she had to look after her little sister Barbie. Of course she had not been delighted, but nothing doing. However, if now she would look out of the window, she surely would know that her friends had not much fun with camping in the Magic Forest. It was the second time now that staying overnight in the Magic Forest went wrong. The first time Rosy had fallen into some stinging nettle bush and Berta into a mud hole. Also that time they had to return home. Now when pitching the tent it had got entangled with a broken branch and when trying to get it free, the tent side had ripped open. When wind and rain had increased, also the rip increased and the tent collapsed. Their things were as soaked as they. When they walked through the pouring rain, Jenny saw something moving above the tree tops.
“Look at, what is that?”
She pointed at some distant spots in the sky.
“Looks like some daft birds”, Berta grumbled. “Who wants to know?”
“That’s no birds. It’s much bigger, something different”, Jenny said.
Now also Elfrida stopped and held her hand up to shield her eyes from the pouring rain.
“No idea what it is. Better let’s get into the dry.”
They hurried. They had no inkling what they just had seen and what was waiting for them.
“My, I’m looking forward to put up my feet in front of the telly tonight.”
Elfrida sighed and scowled at her filthy shoes.
“Please remember that we have to take a bath. For certain there will be no telly today.”
“Why, Berta, that will take no time!”
“That will take time. We are really dirty after all and also have to shampoo our hair.”
Elfrida sighed again. What fun would that be, staying overnight with Berta. All that was Bobble’s fault because Elfrida’s father had wanted to paper her room. He had stepped onto her bed to get a the ceiling and unfortunately the bed had collapsed. Bobble had fallen into the full paste bucket and now no one could enter Elfrida’s room for some days. She did not want to sleep in Bruno’s room. Actually she wished to sleep at Daisy’s or Jenny’s but Berta had been the first to invite her and she did not want to say no to her.
“What will be for supper?”
Berta thought. “A nice salad, I think.”
“With bread and cuts?”
“Well, Elfrida, in the evening one should not eat that much my Mummy always says.”
“And why is your Mummy that fat?” Rosy asked.
Berta blushed fiercely.
“That, my dear Rosy, is due to desperation.”
“Disposition you mean”, Daisy corrected her.
“That’s what I said. It just is like that.”
“I don’t believe it, my dear Berta. By chance I do know that your Mummy and my Mummy are always taking coffee and cake after lunch. By chance, my dear Berta, I also know that your Mummy always eats most.”
“Well, my dear Rosy, it’s rather the other way round!”
“No, my very dear Berta, it’s…”
“Now will you shut up”, Jenny remarked. “I can’t concentrate on the path.”
The path indeed got worse all the time because the ground was soaked by the rain and they all had to take care not to slip. It was so dark that one could not see a step ahead. Only the beam of Jenny’s torch showed the way. Again and again they bumped into low hanging branches. The drumming of the rain was mixed with sounds of cracking twigs and our friends all the time looked back in a frightened way. Sometimes shadows seemed to flit along left and right. The children huddled together and wished to be home.
“Do you also feel like being watched?” Susy asked.
“That’s only the wind in the trees”, Elfrida tried to sooth the others but was not that certain.
Again and again their glances wandered around and every time something seemed to hide quickly. The spooky walk brought them along big old oak trees and suddenly Rosy yelled:
“There, a big animal or something!” And she started running.
However, when leaving the beam of Jenny’s torch, she stopped, trembling. Elfrida walked up to her.
“What did you see?”
“Eyes, a pair of glowing eyes!”
They all looked at the clearing behind them. Nothing to be seen but everything seemed to be to curious and strange in this dark rainy night.
“You’ve been mistaken perhaps. I’m feeling quite queasy, too. Come on, let’s hurry”, Jenny soothed her.
Then her fingers closed around the torch and she once more took the lead. Faster and faster they walked through the Magic Forest, in the end they were running.
When they at last reached the bus stop, they sighed with relief. All bade each other good night after they had made a date for the next day. They wanted to meet at Berta’s place. She was proud of it and thought it swell that Elfrida was to spend the night with her. Elfrida, as mentioned before, was not that delighted but it did not matter after the past adventure. Worse was to come.
When the two girls reached the door of the Baconrind family, Berta cleaned her fingers before pressing the bell. Berta’s mother, Mrs. Baconrind, opened the door. Thunderstruck she looked first at Berta, then at Elfrida.
“Good evening, Mrs. Baconrind”, Elfrida politely said but that one only wrung her hands and lamented:
“The way you look! How terrible! Step into the house through the cellar or you will soil everything.”
The two girls walked to the cellar door at the backside of the house. When Berta opened it, her mother was waiting there already.
“Please take off your clothes outside. The dirt must not come in!”
“Shall we put the dirty clothes into the washing basked, Mummy?” Berta asked.
“Certainly, but wrap them in towels so that nothing drips onto the clean floor.”
Elfrida and Berta did as bidden by Mrs. Baconrind, then they walked to the tub. When they wanted to fill in water, Mrs. Baconrind said they should not take too much bath foam.
“Foam always leaves such ugly residues in the tub”, she added. “And do not splash water on the floor, it has just been wiped.”
Elfrida sighed with relief when Berta’s mother had left. The hot water was wonderful and Elfrida willingly shampooed her hair as Berta did. When they were finished and Elfrida dried herself, Berta started to wipe the tube dry with a cloth.
“What are you doing there, Berta?”
“There will be no spots if the tub is rubbed dried at once.”
“Well, but the tub’s in the cellar, no one sees it.”
“That’s not the point. My Mummy always says that everything has to be clean and orderly because pigs are orderly.”
“Well, I’m looking forward to some clean and orderly supper”, Elfrida said. “Let’s go upstairs.”
“I’m looking forward as well but please first hang your towel for drying.”
“What for?” Elfrida by and by became cross. “It comes into the washer anyway.”
Berta wrinkled her nose and walked upstairs. With a sign Elfrida followed her.
“Please, children, take a seat.” Mrs. Baconrind pointed at the table. “Daddy unfortunately will be rather late today, he’s working after hours.”
Elfrida bent towards Berta.
“What kind of work has your Daddy?”
“He’s working in a furniture shop, polishing the newly delivered furniture.”
Now a large bowl was placed onto the table. Each also received a yet larger plate on which a landscape in pink and blue was depicted. Beside this napkins were lying, held by glinting silver rings. A red candle was standing on the white table cloth.
“May I light the candle, Mrs. Baconrind?” Elfrida asked.
Mother and daughter looked at each other quite shocked.
“Certainly not, Elfrida”, Mrs. Baconrind snapped. “Lit candles are reeking and the wax might drip onto the clean table cloth.”
“… and please take care not to spill anything when eating”, Berta added.
But in the end they could start and Mrs. Baconrind handed a big tongue to Elfrida, saying: “Our guest is to begin.”
Greedily Elfrida took the lid from the bowl and sank the tongue into it. When she lifted it again, five lettuce leaves were in the tongue.
“Please do not take so many at once”, Mrs. Baconrind advised her. “Something might fall over the edge of the plate and onto the table.”
Sighing, Elfrida put back two leaves, passed the tongue and wanted to stuff the remaining three leaves into her mouth.
“We did not say ‘Enjoy your meal’”, Berta reminded her.
“Enjoy your meal.”
“Enjoy your meal, Elfrida. Do you wish to say a prayer?”
“Thank you, no, Mrs. Baconrind.”
Finally Elfrida was permitted to eat her three lettuce leaves. She hardly had swallowed them when she took the tongue once more for a second helping.
“One lettuce leave for each of you”, Mrs. Baconrind informed them. “There will be dessert.”
When they had eaten up, the table was cleared and laid anew. This time the plates were a little smaller and there were fresh napkins. Another bowl was brought and placed onto the table. Elfrida preferred to say nothing when also a new candle was set. This time it was Berta’s turn. She took a big fork and fetched a pickled cucumber out of the bowl. Then she passed the fork to Elfrida.
“When we are finished, please help with clearing the dishes”, Mrs. Baconrind said. “I shall now soak the dishes, Berta will wash them and Elfrida dry them. Afterwards we have to lay a fresh tablecloth.”
“Why should we not spill when the tablecloth is changed anyway?” Elfrida by now became impatient.
Berta looked at her angrily and replied: “Because, dear Elfrida, it has to be that way. Order and cleanliness are very, very important, you know…”
“All right, pigs are orderly”, Elfrida moaned, “but I’m still hungry. May we get some crunchies at the telly, Mrs. Baconrind?
They eyes of Berta’s mother almost popped out of her pig’s head. She held to the door post and glared at Elfrida. Then she drew back the hand, fetched a cloth and rubbed the spot where it had been at the door post.
“What do you want at the television?” she gasped.
“Well, some sweets.” Elfrida was now very bewildered. “Because that’s what we do at home.”
“Well, first there will be no watching television in the evening and second there is no eating in the living room. Something might spill onto the nice clean carpet and moreover…”
“I know”, Elfrida groaned. “Order and cleanliness are very, very important.”
“Just so, moreover you have to hoover Berta’s room before going to sleep, air it and make the beds and…”
The telephone rang and Mrs. Baconrind hurried to pick up the receiver.
“Say, are you living in this fashion since long?” Elfrida asked her friend.
“Why, could one live otherwise?”
Now Mrs. Baconrind returned and reported that Gertrude Bobbles had been at the phone and something had happened to Elfrida’s father.
“Your mother says that he fell from the ladder when wanted to repair something. Because his foot is hurting so much she wants to take him to the hospital for X-raying as she says.”
Elfrida looked at her wide-eyed and Mrs. Baconrind continued: “On her way to the hospital she will leave your little brother with us, because he cannot stay at home all alone.”
Elfrida pitied poor Daddy. All the time such things happened to him. But her expression lightened: Bruno was to spend the night in the house of the Baconrinds! What good luck! She would not have thought that she ever could be so delighted over her little brother.
“Must that be?” Elfrida faked disliking.
“Well, I should be glad if my brother came visiting me.”
Mrs. Baconrind was about to add something when it rang at the door.
“O dear Gertrude, do come in”, Mrs. Baconrind said to Mrs. Bobbles when opening the door.
“Sorry, I can’t, Rita, have got to take the poor chap to the hospital.”
“Why, that man can do nothing right, my dear.”
“Well, his leg is hurting after all.”
“Oh, he shouldn’t make such a fuss”, Mrs. Baconrind added while Gertrude Bobbles kissed her two children good-bye and walked back to the car.
Elfrida boiled with fury. How could that daft Mrs. Baconrind badmouth Daddy so? Bruno looked as bored as ever but Elfrida was sure that he understood well enough. He was not stupid after all. Berta’s mother now turned to her.
“Please tell your brother how to behave. Perhaps he first goes into the bathroom to wash his hands. He probably did not do so all day.”
“All right, I’ll do it.”
Elfrida stepped up close to Bruno and told him things about order and cleanliness, winking at him. With a bored glance Bruno went into the bathroom.
Mrs. Baconrind just busied herself polishing the front door with a cloth when there was some rattle and clinking in the bathroom. Alarmed, she interrupted her polishing and rushed into the house to take a look. Elfrida and Berta remained in the corridor, looking at each other wonderingly. Then there was a scream. It was Mrs. Baconrind, running out of the bathroom and yelling:
“He shot the soap at the ceiling light! Everything is a mess of soap and shards!”
“Oh!” Elfrida said. “The slippery soap certainly slipped out of his hands. That’s very terrible but he is a very neat Ottiphant who likes it to be clean.”
Berta glimpsed at her.
“That’s news to me”, she whispered.
“He’s still training it.”
Lamenting loudly, Mrs. Baconrind fetched hand brush, dustpan, mop, and bucket at once to reset the bathroom. Not to have the children under her feet, she ordered them into the living room to read something. Only the telly was not to be switched on because “looking television makes stupid”. Only the ads on new cleansing agents found the interest of Berta’s mother.
The three children made themselves comfortable in the living room and each took one of the orderly piled books. Elfrida studied the covers. The titles were most thrilling like “Rudy learns to clean his Bike”, “Hanni’s Adventures at Dish cleaning”, or “The Dust Monster and the brave Cleaning Bears”.
Disgusted, she put aside the books and watched with fascination how Bruno tried the remote. He finally succeeded and now the kids watched on the screen the brawl between a cat and a mouse. They not only dismantled the house in it but also the garden and the complete district. In between they could hear the moaning and lamenting of Mrs. Baconrind who up to now had not found all the dirty spots in the bathroom. No one was much interested because the events in the telly were much more thrilling. After a time cat and mouse got along again because there was nothing left to destroy and the whole town was razed to the ground. At this moment Mrs. Baconrind entered the room. She saw the switched on screen and the disorder the cartoons had left.
“Berta, was is this?”
“That’s Tom and Jerry, Mummy.”
“What I mean is: What does it mean?”
“But, my dears, do you not see what a mess they made? Who do you think will clean that up?”
“The illustrator.” Elfrida was very convinced.
