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Chapter IX, Queen Alice. Part III
‘Take a minute to think about it, and then guess,’ said the Red Queen. ‘Meanwhile, we’ll drink your health – Queen Alice’s health!’ she screamed at the top of her voice, and all the guests began drinking it directly, and very queerly they managed it: some of them put their glasses upon their heads like extinguishers , and drank all that trickled down their faces – others upset the decanters , and drank the wine as it ran off the edges of the table – and three of them (who looked like kangaroos) scrambled into the dish of roast mutton, and began eagerly lapping up the gravy, ‘just like pigs in a trough!’ thought Alice.
‘You ought to return thanks in a neat speech,’ the Red Queen said, frowning at Alice as she spoke.
‘We must support you, you know,’ the White Queen whispered, as Alice got up to do it, very obediently, but a little frightened.
‘Thank you very much,’ she whispered in reply, ‘but I can do quite well without.’
‘That wouldn’t be at all the thing,’ the Red Queen said very decidedly: so Alice tried to submit to it with a good grace.
(‘And they did push so!’ she said afterwards, when she was telling her sister the history of the feast. ‘You would have thought they wanted to squeeze me flat!’)
In fact it was rather difficult for her to keep in her place while she made her speech: the two Queens pushed her so, one on each side, that they nearly lifted her up into the air: ‘I rise to return thanks –’ Alice began: and she really did rise as she spoke, several inches; but she got hold of the edge of the table, and managed to pull herself down again.
‘Take care of yourself!’ screamed the White Queen, seizing Alice’s hair with both her hands. ‘Something’s going to happen!’
And then (as Alice afterwards described it) all sorts of thing happened in a moment. The candles all grew up to the ceiling, looking something like a bed of rushes with fireworks at the top. As to the bottles, they each took a pair of plates, which they hastily fitted on as wings, and so, with forks for legs, went fluttering about in all directions: ‘and very like birds they look,’ Alice thought to herself, as well as she could in the dreadful confusion that was beginning.
At this moment she heard a hoarse laugh at her side, and turn to see what was the matter with the White Queen; but, instead of the Queen, there was the leg of mutton sitting in the chair. ‘Here I am!’ cried a voice from the soup tureen, and Alice turned again, just in time to see the Queen’s broad goodnatured face grinning at her for a moment over the edge of the tureen, before she disappeared into the soup.
There was not a moment to be lost. Already several of the guests were lying down in the dishes, and the soup ladle was walking up the table towards Alice’s chair, and beckoning to her impatiently to get out of its way.
‘I can’t stand this any longer!’ she cried, as she jumped up and seized the tablecloth with both hands: one good pull, and plates, dishes, guests, and candles came crashing down together in a heap on the floor.
‘And as for you,’ she went on, turning fiercely upon the Red Queen, whom she considered as the cause of all the mischief – but the Queen was no longer at her side – she had suddenly dwindled down to the size of a little doll, and was now on the table, merrily running round and round after her own shawl, which was trailing behind her.
At any other time, Alice would have felt surprised at this, but she was far too much excited to be surprised at anything now. ‘As for you,’ she repeated, catching hold of the little creature in the very act of jumping over a bottle which had just lighted upon the table, ‘I’ll shake you into a kitten, that I will!’
Chapter X, Shaking.
She took her off the table as she spoke, and shook her backwards and forwards with all her might.
The Red Queen made no resistance whatever: only her face grew very small, and her eyes got large and green: and still, as Alice went on shaking her, she kept on growing shorter – and fatter – and softer – and rounder – and –
Chapter XI, Waking.
and it really was a kitten, after all.
Chapter XII, Which Dreamed It?
‘Your Red Majesty shouldn’t purr so loud,’ Alice said, rubbing her eyes, and addressing the kitten, respectfully, yet with some severity. ‘You woke me out of oh! such a nice dream! And you’ve been along with me, Kitty – all through the Looking-Glass world. Did you know it, dear?’
