Alice In Wonderland

Who Bribed the Tarts?

A Modern Fairy Tale, with apologies to Lewis Carroll

December 25th, 1998

The King of Maha and Queen of Dimes were seated on their throne when they arrived, with a great crowd assembled about them--all sorts of little birds and beasts, including a whole pack of kangaroos: the Knave was standing before them, in chains, with a soldier on each side to guard him; and near the King was the White Orangutan, with a trumpet in one hand, and a scroll of parchment in the other. In the very middle of the court was a table, with a large stained mattress upon it: it looked so comfortable, that it made Alice quite sleepy looking at it--`I wish they'd get the trial done,' she thought. `I could do with forty winks!' But there seemed to be no chance of this, so she began looking at everything about her, to pass away the time.

Alice had never been in a court of justice before, but she had read about them in books, and she was quite pleased to find that she knew the name of nearly everything there. `That's the judge,' she said to herself, `because of his great wig.'

The judge, by the way, was the King of Maha himself; and as he wore his crown over the wig, he did not look at all comfortable, and it was certainly not becoming.

`And that's the jury-box,' thought Alice, `and those twelve creatures,' (she was obliged to say `creatures,' you see, because some of them were animals, and all of them were reporters,) `I suppose they are the jurors.' She said this last word two or three times over to herself, being rather proud of it: for she thought, and rightly too, that very few little girls of her age knew the meaning of it at all. However, `journalists' would have done just as well.

The twelve jurors were all writing very busily on slates. `What are they doing?' Alice whispered to the Gryphon. `They can't have anything to put down yet, before the trial's begun.'

`They're putting down the guilty verdict,' the Gryphon whispered in reply, `for fear they should forget it before the end of the trial.'

`Stupid things!' Alice began in a loud, indignant voice, but she stopped hastily, for the White Orangutan cried out, `Silence in the court!' and the King put on his spectacles and looked anxiously round, to make out who was talking.

Alice could see, as well as if she were looking over their shoulders, that all the jurors were writing down `stupid things!' on their slates, and she could even make out that one of them didn't know how to spell `stupid,' and that he had to ask his neighbour to tell him. `A nice muddle their newspapers'll be in before the trial's over!' thought Alice.

One of the jurors had a pencil that squeaked. This of course, Alice could not stand, and she went round the court and got behind him, and very soon found an opportunity of taking it away. She did it so quickly that the poor little juror (it was Kadir, the Lizard) could not make out at all what had become of it; so, after hunting all about for it, he was obliged to write with one finger for the rest of the day; and this was of very little use, as it left no mark on the slate.

`Herald, read the accusation!' said the King.

On this the White Orangutan blew three blasts on the trumpet, and then unrolled the parchment scroll, and read as follows:--

    `The Queen of Dimes, she bribed some tarts,
    All on a summer day:
    The Knave got slandered by those tarts,
    And the cops took him quite away!'

`Consider your verdict,' the King said to the jury.

`Not yet, not yet!' the Orangutan hastily interrupted. `There's a great deal to come before that!'

`Call the first witness,' said the King; and the White Orangutan blew three blasts on the trumpet, and called out, `First witness!'

The first witness was the Mad Copper. `I beg pardon, your Majesty,' he began, `let me first say that I may or may not lie in this court for you.....'

`Depending upon the situation ....,' the King continued for him.

`May,' said the March Hare.

`Or may not,' added the Dormouse.

`Don’t write that down,' the King said to the jury, and the jury eagerly wrote down “Don’t write down that he may or may not lie in court for the King.”

Here the Queen of Dimes put on her spectacles, and began staring at the Copper, who turned pale and fidgeted.

`Give your evidence,' said the King; `and don't be nervous, or I'll have you executed on the spot.'

This did not seem to encourage the witness at all: he kept shifting from one foot to the other, turning one foot over, then turning the other foot over, and looking uneasily at the Queen.

All this time the Queen had never left off staring at him, and the wretched Copper trembled and fumbled and turned over so, that he lost his solid grip and fell off the witness stand. “I shall adjourn the court until the witness recovers his nerves,” the King proclaimed.

`Give your evidence,' the King angrily when the trial resumed, `or I'll have you executed, whether you're nervous or not.'

`I'm a poor man, your Majesty,' the Copper began, in a trembling voice, `--and I’m only doing what you told me to.’

`I deny it!' said the King.

`He denies it,' said the Orangutan repeated to the jury. ‘I beg your pardon, Your Majesty,’ he whispered to the King. ‘You are not on trial here.’

And the jury wrote down on their slates `The King denies that he is on trial here.’

`Call the next witness!’ roared the King, and the Knave’s Driver took the stand. The King peered closely at him and asked `When did he do those things to you?’

