My paws. Oh, my paws. They are as bruised as my soul.
I was not made for hard labour. I was not made to be mocked by men who have never even seen Paris, much less strode triumphant through its sewers. I am an artiste, and should be treated as such.
But do these fools respect me? They do not. I was on that cursed wheel for hours. Hours! Oh, my paws!
Wait, someone is coming. It is the gaoler, that vile creature to whom I mistakenly offered my friendship. I would turn my back on him, but I do not have the energy.
He is not alone. Another set of footsteps follows him, and these are familiar. Is it— Could it be—
The light from the gaoler’s lantern shines through the bars. I blink until my eyes grow used to the brightness. Yes, it is Sarah, the kitchen girl! She carries a bundle in her arms. Food, perhaps? A last meal for the condemned hero?
I gaze up at her hopefully. ‘Roast lamb? Cream?’
The bundle yaps, and my hopes plummet. It is the lapdog. Benjamin. Bah. I would turn my back on all of them, if I could be bothered.
Sarah peers through the bars. ‘Ooh, the horrid creature. Look at him, as vicious as can be! And to think I took pity on him. Just as well you’re here with me, Mister Buckley, or I’d be scared out of my wits.’
‘You’m safe with me, lass,’ grunts the gaoler. He tries to sneak an arm around Sarah’s waist, but she dodges him.
‘Poor Benji here’s been having the most horrible nightmares,’ she says, from a safe distance. ‘Mister Montagu asked me to bring him along and show him that the villain was behind bars and couldn’t get out to hurt him. And due to be hanged too, straight after his trial.’
‘Which is this morning,’ says the gaoler, edging closer to her again. ‘Any later and you would’ve missed him.’ He pulls a ghastly face, which is probably meant to be a smile. ‘Give us a kiss, lass.’
‘Dear Mister Buckley,’ says Sarah, dodging again, ‘I’d like nothing better, specially since you’ve been so helpful. But I am promised to another, and my kisses are his and his alone.’
The gaoler begins to protest. Sarah holds up her hand. ‘You won’t go unrewarded. I sneaked a little something out of the governor’s pantry.’
She whisks the cover off the bundle, revealing Benji – and a whole leg of roasted mutton.
The gaoler dribbles, and so does the dog. They are both disgusting. I salivate artistically.
‘Would this be a proper reward for your kindness, Mister Buckley, sir?’ asks Sarah.
‘It would,’ the gaoler says quickly. ‘Not much mutton in here, lass. We get the scrapings, and barely enough of them.’
‘Are you sure? Maybe I could manage just one kiss, instead.’
Buckley doesn’t care about kisses, not any more. ‘Give it to me,’ he says, not taking his eyes off the roast.
Sarah glances in my direction and flinches, as if she’s seen something frightening. ‘Oooh, watch out, Mister Buckley!’
The gaoler swivels around to peer at me – and Sarah whacks him over the head with the roast mutton.
He goes down like a felled basilisk, and does not get up again.
Sarah snatches the keys from his belt and grins at me through the bars. ‘Cheer up, Snookums. I’m here to get you out!’