Mrs. Baconrind switched off the television and took the remote from howling Bruno.
“Now go and wash at once.”
“But Mummy, we did already wash.”
“Then wipe the remote. And then you all go to brush your teeth. Bed time.”
Bruno playing up
When they reached the bathroom, the two girls saw that Bruno was not with them. They hurried back into the corridor. No Bruno and also in the living room only Mrs. Baconrind was to be seen, wiping the telly screen. Elfrida’s glance fell on the open cellar door. She nudged Berta with her elbow and pointed at the door. Both nodded and crept down the stairs. Arrived, they saw Bruno, rummaging the fridge for ice cream. All around him deep-frozen chickens were scattered which had hindered his search. He was just taking a basket with parsley to throw it onto the floor when Berta cried in a terrified voice:
“Bruno, stop it. You’re messing up everything!”
Elfrida’s little brother only grunted and continued searching for yummy ice cream.
“He’s hungry”, Elfrida remarked. “I guess he got nothing to eat at home.”
“So why, if you please, does he not ask?”
“He never does, not liking to disturb anyone.”
Now Bruno gave a cry of delight. He had found raspberry ice cream, tore off the paper and threw it into the freeze.
“Why does this miserable child throw the paper into the freeze?” Berta was beside herself with horror.
“Well, he never throws anything onto the floor, he just is a very cleanly ottifant, wishing to look things orderly.”
“But what about the frozen chickens?”
“Them.” Elfrida grinned. “Much too heavy for him, we’ll have to help him.”
At this moment Mrs. Baconrind entered the cellar. She had wondered why the door was open but as she had a broom in her left and a water bucket in her right she as an exception agreed with an open door. However, when she saw the mess, she was so shocked that the full bucket slipped out of her hand and the dirty water gushed down the stairs. Bruno was sitting on the freeze and boredly looked at the events. Then he jumped down from the freeze and started hopping from one frozen chicken to the next.
“He does not like wet feet”, Elfrida explained.
“So, but ice cream? Ice cream at this time of the day?” Mrs. Baconrind groaned and tried to snatch the ice cream from Bruno. He however hopped on from chicken und chicken while Mrs. Baconrind stumbled over one of those deep frozen birds and fell into the dirty water. Furiously she got up and while she started a story about order and cleanliness, she ran after screeching Bruno. In the end she nailed him at the potato box. She gripped the raspberry ice cream but Bruno did not want to let go. Unfortunately he had to realize that he was the weaker one and suddenly let go the ice cream. Now Mrs. Baconrind screeched for all of a sudden she darted backward down the cellar right towards the freeze.
Her shrill yelling stopped when, together with the heavy freeze she collided with the opposite cellar wall. Lamenting, she was just about the crawl down when behind the freeze a water fountain shot up.
“The water pipe has been hit!” she shrieked, jumped onto the flooded cellar floor, landing on a frozen chicken and falling into the cold water. Cursing, she got up and waded through the mounting water towards the water pipe. The result of her trying to turn off the gushing water was her breaking off the tap.
“Shall I fetch dry towels, Mummy?”
“Later, first go and fetch pipe tongs, I have to turn off the pipe!”
Berta set off, stumbled over Bruno who was just playing chicken-drowning and soon returned with the required tool. Mrs. Baconrind applied the tongs, pressed and pressed and nothing happened. Then she did something fatal: She threw herself on the tongs with her full weight. With a loud crack the pipe broke and the water came shooting like from a canon. Berta, just coming down the stairs with a pile of dry towels, was hit by the hard water jet and with a shriek sailed towards the living room, crashed onto the telly, there was a big bang and on she sailed. Her journey ended with some noisy clattering in the kitchen cupboard.
“Buckets, I need buckets!” Mrs. Baconrind shrieked.
“I’m on my way, Mummy”, Berta shouted and slowly got up. With a crash the cupboard collapsed and buried the poor pig.
“Now, are you coming?” her mother shouted.
“In a moment, Mummy!” a voice replied from under the mess.
Berta left the site of the former cupboard, took two buckets and several wipers and ran to the cellar stairs. Terrified she stopped. In the meantime the water had risen and risen. Elfrida and Bruno were sitting on top of the freeze which drifted along. Elfrida tried to paddle with her hands while Bruno searched the freeze for ice cream. At last he found some and ripped off the paper greedily.
“Do not throw the paper onto the floor – er – into the water”, Berta shouted. “Please put it into your pocket!”
“Now will you hand me the bucket”, Mrs. Baconrind bubbled who by now faced trouble keeping her head over water. She gave her daughter an angry look and said: “What are you looking like? Please go upstairs to comb your hair.”
“Should I not first clean the kitchen?” Berta uncertainly asked.
“What for, it is clean”, her mother retorted.
“What do you mean, no longer?”
“You better look for yourself, Mummy.”
Mrs. Baconrind was about to say something but by now had problems to breath and so nothing was to be heard but some furious bubbling. She saw that she had to look for some other place and joined Elfrida and Bruno. Elfrida by now had succeeded to paddle into the direction of the stairs. Arrived, the water by now had risen so high that they drifted into the corridor.
“Berta”, Mrs. Baconrind yelled. “The way the kitchen looks! My God, if some visitor were to come!”
“Well, just now we need nothing but some ducks”, Elfrida grinned and tried to paddle to the front door.
“Berta, take a broom and clean the kitchen! But do hurry before the dishes swim away!”
While Berta desperately tried to catch the dishes with the broom, Elfrida got stuck with the freeze on her way to the front door. Telly and sofa blocked her course. With a cheer Bruno jumped onto the sofa to drift towards the sleeping room.
“Not the sleeping room”, Mrs. Baconrind shouted. “The beds are not made, no one must go in there.”
She dismounted from the freeze to stop Bruno. However, by now the water was so high that she sank at once. When she re-appeared, she held a shoe in her hand and lamented: “Who left that shoe in the corridor! Can you not keep order?” Furiously she threw the shoe at Bruno who ducked. The shoe hit the light switch.
“Will someone switch on the light?” Elfrida’s voice came out of the darkness. “I can’t see where I’m drifting.”
Some loud crash indicated that the freeze had drifted through a closed door.
“Elfrida, if you are in the kitchen, take a look if the dish-washer is finished! There are matches on the kitchen table so that you can make some light.”
While saying this, Mrs. Baconrind wondered if she had turned off the gas stove. But before she could put her thought into words, there was a loud explosion in the darkness and Elfrida came flying with a matchbox in her hand. Some loud bang implied a touch-down and when she came to, everything felt soft and cuddly. Am I in heaven? she wondered but checking the situation she found that she had landed in the wardrobe. By now Berta had found the switch and the scope of the catastrophe became visible.
“Elfrida, what are you doing with my fur coat? Will you please put if off!”
Angrily Mrs. Baconrind looked at Elfrida but first swam into the living room to check matters. Bruno, to be safe from the floods had there climbed onto the hanging lamp. Mrs. Baconrind gave a yell and nagged: “Come down from the chandelier at once, you will bust it!”
But Bruno did not listen and was merrily swinging to and fro. Enough was enough and Mrs. Baconrind, after putting off her slippers, mounted the living room table and tried to pull down Bruno. He however did not think much about giving up his swing and held to it. Once more Mrs. Baconrind was stronger and once more it ended different to her expectations. With quite a jerk she ripped the lamp together with shrieking Bruno from the holder. Now she lost the balance, fell from the table and together with Bruno and the chandelier landed in the fish tank which went to pieces.
“The fishes! Berta, catch the fishes, they dirty everything.”
However, Berta faced other problems at the moment. She had not succeeded catching the dishes. A big coffee pot had crushed the kitchen window and nearly all the dishes now drifted outside through the broken window. She had at least been able to collect some saucers but the rest was lying in the garden. She shrugged and swam into the corridor to catch some fish but they had long since reached the bathroom and disappeared through the toilet.
Suddenly there was a ring at the front door, just when Mrs. Baconrind was searching for her slippers.
“Berta, go and open the door, I cannot go there barefoot, can I?”
Berta swam as fast as possible. Reaching the front door, she turned the key. By the water pressure the door was forcefully pushed open and water gushed over the visitors.
“Daddy, you are back!” Elfrida was beside herself with joy. “So nothing is broken?”
Bobble wiped his face, took a tea bag which had come along from his mouth and said:
“Everything okay, just a bruise.” He entered and hailed Mrs. Baconrind. “Good evening, Mrs. Baconrind, May I this once keep my shoes on? I do not have my flippers with me.”
“Daddy, could we go home? It’s so unpleasant here.”
“All right, but you have to sleep in Bruno’s room.”
Elfrida swam back to the living room to fetch Bruno. She made a date with Berta for the following day and they jumped into the car to go home. Arrived there, Bobble rubbed both thoroughly dry.
“Now tell me, Elfrida”, he said, “what happened there?”
“O Daddy, that silly Mrs. Baconrind did not want to give Bruno some ice cream.”
Bobble smirked. “I see!”
By now Elfrida was so tired that she no longer minded to share a room with her little brother. At her heart she was even proud of him. Of course the Baconrind family would have to sleep in the loft tonight. Well, nothing wrong with a bit of fun!
In the meantime her friend Berta had made herself comfortable between some old furniture on the loft. She was still very exhausted from blowing up an air mattress. Mrs. Baconrind was still busy hoovering the loft thoroughly.
“Tomorrow I shall scrub the cellar and the rooms nicely”, she remarked. “It’s all soaked after all.”
Berta turned to the side and happily noticed that her mother had said nothing about her helping with it. Nothing would stop her from meeting Elfrida and the others the next day.
The magic bottle
Mary was the first at the bus stop meeting point. It was early in the day, the air fresh and Mary felt a little chilly. She looked over to the Magic Forest. Some birds were wheeling in the air, the forest seemed to be peaceful. Nothing made her think that something evil was to happen.
Bernie and Norbert were the next ones. Bernie had brought his new pocket knife. All the way he had tried to show Norbert what swell things he could do with it. But that one had only yawned in a bored fashion and moreover picked his nose. Mary at least took a look at the knife. She did not want to touch it because last week she had cut her finger when cutting bread. Bernie was glad when he saw Jenny and Susy approaching because they both were interested in such a new knife. While inspecting the pocket knife, also Berta and Elfrida came.
Berta had managed to steal out of the house before her mother could commit her to cleaning service. When also Daisy arrived, only Rosy was missing. She came a few minutes later.
“Sorry”, she said, “I spilled milk over my trousers and had to change.”
“Perhaps you should also have taken a shower”, Berta said, wrinkling her nose. “You somehow smell fermented.”
“Fermented, milk gone bad, that’s called fermented.”
“Oh, that will wear off in the fresh air, Berta.”
“No, Rosy. It rather smells worse and I don’t know if I can stand it.”
“So take a clothes peg.”
“You’d better wash!”
“Well, are you finished?” Elfrida became angry. “If we stand about here any longer, I’ll get flat feet.”
So they started off. The two pigs were still discussing for a while but no one listened. Elfrida’s thoughts were with the magic bottle anyway which at their escape in yesterday’s thunderstorm she had left behind. She told herself that no one would have found their camping spot. Moreover the little bottle was hidden with a drinking bottle in a provision pouch but she was not that certain because it had been Jenny’s idea to hide all provisions in a bush. The closer they came to the place, the quicker became her steps. Only Rosy and Berta dawdled in the rear, while Bernie and his friend Norbert double-timed them. They passed the small fir trees, left the big old oak behind them and reached the spot where they had wanted to spend the last night. Elfrida was the first to reach the hiding place and heaved a sigh of relief when she saw the pouch in the bush. Quickly she rummaged it and cried out in terror: “O no, it’s gone!” Daisy and Susy tipped the contents onto the forest ground and took a thorough look. Indeed, except the magic bottle everything was there.
“That can’t be possible!”
Daisy again and again searched the provisions.
“Why is only the bottle missing?” Bernie asked. “Why not the whole pouch?”
Elfrida who had been kneeling on the ground, got up, looked at all her friends and said in a firm voice:
“I only know one person who would do that!”
The friends looked at each other, terrified. No one said it aloud but they all thought the same: The witch! They stood frozen and helpless. Why did the old witch steal the magic bottle? There was no sense in it, why should she need it? For sure, she now could travel to all countries and times but she was able to do that anyway by her witch-craft. No, there must be another reason for this theft. Elfrida was the first to say it:
“It’s a trap!”
“You think our supplies are poisoned?”
“No, Rosy, certainly not.” Elfrida looked at her with reproach. “Of course she knows that we want to have the bottle back. She also knows that we don’t put up with this. She’ll be waiting for us already.”
“So we can still eat our supplies?”
“Munch, munch, munch, nothing but munching in your head”, Berta snapped.
“And nothing but cleaning in yours!”
“No, my dear Rosy, there is much more in my head!”
“O yes, dear Berta, and what for example?”
