Rays from the Rose Cross Magazine

Children's Department


The Trial

by

Dagmar Frahme

  A rabbit dressed in overshoes knocked upon my door. He wiped his feet and entered, and sat upon the floor. He motioned to a cushion which I placed behind his head; then leaned against a hassock while he ate a slice of bread.

   He chewed each bite one hundred times, then swallowed thoughtfully. "There is no doubt," he said at last, "that you must come with me."

   "Come where?" I asked, annoyed, because I had no wish to go outside into a world that was all covered up with snow.

   "That you will learn all in good time. Now get your coat and hat." The rabbit rose with dignity, although he was quite fat.

   "I'm staying here," I said, "and I don't care for your sharp tone. I'll thank you to remove yourself and leave me here alone."

   "I'm sorry," said the rabbit, "that you show such lack of sense. Nonetheless, you'll come with me. There's no need to be tense."

   "You have your nerve!" I said, and stamped my foot upon the rug. "You think you're something, don't you? Well, you needn't be so smug. I'm staying here. I'm staying home. I'm staying where I am. And if that's not quite clear to you, I'm telling you to SCRAM!"

   The rabbit sighed and shook his head, a frown upon his face. "Your manners are deplorable, your conduct a disgrace. It is too bad that I must use persuasion, but I fear your attitude leaves me no choice." And then he yelled, "COME HERE!"

   At once the door burst open and into the house there came 500 mammoth rabbits. Each one he called by name. "Throckmorton, I am glad you've come. McPherson, how are you? Elijah, good to see you. Nathaniel, what is new?"

   I looked on in amazement as they settled everywhere - chairs and sofa, rug and floor, and all about the stair. Each one clad in overshoes, each one large and white, each one fierce of countenance - it was indeed a sight.

   "Now then, my friend," said Marcus - for that was, I learned, his name - "I hope that we won't have to long continue with our game. My brothers here are able to transport you from this room. Will you now join us quietly, or must wf lower the boom?"

   I looked at him and looked at them, and saw that he was right. These rabbits were enough to give most anyone a fright. They glared at me and bared their teeth and stamped their front paws hard - and so I shrugged, and donned my coat, and went into the yard.

   One by one they followed me, Marcus in the lead. "At last you're showing reason. Now let's get up some speed."

   He hopped just once - a three-foot jump - and turned around and said, "You do that too. Three feet at once - that way you'll get ahead."

   "I cannot jump. I'm not a hare. Why can't I simply walk?"

   Behind, a voice emphatic said, "Do what you're told. Don't talk!"

   One hundred rabbits on the left, one hundred on the right, the rest behind, all menacing - no human saw my plight. And so I jumped - a feeble hop - and landed in a drift. No moment's pause was given me. "Get up!" they yelled. "Be swift!"

   I raised myself out of the snow. My feet were cold and wet. The snow was drifting down my neck - my stomach was upset.

   "Get going!" came the order. There was just no escape. "It you would look before you leap, you'd be in better shape."

   On and on they forced me, moving hop by painful hop. Over stumps and Snow and rocks, with not a chance to stop. I breathed deep gulps of air and thought my lungs were going to burst. My legs and head and throat all ached; my poor feet hurt the worst.

   At last, when I could stand no more and felt about to faint, we stopped before a wooden door that badly needed paint. The door led to a giant cave, illumined from above by scores of lanterns ranged in rows. My guides began to shove.

   "Go on, go on!" the order came. "Don't stand around and stare." I stumbled through the door and blinked; my eyes ached from the glare.

   The cavern was enormous; its end was not in sight. At least 3000 rabbits there were bathed in brilliant light. Motionless they watched me, their eyes a chilling hue. Quite terrified I trembled and I knew not what to do.

   "Here he is at last, my friends," said Marcus, gleefully. "It was a chore to make him come, but all's well now, you see."

   The rabbits rose and roared as one: "The trial! The trial! The trial!" And Marcus took me by the hand and led me down an aisle. The silence was oppressive; not a pin was heard to drop. The rabbits stared with scorn as we went by them hop by hop.

   At last there was a platform, on which, enthroned, there sat a most fantastic rabbit who growled, "You! Remove your hat!"

   "Remove your hat! Remove your hat!" resounded through thc cave. I pulled it off. The rabbit watched, and looked exceeding grave. He wore a robe of saffron and a crown of burnished gold. He held a scepter and a rod, and was not young or old.

   "I am the king, the court, the judge, the jury, and the law." Majestically he spoke these words, and raised a massive paw. "Let justice rule and honor reign. The trial is now begun!"

   "The trial?" I echoed, horror-struck. "But tell me what I've done!"

   "Silence!" roared the magistrate, the jury, law and king, and "Silence!" came from 'round the cave, a shout most frightening.

   "First plaintiff!" called the magistrate, and slowly from his seat there limped a timid rabbit who had tightly bandaged feet.

   "What is your charge against this man?" inquired the solemn judge. "I understand that, with good cause, you bear him a grcat grudge."

   "Your honor - Sir -," the rabbit said, "it came about like this: one day I searched for clover leaves to use as dentifrice. I ambled through a meadow, all intent on my pursuit, when at once I felt a searing pain. It was oh most acute! I looked down to discover both my feet caught in a snare. I freed myself by pulling, till my feet of fur were bare. How I got home I'll never know. All I could do was crawl. In time the doctor came along responding to my call. He said that I was lucky just to find myself alive. It's rare indeed for any beast to be snared and survive. My charge against this man is that the snare was set to kill. Attempted murder is the term - tho call it what you will."

   "I did not set the snare!" I cried. "I don't own such a thing!" But "Silence!" echoed 'round the cave, and "Silence!" roared the king.

   "Next plaintiff!" then the summons came, and from the rear there strode a forceful, mighty rabbit who looked ready to explode.

