Next day, the Mongoose rose, and groaned;
her rumpled sari showed the strain.
Her plans she several hours postponed,
she needed all her aching brain.
All of a sudden, up she got,
and grabbed the Badger. “Walk like me!”
she grinned. “You’ll learn it like a shot,
you’ll have to; now it’s nearly three.”
She marched him through the gaping door,
and down the road she went at once.
The Badger tottered more and more;
she thought him quite a dreadful dunce.
But by the time they reached the sight
of houses full of folk, and shops,
the Badger found his feet. Delight
arose within his soul. But stops
seemed always to result in him
dropping to rest his aching paws.
His body strong, but far from slim,
insisted that he stretch his claws.
For little legs were never meant
to carry Badgers standing tall,
though Mongooses stood up, and went
from India to far Nepal
on legs that let them rise to meet
the snakes they ate with such delight;
for otherwise they’d never eat -
they had to stand to win the fight.
The Mongoose, proudly dressed to kill,
enquired if any knew the way
to jewel shops. She asked until
a friendly man replied, to say
where Jinkinson, a decent man,
had plied his trade for twenty years.
The Badger, glad of any plan,
began to trot, and gave three cheers.
So soon the shop was found, and then
the Mongoose coughed to gain the ear
of Jinkinson, who looked again
at all things far away, and near.
“Ahem,” she coughed once more. “Down here.
Pinned to my dress, you’ll find this jewel
of interest, if you place it near
your eye. Down here! Don’t be a fool.”
At last the man with shock beheld
the animals around his feet;
his ears were poor, but Badger yelled,
and stood himself upon a seat.
Old Jinkinson was dignified;
he took the ruby, clasped in gold,
then looked through things that magnified,
and finally he answered, “Sold!
I’ve never seen a finer gem
to grace a crown or stately cup;
but creatures can’t acquire them,
unless by luck they dig them up.”
“I’ll have you know,” the Mongoose stared,
“this gift was given long ago,
when great-great-grandmama once spared
a Rajah’s wife from mortal woe.
A great king cobra rose to strike
the sleeping woman by her child;
but grandma Beji didn’t like
to see such things, and went quite wild.
The fight was fought, the sound was loud,
and soon the woman woke, and screamed;
then Beji fought before a crowd;
her lightning strike was far esteemed,
and finally she bit it swift,
and bore the serpent down to earth
until it could no longer lift
its tail. The Rajah said her worth
was more than rubies. So he gave
to Beji and her children each
one ruby red, and each a slave,
then praised them in a tedious speech.”
“Then this is yours?” the old man asked.
“Assuredly! Remove the clasp,
and there you’ll find the truth unmasked;
how none escaped old Beji’s grasp.”
The man, with fingers full of skill,
removed the jewel with tender care;
and under it he searched, until
he found a piece of paper there.
Inscribed were letters small but clear,
that soon confirmed the creature’s tale.
He stared, then called an auctioneer,
and weighed the ruby on his scale.
“Good heavens,” he declared. “Such things
come only once a lifetime. I
might ne’er encounter queens or kings
with greater jewels before I die.”
He looked the value up, then checked,
then worked it out, then checked again;
he treated her with great respect,
and took some time to best explain
the value of the ruby red
(being a man of high repute);
did sums again, then shook his head,
and said, “In truth the value’s moot;
such gems as this come never nigh
in twenty, thirty, forty years;
for thirty thousand pounds, I’ll buy
this jewel.” And then he wept real tears.
“Agreed,” the Mongoose said. “I’ll take
a banker’s draft (so mother saith:
that banker’s drafts are never fake,
and must be paid on pain of death).”
The Badger stood there shocked and stunned;
he knew enough to see that this
would summon up a fighting fund
to bring a building Badger bliss.
Before the jeweller said farewell,
he found them both a bank to give
accounts, and cheques, and cards as well;
so now they’d live as humans live.