The loud croak of a crow interrupted this exchange. Jenny inclined her head and finally turned to Elfrida:
“If I have that bird correctly, it just said: Now they know.”
They all looked at Jenny who understood the language of birds.
“Are you really sure?” Daisy asked. “It is because you once said that you don’t understand crows that well.”
“Yes, I’m sure. This crow did not mutter the way others do.”
“Perhaps”, Daisy thought aloud, “she said it because she’ll fly to the witch later on and tell her. If so, the witch will be waiting for us.”
Now they conferred what to do. There were a lot of proposals but none of them was really useful. They clearly had first to find out why the witch needed the magic bottle after all. Bernie came to the point:
“The bottle is nothing but a bait.”
“Why is a bottle a gate?” Rosy asked, perplexed.
“Why gate?” Bernie was equally perplexed.
“Well, you said something about a gate.”
Bernie had trouble to speak because he had to laugh.
“Bait is the word. Bait is something to lure someone to catch him.”
The friends laughed so loud that it was ringing through the forest. The crow, still watching them, croaked once and flew away.
“Now she’s flying to the witch.”
Jenny looked after her thoughtfully.
“But our laughing disturbed her and that’s good. Now she’ll tell that we are not afraid and in good spirits. Thanks, Rosy, well done.”
“That’s what a clown is good for”, Berta mocked.
Rosy said no more but started checking the provisions. Most of it had been soaked by night’s rain, the rest could still be eaten. While Rosy took a thorough look at it, Bernie scratched his chin and said:
“When we walk to the witch directly, we’ll run straight into the trap and do not even know what it is. If we wait too long, she might start something with the magic bottle. So we need a spy.”
“A bird!” Mary shouted.
“That’s it, or something like that. Maybe Jenny can ask the birds in the forest to help us.”
Jenny got up and walked a little distance into the forest. She whistled and chirped until she received a reply. Minute after minute passed until she returned, quite downcast:
“All the birds in the forest are afraid. They say that as lot of witches are at the old witch house and no bird dares to fly there. Reckon, we’ve got to think of something different.”
“Okay”, Elfrida now said, “so we’ll buy a spy.”
On their way back it was Rosy who had reason to lament. They all – with one exception – decided to take the supplies home. The longer the way, the more her complaints died down because she became out of breath. However, even the longest road has an end and so the supplies were stored at home before they all met in Elfrida’s room to talk the situation over. They decided to plunder their money boxes and go to the next pet shop.
After Mrs. Bobbles had served them hot chocolate, they discussed which animal they should take.
“Do you remember how last time in the pet shop we bought the hamsters?”
Elfrida’s eyes shone with delight. There was quite a babble. How they liked to think of the story with the hamsters.
“First your Daddy did not want the animals and in the end he helped us”, Daisy said to Elfrida.
“Come on, Elfrida”, her friends shouted. “Tell us once more how you brought your Daddy round.”
Elfrida laughed and replied: “That was quite easy. I’ll tell you the whole story once more, that will cheer us up.”
She sat down on the floor and started.
“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.”
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.
At the vet
“To the vet?” Bobble did not believe his ears. “What has now happened again?”
“O well”, Elfrida said, “Goldi wanted to nick some food from Flecki and Flecki hit him. So Goldi scratched her and then Flecki bit him. Now both are wounded and need a vet.”
Grumbling, Bobble got up to get the car key. The children had already put the two injured hamsters into a box and waited to be off.
“Claw Lane 15, that’s the quack’s place, I just rang him up”, Bobble growled.
“You’ve got to turn off at the first crossing”, Rosy said.
“I know”, Bobble barked.
“You drive much too fast.” That was Berta. “That is not permitted in city traffic.”
“Well, neither is talking to the driver.”
“You did not indicate when turning off.”
“Shut up!” Bobble scolded. “I’ve got to concentrate on driving!”
“Elfrida, please tell your Dad not to race so, I feel sick!”
“We are there in a moment, Berta, and it’s for our hamsters.”
With a sigh Berta looked at Rosy and at once started to blare:
“You crumble all over the seats of Mr. Bobble! Look, there’s chocolate on the seat. Mr. Bobble, Rosy dirties up your seats!”
“So what. The car’s old. There’s any number of stains.”
Berta did not believe her ears.
“Mr. Bobble, do you tell me I have to expect to be glued to the seat? That’s disgusting!”
“Shut up back there, or you’ll be off!” Bobble had turned round for a moment and thus driven onto the kerbside. The car jumped and they all cried out. Rosy spoke up again:
“Shouldn’t I drive, Mr. Bobble? I think you’re much too nervous.”
“You better tell me if right or left or straight on. No matter, I’ll go straight on, can’t break now.”
“Careful, Mr. Bobble, a Bobby!” Rosy shrieked and closed her eyes.
Much too late Bobble saw Constable Bertrams. Bobble stepped onto the break full power but it was too late. Constable Betrams already had his whistle in the mouth and whistled almost as loud at the screeching of the tires. There was a bang and the whistling constable sailed through the air. The whistling of his whistle died down and stopped completely after another bang. All was very quiet now. Even the two hamsters who had enjoyed a brawl during the drive, where quiet now. Even Berta had nothing to say. Bernie was the first to speak.
“Poor Bobby sailed into the veggie shop.”
Indeed, Constable Bertrams was bedded between celery, cabbages, and potatoes. His whistle had fallen down. Groaning, he got up, took his whistle and staggered towards the car which held the friends.
“Documents!” he said with a gurgling voice and spit out a potato.
“Just a minute, Constable”, Bobble said and rummaged the glovebox. Instead of his licence he only found relics of hamster fodder and started to sneeze. He ripped out a handkerchief and thoroughly blew his nose.
“The driving licence, or I’ll arrest you!”
“A moment, Constably”, Bobble said. “Please hold that, I’m searching on.”
He pressed the dripping handkerchief into the constable’s hand and searched the breast pocket of his jacket.
“What in the world am I to do with this filthy cloth?”
Constable Bertrams was close to vomiting.
“Sorry”, Bobble mumbled, took the handkerchief and threw it into the road.
“Mr. Bobble!” Berta cried out and the policeman put his whistle to his mouth to blow with all his power. Unfortunately the whistle had been twisted when crashing into the vegetables and made no sound. It popped out of his mouth and hit Rosy. Loud howling came from the rear of the car.
“Sorry”, Bertrams grumped. “Didn’t mean it. Now where are the documents?”
“Won’t be more than a few hours”, Bobble joked.
“And won’t be more than a few years before you get out of jail!”
“Oops, you’re in bad spirits, Constable. By the by, there’s parsley at your trunk.”
Constable Bertrams was close to having a fit.
“Drive on”, he groaned. “Get you gone, far, far away. Never return to this crossing.”
He took a few steps backward.
“What a freak, and I almost had found my licence”, Bobble remarked, started the motor and accelerated.
“That’s the reverse gear”, Berta shrieked and Bobble stopped at once.
Tires squeaked and there was a bang. Bobble turned round.
“Now where is that constable?”
Bobble got out of the car and looked around to all sides. Finally the children heard him say:
“Why, Constable, what are you doing on my roof?”
All Constable Bertrams had to say, was very loud and very unsuitable for kids’ ears. He noted down exactly everything and Bobble was permitted to drive on.
“Daddy, what did the policeman mean, you will hear from him?”
“I’ll explain it later, now we have to look out for parking.”
Parking at least worked and they soon faced the office of the vet, Dr. Furbeater. The office was on the 4th floor of a skyscraper but luckily there was a lift.
“It would have taken Norbert hours to climb the stairs”, Bernie said.
Susy carried the box with Flecki and Goldi and when they arrived, Mary with a beating heart rang at the door of the office. There was a short buzzing and the children entered. A fat woman was sitting at a white table, making a call.
“That will be the receptionist”, Susy excitedly shouted and together with Mary stepped up to the table. The fat woman did not take any interest in the girls. The children waited patiently and listened to her phone conversation.
“Uuuh, I said, I’ll never again visit that haircutter. Fancy, he just said that my hair is too thin! You know what I said to him? I just told him…”
“… that it’s our turn now!”
The fat woman looked at Bobble and talked on: “Hold it, Louise, I’ll call again later. Some people are reckless, you wouldn’t believe it!” After putting down the receiver, she adjusted her glasses and looked at Bobble. “Do you have an appointment?”
“My name is Bobble, I rang you up earlier.”
“And what kind of affliction do you have?” she said, giggling over her own joke.
“I want to complain over a certain fat babbler making foul jokes.”
“Now don’t get stroppy, Mr. Bobble, you see that I’m busy.”
“Yes, yes, with your haircutter but believe me: You trouble is not your hair!”
“Clumsy brute! What do you actually want?”
“Two hamsters are wounded.”
“Hamsters! Yuck, I hate rats and mice!”
“Hamsters are not related to rats and mice”, Jenny spoke up.
“No matter, they’re all disgusting”, the fat receptionist said.
“They at least are not sitting at the hairdresser’s for hours”, Bobble grinned.
During this quarrel Norbert had crawled under the table to take a look. The bag of the nagging fat woman looked interesting. Norbert opened it and rummaged. Pity, nothing interesting. He shut the lock again but by this the skirt of the receptionist was caught. When trying the open the lock again, the strap of the bag got entangled with the chair on which the fat woman was sitting. Norbert saw that he was off. In the meantime Dr. Furbeater had heard the noise and opened his office door.
“I do not want to interfere”, he said, “but the next please!”
“It’s their turn, Doctor”, the fat receptionist said. “Them with their mice.”
“Hamsters!” Berta yelled.
“Well, show the patients in”, Dr. Furbeater said.
The fat woman rose to show the children the way, and then it happened: There was a loud ZAP and the fat receptionist was standing in her petticoat. Screeching, she gripped her skirt and raced to the loo to dress again. Chair and bag followed her.
While Bobble almost toppled over with laughter, the children stormed through the door into the doctor’s office.
“Well, what ails us?” the doctor asked, clearing his desk.
“They bandied blows”, Susy said and put the box with the two hamsters onto the desk.
“Bandied blows, see, see”, Dr. Furbeater smiled. “That does happen, especially over food. Luckily I have some of my lunch left, there was a veggie burger with hot mustard but we’ll leave out the mustard.”
Flecki and Goldi by now had scrambled out of the box and curiously looked about them. The doctor broke off a piece of the yummy veggie burger and held it out to them. However, when they started to shove away each other, the piece was taken back. Again and again the doctor held out the veggie and took it back if one hamster wanted to push the other. Every shoving he rewarded with a finger-shake and by and by the hamsters understood. In the end they sat gnawing side by side peacefully and Dr. Furbeater glued a plaster to the wounded spots.
“No bad injuries”, he stated. “Perhaps now they have learned to get along peacefully.”
Satisfied, he turned round to Bobble and darkly said:
“I do not like your trunk at all.”
“That’s due to the hamsters, they always give me a trunk fever!” Bobble grumbled.
“Well, you should do something about it. How about a nice trunk ointment?”
“If you say so.”
“Now, where is it? Ah, I think there it is. Show me your trunk, Mr. Bobble, you’ll be a new man in a moment – er – a new ottifant!”
Dr. Furbeater took a bit of cotton wool and soaked it with brown ointment. Then he rubbed Bobble’s trunk with it.
“What’s wrong, Mr. Bobble?” the doctor asked, terrified.
“My tlunk! Ouch, my tlunk!”
“What’s wrong with your trunk, does it hurt?”
“Yes, my tlunk hults!”
“But that can’t be”, the doctor said, looking at the ointment and then giggled. “Oops, silly me, that was the hot mustard.”
Hastily Dr. Furbeater dragged poor Bobble through the room to a tap. After Bobble’s trunk was free of mustard, they all left the office and walked back to the car. At least Bobble’s trunk no longer itched – it burnt. Rather miffed he started the car and set off with screeching tires.
“Daddy, you’re much too fast”, Elfrida said but Bobble only grumbled:
“I can also throw you out at the next bus stop!”
However, if you are in bad spirits, everything else goes awry. There was a traffic jam at the crossing. Bobble did not wait but just passed the other cars. Suddenly there was a loud bang and something grey was lying on the windscreen: Constable Bertrams!
This time the constable’s speech was very loud and very long. When they drove on, no one said anything any more. In silence they reached their home.
When everybody had gone, Elfrida began cleaning away. At least there were no crumbs on the floor, she thought, because the hamsters had not a crumb left. While collecting plates and cups, Elfrida felt like something flitting through her room. She looked to the stage but Scrubby was sitting on his cigar box, cleaning his fur. Afterwards she listlessly sat down to do her homework but again she felt like something moving in her room. She put away her school books and searched her room.
There! Something small and brown flitted behind her wardrobe. Elfrida fetched a torch and looked under the wardrobe. The torch almost fell from her hand when she saw the mess: about a dozen hamsters were hiding there!
“No, Elfrida.” Daisy sounded a bit sheepish at the phone. “My Dodo is with me, but it’s funny, I also have a few more hamsters than yesterday.”
