It was Tuesday. Young Wratten was terribly bruised,
and the Mongoose was saddened, and lost and confused,
for a dreadful new truth had emerged in the case;
if a mongoose was treated the same as the race
of the humans, her mother was guilty as charged
of the crime of assault; for when Wratten was barged
over backwards, he banged his head hard on the floor,
and had made a big point of her breaking the law.
And yet if she was not, and an animal still,
she’d be seeing old Heron and making her will –
for an animal guilty of such an attack
would be put to her death, and thrown out in a sack.
So it seemed that whatever the judge might decide
that old Rani Asmita was sure to have died
fairly soon; for a vet would inject her to death,
or for certain in prison she’d breathe her last breath.
Mr English arrived after copious work
on the case; he was not one to shrink or to shirk
from the complex of issues this curious case
had brought up; Human Rights were for all to embrace
were they human; but then, if the Rajah had rights,
and he treated a mongoose according to flights
of his fancy, then had he the right to confer
human nature on animals? Some would concur.
So he came to the court with a serious face,
and announced the complexities found in the case
were too great for a judge any less than a lord.
It was more than a mongoose could ever afford,
to be paying for cases to come to the House
of the Lords in Westminster. Before she could grouse,
Mister Asp hissed, “Keep quiet! For Wratten’s got trouble -
we might win this case here and now, at the double!”
“Your honour,” said Wratten, “the Council, my clients
can’t pay for the bill in the Lords. Our reliance
on taxpayers’ money requires we account
for the way it is spent. And for such an amount
as this case would require, they could build more estates
than they ever will get from this case. And the rates
would be raised to pay off all their bills. I suggest
that we seek to agree with the Mongoose what’s best.”
“Very well,” said the judge. “If the creature agrees -
Mister Asp, I suppose you’ll be needing your fees,
and the council must pay for resisting her case;
but the building’s a wreck, and a total disgrace.
It must clearly come down, or the public’s in danger.
It’s now only fit to be used as a manger,
and though that’s a home where an animal’s happy,
it’s got to come down – and they’d better be snappy.”
The Mongoose shed tears; she was still not quite sure
what would happen to mother because of the law,
and the house must come down, that was plain as could be-
there was still no good ending that Asp could yet see.
They went out for a recess. Then in came two men;
Bill Stumpy and Freddie, together again.
Bill brought in some pictures, and Freddie to swear
that the house was a jewel beyond all compare.
It was nearly as good, in its own little way,
once inside, as an Indian palace today;
they had gone in together to see it was ready
for breaking and smashing; but then poor old Freddie
was speechless. The Badger had bowed very low,
and then said, “Pleased to meet you. This excellent row
you can knock down with ease with your splendid machines -
well, if that’s what conserving your heritage means.”
So Bill Stumpy took pictures, and Freddie wrote notes;
they were both introduced to the weasels and stoats,
and agreed that the animals all had done well
to repair an old house that no human could sell.
Asp and Wratten conferred, and a plan was agreed
that all creatures could come and then live at their need
in the row; and because of Asp’s skill and his verve,
then at last it became a small Nature Reserve.
(The Council would save itself shed loads of money -
the cost of a case in the Lords wasn’t funny -
preserving fine buildings was costly as well,
and to give the whole row for the Mongoose to dwell
in as long as she wanted, was cheaper by far).
She advised Mister Asp he was truly a star,
and then wept, for her mother would suffer in strife
if she had to remain in a cell all her life.
But then Asp explained all; since the case was agreed,
there could be no decision. Asmita was freed,
because no one now knew if she had Human Rights
and should suffer in prison, or out with her lights.
So because of the trouble and cost it would mean
to discover which fate would apply to the Queen,
Mr Wratten agreed to drop charges entirely,
peeled off his false bruises, and looked very wily.
The Mongoose went home with old Heron, and Stumpy.
But when she got back, poor old Badger was grumpy.
He thought that despite all his work, with no doubt
that the Mongoose was going to throw him right out.
