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ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND Lewis Carroll

CHAPTER VIII

                   The Queen's Croquet-Ground    
    
     A large rose-tree stood near the entrance of the  garden:  the  roses
growing on it were white, but there were three  gardeners  at  it,  busily
painting them red. Alice thought this a very curious thing, and  she  went
nearer to watch them, and just as she came up to them  she  heard  one  of
them say, - Look out now, Five! Don't go  splashing  paint  over  me  like
that!
     - I couldn't help it, - said Five, in a sulky tone; - Seven jogged my
elbow.
     On which Seven looked up and said, - That's right, Five!  Always  lay
the blame on others!
     - YOU'D better not talk!'said Five. - I  heard  the  Queen  say  only
yesterday you deserved to be beheaded!
     - What for? - said the one who had spoken first.
     - That's none of YOUR business, Two! - said Seven.
     - Yes, it IS his business! - said Five, - and I'll tell him - it  was
for bringing the cook tulip-roots instead of onions.
     Seven flung down his brush, and had just begun -  Well,  of  all  the
unjust things - when his eye chanced to fall  upon  Alice,  as  she  stood
watching them, and he checked himself suddenly: the  others  looked  round
also, and all of them bowed low.
     - Would you tell me, - said Alice, a little timidly, -  why  you  are
painting those roses?
     Five and Seven said nothing, but looked at Two. Two began  in  a  low
voice, - Why the fact is, you see, Miss, this here ought to  have  been  a
RED rose-tree, and we put a white one in by mistake; and if the Queen  was
to find it out, we should all have our heads cut off,  you  know.  So  you
see, Miss, we're doing our best, afore she comes, to At this moment  Five,
who had been anxiously looking across the garden, called out - The  Queen!
The Queen! - and the three gardeners instantly threw themselves flat  upon
their faces. There was a sound of many footsteps, and Alice looked  round,
eager to see the Queen.
     First came ten soldiers carrying clubs; these were  all  shaped  like
the three gardeners, oblong and flat, with their hands  and  feet  at  the
corners: next the ten courtiers;  these  were  ornamented  all  over  with
diamonds, and walked two and two, as the soldiers did.  After  these  came
the royal children; there were ten of them,  and  the  little  dears  came
jumping merrily along hand in hand, in couples: they were  all  ornamented
with hearts. Next came the guests, mostly Kings and Queens, and among them
Alice recognised the White Rabbit: it was talking  in  a  hurried  nervous
manner, smiling at everything that was said, and went by without  noticing
her. Then followed the Knave of Hearts, carrying the  King's  crown  on  a
crimson velvet cushion; and, last of all this grand procession,  came  THE
KING AND QUEEN OF HEARTS.
     Alice was rather doubtful whether she ought not to lie  down  on  her
face like the three gardeners, but she could  not  remember  every  having
heard of such a rule at processions; - and besides, what would be the  use
of a procession, - thought she, - if people had all to lie down upon their
faces, so that they couldn't see it? - So she stood still where  she  was,
and waited.
     When the procession came opposite to  Alice,  they  all  stopped  and
looked at her, and the Queen said severely - Who is this? - She said it to
the Knave of Hearts, who only bowed and smiled in reply.
     - Idiot! - said the Queen, tossing her head impatiently; and, turning
to Alice, she went on, - What's your name, child?
     - My name is Alice,  so  please  your  Majesty,  -  said  Alice  very
politely; but she added, to herself, - Why, they're only a pack of  cards,
after all. I needn't be afraid of them!
     - And who are  THESE?  -  said  the  Queen,  pointing  to  the  three
gardeners who were lying round the rosetree; for, you see,  as  they  were
lying on their faces, and the pattern on their backs was the same  as  the
rest of the pack, she could not  tell  whether  they  were  gardeners,  or
soldiers, or courtiers, or three of her own children.
     - How should I know? - said Alice, surprised at her  own  courage.  -
It's no business of MINE. The Queen turned crimson with fury,  and,  after
glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, screamed  -  Off  with  her
head! Off
     - Nonsense! - said Alice, very loudly and decidedly,  and  the  Queen
was silent.
     The King laid his hand upon her arm, and timidly said - Consider,  my
dear: she is only a child!
     The Queen turned angrily away from him, and said to the Knave -  Turn
them over!
