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THE CITY-OWNED POLICE
After Alice and her companions had enjoyed the aromatic delights of the Blunderland Gas Plant the Hatter and his Cabinet went into executive session for a few hours to decide where they should go next. The interests of Blunderland were so varied that this was a somewhat difficult matter to settle, especially as Mr. Alderman March Hare, who was a great stickler for the rights of the honourable body to which he belonged, wished to have the question referred to a special meeting of the Common Council. The White Knight as Corporation Counsel, however, advised the Hatter that there was no warrant in law compelling him to accede to the March Hare's demand.
"The Municipal Ownership of Rubbernecks act has not yet been passed," he observed. "Consequently visitors to our City can be shown about in any way in which the party in charge chooses to choose."
"WROTE ON THE SIDE OF A CONVENIENT GAS TANK"
"All right if you say so," said March Hare coldly. "Only I'd like to have that opinion in writing. Public officials nowadays are too prune to deny"
"Prone, I guess you mean," laughed the Hatter gleefully.
"I prefer prune," said the March Hare, with dignity. "Public officials are too prune nowadays to deny what they say in private conversation to encourage me to take any chances."
"Certainly," returned the White Knight. "I'll write it out for you with pleasure." Whereupon, taking a piece of chalk from his pocket, he wrote with it on the side of a convenient gas tank the following opinion:
RE WHAT TO DO NEXT
Opinion 7,543,467,223. Liber 29. Gas Tank No. 6
You can go to the People's Shoe Shop,
Or down to the new Town Pump.
You can visit the Civic Glue Shop,
Or call on the Public Chump.
You can visit the Social Rooster,
Or sample Municipal Cheese
In short you can do what you choose ter,
And go where you dee dash please.
(Signed) John Doe White Knight,
Meanwhile Alice had been turned over to the Chief of Police to be cared for, and was charmed to discover that that individual was none other than her old friend the Dormouse whom she had met in her trip through Wonderland at the Hatter's tea-party.
"How did you ever come to be Chief of Police?" she cried delightedly, as she recognised him.
"I'M THE SOUNDEST SLEEPER IN TOWN"
"I'm the soundest sleeper in town," he replied with a yawn, "so they made me head of the force. You see, young lady, the great trouble with the average policeman is that he's too wide-awake, and that leads to graft. When the Hatter's Municipal Police Commission looked into the question they found that the Cop who spent most of his time asleep spent less of his time clubbing people who wouldn't whack up with him on the profits of their business. Every ossifer who has been convicted of petty larceny in the past, the records show, has been a fellow who stayed awake most of the time, and no ossifer has ever yet been known to go in for graft or get a record for clubbing innocent highwaymen over the head while he was asleep either on a Park Bench, or in an alleyway. Consequently, says they, Mr. Dormouse who wakes up only on every fifth Thursday in February will make the best Police ossifer in the bunch, and being the best had ought to be chose chief. Hence accordingly, it became thus. Moreover I am a champion Tea Drinker."
"What's that got to do with it?" demanded Alice.
"Everything," said the Dormouse, rubbing his eyes sleepily. "Every blessed thing. Tea Drinking is one of our hardest duties under the new system providing for the Municipal Ownership of Everything in Sight Including the Cop on the Corner. You see when the City grabbed up the Bakeries, and the Trolleys, and the Grand Opera House, and the Condensed Milk Factory, and the Saw Mills, and the Breakfast Food Jungles, all envy, hatred and malice disappeared. Everybody loved his neighbour better than he did himself or his wife's family, and consequently hence there was therefore no crime, which left the Policeman out of a job. The only Burglars left in town were the regularly appointed official safecrackers representing the Municipal Ownership of Petty and Grand Larceny. The only gambling houses left were under the direct supervision of the Mayor acting ex-officio and the Chairman of the Aldermanic Committee on Faro and Roulette. The Game of Bunco became a duly authorised official diversion under control of the Tax Assessors, and the Town Toper, being elected by popular vote, could get as leery as he pleased by public consent. Life Insurance Agents became likewise Public Servants under the General Ordinance of 1905 starting the Civic Tontine Parlours where people were compelled to buy Life Insurance from the City itself at so much a yard."
"A yard?" cried Alice.
"Yep," yawned the Dormouse. "Policies were issued anywhere from three inches to a yard long, each inch representing a year. If you bought a mile of Life Insurance you were insured for as many years as there are inches in a mile. I never could stay awake long enough to figure out how much that is, but it's several years."
"But what did the Agents have to do?" asked Alice. "If people had to take it"
"They went out and grabbed delinquents," said the Dormouse.
"I shouldn't think people would need life insurance for the benefit of their families if everybody has everything he wants in Blunderland," put in Alice.
"TEA IS SERVED ON EVERY CORNER"
"They don't," said the Dormouse, rapping his head with his club to keep from dropping off to sleep. "It ain't for the benefit of their families it's for the benefit of the City. A City like this can use benefits to great advantages most all the time. But you see the results of Municipalising all sorts of crime from straight burglary up to life insurance resulted in the Police having nothing to do. There wasn't anybody to arrest, or to quell, or to club, and so they turned us into a social organisation and that's where Tea Drinking comes in strong. Every afternoon at five o clock, tea is served on every corner in Blunderland by the Policeman on beat. They have become quite a public function, but they're a trifle hard on the police who don't care for tea, because we have to be very polite and take it with everybody who comes up, and be nice and chatty into the bargain. In addition to this we are required to go to dances and take care of the wall-flowers and make ourselves generally agreeable. It is one of the laws of Blunderland that all girls are born free and equal in the pursuit of life, liberty and german favours, and when any of the Terpsichorean Force finds a girl with red hair and snub nose with freckles on it decorating the wall and being neglected at a cotillion, it is his duty to plunge in and either dance with her himself, or put some Willieboy under arrest until he calls her out and gives her the time of her life. You can't imagine what wonderful results this Municipal Control of that social situation has done in the line of popularising plain girls."
