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Chapter IX, Queen Alice. Part II
‘Are five nights warmer than one night, then?’ Alice ventured to ask.
‘Five times as warm, of course.’
‘But they should be five times as cold, by the same rule –’
‘Just so!’ cried the Red Queen. ‘Five times as warm, and five times as cold – just as I’m five times as rich as you are, and five times as clever!’
Alice sighed and gave it up. ‘It’s exactly like a riddle with no answer!’ she thought.
‘Humpty Dumpty saw it too,’ the White Queen went on in a low voice, more as if she were talking to herself. ‘He came to the door with a corkscrew in his hand –’
‘What did he want?’ said the Red Queen.
‘He said he would come in,’ the White Queen went on, ‘because he was looking for a hippopotamus. Now, as it happened, there wasn’t such a thing in the house, that morning.’
‘Is there generally?’ Alice asked in an astonished tone.
‘Well, only on Thursdays,’ said the Queen.
‘I know what he came for,’ said Alice: ‘he wanted to punish the fish, because –’
Here the White Queen began again. ‘It was such a thunderstorm, you can’t think!’ (She never could, you know,’ said the Red Queen.) ‘And part of the roof came off, and ever so much thunder got in – and it went rolling round the room in great lumps – and knocking over the tables and things – till I was so frightened, I couldn’t remember my own name!’
Alice thought to herself ‘I never should try to remember my name in the middle of an accident! Where would be the use of it?’ but she did not say this aloud, for fear of hurting the poor Queen’s feeling.
‘Your Majesty must excuse her,’ the Red Queen said to Alice, taking one of the White Queen’s hands in her own, and gently stroking it: ‘she means well, but she can’t help saying foolish things, as a general rule.’
The White Queen looked timidly at Alice, who felt she ought to say something kind, but really couldn’t think of anything at the moment.
‘She never was really well brought up,’ the Red Queen went on: ‘but it’s amazing how goodtempered she is! Pat her on the head, and see how pleased she’ll be!’ But this was more than Alice had courage to do.
‘A little kindness – and putting her hair in papers – would do wonders with her –’
The White Queen gave a deep sigh, and laid her head on Alice’s shoulder. ‘I am so sleepy!’ she moaned.
‘She’s tired, poor thing!’ said the Red Queen. ‘Smooth her hair – lend her your nightcap – and sing her a soothing lullaby.’
‘I haven’t got a nightcap with me,’ said Alice, as she tried to obey the first direction: ‘and I don’t know any soothing lullabies.’
‘I must do it myself, then,’ said the Red Queen, and she began: –
‘Hush-a-by lady, in Alice’s lap!
Till the feast’s ready, we’ve time for a nap.
When the feast’s over, we’ll go to the ball –
Red Queen, and White Queen, and Alice, and all!
‘And now you know the words,’ she added, as she put her head down on Alice’s other shoulder, ‘just sing it through to me. I’m getting sleepy, too.’ In another moment both Queens were fast asleep, and snoring loud.
‘What am I to do? exclaimed Alice, looking about in great perplexity, as first one round head, and then the other, rolled down from her shoulder, and lay like a heavy lump in her lap. ‘I don’t think it ever happened before, that any one had to take care of two Queens asleep at once! No, not in all the History of England – it couldn’t, you know, because there never was more than one Queen at a time. Do wake up, you heavy things!’ she went on in an impatient tone; but there was no answer but a gentle snoring.
The snoring got more distinct every minute, and sounded more like a tune: at last she could even make out words, and she listened so eagerly that, when the two great heads vanished from her lap, she hardly missed them.
She was standing before an arched doorway over which were the words ‘QUEEN ALICE’ in large letters, and on each side of the arch there was a bellhandle; one was marked ‘Visitors’ Bell,’ and the other ‘Servants’ Bell.’
‘I’ll wait till the song’s over,’ thought Alice, ‘and then I’ll ring – the – which bell must I ring?’ she went on, very much puzzled by the names. ‘I’m not a visitor, and I’m not a servant. There ought to be one marked “Queen,” you know –’
Just then the door opened a little way, and a creature with a long beak put its head out for a moment and said ‘No admittance till the week after next!’ and shut the door again with a bang.
Alice knocked and rang in vain for a long time; but at last, a very old Frog, who was sitting under a tree, got up and hobbled slowly towards her: he was dressed in bright yellow, and had enormous boots on.
‘What is it, now?’ the Frog said in a deep hoarse whisper.
Alice turned round, ready to find fault with anybody. ‘Where’s the servant whose business it is to answer the door?’ she began angrily.
‘Which door?’ said the Frog.
Alice almost stamped with irritation at the slow drawl in which he spoke. ‘This door, of course!’
The Frog looked at the door with his large dull eyes for a minute: then he went nearer and rubbed it with his thumb, as if he were trying whether the paint would come off: then he looked at Alice.
‘To answer the door?’ he said. ‘What’s it been asking of?’ He was so hoarse that Alice could scarcely hear him.
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ she said.
‘I speaks English, doesn’t I?’ the Frog went on. ‘Or are you deaf? What did it ask you?’
‘Nothing!’ Alice said impatiently. ‘I’ve been knocking at it!’