Elfrida also called the others. Each of them had more hamsters than before. Berta even told that when in the morning she wanted to clean the cage of Robert Luis Carlo, she found that Robert was no Robert but Roberta.
“Elfrida, you won’t believe how cute those tiny, new-born hamsters looked. They had no fur at all. I am a proud mother now!”
“Talking about mother, Berta, what did you mother say?”
Berta hummed and hawed.
“She says, I’m to take the little ones to an animal centre, but I won’t hear about that.”
“Daisy faces the some troubles and I think so do the others. My Daddy’s trunk’s itching for yonks and he can’t scold for sneezing.”
Something had to happen. The next day the children did not meet at Elfrida’s but each pondered what was to be done. One day later they might have called it a hamster plague with no solution in sight. In the end they made a new date with Elfrida because her parents were invited at Mrs. Poobird’s for coffee. Luckily Bruno was staying with a friend and so they all brought all their hamsters. Really, something had to happen because by now Elfrida had 52 of them in her room, Daisy 61, Bernie 43, Susy 49, Mary 47, Rosy 50 and Berta 38.
“Soon they’ll number 500 but I don’t feel like party”, Jenny groaned. “One thing is certain: Winter will come soon and we’ve got to find a warm place for all of them.”
“What for?” Berta asked. “They’ve got a thick fur, can’t they get some place in the Magic Forest? Some cave maybe?”
“Golden hamsters”, Jenny explained, “usually are living in the desert. They would freeze to death in the forest. No way.”
“So we only can hide them at home”, Elfrida said. “But what will our parents say?”
“We’ll know in a moment”, Bernie shouted who was just looking out of the window. “I think your parents are coming home.”
“Quick”, Elfrida shrieked, “we’ve got to hide the hamsters! Daisy, stuff yours into the wardrobe, the others come into the bed drawer or the bathing tub or…”
Bobble entered the room. Astonished, he looked at 340 golden hamsters, closed his eyes and sneezed so loud that the hamsters, frightened, dispersed in all directions.
“What – sniff – does this mean and why is a hamster sitting in our letter box? I went to fetch the mail and such a little bastard was gnawing at an important letter.”
“Er – Daddy, they are only on a visit. We – er – take them home again.”
“To South America where your friends usually spring from?”
“No, Daddy, I think these ones sprang from the desert.”
“Nothing to me where they spring. This evening they are gone, got me?”
“All right, Daddy.”
Elfrida sighed with relief. They had gained some time, but to do what? Bobbled walked down to read his newspaper.
While the children were busy catching the panicking hamsters, a howl of pain came from the living room. Elfrida raced down and saw how her father was holding a hamster at the neck with one hand and his bum with the other.
“Elfrida, this little bastard bit my bum!”
“But Daddy, you should not sit on him.
“That’s my chair after all and no desert, see?”
Bobble handed the hamster to Elfrida and sat down on his armchair after checking that there were no more rodents hidden. When he took up his newspaper, he discovered that half of the paper had been carried away by the hamsters as nesting material. He then saw a hamster climbing around the telly and thought: Enough is enough. He took a heavy sofa cushion and threw it at the hamster. Unfortunately he hit the telly which crashed down. The hamster could escape and took shelter behind the flowers on the window sill. A second cushion handled the flowers, a third cushion crushed the old wall clock.
“Daddy, don’t you see that violence is no solution?”
Panting heavily, Bobble was standing in the middle of the living room. The hamster ran for his life and disappeared into the corridor. With the remote of the damaged telly Bobble ran after him. Followed a loud crash, and the clanking of glass announced that he had hit something. Indeed, when Elfrida stepped into the corridor, she saw the big mirror lay shattered on the ground. It had been a present of Aunt Odilia.
“I always hated that daft mirror”, Bobble grumbled.
He went into the kitchen to fetch broom and dustpan. Spent, he sat down on a kitchen chair but jumped up at once when beneath him there was a loud squeak.
“That’s enough, you little rotten rat…”
“Hamster, Daddy, it’s a hamster”, Elfrida corrected her furious father.
“No matter, I’ll go at him!”
Bobble approached the frightened hamster, glaring at him. The little rodent was sitting on his hind legs, forelegs bent, his whiskers trembled, he looked at Bobble mournfully. Bobble put aside the dustpan and took up the little chap.
“Don’t you be afraid, I won’t harm you.”
“I think he likes you, Daddy.”
“Such a little darling.” Suddenly Bobble was quite fascinated of the hamster. Elfrida knew that now was the time.
“Daddy, we don’t know what to do with him and his little friends during winter time. They will freeze outdoors and we don’t have enough room for them.”
Her father looked first at the hamster and then at Elfrida. He thought this over and said in a firm voice:
“I’ll take them home to the deserts of South America.”
“Syria, close to Aleppo”, Jenny corrected him.
“Aleppo. Their Latin name by the way is mesocricetus auratus. Auratus means golden.”
“Whatsoever”, Bobble grumbled. “I think I’ve got an idea.”
Bobble walked to the telephone and after shooing away a few hamsters he could lift the receiver and dial a number.
“Hello Fred, how are you? We’ve just been with old Poobird. Pity that her cat did not feel well so luckily we could not stay that long. What about your plane, still flying? As it is, I’m facing some trouble.”
As fast as possible, Elfrida raced up the stairs to her room. She had to watch not to kick one of the many hamsters. Storming into her room, she overlooked one of them and kicked him away. Squeaking loudly, the protesting little fur-bundle sailed through the air and landed right in the doll house.
The pet shook and looked about him curiously. The children sighed with relief when they saw that he was not injured. Now however he started to gnaw at the carpet in the doll house. Elfrida snatched him, put him down to the others and said:
“I think my Daddy found a way out.” They all looked at her, thrilled. “He’s just phoning with his friend Fred. The one with the plane, you know.”
“You mean”, Rosy interrupted, “we all should fly far away?”
“Not we, Rosy, the hamsters of course!” Berta gave her a look of reproach.
“Dearest Berta”, Rosy replied, “do you think hamsters can steer a plane?”
“Of course not, every pig knows that.”
“You see, so we have to fly, too. I’m looking forward to take the stick once more.”
“You? At the stick? Poor hamsters!”
Berta made a face.
“Stick indeed, and if you are afraid, you may stay behind!”
“Dearest Rosy, I am not afraid but I’m not tired of life.”
“Indeed, dearest Berta? Shall I tell you how well I can fly? You only wail because you are airsick.”
“If you, my dear Rosy, already at take-off stuff your belly with chocolate, one has to be sick.”
“If I fly…”
The girls interrupted their bicker because Bobble came in. Cautiously he placed his feet not to trample on one of the little inmates. They all saw that his trunk looked quite red and infected. About time that something happened because the trunk itching became worse and worse. Cautiously Bobble snorted into his hanky. This time no hamster panicked.
“All right, Fred will be waiting for us tomorrow morning. We’ll start from a small, closed airfield at the forest edge, there are no customs to make trouble because of the hamsters, or so Fred said.”
“Please, what have the customs to do with our pets?”
“You see, Berta”, Bobble explained, “the customs take care that no animals are imported or exported. Sicknesses might be transported. Mostly they first have to go into quarantine.”
“What should we do in Quaran… What’s its name? We want to go to Aleppo!” Rosy protested.
“There you see that you have no idea, my dear Rosy”, Betra promptly said. “A quarantine is a rectangle.”
Bobbles eyes widened.
“Why rectangle?” he wondered.
“Er, or was that a quadrant…” Berta was not that sure after all.
“Quarantine means that the animals are locked into a special cage. A vet has to state if they are healthy. That might take weeks and we don’t have the time.”
Rosy snorted, Elfrida clapped her hands. She hardly could wait for the start and said:
“Any more smart questions? If not, we should start to pack our things. The hamsters have to go into big cases but don’t forget the air holes. Don’t make them too big or our little friends scramble out to gnaw at the plain.”
“Or worse still: They gnaw at some cables”, Bernie added.
Now the preparations started. Daisy and Susy ran home to fetch more cases. Elfrida had already taken some from the cellar and they began to catch the hamsters. It was quite a job the get the little runaways. When Mary had found the last hamster, it was already dark. Now everything was ready for the next day. Exhausted, Elfrida went to bed after her friends had left. She was a little sad thinking that all those dear little hamsters were carried away now. Of course she knew that it was better to take the hamsters to their homeland. But the things one wished for and the things which were right are mostly something different. With a sigh she took Dolly the doll into her arms and turned to the side.
After a wakeful night Elfrida woke up, feeling whacked. It had been noisy indeed because the whole body of hamsters had wanted their nightly wanderings. All night the pets had scratched at the box and tried to get out. Her first glance was at the hamster-cases. They were gone! Elfrida jumped up and started to race out of her room when she collided with her Daddy.
“Oh, good morning, Miss”, Bobble said. “Looking for the hamster-gang? They are all sitting in the car already. I’ve been packing for the last two hours.”
“Swell, Daddy”, Elfried retorted. “I’ll just take some breakfast and we can be off.”
She ran down the stairs to the kitchen and took nothing but a tiny bit of toast. If you are excited, you cannot eat much.
Then she took a decision, ran back into her room, took her darling doll and said:
“You stay here. Within the past days I more than once rescued you from becoming nesting material for the hamsters.”
“Elfrida, where are you?” Bobble was impatient.
“I’m here!” Elfrida shouted, ran down the stairs and boarded the car.
Arriving at the airfield, the others were already waiting for them. They all were very excited, only the hamsters did not mind. They slept as deeply as could be expected of nocturnals by day. Fred owned a single-engine sports plane which once a year he took out for a longer trip. Fred all the time stressed how important it was for a pilot to keep in practice. So he liked to take this flight.
Now the cases with the hamsters were stowed in the rear of the vessel, then the children could board. Bernie who would have liked to sit in the front, was pushed aside by Rosy and Rosy took her seat beside Fred. Bernie wanted to protest but Rosy winked at him so that he understood: Rosy just insisted on the front seat. Now everyone settled down as comfortable as possible. Bobble for instance was lying between the cases and took a nap.
Take-off was without trouble and after a few minutes they had reached their flight height as Fred stated. They all looked down thrilled. Except Berta who peered at the floor. When the plane dropped for a moment, they all shrieked but were soon back to normal. An air pocket, or so Fred explained.
“O my, how did we get caught in there?” Berta asked, terrified.
Rosy snorted with amusement and said: “My dear Berta, you really do put the world’s silliest question.”
“Only because for an exception there is something I do not know, dear Rosy, you need not throw your weight around. Do you know what an air pocket is?”
“Sure, a pocket in the air.”
“I see, dear Rosy, and how does it get there?”
“Er, perhaps some thieving magpie lost it...”
“And please how can anything not visible have a pocket?”
Rosy thought desperately but had no idea. In the end Bernie got her out of the jam:
“If I remember correctly, an air pocket is a current or better a swirl. That makes the plane sag a bit.”
Fred grinned and said: “Not so bad, Bernie. But now prepare for touch-down. Rosy, please stop eating. Berta, you need not clutch the seat so. In case we crash, that won’t help you much.”
Berta grew paler than she was anyway and Rosy began to put away the remains of her food. In the distance a huge, light brown desert landscape could be seen. The plane descended and a narrow road came into sight.
“That’s our landing strip”, Fred explained. “We are about two kilometres off Aleppo.”
“Landing strip?” Berta snorted with disgust. “That’s nothing but a country road. It’s not even asphalted. Is there nothing better for us?”
“Not if we are smuggling animals into the country, Berta.”
“Now, my dear Mr. Fred, I won’t have anything to do with smuggling. Moreover I want some regular airport.”
“That’s what I like”, Rosy interfered. “All the flight she’s sick but always well enough for nagging.”
“Will you stop quarrelling? The pilot has to concentrate on the landing.”
Elfrida shook her head over those two pigs.
Slowly the plane’s nose came down and they all held to their seats. In the vessel’s rear, in the cargo area, the shifting of cases could be heard. Bobble lamented over something and a jolt went through the plane. Now the flight was finished and the vessel rumbled down the landing strip. It was so loud that talking became impossible.
“Hold on!” Fred yelled and with another jolt the plane came to a standstill.
When they alighted, they saw that they had landed right in sandbank. The plane was stuck.
“We once have been on Rømø”, Elfrida reported. “My father got stuck in the sand with his car as well.
“My Mummy once landed in a ditch. The car had to be hauled out with a crane”, Susy said.
“Our car at that time was to be towed out”, Elfrida continued, “but my Daddy said he would do it himself. Anyway, when after a time it became dark...”
“All right, all right”, Bobble interrupted. “We’ll get the plane going somehow. Just let us free the poor hamsters. They’ll certainly need fresh air.”
Hastily the cases with the hamsters were carried out of the cargo zone and opened but nothing moved inside. Elfrida tilted over the first case and the hamsters came tumbling out. The little pets blinked a little and sniffed at bit. Then they fell asleep again.
