Alice in Wonderland Christmas Story
Off With Her head!
“OFF WITH HER HEAD!”
Awakening with a start, Alice mumbled, “What, what was that? Did someone say something?”
“I said off with your head!” the Queen of Hearts roared at her. Looking about her royal self, she said, “Where is that executioner when you have need of him? Off with his head!”
Although suffering the Queen’s icy cold glare, Alice tried to be as polite as she might possibly be, considering the circumstances. “Excuse me, please,” she said, “is it really you? And if so, is this your seat?” Uncharacteristically silent, the Queen eyed Alice most suspiciously. Alice, however, pressed her further. “If it really is you, the Queen of Hearts – your majesty – I am delighted to meet you again, and I am most frightfully sorry for having fallen asleep in your chair. It is your chair, isn’t it?” she asked, and all of this in the one long breath. Taking another deep breath, trying to explain further, Alice said, “Unfortunately, since my arrival here, at the top of the world, if that is where I really am, I have been overtaken by these sudden spells of acute tiredness…”
“Where is the King?” the Queen asked, changing the subject from her chair, and why Alice was sitting upon it, to her missing husband, without as much as a by your leave.
Stepping away from the chair (Alice had no intention of being the target of the Queen’s rage for a second longer than was absolutely necessary), she replied, “I have only just arrived in this house, but if it pleases you, m’am, I will help you to find him.”
“If it pleases me?” the Queen roared, eying Alice with even greater suspicion than before. “It will please me if you stop assuming that you know what I want before even I do!”
“I was only trying to…”
“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted again, weaving between the wardrobes, tables, tallboys and presses, hoping to find the missing executioner, there.
“Please will you stop that!” said Alice in as firm a tone as she dared, considering it was a queen she was addressing.
The Queen’s jaw dropped in sheer disbelief that anyone might dare to address her in such a wanton manner. And she was just about to repeat her call for the beheading of Alice, when the King stepped out from one of the wardrobes.
Seeing her husband, the Queen cheered up considerably, and calling Alice to come closer, she said, “Thank you, my child, for having found my King.”
“B, but,” Alice spluttered, trying to explain that the King’s appearance had been nothing to do with her.
“I will hear no more on the matter,” the Queen ordered, returning to her usual gruff manner. Then stepping up to her chair (it was actually her throne), she sat upon it and bade her husband to do likewise.
Although Alice thought it most peculiar for the King to have been inside one of the wardrobes, the Queen appeared to see nothing unusual with it, so following her example Alice said nothing about it, either. Holding her tongue, Alice waited to see what the outspoken monarch might do next.
“The top of the world,” said the Queen, without the slightest trace of emotion in her voice.
“I beg your pardon, ma’m,” Alice replied, again in her politest tone of voice (you see, she wanted to keep the Queen onside, thinking her far better a friend than a foe).
“You said you were still not convinced that you were really on the top of the world, child.”
“That is most true, your majesty,” said Alice, baring her fears to the Queen sitting so proudly before her. “You see,” Alice continued, “I do so want to believe that I am on the top of the world, but whenever I take something for granted, it changes – like being here with you and the King, in this room, or house or whatever it happens to be – that makes me think I am somewhere else, or dreaming. It’s all so terribly confusing,” Alice sighed.
After studying Alice’s face in minute detail, the Queen leant over to the King and whispered something into his ear, then returning her attention to Alice, she said, “We have discussed this problem of yours, and have decided that you are taking far too many things for granted.”
Speaking for the first time, the King said, “Yes, the Queen is right, you are taking far too many things for granted, this night.”
“But it’s not night,” Alice spluttered. “And why are you speaking in rhyme?”
The king, however, would have none of her questions, and he continued, “How do you think Wonderland might be, if the executioner took the Queen’s orders for granted – Can’t you see?”
“I don’t know,” said Alice, watching the Queen for any sign that she might disapprove of the conversation, wondering where it might actually be going, and also feeling almost as confused as the King and Queen seemingly were.
“I can help you, to understand – this is true,” said the King, standing up and strolling across to one of the wardrobes, which he duly opened.
Alice watched in silence as the King opened the door, stepped into the wardrobe and closed it behind him.
Once again, the Queen appeared to see nothing unusual with the King’s actions. Indeed, she was now so relaxed she began singing a song. Rubbing her hands along the gold painted armrests of her throne, she sang:
“If you take things for granted, be they right or they wrong,
You will surely get into a pickle before very long.
So listen to my words as I sing you this song
And we’ll all get by swimmingly, am I right or am I wrong?”
Despite feeling quite frustrated by the King and Queen’s eccentric behaviour, Alice held her temper and her ground, then following the King, she stepped up to the wardrobe and knocked on its door.
From within the wardrobe, and without a hint of a rhyme in his voice, the King asked “Yes?”
“It’s me, you wanted to show me something,” said Alice.
“Me – who is me?” he asked, surprised that he was having a visitor at all.
“Alice,” said Alice, tapping her foot on the floor, in growing frustration at the King’s increasingly erratic behaviour.
Opening the door, the King looked out from the wardrobe and saw Alice. “Ah, it’s young Alice,” he said. “What an unexpected surprise!” Opening the door fully, he said, “Please do come in…” Before accepting the King’s invitation, Alice tried to see past him, into the wardrobe’s mysterious interior, in case anything dangerous might be lurking there, but she was unable to see anything more threatening than a shadow or two. So stepping up, she accepted the King’s invitation and, for the time being at least, left her concerns over his unusual behaviour, outside.
