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Title: Alice in Blunderland - An Iridescent Dream
Author: Bangs, John Kendrick, 1862-1922
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Alice in Blunderland - An Iridescent Dream" ***

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[Illustration]



ALICE IN BLUNDERLAND



BY THE SAME AUTHOR

  A House-boat on the Styx
  Coffee and Repartee
  Mollie and the Unwiseman
  Worsted Man; A Musical Play for Amateurs
  The Enchanted Typewriter
  Ghosts I Have Met
  Mrs. Raffles
  Olympian Nights
  R. Holmes & Co.
  And Many Other Short Stories



Alice in Blunderland

An Iridescent Dream

By

JOHN KENDRICK BANGS


Illustrated by

ALBERT LEVERING


New York
Doubleday, Page & Company
1907


COPYRIGHT, 1906, BY THE
MUNICIPAL OWNERSHIP PUBLISHING BUREAU


COPYRIGHT, 1907, BY
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
PUBLISHED, SEPTEMBER, 1907



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE

    I.  Off to Blunderland                                             3

   II.  The Immovable Trolley                                         19

  III.  The Aromatic Gas Plant                                        37

   IV.  The City-owned Police                                         56

    V.  The Municipaphone                                             73

   VI.  The Department of Public Verse                                92

  VII.  The Municipal Ownership of Children                          108



ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                                    PAGE

  The Cheshire Cat                                                     5

  The March Hare                                                       6

  "'Listen here'"                                                      7

  The municipal chewery                                               11

  The municipal toothery                                              13

  "Handing her a card"                                                17

  "'Put that fellow off'"                                             20

  "Requested the Hatter to crack a filbert for him"                   24

  "'Banged into the car ahead'"                                       27

  The Chief Engineer                                                  30

  "'It came to me like a flash'"                                      31

  "'Studying the economic theories of Dr. Wack'"                      45

  "The White Knight interfered"                                       48

  "'In the matter of perfume it was fine'"                            50

  "'Nobody could be gas-fixturated'"                                  51

  "Wrote on the side of a convenient gas tank"                        57

  "'I'm the soundest sleeper in town'"                                59

  "'Tea is served on every corner'"                                   64

  "'We respond immediately to the call'"                              67

  "Made off with the agility of an antelope"                          69

  "'You can talk all you please'"                                     73

  "'Fined five dollars'"                                              84

  "'The dictionary we are compiling'"                                 85

  "Alice transfixed at the phone"                                     86

  "'The biggest jackass from Dan to Beersheba'"                       87

  "'Larger measure than was the custom'"                              94

  "Greeted by the Commissioner, the Haberdasher"                      99

  "'It runs this way, your honour'"                                  100

  "'Our thinking department'"                                        102

  "'When they think nobody's looking'"                               116

  "'If you get into trouble, use this'"                              119

  "Seizing her by the arm"                                           122

  "'Why--have I--I really fallen?'"                                  124



CHAPTER I

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.

[Illustration: THE CHESHIRE CAT]

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."

[Illustration: THE MARCH HARE]

"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.

[Illustration: "LISTEN HERE"]

"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:

THE COPPERATION

  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 H+2+Os
    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."

  "Little 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?"

[Illustration: THE MUNICIPAL CHEWERY]

"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.

[Illustration: THE MUNICIPAL TOOTHERY]

"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 cobfuscation 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."

"The Station?" cried Alice. "What Station?"

[Illustration: "HANDING HER A CARD"]

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."



CHAPTER II

THE IMMOVABLE TROLLEY


"What an extraordinary car," said Alice, as she stepped into the
brilliantly lighted vehicle. "It doesn't seem to have any end to it,"
she added as she passed down the aisle, looking for the front platform.

"It hasn't," said the Hatter. "It just runs on forever."

"Doesn't it stop anywhere?" cried Alice in amazement.

"It stops everywhere," said the Hatter. "What I mean is it hasn't any
ends at all. It's just one big circular car that runs all around the
city and joins itself where it began in the beginning. We call it the
M. O. Express, M. O. standing for Municipal Ownership----"

"And Money Owed," laughed a Weasel that sat on the other side of the
car.

[Illustration: "PUT THAT FELLOW OFF"]

"Put that fellow off," said the March Hare indignantly. "Conductor--out
with him."

The Conductor immediately threw the Weasel out of the window, as
ordered, and the Hatter resumed.

"We call it the express because it is so fast," he continued.

"You'd hardly think it was going at all," observed Alice, as she noticed
the entire lack of motion in the car.

"It isn't," said the Hatter. "It's built on a solid foundation and
doesn't move an inch, and yet at the same time it runs all around the
city. It was my idea," he added proudly.

"But you said it was fast," protested Alice.

"And so it is, my child," said the Hatter kindly. "It's as fast as
though it was glued down with mucilage. There's several ways of being
fast, you know. Did you ever hear of the Ballade of the _Nancy
P. D. Q._?"

"No," said Alice.

"It's a Sea Song in B flat," said the Hatter. "I will sing it for you."

And placing his hat before his lips to give a greater mellowness to his
voice, the Hatter sang:

THE BALLADE OF THE _NANCY P. D. Q._

  O the good ship _Nancy P. D. Q._
    From up in Boston, Mass.,
  Went sailing o'er the bounding blue
    Cargoed with apple sass.

  She sailed around Ogunkit Bay
    Down past the Banks of Quogue,
  And on a brilliant summer's day,
  Just off the coast of Mandelay,
    She landed in a fog.

  So brace the topsails close, my lads,
    And stow your grog, my crew,
  For the waves are steep and the fog is deep
    Round the _Nancy P. D. Q._

  As in the fog she groped around--
    The night was black as soot--
  She ran against Long Island Sound,
    Out where the codfish toot.
  And when the moon rose o'er the scene
    So smiling, sweet and bland,
  She poked her nose so sharp and keen--
  'Twas freshly painted olive green--
    Deep in a bar of sand.

  So splice the garboard strakes, my lads,
    And reef the starboard screw--
  For it sticks like tar, that sandy bar,
    To the _Nancy P. D. Q._

  O the Skipper swore with a "Yeave-ho-ho!"
    And the crew replied "Hi-hi!"
  And then, with a cheerful "Heave-ho-yo,"
    They pumped the bowsprit dry.
  "Three cheers!" the Mate cried with a sneeze
    "Hurrah for this old boat!
  She sails two knots before the breeze,
  But on the bar, by Jingo, she's
    The fastest thing afloat!"

  So up with the gallant flag, my lads,
    With a hip-hip-hip-hooroo,
  For the liner fast is now outclassed
    By the _Nancy P. D. Q._

Alice scratched her chin in perplexity, but the Hatter never stopped.

"I got an idea from that ballad," he rattled on. "If you want trains
fast you've got to build 'em fast."

"Yes, but if they don't go--how does anybody get anywhere?" asked Alice.

"They can get off and walk," said the Hatter. "And it's a great deal
less dangerous getting off a train that doesn't move than off one that
does."

"I can see that," said. Alice. "That weasel, for instance, would have
been badly hurt if he had been thrown through the window of a moving
car."

"That's it exactly," said the Hatter. "As Alderman March Hare puts it,
we M. O. people are after the comfort and safety of the people first,
last and all the time. Everything else is a tertiary consideration
merely."

"What's tertiary?" asked Alice.

"Third," said the Hatter. "To come in third. It's a combination of
turtle and dromedary."

[Illustration: "REQUESTED THE HATTER TO CRACK A FILBERT FOR HIM"]

Just at this moment a man walking through the car stopped and requested
the Hatter to crack a filbert for him, which the Hatter cheerfully did.
The passer-by thanked him and paid him a cent, which the Hatter
immediately rang up on a small cash register on his vest, as required by
the laws of Blunderland.

