She had quite forgotten the Duchess by this time, and was a little startled when she heard her voice close to her ear. ‘You’re thinking about something, my dear, and that makes you forget to talk. I can’t tell you just now what the moral of that is, but I shall remember it in a bit.’
‘Perhaps it hasn’t one,’ Alice ventured to remark.
‘Tut, tut, child!’ said the Duchess. ‘Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.’ And she squeezed herself up closer to Alice’s side as she spoke.
Alice did not much like keeping so close to her: first, because the Duchess was VERY ugly; and secondly, because she was exactly the right height to rest her chin upon Alice’s shoulder, and it was an uncomfortably sharp chin. However, she did not like to be rude, so she bore it as well as she could.
‘The game’s going on rather better now,’ she said, by way of keeping up the conversation a little.
”Tis so,’ said the Duchess: ‘and the moral of that is—”Oh, ’tis love, ’tis love, that makes the world go round!”‘
‘Somebody said,’ Alice whispered, ‘that it’s done by everybody minding their own business!’
‘Ah, well! It means much the same thing,’ said the Duchess, digging her sharp little chin into Alice’s shoulder as she added, ‘and the moral of THAT is—”Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.”‘
‘How fond she is of finding morals in things!’ Alice thought to herself.
‘I dare say you’re wondering why I don’t put my arm round your waist,’ the Duchess said after a pause: ‘the reason is, that I’m doubtful about the temper of your flamingo. Shall I try the experiment?’
‘HE might bite,’ Alice cautiously replied, not feeling at all anxious to have the experiment tried.
‘Very true,’ said the Duchess: ‘flamingoes and mustard both bite. And the moral of that is—”Birds of a feather flock together.”‘
‘Only mustard isn’t a bird,’ Alice remarked.
‘Right, as usual,’ said the Duchess: ‘what a clear way you have of putting things!’
‘It’s a mineral, I THINK,’ said Alice.
‘Of course it is,’ said the Duchess, who seemed ready to agree to everything that Alice said; ‘there’s a large mustard-mine near here. And the moral of that is—”The more there is of mine, the less there is of yours.”‘
‘Oh, I know!’ exclaimed Alice, who had not attended to this last remark, ‘it’s a vegetable. It doesn’t look like one, but it is.’
‘I quite agree with you,’ said the Duchess; ‘and the moral of that is—”Be what you would seem to be”—or if you’d like it put more simply—”Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.”‘
‘I think I should understand that better,’ Alice said very politely, ‘if I had it written down: but I can’t quite follow it as you say it.’
‘That’s nothing to what I could say if I chose,’ the Duchess replied, in a pleased tone.
‘Pray don’t trouble yourself to say it any longer than that,’ said Alice.
‘Oh, don’t talk about trouble!’ said the Duchess. ‘I make you a present of everything I’ve said as yet.’
‘A cheap sort of present!’ thought Alice. ‘I’m glad they don’t give birthday presents like that!’ But she did not venture to say it out loud.
‘Thinking again?’ the Duchess asked, with another dig of her sharp little chin.
‘I’ve a right to think,’ said Alice sharply, for she was beginning to feel a little worried.
‘Just about as much right,’ said the Duchess, ‘as pigs have to fly; and the m—’
But here, to Alice’s great surprise, the Duchess’s voice died away, even in the middle of her favourite word ‘moral,’ and the arm that was linked into hers began to tremble. Alice looked up, and there stood the Queen in front of them, with her arms folded, frowning like a thunderstorm.
‘A fine day, your Majesty!’ the Duchess began in a low, weak voice.
‘Now, I give you fair warning,’ shouted the Queen, stamping on the ground as she spoke; ‘either you or your head must be off, and that in about half no time! Take your choice!’