‘Shouldn’t do that – shouldn’t do that –’ the Frog muttered. ‘Vexes it, you know.’ Then he went up and gave the door a kick with one of his great feet. ‘You let it alone,’ he panted out, as he hobbled back to his tree, ‘and it’ll let you alone, you know.’
At this moment the door was flung open, and a shrill voice was heard singing: –
‘To the LookingGlass world it was Alice that said,
‘I’ve a sceptre in hand, I’ve a crown on my head.
Let the LookingGlass creatures, whatever they be,
Come and dine with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me.’‘
And hundreds of voices joined in the chorus: –
‘Then fill up the glasses as quick as you can,
And sprinkle the table with buttons and bran
Put cats in the coffee, and mice in the tea –
And welcome Queen Alice with thirty-times-three!’
Then followed a confused noise of cheering, and Alice thought to herself, ‘Thirty times three makes ninety. I wonder if any one’s counting?’ In a minute there was silence again, and the same shrill voice sang another verse: –
‘“O LookingGlass creatures” quoth Alice, “draw near!
‘Tis an honour to see me, a favour to hear:
‘Tis a privilege high to have dinner and tea
Along with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me!”’
Then came the chorus again: –
‘Then fill up the glasses with treacle and ink,
Or anything else that is pleasant to drink:
Mix sand with the cider, and wool with the wine –
And welcome Queen Alice with ninety-times-nine!’
‘Ninety times nine!’ Alice repeated in despair, ‘Oh, that’ll never be done! I’d better go in at once –’ and in she went, and there was a dead silence the moment she appeared.
Alice glanced nervously along the table, as she walked up the large hall, and noticed that there were about fifty guests, of all kinds: some were animals, some birds, and there were even a few flowers among them. ‘I’m glad they’ve come without waiting to be asked,’ she thought: ‘I should never have known who were the right people to invite!’
There were three chairs at the head of the table: the Red and White Queens had already taken two of them, but the middle one was empty. Alice sat down in it, rather uncomfortable in the silence, and longing for some one to speak.
At last the Red Queen began. ‘You’ve missed the soup and fish,’ she said. ‘Put on the joint!’ And the waiters set a leg of mutton before Alice, who looked at it rather anxiously, as she had never had to carve a joint before.
‘You look a little shy; let me introduce you to that leg of mutton,’ said the Red Queen. ‘Alice – Mutton; Mutton – Alice.’ The leg of mutton got up in the dish and made a little bow to Alice; and Alice returned the bow, not knowing whether to be frightened or amused.
‘May I give you a slice?’ she said, taking up the knife and fork, and looking from one Queen to the other.
‘Certainly not,’ the Red Queen, very decidedly: ‘it isn’t etiquette to cut any one you’ve been introduced to. Remove the joint!’ And the waiters carried it off, and brought a large plum-pudding in its place.
‘I won’t be introduced to the pudding, please,’ Alice said rather hastily, ‘or shall we get no dinner at all. May I give you some?’
But the Red Queen looked sulky, and growled ‘Pudding – Alice; Alice – Pudding. Remove the pudding!’ and the waiters took it away so quickly that Alice couldn’t return its bow.
However, she didn’t see why the Red Queen should be the only one to give orders; so, as an experiment, she called out ‘Waiter! Bring back the pudding!’ and there it was again in a moment like a conjuring-trick. It was so large that she couldn’t help feeling a little shy with it, as she had been with the mutton: however, she conquered her shyness by a great effort and cut a slice and handed it to the Red Queen.
‘What impertinence!’ said the Pudding. ‘I wonder how you’d like it, if I were to cut a slice out of you, you creature!’
It spoke in a thick, suety sort of voice, and Alice hadn’t a word to say in reply: she could only sit and look at it and gasp.
‘Make a remark,’ said the Red Queen: ‘it’s ridiculous to leave all the conversation to the pudding!’
‘Do you know, I’ve had such a quantity of poetry repeated to me today,’ Alice began, a little frightened at finding that, the moment she opened her lips, there was dead silence, and all eyes were fixed upon her; ‘and it’s a very curious thing, I think – every poem was about fishes in some way. Do you know why they’re so fond of fishes, all about here?’
She spoke to the Red Queen, whose answer was a little wide of the mark. ‘As to fishes,’ she said, very slowly and solemnly, putting her mouth close to Alice’s ear, ‘her White Majesty knows a lovely riddle – all in poetry – all about fishes. Shall she repeat it?’
‘Her Red Majesty’s very kind to mention it,’ the White Queen murmured into Alice’s other ear, in a voice like the cooing of a pigeon. ‘It would be such a treat! May I?’
‘Please do,’ Alice said very politely.
The White Queen laughed with delight, and stroked Alice’s cheek. Then she began:
‘“First, the fish must be caught.”
That is easy: a baby, I think, could have caught it.
“Next, the fish must be bought.”
That is easy: a penny, I think, would have bought it.
“Now cook me the fish!”
That is easy, and will not take more than a minute.
“Let it lie in a dish!”
That is easy, because it already is in it.
“Bring it here! Let me sup!”
It is easy to set such a dish on the table.
“Take the dish-cover up!”
Ah, that is so hard that I fear I’m unable!
For it holds it like glue –
Holds the lid to the dish, while it lies in the middle:
Which is easiest to do,
Un-dish-cover the fish, or dish-cover the riddle?’