     The Knave did so, very carefully, with one foot. - Get up! - said the
Queen, in a shrill, loud voice, and the three gardeners  instantly  jumped
up, and began bowing to the King,  the  Queen,  the  royal  children,  and
everybody else.
     - Leave off that! - screamed the Queen. - You make me  giddy.  -  And
then, turning to the rose-tree, she went on, - What HAVE  you  been  doing
here?
     - May it please your Majesty, - said Two,  in  a  very  humble  tone,
going down on one knee as he spoke, - we were trying
     - I see! - said the Queen,  who  had  meanwhile  been  examining  the
roses. - Off with their heads! - and the procession moved on, three of the
soldiers remaining behind to execute the unfortunate gardeners, who ran to
Alice for protection.
     - You shan't be beheaded! - said Alice, and she put them into a large
flower-pot that stood near. The three soldiers wandered about for a minute
or two, looking for them, and then quietly marched off after the others.
     - Are their heads off? - shouted the Queen.
     - Their heads are gone, if it please your  Majesty!  -  the  soldiers
shouted in reply.
     - That's right! - shouted the Queen. -  Can  you  play  croquet?  The
soldiers were silent, and looked at Alice, as the question  was  evidently
meant for her.
     - Yes! - shouted Alice.
     - Come on, then! - roared the Queen, and Alice joined the procession,
wondering very much what would happen next.
     - It's - it's a very fine day! - said a timid voice at her side.  She
was walking by the White Rabbit, who was peeping anxiously into her face.
     - Very, - said Alice: - where's the Duchess?
     - Hush! Hush! - said the Rabbit in a low,  hurried  tone.  He  looked
anxiously over his shoulder as he spoke,  and  then  raised  himself  upon
tiptoe, put his mouth close to  her  ear,  and  whispered  -  She's  under
sentence of execution.
     - What for? - said Alice.
     - Did you say - What a pity! - ? - the Rabbit asked.
     - No, I didn't, - said Alice: - I don't think it's at all a  pity.  I
said - What for?
     - She boxed the Queen's ears - the Rabbit began. Alice gave a  little
scream of laughter. - Oh, hush! - the Rabbit  whispered  in  a  frightened
tone. - The Queen will hear you! You see, she came rather  late,  and  the
Queen said
     - Get to your places! - shouted the Queen in a voice of thunder,  and
people began running about in all directions,  tumbling  up  against  each
other; however, they got settled down in a minute or  two,  and  the  game
began. Alice thought she had never seen such a curious  croquet-ground  in
her life; it was all ridges and furrows; the balls  were  live  hedgehogs,
the mallets live flamingoes, and the soldiers had to double themselves  up
and to stand on their hands and feet, to make the arches.
     The chief difficulty  Alice  found  at  first  was  in  managing  her
flamingo: she succeeded in  getting  its  body  tucked  away,  comfortably
enough, under her arm, with its legs hanging down, but generally, just  as
she had got its neck nicely straightened out, and was going  to  give  the
hedgehog a blow with its head, it WOULD twist itself round and look up  in
her face, with such a puzzled expression that she could not help  bursting
out laughing: and when she had got its head down, and was going  to  begin
again, it was very provoking  to  find  that  the  hedgehog  had  unrolled
itself, and was in the act of crawling away: besides all this,  there  was
generally a ridge or furrow in the way wherever she  wanted  to  send  the
hedgehog to, and, as the doubled-up soldiers were always  getting  up  and
walking off to  other  parts  of  the  ground,  Alice  soon  came  to  the
conclusion that it was a very difficult game indeed.
     The players all played at once without waiting for turns, quarrelling
all the while, and fighting for the hedgehogs; and in a  very  short  time
the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and  shouting
- Off with his head! - or - Off with her head! about once in a minute.
     Alice began to feel very uneasy: to be sure, she had not as  yet  had
any dispute with the Queen, but she knew that it might happen any  minute,
- and then, - thought she, - what would become of me?  They're  dreadfully
fond of beheading people here; the great wonder is, that there's  any  one
left alive!
     She was looking about for some way of escape, and  wondering  whether
she could get  away  without  being  seen,  when  she  noticed  a  curious
appearance in the air: it puzzled her  very  much  at  first,  but,  after
watching it a minute or two, she made it out to be a grin, and she said to
herself - It's the Cheshire Cat: now I shall have somebody to talk to.
     - How are you getting on? - said the Cat, as soon as there was  mouth
enough for it to speak with.
