Little Alice Mongoose has a loving home and doting parents in India, but she is eager to have a grown-up job and make her mark on the world. She travels to the Big Island of Hawaii, where mongoose are very much in demand. On the voyage over, as she is nibbling on one of the hard-boiled eggs her father packed for her, an unpleasant man with big boots comes over and tells her what her job in Hawaii will be: to kill rats in the cane fields.
Poor Alice is shocked. She has never met a rat, she is not a killer, and she does not like this man. When the ship reaches land, Alice collects all of her little hatboxes and steamer trunks and strikes out on her own. The first “person” she meets is the gentle and foppish Alistair Rat.
“You are very kind, Alistair,” Alice said. “Are you a mongoose? You do not look very much like a mongoose.”
“Dear me no,” Alistair said. “I am a rat. Like you.”
“I am not a rat,” Alice Mongoose said. “I am a mongoose.”
“That is impossible,” Alistair Rat replied, adjusting his monocle to get a better look at Alice (for he was quite nearsighted). “If you were a mongoose, you would have tried to kill me. Instead of sitting with me and having a nice cup of tea.”
“I have never killed anyone,” Alice said, setting down her tea. “And I certainly do not plan to kill you. You have been very hospitable, and you make a splendid cup of tea. I should like to have a look at the house next door. I am inclined to take it, if you think I would be a suitable tenant.”
Mongoose were introduced to Hawaii in 1883 by the sugar plantations, in order to control rats in the cane fields. This did not work as planned; mongoose are awake during the daytime, while rats are nocturnal. Alice and Alistair share their morning and evening meals, but are otherwise on different schedules.
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