Alice was rather doubtful whether she ought not to lie down on her face like the three gardeners, but she could not remember ever 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.