     Alice waited till the eyes appeared, and then nodded. - It's  no  use
speaking to it, - she thought, - till its ears have come, or at least  one
of them. - In another minute the whole head appeared, and then  Alice  put
down her flamingo, and began an account of the game, feeling very glad she
had someone to listen to her. The Cat  seemed  to  think  that  there  was
enough of it now in sight, and no more of it appeared.
     - I don't think they play at all fairly, - Alice began, in  rather  a
complaining tone, - and they all quarrel  so  dreadfully  one  can't  hear
oneself speak - and they don't seem to have any rules  in  particular;  at
least, if there are, nobody attends to them  -  and  you've  no  idea  how
confusing it is all the things being alive; for instance, there's the arch
I've got to go through next walking about at the other end of the ground -
and I should have croqueted the Queen's hedgehog just  now,  only  it  ran
away when it saw mine coming?
     - How do you like the Queen? - said the Cat in a low voice.
     - Not at all, - said Alice: - she's so  extremely  -  Just  then  she
noticed that the Queen was close behind her, listening: so she went on,  -
likely to win, that it's hardly worth while finishing the game.
     The Queen smiled and passed on. - Who ARE you talking to? - said  the
King, going up to  Alice,  and  looking  at  the  Cat's  head  with  great
curiosity.
     - It's a friend of mine - a Cheshire Cat, - said Alice: - allow me to
introduce it.
     - I don't like the look of it at all, - said the King: - however,  it
may kiss my hand if it likes.
     - I'd rather not, - the Cat remarked.
     - Don't be impertinent, - said the King, - and don't look at me  like
that! - He got behind Alice as he spoke.
     - A cat may look at a king, - said Alice. - I've read  that  in  some
book, but I don't remember where.
     - Well, it must be removed, - said the King very  decidedly,  and  he
called the Queen, who was passing at the moment, - My  dear!  I  wish  you
would have this cat removed!
     The Queen had only one way of settling  all  difficulties,  great  or
small. - Off with his head! - she said, without even looking round.
     - I'll fetch the executioner myself, - said the King eagerly, and  he
hurried off.
     Alice thought she might as well go back, and see  how  the  game  was
going on, as she heard the Queen's voice in the distance,  screaming  with
passion. She had already heard her sentence three of  the  players  to  be
executed for having missed their turns, and she did not like the  look  of
things at all, as the game was in  such  confusion  that  she  never  knew
whether it was her turn or not. So she went in search of her hedgehog.
     The hedgehog was engaged in a  fight  with  another  hedgehog,  which
seemed to Alice an excellent opportunity for croqueting one of  them  with
the other: the only difficulty was, that her flamingo was gone  across  to
the other side of the garden,  where  Alice  could  see  it  trying  in  a
helpless sort of way to fly up into a tree.
     By the time she had caught the flamingo  and  brought  it  back,  the
fight was over, and both the hedgehogs were out of sight: - but it doesn't
matter much, - thought Alice, - as all the arches are gone from  the  side
of the ground. - So she tucked it away under her arm, that  it  might  not
escape again, and went back  for  a  little  more  conversation  with  her
friend.
     When she got back to the Cheshire Cat,  she  was  surprised  to  find
quite a large crowd collected round it:  there  was  a  dispute  going  on
between the executioner, the King, and the Queen, who were all talking  at
once, while all the rest were quite silent, and looked very uncomfortable.
     The moment Alice appeared, she was appealed to by all three to settle
the question, and they repeated their arguments to her,  though,  as  they
all spoke at once, she found it very hard indeed to make out exactly  what
they said.
     The executioner's argument was, that you  couldn't  cut  off  a  head
unless there was a body to cut it off from: that he had never  had  to  do
such a thing before, and he wasn't going to begin at HIS time of life.
     The King's argument was, that anything  that  had  a  head  could  be
beheaded, and that you weren't to talk nonsense.
     The Queen's argument was, that if something wasn't done about  it  in
less than no time she'd have everybody executed, all round. (It  was  this
last remark that had made the whole party look so grave and anxious.)
     Alice could think of nothing else to say but  -  It  belongs  to  the
Duchess: you'd better ask HER about it.
     - She's in prison, - the Queen said to the executioner: -  fetch  her
here. - And the executioner went off like an arrow.
     The Cat's head began fading away the moment he was gone, and, by  the
time he had disappeared; so the King and the executioner ran wildly up and
down looking for it, while the rest of the party went back to the game.



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