"That's the way the Municipal Ownership of Teeth works," said the Hatter
as the man passed on, and then he resumed. "This street railway
business, however, was a much harder proposition than the Municipal
Ownership of Teeth. When we took the railways over of course we had to
run 'em on the old system until we'd learned the business. The
first thing we did was to get educated men for Motormen and
Conductors--polite fellows, you know, who'd stop a car when you asked
'em to, and when they started wouldn't do it with such a jerk that in
nine cases out of ten it was only the back door that kept the car from
being yanked clean from under your feet, letting you land in the street
behind."

"I know," said Alice. "Like a game of snap the whip."

"Exactly," said the Hatter. "Under the old method of starting a car you
never knew, when you were going home nights, whether you'd land in the
bosom of your family or in a basket of eggs somebody was bringing home
from market. So we advertised for polite motormen and conductors, and we
got a great lot of them, mostly retired druggists, floor-walkers, poets
and fellows like that, with a few ex-politicians thrown in to give tone
to the service, and we put them on, but they didn't know anything about
motoring, unfortunately. Somehow or other good manners and expert
motoring didn't seem to go together, and in consequence we had a fearful
lot of collisions at first. I don't think there was a whole back
platform in the outfit at the end of the week, no matter which way the
car was going."

"Must have been awful," said Alice.

[Illustration: "BANGED INTO THE CAR AHEAD"]

"It was," said the Hatter, "and the public began to complain. One man
who got his nose pinched between two cars sued us for damages and we
had to return his fare. Finally one day one of the old bobtail cars got
running away, and the first we knew it banged into the car ahead and
went right through it, coming out in front still going like mad after
the next car, and we knew something had to be done."

"Mercy!" cried Alice. "I should think the passengers in the first car
would have sued you for that."

"They would have," said the Hatter, "if they could have scraped enough
of themselves together again to appear in court."

"It was a hard problem," said the March Hare.

"The hardest ever," asserted the Hatter. "But the White Knight there
gave me a clue to the solution--he's our Copperation Council--and I put
it up to him for an opinion, and after thinking it over for two months
he reported. The only way to prevent collisions, said he, is to cut the
ends off the cars. That was it, wasn't it, Judge?" he added, turning to
the White Knight.

"Yes," said the Knight, "only I put it in poetry. My precise words were

  "The only way that I can find
    To stop this car colliding stunt
  Is cutting off the end behind
    And likewise that in front."

"Splendid!" cried Alice, clapping her hands in glee. "That's fine."

"Thank you," said the White Knight. "You see, Miss Alice, I made a
personal study of collisions. The Mayor here ordered a fresh one every
day for me to investigate, and I noticed that whenever two cars bunked
into each other it was always at the ends and never in the middle. The
conclusion was inevitable. The ends being the venerable spot, abolish
them.

"A very careful and conscientious public servant," whispered the March
Hare aside to Alice. "When we have Municipal Ownership of the Federal
Government we're going to put him on the Supreme Court Bench. He means
vulnerable when he says venerable, but you mustn't mind that. When we
have Municipal Ownership of the English Language we'll make the words
mean what we want 'em to."

[Illustration: "THE CHIEF ENGINEER"]

"Then of course the question arose as to how we could do this," said the
Hatter. "I got the Chief Engineer of our Department of Public Works to
make some experiments, and would you believe it, when we cut the ends
on the cars, there were still other ends left? No matter how far we
clipped 'em, it was the same. It's a curious scientific fact that you
can't cut off the end of anything and leave it endless. We tried it with
a lot of things--cars, lengths of hose, coils of wire, rope--everything
we could think of--always with the same result. Ends were endless, but
nothing else was. As a matter of fact they multiplied on us. One car
that had two ends when we began was cut in the middle, and then was
found to have four ends instead of two."

"That's so, isn't it!" cried Alice.

[Illustration: "IT CAME TO ME LIKE A FLASH"]

"It unquestionably is," said the Hatter, "and we were at our wits' ends
until one night it came to me like a flash. I had gone to bed on a Park
Bench, according to my custom of using nothing that is not owned by the
city, for I am very serious about this thing, when just as I was dozing
on the whole scheme unfolded itself. Build a circular car, of course.
One big enough to go all around the city. That would solve so many
problems. With only one car, there'd be no car ahead, which always
irritates people who miss it and then have to take it later. With only
one car, there could be no collisions. With only one car we could get
along with only one motorman and one conductor at a time, thus giving
the others time to go to dancing school and learn good manners. With
only one car, and that a permanent fixture, nobody could miss it. If it
didn't move we could economise on motive power, and even bounce the
motorman without injury to the service, if he should happen to be
impudent to the Board of Aldermen; nobody would be run over by it;
nobody would be injured getting on and off; it wouldn't make any
difference if the motorman didn't see the passenger who wanted to get
aboard. Being circular there'd always be room enough to go around, and
there'd be no front or back platform for the people to stand on or get
thrown off of going round the curves. The expenses of keeping up the
roadbed would be nothing, because, being motionless, the car wouldn't
jolt even if it ran over a thank-you-marm a mile high, and best of all,
a circular car has no ends to collide with other ends, which makes it
absolutely safe. I never heard of a car colliding with itself, did you?"

"No, I never did," replied Alice.

"Nor I neither," said the March Hare. "I don't think it ever happened,
and therefore I reason that it ain't going to happen."

"And how do the people like it?" asked Alice.

"O, they're getting to like it," replied the Hatter. "At first they
didn't want to ride on the thing at all. They said what you did, that
they didn't seem to be getting anywhere, and they hated to walk home,
but after awhile we proved to them that walking was a very healthful
exercise, and on rainy nights they found the covered car a good deal of
a convenience, especially when under the old system of private ownership
of umbrellas they had left their bumbershoots at home. Once or twice
they lost their tempers and sassed the conductor, but he put them in
jail for lazy majesty--a German disease that we have imported for the
purpose. As an officer of the Government the conductor has a right to
arrest anybody who sasses him as guilty of sedition, and a night or two
in jail takes the fun out of that."

"Have you had any elections since you established it?" asked Alice,
whose father had once run for Mayor, and who therefore knew something
about politics.

"No," said the Hatter with an easy laugh. "But we will have one in the
spring. We shall be reëlected all right."

"How do you know?" asked Alice. "If the people don't like Municipal
Ownership----"

"O, but they do," said the March Hare. "You see, Miss Alice, we have
employed a safe majority of the voters in the various Departments of our
M. O. system, their terms expiring coincidentally with our own--so if
they vote against us they vote against themselves. It really makes
Municipal Ownership self-perpetrating."

"He means perpetuating," whispered the March Hare.

"Ah," said Alice. "I see."

Just then a heavy gong like a huge fire alarm sounded and all the
passengers sprang to their feet and made for the doors.

"What's that?" cried Alice, timidly, as she rose up hurriedly with all
the rest.

"Don't be alarmed. It's only the signal that our time is up," said the
Hatter. "We must get out now and make room for others who may wish to
use the cars. Nobody can monopolise anything under our system. I will
now take you to see our Gas and Hot Air Plant. It is one of the seven
wonders of the world."

And the little party descended into the street.



CHAPTER III

THE AROMATIC GAS PLANT


After the little party had descended from the marvellous trolley,
concerning which the March Hare observed, most properly, that under
private ownership nothing so safe and sane would ever have been thought
of, they walked along a beautiful highway, bordered with rosebushes,
oleanders and geraniums, until they came to a lovely little park at the
entrance to which was a huge sign announcing that within was

THE BLUNDERLAND GAS PLANT.

To tell the truth Alice had not cared particularly to visit the Gas
Works, because she had once been driven through what was known at home
as the Gas-House district on her way to the ferry, and her
recollections of it were not altogether pleasant. As she recalled it it
was in a rather squalid neighbourhood, and the odours emanating from it
were not pleasing to what she called her "oil-factories." But here in
Blunderland all was different. Instead of the huge ugly retorts rising
up out of the ground, surrounded by a quality of air that one could not
breathe with comfort, was as beautiful a garden as anyone could wish to
wander through, and at its centre there stood a retort, but not one that
looked like a great iron skull cap painted red. On the contrary the
Municipally Owned retort had architecturally all the classic beauty of a
Carnegie Library.

