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“I have observed that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside”, gentlemen.
“I do not see what you are getting at, Holmes”, said Watson. Mr. Dodgson looked up with equal, but silent, agreement.
“On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however, to reason from what you see. You are too timid in drawing your inferences”, I said, taking a seat in my armchair, and inviting our guest to take a cigar from the box I offered.
“However, before we digress, let me allude to the discussion that Mr. Dodgson and I had when I visited him in is quarters. He himself mentioned several methods of investigation which he has studied in the alchemical works of Sir Isaac Newton, and in his own mathematical application of portmanteau poetry to the development of mathematical thinking.
“Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing. It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different”, I said while crossing over to the sideboard.
I picked up the manuscript that Mr. Dodgson had given me when I visited him entitled, Alice’s Golden Hour. While flipping through the pages to find a particular passage, I asked Mr. Dodgson a question about his work.
“Might I inquire as to the origin of one of the fictional characters whom Alice meets in Wonderland — The Cheshire Cat?”
“Frankly, I believe the idea came to me from an old expression I learned as a child”, replied Mr. Dodgson after momentarily pondering the question. “I believe it to be derived from a cheese which was sold in Cheshire, near my home. The cheese was molded in the shape of a cat. The cheese was cut from the tail end first, so that the last part eaten was the head of the smiling cat”.
“Very well”, I said. “Let us then observe that you have extracted something from the reality of your childhood, and with a liberal application of your creative imagination have used it to conjure an illusion…an alternative to reality, as it were. Is this not so, Mr. Dodgson?”
“Well, yes, I suppose. However, I fail to see what relevance my fictional tales have to our current situation. Certainly you do not suppose that I am to believe that reality can be conjured from a work of fiction? The notion is absurd!”, he replied.
“I do not ask you, or anyone, to believe anything whatsoever. Belief is a matter of personal opinion or conviction which cannot be shared by anyone else, accept to the degree that they share a similar opinion. Some men believe that the world was created by an omnipotent, invisible being in seven days. People in some aboriginal tribes believe that the world is supported on the back of an enormous elephant which stands upon the shell of a colossal tortoise”, I said, finally arriving at the pages I was looking for in the manuscript.
“As for myself, I believe that what is true for you is true for you, although no other person may agree upon your belief. Regardless, a truth for you, may not be true for others. Is that not a fundamentally sound assumption?”, I asked.
“I suppose you are right Mr. Holmes. It is difficult, if not impossible, to stay apace of your ability to remain logical in the face of a situation which is so absurdly enigmatic. You are proposing that the philosophical paradigm of reality should be considered of equal importance with fiction. How can you ever solve a criminal case, your occupation, if every piece of hard evidence could be a contrivance of imagination on the part of the investigator or of the criminal?”, said Mr. Dodgson.
“Quite the contrary”, I said. “But rather than keeping to my methods alone, let me ask you what meaning you attribute to the following passage in your book”, I said, turning to the page which described in the encounter between Alice and the Cheshire Cat.
“Let me read your own words to you.”
“…she was a little startled by seeing the Cheshire Cat sitting on a bough of a tree a few yards off.
The Cat only grinned when it saw Alice. It looked good-natured, she
thought: still it had VERY long claws and a great many teeth, so she
felt that it ought to be treated with respect.
‘Cheshire Puss,’ she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know
whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider.
‘Come, it’s pleased so far,’ thought Alice, and she went on. ‘Would you
tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where–‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long
Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question.
‘What sort of people live about here?’
‘In THAT direction,’ the Cat said, waving its right paw round, ‘lives
a Hatter: and in THAT direction,’ waving the other paw, ‘lives a March
Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.’
‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad.
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’
Alice didn’t think that proved it at all; however, she went on ‘And how
do you know that you’re mad?'”
“So, Mr. Dodgson, let me pose the same question to you that young Alice asked of the chimerical cat in your own story: how do you know whether you are mad or not mad? How would you satisfy yourself that I am not mad? How do we know that everyone is mad or not mad?”, I said, rising from my chair to place the manuscript upon the sideboard. “