For she said at the start that he only could stay
for as long as the work took to do. But today,
with a vict’ry that won her the use of the row,
she declared it was silly for Badger to go.
“And besides,” she advised, “there is plenty to do,
the outside for a start; after that we’ll renew
all the rest of the row. Then my mother can live
in a palace her own (not with me, God forgive!)
Then Stumpy arrived. “Mister Whiskers is here!”
he announced. “And although his request may seem queer,
he has asked me to get him a firm guarantee
that his visit is welcome, and none disagree.”
“I should say!” said the Badger. “He’s helped us no end,
and the animals here could have no firmer friend.
For whenever we needed advice, or some aid,
he produced it at once, and he never delayed.”
So then in walked a fox. “Mister Whiskers,” said Bill.
The Badger was speechless, and looked rather ill.
Then he swayed at the knees, and fell down on the floor,
for nothing could ever surprise him much more.
Mister Whiskers just grinned. “We’re all Animals now;
in the Town we must take what the humans allow,
and forget all our enmity, struggle and strife,
while we fight for our food, and to cling on to life.
It is sad that the countryside seems to be gone;
and today, it’s the same for us all as for one,
with our homes all destroyed, and the lovely green trees
chopped and burned. We are losing the lot by degrees.
But our friend Mister Stumpy, who’s helped me before,
and has saved all the foxes from hunting through law,
loves the country, and animals, every and all,
from the Badger so big, to the Wren, who’s so small.”
Then a noise from outside made them go to the door,
and find out what the screeching of tyres was for.
There they found a reporter whose camera crew
had already set up, and been told what to do.
The reporter had great golden curls in a scarf,
and a coat all the way to the ground. “On behalf
of the people of England,” she said, “tell us more
of the council estate, and the animal war.”
Then along came Asmita with Asp and with Wratten,
arrayed in a dress that cost more than Manhattan –
she’d sold her sad story to several papers,
and profited greatly from all of her capers.
But when she beheld the reporter, she shrieked,
and across the old sad dirty wasteland she streaked;
with a bound, the reporter was knocked in a heap;
and the Badger exploded, “Good Lord, it’s a sheep!
It’s a sheep in high heels! I was sure that her nose
looked quite odd for a woman, despite all her clothes!”
Then Nirmala, afraid that her mother would strike,
went right over at once, and she grabbed for the mike.
“A renegade sheep has been found dressed in clothes;
it shows things are often not what you’d suppose!
It was Rani Asmita that tracked her and caught her;
Miss Newla, your local (impromptu) reporter.”
The cameramen signalled thumbs up, and then left.
The sheep was confused, and alone, and bereft,
so they asked her inside for a cup of hot tea,
and enquired if she wanted to live there for free.
“It’s so easy for you,” she retorted. “You’re wild,
(especially your mother). Since I was a child,
just a lamb, I’ve been owned, and been tagged and been sheared,
and the thought of such freedom is practically weird!”
They agreed that if ever the farmer found out
he would drag her away without question or doubt –
so they thought very hard about how they should act
in regard of tame animals. It was a fact
that they couldn’t see how they could set up this row
as a place for all creatures in trouble to go,
if they left out the ones that escaped from a farm,
and lived lives dressed as humans avoiding alarm.
Then Rani Asmita said, “Let us complete
this new Taj Mahal; for the Badger’s great feat
can be opened for customers (human) who’ll pay,
then the Nature Reserve will be here and to stay.”
The Badger was thrilled to be building such things,
and declared that he’d build them a home fit for kings;
then the Mongoose declared they could offer cream teas,
and the profits would run the whole place with great ease.
So the animals set out to live there as friends,
and old grudges were settled by making amends
in a pact of No Killing Or Eating Each Other;
as long as they stayed, they were sister and brother.
The palace was built, and the Mongoose made teas,
and they lived there for years in considerable ease,
while their visitors vowed and declared it was great
that some animals ran an ex-council estate.