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Alice in Blunderland
OFF TO BLUNDERLAND
IT was one of those dull, drab, depressing days when somehow or other it seemed as if there wasn't anything anywhere for anybody to do. It was raining outdoors, so that Alice could not amuse herself in the garden, or call upon her friend Little Lord Fauntleroy up the street; and downstairs her mother was giving a Bridge Party for the benefit of the M. O. Hot Tamale Company, which had lately fallen upon evil days. Alice's mother was a very charitably disposed person, and while she loathed gambling in all its forms, was nevertheless willing for the sake of a good cause to forego her principles on alternate Thursdays, but she was very particular that her little daughter should be kept aloof from contaminating influences, so that Alice found herself locked in the nursery and, as I have already intimated, with nothing to do. She had read all her books — The House of Mirth, the novels of Hall Caine and Marie Corelli — the operation for appendicitis upon her dollie, while very successful indeed, had left poor Flaxilocks without a scrap of sawdust in her veins, and therefore unable to play; and worst of all, her pet kitten, under the new city law making all felines public property, had grown into a regular cat and appeared only at mealtimes, and then in so disreputable a condition that he was not thought to be fit company for a child of seven.
"Oh dear!" cried Alice impatiently, as she sat rocking in her chair, listening to the pattering of the rain upon the roof of the veranda. "I do wish there was something to do, or somebody to do, or somewhere to go. The Gov'ment ought to provide covered playgrounds for children on wet days. It wouldn't cost much, to put a glass cover on the Park!"
"A very good, idea! I'll make a note of that," said a squeaky little voice at her side.
Alice sprang to her feet in surprise. She had supposed she was alone, and for a moment she was frightened, but a glance around reassured her, for strange to say, seated on the radiator warming his toes was her old friend the Hatter, the queer old chap she had met in her marvellous trip through Wonderland, and with him was the March Hare, the Cheshire Cat, and the White Knight from Looking Glass Land.
"Why — you dear old things!" she cried. "You here?"
"I don't know about these others, but I'm here," returned the Hatter. "The others seem to be here, but I respectfully decline to take my solemn daffydavy on the subject, because my doctor says I'm all the time seeing things that ain't. Besides I don't believe in swearing."
"We're here all right," put in the March Hare. "I know because we ain't anywhere else, and when you ain't anywhere else you can make up your mind that you're here."
"Well, I'm awfully glad to see you," said Alice. "I've been so lonesome——"
"We know that," said the White Knight. "We've been studying your case lately and we thought we'd come down and see what we could do for you. The fact is the Hatter here has founded a model city, where everything goes just right, and we came to ask you to pay us a call."
"A city?" cried Alice.
"Yep," said the March Hare. "It's called Blunderland and between you and me I don't believe anybody but the Hatter could have invented one like it. His geegantic brain conceived the whole thing, and I tell you it's a corker."
"Where is it?" asked Alice.
"That's telling," said the Hatter. "I haven't had it copyrighted yet, and until I do I ain't going to tell where it is. You can't be too careful about property these days with copperations lurkin' around everywhere to grab everything in sight."
"What's a copperation?" asked Alice.
"What? Never heard of a Copperation?" demanded the Hatter. "Mercy! Ever hear of the Mumps, or the Measles, or the Whooping Cough?"
"Yes — but I never knew they were called Copperations," said Alice.
"Well, they ain't, but they're no worse — so they ought to be," said the Hatter. "Listen here. I'll tell you what a copperation is."
And putting his hat in front of his mouth like a telephone the Hatter recited the following poem through it:
A copperation is a beast
With forty leven paws
That doesn't ever pay the least
Attention to the laws.
It grabs whatever comes in sight
From hansom cabs to socks
And with a grin of mad delight
It turns 'em into stocks
And then it takes a rubber hose
Connected with the sea
And pumps em full of H2Os
Of various degree
And when they're swollen up so stout
You'd think they'd surely bust
They souse 'em once again and out
They come at last a Trust
And when the Trust is ready for
One last and final whack
They let the public in the door
To buy the water back.
"See?" said the Hatter as he finished.
"No," said Alice. "It sounded very pretty through your hat, but I don't understand it. Why should people buy water when they can get it for nothing in the ocean?"
"You're like all the rest," groaned the Hatter. "Nobody seems to understand but me, and somehow or other I can't make it clear to other people."
"You might if you didn't talk through your hat," grinned the Cheshire Cat.
"Then I'd have to stop being a public character," said the Hatter. "I'm not going to sacrifice my career just because you're too ignorant to see what I'm driving at. I don't mind telling you though, Alice, that outside of poetry a Copperation is a Creature devised by Selfish Interests to secure the Free Coinage of the Atlantic Ocean."
drops of water,
Plenty of hot air,
Make a Copperation
A pretty fat affair,"
warbled the March Hare.
