There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and Steve and Dan were arranging a game of El Grande at it: Tim was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using him as a cushion, resting their elbows on him, and talking over his head. `Very uncomfortable for Tim,' thought Alice; `only, as he's asleep, I suppose he doesn't mind.'
The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: `No room! No room!' they cried out when they saw Alice coming. `There's PLENTY of room. El Grande is a 3-5 player game!' said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.
`But we've already started,' Steve said in a petulant tone.
Alice looked at the board nearest them, but there was nothing on it but the castillo. `I don't see any caballeros on the board,' she remarked.
`There aren't any,' said Steve.
`Then it wasn't very civil of you to say you've started,' said Alice angrily.
`It wasn't very civil of you to sit down without being invited,' said Steve.
`I didn't know it was only YOUR game,' said Alice; `there's room for more than three.'
Dan opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he SAID was, `Your turn to play a power card.'
`Come, we shall have some fun now!' thought Alice. `I'm glad they've begun playing.' And she lay down a 13 on the table.
`Do you mean to go first with that card?' said Steve.
`Exactly so,' said Alice.
`Then you should play what you mean,' Steve went on, laying down a 14.
`I do,' Alice hastily replied; then she looked at the card and gave a start. `At least--at least I played that card to go first--that's the same thing, you know.'
`Not the same thing a bit!' said Dan. `You might just as well say that "I win what I play" is the same thing as "I play what I win"!'
`You might just as well say,' added Tim, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, `that "I play when I sleep" is the same thing as "I sleep when I play"!'
`It IS the same thing with you,' said Dan, and here the conversation dropped, and the party played cards in silence and began placing caballeros, while Alice thought over all she could remember about winning at El Grande, which wasn't much.
Dan was the first to break the silence. `Who's winning?' he said, turning to Alice: he had taken more caballeros out of his pocket, and was looking at them uneasily, shaking them every now and then, and holding them to his ear.
Alice considered a little, and then said `I am. My caballeros are on the board, and all of yours are in the teapot.'
`Last place again!' sighed Dan. `I told you the teapot expansion wouldn't suit the game!' he added looking angrily at Steve.
`It was the BEST expansion,' Steve meekly replied, pouring the caballeros from the teapot into the Castillo.
`Yes, but some crumbs have got in as well,' Dan grumbled: `we will count those as mine.'
Steve took his caballeros and looked at them gloomily: then he dumped them all into the castillo, and looked at the teapot again: but he could think of nothing better to say than his first remark, `It was the BEST expansion, you know.'
Alice had been looking over the board with some curiosity. `What a funny map!' she remarked. `It tells what year our caballeros live in, and doesn't tell what countries they are in!'
`Why should it?' muttered Dan. `Does your watch tell you what country you live in?'
`Of course not,' Alice replied very readily: `but that's because it stays the same country for such a long time together.'
`Which is just the case with MY GAME,' said Dan.
Alice felt dreadfully puzzled. Dan's remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. `I don't quite understand you,' she said, as politely as she could.
`Tim is asleep again,' said Dan, and he poured a few caballeros upon its nose.
Tim shook his head impatiently, and said, without opening his eyes, `Of course, of course; just what I was going to play myself.' And he lay down a 22.
`Have you won the game yet?' Dan said, turning to Alice again.
`No, we are only halfway through,' Alice replied: `how would I have won?'
`I haven't the slightest idea,' said Dan.
`Nor I,' said Steve.
A bright idea came into Alice's head. `Is that the reason so many games are put out here?' she asked.
`Yes, that's it,' said Dan with a sigh: `it's always the middle of an El Grande game, and we've no time to put them away between whiles.'
`Then you keep moving round, I suppose?' said Alice.
`Exactly so,' said Dan: `as the caballeros get used up.'
`But what happens when you come to the beginning again?' Alice ventured to ask.
`Suppose we change the subject,' Steve interrupted, yawning.
`I want a new turn,' interrupted Dan: `let's all move one place on.'
He moved on as he spoke, and Tim followed him: Steve moved into Tim's place, and Alice rather unwillingly took the position of Steve. Dan was the only one who got any advantage from the change: and Alice had a much worse position than before, as Steve had just recently thrown all of his caballeros into the bushes. Meanwhile, Dan was playing on a different board altogether.
Tim went on with his turn, moving his pieces onto and off of his spoon, for he was getting very sleepy; `and that's why all of the pieces in El Grande begin with an M--' he began.
`Why with an M?' said Alice.
`Why not?' said Steve.
Alice was silent.
Tim had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by Dan, he woke up again with a little shriek, and continued his turn: `--that begins with an M, such as Caballeros, Castillos, Cats, Cantelopes, and Cabbage patches. Have you ever won El Grande with a cabbage patch? Very difficult thing.'
`Really, now you ask me,' said Alice, very much confused, `I don't think--'
`Then you shouldn't talk,' said Dan.
This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; Tim fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put Tim into the teapot.
`At any rate I'll never play THERE again!' said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. `It's the stupidest game club I ever was at in all my life!'
(apologies to Lewis Carrol. From "Alice in Wonderland".)