“Your ‘potential’ constituent?” Freddie inquired;
“So what shall I say to the Council today?
I’m needing a reason, or else I’ll be fired -
I can’t just let anyone get in the way.”
“There’s a case,” replied Bill, “going on in the courts
to decide if she is or she isn’t; what’s more
if she is, I’m in trouble of various sorts;
I shall have far more voters than ever before!”
Freddie grumbled, “To my mind, this don’t make no sense.”
Then he rang up his manager, turning his back
on Bill Stumpy, who swiftly thought out a defence
to protect the old house from another attack.
So when Freddie came back, having got a reply
full of blustering, blither, and copious swearing,
Bill Stumpy stood grinning his ground to defy
any chance of more work. Poor old Freddie was staring –
in front of the house, laid in regular rows,
was a minefield of hedgehogs, as neat as could be;
they were curled in a ball just to cover their nose,
and on top of each body, a hat proclaimed, “Free!”
Well, Fred stared for a while, but Bill Stumpy still grinned,
for he loved best of all to say most with no words,
and to stand there pretending, ‘if someone has sinned,
it weren’t me!’ whilst he whistled a song for the birds.
“I suppose you don’t know a blamed thing about this?”
muttered Fred, with intent to be fetching his men.
“Well, be blowed and be bothered, is something amiss?”
answered Bill. “Well, it seems it’s free hedgehogs again.
There’s a custom round here that all creatures observe
of insisting on ‘rights’. They’ve tried various ways -
but I think what they want is a nature reserve,
and to get what they want, they will lay here for days.”
“Let’s shift all these hedgehogs,” said Fred. “Come on, lads,
At lunchtime, by rights, we’ll be all done and dusted.”
“Wait on,” Stumpy frowned. “There are thousands and scads,
and besides, you’ll be careful, or else you’ll get busted!
The hedgehog’s endangered; the laws of the city
require that they’re caught in particular ways.
Have you got special traps? You’ll be needing a chitty
to catch even one. It could take several days.”
Freddie stared. “And a mineshaft endangers the back?”
“Yes, that’s right,” grinned old Bill. “And this lot’s round the front.
You can go and get paperwork – best take a sack –
or just wait for these beggars to move, to be blunt.”
Freddie looked at his watch. “Well, that’s that for the day.
But if I should be finding you here in the morning,
I’d have to conclude that to get in our way
was your purpose. I hope that’ll serve as a warning.”
He went to his workmen, and called them all over,
and told them to go to their homes for the night;
they were glad of a chance to relax, and moreover
they’d quite had enough of this miserable site.
When they’d gone, Stumpy whistled. The hedgehogs all stretched,
then they hunted for snails, which they greatly desired;
the hats were laid neatly in piles to be fetched
just as soon as Bill Stumpy and Whiskers required.