"O well," said Alice, "what about it? Suppose there is such an animal around. What are we going to do about it?"
"We're going to gerraple with it," said the Hatter, with a valiant shake of his hat. "We're going to grab it by its throat, and shake it down, and shackle it so that in forty years it will become as tame as a fly or any other highly domesticated animal."
"But how?" asked Alice. "You aren't going to do this yourself, are you? Single handed and alone?"
"Yes," said the Hatter. "The March Hare and the White Knight and I. We've started a city to do it with. We've sprinkled our streets with Rough on Copperations until there isn't one left in the place. Everything in town belongs to the People — street cars, gutters, pavements, theatres, electric light, cabs, manicures, dogs, cats, canary birds, hotels, barber shops, candy stores, hats, umbrellas, bakeries, cakeries, steakeries, shops, — you can't think of a thing that the city don't own. No more private ownership of anything from a toothbrush to a yacht, and the result is we are all happy."
"It sounds fine," said Alice. "Though I think I should rather own my own toothbrush."
"You naturally would under the old system," assented the Hatter. "Under a system of private ownership owning your own teeth you'd prefer to own your own toothbrush, but our Council has just passed a law making teeth public property. You see we found that some people had teeth and other people hadn't, which is hardly a fair condition under a Republican form of Government. It gave one class of citizens a distinct advantage over other people and the Declaration of Independence demands absolute equality for all. One man owning his own teeth could eat all the hickory nuts he wanted just because he had teeth to crack 'em with, while another man not having teeth had either to swallow em whole, which ruined his digestion, or go without, which wasn't fair.
"I see," said Alice.
"So it occurred to Mr. Alderman March Hare here," continued the Hatter, "that we should legislate in the matter, and at our last session we passed a law providing for the Municipal Ownership of Teeth, so that now when a toothless wanderer wants a hickory nut cracked he has a perfectly legal right to stop anybody in the street who has teeth and make him crack the nut for him. Of course we've had a little trouble enforcing the law — alleged private rights are always difficult to get around. Long-continued possession has seemed so to convince people that they have inherent rights to the things they have enjoyed, that they put up a fight and appeal to the Constitution and all that, and even when you mention the fact, as I did in a case that came up the other day (when a man refused to bite on another chap's cigar for him), that the Constitution doesn't mention teeth anywhere in all its classes, they are not easy to convince. This fellow insisted that his teeth were private property, and no city law should make them public property. He's going to take it to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile his teeth are in the custody of the sheriff.
"And what has become of the man?" asked Alice.
"He's in the custody of the sheriff too," said the Hatter. "We couldn't arrange it any other way except by pulling his teeth, and he didn't want that."
"I can't blame him," said Alice reflectively. "I should hate to have my teeth taken away from me."
"O there's no obfuscation about it," said the Hatter.
"Confuscation," corrected the March Hare. "I wish you would get that word right. It's too important to fool with."
"Thank you," replied the Hatter. "My mind is on higher things than mere words. However, as I was saying, there is no confuscation about it. We don't take a man's teeth away from him without compensation. We pay him what the teeth are worth and place them at the service of the whole community.
"Where do you get the money to pay him?" asked Alice.
"We give him a Municipal Bond," explained the Hatter. "It's a ten per cent. bond costing two cents to print. When he cracks a hickory nut for the public, the man he cracks it for pays him a cent. He rings this up on a cash register he carries pinned to his vest, and at the end of every week turns in the cash to the City Treasury. That money is used to pay the interest on the bonds. The scheme has the additional advantage that it makes a man's teeth negotiable property in the sense that whereas under the old system he couldn't very well sell his teeth, under the new system he can sell the bond if he gets hard up. Moreover, the City Government having acquired control has to pay all his dentist's bills, supply tooth powder and so on, which results in a great saving to the individual. It hardly costs the city anything, except for the Tooth Inspector, who is paid $1,200 a year, but we can handle that easily enough, provided the people will use the Public Teeth in sufficiently large numbers to bring in dividends. Anyhow, we have gone in for it, and I see no reason why it should not work as well as any other Municipal Ownership scheme."
"I should love to go and see your city," said Alice, who, though not quite convinced as to the desirability of the Municipal Ownership of Teeth, was nevertheless very much interested.
"Very well," said the Hatter. "We can go at once, for I see the train is already standing in the Station."
cried Alice. "What Station?"
But before the Hatter could answer, Alice, glancing through the window, caught sight of a very beautiful train standing before the veranda, and in a moment she found herself stepping on board with her friends, while a soft-spoken guard at the door was handing her an engraved card upon a silver salver "Respectfully Inviting Miss Alice to Step Lively There."