It is a very inconvenient habit of kittens (Alice had once made the remark) that, whatever you say to them, they always purr. ‘If they would only purr for “yes” and mew for “no,” or any rule of that sort,’ she had said, ‘so that one could keep up a conversation! But how can you talk with a person if they always say the same thing?’
On this occasion the kitten only purred: and it was impossible to guess whether it meant ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
So Alice hunted among the chessmen on the table till she had found the Red Queen: then she went down on her knees on the hearthrug, and put the kitten and the Queen to look at each other. ‘Now, Kitty!’ she cried, clapping her hands triumphantly. ‘Confess that was what you turned into!’
(‘But it wouldn’t look at it,’ she said, when she was explaining the thing afterwards to her sister: ‘it turned away its head, and pretended not to see it: but it looked a little ashamed of itself, so I think it must have been the Red Queen.’)
‘Sit up a little more stiffly, dear!’ Alice cried with a merry laugh. ‘And curtsey while you’re thinking what to – what to purr. It saves time, remember!’ And she caught it up and gave it one little kiss, ‘just in honour of having been a Red Queen.’
‘Snowdrop, my pet!’ she went on, looking over her shoulder at the White Kitten, which was still patiently undergoing its toilet, ‘when will Dinah have finished with your White Majesty, I wonder? That must be the reason you were so untidy in my dream – Dinah! do you know that you’re scrubbing a White Queen? Really, it’s most disrespectful of you!
‘And what did Dinah turn to, I wonder?’ she prattled on, as she settled comfortably down, with one elbow in the rug, and her chin in her hand, to watch the kittens. ‘Tell me, Dinah, did you turn to Humpty Dumpty? I think you did – however, you’d better not mention it to your friends just yet, for I’m not sure.
‘By the way, Kitty, if only you’d been really with me in my dream, there was one thing you would have enjoyed – I had such a quantity of poetry said to me, all about fishes! Tomorrow morning you shall have a real treat. All the time you’re eating your breakfast, I’ll repeat “The Walrus and the Carpenter” to you; and then you can make believe it’s oysters, dear!
‘Now, Kitty, let’s consider who it was that dreamed it all. This is a serious question, my dear, and you should not go on licking your paw like that – as if Dinah hadn’t washed you this morning! You see, Kitty, it must have been either me or the Red King. He was part of my dream, of course – but then I was part of his dream, too! Was it the Red King, Kitty? You were his wife, my dear, so you ought to know – Oh, Kitty, do help to settle it! I’m sure your paw can wait!’ But the provoking kitten only began on the other paw, and pretended it hadn’t heard the question.
Which do you think it was?
A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July –
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear –
Long had paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream –
Lingering in the golden gleam –
Life, what is it but a dream?
Child of the pure unclouded brow
And dreaming eyes of wonder!
Though time be fleet, and I and thou
Are half a life asunder,
Thy loving smile will surely hail
The love-gift of a fairytale.
I have not seen thy sunny face,
Nor heard thy silver laughter:
No thought of me shall find a place
In thy young life’s hereafter –
Enough that now thou wilt not fail
To listen to my fairytale.
A tale begun in other days,
When summer suns were glowing –
A simple chime, that served to time
The rhythm of our rowing –
Whose echoes live in memory yet,
Though envious years would say ‘forget’.
Come, hearken then, ere voice of dread,
With bitter tidings laden,
Shall summon to unwelcome bed
A melancholy maiden!
We are but older children, dear,
Who fret to find our bedtime near.
Without, the frost, the blinding snow,
The storm-wind’s moody madness –
Within, the firelight’s ruddy glow,
And childhood’s nest of gladness.
The magic words shall hold thee fast:
Thou shalt not heed the raving blast.
And, though the shadow of a sigh
May tremble through the story,
For ‘happy summer days’ gone by,
And vanish’d summer glory –
It shall not touch, with breath of bale,
The pleasance of our fairytale.