Through the Looking Glass - Ch 09 - 1 Queen Alice
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
CHAPTER IX. Queen Alice
'Well, this IS grand!' said Alice. 'I never expected I should be a Queen so soon--and I'll tell you what it is, your majesty,' she went on in a severe tone (she was always rather fond of scolding herself), 'it'll never do for you to be lolling about on the grass like that! Queens have to be dignified, you know!'
So she got up and walked about--rather stiffly just at first, as she was afraid that the crown might come off: but she comforted herself with the thought that there was nobody to see her, 'and if I really am a Queen,' she said as she sat down again, 'I shall be able to manage it quite well in time.'
Everything was happening so oddly that she didn't feel a bit surprised at finding the Red Queen and the White Queen sitting close to her, one on each side: she would have liked very much to ask them how they came there, but she feared it would not be quite civil. However, there would be no harm, she thought, in asking if the game was over. 'Please, would you tell me--' she began, looking timidly at the Red Queen.
'Speak when you're spoken to!' The Queen sharply interrupted her.
'But if everybody obeyed that rule,' said Alice, who was always ready for a little argument, 'and if you only spoke when you were spoken to, and the other person always waited for YOU to begin, you see nobody would ever say anything, so that--'
'Ridiculous!' cried the Queen. 'Why, don't you see, child--' here she broke off with a frown, and, after thinking for a minute, suddenly changed the subject of the conversation. 'What do you mean by "If you really are a Queen"? What right have you to call yourself so? You can't be a Queen, you know, till you've passed the proper examination. And the sooner we begin it, the better.'
'I only said "if"!' poor Alice pleaded in a piteous tone.
The two Queens looked at each other, and the Red Queen remarked, with a little shudder, 'She SAYS she only said "if"--'
'But she said a great deal more than that!' the White Queen moaned, wringing her hands. 'Oh, ever so much more than that!'
'So you did, you know,' the Red Queen said to Alice. 'Always speak the truth--think before you speak--and write it down afterwards.'
'I'm sure I didn't mean--' Alice was beginning, but the Red Queen interrupted her impatiently.
'That's just what I complain of! You SHOULD have meant! What do you suppose is the use of child without any meaning? Even a joke should have some meaning--and a child's more important than a joke, I hope. You couldn't deny that, even if you tried with both hands.'
'I don't deny things with my HANDS,' Alice objected.
'Nobody said you did,' said the Red Queen. 'I said you couldn't if you tried.'
'She's in that state of mind,' said the White Queen, 'that she wants to deny SOMETHING--only she doesn't know what to deny!'
'A nasty, vicious temper,' the Red Queen remarked; and then there was an uncomfortable silence for a minute or two.
The Red Queen broke the silence by saying to the White Queen, 'I invite you to Alice's dinner-party this afternoon.'
The White Queen smiled feebly, and said 'And I invite YOU.'
'I didn't know I was to have a party at all,' said Alice; 'but if there is to be one, I think I ought to invite the guests.'
'We gave you the opportunity of doing it,' the Red Queen remarked: 'but I daresay you've not had many lessons in manners yet?'
'Manners are not taught in lessons,' said Alice. 'Lessons teach you to do sums, and things of that sort.'
'And you do Addition?' the White Queen asked. 'What's one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?'
'I don't know,' said Alice. 'I lost count.'
'She can't do Addition,' the Red Queen interrupted. 'Can you do Subtraction? Take nine from eight.'
'Nine from eight I can't, you know,' Alice replied very readily: 'but--'
'She can't do Subtraction,' said the White Queen. 'Can you do Division? Divide a loaf by a knife--what's the answer to that?'
'I suppose--' Alice was beginning, but the Red Queen answered for her.
'Bread-and-butter, of course. Try another Subtraction sum. Take a bone from a dog: what remains?'
Alice considered. 'The bone wouldn't remain, of course, if I took it--and the dog wouldn't remain; it would come to bite me--and I'm sure I shouldn't remain!'
'Then you think nothing would remain?' said the Red Queen.
'I think that's the answer.'
'Wrong, as usual,' said the Red Queen: 'the dog's temper would remain.'
'But I don't see how--'
'Why, look here!' the Red Queen cried. 'The dog would lose its temper, wouldn't it?'
'Perhaps it would,' Alice replied cautiously.
'Then if the dog went away, its temper would remain!' the Queen exclaimed triumphantly.
Alice said, as gravely as she could, 'They might go different ways.' But she couldn't help thinking to herself, 'What dreadful nonsense we ARE talking!'
'She can't do sums a BIT!' the Queens said together, with great emphasis.
'Can YOU do sums?' Alice said, turning suddenly on the White Queen, for she didn't like being found fault with so much.
The Queen gasped and shut her eyes. 'I can do Addition, if you give me time--but I can do Subtraction, under ANY circumstances!'
'Of course you know your A B C?' said the Red Queen.
'To be sure I do.' said Alice.
'So do I,' the White Queen whispered: 'we'll often say it over together, dear. And I'll tell you a secret--I can read words of one letter! Isn't THAT grand! However, don't be discouraged. You'll come to it in time.'
Here the Red Queen began again. 'Can you answer useful questions?' she said. 'How is bread made?'
'I know THAT!' Alice cried eagerly. 'You take some flour--'
'Where do you pick the flower?' the White Queen asked. 'In a garden, or in the hedges?'
'Well, it isn't PICKED at all,' Alice explained: 'it's GROUND--'
'How many acres of ground?' said the White Queen. 'You mustn't leave out so many things.'
'Fan her head!' the Red Queen anxiously interrupted. 'She'll be feverish after so much thinking.' So they set to work and fanned her with bunches of leaves, till she had to beg them to leave off, it blew her hair about so.
'She's all right again now,' said the Red Queen. 'Do you know Languages? What's the French for fiddle-de-dee?'
'Fiddle-de-dee's not English,' Alice replied gravely.
'Who ever said it was?' said the Red Queen.
Alice thought she saw a way out of the difficulty this time. 'If you'll tell me what language "fiddle-de-dee" is, I'll tell you the French for it!' she exclaimed triumphantly.
But the Red Queen drew herself up rather stiffly, and said 'Queens never make bargains.'
'I wish Queens never asked questions,' Alice thought to herself.
'Don't let us quarrel,' the White Queen said in an anxious tone. 'What is the cause of lightning?'
'The cause of lightning,' Alice said very decidedly, for she felt quite certain about this, 'is the thunder--no, no!' she hastily corrected herself. 'I meant the other way.'
'It's too late to correct it,' said the Red Queen: 'when you've once said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences.'
'Which reminds me--' the White Queen said, looking down and nervously clasping and unclasping her hands, 'we had SUCH a thunderstorm last Tuesday--I mean one of the last set of Tuesdays, you know.'
Alice was puzzled. 'In OUR country,' she remarked, 'there's only one day at a time.'
The Red Queen said, 'That's a poor thin way of doing things. Now HERE, we mostly have days and nights two or three at a time, and sometimes in the winter we take as many as five nights together--for warmth, you know.'
'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 good-tempered 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.