"We call it the Retort Courteous," said the Hatter pridefully as he
gazed at the structure, and smiled happily as he noted Alice's very
evident admiration for it. "You see, in urban affairs, as a mere matter
of fitness, we believe in cultivating urbanity, my child, and in
consequence everything we do is conceived in a spirit of courtesy. The
gas-houses under private ownership have not been what you would call
polite. They were almost invariably heavy, rude, staring structures that
reared themselves offensively in the public eye, and our first effort
was to subliminate----"

"Ee-liminate," whispered the March Hare.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Hare," retorted the Hatter. "I did not mean
ee-liminate, which means to suppress, but subliminate, which means to
sublimify or make sublime. I guess I know my own language."

"Excuse me," said the March Hare meekly. "I haven't studied the M. O.
Dictionary beyond the letter Q, Mr. Mayor, and I was not aware that the
Common Council had as yet passed favourably upon subliminate, either,"
he added with some feeling.

"That is because it was not until yesterday that the Copperation
Council decided that subliminate was a constitutional word," said the
Hatter sharply. "In view of his report to me, which I wrote myself and
therefore know the provisions of, he states that subliminate is a
perfectly just and proper word involving no infringement upon the rights
of others, and in no wise impairing the value of innocent vested
interests, and is therefore legal. Therefore, I shall use it whether the
Common Council approves it or not. If they resolve that it is not a good
word, I shall veto the resolution. If you don't like it I'll send you
your resignation."

"That being the case," said the March Hare, "I withdraw my objections."

"Which," observed the Hatter triumphantly, turning to Alice, "shows you,
my dear young lady, the very great value of the Municipal Ownership idea
as applied to the Board of Aldermen. As the White Knight put it in one
of his poetical reports printed in Volume 347, of the Copperation
Council's Opinions for October, 1906, page 926,

  "A City may not own its Gas,
    Its Barber Shops, or Cars
  It may not raise Asparagrass,
    Or run Official Bars;
  It may not own a big Hotel
    Or keep a Public Hen,
  But it will always find it well
    To own its Aldermen.

"When Aldermen were owned by private interests the public interests
suffered, but in this town where the City Fathers belong to the City
they have to do what the City tells them to, or get out."

"It sounds good," was all that Alice could think of to say.

"What I was trying to tell you when the Alderman interpolated--" the
Hatter went on.

"There he goes again!" growled the March Hare.

"Was that the first thing we did when we took over the Gas Plant was to
sublimify the externals of the works along lines of Architectural and
Olfactoreal beauty both to the eye and to the nose, two organs of the
human structure that private interests seldom pay much attention to. I
asked myself two questions. First, is it necessary for a gas works to be
ugly? Second, is it necessary for gas works to be so odourwhifferous
that the smell of the Automobile is a dream of fragrant beauty alongside
of it? To both these questions the answer was plain. Of course it ain't.
Beauty can be applied to the lines of a gas-tank just as readily as to
the lines of a hippopotamus, and as for the odours, they are due to the
fact that gas as it is now made does not smell pleasantly, but there is
no reason why it should not be so manufactured that people would be
willing to use it on their handkerchiefs. I learned that Professor
Burbank of California had developed a cactus plant that could be used
for a sofa cushion--why, I asked myself, could he not develop a
gas-plant that will put forth flowers the perfume of which should make
that of the violet, and the rose, sink into inoculated desoupitude?"

"It hardly seems possible, does it?" said Alice.

"To a private mind it presents insuperable difficulties," said the
Hatter, "but to a public mind like my own nothing is impossible. If a
man can do a seemingly impossible thing with one plant there is no
reason why he shouldn't do a seemingly impossible thing with another
plant, so I immediately wrote to Professor Burbank offering him a
hundred thousand dollars in Blunderland Deferred Debenture Gas
Improvement Bonds a year to come here and see what he could do to
transmogrify our gas-plant."

"Oh, I am so glad," cried Alice delightedly. "I should so love to meet
Mr. Burbank and thank him for inventing the coreless apple----"

"You don't means the Corliss Engine, do you?" asked the White Knight.

"Well, I'm sorry," said the Hatter, "but Mr. Burbank wouldn't come
unless we'd pay him real money, which, although we don't publish the
fact broadcast, is not in strict accord with the highest principles of
Municipal Ownership. We contend that when people work for the common
weal they ought to be satisfied to receive their pay in the common
wealth, and under the M. O. system the most common kind of wealth is
represented by Bonds. Consequently we wrote again to Mr. Burbank, and
expressed our regret that a man of his genius should care more for his
own selfish interests than for the public weal, and as a sort of sarcasm
on his meanness I enclosed five of our 2963 Guaranteed Extension four
per cents to pay for the two-cent stamp he had put upon his letter."

"What are the 2963 Guaranteed Extension four per cents?" asked Alice.

[Illustration: "STUDYING THE ECONOMIC THEORIES OF DR. WACK."]

"They are sinking fund bonds payable in 2963, only we guarantee to extend
the date of payment to 3963 in case the sinking fund has sunk so low we
don't feel like paying them in 2963," explained the Hatter. "It's an
ingenious financial idea that I got from studying the economic theories
of Dr. Wack, Professor of Repudiation and Other Political Economies at
the Wack Business College at Squantumville, Florida. It is the only
economic theory I know of that absolutely prevents debt from becoming a
burden. But that aside, when Mr. Burbank showed that he preferred
fooling with such futile things as pineapples and hollyhocks, to the
really uplifting work of providing the people with gas that was redolent
of the spices of Araby, I resolved to do the thing myself."

"He is a man of real inventive genius," said the March Hare, anxious,
apparently, to square himself with the Hatter again.

"Thank you, Alderman," said the Hatter. "It is a real pleasure to find
myself strictly in accord with your views once more. But to resume, Miss
Alice--as I say I resolved to tackle the problem myself."

"Fine," said Alice. "So you went in and studied how to make gas the old
way and then----"

"Not at all," interrupted the Hatter. "Not at all. That would have been
fatal. I found that everybody who knew how to make gas the old way said
the thing was impossible. Hence, I reasoned, the man who will find it
possible must be somebody who never knew anything about the old way of
making gas, and nobody in the whole world knew less about it than I.
Manifestly then I became the chosen instrument to work the reform, so I
plunged in and you really can't imagine how easy it all turned out. I
had no old prejudices in gas-making to overcome, no set, finicky ideas
to serve as obstacles to progress, and inside of a week I had it. I
filled the gas tanks half full of cologne, and then pumped hot air
through them until they were chock full. I figured it out that cologne
was nothing more than alcohol flavoured with axiomatic oils----"

"Aromatic," interrupted the March Hare, forgetting himself for the
moment.

[Illustration: "THE WHITE KNIGHT INTERFERED"]

The Hatter frowned heavily upon the Alderman, and there is no telling
what would have happened had not the White Knight interfered to protect
the offender.

"It's still an open question, Mr. Mayor," he observed, "if axiomatic
applied to a scent is constitutional. If an odour should become
axiomatic we could never get rid of it you see, and I think the Alderman
has distinguished authority for his correction, which----"

"O very well," said the Hatter. "Let it go. I prefer axiomatic, but the
private predilections of an official should not be permitted to
influence his official actions. I intend always to operate within the
limits of the law, so if the law says aromatic, aromatic be it. I
figured that cologne was nothing more than alcohol flavoured with
aromatic oils, and that inasmuch as both alcohol and oil burn readily,
there was no reason why hot air passed through them should not burn
also, and carry oil some of the aroma as well."

"It certainly was a very pretty idea," said Alice.

