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The Westminster Alice

The Westminster Alice
Category:
Author: Saki
Title: The Westminster Alice
Release Date: 2018-10-30
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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THE
WESTMINSTER ALICE

BY
HECTOR H. MUNRO (“SAKI”)

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ILLUSTRATED BY
F.   C A R R U T H E R S   G O U L D.

LONDON
WESTMINSTER GAZETTE
1902

[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.]

With apologies to Sir John Tenniel and to everybody elseconcerned, including Messrs. Macmillan and Co., Limited, to whosecourtesy we are indebted for permission to publish these politicalapplications of the immortal adventures of Lewis Carroll’s Alice.

CONTENTS

 PAGE
INTRODUCTION1
ALICE IN DOWNING STREET3
ALICE IN PALL MALL11
ALICE AT LAMBETH17
ALICE AND THE LIBERAL PARTY23
ALICE ANYWHERE BUT IN DOWNING STREET29
ALICE IN DIFFICULTIES35
ALICE AT ST. STEPHEN’S39
ALICE LUNCHES AT WESTMINSTER43
ALICE IN A FOG47
ALICE HAS TEA AT THE HOTEL CECIL53
ALICE GOES TO CHESTERFIELD59
THE AGED MAN65
SPADES IN WONDERLAND67

{1}

THE WESTMINSTER ALICE

INTRODUCTION

Alice,” Child with dreaming eyes,
Noting things that come to pass
Turvey-wise in Wonderland
Backwards through a Looking-Glass.
Figures flit across thy dream,
Muddle through and flicker out
Some in cocksure blessedness,
Some in Philosophic Doubt.
Some in brackets, some in sulks,
Some with latchkeys on the ramp,
Living (in a sort of peace)
In a Concentration Camp.{2}
Party moves on either side,
Checks and feints that don’t deceive,
Knights and Bishops, Pawns and all,
In a game of Make-Believe.
Things that fall contrariwise,
Difficult to understand,
Darkly through a Looking-Glass
Turvey-wise in Wonderland.
{3}

ALICE IN DOWNING STREET

Have you ever seen an Ineptitude?” asked the Cheshire Cat suddenly; theCat was nothing if not abrupt.

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“CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT YOU ARE DOING HERE?” ALICE INQUIREDPOLITELY.

“Not in real life,” said Alice. “Have you any about here?{4}

“A few,” answered the Cat comprehensively. “Over there, for instance,”it added, contracting its pupils to the requisite focus, “is the mostperfect specimen we have.”

Alice followed the direction of its glance and noticed for the firsttime a figure sitting in a very uncomfortable attitude on nothing inparticular. Alice had no time to wonder how it managed to do it, she wasbusy taking in the appearance of the creature, which was something likea badly-written note of interrogation and something like a guillemot,and seemed to have been trying to preen its rather untidy plumage withwhitewash. “What a dreadful mess it’s in!” she remarked, after gazing atit for a few moments in silence. “What is it, and why is it here?”

“It hasn’t any meaning,” said the Cat, “it simply is.”

“Can it talk?” asked Alice eagerly.

“It has never done anything else,” chuckled the Cat.

“Can you tell me what you are doing here?” Alice inquired politely. TheIneptitude shook its head with a deprecatory motion and commenced todrawl, “I haven’t an idea.{5}

“It never has, you know,” interrupted the Cheshire Cat rudely, “but inits leisure moments” (Alice thought it must have a good many of them)“when it isn’t playing with a gutta-percha ball it unravels thegroundwork of what people believe—or don’t believe, I forget which.”

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THE QUEEN.

with apologies to Sir John Tenniel

“It really doesn’t matter which,” said the Ineptitude, with languidinterest.{6}

“Of course it doesn’t,” the Cat went on cheerfully, “because theunravelling got so tangled that no one could follow it. Its theory is,”he continued, seeing that Alice was waiting for more, “that you mustn’tinterfere with the Inevitable. Slide and let slide, you know.”

“But what do you keep it here for?” asked Alice.

“Oh, somehow you can’t help it; it’s so perfectly harmless and amiableand says the nastiest things in the nicest manner, and the King justcouldn’t do without it. The King is only made of pasteboard, you know,with sharp edges; and the Queen”—here the Cat sank its voice to awhisper—“the Queen comes from another pack, made of Brummagem ware,without polish, but absolutely indestructible; always pushing, you know;but you can’t push an Ineptitude. Might as well try to hustle aglacier.”

“That’s why you keep so many of them about,” said Alice.

“Of course. But its temper is not what it used to be. Lots of thingshave happened to worry it.”

“What sort of things?”

“Oh, people have been dying off in round numbers, in the mostostentatious manner, and{7} the Ineptitude dislikes fuss—but hush, here’sthe King coming.”

His Majesty was looking doleful and grumpy, Alice thought, as though hehad been disturbed in an afternoon nap. “Who is this, and what is thatCat doing here?” he asked, glancing gloomily at Alice and her companion.

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THE KING WAS FAST ASLEEP.

“I really must ask you to give me notice of these questions,” said theIneptitude, with a yawn.

“There’s a dragon loose somewhere in the garden,” the King went onpeevishly, “and I am{8} expected to help in getting it under control. Do Ilook as if I could control dragons?”

Alice thought he certainly did not.

“What do you propose doing?” drawled the Ineptitude.

“That’s just it,” said the King. “I say that whatever is done must bedone cautiously and deliberately; the Treasurer says that whatever isdone must be done cheaply—I am afraid the Treasurer is the weakestmember of the pack,” he added anxiously.