”Well”, Jenny sighed, “they really are no day animals. They’ll only wake up when it gets dark.”
In the meantime Fred and Bobble were busy shovelling the plane free but they proceeded slowly. The children used the time to take care of the sleeping hamsters. With the cases they built a small town, then streets and gardens were laid out. When they had finished, the little pets were taken into the houses, and the hamsters seemed to feel quite at home. That is, after a short inspection they fell asleep again. All the time Fred and Bobble had not succeeded to free the plane. By now the sun was in noon and the heat unbearable. They decided to take a siesta in the shade of the plane. There was enough water and they also had food. Only Rosy made a face when taking out her beloved chocolate. The desert heat had made a brown mash of it. No one commented this, it was too hot for talking. It was even too hot for sleeping so that they only dozed a little. After some time Bernie pointed at the new hamster town and said:
“Look at, Hamsterton is waking up!”
Indeed, the hamsters had started moving. Slowly the sun was approaching the horizon, by and by it cooled down.
“All right”, said Bobble. “Let’s go on with the plane. You all come here to give a hand!”
Together they tried to push and pull the heavy plane. By try as they did, the vessel did not move.
“It’s to no avail”, Daisy lamented. “If we had one or two people more, it would work!”
“But where will we find them?” Susy wondered. “Aren’t there camels in the desert or something like that?”
Fred scratched his head.
“Some Beduins will come along here, I’m sure, but I’ve no idea if they’re friendly to us. Better no one knows that we came in without permission. The sooner we’re back in the air, the better.”
While the children took a rest, wondering how to go on, Elfrida looked over to the hamster village. The pets were clearly content and now and then glimpsed at the children like wishing to thank them. Elfrida had an idea:
“Yea, that’s it! The hamsters will help us!”
“Too much sun on your head or what?” Mary did not understand what her friend was talking about.
“It’ll work, Mary, and I have a plan...” They all sat down beside Elfrida and listened. “We’ve got hundreds of hamsters, so we have to solve the problem of harnessing them to the plane. To make a bridle for each of them would first take too long and second we don’t have the material. So we’ll trick them and I’m sure our pets will like it. Fruits and veggies are rare in the desert and much desired by the locals. Luckily we’ve taken along enough. In the cargo area I’ve seen lots of ribbons. We’ll fasten apples and carrots to them and fasten those ribbons to the plane. What are the odds that the hamsters come running to carry away the yummy stuff? If they do so, they drag at the ribbons fastened to the plane. If so, we’ll push and pull along and try once more to get the plane going.”
“Well, my Goldi is very strong”, Mary said. “He’ll pull the plane out of the sand all alone.”
Susy laughed and said: “What are the odds that my Flecki is faster?”
They all laughed and Fred walked to the cargo area to fetch all the things necessary.
In the meantime Bernie came with fruits and veggies. Now the ribbons – they numbered 62 – were fastened at the chassis of the plane. At the end of the 62 ribbons apple wedges or yummy carrots were fastened. The hamsters had noticed that something was going on. It looked just cute, hundreds of hamsters sitting on their hind legs and watching. Hamsters are not over-clever but their smelling sense is very sensitive. One after the other soon came to take a look. When the little rodents discovered the dainties, they fell on them, trying to carry them off.
“Ready to push!” Elfrida shouted and now the children pushed at the rear and the hamsters pulled at the front.
“It works!” Bobble cheered. “It’s moving!”
The heavy vessel step by step was drawn out of the sand. The hamsters pulled with all their strength and soon it was done. The plane was back on solid ground.
“I can’t go on!” Rosy fell down on the sand, panting.
Berta, Susy, and Mary lay down beside her. They all were completely exhausted but suddenly Bernie shouted:
“Hey, they’re still pulling. Quick, or the plane is back in the sand!”
Open-mouthed, the children watched how the hamsters in their struggle for apples and carrots did not give up but pulled and pulled at the plane.
“Jenny, your knife!” Elfrida shouted and ran after the hamsters.
Jenny understood at once and ran as well. When they reached the hamsters, Jenny cut the ribbons as fast as possible while Elfrida shooed back the hamsters. Luckily the ribbons were not thick and Jenny was very quick with her pocket knife. Shortly the plane stopped, just a step from the next sand drift.
“Pooh, what a near thing”, Elfrida gasped, wiping her sweat.
Her friends were standing in a distance, cheerfully clapping their hands so that the hamsters ran away in panic.
“Well, well”, Jenny smirked, “the little pets don’t like loud noise.”
Now it was farewell. Once again the children walked to the little hamster town to distribute their last supplies. Nobody felt well when for the last time they fondled Dodo, Scrubby, Goldi, Flecki and all the others. However, they were much comforted to see how much at home the hamsters felt at their new home.
“Now they no longer need to be afraid that someone sits down on them”, Bobble grumbled and they all laughed.
By now Fred and his plane were ready for take-off but something happened which was close to disaster: Fred yelled and fell to the ground. Bobble was first with him and when Elfrida came, she heard her father say:
“O my, I don’t like that.”
“What’s wrong, Daddy?”
“He was bitten by a snake, we have to take him to hospital at once!”
“But where? We don’t know anything here!”
“He must go to the hospital, we’ve got to fly him there, no matter how.” Bobble looked about him, asking: “Did any of you fly any time?”
They all looked at Rosy.
“Yes, I did”, she answered. “So may I?”
“You’ve got to take him to hospital, he was bitten by a snake”, Elfrida explained.
With all haste they scrambled into the vessel. Fred was carefully laid down in the cargo area, while Rosy tried to get familiar with the instruments.
“Fasten seat belts”, she said. “Might get bumpy.”
“You bet”, Berta mumbled.
“Did you say something, dear Berta?”
“O no, dear Rosy, it’s just... I don’t like to fly.”
“Perhaps it’s the last time, ha ha ha ha!” Rosy cackled while Berta paled all the more.
The motors began to drone. Louder and louder became the noise until the plane slowly started to roll. Rosy was in her element.
“Aha – that’s what the switch is for!”
Berta crouched in her seat.
“This should be the control for starting and landing flaps.”
When Rosy switched it, the lamps went on.
“Oh, all right, it isn’t, it will be this one.”
Berta closed her eyes, when Rosy worked at the control.
“Gosh, that was the wiper!”
“Rosy, please! We approach a high sand dune. We’ve got to take off!”
“Ay ay, Daisy, I’m doing my very best.”
Rosy tried the next control and really the vessel took off. Swerving, they passed the high dune and slowly gained height and speed.
“Not that bad”, Rosy croaked. “Let’s see if I find the autopilot. So, the altimeter is for height control. Fuel indicator is okay. Aha, this will be the autopilot!”
She pressed a button and with the children shrieking, the plane shot straight upwards, higher and higher, up to the clouds.
“Well, well, not all things can work”, she grumbled. “It was the height control after all. Aha, that will be it!”
Berta was crouched in her seat and praying.
Rosy pressed another button, the plane’s nose came down a bit and the flight became smooth. The thundering motors became less noisy and for the first time Berta’s whimpering could be heard clearly.
“Now don’t you fuss”, Rosy scolded. “Flying is less dangerous than car driving.”
“Not if you are at the stick”, howled Berta.
“Okay, if you think so. I’ll stop doing anything!”
Rosy folded her arms. The plane dropped its nose and went straight down.
“No, please, please, take the helm, you are a good pilot!”
“Good? Just good?”
“The best, the best of all!” shrieked Berta.
“Thank you for the honest praise, dearest Berta. It just had to be said once.”
Whistling happily, Rosy steered the vessel towards home while her friends were sitting in their seats, quiet as mice, waiting for the touch-down to come.
“O dear”, Rosy suddenly said, “I think I’ve got to report at the tower.” She pressed a control at the microphone and shouted: “Rosy for tower, Rosy for tower!”
There was a lot of atmospheric noise as an answer. She turned a control and repeated her message. Now at last there was a reply from air control.
“Can hear you. Tower here. Flight Rosy, identify!”
“Well, not really. What business is that of yours?” Rosy nagged into the mike.
“Repeating: Flight Rosy, identify, please!”
“Repeating: Not really, it’s Mr. Fred’s plane, no rental fly!
Rosy got rather peeved. Before the tower could answer, Berta groaned:
“They ask you to identify, that is, tell them who you are.”
“Please name destination and reason of your flight”, the tower came in again.
Rosy cleared her throat.
“Well, the reason were the hamsters and the destination their new home.”
Berta rolled her eyes, while air control did not give up.
“Where do you come from, where do you go to, Flight Rosy.”
Rosy pointed backwards, saying:
“We’re coming from there and want to take the other direction, that is there.”
“Flight Rosy, please state your height and coordinates.”
“Well”, Rosy said, “I’m 3 feet 11 inches and the other thing I haven’t taken along.”
“Roger, Flight Rosy. Are you and experienced pilot?”
“No, dear Roger, I’m at pre-school.”
For quite some time there was nothing from the loudspeaker until air control came in again.
“Flight Rosy, if I get you correctly, that is an emergency?”
“Why, yes, Mr. Fred had been bitten by a snake and now I’ve got to fly.”
“Snake? You have snakes on board?”
Rosy looked at Berta and replied with a grin:
“In a fashion...”
By now the airport was in sight and it could be clearly made out that all over the place red cars were waiting.
“I think they prepare for a crash landing”, Bernie shouted. “And now they make a foam carpet!”
“Funny”, Rosy said. “Did something happen there?”
“Tower for Flight Rosy”, came the voice once more. “Put your landing flap on 30° and reduce propulsion.”
“How in the world am I to reduce a propeller?” Rosy asked, leaning heavily on the stick.
The plane dropped at once.
“Pull up, Flight Rosy, go to 45° with the landing flaps and lower the gear.”
Rosy scratched her head, trying several controls. Now the place side-slipped left and while the loudspeaker roared about pulling up – starboard, the plane approached the ground.
Elfrida sitting at the left window, could see how the fire fighters jumped out of their car.
“Hold fast!” she yelled. “We’re landing!”
There was a short, loud bang but they saw that they still were in the air.
“The fire engine lost its roof”, Bernie stated, looking backwards. “It’s a cabriolet now.”
“Flight Rosy, where are you going?”
“To the hospital”, Rosy replied.
“If you go on like that, you’ll be there soon”, the control said. “Switch off the motor!”
Rosy looked for the off-switch. The big black one looked nice but she somehow got caught in the stick. The plane darted right, directly towards the tower.
“Flight Rosy, peel off, peel off!”
The very last moment the vessel shot past the tower and there was quite some clatter.
“They’ve lost their windows”, Bernie grinned.
“Flight Rosy, Flight Rosy, motor control is rightmost on the panel!”
While the plane turned into a curve, Rosy flipped the switch. Immediately the motors died down until nothing but some low bubble could be heard.
“Well, how was that?”
“Rosy, take care, you’re flying at some building!”
Elfrida pointed ahead where a huge glass dome was emerging. Rosy tried to pull up the plane, but too late. The vessel crashed into the glass dome, glass splintered, pillars collapsed, there was banging and screeching. When the plane no longer moved, Bernie risked a glance.
“I think we touched down in the airport restaurant”, he stated.
Rosy let down the side window and shouted:
“You won’t believe it, a cream cake it sticking to my window! Yummy!”
As to Fred, he soon was better. The airport doctor stated that the snake-bite had not been dangerous. However, the press cheered on the hamster story and wished to publish the adventure. In return they paid for the damages at the airport. Only Berta thought it a pity that Rosy was not sent to jail for a few days.
Elfrida cleared her throat and breathed deeply. Telling such a long story was quite exhausting.
“Well, that was the whole story, now let us think what sort of pet we’ll take this time.”
“What about a raven or crow?”
“Not really, Jenny”, Daisy said, “it’ll take much too long to teach them speaking.”
“Perhaps Professor Hasty can build a roboter for us?” Bernie hopefully proposed.
“Pity, he’s on holiday”, Susy replied. “He cannot help us.”
Rosy had been quiet but now she cried:
“What about a talking parrot?”
That was it! The children decided: A parrot it was to be.
“A parrot? Do you know how much such an animal will cost?” Mr. Bumps, the pet shop owner in the small town of Aubachtal, looked at the children inquiringly.
“Well, we thought, them flying about in the jungle, there’ll be enough of them”, Rosy stammered,
“Well, we thought about twenty Marks, that’s what we’ve got left”, Elfrida added. “What about instalments?”
Mr. Bumps shook his head.
“This parrot comes from South America, the Amazon delta, to be exact.”
“Wow”, Rosy marvelled, “that’s where pyjamas come from.”
“Yea, and the CC-Flyers!”
“CC-Flyers? Pyjamas? I’m afraid I cannot follow you, Rosy.”
“What she means is piranhas and tsetse flies”, Jenny explained.
“She just will mix up everything, typical!”
“O yes, dear Berta, but you do know everything, don’t you?”