"All the M. O. ideas are pretty," said the March Hare. "It is only the
question of reducing beauty to the basis of practical utility that
confronts us."

"And how did it work?" asked Alice, very much interested.

[Illustration: "IN THE MATTER OF PERFUME IT WAS FINE"]

"Beautifully," said the Hatter. "Only it wouldn't burn--just why I
haven't been able to find out. But in the matter of perfume it was fine.
People who turned on their jets the first night soon found their houses
smelling like bowers of roses, and a great many of them liked it so much
that they turned on every jet in the house, and left them turned on all
day, so that in the mere matter of consumption twice as much of my
aromatic illuminating air was used in a week as the companies had
charged for under the old system, and we used the same metres, too. In
addition to this, as a mere life-saving device, my invention proved to
have a wonderful value. In the first place nobody could blow it out and
be found gas-fixturated the next morning----"

[Illustration: "NOBODY COULD BE GAS-FIXTURATED"]

"Good word that--so much more expressive than the old privately owned
dictionary word asphyxiated," said the March Hare.

The Hatter nodded his appreciation of the March Hare's compliment, and
admitted him once more to his good graces.

"And nobody could commit suicide with it the way they used to do with
the old kind of gas, because, you see, it was, after all, only hot air,
which is good for the lungs whichever way it's going, in or out. We use
hot air all the time in our Administration and it is wonderful what
results you can get from it," he went on. "But it wouldn't light. In
fact when anybody tried to light it, such was the pressure, it blew out
the match, which I regard, as an additional point in its favour. If we
have gas that blows out matches the minute the match is applied to it,
does not that reduce the chance of fire from the careless habit some
people have of throwing lighted matches into the waste-basket?"

"It most certainly does," said the White Knight gravely, and in such
tones of finality that Alice did not venture to dispute his assertion.

"We're all agreed upon that point," said the Hatter. "But there were
complaints of course. Some people, mostly capitalists who were rich
enough to have libraries of their own, complained that they couldn't
read nights because the gas wouldn't light. I replied that if they
wanted to read they could go to the Public Library, where there were
oil lamps, and electric lights. Besides reading at night is bad for the
eyes. Others objected that they couldn't see to go to bed. The answer to
that was simple enough. People don't need to see to go to bed. They may
need to see when they are dressing in the morning, but when they go to
bed all they have to do is to take their clothes off and go, and I added
that people who didn't know enough to do that had better have nurses.
Finally some of the chief kickers got up a mass-meeting and protested
that the new gas wasn't gas at all, and in view of that fact refused to
pay their gas tax."

"Oho!" said Alice. "That was pretty serious I should think."

"It seemed so at first," said the Hatter, "but just then the beauty of
the Municipal Ownership scheme stepped in. I called a special meeting of
the Common Council and they settled the question once for all."

"Good!" cried Alice "How did they do it?"

"They passed a resolution," said the Hatter, "unanimously declaring the
aromatic hot-air to be gas of the most excellent quality, and made it a
misdemeanor for anybody to say that it wasn't. I signed the ordinance
and from that minute on our gas was gas by law."

"Still," said Alice, "those people had already said it wasn't. Did they
back down?"

"Most of 'em did," laughed the Hatter. "And the rest were fined $500
apiece and sent to jail for six months. You see we made the law
sufficiently retroactive to grab the whole bunch. Since then there have
been no complaints."

Whereupon the Hatter invited Alice to stroll through the gas-plant with
him, which the little girl did, and declared it later to have been
sweeter than a walk through a rose-garden, which causes me to believe
that the Mayor's scheme was a pretty wonderful one after all, and quite
worthy of a Hatter thrust by the vagaries of politics into the difficult
business of gas making.



CHAPTER IV

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."

"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."

[Illustration: "WROTE ON THE SIDE OF A CONVENIENT GAS TANK"]

"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:

  IN 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,
  Copperation Counsel.

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.

[Illustration: "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.

[Illustration: "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."

[Illustration: "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."

[Illustration: "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.



CHAPTER V

THE MUNICIPAPHONE


Armed with the Copperation Counsel's opinion authorising him to do
whatever he pleased next, the Hatter decided that he would give Alice a
demonstration of the workings of the Municipaphone.

[Illustration: "YOU CAN TALK ALL YOU PLEASE"]

"Which," said he proudly, "I consider to be the most Democraticising
thing I have ever invented. You can talk all you please about Universal
Brotherhood, Unlimited Sisterhood, and the Infinity of Unclehood, but
all of these movements put together haven't done as much to promote the
equality of everybody as that Municipaphone idea of mine."

Alice thought the Cheshire Cat's grin expanded slightly as the Hatter
spoke, but she was not sure, although he most assuredly did wink at her.

"I should admire to see it," she said. "What is it, just?"

"It is the result of the Municipal Ownership of the Telephone," returned
the Hatter proudly. "We have taken over everything that works by
electricity--electric lighting, the telegraph, the telephone----"

"Even the thunder and lightning," interrupted the White Knight. "And
under our management everything runs so smoothly that even the
lightning doesn't strike any more. That's a great thing in Municipal
Ownership. There aren't any more strikes under it."

"What he says is true, my child," said the Hatter, "and in time we
expect to get the thunder itself under control so that it will serve
some useful purpose--I don't know yet exactly what, but I am having
experiments made in storage batteries which will catch and hold the
thunder with the idea of saving the noise it makes for fire-crackers, or
Presidential salutes, or other things and occasions where the fracturing
of silence seems desirable. Surely if we can take electricity and under
suitable Municipal supervision make it serve as a substitute for a
tallow dip, why shouldn't we extract the reverberance with which it is
fraught to add to the general clangour of joyous occasions?"

"No reason at all," said Alice. "I wonder no one has ever thought of
that before. Just think of all the magnificent noises that go to waste
in a thunderstorm."

"You will discover in time, my dear child, that only under the Municipal
Ownership of Brains such as we have here, can such great ideas be seized
from the infinity of nothingness and turned into an irresistible
propaganda," said the Hatter loftily.

"He's the biggest gander of the bunch," whispered the March Hare.

"But it isn't what we are going to do, but what we have done that we
propose to show you," continued the Hatter, eyeing the March Hare
coldly. "And as I have said, the Municipaphone is my crowning
achievement. Just come here and I will show you."

The Hatter led Alice to a nearby lamp-post, and pointing to a little box
fastened to the middle of the pillar explained to her that that was the
Municipaphone.

"We have them in every room in every house in the City, on all the
lamp-posts, hydrants, telegraph poles, in fact everywhere where there is
a chance or room enough to hang one," the Hatter explained.

"It's just like a telephone, isn't it?" said Alice. "Only it looks like
a hat instead of a funnel."

"Exactly," said the Hatter, "but we don't call it a telephone any more.
The word telephone struck me as being a misnomer. You don't tell the
'phone anything when you talk into it. You tell the person at the other
end of the line, and so, I changed its name to the Municipaphone, which
shows that it's a 'phone that belongs to the City. Just to sort of
moralise the thing I had the mouth-piece changed to look like a hat
instead of a funnel, because funnels are apt to suggest alcoholic
beverages and sometimes people who aren't at all thirsty are made so by
the mere power of suggestion. The hat, however, has always commended
itself to our greatest statesmen as a vehicle best suited for the
transmission of ideas, and I therefore adopted it.

"It is very pretty," commented Alice. "Only I think a few ribbons would
improve it a little."

