“It’s a game,” said young Asp; “but it has special rules,
and with cunning, a barrister quickly makes fools
out of everything Law was established to mean,
and it’s all to be done in the name of the Queen.”
“Ah, so that’s why old Heron has called you a snake,”
said the Mongoose. “Although I must win, heaven’s sake,
I’m discouraged and troubled to think that the Law
must be played like a game, as that’s not what it’s for.”
They were stood in the courtroom, expecting the Judge
(Mister English). Then Asp gave the Mongoose a nudge –
“Mister Wratten,” he said, “has arrived to defend
for the Council. And worst thing of all, he’s my friend.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “That is really quite sad;
to be fighting a friend must be terribly bad.”
“No, it’s worse,” grumbled Asp. “I know all his best tricks;
but he knows all of mine! He’ll make trouble for kicks.”
Then the usher prayed silence (quite loudly – how odd)
and required every witness to call upon God,
as the Judge, Mister English, arrived at the bench,
with his nose in the air, as if fearing a stench.
Mister Asp had decided to seek an injunction -
but Wratten believed that he best served his function
by saying delay at the council estate
would risk safety, cost money, and make people late.
“I can see,” said the Judge, “an injunction can’t wait
if the house should be saved; but you’ve now got to state
what it is that you think will eventually cause
me to stop this for good, through the relevant laws.”
“I declare,” said young Asp, “that the cause of the case,
Human Rights, is about to be put in its place.
If a king can by gift make an animal free,
then that animal’s rights are the same as for me.”
The Judge held his chin in the palm of his hand,
stroked his jaw, and he said, “I just can’t understand.
Mr Asp, you can hold little hope of success
if you've chosen to speak for a rat in a dress!”
Wratten smirked, and the Mongoose hissed loudly; she stared
at the Judge and at Wratten. She wasn’t prepared
to be treated like this; but the Badger had taught her
to keep herself calm. So she sipped at some water.
Then Heron came in at the back of the court,
and he signalled to Asp, as if making report.
“I shall call,” said young Asp, “a key witness right now.”
When he saw who it was, Wratten cried, “Disallow!”
But the Judge overruled his complaint, and instead
came a witness, well dressed, and extremely well bred;
one who’d seen all the acts of the Rajah, none other;
and all that the Mongoose could say was “My mother!”
Her mother was Rani Asmita, the Queen,
and as proud an old mongoose as ever had been;
she’d recovered quite quickly from life in a cage,
for once free, she lost all of the shackles of age.
When Rani Asmita had taken her vow,
and told all of the things that the court would allow
about Rajahs and Raj’s and rubies and Newlas,
and what you can get for a stone at a jewellers;
at last she had answered the questions of Asp,
and had shown she had all of the facts in her grasp,
when young Wratten demanded the right to inquire
where she got her nice dress, which he’d like to admire.
It was sparkling with sapphires and mirrors and jewels
on shiny gold fabric. She thought that such fools
as young Wratten could have no idea of their worth,
so she scolded and scorned him, and fell into mirth.
Her whole tail was encrusted with scrunchies and glitter
(she’d always been quite the most proud in her litter);
then Wratten said slyly, “And yet, you’ll confess,
that you’re nothing much more than a rat in a dress?”
It was over at once. With a swift single bound,
Rani leapt at his throat, bore him down to the ground,
and with furious gestures of teeth and of paws
she had broken at least seventeen of our laws.
When the usher had dragged her away to a cell
and young Wratten declared he was not feeling well,
he had proved his main point to the Judge, so it seemed;
that an animal born is an animal deemed
by the law. When Judge English had called a recess,
Asp exploded in laughter, and said, “I confess
that my friend Mister Wratten got more than he thought
when he took on your mother in English’s court;
yes, he’s made a small point, but we got a delay,
and delays are what might even yet win the day.
For our hope is in fact with the Badger’s hard work,
which takes time, though we know that he’ll never once shirk.
And our friend Mister Stumpy has plans of his own
even Wratten can never have guessed or have known;
so let’s go to your mother, and see if she’s well,
in the comfort of reigning the length of her cell.”
The Mongoose decided, for all of his skill,
Mister Asp made her feel most decidedly ill –
for she felt that his motives were lower than low.
Were there any new depths to which Asp wouldn’t go?
She soon found her mother was sitting in pride
in a cell with her name written clearly and wide
on a white bit of plastic. “My name’s on the door!”
she enthused. “Or I surely would give them what for!”