“Just so, dear Rosy. I know for instance that the Pyrenees are living there!”
“The Pyrenees?” Mr. Bumps scratched his head.
“Or do I mean the Pyramids?”
“You certainly mean the Pygmies”, Mr. Bumps said, enlightened. “The Pyrenees are a mountain chain...”
“... and the Pyramids pointed houses for mummies in Egypt”, Elfrida grinned. “But how much is this parrot now?”
“You’ve got to spend 200 Marks. These animals are really expensive.”
“Hum, so may we take a look around?”
“Of course you may, Elfrida, but remember: no hamsters. Last time I had quite a time with your parents.”
The children now looked around thoroughly in Mr. Bumps’ pet shop. Again and again they glimpsed at the cute little hamsters. Then however the cage with the budgies took their attention. 10 birds were in the cage, 4 blue and 6 green ones. Most of them had their heads under their wings and slept. Now and then a head came up to squint at the children. One of the budgies – green – was especially cheeky. Again and again he teased those who wanted to sleep. Merrily he hopped about in the cage and whistled. Beside the cage with the budgies another cage of the same size with one crow was placed.
“Gosh, but she looks moody”, Daisy said.
“Merry budgie seems to shirt her”, Susy assumed.
Like confirming her words, the crow croaked a threat at the budgie. But he was not impressed and croaked back. By now the crow was furious and tried to bite through the bars. The budgie began to cackle like making fun of the big black bird. The crow grew more annoyed and worked at the bars.
“She’ll never crack them”, Bernie said. “Such a silly bird.”
The green budgie seemed to be delighted over the big crow’s annoyance. Now something curious happened: the budgie hopped up and down the cage and jumped against the small cage door.
“Why, what’s the big idea of that?” Mary wondered.
“I think he wants to show the big, stupid bird how to open a door”, Jenny guessed. “Watch his run-up!”
Again and again the little bird jumped at the bars and really: the fourth time it sprang open. At once he set out for the crow-cage, sat down on the bars and looked at the black bird mockingly. Now the crow tried to bite the budgie but only bumped against the bars. After a few trials she was lying on the cage floor exhaustedly.
“Look at, the crow’s tail sticks out.” Berta craned her neck to get a better view.
“Budgie noticed.” Bernie could not suppress a laugh. “I’m sure I know what’s going to happen.”
Bernie guessed right. The little green budgie quickly jumped down from the crow’s cage and bit the crow’s tail. He pulled full power, the crow protested and yelled but to no avail. Now the big bird began to flap its wings, the cage swayed and in the end toppled over.
“O my, the cage door springs open!”
Elfrida and her friends saw with horror how the big black bird dashed out of its cage. Full of revenge she went for the little budgie. While the other budgies had hidden in a corner of their cage, frightened, the little green one remained sitting comfortably while the crow came closer and closer.
“We’ve got to do something”, Berta cried. “She’ll knock the little one out!”
However, it was too late, the crow croaked joyfully. She had almost reached her target when all of a sudden the budgie hopped aside and the crow crashed into the hamster cage which toppled over and the hamsters tumbled out. Blinking, the tired nocturnals noticed that something had happened. Seeing the big, black crow they fled, but the crow only wanted her budgie-revenge. He by now was sitting on a tiny island in the turtle-pool and whistled a tune.
“He seems to know no fear”, Elfrida respectfully said.
Jenny nodded. “I’m sure he’s got a plan again.”
He had indeed. The crow had discovered her enemy in the turtle pool and set out towards it with a croak. Once more she had almost reached him when suddenly the little budgie had vanished.
“He dived into the water”, whispered Jenny.
The information came too late for the crow. She crashed right into the turtles. In general, these slow animals are most good-natured. However, if matters go too far, they do bite and the big, black bird rather felt it. The crow croaked with shock when she suddenly was bitten and plucked from all sides. Leaving behind several feathers in the turtle pool, she fled into her cage the last of her strength and hid in the farthest corner.
“Game, set, and match to budgie!” Rosy cheered.
“Why game and set?” Berta did not understand.
“That’s said at tennis, don’t you know, dear Berta?”
“I’ve never been at Tennis, where is it?”
“Well, not in the Pyrenees. It’s a ball game, see?”
Berta blushed and turned back to the animals. By now the hamsters had discovered some salad in the pool and approached it. Threatening, the turtles craned their necks to defend their food but the hamsters were too nimble. Each of them snatched a piece of salad and ran back to the safe cage.
Only now the friends noticed that Mr. Bumps was beside them. He was rather white in the face and shook his head.
“I can’t go on. Over and over again that little green devil messes up everything.”
“So why don’t you sell him?” Daisy asked, surprised.
“I did – several times. They always bring him back to change him. He is much too smart and full of mischief. You saw what he did to the crow. Last week he screwed up a sheepdog until he hid in the cellar and did not come out for the rest of the week.”
Bernie stepped up to the man.
“We saw that the crow started it. The budgie only defended himself.”
“Indeed”, Elfrida nodded. “It was self-defence. Will not have been different with the sheepdog.”
“You only have to know how to treat an animal and it is docile.”
“Jenny is right”, Daisy now butt in. “I’m sure he would be fine with us.”
The pet shop owner felt suddenly uneasy.
“B-but he bit my finger yesterday…”
“…and you, what did you to him yesterday?”
“Animals feel it if one means them well!” Berta shouted.
The budgie seemed to notice that this was about him and chirped loudly.
“H-how about you taking the pet? A bag of birdseed will go with it, free of course.”
“What?” Berta was foaming. “You just want to give away the poor darling?”
Elfrida quickly pulled Berta aside.
“All right, Mr. Bumps, we’ll take the pet. You put the food on it and we need not pay anything. Okay?”
Mr. Bumps fetched a box and approached the cage. Curiously they all watched how the little green budgie would behave now. He remained quietly on his bar while all his colleagues in the cage fluttered and tried to hide. Mr. Bumps had no trouble to catch the bird and put it into the box. It seemed the budgie was looking forward to new adventures. Mr. Bumps still looked quite white when he handed the box to the children.
“Free articles cannot be exchanged.”
“Did I get that right?” Berta foamed. “He talks about articles. He calls a peaceful little pet an article! Do you have any idea how much you hurt such an innocent little…”
“Come now, Berta, and stop jabbering!”
Elfrida and Jenny dragged her through the door.
Whistling happily, the children set out home. It did not take long until whistling also came out of the box. They all laughed and Bernie said:
“Well, such a speaking bird you’ll meet seldom.”
“You mean whistling”, Berta objected. “Everybody can whistle. Wait if he also speaks.”
“Nagging all day. Just wait and see!”
“Well, dear Rosy, I just gave my opinion.”
“Indeed, dearest Berta, but no one asked you for one.”
The two pigs just wanted to start their next quarrel when there was a voice from the box:
“Dear – dearest – Rosy – Berta – Rosy – Berta – dearest!”
Rosy and Berta gawked at the box open-mouthed and found no words.
“That’s really a right hook!” Elfrida laughed.
“Rosy – hook!” came a voice out of the box.
Rosy glared at the box lowering: “Do you want trouble? Don’t you say again that Rosy is a hook.”
“Trouble – Rosy!”
“No, don’t trouble Rosy. Say: Rosy is a darling!”
“Let me do it”, Berta interrupted. “You do it all wrong.” She came close to the box and said: “Hello, birdie. I am Berta, so listen to me and don’t foul up: Berta is a darling!”
“Hello-Berta-is-foul. Hello-Berta-is-foul. Hello-Berta-is…”
The children laughed so loud that the budgie was scared to silence. By now they had reached the house of Elfrida’s parents. They stormed past the baffled Bobble into Elfrida’s room. She closed the door behind them.
“So that he does not escape”, she explained and cautiously opened the box.
The little green budgie hopped out immediately, flew to Elfrida’s bed and looked about him. The room looked like it usually did. All over the bed were strewn dolls and parts, the floor was littered with toys and the window sills with books.
“You think it’s that bad, my little chap?” Elfrida asked. “Shall I clear up only because there are visitors?”
“That’s it”, Elfrida laughed. “Clearing up is foul. I think, we’ll rub along.”
Now they all sat down on the floor and discussed what was to be done next. Berta proposed that the bird should get lessons now. Daisy remembered that her brother had an old bird cage – the budgie was to get it. Bernie thought it was important that first of all the bird got a name. Jenny took over.
“All right, he’s got a cage, Daisy will fetch it. When he’s in the cage, he’ll get lessons. But first of all he has to get a name. What about Johnny?”
Berta shook all over and proposed Robert but Rosy and Susy did not like that. Mary proposed Henry, Bernie liked Greeny best, Rosy had no idea at all, Daisy thought Bobo fitting, and Elfrida threw up her hands in despair.
“No, that’s all not good”, she groaned and looked at the budgie. “What do you say, bird?”
“You see, that is foul, you hear? The bird does not like it either.”
Suddenly the budgie flattered excitedly.
A moment later the door opened and Bobble came in.
“Ah, an Australian guest this time. Hello, Mr. Bird!” Bobble grinned at the bird.
“He is very clever, Daddy!”
Elfrida nodded, the bird tilted his head and looked at Bobble.
“Hear, hear”, Bobble said. “So you’re a true Einstein? Or some Doctor?”
“Doctor-Einstein-Doctor-Einstein”, the bird chirped.
Bobble retreated two steps but Elfrida jumped up and walked up to the pet.
“Dr. Einstein? Is that to be your name?”
Elfrida looked at her friends and then beamed at Bobble.
“Thanks, Daddy, you found a name for him.”
Bobble did not understand a word. He looked at the bird, scratched his head and made to leave. Unfortunately the door post was in the way and there was a loud bang. Groaning, Bobbly held his aching trunk.
Bobble glared at the budgie.
“Yes, he really is clever”, he said and passed through the door, this time with some distance from the door post.
“What is it?”
“May I keep Dr. Einstein?”
“O Daddy, just for one week.”
“Only if you clear up your room every day and feed the animal and clean his cage.”
Elfrida gave a loud sigh.
“And he has no business in the living room, first of all not in my armchair!”
When the children were alone again, Daisy proposed to fetch the cage. Elfrida agreed and started to clear up her room. They all helped her and were ready when a few minutes later Daisy returned with the cage. Berta scrubbed the cage, Elfrida fetched some sand from the sand case in the garden and the time had come: Dr. Einstein moved into his new home.
“I’d say so, I scrubbed every corner!”
Berta blushed as she had not been praised that way for a long time. The others laughed merrily. Now they decided to start language training at once. Alternately each of them was to chat with the budgie. When dusk fell, the friends said good night and Elfrida fetched her cassette player with all cassettes she could find.
“Okay, Dr. Einstein, now I’ll play all to you you should know. We’ll start with the witch stories. This is the first story, the witch is named Bibi and is a good witch.”
“Bibi-good. Dr. Einstein-see!”
Elfrida scrutinized the bird. He seemed to repeat all words he had once before heard. The more words he could learn, the better they could correspond.
So the first day ended. Nothing thrilling happened the next day except language lessons. Then however the time had come: Dr. Einstein was to learn why the children needed him so urgently.
Head askance, the pet listened to Daisy’s story about the Magic Forest, their unsuccessful camping, and the nasty crow, the witch’s spy. Daisy told about the Pond Fairy, Alberich the King of Dwarfs and the many adventures they had survived. When she had told her story, Dr. Einstein ruffled his feathers.
“See-it, will-help!” He hopped into the cage, ate some grain and flew through the window. “Bye!”
“Take care, brave bird!” Elfried called out, then they had to wait.
The children waited for hours. Again and again they looked to the window but no birds except some sparrows could be seen. They grew more and more impatient and Rosy began to gnaw her fingernails.
“How often must I tell you that you silly nail nibbling shirts me?”
“I can’t help it, Berta, I’m so-o-o-o nervous!”
“How about playing something?” Mary proposed but nobody wanted to.
Again and again they looked at the clock and Jenny stated that by now Dr. Einstein had been gone for six hours.
“Perhaps the crow got him”, Bernie wondered, “or he’s swimming in the witch’s soup now.”
“Nuts! He’ll come back. He’s too clever for the crow and knows everything about witches.”
Elfrida looked at Bernie angrily.
“Dr. Einstein! You are back!”
Overjoyed, the children saw the budgie flying in through the window. First of all he made for his cage, drank some water and ate some grains. When he had his fill, he hopped out, sat down in the middle of the room and started talking. Spellbound, they listened how he managed the crow. He had lured the silly bird to the bus stop. When the bus came, Dr. Einstein had flown in and of course the crow had followed him. Just before the bus started and the doors were closed, Dr. Einstein had flitted out.
Afterwards he had flown the witch house undisturbed. There he hid between the witch herbs on the windowsill and listened. The witch had invited some witch-girlfriends to conjure herself together with the Magic Forest onto the Witch Mountain.
“I see”, Jenny murmured. “Only together they can conjure away the whole forest.”
