“Good Lord! You’re an animal!” Heron declared,
as the Mongoose arrived in her choli sharara.
“But you’re not a bird!” she announced, unprepared,
and her eyes opened wide in between her mascara.
“Nirmala – um - Newla?” “Yes, yes, that is me,
I’m an animal. That shouldn’t mean I’ve no rights!
I’m a creature who’s sure she deserves to be free,
and I‘m needing a lawyer to right all my slights.”
“Can you pay?” frowned old Heron, a man with a wish
to be paid; and his stance was a predator’s pose,
just as if he might suddenly spear up a fish
from slow waters beneath his incredible nose.
“Oh yes, yes,” she replied. “I have money to spare,
but if nothing is done, I will soon lose my home;
I’ll admit that my case is quite strange and most rare,
but it’s this or the zoo, or the roadways to roam.”
She cried. The solicitor, well used to tears
(for his bills were enough to make anyone cry)
then advanced her his handkerchief, asked her her fears,
and said “quite without charge” when she’d mopped herself dry.
(She was wondering if in the use of the rag
she’d already incurred some expense. But the heart
of solicitors isn’t as cold as a crag;
he had bought fourteen dozen, cut price, from a mart).
“There, there,” he consoled. “Mister Whiskers advised
I would soon see Miss Newla about her old house -
but he never said anything else. I’m surprised
that he didn’t say more. You’re a very big mouse!”
“I’m a Mongoose,” she said in a voice small and tense.
“I escaped from the zoo, where I shouldn’t have been.
With my sharp little teeth I gnawed right through the fence,
but if mother’s now dead, then by rights, I’m a Queen.”
“Well, well,” said old Heron. “We’ll have to be clear –
that was criminal damage, and possibly theft,
for you stole yourself off and away. Your career
as a criminal’s clearly advanced. I’m bereft
of all hope for your case. But I see that you’re holding
a purse that is bulging with something inside?”
“Indeed,” said the Mongoose; “the money needs folding.
I’ve ten thousand pounds I would gladly provide
just to prove that the humans must honour their word
as an animal does. (Not the fox, though, of course.)
Mister Whiskers advised me to come, through a bird,
and he said that your help he’d be glad to endorse.”
“I’ve not met him,” said Heron. “We talk on the phone.
He’s a friend of Bill Stumpy, the local MP,
and advises at times on all animals known,
and especially those that desire to be free.
He rang up just last night to advise me you’d come,
and I see he was artful to tell me no more
than ‘Miss Newla’ was sure to be coming. By gum,
this will make me a name in the world of the law!”
He stared far into space, and imagined his name
at the head of the ranks of the lawyers of note;
this was going to be fun! But then still, just the same,
it was gravy, as long as she paid for his quote.
“Tell me why,” he intoned, “should a court think it right
to declare you a human, or have the same status?
We must have a reason to call on the might
of the law; then if so, I can call a hiatus
in which we can save your old home from an end.
You can talk, that’s a start; you’ve a very nice dress,
but alone that’s not nearly enough to defend
any rights you might have, with a hope of success.”
“Well, there’s this,” sniffed the Mongoose. “A letter of thanks
from the Rajah whose wife was once saved by my kind;
a certificate granting my family’s ranks
all the status of friendship, from time out of mind.”
The solicitor read, with elaborate care,
all the words that the Rajah had penned long ago;
for a while he did nothing but grimace and stare,
then he said, “This might work, but despite all I know,
we’ll be needing a barrister. Asp will do fine;
he’s unprincipled, heartless, and out on the make.”
“But he’s human?” the Mongoose inquired with a whine.
“Oh no,” said old Heron. “Young Asp is a snake!”