Curiouser and Curiouser: The Trial

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Chapter 9

The King and Queen of Hearts were seated on their throne when they arrived, with a great crowd assembled about them all sorts of little birds and beasts, as well as the whole pack of cards. A Knave was standing before them, in chains, with a soldier on each side to guard him; and near the King was the White Rabbit, with a trumpet in one hand, and a scroll of parchment in the other.

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; and he wore not so much a wig as a splendorous helmet. It too was gold but had a great red plume down the centre. Even from where she stood Alice could see it was decorated with little soldiers all round. There was no doubt he was the most important person in the court.

As Alice inspected the jury she saw many of them were bejeweled with the finest of gold, there were ruby and gold clasps on their shoulders and Alice noted one in particular had a great gold chain with a cross attached, also centred by a ruby.

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 write, the trial’s not begun.”
“Noting their names,” the Gryphon whispered in reply, “for fear they should forget them before the end of the trial.”
“Silence in the court!” yelled the White Rabbit and Alice shrank to avoid the kings gaze.

One of the jurors had a pencil that squeaked and Alice could not stand it, so she went behind him, and found an opportunity of taking it away. She did it so quickly that the poor little juror (it was Bill, the Lizard) could not figure out where it had gone and so was obliged try to write with one finger.

“Herald, read the accusation!” said the King.

On this the White Rabbit blew three blasts on the trumpet, and then unrolled the parchment scroll, and read aloud “the Knave is charged with stealing the mystery object.”

“Consider your verdict,” the King said to the jury.
“Not yet, not yet!” the Rabbit hastily interrupted. “There’s a great deal to come before that!”

The Hatter was called up to the stand; Alice could see where this was going after her own experience with the Hatter and so turned to the Dormouse who was sitting beside her.
“Excuse me, but what is the mystery object?”

The Dormouse yawned and pointed at a strange shaped in a glass case near where the king was standing. Inside was the strangest looking item Alice thought she had seen all day, and from here it almost looked like a bust of some kind. She would have to get closer to see it.

She had been so many different sizes today that Alice had almost forgotten she hadn’t quite gotten back to normal size when the familiar tingling sensation struck, within a minute Alice had grown enough that the dormouse yelled “I wish you would move over! I can hardly breathe.”
“I can’t help it” was her response “I’m growing.”
The interrogation of the Hatter was coming to a close:
“If that’s all you know about it, you may stand down,” continued the King.
“I can’t go any lower,” said the Hatter: “I’m on the floor, as it is.”
“Then you may sit down,” the King replied.
“I’d rather finish my tea,” said the Hatter, with an anxious look at the Queen, who was fiddling with her golden rings.
“You may go,” said the King, and the Hatter hurriedly left the court, without even waiting to put his shoes on.
“Just take his head off outside,” the Queen added to one of the officers: but the Hatter was out of sight before the officer could get to the door.
“Call the next witness!” said the King.

Alice watched the White Rabbit 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 Rabbit read out, at the top of his shrill little voice, the name “Alice!”

“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, reminding her very much of a globe of goldfish she had accidentally upset the week before.

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 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.

Now that she was closer, she could see that the mystery object was not a bust, but she thought the name was well placed for she had no clue what it could be. It was a round golden plate, inlaid with more red stones in a series of intricate designs. Attached to that was a strange cylinder, this too was inlaid with red stones, but the pattern was simple, just a line of stones adorned it. Finally, the top, it was a sort of button that had been positioned on a cylinder very much in the way a hat would sit on one’s head, the button was patterned with an almost checkerboard except the squares were not all equal and it had dainty blue lines on it. Alice had almost forgotten where she was in the allure of the mystery object, she had continued growing and was now squeezed into the witness box very uncomfortably.

The King had decided Alice had no more to say on the matter and simply said “Let the jury consider their verdict,” for what must have been 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!” said the Queen, turning purple.
“I won’t!” said Alice. She had grown enough that she was no longer fearful of arguing with the formidable Queen.
“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.
“Who cares for you?” said Alice, (having grown to her full size by this time.) “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”

At this the whole pack rose into the air and came flying down upon her: she gave a little scream and tried to beat them off, all of a sudden, she 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, and she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange Adventures of hers that you have just been reading about. When she had finished, her sister kissed her, and said, “It was a curious dream, dear, certainly: but now run in to your tea; it’s getting late.” So Alice got up and ran off, thinking while she ran, what a wonderful dream it had been.

The End


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Discover and Play

Chapter 9 Featured Objects:

Figure of the White rabbit as The Herald in the Court Scene
Modelled by Kathleen Goodwin

Near the King was the White Rabbit, with a trumpet in one hand, and a scroll of parchment in the other.

Bone china, painted with enamels. Kathleen Goodwin specialised in small sculptural figures modelled in bone china, and produced a number of figures based on the original Tenniel drawings from Alice in Wonderland of which this appears to have been the first.

Kathleen Goodwin was locally-born and trained. She was a member of the Society of Staffordshire Artists and exhibited with them from 1937 until 1951.

The Cup of Knowledge
Aynsley, 1925

“You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her

The design of cards has changed greatly over the centuries but by 1865 when Alice was published, packs or ‘decks’ of cards looked the way they do today. They comprised 52 cards with rounded corners and has four ‘suits’ in two colours – hearts and diamonds are red, while spade and clubs are black – and the court cards (king, queen, and knave) are ‘reversible’.

While packs of cards can be used for playing a variety of games, either alone or with other players they can have many other uses, including building structures to create a ‘house of cards’.

Cards have also been used in fortune-telling, with different characteristics being assigned to each card. This cup, made by the Aynsley company of Longton is titled ‘The Cup of Knowledge’ and was first put into production in 1925.

Chapter 9 Blogs, games and activities:

The Secrets of Playing Cards

The Secrets of Playing Cards

Find out about the history of playing card sets in the museum's collection