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 this 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 come back with the Duchess, it had entirely 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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CHAPTER IX. The Mock Turtle’s Story ‘You can’t think how glad I am to see you again, you dear old thing!’ said the Duchess, as she tucked her arm affectionately into Alice’s, and they walked off together.
Alice was very glad to find her in such a pleasant temper, and thought to herself that perhaps it was only the pepper that had made her so savage when they met in the kitchen.
‘When I’M a Duchess,’ she said to herself, (not in a very hopeful tone though), ‘I won’t have any pepper in my kitchen AT ALL. Soup does very well without—Maybe it’s always pepper that makes people hot-tempered,’ she went on, very much pleased at having found out a new kind of rule, ‘and vinegar that makes them sour—and camomile that makes them bitter—and—and barley-sugar and such things that make children sweet-tempered. I only wish people knew that: then they wouldn’t be so stingy about it, you know—’