"It sounds very interesting," Alice ventured. "I should think the girls would like it."
"They do," said the Dormouse. "The only objection to it comes from the Willieboys, but nobody cares much what they think because there aren't many of them that can think."
"And is that all you do?" asked Alice.
"Oh, no indeed," said the Dormouse. "We keep reserves for Bridge Parties at the Station all the time, so that if any taxpayer ever needs a fourth hand to make up a game all he has to do is to ring up headquarters and get an ossifer to come up and play. In addition to this we look after old ladies who want to go shopping and aren't strong enough to break through the rush line at the bargain counters. And then once in a while somebody's baby will wake up at three o'clock in the morning and demand the moon, and we go up and attend to it."
"What?" cried Alice in amazement. "You don't mean to say you give it the moon?"
"Not exactly," said the Dormouse. "We just promise to give it. That's one of the strong points about Municipal Ownership. It's the easiest system to make promises under you ever knew. You can promise anything, and later on if you don't make good you can promise something better, and so on. It works very well in a great many places."
"WE RESPOND IMMEDIATELY TO THE CALL"
"But that isn't really what we go up to the house for. We go up to relieve the poor tired parents who have been working hard all day and are too weary to walk up and down the floor with the baby. We respond immediately to the call, grab up the baby and walk the floor with him until he is quiet again. Once last winter a chap with three pairs of twins six months, a year and a half, and three years old respectively, had to send for the patrol wagon. All six of 'em waked up and began to squall at once and we sent seven ossifers and a sergeant up to look after them. They had to parade around that house from 2 a. m. until seven-thirty before those babies quit yelling."
Just at this moment the Dormouse was interrupted in his story by a raggedly dressed old man on a pair of crutches who begged an alms of him.
"Only a dollar, sir," he asked piteously. "Only a dollar to relieve a terrible case of distress."
"Certainly, Simpkins," said the Dormouse kindly. "I well I'll be jiggered " he added, feeling through his pockets. "I must have left my money at home. Maybe this young lady can help you out. Miss Alice, permit me to introduce you to Simpkins. He's the most successful beggar in nineteen counties."
"Glad to meet you," said Alice, shaking hands with Simpkins.
"You couldn't spare a dollar, could you, Miss?" whined the Beggar. "It will relieve a terrible case of distress Ma'am.
"Why yes," said Alice, suddenly remembering that she had a silver dollar in her pocket. "Here it is."
And she handed it to Simpkins who thanked her profusely.
"How's business?" asked the Dormouse.
"Fine," said Simpkins, executing a jig. "I've collected $800 since eleven o'clock this morning."
"MADE OFF WITH THE AGILITY OF AN ANTELOPE"
Whereupon, forgetting his crutches, he made off up the street with the agility of an antelope. Alice gazed after him in wonder.
"I I didn't suppose you had any beggars in Blunderland," said she.
"He's the only one," replied the Dormouse. "He's the official Beggar of the Town. He gets $25,000 in Tenth Deferred Reorganisation Certificates a year which, if the Certificates pay ten cents on the dollar, as we hope, will turn out to be a good salary in the end."
"But why does he beg? Who gets the money?" asked Alice.
"The City," said the Dormouse. "Once in a while when the Printing Plant gets clogged up with large orders of Bonds for our various enterprises, the City has to get hold of a few dollars of real money, so they send Simpkins out for it. I believe he's out to-day trying to raise the interest on the Sixteenth Mortgage Extension Bonds on the Municipal Cigarette Plant purchased year before last. It's ten months overdue and the former owners have asked the Government to smoke up."
"Oh!" said Alice. "Is the Printing Plant clogged up?"
"Unmercifully," said the Dormouse. "Not to say teetotally. They're preparing their Christmas issues in Magazine form, and that means a terrible lot of extra work. I don't believe the way things look now that the City will be able to print the money for last January's payroll until somewhere around the next Fourth of July, and if that's the case poor old Simpkins will either have to work overtime or get a half-dozen Deputy Assistant Beggars to put the town in funds. I'm expecting to have the Police put on that job at any minute."
Alice was silent for a moment, and the Dormouse went on.
"What do you think of the Municipal Ownership of the Police idea?" he asked.
"It's fine," said Alice. "But I thought all Cities owned their police force."
"A great many people think that," laughed the Dormouse. "But it isn't so."
"It is in New York and Chicago I heard my Papa say so once," said Alice.
Again the Dormouse laughed.
"Well," he said. "I don't want to cast any asparagus on your father's intelligence, but he's wrong. The Police may own New York and Chicago, but New York and Chicago don't own the police not by a long shot."
"Who does, then?" demanded Alice.
"The Lord only knows," laughed the Dormouse. "Some people say John Doe, and other people say the Man Higher Up, but which it is, or who either of 'em may be, I haven't the slightest idea. Maybe they belong to the Copper Trust."
And then with a sly wink at the little maid the Dormouse turned over and went to sleep.