“We’ve got to stop that!” Elfrida glared at her friends. “Let’s make a plan to cross this witch-plan.”
The children put their heads together and discussed what to do. Bernie was certain that the effect on everything would be evil if the whole Magic Forest would disappear.
“A giant hole would remain, the remaining mountains and our town would perhaps slide into that hole.”
“Not to talk about the animals”, Jenny added. “They would not survive it.”
“With violence”, Elfrida said, “we can do nothing against the witch-gang, we’ve got to be smart.”
“Trick-witch!” Dr. Einstein croaked.
“We know that, Smarty. Rather tell how to do it.”
“You’re beside yourself!” Berta glared at the bird with a shocked face.
“You’re right cuckoo, budgie!”
“Dr. Einstein is right!” They all goggled at Bernie. “If the witches can’t digest the Magic Forest, it’s nothing worth for them. If it’s nothing worth for them, they will not want to have it. We’ve got to do something with the forest.”
“Garlic!” Elfrida jumped up, facing Bernie. “We have to plant garlic into the wood, lots of garlic!”
Bernie nodded with delight.
“That might work.”
Mr. Greenpeace was the manager of the shop named “Garden and Flowers”. He was just leisurely unpacking a delivery of lilies of the valley. This was to his taste because there was not much business and he had a lot of time for his plants. He loved such quiet and leisure. However, suddenly peace came to an end in his shop when the door banged open and a horde of children stormed in, accompanied by some croaking budgie. Protectively Mr. Greenpeace shielded his plants and glared at the invaders wide-eyed.
“Do you have garlic?”
Mr. Greenpeace ogled at the little boy who had put the question.
“What? Hum? Garlic?”
“He said so clearly”, Berta interfered. “Or don’t you know what it is?”
“Yes, hum, yes, of course I know garlic.”
“Right, so give us all you have.”
“Said so, didn’t I?”
“Hum, yes, but I don’t know if I’ve got that much…”
“You don’t know if you’ve got all you’ve got?” Berta by now got angry.
“Well, if I’ve got that much”, Mr. Greenpeace tried to talk his way out.
“Why, that much? Did we say how much we want?”
“You see. So how can you say that you don’t know if you’ve…”
“Berta, that’s enough.” Elfrida faced the manager who now slowly retreated. She looked at the anxious man and politely said: “We need as much garlic as possible, that’s all.”
“Really? I think I’ve got five cases with bulbs.”
Mr. Greenpeace gave such a start that he almost felt among the tulip bulbs had Elfrida not held him. He then clung to a shelf, glared at budgie and started retreating to his storing room. On his way he did not regard some shrubs. He stumbled and crashed into a vegetable patch. Groaning, he got up and disappeared through a door to fetch the garlic.
“My, but he’s fidgety”, Rosy said. “We don’t harm him after all!”
Soon Mr. Greepeace returned with several cases and then 5 cases were piled up in front of the children. Mary shouted:
“With that we’ll drive off the nasty witch gang!” Mr. Greenpeace glared at her. When Mary noticed it, she added: “Or do you want to fall into a big black hole? The ground could suck everything here if…”
Screaming, the man ran through the shop, stumbled over a potato case. He tore the store room door open, banged it and from inside the key was turned. Through the closed door nothing but a faint sobbing could be heard, beside that there was silence. Daisy shook her head in bewilderment and stepped up to the door.
“Mr. Greenpeace, we have not yet paid!”
“Be gone, go away, go far, far away!”
“But you have to get money from us!”
“Piss off, I don’t want your money, take that garlic and never come back!”
Daisy turned round to her friends.
“You heard it, he makes us a present of the veggies! Come on, let’s take it to the cart.”
Luckily Bernie had thought of bringing a cart. Loading took only a few minutes and on they walked to the Magic Forest. Those who wanted to buy anything from Mr. Greenpeace today, faced a locked door and wondered. Behind the glass panel was a sign reading “Closed this week.”
After reaching the Magic Forest, the worst part of their enterprise began. It was very difficult to drag the cart along the rough forest ground. They all had to push together and hardly came forward. After pushing and pulling for some time, Rosy groaned:
“I can’t go on!”
“Indeed – already?” Berta mocked.
“She’s right”, Elfrida said. “We are far enough in the woods. Now let us dig in the garlic.”
Relieved, each took a small shovel and a hand full of garlic from the cart. Jenny and Daisy had calculated that every seventh step a bulb had to be dug in to spread them evenly over the forest.
Each of them dug a small hole, put in a bulb and covered everything with earth again. Hour after hour they worked. Towards noon only 2 of the 5 cases were empty. They all were hungry and tired. After a short break they worked on and when slowly the sun was sinking, all bulbs were buried.
“So, now we must wait and see.”
Bernie rubbed his aching hands and Elfrida retorted:
“Let’s go home to get some sleep. Tomorrow morning we’ll see how things work out.”
No one had any objection and the good spirits returned.
“I’ll stuff my belly now and take a nap”, Susy grinned.
Berta glared at her.
“Words of that kind I’d expected from Rosy...”
Except Rosy they all laughed out loud but suddenly Dr. Einstein croaked excitedly:
They fell silent at once and listened. The budgie made for a high pine tree to see better.
“All sides, Einstein? Do you mean that the witches come from all sides?”
“Are they looking for us?” Daisy wondered. “But how do they know that we are here?”
Something dawned to Jenny.
“Look about you, do you see the old fireplace over there? I think we are right on the witch-meeting point! Quickly, we have to escape or to hide!”
“There’s no hiding place”, Bernie said. “Dr. Einstein, do you see a way to get past the witches? Which way can we escape?”
Dr. Einstein turned his little head round and round.
Terrified, the children looked at each other. Was this their end? By and by the noise of the approaching witches could be heard, their ugly laugh, the breaking of branches. Fright took the friends and Daisy proposed to take the shovels and quickly dig them in the soil but Jenny shook her head.
“They’d smell us, that won’t work.”
Feverishly the children thought how to escape the approaching witches but there was no way out. The black hats of some witches came already into sight.
“I want to go home or to the North Pole for my sake...”
“That’s it, Rosy!”
Rosy ogled at Elfrida.
“North Pole? Where it was so icy when your magic bottle...”
“Right, the magic bottle, we need it now!”
“But Elfrida, the witch stole it...”
“I know, Mary, it’ll be in the witch’s house. Dr. Einstein, only you can save us now.” Elfrida liftet her hand and pointed into the direction of the witch-house. “That’s your route. Over there is a clearing, there is the house of the witch. Fly into the kitchen window and fetch the little bottle for us, brave bird!”
“Einstein-flies!” the smart budgie croaked, opened his wings and came off the pine tree.
“... if the kitchen window is open”, Elfrida added in a whisper when Dr. Einstein had already left.
Followed anxious minutes. Closer and closer the witches came but the bird was faster. The heavy little bottle in his beak, he came flying over the ground.
“Can’t-go-on!” he gasped and fell down at Elfrida’s feet.
Quick as lightning the girl picked up her magic bottle and took off the stopper. Smoke welled out of the bottle, more and more until the forest could no longer be seen. The ground seemed to rotate while the children felt like racing upwards in an elevator. This went on for some time until slowly the smoke dissolved and the ground beneath their feet became solid again.
“Where in the world are we?” Bernie wondered, squinting.
“My, it’s such light here!” Rosy lamented. “I need sun glasses!”
“That’s because a moment ago you’ve been in the dark forest”, Jenny laughed. “Your eyes have to become used to the light.”
Now they looked about them. The landscape was interesting. The sand on which they were standing was covered with a reddish powder. All around green shrubs could be seen, but their eyes were all on what was in front of them: A large red giant rock with a wide hole in the centre. None of the friends had ever seen the like. The rock was a big as the market place of Aubachtal. For minutes they were silent until Dr. Einstein started to flutter his wings and excitedly croaked:
“Go home, it is!” Berta corrected.
“Come-home, Berta-dearest, come-home!”
Berta just wanted to start one of her dreaded speeches, when Daisy shouted:
“He is right! This will be Australia.”
“But I don’t want to stand on my head!”
They all glared at Rosy.
“I beg your pardon?” Berta said.
“Well, Australia is down under on the globe, in our classroom at least. Walking from our place to Australia, you are head down when arriving! So if I want to be upside down, I’ve got to stand on my head.”
“Gosh, you’re silly”, Berta cried. “That must be wrong because you would have fallen off long before reaching Australia.”
“And, so, why, please, didn’t I, dearest Berta?”
“Erm, the reason might be, my dear Rosy, that the ground is especially sticky here. Sticky like your fingers after eating chocolate. Everything will then stick to your fingers.”
Rosy hopped up and down.
“And why, dearest Berta, can I jump? Actually I should fall into the sky.”
“As I always say, you have no idea. That’s because of the grave mutation.”
“And what is grave mutation?”
“Grave mutation, my very dear Rosy, is – erm... Well, it holds everything together!”
“Gravitation”, Bernie said with a giggle. “The word is gravitation and that’s what keeping us on the ground. For example if I spit a chewing gum to the floor...”
“Don’t you dare!” Berta hissed. “That belongs into the garbage!”
“So if I spit a chewing gum into the garbage, it falls downwards. The Earth attracts it. So it doesn’t matter if we are at the North or South Pole. Gravitation is everywhere.”
Elfrida looked over to the rock.
“As this is clear now, we should find out where the next town it. We need some food and drink. From that rock we certainly have a fine view, so let’s climb it.”
The distance was greater than it had looked at first. The sun was burning down from the sky and steps became shorter and shorter. But they could not think of resting, wanted to get out of the blazing sun as soon as possible. Hours later they had made it and lay down in the shadow of the rock. It was enormous and no one really dared to climb up. In the end Dr. Einstein was sent up. A few minutes later he returned.
Disappointed, Bernie kicked the rock wall.
“We are lost. Where shall we find the stopper?”
No one answered as Bernie was right. If only they could find the stopper, the magic bottle could take them back. Slowly the sun sank at the horizon and coloured everything in a red light. It was growing cold and Jenny started to look for timber.
“Come on, get moving, we’ve got to light a fire!”
“Why don’t we dug ourselves in the warm sand?” Berta uppishly asked.
“You may but I doubt that you are safe from wild animals there.”
Quickly Berta was up and taking her share in the search. When the sun was down, a fire was burning high and the children were sitting around it in a circle. In the distance howling could be heard so that their hair stood on ends.
“Dingos”, Bernie explained. “They go hunting here at night.”
They moved closer together but it took them long to sleep. Rosy was the first to wake because her stomach reminded her of breakfast time. The sun was up already and it was getting warm again.
“Has anyone any food? I’m close to starving.”
“It’s in the cart in the Magic Forest”, Elfrida yawned, getting up. “We have to look for something.”
“But only some bushes are here”, Rosy went on lamenting.
Now they all were awake. Two teams were made up. One walked to the right, the other to the left around the rock. One hour later the two teams met but no one had found anything to eat or drink. Spirits were low and the situation serious. Without food and drink it was only a matter of time till they were going to be the food of the dingos.”
“Say, do they also have vultures here?” Bernie pointed up to the sky.
Something big and black came towards them. Dr. Einstein fluttered excitedly and cried:
“Too fast for a vulture”, Bernie said. “Might be a plane!”
By now droning and screeching could be heard, louder and louder so that they all stuffed their fingers into the ears. They hastily hid behind a rock. Then the ground vibrated, a high fountain of sand went up to the sky and all was quiet.
Curiously the children came from behind the rock and saw a man sitting in a peculiar rocket. Again and again he banged his fist onto the plane and shouted:
“O shit, shit, shit!”
“Can’t he speak decently?” Berta reproachfully said.
“I think, they all talk like that here”, Daisy said.
The man by now had noticed that he was being watched. He alighted and limped towards the rock. On his head he had some peculiar cap and was wearing a dirty grey smock. He smiled again and pointed at the children.
“Hey kids, wha’ ye do here?”
Daisy cleared her throat.
“I think he wants to know what we are doing here.”
“Hey kids, gab ter me!”
“We should talk to him – or try it.” Daisy pointed at herself and then at her friends and said: “We are from Germany.”
“Oh, you are from Germany?” the man said in German. “Swell – great, my brother’s living there!”
Now Berta was no longer able to control herself.
“You look absolutely dirty, you should take a bath, Mister!”
“Oh, great, gabbin’ pig – er, pig speaking.” He slowly approached Berta. “Howdy?”
Furiously Berta glared at him, raising her fists.
“Don’t call me a rowdy, Mister, or I’ll show you!”
“Come on, Berta”, Daisy interfered, “he just wants to know how you are.”
“He’s really not insulting me? He called me a rowdy!”
Now they all laughed and the man in the dirty smock introduced himself.
“My name is Hurry, Professor Doctor Hurry. Just call me Profdoc!”
Elfrida looked at the Prof. Dr. and pondered.
“Say, Daisy, hurry does mean being quick, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, of course, to hurry, haste, be quick.”