   "What's your complaint?" inquired the judge, and as he took the stand, the rabbit breathed a deep, deep breath, and then held up his hand.

   "My friends," said he, "the time has come to tell you a sad tale. It has to do with things we eat, and air that we inhale. The world is full of pesticides and poisons everywhere. Men spray them round on fields and trees and up into the air. They're used to kill off bugs and such, but get into our food, and that is why the charge I have is of such magnitude. Besides, it's not just rabbits who must suffer from this stuff. It also hurts the squirrels, birds - but then, I've said enough. I charge this man with poisoning the wildlife of our Earth. It seems to me that he must think we are of little worth ."

   "I never poisoned anything!" I made my protest known, but from around the cave there came an angry undertone.

   "Be quiet!" snarled the judge at me. "It's not your turn to speak. the way you interrupt the trial makes us all want to shriek. Next plaintiff! Come up quickly, please. We're running out of time."

   Uncertainly, a rabbit came who had not reached his prime. He seemed, in fact, to be a child - a bunny, as they say. Very small, he much preferred to go outside and play.

   The judge's tone was kindly as he said, "Now, don't be scared. No one's going to hurt you here; it's time your woes were aired. Just tell the court exactly what you've got against this man. Take your time and think it through. We'll help you all we can."

   "He scares me," said the bunny in a high and squeaky tone. "He'll let his dog go after me, or hit me with a stone. A bunch of awful boys chased me all through the woods one day, and I got lost and scared and - and - they wouldn't go away. It isn't safe for us to run around the woods and fields; human beings are everywhere and we are with out shields. He scares me," said the child again, and turned away from me.

   "There, there," the judge said soothingly, "All will be fine, you'll see. This man will pay for all the crimes committed by his kind. When we get through with him I'm sure that he'll be well Inclined.

   I could not bear another word; I'd really heard enough. This trial was just a mockery, but things were getting rough. I turned my back upon the king, the jury, judge, and court. Addressing all the rabbits there, I stated my retort:

   "You've got it wrong. I'm not your man. This is unpleasant sport. I've never harmed an animal. I've never killed a thing. I've never used a gun or trap, or pesticide or sling. I keep a dog; I keep a cat; I treat them both with care. They're in a fenced-in yard and can't harm beasts that live elsewhere. I his trial is most injurious; it's one of ridicule. The so called evidence against me now is false and cmel. I grant you, you may have a case against some other men, but you've no right to charge me with these things not in my ken. I'm innocent of every slur you've cast upon my name, and I demand that you retract, and free me from all blame."

   The judge rose quickly from his chair and banged his gavel hard. His face grew red, then purple, as he yelled:

   "Stop this canard! If you have quite completed your tirade of witless talk, you'd be wise to remember that this trial you cannot balk. Your guilt is manifest to every rabbit in this room; the things that you have left undone contribute to your doom. "

   The judge's wrath was obvious, his anger unconcealed. His prejudice, though clearly wrong, was honestly revealed.

   "It is the judgment of this court that you must pay for crimes committed by your fellow men against us in all climes. You are not innocent because youSe of the breed of man, and have not tried to stop their harm in every way you can."

   I was appalled, and scared besides. Their justice was a joke. No other court would rule this way. I cleared my throat and spoke:

   "How can I pay for crimes that were not any fault of mine? To take the blame for others' wrongs I never did incline. I never harmed an animal; I never hurt a thing. Your verdict is unfounded," I rashly told the king.

   As soon as I had said my piece, the uproar was immense. The clamor of the spectators was close to virulence. Invectives harsh mere hurled at me until the rafters rang, and many there expressed the hope that they would see me hang.

   For quite a while bedlam reigned, and much to my dismay His Honor made no move to quell the shameless dis- array. His prejudice against my case was strikingly unkind, and it was very plain to me that I was in a bind.

   It was the clear intention of the hares assembled there to make of me a scapegoat, no matter how unfair. They canted one poor human being upon whom they could vent all of their accusations, and impose harsh punishment. That many men had cruelly treated them was plain to see, but that did not excuse their plot to take it out on me!

   I knew that I could not escape the clutches of that gang. And if I would protest too much I feared that I might hang! Reluctantly I reconciled myself to meet my fate. It wouldn' t do the slightest good to fiH myself with hate.

   At last the turmoil settled down; the judge once more was heard. "You've talked enough," he said to me, "don't speak another word. It shoald be obvious to you that we have brought you here to make of you a spokesman - a rabbit cavalier. We're well aware that you yourself are kindly and humane, and that you never would inflict disfigurement or pain."

   The judge's face grew sorrowful; he spoke quite softly then: "But don't you see, that's not enough? Too many other men still do not care to what degree they injure, harm, or kill the creatures who must share their world but cannot rule their will. All men must understand their great responsibility to cherish life in all its forms, not just humanity. The animals and plants alike are helpless in their state; they can't defend themselves alone - they need an advocate. They need a human who is not afraid to raise his voice against those of his fellow-men who hurt and maim by choice.

   "We forced you through this unfair trial; it was the only way to make you see the unjust things we suffer every day. We thought that if you once could feel as helpless as we do, you'd be inclined to speak for us, and help to see us through."

   Words such as these he used, and more, and then when he was done, some other rabbit spokesmen, too, asked me to be the one to lead the cause on their behalf.

   And so it came to be that I am here to spread the word to all who hear and see. The animals who roam the woods and fields and meadows wide are all our brothers, every one, and should not have to hide because they are afraid of man. We all must learn to care about the creatures on our Earth, and make a point to share the blessings that were given us by our great God above. He wants us all to live in peace, with kindness and with love.

--Rays from the Rose Cross Magazine, February, 1975, p. 89-92