“Shoes off, first,” the King ordered, scolding Alice for having taken for granted that she could enter with them on.
After slipping off her shoes, Alice placed them to one side of the entrance, and then squeezing past the King’s rotund body, she stepped cautiously into the wardrobe.
Once inside, Alice was pleasantly surprised by what she found. “This is so nice,” she said, as she continued her inspection of the surprisingly roomy interior.
“I designed it myself,” said the King, walking on ahead of her, lifting an arm, here and there, to show off a painting, a candelabra or some other such item that he was particularly proud of.
“How were you able to find so much room inside an old wardrobe?” Alice asked, as she came upon an exquisitely carved chaise longue. Sitting upon it, to see if it was as comfortable as it looked, Alice sank deep into its soft upholstery.
“That’s one of my favourite pieces of furniture,” said the King, sitting next to Alice, running his hand along the rich, red and gold fabric.
Wondering why the King would want to have such a splendid interior to a common old wardrobe, Alice said, “This wardrobe is as good as a palace.”
“It is a palace,” the King replied quite matter-of-factly. “And so are all the others – that’s why we need so much room inside them…”
“Others – what others?”
“All the other wardrobes the Queen and I own, of course. You saw them outside.”
“This palace is undeniably nice,” said Alice, feeling increasing confused by the concept of palaces within wardrobes, “but don’t you have a real one, anymore?”
“We do – in Wonderland – you know that,” said the King, giving Alice a look as peculiar as the one the White Rabbit had given, when she had asked if she was in Wonderland. Temporarily at a loss for words, Alice said nothing. Seeing how confused she still was, the King, trying to clarify the matter further, said, “These wardrobes are our Travelling Palaces – now do you understand?”
“If I am to be perfectly honest with you,” Alice replied, “No, I do not.” Shaking her head in bewilderment, Alice struggled, trying to understand the need for one Travelling Palace, let alone so many.
“Ah,” said the King, “you are wondering why we have so many of them, aren’t you?”
“That’s easy,” he said, happy that he had finally got to the bottom of Alice’s quandary. “They are spares!”
“Yes,” he said adamantly. “You never know when you might misplace a palace or two – do you?”
“If I owned some, perhaps I might find it possible to mislay a palace or two,” said Alice, trying to understand the logic of the King’s argument. “But considering the fact that I don’t even own one, I am finding it difficult to understand how it might feel. I am sorry.”
With no hesitation, the King said, “It’s yours,” and with that he handed Alice a brass key.
“Mine? What’s mine?”
“The palace, this Travelling Palace, that is,” the King said. “You can have it. It’s yours. We really have far too many of them, anyhow.”
Looking at the key, Alice asked, “What do I need this for?”
“To lock it, of course, you never know when someone might want to steal it. Why, only last week I had two palaces stolen from right under my nose… Do you think it might be that dreadful Knave of Hearts, again?”
Having no intention of getting involved in another trial, the last one having tested her patience to the limit, Alice steered the conversation away from the alleged theft, saying, “Thank you so very much for this Travelling Palace, I will always treasure it.” Then, accepting the key, she slipped it into her apron pocket.
“I must be on my way,” said the King.
“Oh, must you leave so soon,” said Alice, upset that her first guest was leaving so abruptly. “I had taken for granted that you would be staying for tea…”
On those words, looking deep into Alice’s eyes, the King smiled. And she then understood the lesson he had invited her into the wardrobe, to learn. “I have been taking far too many things for granted, haven’t I?” she declared. “I can see that, now.” Then opening the door, Alice laughed, saying, “Come on, let’s see how the Queen is getting on with her song…”
Stepping out of the wardrobe, Alice picked up her shoes and walked away from her Travelling Palace without giving it a backward glance.
“Don’t forget to lock it,” said the King, pointing to Alice’s apron pocket, and her key.
Laughing, she replied, “If I lock it, I shall be taking it for granted that someone wants to steal it, so I won’t. And do you know, your majesty, what I am thinking of?”
The King shrugged his shoulders.
“I am thinking that I must surely be on the top of the world, that I must not take my search for the White Rabbit for granted, and after that anything is possible. Oh, King, you are so clever.”
Embarrassed by the unexpected compliment, the King turned redder than he already was.
“Come on,” said Alice, “I think the Queen is nearing the end of her song.” And she was, the Queen of Hearts though still singing contentedly, was beginning the twenty-third and final verse. The song finished thus…
“So don’t take for granted the slightest thing you see,
And your life will run smoother; your life will feel so free.
So listen to my words now as I sing you this song
And we’ll all get by so swimmingly, am I right or am I wrong?”
After the Queen had finished singing, Alice and the King gave her a tremendous round of applause. While she at first appeared quite overcome by the unexpected praise, the Queen all too soon returned to her usual state of mind, and she shouted, “You missed most of my song – Off with your heads!”
“See,” said the King. “We can’t take for granted that she really means that, now, can we?”
“I hope not,” said Alice, “I certainly hope not.”
Having already forgotten the lesson of her song, the Queen shouted, “Off with your heads – Where is that executioner when you have need of him?”
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