One little bit of kang-oo-roo – is that too much to ask, when I have come such a long way?
Apparently so. The people of Hobart Town turn out to be the most miserly, ignorant, penny-pinching, tightfisted—
I am chased out of five inns and seven private kitchens. I have four bricks thrown at me, and three knives, as well as a convict boot, a loaf of black bread and a broken tankard. (Yes, I am keeping count. Harry-le-beau does not forget an insult!)
In the end I am forced to dine on half a lizard, which I steal from under the nose of a grubby child. (It is not as crunchy as the lizards of Berlin, but it squirms nicely in my claws.)
I am not daunted, however. It is time for the hunt to begin!
I step out into the night.
It is late, but there are still many humans around, stumbling out of the inns. Their admiring glances follow me as I stalk down the muddy street.
‘There’s a fine plump moggy,’ cries one of the females, waving a stone bottle in my direction. ‘Anyone fancy ’im on toast?’
She has an uneducated way of speaking, and it is hard to understand her words, but I believe she is complimenting my exquisite toes.
Ah, I say to myself, these colonials are not used to such elegance.
The street is full of wonderful smells. Horse dung. Dead fish. The rotting corpses of dogs. It is almost enough to make me forget my task. I take a deep breath. Perhaps the colonies will not be so bad after all.
But underneath those delicious smells lies another, that draws me like nothing else. I follow it back towards the warehouses. Keeping to the shadows. Treading softly.
Harry-le-beau is on the hunt.
(More admiring glances. Three of the colonials come after me, chatting away in their simple fashion. Two females and a male, I think. I catch the words ‘puss’ and ‘supper’. Perhaps they are not as ignorant as I first thought. Perhaps I will let them feed me, after the hunt.)
The warehouses lie at the end of a long jetty. They are large buildings of stone and wood, close to the water, and the dreadful reek of vampire mice oozes from every doorway. But I do not hesitate. I slip through the nearest door into the dark interior, and prowl across the stone floor towards a pile of bulging sacks, where the stink is worst.
To my surprise, the colonials follow me into the warehouse. My arrival has given them courage! They are going to hunt with me!
I try to explain that they should go left around the sacks while I go right, but they cannot see very well in the darkness, and they merely grin at each other and cry, ‘Here, kitty kitty kitty. Handsome kitty. Plump kitty!’
I am pleased that they recognise my beauty, but wish they would tread a little more quietly. Before we are halfway to the sacks, I hear a flurry of squeaks and a flutter of tiny wings – and the mice are gone.
The colonials fall upon me with grateful cries, and pick me up in their rough hands. I try to explain that the mice have merely gone to the next warehouse, and that scaring them is not enough – I must kill them. But the colonials take no notice. They carry me triumphantly towards their inn, talking all the while about what a good supper we are all going to have. Their breath reminds me of the Paris sewers, and the happy days I spent there.
I wonder if this ‘supper’ they are so excited about will include kang-oo-roo.