`That I can't remember,' said the Driver.

`You must remember,' remarked the King, `or I'll have you executed.'

The miserable Driver went down on one knee. `I'm a poor man, your Majesty,' he began.

`You're a very poor speaker, an extremely poor company director and you have an even poorer memory' said the King.

Here one of the kangaroos cheered, and was immediately suppressed by the officers of the court. (As that is rather a hard word, I will just explain to you how it was done. They had a large canvas bag, with the letters `I.S.A.’ printed on it, tied up at the mouth with strings: into this they slipped the kangaroos, head first, and then sat upon it.)

`I'm glad I've seen that done,' thought Alice. `I've so often read in the newspapers, at the end of trials, "There was some attempts at applause, which was immediately suppressed by the officers of the court," and I never understood what it meant till now.'

`If that's all you know about it, you may stand down,' continued the King.

`I can't go no lower,' said the Driver: `I'm on the floor, as it is.'

`Then you may sit down,' the King replied.

Here another kangaroo cheered, and was suppressed.

`May I go now?' said the Driver, with an anxious look at the Queen. who was counting her dimes.

`You may go,' said the King, and the Driver hurriedly left the court, covering his face as he exited.

`--and just take his head off outside,' the Queen added to one of the officers.

`Call the next witness!' said the King.

The next witness was the Duchess Ummy. She came in wearing an elegant yellow and black Versace suit, wit matching Dior handbag and shoes, talking on her handphone. Alice guessed who it was, even before she got into the court, by the way the jury were getting ready to take her photographs.

`Give your evidence,' said the King.

`Firstly, I would like to say that I am still a virgin,' said the Duchess.

‘Alright then. You may step down.’ said the King, wondering if he had said the right thing.

The King looked anxiously at the White Orangutan, who said in a low voice, `Your Majesty must cross-examine this witness.'

`Well, if I must, I must,' the King said, with a melancholy air, and, after folding his arms and frowning at the Duchess, he said in a deep voice, `What have you to say?'

`I have a letter,' said the Duchess

`I have a tape!,' said the Knave.

`Collar that Knave,' the Queen shrieked out. `Behead that Knave! Turn that Knave out of court! Suppress him! Pinch him! Off with his head! Off with his goatee!'

For some minutes the whole court was in confusion and, by the time they had settled down again, the Duchess had disappeared.

`Never mind!' said the King, with an air of great relief. `Call the next witness.' And he added in an undertone to the Queen, `Really, my dear, you must cross-examine the next witness. It quite makes my forehead ache!'

Alice watched the White Orangutan as he fumbled over the list, feeling very curious to see what the next witness would be like, `--for they haven't got much evidence yet,' she said to herself. Imagine her surprise, when the White Orangutan read out, at the top of his shrill little voice, the name `Alice!'

Alice's Evidence

`Here!' cried Alice, quite forgetting in the flurry of the moment how large she had grown in the last few minutes, and she jumped up in such a hurry that she tipped over the jury-box with the edge of her skirt, upsetting all the jurymen on to the heads of the crowd below, and there they lay sprawling about.

‘Oh dear, I’ve upset the jury - literally! ' she exclaimed in a tone of great dismay, and began picking them up again as quickly as she could

`The trial cannot proceed,' said the King in a very grave voice, `until all the jurymen are back in their proper places-- all,' he repeated with great emphasis, looking hard at Alice as he said do.

Alice looked at the jury-box, and saw that, in her haste, she had put the Kadir the Lizard in head downwards, and the poor little thing was waving its tail about in a melancholy way, being quite unable to move. She soon got it out again, and put it right; `not that it signifies much,' she said to herself; `I should think it would be quite as much use in the trial one way up as the other.'

As soon as the jury had a little recovered from the shock of being upset, and their slates and pencils had been found and handed back to them, they set to work very diligently to write out a history of the accident, all except the Kadir the Lizard, who seemed too much overcome to do anything but sit with its mouth open, gazing up into the roof of the court.

`What do you know about this business?' the King said to Alice.

`Nothing,' said Alice.

`Nothing whatever?' persisted the King.

`Nothing whatever,' said Alice.

`That's very important,' the King said, turning to the jury. They were just beginning to write this down on their slates, when the White Orangutan interrupted: `Unimportant, your Majesty means, of course,' he said in a very respectful tone, but frowning and making faces at him as he spoke.

`Unimportant, of course, I meant,' the King hastily said, and went on to himself in an undertone, `important--unimportant--unimportant--important--' as if he were trying which word sounded best.

Some of the jury wrote it down `important,' and some `unimportant.' Alice could see this, as she was near enough to look over their slates; `but it doesn't matter a bit,' she thought to herself. ‘They are the press.’