"Possibly," said the Hatter. "We haven't had time yet to look after the
millinery aspect of the situation, but we'll take that up at our next
Cabinet meeting. I thank you for the suggestion. But you see how the
thing works. This little book here has a list of the names of everybody
in town with their Municipaphone numbers attached. The lowly as well as
the highly, from the newsboy up to the Bridge Whist set, are all
represented here, so that all are connected in one way or another with
each other. There is no man, woman, or child so poor and humble of
birth, that he or she cannot get into immediate relations with the
haughty and proud. Everybody is on speaking terms with everybody else,
and we have thereby reached socially a condition wherein all men though
not related are nevertheless connected. You frequently hear a wash-lady
remark that while she has not met Mrs. Van Varick Van Astorbilt or Mrs.
Willieboy de Crudoil personally, they are nevertheless connections of
hers if not by blood or marriage at least by wire, which is stronger
than either. Some day instead of having Societies of the Cincinnati, and
Sons and Daughters of the Revolution I hope to see associations of
Brothers and Sisters of the Municipaphone which shall become a factor of
overwhelming solidarity in all social and political affairs.

"It's a splendid scheme," said Alice.

"It is a tie of material strength which binds together our first and
last families, increasing the pride of the latter, and diminishing that
of the former until we have at last reached an average of
self-satisfaction which knows no barriers of class distinction," said
the Hatter. "But it wouldn't have worked if we hadn't formulated strict
rules by which every household in town is governed. One of our rules is
that the person called upon must answer immediately and truthfully any
question which the person at the other end asks, and of course in
perfectly polite language. For instance, suppose you try it yourself.
Just ring up Number 83115, Bloomingdale, and ask for Mrs. S. Van
Livingston Smythe. She's the biggest swell in town. Ask her anything
that comes into your head, and you'll see how it works. Tell her you are
Mrs. O'Flaherty, the Head Wash-Lady of the Municipal Laundry."

Alice took her place at the Municipaphone and called 83115 Bloomingdale,
as instructed.

"Hello!" she said.

"Hush! Don't say that--say Ah there!" interrupted the Hatter. "Hello
comes under the head of profanity, which is against the law."

"Excuse me," said Alice. "Ah there!" she added. "Give me 83115
Bloomingdale, please, Central."

"Name, please," said Central.

"Bridget O'Flaherty," replied Alice.

"Address?" asked Central.

"Tub 37, Municipal Laundry," said Alice.

"Occupation?" continued the other.

"Wringer," laughed Alice.

"All right, there you are," said Central, making the desired connection.

"Is this Mrs. S. Van Livingston Smythe?" asked Alice.

"Yes," said a sweet voice from the other end of the line. "What is it?"

"I am Bridget O'Flaherty," said Alice, "of the Municipal Laundry, and I
wanted to ask was your grandfather ever a monkey?"

It was not a very polite question, but under the excitement of the
moment Alice could think of nothing better to ask.

"I don't believe so, Mrs. O'Flaherty," came the sweet voice in answer.
"I have looked over every branch of our family tree and there isn't a
cocoanut on it. Why, are you looking for a missing grandfather of your
own?"

"No," smiled Alice, "but I've read all the books in the public library
and I thought he might have a tail to tell that I would find amusing."

"Well, I'm very sorry," said the sweet voice. "Grandfather died forty
years ago, so I don't believe he can help you. I would advise you to go
up to the Monkeyhouse and ask one of your own brothers. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," said Alice.

"Well?" asked the Hatter with a grin. "What do you think of it?"

"Why--it's perfectly wonderful," said Alice. "If that were to happen in
New York or even in Brooklyn or Binghamton Mrs. S. Van Livingston Smythe
would have been very indignant, not only over the question, but for the
mere fact that the--er--wash-lady dared ring her up at all."

"Exactly," said the Hatter, with a bland smile of satisfaction. "This
Municipaphone controlled by strict rules which people must obey is a
great social leveller."

"But why did Central want my name and address?" asked Alice.

"Because Central has to keep a record of all that everybody says for the
Inspector of Personal Communications," explained the Hatter. "Every word
you and Mrs. Smythe spoke was recorded at the Central Office, and if
either of you had used any expression stronger than Fudge, or O Tutt you
would have been fined five dollars for each expression and repetition
thereof. We expect to establish Civic Control of Public and Private
Speech within the next year, and we have begun it with supervision of
the Municipaphone."

"But," cried Alice, "If I had said something that required a fine,
wouldn't Mrs. O'Flaherty, who is innocent, have had to pay?"

[Illustration: "FINED FIVE DOLLARS"]

"Yes," said the Hatter. "But in all cases where the public welfare is
concerned, private interests must yield however great the hardship. That
is one of the fundamental principles of Municipal Ownership. Mrs.
O'Flaherty would have to suffer in order that the great principle
involved in Polite Speech for all Classes might prevail. The strict
enforcement of our anti-Gosh legislation has resulted almost in the
complete elimination of profane speech in Blunderland--so much so in
fact that in the new Dictionary we are compiling such words as Golramit,
Dodgastit, and Goshallhemlocks are being left out altogether."

[Illustration: "THE DICTIONARY WE ARE COMPILING"]

"It is a great moral agency," said the White Knight. "It increases the
self-respect of the submerged, curbs the pride of the rich, and holds in
complete subjection those evil communications which corrupt good
manners."

"And nothing but the result of Municipal Ownership," put in the March
Hare enthusiastically, forgetting his grouch for a moment.

"It has other advantages, too," said the Hatter, "to which I feel I
should call your attention. These phones being in every room in town
with which anybody may be connected at any moment and thus overhear what
other people are saying, gossip is gradually dying out, and people
everywhere are more careful of what they say even in private, for
nowadays the walls literally have ears. To give you an example, I will
connect you at once with the home of the Duchess whom you met, if you
remember, in your journey through Wonderland and you may judge for
yourself of how useful this Municipaphone is to us in ascertaining the
general trend of public opinion."

[Illustration: "ALICE TRANSFIXED AT THE PHONE"]

The Hatter gave the order to Central and in a minute Alice stood
transfixed at the phone listening intently. She recognised the voice of
the Duchess immediately.

[Illustration: "THE BIGGEST JACKASS FROM DAN TO BEERSHEBA"]

"As for that old fool of a Hatter," she was saying, "he is the biggest
jackass from Dan to Beersheba."

"Well?" said the Hatter. "Can you hear her?"

"Yes," giggled Alice. "Very plainly."

"What does she say?" asked the Hatter, simpering.

"Why," said Alice reddening, "she--she's talking about you."

"The dear Duchess," ejaculated the Hatter, with a foolish smirk. "I'm
very much afraid--ahem--that the Duchess has her eye on me."

"She has," said Alice. "She is referring to you in the warmest
tones--she thinks you're big--great--the very greatest from Dan to
Beersheba."

"Ah me!" sighed the Hatter. "If I were only a younger man!"

"They'll make a match of it yet," said the White Knight in a soft
whisper to Alice.

"Yes," sneered the March Hare, who had overheard, jealously, "and a fine
old sulphur-headed lucifer of a match it will be too.

"Well, it's all very nice," said Alice, very anxious to change the
subject. "But I can't say that I'm sure I'd like it. Why, you can't have
any secrets from anybody."

"And why should you wish to, my dear child?" asked the Hatter, coming
out of his dream of romance. "Why not so order your life that you have
no need for secrecy?"

"Yes," said Alice. "I suppose that is better, but then, Mr. Hatter,
isn't there to be any more private life?"

"Not under Municipal Ownership," said the Hatter. "Carried to its
logical conclusion that with all other so-called private rights will be
merged in the glorious culmination of a complete well rounded Municipal
Life. It is toward that Grand Civic Eventuation that I and my associates
in this noble movement are constantly striving."

"Are you going to have Municipal Control of Marriage?" asked Alice,
slyly.

