Dougal's Diary - Interview with Belladonna

Hello Belladonna. How are you today?

[Dead silence]

So what’s it like being the highest-ranking cat in Dougal’s household?

[Complete ignore]

I think you might work with me here, if at all possible?

[Head Turn away]

Are you trying to tell me something?

[unblinking stare]

Right. I think I get the picture here.

Good. Have another go.

 

Hail Belladonna, Most Serene Highness, Princess of Cats, She Who Walks In Beauty Like The Night, Destroyer of Rodents, Scourge of Nocturnal Demons and Lantern of the Western Suburbs!

 

That is considerably better. How may I help you?

Tell us about yourself, if it please you, O most elegant and graceful of cats.

I was born, I respire, I eat when I please, and I bring joy to those fortunate enough to be in my august presence.

I understand you were born in a veterinary clinic in Yarraville?

Pure hearsay. My earliest memories are of being treated with the due obeisance which is my infallible birthright. I awaited the inevitable advent of Woman in the perfect certitude that she would be along at any moment. In due course she transpired, and placed her paws within my throne-room. There were a number of siblings of mine there with me, and for a moment I witnessed her brazenly fraternizing with my incurably blonde fellow-kittens. Naturally I wasn’t having any of that and told them in no uncertain terms that this human was mine, for thus it had been ordained since the beginning of time.

What was their response to that?

They fulfilled their feudal duty and got out of my way so I could place my paws in hers. She brought me home and here I have remained, in the state which is due to me.

There are persistent rumours that you hid under her bed for your first few days.

Nonsense. I was composing my thoughts so as to greet my subjects with the appropriate blend of grandeur, friendliness and condescension.

I gather the other cats wouldn’t play with you?

You are ill-informed. It is not appropriate for a princess to play with her subjects. All that was necessary was that Horatio should accept his pre-ordained position as my sworn liegeman and undertake to defend my person against insubordinate tom-cats, of whom we had something of a superabundance at the time.

And he did?

Nobly. He was everything a royal personage could wish for in that department.

And Ashe?

I do not think Ashe knew what to make of me. But she was always Man’s cat and I accepted this. She was born into a different metaphysic.

Do you miss them?

The question is irrelevant. Both in their different ways were admirable cats and I accepted their differing forms of service in the spirit in which it was offered. They now serve Basht, Queen of Cats, in the Field of Reeds. They have priests to attend them day and night, which is right and fit and proper. This is the destiny of cats who serve with honour and faithfulness.

Tell us about meeting Dougal for the first time.

He was very loud. Every time he jumped down from a high place it sounded like a box of groceries falling from the kitchen table. He had a way of saying hello which made your ears ring.

But you did warm to him after a while?

Certainly. The poor little boy was barely half-grown, if that, when he first drove out the Bad Cats from my house. Then I realized that his heart was pure and his spirit dauntless. Here, thought I, is a worthy successor to Horatio. And yet he was clearly Man’s cat, so it may be that he was also Ashe’s successor. You must understand that the favour of the Princess of Cats is not given lightly. I had much thinking and pondering to do before accepting him into my service.

Tell us about Shadow.

[Head Turn]

No really. We understand your views have thawed.

Very well. They have. You must understand that she is an alley-cat. I venture to suggest there are no lower gutters than those which gave rise to her. I watched her gobble Dougal’s food from under his very nose and I simply could not believe it. Girl, said I, this is our noble knight Sir Thud. He is warden of the house and yet you give him no respect. When the chevalier eats, you will attend and not disturb him.

How was this received?

She looked at me and said What??? It is a thing she does.

Does she really think you are her mother?

Yes. It is an unfathomable impertinence. And the way she copies all my mannerisms is insupportable.

Yet you permit her to share sleeping space with you?

Occasionally. I am hoping, rather optimistically, that perhaps some royal graces might rub off onto her.

I believe that you and she take turns looking after Man and Woman if they are ill.

Indeed. It is in the Covenant. When our humans are sick they must be attended constantly. Dougal’s place is to guard the house from the outside, so it is for us to watch over them. I am bound to say that having an acolyte to share the burden is very convenient.

And so we are one big happy family?

You presume overmuch. But it is true that my household is a harmonious one. Such is our destiny.

You have never been tempted to accompany them on their walks?

Certainly not. One hears things. But consider: a royal progress would need at least twelve cats in attendance upon me. Had I such bodyguards and maids of honour, where would I array them when they were not needed? They would be wanting food, shelter and attention from humans which is otherwise our birthright. They would need to live elsewhere, I fear, and then how would they know when was their duty to attend upon us?

There is also the consideration that Shadow’s smart mouth might lead you into difficulties?

There is also that. One Hears Things.

Well, thank you for your time, O Princess of Cats.

Ahem!

Sorry, have I missed something?

A little fresh fish, perhaps, or some suitable tidbits?

Obsequious apologies! I will fetch you some at once.

Thank you.