“Only made of Bristol board, you know,” explained the Cat aside toAlice.

“What does the Queen say about it?” asked the Ineptitude.

“The Queen says that if something is not done in less than no timethere’ll be a Dissolution.”

Both looked very grave at this, and nothing was said for some minutes.The King was the first to break the silence. “What are you doing withthat whitewash?” he demanded. “The Queen said everything was to bepainted khaki.”

“I know,” said the creature pathetically, “but I had run out of khaki;the Unforeseen again, you know; and things needed whitewash so badly.{9}

The Cat had been slowly vanishing during the last few minutes, tillnothing remained of it but an eye. At the last remark it gave a wink atAlice and completed its eclipse.

When Alice turned round she found that both the King and the Ineptitudewere fast asleep.

“It’s no good remaining here,” she thought, and as she did not want tomeet either the Queen or the dragon, she turned to make her way out ofthe street.

“At any rate,” she said to herself, “I know what an Ineptitude islike.{11}{10}

ALICE IN PALL MALL

The great art in falling off a horse,” said the White Knight, “is tohave another handy to fall on to.”

“But wouldn’t that be rather difficult to arrange?” asked Alice.

“Difficult, of course,” replied the Knight, “but in my Department onehas to be provided for emergencies. Now, for instance, have you everconducted a war in South Africa?”

Alice shook her head.

“I have,” said the Knight, with a gentle complacency in his voice.

“And did you bring it to a successful conclusion?” asked Alice.

“Not exactly to a conclusion—not a definite conclusion, youknow—nor entirely successful either. In fact, I believe it’s going onstill.... But you can’t think how much forethought it took to get itproperly started. I dare say, now, you are wondering at my equipment?{12}

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ALICE AND THE WHITE KNIGHT.

(With apologies to Sir John Tenniel.)

Alice certainly was; the Knight was riding rather uncomfortably on asober-paced horse that was prevented from moving any faster by anelaborate housing of red-tape trappings. “Of course, I see the reasonfor that,” thought Alice; “if it were to move any quicker the Knightwould come off.” But there were{13} a number of obsolete weapons andappliances hanging about the saddle that didn’t seem of the leastpractical use.

“You see, I had read a book,” the Knight went on in a dreamy, far-awaytone, “written by some one to prove that warfare under modern conditionswas impossible. You may imagine how disturbing that was to a man of myprofession. Many men would have thrown up the whole thing and gone home.But I grappled with the situation. You will never guess what I did.”

Alice pondered. “You went to war, of course——”

“Yes; but not under modern conditions.”

The Knight stopped his horse so that he might enjoy the full effect ofthis announcement.

“Now, for instance,” he continued kindly, seeing that Alice had notrecovered her breath, “you observe this little short-range gun that Ihave hanging to my saddle? Why do you suppose I sent out guns of thatparticular kind? Because if they happened to fall into the hands of theenemy they’d be very little use to him. That was my own invention.”

“I see,” said Alice gravely; “but supposing you wanted to use themagainst the enemy?”

The Knight looked worried. “I know there is that{14} to be thought of, butI didn’t choose to be putting dangerous weapons into the enemy’s hands.And then, again, supposing the Basutos had risen, those would have beenjust the sort of guns to drive them off with. Of course they didn’trise; but they might have done so, you know.”

At this moment the horse suddenly went on again, and the Knight clutchedconvulsively at its mane to prevent himself from coming off.

“That’s the worst of horses,” he remarked apologetically; “they are soUnforeseen in their movements. Now, if I had had my way I would havedone without them as far as possible—in fact, I began that way, only itdidn’t answer. And yet,” he went on in an aggrieved tone, “at Cressy itwas the footmen who did the most damage.”

“But,” objected Alice, “if your men hadn’t got horses how could they getabout from place to place?”

“They couldn’t. That would be the beauty of it,” said the White Knighteagerly; “the fewer places your army moves to, the fewer maps you haveto prepare. And we hadn’t prepared very many. I’m not very strong atgeography, but,” he added, brightening, “you should hear me talkFrench.{15}

“But,” persisted Alice, “supposing the enemy went and attacked you atsome other place——”

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ANOTHER HANDY TO FALL ON TO.

“They did,” interrupted the Knight gloomily; “they appeared in strengthat places that weren’t even marked on the ordinary maps. But how do youthink they got there?”

He paused and fixed his gentle eyes upon Alice as she walked beside him,and then continued in a hollow voice{16}

“They rode. Rode and carried rifles. They were no mortal foes—they wereMounted Infantry.”

The Knight swayed about so with the violence of his emotion that it wasinevitable that he should lose his seat, and Alice was relieved tonotice that there was another horse with an empty saddle ready for himto scramble on to. There was a frightful dust, of course, but Alice sawhim gathering the reins of his new mount into a bunch, and smiling downupon her with increased amiability.

“It’s not an easy animal to manage,” he called out to her, “but if I patit and speak to it in French it will probably understand where I want itto go. And,” he added hopefully, “it may go there. A knowledge of Frenchand an amiable disposition will see one out of most things.”

“Well,” thought Alice as she watched him settling down uneasily into thesaddle, “it ought not to take long to see him out of that.{17}

ALICE AT LAMBETH

There was so much noise inside that Alice thought she might as well goin without knocking.

The atmosphere was as noticeable as the noise when Alice got in, andseemed to be heavily charged with pepper. There was

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