At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book, cackled out `Silence!' and read out from his book, `Rule Forty-two. All persons are traitors have to leave the court.'

Everybody looked at Alice.

`I'm not a traitor,' said Alice.

`You are,' said the King.

`Foreign agent!,' added the Queen.

`Well, I shan't go, at any rate,' said Alice: `besides, that's not a regular rule: you invented it just now.'

`It's the oldest rule in the book,' said the King.

`Then it ought to be Number One,' said Alice.

The King turned pale, and shut his note-book hastily. `Consider your verdict,' he said to the jury, in a low, trembling voice.

`There's more evidence to come yet, please your Majesty,' said the White Orangutan, jumping up in a great hurry; `this paper has just been picked up.'

`What's in it?' said the Queen.

`I haven't opened it yet,' said the White Orangutan, `but it seems to be a letter, written by the Driver to--to the prisoner.'

`It must have been that,' said the King, `unless it was written to nobody, which isn't usual, you know.'

`Is in the Driver's handwriting?' asked one of they jurymen.

`No, it’s not,' said the White Orangutan, `and that's the queerest thing about it.' (The jury all looked puzzled.)

`He must have imitated somebody else's hand,' said the King. (The jury all brightened up again.)

`Please your Majesty,' said the Knave, `I didn't do anything, and they can't prove I did: there's no name signed at the end of the letter.'

`If he didn't sign it,' said the King, `that only makes the matter worse. There must have been some mischief, or else he'd have signed his name like an honest man.'

There was a general clapping of hands at this: it was the first really clever thing the King had said that day.

`That proves his guilt,' said the Queen.

`It proves nothing of the sort!' said Alice. `Why, you don't even know what they're about!'

`Read the letter,' said the King.

The White Orangutan put on his spectacles. `Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?' he asked.

`Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, `and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'

These were the verses the White Orangutan read:--

        `They told me you did this thing,
        And it was done to me:
        And though it does not a single bell ring,
        It’s engraved in my memo-ry.

        You gave me one, you gave me two,
        You gave me near fifteen;
        Though I don’t know what it is you did do,
        Or where at all we'd been.

        If I or she should chance to be,
        Involved in this affair,
        It was because we were told, you see,
        And refuse we did not dare.

        My notion was that you had been
        The cause of someone’s fit
        An obstacle that came between
        Him, and themselves, and it.

        Don't let him know I told you this,
        For this must ever be
        A secret, kept from all the rest,
        Between yourself and me.'

`That's the most important piece of evidence we've heard yet,' said the King, rubbing his hands; `so now let the jury--'

`If any one of them can explain it,' said Alice, `I'll give him sixpence. I don't believe there's an atom of truth or meaning to these charges.'

The jury all wrote down on their slates, `She doesn't believe there's an atom of truth or meaning in it,' , stopped, and they all quickly rubbed it out again.

`If there's no truth or meaning in it,' said the King, `that saves a world of trouble, you know, as we needn't try to find any.’

And yet I don't know,' he went on, spreading out the verses on his knee, and looking at them with one eye; `I seem to see some meaning in them, after all,' said the King, and he went on muttering over the verses to himself: `" You gave me one, you gave me two " why, that must be what he did with the tarts, you know--'

`But, it goes on " ...I don’t know what it is you did do,"' said Alice.

`Why, it’s obvious isn’t it!' said the King triumphantly, pointing to mattress on the table. `Nothing can be clearer than that. Then again--" The cause of someone’s fit--" you never had fits, my dear, I think?' he said to the Queen.

`Never!' said the Queen furiously, throwing an inkstand at the Kadir the Lizard as she spoke. (The unfortunate little Kadir had left off writing on his slate with one finger, as he found it made no mark; but he now hastily began again, using the ink, that was trickling down his face, as long as it lasted.)

`Then the words don't fit you,' said the King, looking round the court with a smile. There was a dead silence.

`It's a pun!' the King added in an offended tone, and everybody laughed.

`Let the jury consider their verdict,' the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

`No, no!' said the Queen. `Sentence first--verdict afterwards.'

`Stuff and nonsense!' said Alice loudly. `The idea of having the sentence first!'

`Hold your tongue! This is a Malaysian Court and we don’t need foreigners like you telling us how we should arrive at our verdicts' said the Queen, turning purple.

`I won't!' said Alice.

`Off with her head!' the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

`Who cares for you?!' said Alice. `You're nothing but a pack of cards!'

At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her: she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face.

`Wake up, Alice dear!' said her sister; `Why, what a long sleep you've had!'

`Oh, I've had such a curious dream!' said Alice. “A nightmare, in fact!”

Back to Diary