“I don’t know what business you have here” the Red Queen was saying, “if you don’t belong to the Cabinet; of course,” she added more kindly, “you may be one of the outer ring. There are so many of them, and they’re mostly so unimportant that one can’t be expected to remember all their faces.”
“What is your business?” asked Alice, by way of evading the question.
“There isn’t any business really,” said the White Queen. “Her Red Majesty sometimes says more than she means. Fancy,” she added eagerly, “I went round in 85 yesterday!”
“Round what?” asked Alice.
“The Links, of course.”
“Talking about a Lynx,” said the Red Queen, “are you any good at Natural History? Take prestige from a Lion, what would remain?”
“The prestige wouldn’t, of course,” said Alice, “and the Lion might not care to be without it. I suppose nothing—-”
“I should remain, whatever happened,” said the Red Queen, with decision.
” She’s no good at Natural History,” observed the White Queen. ” Shall 1 try her with Christian Science? If there was a sort of warfare going on in a kind of a country, and you wanted to stop it, and didn’t know how to, what course of inaction would you pursue?”
“Action you mean. Her White Majesty occasionally muddles things,” interposed the Red Queen.
“It amounts to much the same thing with us,” said the White Queen.
Alice pondered. “I suppose I should resign,” she hazarded.
Both Queens gasped and held up their hands in reprobation.
“A most improper suggestion,” said the White Queen severely. “Now I should simply convince my reasoning faculty that the war didn’t exist — and there’d be an end of it.”
“But,” objected Alice, “supposing the war was to assume that your reasoning faculty was wanting, and went on all the same?”
“The child is talking nonsense,” said the Red Queen; ‘*she doesn’t know anything of Christian Science. Let’s try Political Economy. Supposing you were pledged to introduce a scheme for Old-Age Pensions, what would be your next step?”
Alice considered. “I should think”
“Of course you’d think,” said the White Queen, “ever so much. You’d go on thinking off and on for years. I can’t tell you how much I’ve thought about it myself; I still think about it a little, just for practice — principally on Tuesdays.”
“I should think,” continued Alice, without noticing the interruption, “that the first thing would be to find the money.”
“Dear, no,” said the Red Queen pityingly, “that wouldn’t be Political Economy. The first thing would be to find an excuse for dropping the question.”
“What a dreadful lot of unnecessary business we’re talking!” said the White Queen fretfully. “It makes me quite miserable–carries me back to the days when I was in Opposition. Can’t she sing us something? ”
“What shall 1 sing you? ” asked Alice.
“Oh, anything soothing; the ‘Intercessional,’ if you like.”
Alice began, but the words didn’t come a bit right, and she wasn’t at all sure how the Queens would take it:
“Voice of the People, lately polled,
Awed by our broad-cast battle scheme,
By virtue of whose vote we hold
Our licence still to doze and dream,
Still, faltering Voice, complaisant shout.
Lest we go out, lest we go out.”
Alice looked anxiously at the Queens when she had finished, but they were both fast asleep.
“It will take a deal of shouting to rouse them,” she thought.