“Well, let’s see,” said the Badger. “Before I can start,
I shall need your instructions. What pleases your heart
for this building to look like? Both inside and out,
I shall need things made clear, with no shadow of doubt.”
“Aha!” smiled the Mongoose. “I’ve doodled my schemes
on the back of this wallpaper. Such are my dreams
of the Indian home where I’m eager to be,
though it’s thousands of miles ‘cross the sundering sea.”
The Badger was speechless. “You’re wanting a palace!
I’ll tell you for sure, and without any malice
that this will take years, just to do the inside!”
She grinned. “Then your work’s sure to fill you with pride,
for the old Taj Mahal was the labour of many;
though badgers, I think, there were few, or not any –
it’s just what a Mongoose prefers that one makes –
and there’s plenty of room for the catching of snakes!”
“Of snakes?” gasped the Badger. “I’ll manage with worms,
for such snakes as aren’t poison are covered in germs!
There are no snakes in Britain except the odd adder,
or those that are found on a board with a ladder.”
He scratched his old head. “Well, all right, I agree.
But materials, time, and equipment, you see,
all cost money. So where are we finding the cost
of these marvellous furnishings? Tell me, I’m lost!”
The Mongoose grinned broadly. “There’s lots to go round,
so for now, let’s clear up, and explore all the ground
that this house has been built on. And please do explain
to our neighbours, we’re simply good friends (in the main).”
She dashed off upstairs with a purposeful frown,
to take many things up, and yet other things down,
so the Badger, who saw that his place was outside,
went inspecting the garden, or else they’d collide.
There was not much to see but some scraggy old plants
that had covered the concrete, beneath which were ants
who believed that the house was in fact only theirs,
and were planning to build a new nest ‘neath the stairs.
Since the Mongoose had asked, he inspected the row,
and he found all the houses, wherever he’d go,
had their doors and their windows all covered in board,
as if glass were far more than their folks could afford.
At the end of the row, he saw light, and he heard
all the sounds of a kitchen, and cats. Undeterred
he crept up to the door; and that moment came out
an old lady in curlers, who viewed him with doubt.
“Beg pardon,” said Badger. “I’d like you to know
that you’ve got some new neighbours. Miss Mongoose said so
should I say, and she owns that old house over there.”
But all that the woman would do was to stare.
He felt quite embarrassed. “Do say if you’ve worms,”
he persisted. “Or snakes – ones without any germs!”
But the lady ran in, and she slammed the door hard,
and she seemingly thought it unsafe in her yard.
So back went the Badger, and found that his home
was a hive of activity. So, when in Rome,
you should do as the Romans do. Badger got busy,
and cleaned up the garden until he went dizzy.