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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——"
laughed a Weasel that sat on the other side of the car.
"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:
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.
the Hatter. "To come in third. It's a combination of
"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.
"It was," said
the Hatter, "and the public began to complain. One man who
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
running away, and the first we knew it banged into the car
went right through it, coming out in front still going
like mad after
the next car, and we knew something had to be done."
"BANGED INTO THE CAR AHEAD"
"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."
"Then of course
question arose as to how we could do this," said the
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
'em, it was the same. It's a curious scientific fact that
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
were endless, but nothing else was. As a matter of fact
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
"THE CHIEF ENGINEER"
"That's so, isn't it!" cried Alice.
"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.