The Hatter blushed and smiled foolishly. "I--ah--am thinking about
that," he said with a funny little laugh. "It would be a most excellent
thing to do, for in my opinion a great many people nowadays get married
too thoughtlessly. Just because they happen to love each other they go
off and get married, but under Municipal Control it would be much more
difficult for a man or a woman to take so serious a step. For instance,
if I had my way the Common Council would have to be asked for permission
for a man to marry. The question would come up in the form of a bill,
which would immediately be referred to the Committee on Matrimony, who
would discuss it very thoroughly before bringing it before the Council.
If a majority of the Committee considered that the application should be
granted, then the matter should be placed before the whole Council, by
which it should be debated in open public sessions, the applicant having
been invited to appear and under cross-examination by the District
Attorney demonstrate his fitness to be married. All others knowing any
reason why he should not be married should also have the opportunity to
appear and state their reasons for opposing the granting of the
application. I am inclined to believe that this would put a stop to
these hasty marriages which have given rise to that beautiful proverb,
Married in Camden, Repent at South Dakota."

"I should think it would," said Alice. "And when do you propose to start
this plan along?"

"Well, you see," said the Hatter with a giggle, "before I take final
steps in the matter I wish to have a few words with--er--well--you know
who--I----"

"The Duchess," Alice ventured.

"Ah, you precocious child!" cried the Hatter, tapping Alice on the
shoulder coyly. "You must not believe all you overhear the Duchess say
about me. She is so prejudiced, and blind to my faults. I--I'm almost
sorry I connected you with her over the Municipaphone."



CHAPTER VI

THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC VERSE


"I think," said the Hatter, "that before we go any further we would
better show Miss Alice our Municipal Poetry Factory. The whistle will
blow very shortly and our Divine Afflatus Dynamo will shut down, so if
she is to see that feature of our work now is the time to do it.

"Yes," said the March Hare, "although the office is in some confusion
owing to your recent Municipal Order Number 20,367 making _Alabazam_
rhyme with _Mulligatawney_, and extending the number of lines in the
municipal quatrains from four to twenty-three. The employees are finding
considerable difficulty in making twenty-three-line quatrains and at
least half the force have gone home suffering from acute attacks of
brainstormitis."

"It'll do em good," laughed the Hatter. "A good brain storm may result
in a few of them being struck. Come along, Miss Alice, and we'll show
you our City Poets at work."

"I don't think I understand," said Alice. "What is a city poet?"

[Illustration: "LARGER MEASURE THAN WAS THE CUSTOM"]

"He bears the same relation to Municipal Poetry that a White Wing bears
to the Street Cleaning Department," explained the Hatter. "Two years ago
the City took over all the Verse-making enterprises of Blunderland,
appointed a Municipalaureat, otherwise a Commissioner of Public Verse,
and started him along with a Department. He employs 16,743 poets who
provide all the poetry that is consumed by our people. It has resulted
in great good for everybody. Poetry is cheaper by eight cents a line
than it used to be, and, as you may have guessed from what the March
Hare has just said, we give larger measure than was the custom under
the private ownership of _Pegasus_. Quatrains have been increased from
four lines to twenty-three, and the old stingy fourteen-line sonnet has
been enlarged to fifty-four lines. We have also passed an ordinance
requiring that poems shall say what they mean, which is a vast
improvement on the old private control method whereunder anybody was
allowed to write rhymes which nobody could understand--like that thing
of Miss Arethusa Spink's, for instance, called Aspiration. Remember
that?"

"I don't think I ever heard it," said Alice.

"Well it went this way," said the Hatter, and striking a graceful
attitude he recited the following lines called:

ASPIRATION

_By Arethusa Spink_

  Down by the purple opalescent sea,
    Flung like a ribbon limp athwart the sky,
  A rose lay blooming on the restless lea,
  While sundry birds came chattering sweetly by.
  'Twas then my soul that all too long had slept,
    Awoke from out its iridescent nap,

                                       crept
  Down where the pink-cheeked crocus blossoms
    From out fair Nature's over-bounteous lap,
  And cried aloud "Alas! What hath betode?
    What dream is this that like the ambient brook
  Forbids the mind to face the solemn goad
      And know itself forsook!"

The Hatter paused.

"Well?" said Alice, slightly puzzled.

"That's all there was to it," said the Hatter. "It was printed in one of
our Magazines and within forty-eight hours the ambulance from the Insane
Asylum was called out 737 times by people who had gone crazy trying to
find out what it meant. It capped the climax. I called a special meeting
of the Common Council to take the matter up purely as a matter of public
health, and before I went to bed that night they had passed and I had
signed an Act giving the control of the Verse Industry to the City and
taking it out of the hands of irresponsible, unlicensed independent
poets.

"And a good job it was too," said the March Hare.

"And you chose one of the best poets in town for the Commissioner, I
suppose?" suggested Alice.

"No we didn't," said the Hatter. "I didn't want any Moonshine in a City
Department and no poet is a good business man. I picked out a very
successful Haberdasher in the Sixth Ward for the delicate business of
organising the Department, and he has done most excellent work. We found
that just as a first class confectioner made a splendid manager of our
gas plant, and a successful Hoki-Poki merchant had the required push to
keep our trolley systems going, so the Haberdasher had the precise kind
of genius to manage the poets. He won't stand any nonsense from them,
and any poem that he can't understand is immediately thrown into the
Civic Waste-Basket, taken to the Municipal Ferry and used for fuel to
run the boats. I guess we burn nineteen tons of refuse verse a day,
don't we, Alderman?"

"About that--on the average," said the March Hare. "Sometimes it gets as
high as twenty tons and occasionally it falls off to sixteen--but using
these rejected manuscripts in place of coal has reduced the loss on the
Ferry about thirty-eight dollars a year in real money."

"How much is that in bonds?" asked Alice slyly.

"O--let's see," said the Hatter, his face getting very red, "well--I
should say on a basis of 43-1/3% to one, thirty-eight dollars would,
come to about $97,347.83 in third debenture ten per cent. certificates,
exclusive of the cost of printing, advertising, and the number we give
away as sample copies."

"Quite a saving," said Alice.

"Yes," said the Hatter. "We save all we can. Economy in real money is
our watchword. We never spend a cent where a bond will serve the
purpose."

[Illustration: "GREETED BY THE COMMISSIONER, THE HABERDASHER"]

By this time Alice and her hosts had reached the building occupied by
the Department of Public Verse, and upon entering its spacious doorway
the party were greeted by the Commissioner, the Haberdasher, to whom
Alice was promptly introduced. He reminded her very forcibly of her old
acquaintance Bill the Lizard, but she was not sure enough on this point
to recall their previous meeting when she had so tactlessly kicked him
up through the chimney flue of the Wonderland Cottage.

"Well, Mr. Commissioner," said the Hatter, "how are you getting along?"

"Pretty well, Mr. Mayor," replied the Commissioner. "We've just finished
the six line couplet for the new Chewing Gum Bonds."

"Good," said the Hatter. "How does it go?"

"Rather neatly I think," said the Commissioner, and he read the
following:

        We promise to pay
        This bond some day
        If of the stuff
        We've got enough.
  And if we haven't, pray don't despond,
  For we'll pay it off with another bond.

"Fine," said the Hatter. "You strike a very lofty note in that. And how
do the new Limericks work?"

"We've finished number 3907 of series XZV," said the Commissioner. "I'll
send for Wiggins who wrote it and let him read it to you himself."

A pressure of an electric button brought the smiling Wiggins into the
office.

"Wiggins, the Mayor would like to hear that new Limerick of yours,"
said the Commissioner.

[Illustration: "IT RUNS THIS WAY, YOUR HONOUR"]

"Thanky sir," said Wiggins. "It runs this way, your honour.

  "There was an old lady named Jane
  Who sat on a fence at Schoharie.
  A rooster came by
  And crew like the deuce
  But Jane never scared for a cent."

"That's great," said the Hatter. "Don't you think so, Miss Alice?"

"Why yes," said Alice, "but--does it rhyme?"

"Perfectly," replied the Hatter, "that is, under our system. When we
organised this Department to facilitate business and avoid the waste of
time looking for rhymes we legalised such rhymes as Schoharie and cent
and by and deuce. By that act we found that where one man could only
turn out 800 Limericks a day under the old system, any ablebodied-poet
can write 3,000 in the same number of hours. That's very good,
Wiggins," he added turning to the workman. "I shall recommend the
Commissioner to promote you to an Inspectorship in the Sonnet works."