“Don’t you noticed? He’s got a brother in Germany. I think I know who that is: Professor Hasty!”
“Yes, tha’s me brother. Ye know him?”
“We do indeed”, Bernie laughed. “Are you also such a tinkerer?”
“Day and night”, Prof. Dr. Hurry laughed. “I’d like to show you my lab, but first I’ve got to repair this darned machine.”
While the children were patiently waiting, Rosy searched the surroundings once more for some food – without success. When the vessel was repaired, they could board it.
“Will the machine carry us, Profdoc?” Bernie could not suppress the question.
“No idea – wait and see.”
They all squeezed into the much too small vessel. Rosy wanted to take the passenger seat but Profdoc said:
“Sorry, but if you are the pig my brother wrote about, you better stay in the rear.”
While Berta laughed out loud, Rosy poutingly scrambled to the rear of the vessel.
“We want to arrive in one, you know.”
He switched on the turbine. Bernie, sitting beside him, watched closely.
“Why did you make an emergency landing at all, Profdoc?”
“Well – I think I lost the left steering nozzle. When I assembled the machine yesterday, one screw was missing. So I fastened the nozzle with chewing gum.”
“I want to get out…”
“No, Berta, it’s too late. The machine is taking off – or isn’t…”
Profdoc guffawed over his own joke. Berta closed her eyes and held to Rosy. As it was, the vessel really gained height slowly but the ground still was terribly close. The vessel swerved beyond the desert sand but did not crash. Soon something appeared at the horizon and was growing.
“Adelaide”, Profdoc explained. “I’m living there.”
“So you’re married?” Rosy asked and Prof. Dr. Hurry laughed.
“Adelaide is a town in southern Australia, dear pig. We’ll touch down there. Hold on, that will get shaky!”
Slowly the bow of the vessel came down and they were flying towards a large meadow. There were cows and horses on the meadow. When the vessel, screeching and crunching, touched the ground, all cattle fled into a close-by stable. Grass, stones, and soil whirled through the air and by and by the machine came to a standstill.
“This is my ranch”, Profdoc explained. “You had a glimpse at my cattle. Please get off, all of you.”
The children looked at each other. They were all covered with grass and soil and looked rather dirty.
“Mr. Profdoc, I protest. When I boarded your plane, I was clean!”
“Right, Berta, where’s the problem? You’ll find water in the stable with the cattle.”
“W-with the c-cattle?” Berta was enraged. “Do you mean I’m to wash in the stable?”
“Usually pigs do here – if so.”
Furiously, Berta walked towards the stable while her friends were guided to the house. When Berta had followed them, they first of all got some food and drink.
“How did you get into the desert, by the way?” Prof. Hurry asked, shoving a corncob into his mouth.
“By way of a magic bottle”, Elfrida grinned.
“I see. My brother wrote about that. And do you know how to get back home?”
“No, we still face problems with the witches in the Magic Forest.”
“What – what? Witches, Magic Forest? You also have witched? The Aborigines – the natives here often talk about dark spectres, riding through the night on brooms.”
“Where do these up-oranges live?” Rosy inquired.
“Aborigines, dear pig, are living in the shrubland. That is, they are living in cottages. Out in the Outback.”
Elfrida was all ears.
“Could we visit them, Profdoc?”
“We’d got to go there by jeep but that won’t work for some time. I sprained my hand at the touch down. Perhaps in a few days.”
“That might be too late.”
“I could drive. Please, please, let me drive!” Rosy had jumped down from her chair.
“Why not. So let’s go.” The professor vanished into his lab and returned after a few minutes with several metal bands. “Takes these along, my latest invention. If you wear these wrist bands, you can communicate with the natives. It’s a translator.”
After they all had put on the wrist bands, the children got up and stormed out into the yard. A green jeep was waiting there and Rosy walked around it to take a good look. Then she mounted the driver seat and listened to the explanations of Prof. Hurry. Curiously the animals living on the ranch came closer to watch.
“Wow, all-wheels-drive with independent suspension and servo steering!” Rosy cheered.
After they all had got in, they set off. The road was bumpy but the car was well sprung. It was just fun to drive in the open jeep in the hot weather. Rosy put her foot down.
They downright shot over the sand and more than once the car jumped into the air when they crossed a ground wave. Now and then they saw curious kangaroos jumping along. Suddenly Rosy screeched and jerked the wheel; in the middle of the road was a giant snake. The car lost course and with a swerve raced towards a tree. The children screamed. The very last moment Rosy jerked around the jeep, it turned off and the rear crashed against the tree. There was some rustling and cracking and some peculiar sound like “O-o-o-ogs!” A moment later Berta screamed her head off. Some animal had fallen into her lap, had a leaf in its mouth and looked bewildered.
“Oh, an eucalyptus-eater”, Prof. Hurry laughed. “That’s koala bear. Rosy, you hit an eucalyptus tree!”
“Do the cough sweets come from it?” she asked, surprised.
“Not directly, but do throw the koala out so that we can proceed.”
“Oh!” Bernie was disappointed. “May we not take him along?”
“No, you’d have to take the tree as well or he would starve.”
After the animal was back on his home tree, they drove on.
“This snake”, Prof. Hurry explained, “was a dangerous python.”
“I want to go home!” Berta groaned but the wild ride went on.
By and by the landscape became greener as they were reaching an area with many shrubs and trees.
“Well, where are these up-oranges?’”
“Be patient, Rosy. I’m sure, they are watching us.” Rosy and her friends quickly looked around. “You cannot see them, they are well hidden.”
Rosy, still looking around, jerked the wheel, the car swerved and crashed into a big bush. When the jeep came to a standstill, they all got out and looked at the scenery when some peculiar figures came creeping out of the bush, groaning. They were a little taller than the children, had a dark skin and wore loincloths.
“How did you know that we’re hiding in this bush?” the tallest of them asked.
Profdoc walked up to him, laughing, and held out his hand. They clearly knew each other.
“Hi, Pooku, these are friends from Germany on witch-hunt. Would you tell them what you saw?”
Pooku put aside his spear and stepped up to the children. After bowing to them, he started to speak in a deep voice. Thrilled, they all listened to his story about starlit nights when he and his tribe had watched the moon.
“When some days ago the moon had the size of the sun, they came. About twenty dark figures, riding through the night on a lance. We watched them but did not get close to them. Once one of them pointed at a kangaroo with a wand. The kangaroo vanished and we found in his stead an animal like we never saw before.”
Pooku beckoned the children to follow him. Through many thick shrubs he guided them to a small village, holding several huts. A wooden case was standing in front of one hut. He opened it and Jenny was the first to look in.
“A toad!” she cried, disgusted. ‘”Those filthy witches changed the poor kangaroo into an ugly toad! Anyway, Mr. Pooku, the toad needs water or she will die.”
The chieftain nodded and passed the case to a tribe member who walked with it to a nearby waterhole.
“We asked the oracle of our ancestors”, Pooku said. “It told us that the black spectres want to make a connection through the big orb.”
Rosy cleared her throat.
“Why does the Ork talk about the Mork?”
“The word is oracle. It can see the past and the future...”
“...and the big orb might be the Earth!” Bernie interrupted the chief.
“Yes”, Elfrida exclaimed. “Now all this makes sense. They want to make a connection from here to the Magic Forest and therefore the Magic Forest has to go!”
“But what in the world for?!”
“No question, Rosy, they want to rule the world!”
They were absolutely dumbfounded and no one said a word. Horror spread and helplessly they looked at each other.
“We’ve got to stop that!” Elfrida looked determined and also her friends plucked up.
“First of all we have to find the other hole. It must be somewhere around here”, Bernie proposed.
“Dr. Einstein-flies!” the budgie croaked, spread his wings and sailed over the bushes to the desert.
Pooku, scared, jumped backwards and Prof. Hurry guffawed.
“Einstein, very good! One of the famous scientists on your side.”
“Yes, and because the bird is so clever, we name him thus”, Elfrida proudly explained.
While Dr. Einstein was out scouting, Pooku showed his village to the children. They saw under which simple circumstances these natives were living and were nevertheless very happy.
“No telly, no electrics, no telephone?” Daisy asked with surprise.
Pooku replied that it was much more interesting to live in harmony with nature. “No telly can show us the real beauty of the world”, he explained. “We do not have thieves or violence.”
The friends said nothing and watched a small child running round the corner with laughter, followed by some odd animal.
“Oh, you have ducks here?”
“Not really, Rosy, that is a duckbill”, Prof. Hurry said. “It is a mammal although it’s laying eggs.”
Suddenly there was a loud rustle over their heads and the children glanced up with surprise. Something crashed through the branches of the eucalyptus tree and landed at their feet.
“Dr. Einstein! O my, the way you look!”
Elfrida took up the very dirty bird while Jenny ran for some water.
“Can’t-go-on-much-too-hot.” The knocked-out budgie closed his eyes and breathed heavily.
“The heat got at him”, Jenny said, sprinkling him with water. “He’ll be better in a moment.”
And really, after a few minutes the bird started to speak:
“Many-witches, many-rocks, long-shadows!”
“We know that there are many witches and rocks all over the place, but what about the long shadows?” Bernie shrugged and looked at Pooku.
“Long shadows, that means high rocks. The longest shadows are in Devil’s Valley.”
“Would go along with witches”, Bernie said. “And how do we get there?”
“No one enters the Devil’s Valley of his free will”, Pooku said. “A place of the condemned. Evil spirits are living there.”
“First of all there are a lot a snakes”, Prof. Hurry added. “And we must take enough water. We best drive back to my ranch. We’ll snatch some sleep and leave tonight. With this heat we’d be roasted in Devil’s Valley.”
“Why do you not stay here, Hurry? You’d spare the way back to your house.”
Prof. Hurry looked at the children. Elfrida nodded and so he said: “Okay, Pooku, so show us your guest room.”
A few moments later Berta was outraged:
“I am to sleep on the ground? Some dirty ground where bugs and beetles will gnaw at me? I want to go back to ranch. I’ll not stay a minute!”
“Do you know, my dear pig, that most people of the world are always sleeping on the naked ground? Much healthier than on a soft mattress. Okay, not that comfortable but we are in the bush and will adapt ourselves.”
“But Mr. Profdoc, it is very dirty which I do not like.”
“Dirt? I don’t see dirt, Berta, I see nature. Nature is not dirty, only what some people make of it, is dirt. Do you see any tins or waste lying around?”
Berta looked at the ground, rather taken aback.
“You are right, Mr. Profdoc, I had not seen that like that.”
“When will be dinner?” Rosy asked.
“How can you think of food in this beautiful nature?”
“Because, dearest Berta, my belly will not get filled with that.”
When Rosy had said so, she was nudged by a little girl who held out a piece of bread to her.
“Corn bread”, explained Prof. Hurry. “Very good!”
Rosy had not to be asked twice and took a bit.
“Yummy! What’s your name?”
“Pajima! Like to play with me?”
“In a moment. I’ve got to take some food or I’ll collapse when playing.”
While they were all busily eating, Berta looked up and saw a bird like she never had seen before.
“Ey, what sort of funny bird are you?” she shouted.
The bird squinted at her and laughed out loud.
Berta rose. “Looking for trouble?”
The bird laughed again, even louder this time. Berta became furious and tried to climb the tree but Pajima pulled her back.
“That’s a kookaburra. That’s the way he sounds!”
“Now, that’s a witty name”, Rosy said. “Fancy to be named Cokeburger.”
“Just a proof that you have no idea, dearest Rosy. Cokeburger – sounds like you all right. The name is Cook-to-bury!”
“Lord, that’s a kookaburra, what we call Laughing Jackass. Never heard that?”
Rosy shook her head and Berta mumbled that they probably would learn it next term.
When they all had eaten, Berta thoughtfully looked at the village children. None of them had the kind of toys every child used to have. Some had a handmade kangaroo or a koala bear of rugs. Several children were playing with a ball made of plant fibres.
“We live in such abundance, that’s why we are often dissatisfied”, she muttered.
“What do you mean?” Daisy beside her wanted to know.
“Think on, at home we get everything. We have so many toys that our rooms are stuffed and we are bored still. Look at these kids. They have nothing and are still happy.”
“Perhaps because of that…”
“Just so, we are overfed, we’ve got everything. There’s nothing we could wish for and that’s the trouble.”
Daisy reflected on Berta’s words for a long time.
“You know, when we’re back home, I’ll put all those toys I never play with into a box. That will leave three of four toys and lots of fun.”
“I’ll take part”, Elfrida said. “I’ll keep Dolly of course, my doll’s house and a few plushies. Then I’ll ask my Daddy to take everything else to the cellar or the attic – he’ll like it! I may pay a visit to all the other things whenever I like.”
“Fancy the space we’ll have then”, Susy cheered. “The silly cleaning will not take more than five minutes.”
“I’ll take part, too”, Bernie said, “but I’ll keep my cars. Them old plushies may move and I mount a highway all over my room.”