"Thanky sir," said the Poet, as he blushingly bowed himself out.

[Illustration: "OUR THINKING DEPARTMENT"]

"Here," said the Commissioner, opening a door leading into a long,
darkened chamber, "here, young lady, is our Thinking Department."

Alice passed into the darkness and dimly made out a half a hundred
long-haired individuals sitting in comfortable Morris chairs, their
forefingers pressed hard against their brows and their eyes gazing
fixedly out into space.

"These men and women think the thoughts which our municipal poetry is
designed to express," the Commissioner continued. "A thought once
seized by any one of them is written down upon a pad, and then taken
into this next room where it is classified and assigned to the line
cutters who turn out the first draft in the rough. Then when this is
done it is sent to the rhyming room where the lines are made to end in
rhymes, and finally it goes to the Polishing room where the poem is made
ready for publication."

"It's a wonderful system," said the Hatter. "It not only improves the
quality of our poetry, but in campaign times it is a great help, since
we control absolutely all the campaign poetry. When I run for mayor next
fall to succeed myself there won't be a single poem written on the other
side."

"That ought to be a great help," said Alice.

"Yes," said the Hatter. "It will be. Every employee in this Department
will not only vote for me but will work for me as well. Same way in the
gas plant and the trolley--in fact in all the City Departments. It is
only another evidence of the very great value of Municipal Ownership. It
is uncertainty in political times that upsets business, but with the
Municipality in control of all these Departments from Gas to Poetry
there is no uncertainty about who will win, so that business is not
unsettled by it."

"Wonderful," said Alice.

"By the way, Mr. Commissioner, you'd better start the Rhyming Bureau on
the search for rhymes to Hatter at once," said, the Mayor. "We don't
want to be caught unprepared at the last minute."

"The list is being compiled now," replied the Commissioner. "We already
have, Matter, Batter, Tatter, Smatter Patter, Ratter, Spatter and
Scatter."

"Fine!" chortled the Hatter.

"Don't forget Chatter," put in Alice.

"Thank you--I'll make a note of it," said the Commissioner.

"And Snatter," growled the March Hare gloomily, who evidently felt that
somebody ought to be looking for rhymes to March Hare as well.

"What does snatter mean?" demanded the Hatter frowning.

"It's a corrupt form for snatcher," retorted the March Hare. "One who
snatches everything he can lay his hands on, without regard to whether
it's his by divine right or not. I guess they can use it in poems
calling attention to your Civic Virtues."

"Except by unanimous vote of the Common Council over my veto Snatter
stays out of the Municipal Vocabulary," returned the Hatter coldly.
"Your own confession that it is corrupt is enough to condemn it with
me."

"I wouldn't use batter either, Mr. Mayor," said the Commissioner.
"Batter is dough and we haven't got any worth mentioning."

"It is also to whack, slam, bang, bust, smack," retorted the Hatter,
"so your recommendation is not accepted. Seems to me I can almost hear
the campaign clubs singing as they march:

  "O the noble, noble Hatter,
    Ain't he grand!
  How his enemies do scatter
    Thro the land!
  How his foemen he doth batter
  With their idle gloomy chatter
  On this Muni--cipal Matter
    Beats the band!"

"O Gee!" ejaculated the March Hare. "Do you call that poetry?"

"Sir, I call it truth," returned the Hatter, "and poetry is truth just
as art is truth, and if you don't believe it all you've got to do is to
try and run against me next fall on that issue. I'll beat you to a
stand-still."

"Of course you will," sighed the March Hare. "But you wouldn't but for
that last ordinance you jammed through while I was off on my vacation."

"What was that?" demanded the Hatter.

"Giving the Election Commission absolute control over the votes, and
then appointing yourself Election Commissioner ex-officio," said the
March Hare. "I don't believe that Municipal Control of the ballot is
constitutional."

"Well, it will be constitutional," said the Hatter drily.

"When?" demanded the March Hare.

"When we secure Municipal Control of the Constitution," said the Hatter.
"I'll make it Constitutional if I have to rewrite the whole blessed
Constitution myself."

Whereupon the Hatter walked majestically forth into the street once
more, and Alice and the March Hare together with the White Knight
followed meekly in his train.



CHAPTER VII

OWNERSHIP OF CHILDREN


"What time is it?" asked the Hatter, suddenly turning to the White
Knight.

"Six o'clock," replied the White Knight, looking at his watch.

"Mercy!" cried Alice. "I had no idea it was so late! I shall have to run
along home--it's supper time."

The Hatter laughed.

"O, as for that," he said, "there's no hurry. Under our present system
of Municipal Ownership of Everything, I can issue, as Mayor, a general
order postponing the Municipal Supper Hour to seven or eight o clock.
Still--if you'd prefer to go home----"

"I don't want to," said Alice courteously, "but I think I'd better. My
mother would be worried not finding me in the nursery. You see, I left
home without telling anybody where I was going."

Again the Hatter laughed.

"What foolishness!" he ejaculated. "That's the great trouble with the
private ownership of children. It worries their poor mothers, keeps 'em
from their daily Bridge parties, interferes with that freedom of action
which is guaranteed to the individual by the contravention of the United
States----"

"Constitution, I guess you mean," suggested Alice.

"It used to be the Constitution," returned the Hatter, "but now it's the
Contravention. It has been contravened so often in the past few years
that our Reformed Language Commission at Washington has named it
accordingly."

"It simply bears out what you said in your message approving the Public
Ownership of Children Act passed by the Common Council last November,
which I wrote for you, and consequently consider a very able document,"
said the White Knight.

"The Public Ownership of Children?" cried Alice, with a look of alarm on
her face.

"Yes," said the Hatter. "Just as the Nation has gone in for paternalism,
we here in Blunderland have gone in for maternalism. The children here
belong to the city----"

"But--" Alice began.

"Now, don't bother," said the Hatter kindly. "It works very well. It has
reduced children to a state of scientific control which is as careful
and as effective as that of the street cleaning department or the public
parks, and it has emancipated the mothers as well as materially
decreased the financial obligations of the fathers."

Alice's lip quivered slightly, and she began to feel a little bit afraid
of the Hatter.

"I want to go home," she whimpered.

"Certainly--as you wish," said the Hatter. "We'll take you there at
once. Come along."

Reassured by the Hatter's kindly manner Alice took her companion's
outstretched hand and they walked along the highway together until they
came to a handsome apartment house fronting upon a beautiful park, where
the Hatter pressed an electric button at one side of the massive
entrance. The response to the bell was immediate, and Alice was pleased
to find that the person to answer was none other than the Duchess
herself.

"Why, how-di-doo," said the Duchess affably. "Glad to see you again,
Miss Alice."

"Thank you," said Alice. "It is very nice to be here. Do you live in
this beautiful building?"

"Yes," said the Duchess. "You see, I've just been appointed
Commissioner of Maternity. I'm what you might call the official mother
of the town. Since that great Statesman, the Hatter"--here the Duchess
winked graciously at the March Hare--"devised his crowning achievement
in the Municipal Control of the Children and appointed me to be the Head
of the Department, I have been stationed here."

"And a mighty good old mother she is!" ejaculated the Hatter with
fervour.

"Palaverer!" said the Duchess coyly.

"Not at all," said the Hatter. "I speak not as a man, but as a Mayor,
and what I say is to be construed as an official tribute to a faithful
and deserving public servant."

"Servant, sir?" repeated the Duchess haughtily.

"In the American sense," said the Hatter with a low bow. "In the sense
that the servant is as good as, if not better than the employer,
Madam."

"That man's a perfect Dipsomaniac," said the March Hare.

"Diplomat, man--diplomat," corrected the White Knight. "A dipsomaniac is
a very different thing from a Diplomat. Consuls may be dipsomaniacs, but
a Diplomat is a man worthy of Ambassadorial honours.

"Oh--I see," said the March Hare. "Well--he's a Diplomat all right, all
right."

"How are things going to-day, Duchess?" asked the Hatter. "Children
happy?"

"They will be in time," said the Duchess. "So many of them have been
brought up so far on the _Ladies' Home Journal_ system that it is hard
to introduce the new Blunderland method without friction."

"I was afraid of that," said the Hatter. "How does the compulsory
soda-water regulation work?"

"Splendidly," said the Duchess. "Since I started in in January to make
the children drink five glasses of Vanilla Cream soda every day as a
matter of routine and duty, sixty per cent. of them have come to hate
it. I think that by the end of the year we shall have stamped out the
love of soda almost entirely. The same way with caramels and other
candies in place of beef. We have caramels for breakfast, gum-drops for
dinner and marshmallows for tea, regularly, and last night seventeen of
the children presented a petition asking for beefsteak, mutton chops and
boiled rice. I have a firm conviction that when the new law, requiring
beef to be sold at candy stores, and compelling those in charge of the
young to teach them that boiled rice and hominy are bad for the teeth,
goes into effect, we shall find the children clamouring for wholesome
food as eagerly as they do now for things that ruin their little
tummies."

"It's a splendid system--and how are you meeting the matinee problem?"
asked the March Hare.

[Illustration: "WHEN THEY THINK NOBODY'S LOOKING"]

"Same way," said the Duchess. "Every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon we
make 'em go to a matinee, rain or shine, whether they want to or not,
and really it's pathetic to see how some of the little dears pine for a
half-holiday with a hoople, and since I forbade the youngsters to even
look at the back of a geography or a spelling book, it is most amusing
to see how they sneak into the library and devour the contents of those
two books when they think nobody's looking. I caught one of the boys
reading an Arithmetic in bed last night, wholly neglecting his Jack
Harkaway books that I had commanded him to read, and leaving his 'Bim,
the Broncho Buster of Buffalo,' absolutely uncut.

"Fine!" chuckled the Hatter. "And now, my dear Duchess, will you oblige
me by taking charge of Miss Alice? She has expressed a desire to go
home and so I have brought her here."

"Certainly," said the Duchess. "I'll look after her."

"You'll excuse us, Alice," said the Hatter, politely. "We'd escort you
further ourselves, but a question has come before the Municipal
Ownership Caucus that we must settle before the meeting of the Common
Council to-night. Certain of our members claim that they have a right
to sell their votes for $500 apiece----"

"Mercy!" cried Alice. "Why, that is--that is terrible."

"It certainly is," said the March Hare ruefully. "It's more than
terrible, it's rotten. Here I've been holding out for $1,250 for mine,
and these duffers want to go in for a cut rate that will absolutely ruin
the business."

"It's a very important matter," said the Hatter. "After all our striving
to elevate the people we don't want them to make themselves too cheap.
For my part I don't think they should let go of a vote on any question
for less than $2,500."

"That's all right, Mr. Mayor," said the White Knight. "But you don't
want to frighten capital, you know."

"Well, you and I disagree on that point," said the Mayor. "Capital isn't
at all necessary to the success of our schemes. My watchword is Bonds,
and as long as I have a printing press to print 'em, and a fountain pen
to sign 'em I'm not going to be influenced one way or another by a
feeling of subserviency to the capitalist class. Good night, Miss Alice.
Glad to have met you and I hope you will have a pleasant time with the
Duchess. Here," he added, taking a beautifully printed green and gold
paper from his pocket, "here is a Blanket Mortgage 18% Deferred
Debenture Bond on the Main Street Ferry of a par value of $100,000
payable in 3457, as a souvenir of your visit."

"A hundred thousand dollars," cried Alice. "For me?"

"No," corrected the Hatter. "A hundred thousand dollar bond. You don't
get the money until 3457, and not then unless you present it in person
to the City Treasurer."

With which munificent gift the Hatter respectfully bowed himself away
and made on, followed by the March Hare.

[Illustration: "IF YOU GET INTO TROUBLE, USE THIS"]

"Good-bye, Alice," said the White Knight sympathetically; and then
thrusting a paper in her hand, he leaned forward and whispered into the
little girl's ear, "If you get into trouble, use this."

"Thank you," said Alice. "What is it?"

"It's a temporary injunction issued by the Chief Justice restraining
anybody from interfering with you," said the White Knight. "You may need
it."

And the kindly old knight ran madly off up the street after the Mayor
and the March Hare, and shortly disappeared around the corner.

"Now, my little dear," said the Duchess, "we'll take you home."

Seizing Alice by the hand the Duchess led the little traveller into the
Municipal Nursery. Entering the elevator, they went up and up and up and
up until Alice thought they would never stop. Finally on the 117th floor
the elevator stopped. Alice and the Duchess alighted and entered a funny
little flat, singularly enough labelled with Alice's own name.

"This is it," said the Duchess. "There is your bedroom, here is your
parlour, and that is the bath-room. The apartment has running
soda-water, hot and cold; you will find a refrigerator stocked with
peanut brittle, molasses candy, and sugared fruits in the pantry. Your
reading will consist of Lucy the Lace Vendor, or How the Laundress
Became a Lady; the works of Marie Corelli; Factory Fanny, the Forger's
Daughter, and any other unwholesome book you may want from the House of
Correction Library. Playtime will begin at seven every morning and you
will be compelled to dress and undress dolls until one, when your
caramel will be given to you, after which you will skip the rope and
read fairy stories until six. You must drink five glasses of soda-water
every day and will not be allowed to go to bed before eleven o'clock at
night. Hurry now, and get your hair mussed and your hands dirty for
dinner. The first course of whipped cream and roasted chestnuts will be
served promptly at six-thirty."

"But," cried Alice, "I don't want to stay here--I want to go home."

"You are home," said the Duchess. "This is the Municipal Home of the
Children of Blunderland."

"But I want my father and mother," whimpered Alice.

"The City is your father, my child, and I am officially your mother,"
said the Duchess.

"You are not!" cried Alice. "You are trying to kidnap me!--I'll--I'll
call the police."

"The police can't arrest a city, my dear child, and as for me, as the
Commissioner of Maternity I am immune from arrest," laughed the Duchess.

"Well, I just won't stay, that's all," cried Alice, stamping her foot
angrily. "I don't want a city for a father, and I shan't have an official
mother in place of a real one."

[Illustration: "SEIZING HER BY THE ARM"]

The child ran toward the door, but the Duchess was too quick for her,
seizing her by the arm.

"Let me go!" shrieked Alice.

"Never," snapped the Duchess.

And then the little girl thought of the piece of paper the White Knight
had given her.

"I guess that will make you change your mind," she said, handing the
injunction to her captor.

The Duchess read it carefully; her face paled, and she too stamped her
foot.

"I'll see about this, she roared angrily, and in a moment she had gone,
slamming the door so hard behind her that the building fairly shook. A
moment later Alice followed, and in a short time was bounding down the
stairway as fast as her little legs would carry her toward freedom, when
all of a sudden she tripped and began to fall--down, down, down--O,
would she never stop! And then, bump! Her fall was over, and strange to
relate the little maid found herself sitting on the floor back in her
own nursery in her own real home, with her mother bending over her.

"Dear me, Alice," said her mother. "I hope you haven't hurt yourself."

[Illustration: "WHY-HAVE I--I REALLY FALLEN?"]

"No," said Alice. "Why--have I--I really fallen?"

"You most certainly have--off the sofa," laughed her mother. "Where have
you been?" she added. "In Wonderland again?"

"No," said Alice. "In Blunderland--this time."

Which struck her father, when he heard the story of her adventures
later, as a very apt and descriptive title for the M. O. Country.





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